School of Arts and Sciences

Rayon Lennon, '09, MSW '16

Poems can be prayers, life savers, and eye-openers. Poems can be therapeutic and transformational. For Southern alumnus and poet Rayon Lennon, ’09, MSW ’16, poetry is all of these things and more. So when the moment calls for a poem, Lennon answers that call, saying that poetry’s purpose “is to make us see — by clarifying and deepening our understanding of what it means to be alive.”

Lennon has won a number of writing contests, and his most recent accolade — his poem “Any Light” won the journal Rattle‘s “Poets Respond” contest on June 2, 2020 — is for a work that speaks to the moment we’re living in right now: a moment of global protest and the raising of millions of voices in support of racial justice.

“The poem originated from an incident I experienced on the golf course a number of days after the George Floyd tragedy,” Lennon says. The Poets Respond contest is Rattle‘s solution to the length of time it often takes for a poem to be published in the print journal. The contest recognizes poems “written within the last week about a public event that occurred within the last week.”

Lennon’s poem was published on Rattle’s website on June 2, 2020, eight days after George Floyd was violently killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.

Read “Any Light”

Born in rural Jamaica, Lennon moved to New Haven County when he was 13 and now lives in New Haven. He earned a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing, as well as a master’s degree in social work, from Southern, and in addition to his successful career as a poet, he works as an adolescent psychotherapist. His work has been published widely in various literary magazines, and his poems have won numerous poetry awards, including the 2017 Rattle Poetry Prize contest for his poem “Heard” (the poem was chosen out of 15,000 contest entries and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize), for which he received a $10,000 cash prize. His poem, “Heaven Tree,” was nominated for Best of the Net by The Indianapolis Review in 2018. His first book of poems, Barrel Children, was released in March 2016 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company and was a finalist for the 2017 Connecticut Book Award for best poetry book.

Below, Lennon shares his thoughts on the power of poetry, living in a racist society, his work as a clinical therapist, and more.

1) How did you get started writing poetry?

My poems are prayers, I think. I write with the sense that God is reading my words and tweaking the world because of them. I write to map my emotional world too. I started to write in general at an early age because of a budding stutter (I still stutter). I write too to bridge my inner and outer worlds.

I was beyond sad to leave Jamaica when I was 13; in Connecticut, I wrote to preserve my warm memories of Jamaica. But the more I wrote the more I discovered that there were issues clouding paradise — issues I wanted to highlight.

I’m primarily a place poet. I draw from the world around me. I imbue objects in my surroundings with human qualities.

People have told enough lies about me for me to know that it’s not the truth that usually survives; what survives is the most compelling story. People can ruin your life that way. A good storyteller matters. I’m the child of divorced parents. I didn’t know my father well until I came to Connecticut. My father is easily the best storyteller I know. He can weave a story so intricate and moving that you forget that it may be a world of lies.

I can tell you there is nothing as thrilling as creating a poem. I would even take that feeling over winning the lottery or falling in love.

The poet Jericho Brown has talked about “crafting a rant.” That’s exactly what I do in my poems now. I let myself go and then package it in a poem.

The poet Tiana Clark has said she writes to save her own life. That’s true for me too.

2). You give a brief explanation as to the origin of the poem “Any Light” on the page below the poem. I like Rattle‘s idea of poetry that responds to events in the moment, and becomes part of the conversation — and your poem certainly does that, very powerfully. Can you talk a bit more about the golfing incident that inspired you to write the poem? Can you tell me about the poem’s title, which I see comes from a line in the poem?

