School of Arts and Sciences

A first-generation college student, Jacquelynn Garofano, ‘06, is paying it forward by mentoring some of tomorrow's most promising engineers.

Never underestimate the power of a great mentor. As a first-generation college student, Jacquelynn Garofano, ’06, came to Southern to major in physics — and, within that first year, was conducting research in the physics lab. “The catalyst that really set me on my path was meeting and working with Professor [of Physics Christine] Broadbridge. She was instrumental in igniting my love of materials research and guiding me in the pursuit of a doctoral degree,” says Garofano.

Today, Garofano has come full circle, mentoring the next generation of engineers as the program manager of the Margaret Ingels Engineering Development Program at United Technologies, a new entry-level program for top engineering students. Participants rotate through four six-month assignments across the United Technologies business units, such as Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace.

This focus on education echoes Garofano’s early career. Under Professor Broadbridge’s leadership, she held several positions with the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP), a National Science Foundation-funded partnership between Southern and Yale University. Its goal: to share the wonders of science with K-12 students, college students, and educators. Garofano’s commitment to Southern remains strong — and this fall, she joined the SCSU Foundation Board of Directors.

“The two pillars that my career stands on are mentorship and networking,” says Garofano. “Over all this time, a simple but powerful mantra has struck with me: ‘I want to be for someone what Christine was for me,’ and it has materialized in a profound why.”

She’s a STEMinist: Garofano advocates for increasing the presence of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). “Representation matters (#SeeHerBeHer). As a first-generation college student, I was fortunate to have a strong female role model and mentor at Southern: Christine Broadbridge, [professor of physics and executive director of research and innovation]. Now that I’m a professional woman in the tech industry, I make every effort to share my journey and empower young students — but young girls and women, in particular.”

A few accomplishments: Garofano earned a doctorate from the University of Connecticut and was named a “Woman of Innovation” by the Connecticut Technology Council (2011); was spotlighted on the “40 under 40” lists of outstanding young professionals compiled by Connecticut Magazine (2013) and Hartford Business Journal (2015); and was honored by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund for advancing women and girls in the STEM field.

On the job: “As program manager of the Ingels program, I have the privilege of cultivating and leading the next generation of engineers who will shape our future. Frankly, this is what attracted me to this role,” says Garofano, who has complete oversight of the program. Her responsibilities include: leading recruiting activities, managing associate rotation schedules, and planning training curriculum for both technical and leadership development.

On board: “I’m thrilled to have been asked to serve on the SCSU Foundation Board of Directors and look forward to the opportunity to support Southern’s mission of providing exceptional, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities to students through the work of the foundation.

A mighty mentor: Last fall, Garofano was approached by a young woman, Edwina Lorient, a native of Haiti, who was studying mechanical engineering. “Edwina was interested in learning more about the different aspects of engineering and hearing about my experience as an engineer,” says Garofano. “She shared with me her desire to use her engineering skills to support her family and community in Haiti with innovative solutions to provide pure water and clean energy,” she says. Garofano encouraged her to apply for summer research experiences, directed her to the Leadership Summer Research-Early Identification Program through The Leadership Alliance, and guided her through the application process. “I was elated when she told me that she was accepted into Brown University’s program for the summer! The return on my seemingly effortless investment has been massively rewarding, not just for Edwina in securing a research fellowship, but, for me also, because I’ve been able to be ‘that person’ for an aspiring young woman engineer,” she says.

Words of wisdom: “I encourage our program associates to build a strong professional network (as they have a unique opportunity to have four different roles across our enterprise), but most importantly, enjoy the journey and have fun!” she says.

Southern Alumni Magazine cover, Fall 2019, featuring Peter Marra, '85

Read more stories in the Fall ’19 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

At a time when the U.S. is deeply divided politically and ideologically, Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, is committed to students — democrats and republicans.

The office of Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, houses numerous mementos.

Americans are divided on everything — except division. That’s the not-so-stunning conclusion of an NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll in which 80 percent of respondents described the U.S. as divided.

Helping to bridge this political and ideological rift, Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, is a unifying force on campus — serving as adviser to the College Republicans and the College Democrats.