Yes. I love Rattle’s Poet’s Respond contest. I think it encourages poets to look outside of themselves and to help to bring about change by making connections and enlightening people — with striking language — about who we were, who we are, and how we live now. The poem originated from an incident I experienced on the golf course a number of days after the George Floyd tragedy. I will say that the poem is a heightened version of what happened. In reality, it was a cordial exchange. In the poem, I sharpened the language and brought current events and history into the fold. I captured the spirit of that moment while also tailoring the incident to fit the needs of the poem. It was not the first time that someone hit a ball my way while I was on a golf course. It was the first time I confronted someone about it — in that way. Those other incidences also shaped the poem. It was twilight and I was playing the last hole at a golf course. I was about to hit my second shot into the green when a ball zinged by my head. I couldn’t believe it. Someone on the tee behind me had hit a tee shot while I was close enough to be hit by it. I knew the person had seen me before he hit the shot. I waited for the person; and saw it was a young white guy. He was nonchalant about the incident — as though he hadn’t valued my life. I was nice to him, but made him know that it was wrong. I was wearing a red shirt. So he must have seen me. In golf, one is supposed to wait before hitting a ball if the person is close and could get hit by the ball. I immediately thought about George Floyd then as I knelt to read the putt — the way the officer had devalued Floyd’s life and kept his knee on his neck even as Floyd begged for air. That’s how the poem was born. I wrote it within an hour.

I’m usually not very good at analyzing my own poems. I leave that up to readers and scholars. But I’ll give it a try.

I think the title, “Any Light,” can have different meanings for different people. “Any Light” can mean any source of hope. It can mean that any light — self-awareness, love, kindness, empathy, etc., — will help to root out racism. For me, it also means people can choose to make you invisible if it benefits them. Someone can see you in any light they want. That means that the person who is viewing you is projecting on to you whatever internalized/generalized perceptions that person has been harboring about you or people like you. That person can choose to see you as good or bad. It’s a choice. It can also be the poet/speaker’s way of asking for any “light” of kindness in these trying times. Any light, any hope to increase racial harmony. People can choose whether to see or treat you how they want to see and treat you. What’s important is that we treat each other fairly and well. In the poem, the poet speaker tells the offending golfer that the golfer — before hitting his ball — should have been able to see him in any light because he was wearing a red shirt. But also, the poet speaker is saying that the golfer chose to not see him; and it’s his choice whether he wants to challenge and root out racist programming or continue to live by it. It’s not only that he hit the ball towards me, but it’s if I were invisible to me. And that’s a choice he made.

On another note, I love golf because it teaches me about life. Tiger Woods, the first African American golfer to win the Masters and who is now tied for the most wins in PGA tour history, once said that his father used to yell the N-word at him during practice sessions just so he would get used to hearing it, so he wouldn’t get distracted by hearing it from people in crowds during tournaments.

Golf teaches me how to be patient and roll with life. In golf, you can hit a perfect shot and it ends up in the water or the woods. You have to be patient and be mentally tough. I typically play 18 holes (4-5 hours of walking); and a lot happens in that time. It’s an adventure. I started to golf to find peace on weekends after working a long week of providing therapy to families. I love the groomed greens, clapping leaves, and bodies of water. I love how the game occupies my thoughts. It’s brought me peace.

I also stutter and the key in golf is to not swing with all your power. If you swing hard you will likely lose control of the club and ball. The key to managing my stutter is to slow down my speech.

3) Of what use is poetry in today’s world?

I love what Salman Rushdie says about poetry: “A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” Yes. Poets “name the unnameable.” Poets live to point out connections. I can’t say exactly what poetry means to the wider world. I can say what poetry means to me. I don’t want people to fall in love with my poems. I want people to be uncomfortable when they read my poems; I want them to question their lives; I want them to change. I know a poem has matured when I can’t read it without crying or getting angry. The singular gift of poetry is its ability to open up a window into another person’s perspective. Poetry tells you what the other is experiencing. It tells you in a moving, eye-opening and startling way. I want to startle people into action. I want to know what someone else sees and feels. I think on some level I’m talking about empathy, which is key to love and unity. And as a clinical therapist, I do use poetry in therapy. Poetry is my therapy. Poetry shows us that we are all mostly tiny dots down here facing the same hurdles to happiness. Poetry has this ability to open my eyes and enlighten me, helping me to see and think differently. I love being enlightened by poems on a line to line level. I remember discovering the poetry of the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott and understanding for the first time how poetry can deepen and define a country and a people’s understanding of themselves. How everything, as Walcott indicates, is a poem. Poetry’s work then is to make us see — by clarifying and deepening our understanding of what it means to be alive.

4) Tell me about your experience as a creative writing student at Southern. Were there particular courses or professors or experiences at Southern that you would say especially made an impact on you?

On a more formal level, I fell for poetry after failing as a fiction writer in college. I attended SCSU and attained a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing. I learned much of what I know now from the terrific creative writing staff there. In college, I wrote an unpublished novel (which was really a prose poem). I flirted with narrative poems and discovered that my thoughts fit better into this form. I love being able to fit a whole short story into a page-long, enlightening poem. My poems tend to have a strong narrative spirit running through them (because of my previous relationship with fiction). I want readers to get wrapped up in the narrative of my poems. My poems operate somewhere between fiction and poetry. I like to mix genres.

The English Department at Southern made me into the poet I am today. Jeff Mock (poetry professor), Tim Parrish (fiction professor), Robin Troy (former fiction professor), Jennifer Holley Lux (former creative writing professor), Vivian Shipley (poetry professor). All of these people shaped me into the poet I am today. Also, other English professors at Southern played pivotal roles in my growth as a poet. I received unconditional support from Steven Larocco, Brandon Hutchinson, Dana Sonnenschein, Dr. Ogbaa, Anthony Rosso, etc. These professors regularly read my budding creative work outside the classroom and provided me with valuable feedback.

Nearly two decades later, I still continue to communicate with many of the above professors. Vivian and Dana provided blurbs for my first poetry book. I regularly trade poems with Brandon Hutchinson. Steve Larocco and Rosso were like my therapists and good friends while I attended Southern. I stay in touch with Tim as well. I am proud of the work that Tim has done to transform the creative writing program into a powerhouse MFA program.

When I was struggling as a poet while in college, Steve Larocco pointed me toward Derek Walcott’s work (Derek Walcott is a towering, Nobel-winning, Caribbean poet). This helped me tremendously. I learned a lot from Walcott’s work. And this helped me — perhaps more than all other factors — to become the poet I am today. Walcott’s themes and way of writing matched my poetic vision. His work taught me how to see differently; how to find poetry in everything.

Also, the creative writing contests and literary journals at Southern helped me to gain confidence as a writer. I still remember the thrill of seeing my first published story in Folio, the undergraduate literary journal at SCSU. I remember the deeper thrill of winning the magazine’s poetry and fiction contests some time later. One year I won both of Folio‘s contests — poetry and fiction. I think I won the poetry contest a few years in a row. I also won many SCSU creative writing contests. To me, these early successes fueled my confidence and led me down the path I am still on today. Those early poems would take center stage in my first poetry collection.

Southern was good to me. I even received speech therapy for my stutter from the Communication Disorders Department. I think I attended speech therapy there for years. I learned a lot. They taught me how to manage my stutter and how to accept it — and embrace my gifts and my challenges. This was crucial for my growth as a poet, person, and therapist. While in college, I would ask my friends to read my poems at poetry readings. But after speech therapy, I gained enough confidence to go on stage and read my work. It empowered me. And I continued to challenge myself by reading to a wider audience.

After I left Southern, I helped to start a poetry workshop group of former creative writing students. We meet at each other’s homes once per month and workshop each other’s poems; and drink wine and eat pastries and fruits. The group has been meeting for four years. There are currently five members in our group: Lee Keylock (founding member), Pat Mottola, Matthew Beacom, and Maryanne Bowen. The workshops are serious and fun, and have played a pivotal role in my success as a poet.

5) Can you tell me about the work that you do in your profession of clinical therapist? Do you see a connection between your work as a poet and your work as a therapist?

Yes, there is a connection. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I received my master’s in social work from SCSU. (On a side note, while attending Southern as a social work student, I won the graduate poetry contest. It proved to me then that my true calling was poetry and that I ought to continue to write.) I work as a psychotherapist. I provide in-home therapy to a range of clients. I provide individual, couples, and family therapies. I frequently utilize art in my work. Especially with clients who are artistic. My work drives my art and my art drives my work. I work to empower people and to shine a light on their perspective.

6) I see on your website that your mission is to help Barrel Children in Jamaica. Can you tell me the nature of this work and why you do it?

Barrel Children are children whose parents leave Jamaica to come to America to make a living and send back money and barrels full of essential and nonessential items for them. The barrels replace the parents. The children are left with relatives or others. They face psychological and physiological challenges. It’s a major problem in Jamaica. I am a Barrel Child. My goal is to increase awareness around this challenge.