“I never thought I had to be partisan,” says Wharton of his students-first approach. Wharton is a member of the Republican Party, but was raised with an acceptance of opposing viewpoints by parents, who are members of different political parties. “They actually agree on 80 to 90 percent of things. But they are sticking [with their parties], and it was never problematic or disrespectful,” says Wharton.

The College Democrats and College Republicans work well together. The two student organizations held on-campus viewing parties during the 2016 presidential election. (Inspired, in part, by Wharton’s dual advisory roles, the vibrant gatherings received significant attention from the media.) In 2018, 20-plus students — members of both parties — joined faculty at the gubernatorial debates at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven. More joint events are promised for the 2020 election.

When it comes to political action, Wharton describes himself as “a behind the scenes kind of guy,” drawn to planning fund raisers and networking. “My students would rather do the door knocking, the phone banking, the social media. They’d rather follow the research, get the data,” he says.

Adept at wearing multiple hats, Wharton is also the internship adviser for the department. Many students complete multiple internships, up to 15 credits, working in federal and state congressional offices, law firms, nonprofit organizations, city offices, think tanks, and more.

“Most are much better students because of it,” says Wharton, who finds their commitment inspiring and heartening. “Do you know how many students love to do campaign work? It boggles my mind,” he says.

Wharton was raised in West Hartford but was born in New York City — and his parents came from Boston and Chicago. “As a child, I grew attached to these cities we visited. I think that’s why I studied local politics,” says Wharton, shown participating in Southern’s 2019 undergraduate commencement exercises.

Following, Wharton shares more on his commitment to urban planning, politics, and students.

A born educator: “One could argue it’s in the DNA. Both sides of the family have been educators,” says Wharton. His parents met in the doctoral program at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. His grandmothers were teachers. Both grandfathers were lawyers; his paternal grandfather an ambassador as well. “There was always this interest in politics, law, and education,” he says.

A career change: Wharton left a position working with the New Jersey State Legislature to pursue a career in education. “The classroom drew me back in every time,” he says.

In the class: “I like to spark debate and discussion. . . . I want students to be intrigued, curious, and provoked.”

Always civic minded: Wharton serves on the City Planning Commission of New Haven.

Thinking local: “What I try to convey to [students] is that you can make a difference in your community at the local or state level. It takes them a while to get their heads around that. But when they recognize it, the potential is there,” says Wharton.

Why he choose Southern: “I was struck by the fact that it was a teaching university. . . . I liked the small classroom sizes at Southern. And I like the regional universities dynamic. They take teaching so seriously, which I think is critical. They do faculty development workshops, analyze teaching methods, and focus on pedagogy concerns.”

Four treasured office mementos:
1) campaign signs — “A great opener with students when discussing the ins and outs of campaign work,” he says.
2) a first-place banner from a National Collegiate Club Golf Association tournament (2017), signed by the participating students. Wharton also is adviser of Southern’s golf team, which competes in the Metro region.
3) several awards for exceptional work as an adviser
4) a “Distinguished Alumnus Award” from Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity (March 2019)

Research focus: Wharton and Theresa Marchant-Shapiro, associate professor of political science, are working with university librarians to accession the archival papers of several former New Haven mayors. The collection was established through the generosity of attorney Neil Thomas Proto, ’67, and is housed in Buley Library.

In the News: Wharton is a monthly state/local politics analyst on WNPR’s Where We Live and The Wheelhouse.

Southern Alumni Magazine cover, Fall 2019, featuring Peter Marra, '85

Read more stories in the Fall ’19 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Madhouse, funny farm, psychiatric hospital, loony bin, nuthouse, mental institution: no matter what you call it, the asylum has a powerful hold on the American imagination. Stark and foreboding, these institutions symbolize mistreatment, fear, and imprisonment, standing as castles of despair and tyranny across the countryside. In the “asylum” of American fiction and film, treatments are torture, attendants are thugs, and psychiatrists are despots.

In Nightmare FactoriesThe Asylum in the American Imagination, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, Troy Rondinone, professor of history, offers the first history of mental hospitals in American popular culture.