Also, my first poetry book, Barrel Children, came out of a special project I completed in order to fulfill my requirements for my master’s degree in social work. A good many of my poems are about feeling “Homeless at Home.” Or being an immigrant in a sometimes cold foreign land.

I recently completed a new poetry manuscript called “Heard.” And I’m working on a new chapbook called “Notes for Wedding Vows during a Pandemic.”

Learn more about Rayon Lennon and his work.

 

According to family lore, Romania-born cellist, Mihai Marica, ’07, first asked for a cello at age 3, wanting to emulate his talented father. The family held off, presenting Marica with the longed-for instrument on his seventh birthday. Years of training led to stunning accomplishments — including first-place finishes at some of the world’s most prestigious musical competitions and an invitation to study with the late Aldo Parisot, professor of music at Yale University.

“Even though I was very young — 16 — and my heart was functioning perfectly, I almost fainted. That wasn’t in the plans,” says Marica of the invitation to come to the U.S. At Yale, he completed a Certificate in Performance program, a three-year option for those who do not yet hold a bachelor’s degree but are studying their craft at the highest level. If a student goes on to earn an undergraduate degree, he/she can petition to convert the coursework into a Master of Music degree. [Watch Marica perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.]

This became the plan for Marica, who enrolled at Southern as an undergraduate in 2004, majoring in music while continuing to study with Parisot. “I have very, very good memories of my experience at Southern,” says Marica, who completed numerous Honors College courses and took musical improv classes.

He also formed close bonds with faculty members. Among them is Mark Kuss, professor of music, who wrote a Cello Concerto for Marica. The cellist premiered the concerto with Orchestra New England at Battel Chapel. The two eventually traveled to Romania to record the piece.

Today, Marica performs up to 100 times a year at celebrated venues throughout the world. He’s played in Austria, Canada, Chili, Germany, Hungary, Holland, Japan, Spain, and South Korea.

In the U.S., he’s graced the stages of Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Both are “among the highlights of my musical life,” he says.

At the latter, Marica successfully auditioned for the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center’s highly prestigious Bowers Program — an ultra-competitive, three-season residency for outstanding young musicians. He completed the residency in 2015 and, today, often performs as a seasoned artist with the center. Additionally, in 2018, the cellist joined the acclaimed Apollo Trio, which plays throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Marica also is committed to supporting young musicians. He coaches the Julliard Pre-College Program’s cello choir and is set to work with student groups at the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center. In addition, he spends several weeks each summer at the Classical Music Institute, an educational outreach program run by the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio, Texas. [Watch Marica perform with modern dance master Lil Buck for a youth audience in San Antonio.]

Looking forward, he hopes to travel to Romania — likely performing the six Cello Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach for the first time. “It is a big project, but also one of the most exciting things I can do as a cellist,” he says of practicing the suites. “I will come to learn many new and useful things from this experience. Spending time with myself, my instrument, and this great music.”

As one of only four students in Connecticut to receive the Bob Eddy Scholarship, Jason Edwards is being recognized for talent and promise.

Spring 2020 will be one to remember for Southern rising senior Jason Edwards — and he has the photos to prove it.

In addition to completing online courses, working as a student photographer for Southern’s communications and marketing department, and serving as photo editor of the student-run Crescent magazine, the talented journalism major is turning his camera lens on his neighbors to visually capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Connecticut Naugatuck Valley.

Edwards is one of only four recipients of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Foundation’s Bob Eddy Scholarship, which recognizes excellence and promise in the field. The award is open to rising college juniors and seniors attending Connecticut universities as well as state residents who are studying elsewhere.

In related news, numerous Southern student journalists were recognized for their work in Crescent magazine and the Southern News from the Society of Professional Journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

Nancy Green

Nancy Green is no stranger to dark times, but as the 56-year-old graduating senior at Southern Connecticut State University lay in a hospital bed this March, deathly sick with the coronavirus, she had a thought she’d never had before.