The book focuses on how the asylum has been portrayed though movies, novels and other media, exploring the effect that these portrayals have had on American culture and the stigma of mental illness.

Beginning with Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 short story “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether,” Rondinone surveys how American novelists, poets, memoirists, reporters, and filmmakers have portrayed the asylum and how those representations reflect larger social trends in the United States. Asylums, he argues, darkly reflect cultural anxieties and the shortcomings of democracy, as well as the ongoing mistreatment of people suffering from mental illness.

Nightmare Factories traces the story of the asylum as the masses have witnessed it – often as dark, scary places, where patients are tortured with their “treatment.” This scenario is partly true and partly exaggerated, according to Rondinone, who shows how works ranging from Moby-Dick and Dracula to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestHalloween, and American Horror Story have all conversed with the asylum.

Drawing from fictional and real accounts, movies, personal interviews, and tours of mental hospitals both active and defunct, he has uncovered a story at once familiar and bizarre, where reality meets fantasy in the foggy landscape of celluloid and pulp.

Rondinone also points out that today’s mental health institutions are not like the scary places associated with the American imagination. But he said that unfortunate mantle has fallen to some of America’s contemporary prisons, particularly those where inmates are forced to stay in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Rondinone has discussed this topic with the media, including a recent conversation on WSHU radio.

He also has been writing a series of blog posts for Psychology Today magazine – exploring the history of mental institutions in America, their portrayal in pop culture and the impact that they have had on the American psyche and culture.

And most recently he wrote a perspective piece for The Washington Post: “Scary asylums are a Halloween classic, but it’s time to retire the trope: It’s hurting those suffering from mental illness.” 

 

When another college dissuaded Jacob Santos, '19, from following his dreams and majoring in theatre, he transferred to Southern and never looked back.

There are 14 Newman's Own Fellows, including (back row, third from left) Jacob Santos, '19. The foundation recently hosted the Fellows at a retreat.

Jacob Santos, ’19, is one of only 14 Newman’s Own Foundation Fellows for 2019-20 — and one of only three recipients to graduate from a public college or university. The Newman’s Own Foundation, which was founded by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, launched the 12-month fellowship to develop the next generation of leaders in the nonprofit sector.

Santos is serving as the managing director fellow with Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, a post he describes as his dream job.

Transferring to Southern: Santos started college at another university, majoring in pre-pharmacy, which he quickly realized was not a good fit. He’d acted in high school and remained drawn to the stage. So he decided to talk to his former adviser at that previous college about changing his major.

“That ended up being a very unfortunate conversation,” says Santos. “They discouraged me from trying to become a theatre major, and the wordage they used made it seem like it was an elite club that took themselves seriously. Due to this, I wouldn’t be a good match. This was upsetting . . . How could they know I wasn’t good enough to be part of a department that valued high-quality work and talent? Looking back, it’s even more disappointing because people of color often have many barriers and lack of access to theatre,” says Santos.

Becoming an Owl: “With that experience I knew I had to go to an institution that would give me a chance and value me,” says Santos, adding that he was drawn to the reputation of Southern’s theatre program. “New Haven was a perfect location for the arts. It is close to many other local theaters and a short train ride away from New York City,” he says.

A Southern mentor: Santos lauds Associate Professor of Theatre Kaia Monroe-Rarick, describing her as his professor, director, adviser, and supervisor. “I credit her with giving me almost every opportunity I’ve had in theatre. . . . She cast me in my first show, helped me get a job in the theatre office [at Southern], and gave me my first chance to go to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in our region,” he says.


A new career goal: Santos dreamed of a career in theater management — and charted his course by pursuing two degrees (business administration and theatre). “I was lucky to have advisers and professors who cared enough to pave that road with me. People like Professor Kaia or Rebecca Goodheart [artistic producer of the Elm Shakespeare Company, Southern’s theatre in residence] who gave me my first theatre management internship,” he says.

An amazing senior experience: Completing an arts administration internship through the ASPIRE leadership program at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival * The internship focuses on engaging people of color, women, and members of other groups that are consistently underrepresented in the field. “[Associate] Professor Michael Skinner knew of my interest in theater management and told me this was something I had to do,” says Santos.