“My lungs were so tired,” she said. “I had pneumonia, acute asthma. I was in respiratory failure. I had a fever. I felt like I was at the bottom of the ocean, and it was the only time in my life I’ve ever thought, maybe I can’t do this.”

Green had every right to feel exhausted. In many ways, she had been battling her whole life: child abuse, domestic violence, tumors (some in her pancreas, some in her esophagus), breast cancer, financial uncertainty, but the Coronavirus brought her to a frightening new low. She closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.

When she woke the next day, it took her eyes a while to adjust to the sunlight. But the sight of the sun through the window brought to mind a refrain she had been repeating to herself since childhood: My eyes can see farther than they can look.

“I said it to myself, and then I said, ‘Girl, you are getting out of here!’ ”

The refrain “my eyes can see farther than they can look” is Green’s own — she first wrote it in her diary when she was 12. “You might see a wall or a building, but there is life beyond that,” she said. “That was my own saying, and I always kept it with me.”

Green also shared it with others, like her friends and classmates at Southern, who affectionately referred to her as “auntie” and “cool grandma.” (Green, a sociology major, is, in fact, a grandmother to a few, but she says when she enrolled at Southern, she “gained another 150.”)

The refrain kept hope alive in Green when, as a child, she dreamed about moving past the abuse and going to college. “Growing up in the south, there was a big emphasis on boys going to school,” she said. “All my brothers got educated, and I told myself, someday, it’s going to come to me.”

In 1984, Green enrolled at Norwalk Community College, but she was just 21 and raising twins, and education took a backseat. In 2016, she enrolled again in community college — this time Naugatuck Valley — and completed her associate degree.

“I thought the idea of getting an education would be out of my system,” she said. “But then I thought, ‘I have a taste. I need more!’ ”

When one of the deans at NVCC suggested she apply for the President to President Scholarship, which would cover full tuition and fees for two years at Southern, Green scoffed, thinking she was too old. She soon got a letter from Southern President Joe Bertolino saying otherwise.

“When I got the scholarship I thought, ‘I’m really going to do this!’ ” Again she repeated her refrain — “my eyes can see farther than they can look” — and thought, “Now I’m going to look a little farther and get my bachelor’s.”

As Green tells it, she fell in love with Southern, which started to feel like a family. She developed close relationships with her peers, despite the dramatic age difference. “The more we listened to each other, the more we gained perspective,” Green said. “I opened up to them, and they opened up to me.”

Bi-monthly, beginning in October 2018, she started making home-cooked meals, complete with dessert, for dorm and commuter students that they could pick up on Mondays. Much like her “grandchildren,” she started with five and ended up with 100.

Green still had dark days. She sometimes had to catch a bus at 5 a.m. in Waterbury to make it to campus on time (it was a 2-hour, 3-bus trip). Books, laptops, and supplies were extra expenses. She struggled with domestic issues of control and abuse. She had surgery in January 2020 then fell ill with the coronavirus in March and again in April. She grieved the loss of close to 30 family and friends from COVID-19. But postponing graduation in May was never an option.

“I will do whatever I have to do to get to where I have to go,” Green said. “The word no doesn’t exist. I had a burning desire in me. I waited 30 years to start my education again, and I didn’t want it to be a dream gone by because I was sick.”

Throughout the winter and spring, while she was recovering, Green kept on track with school commitments by asking for work ahead of time, sometimes months in advance and sometimes working from a laptop in the hospital. Staff at Southern helped if they were able. Medical Director Diane Morgenthaler, for instance, drove a nebulizer from Southern’s Student Health Services to Green’s residence when Green was unable to get one after being hospitalized.

“Dr. Morgenthaler showed me how to use it right there in the parking lot,” Green said. “Because of that act of kindness and love, that kept me from going back to the hospital.”

Roland Regos, administrative assistant in the Office of the President, kept Green’s spirits up by sending her funny memes and encouraging words. To Regos, bringing humor and laughter — “light” — into her darkened world was the least he could do. Regos coordinates the Presidential Student Ambassadors program, and Green has served as one of the Ambassadors.