Biggest source of pride: “My work in creating the Crescent Players of Color Coalition was one of the most rewarding, out of class experiences I had at Southern. It was an exercise in advocacy for oneself and for one’s community,” he says.

Supporting inclusivity: “Issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion weren’t unique to Southern’s theatre department,” says Santos. “It is an industry-wide issue with many theatres and institutions-at-large being faced with the question of ‘how are you going to evolve in a world that is become increasingly diverse?’ What was unique to Southern, however, was how they dealt with our questions. Speaking with other young leaders of color, many have faced backlash or apathy when they brought these issues forward to their universities. Our department, on the other hand, was completely game to hold as many conversations as needed to figure out specific actions we could do to change and grow,” says Santos.

Every cloud has a silver lining: “I was able to do all of this — create a degree path that I wanted, be part of theatre, and engage in exciting opportunities — because of Southern. It makes that frustrating experience at my past university a bright one, because it led me to where I am now. I’m a proud Afro-Latino man with two degrees from SCSU, and I’m working professionally in theatre. I couldn’t be more thankful or happier.” says Santos.

Southern Alumni Magazine cover, Fall 2019, featuring Peter Marra, '85

Read more stories in the Fall ’19 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Walter Stutzman with former students in the applied music program

Ten years later, the Stutzman Family Foundation is still transforming lives.

In January 2016 Candace Naude, ‘20, was sitting in the audience of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening when she had an awakening of her own. “I realized that I have to pursue music,” Naude says. “I couldn’t escape it anymore.”

Naude had been passionate about music her entire life but had been discouraged from making a career of it.

“Music wasn’t one of the hiring industries, and everyone told me it would be so hard for me to find a job and make a living,” Naude says. “Unfortunately I listened to them, and decided to join the Army. I enlisted immediately after high school and spent four years in the military. In 2014 I was honorably discharged and moved back home to Trumbull.” Money was tight, but Naude enrolled in the music program at Southern.

“I didn’t care if I couldn’t find a job or make an easy living,” Naude says. “I needed to make music.”

An epiphany that calls one back to music is something Walter Stutzman, adjunct faculty member with Southern’s Department of Music, can relate to. Shaken by 9-11 — he was across the street from the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the attacks occurred  — he retired from 30 years of software consulting and came to Southern shortly afterwards to earn a BA in Music.

“My life was transformed through the music I studied and performed and was further changed when I joined [Southern’s] music faculty in 2009,” Stutzman says. He found the experience so transformative, he sought to help other students fulfill their dreams. As a trustee of the Stutzman Family Foundation, which was established by his parents, Geraldine and Jacob Stutzman, shortly before their deaths in the mid-2000s, Stutzman has helped make the music program at Southern one of the best.

“He has transformed the entire program,” says Craig Hlavac, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Southern. “Music students are studying with professionals in the area, so they’re learning the ropes from these folks and the business aspects as well.”

Mani Mirzaee, ‘14, a composer, educator, pianist, setar and tar performer, experienced that first-hand.

“The care and kindness the music faculty showed gave me the confidence to pursue music as a career, and the Stutzman Foundation truly enabled the faculty to provide the student body with the attention and care they had to give,” Mirzaee says. “The Stutzman Foundation elevated the capacity the faculty had within the music department. Practice rooms, computers, enhanced digital audio work-stations and many other amazing amenities were provided for the students.”

This evolving technology has helped keep the music curriculum relevant — and to attract students interested in the technological side of the field.

“You can have a career in this, and that’s why our degree looks different than most,” Hlavac says. “We have classes in music technology, for example. With other schools, their curriculum may look the same as it did 50 years ago. We’ve adapted. And with Stutzman’s background in IT, he saw this and helped us to build a music studio, which allows us to train students in music technologies. The entire landscape of music has changed, from CDs to YouTube, and we’re right on pace.”

The cutting-edge technology appealed to musicians like Terri Lane, ‘08, who has been in the music business as a professional singer for years. (Similar to Stutzman and Naude, Lane had an epiphany and left a successful 20-year career in the fields of energy efficiency, sales, and marketing to pursue music.)

“When I researched schools, the SCSU professors impressed me school-wide,” says Lane. “The curriculum was so updated. The teachers were performers too and that means they’re continually improving themselves and not stagnant. It was the only school I applied to, and the first day I knew I’d made the right decision. The emphasis on technology gives everyone access to music and music production.”

Access is a crucial component to the Stutzman Family Foundation’s mission. In addition to revamping the program itself, the Stutzman Family Foundation offers the Stutzman Family Foundation Music Scholarship(s) and the Southern Applied Music Program, which provides  free weekly voice or instrument lessons.

Those free lessons immediately stood out to Naude. “Most, if not all, schools charge their students for music lessons,” Naude says. “It was remarkable to me that it wouldn’t cost me a dime. The lessons completely changed my life. I always considered myself as a pretty good singer, but never before have I been pushed so far to discover what I am truly capable of. I have learned to be more confident, have better stage presence, learn more languages (a lot of classical pieces are German and French), and access so many different parts of my voice that I didn’t even know I had. I have essentially become a more improved version of myself.”

International choir trips, available at a discounted price thanks to the Stutzman Foundation and taken with the University Choir, also enable students to improve their skills. This year, the choir is visiting Rome, Tuscany (Florence), and Venice and will sing Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of St. Anthony.

“For students that have been in the choir consecutively since they’ve attended Southern,” says Naude, “the foundation actually pays for the entire trip, apart from a $500 charge to the student. I was able to travel with the choir to Portugal. I am so appreciative for what [the Stutzmans] have done for the musicians of Southern.”

Mirzaee, too, is quick to express his gratitude.

“What sets Professor Stutzman apart from other human beings is not his philanthropic activities, but his eagerness to partake in the act of enabling others as a teacher and a mentor,” Marzaee says. “Over the years as a student and now a teacher, I have come to the conclusion that we can surpass any hurdle in life if we have someone that enables us to believe in ourselves. Ten years ago, as I was dreaming about my future at Southern, moving forward inch by inch and hoping to get to the next level of my musical career and educational step. I am forever grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to dream and move forward.”

If you are wondering if the music field is right for you, perhaps your epiphany is soon to come. If you’re growing restless, though, perhaps the aphorism Stutzman uses when he begins his Music Survey class may ring true:

“Music in the ears. Listen with open ears and an open mind: There are many musics around the world that are worthy of your careful listening. Music in the head. Knowing what’s inside music (its structures) and how it developed into what we hear today is important. Music in the hands. Practice! One of my teachers at Southern used to say, ‘Music is the only major where you finish your homework and then have to practice.’ Music in the heart. Know your goals, talk to musicians who have achieved those goals, have a plan, and always keep whatever music is important to you in your heart.”

Alumna wins the "Oscars of Teaching," becoming the first Milken Educator Award recipient of the 2019-20 season.

A group of students come in for a group hug to support their award-winning teacher.
Excited students swarm Sepulveda for a group hug. Photo: Milken Family Foundation

Social studies teacher Lauren Sepulveda, ’10, entered the gym prepared for an upbeat but typical morning assembly at Clinton Avenue School in New Haven. Instead she received the surprise of a lifetime when her name was announced as the first recipient of the 2019-20 Milken Education Award and its $25,000 prize. Watch Sepulveda receive the award.

Hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards are designed to “celebrate, elevate, and activate the American teaching profession.” It is not a lifetime achievement award. Instead, the recipients are recognized for exceptional mid-career achievements — and the promise of what they might accomplish given the resources provided with the award.

Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, made the presentation to a shocked Sepulveda in front of a cheering crowd of students, colleagues, and local and state officials. “Lauren Sepulveda brings history to life by demonstrating how past events have shaped our nation, world, and people today. Students develop a greater understanding of the responsibilities as global citizens and lifelong learners,” said Foley.

Sepulveda, who earned a B.S. in history 7-12 at Southern is the sole award recipient in Connecticut. Nationwide, no more than 40 educators will be honored during the 2019-20 season.