“Nancy is one of the most driven, dedicated, and kindest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “Her positive attitude is infectious, as is her can-do spirit. She actively mentors and seeks out troubled students in order to help them. “

Green, fourth from left, in her role as a Presidential Student Ambassador

“She is living proof that age is just a number, that anyone with the right mindset can achieve anything. Her life story has consistently humbled me,” said Regos. “Graduation means so much to Nancy. The pain and suffering she has gone through in order to get herself to the finish line is inspirational.”

Southern will be holding its commencement at a later date, either on-ground or in a virtual setting, but on May 22, Green will throw her own graduation ceremony, complete with a cap and gown and a virtual celebration.

“I have been looking forward to this for a lifetime!” she said. “I am the little train that did, not could. It all boils down to how badly do you want it? And I have wanted this for a long, long time. I have so many career choices. Look beyond the wall. The future is bright.”

Read “‘I am going to walk’: Cancer, coronavirus can’t stop grandmother from graduating SCSU,”
New Haven Register, by Brian Zahn, May 25, 2020

Canadian geese on campus. Photo from student Jacob Waring's award-winning "Campus Jungle" photo package.

Southern‘s student journalists have received awards and national and regional recognition for 2019 packages in the Crescent magazine and the Southern News from the Society of Professional Journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

Senior journalism major Jacob Waring was selected a national finalist, after winning the Feature Photography category in the region, for his photography of animals roaming around campus featured in “Campus Jungle” package in Crescent’s Fall edition. Waring’s package competed with the winners of other SPJ regional contests in the small colleges division. Region 1 encompassed universities from Maine to Philadelphia. Waring is managing editor of Crescent and News Editor of the Southern News.

From the “Campus Jungle” package by Jacob Waring

Junior interdisciplinary studies major, Izzy Manzo, was a finalist in the magazine regional competition for her story of “Women in STEM,” at Southern. And was also was a finalist in the regional contest in the newspaper division for her photo page in October for the Southern News on community gardens. Manzo is photo editor of the Southern News.

From a photo page on the campus community garden by Izzy Manzo

Senior Will Aliou, an interdisciplinary studies major, was a finalist for his Southern News photos in spring 2019 capturing the Take Back the Night march on campus. Aliou is photographer for the newspaper.

Southern News photo from Take Back the Night, by Will Aliou

Read more about SPJ’s 2019 Mark of Excellence National Winners and Finalists.

 

CSU Professor Elliott Horch

He developed a super-powered device for telescopes that enabled astronomers to snap photos of celestial objects many times clearer than had ever been taken. He was tapped by NASA to assist with the Kepler Mission – a project to find potential “new Earths” in the Milky Way Galaxy. He has assembled a stellar teaching record and demonstrated a strong commitment to student success since he began teaching at Southern Connecticut State University in 2007.

And on Thursday, Elliott Horch was recognized for the sum of his professorial achievements by being named a Connecticut State University Professor by the state Board of Regents for Higher Education. The recommendation for this honor came from SCSU President Joe Bertolino.

The designation is one of the most prestigious within the Connecticut State Colleges and University System. Only three faculty members at each of the four CSU campuses can hold the title at any given time.

Horch, a professor of physics, joins Vivian Shipley, professor of English, and David Levine, professor of art history as the Southern contingent of CSU professors. A vacancy was created with the recent retirement of Terrell “Terry” Bynum, who had been a professor of philosophy.

“A full professor since 2013, Elliott has developed a remarkable record of teaching and service excellence and has, with little company in his scholarship stratum, a remarkable record of peer-reviewed publications and grant success,” wrote Robert Prezant, SCSU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“Dr. Horch represents one of our most successful scholars in any field,” Prezant said. “Roll into the mix his strong teaching credentials, devotion to our students, and his high level of important service, and you have an individual who can easily serve as a model for newer faculty members who have high aspirations. (He) is recognized for high quality work at the international level, and that recognition, in concert with his strong global collaborations, makes him an exceptional representative of Southern across continents.”

The CSU Professorship Advisory Committee reviewed eight applications for the award this year, according to Adiel Coca, chairman of the CSU Professorship Advisory Committee.

“It is the committee’s opinion that Dr. Horch has a documented high level of effectiveness in all three categories of evaluation (creative activity, teaching, and service), including a record of outstanding performance in the area of creative activity,” Coca wrote.

Horch earned a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University in 1994. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University and the Rochester Institute of Technology and held teaching appointments at RIT and at UMass Dartmouth before coming to Southern.

His research interests are in astrophysics, binary stars, exoplanets, high-resolution imaging, and astronomical instrument building. He regularly collaborates with scientists from around the globe. During his time at Southern, Horch has co-authored 82 publications and has been awarded 10 external grants, most of which came from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.

He developed the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) and the SCSU Interferometer and described the DSSI as being like “putting eyeglasses on a telescope.”

Horch earned the CSU System Research Award in 2011 and was the recipient of the 2012 SCSU Faculty Scholar Award. He has taught more than 20 physics courses, including four courses that were new at the time.

“It is clear from his student evaluations that students really enjoy having Dr. Horch as an instructor,” said Coca, who noted that Horch supervised 26 undergraduate and five graduate theses.

Horch was also instrumental in the development of the Master’s in Applied Physics program at Southern, and served on the LEP Committee from 2011 to 2015. He currently serves as chairman of the university’s Research and Scholarship Committee. Horch also chairs the Scientific Organizing Committee for the Gemini Science Meeting scheduled for June.

He thanked Physics Department Chairman Matthew Enjalran for nominating him, and thanked colleagues for their letters of support.

“This designation is a tremendous honor, and something I simply could not expect given the many excellent faculty we have at SCSU,” Horch said.

“I receive this during a very uncertain time,” he added. “But my hope is that as we find our way through the COVID-19 crisis and eventually reach better times, this position would allow me to be a stronger advocate for the value of science in our society and for the positive role that SCSU plays in that regard, both in teaching and research.”

SCSU Project Blue photo of kelp underwater

Southern students in a kelp innovation class successfully combined their idealism with real-world applications to take home several awards recently at the 23rd Connecticut Business Conference and Competition administered by the Entrepreneurship Foundation.

While the judges generally listen to in-person presentations at this competition, the coronavirus pandemic changed the format so that students instead developed 60-second video “elevator pitches.” For Southern, this involved novel products made from sugar kelp grown in Long Island Sound, according to Colleen Bielitz, associate vice president for strategic initiatives and outreach.

Bielitz and Patrick Heidkamp, chairman of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences Department, created the kelp innovation class as part of the Project Blue Initiative. Kelp is a large, nutrient-rich, brown seaweed.

“For the majority of students, this class was the first time they were exposed to an innovation perspective to sustainability,” Heidkamp said. “I am incredibly proud of what the students accomplished—especially considering the course had to pivot from an on-the-ground, hands-on learning environment to a fully online course due to COVID-19.”

Heather Cushing placed first in the Blue Economy Pitches category for her proposal of a Shoreline Kelp Festival, a kelp-centric event that would feature music, kelp food and beverages, and a week-long restaurant week that includes a three-course kelp meal experience.

“I was quite surprised and excited to learn I had won, as there were some really great ideas for kelp products,” Cushing said. “Kelp has many benefits, both environmentally and nutritionally. A festival is a way to foster interest and knowledge towards Connecticut’s emerging kelp industry.”

Cushing conceded her festival idea will not happen immediately because of the coronavirus pandemic. But she is hopeful it can happen when things improve.

“The interest is there,” she said. “It’s just a matter of organizing and putting it all together. Late spring would be the ideal season to hold the event as that is when the kelp is harvested.”

Kelly Kingston placed second in the same category for her plan for Kelpie, a vegan, nutrient-rich, kelp-based egg substitute. Larissa Anderson finished third for her pitch of Kelpon, a 100-perent biodegradable tampon made with only organic cotton and kelp.

Meanwhile, the team of graduate student Louie Krak and undergraduates Maeve Rourke and Gia Mentillo won the Mobile App category. They developed an app called “Oceans of data at your fingertips,” which delivers real-time ocean data to seaweed and shellfish ocean farmers in Long Island Sound and beyond.

“The customizable data hub provides water quality parameters vital to crop health and bounty at the touch of a button, eliminating the guesswork and inconvenience of daily self-collection,” Krak said. “I could not be prouder to win alongside the outstanding and indomitable Maeve Rourke and Gia Mentillo.”

“The competition provided invaluable experience for all kelp class participants as a handful of their projects will undergo continued development this summer,” Bielitz said.

A CTNext Grant will provide a total of $75,000 for those projects to help convert the ideas into reality.

 

Vivian Shipley

English Professor and Connecticut State University Professor Vivian Shipley, an acclaimed prize-winning poet, recently won a prize for “An Old Husband’s Tale,” one of five prize-winning poems in the 2020 Ekphrastic Poetry Contest, part of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Poems entered in the contest were inspired by the ART COUTURE exhibition which was on display pre-pandemic at the Cornell Museum at Old School Square in Delray Beach, Fla. All five prize-winning poems will be featured in the May issue of South Florida Poetry Journal.

An ekphrastic poem is generally a poem that is inspired by, or a response to, a work of art.

To enter, writers were asked to submit up to 30 lines of original poetry inspired by one of eight images featured in the exhibition that focused on contemporary art that is fashion-inspired, and on fashion designers’ couture designs and illustrations. Fashion as art, important works of contemporary art, and couture designs featured on mannequins were all part of the exhibition. The Palm Beach Poetry Festival received 154 poetic entries in this year’s contest, arriving from 30 states and 17 different countries.

Shipley’s winning poem (below) was inspired by “Meghan” by Rick Lazes, a hand-molded acrylic panel.

“An Old Husband’s Tale”
how it takes place/ While someone else is eating
— W. H. Auden

Daedalus was not a man, Icarus no boy. That’s a myth.
Without a husband to bind her, Daedalus turned nature
inside out, taught her daughter to fly from earth; after all,

men couldn’t fence air. Feathering Icarus in sequence
as a pan pipe rises, Daedalus twined quills to mold two sets
of wings sealed in an icing of white wax, stiff as bridal lace.

Daedalus hovered, warning: Keep mid-way; water weights
and sun burns. Always follow me. Icarus rose or was pulled
up, casting her shadow on a ploughman, head lifted from

his rut, who grumbled, A woman’s place is in the home.
The mother tried to lift her arms higher to buffer her daughter
but blue enveloped Icarus who cried, Let’s fly all the way

to Trinacria. Knowing Samos was north and Calymne east,
Icarus ignored the earth’s warning being traced out for her
by the sharded coast of Crete. Filial duty cannot blot desire

as the moon eclipses the sun. Perhaps there was a brilliance
gleaming in Icarus’ green eyes that flashed, mercifully
blocking the sight for Daedalus: her only child encircling

wings, writhing like a corn snake carried aloft by a hawk.
Imagine the girl, her mother’s support failing, the aerial lift
and impulse spent. Dripping to the sea, only the wax

hissed, floating as islands do. Daedalus did not fly again.
Unused, feathers yellowed; wax stiffened in her wings
that stretched out more like a shroud than a swan in flight.

 

 

Pat Mottola

Patricia Mottola, a graduate of Southern’s MFA in creative writing program and now an instructor in the program, was featured recently in the Hartford Courant’s CT Poets’ Corner section. Read the article here: Pat-Mottola-Hartford-Courant-042620

Mottola was hired to teach Introduction to Creative Writing immediately after receiving her MFA from Southern because, as one colleague noted, “She was an exceptional student in our department’s MFA program,” and she has been an extraordinary instructor ever since. Mottola’s adviser and now colleague English Professor and CSU Professor Vivian Shipley awarded Distinction to Mottola’s MFA thesis, “If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit: Poems About Relationships,” something rarely done. Shipley remarked that since 1969, she has “never had a better student or known a more dedicated and inspiring teacher.”

Mottola was the 2019 Recipient of the Connecticut Board of Regents Adjunct Teaching Award. She is co-president of the Connecticut Poetry Society; works online with Afghan women and girls through the Afghan Voices project, encouraging them to write poetry in order to empower themselves; and she works with senior citizens, encouraging them to have a rebirth at a time when they are nearing the end of life.

She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern in 2011; an MS in art education from Southern in 1990; study in the Art Psychotherapy Institute, SCSU Department of School Psychology, in 1988; and a BS in art education from Southern in 1987.