Sepulveda, who teaches seventh and eighth grade, was lauded for efforts to help her students become global thinkers and empathetic citizens. In her classroom, students have met guest speakers who share personal stories of their experiences during World War II, the Korean War, and the Rwandan genocide. Another assignment challenged students to review coverage of the Revolutionary War in their text books — and determine whose perspectives were missing. The students next drafted a new chapter that included the stories of significant minorities. Sepulveda then helped the students submit their work to the text book publisher for consideration for the next edition.

In addition to the cash prize, the award includes networking and mentoring components. Sepulveda will join the other 2019-20 honorees at an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, to connect with other educational trailblazers. In addition, each 2019 recipient will be paired with a veteran Milken Educator mentor.

Art Professor Mia Brownell and her husband, Martin Kruck, a professor and Art Department chair at New Jersey City University, were both awarded sabbaticals last year. Their joint interest in Roman art and architecture lead them to both being awarded Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome during the month of October 2019. Their research took them to additional locations in Sicily and Malta. Artwork created during sabbatical by Brownell and Kruck is on display in a two-person exhibitionSkeptical Realism — at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, N.J., through January 2020. The exhibition opened this month.

According to the museum’s description of the exhibit, “Brownell’s series Plate to Platelet simultaneously draws on scientific images of platelets (tiny blood cells shaped like plates) and the history of the painted food still life. She explores the realism of eating by recognizing the entanglement between the consumerist idealization of food with its biological engineering and the molecular strains that then interact with our bodies. The space she paints attempts to capture this paradoxical perspective, one that is equally rational and fantastical, material and in constant flux, Brownell said. She encourages viewers to consider this question: If we are what we eat, what are we becoming?”

A sabbatical leave, CSU Research Grant, and Faculty Creative Activity Research Grant supported Brownell’s creative activity research during the 2018-2019 academic year.

In addition, Brownell’s painting Pear and Grape, oil on canvas, 2008, is featured in the group exhibit Foodie Fever at NYC’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Shiva Gallery. This painting was also on display at the USA Department of State Embassy in Hong Kong during the Obama administration.

Her painting Passing Fruit, oil on canvas, 2008, was also featured in the exhibit Foodie Fever at NYC’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Shiva Gallery.

Brownell’s painting Bird and Bees, oil on canvas, 2014, is featured on the cover of SCSU’s English professor Margot Schilpp’s new book of poetry Afterswarm.

Bird and Bees

The paintings below, as well as the painting featured at the top of this story, are all from Brownell’s sabbatical and are on display with many others at the Hunterdon Art Museum.

The MFA Program will officially celebrate its 10th anniversary at an alumni reading and reception on Friday, October 4, at 7 p.m., in Engleman A120. The reading will feature Ryan Leigh Dostie, author of the memoir Formation, and Martina “Mick” Powell, author of the poetry chapbook, chronicle the body.

Once upon a time, Southern Connecticut State University didn’t have a master of fine arts in creative writing program. But for the past decade, the university’s MFA program has been attracting and educating writers who have found success in publishing their work, as well as in related arenas such as teaching and editing. The program is a quiet powerhouse, its graduates’ work winning prizes and finding its way into countless literary journals, onto best-seller lists, and into the hands of eager readers. It’s also the only full-residency program of its kind in Connecticut.

“When I first got here in 1994 and found out there was no MFA program at all in Connecticut, I was extremely surprised,” says English Professor Tim Parrish, one of the program’s founders. “I realized we had the quality of writing students here at Southern who could get MFAs, but because we didn’t have a program here, we had to send many of our creative writing undergrads to MFA programs in other states just in the first few years I was here.”

Parrish, who teaches fiction and memoir writing to undergraduates and graduates and is himself the author of three books, decided to propose an MFA program at Southern, to give his undergraduate writing students a way to continue their work at the university while earning the MFA degree. The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is the terminal degree in its field, similar to a Ph.D., and qualifies those who hold the degree to teach creative writing at the university level, among other types of positions. The university already offered a master’s degree in English, in which students could concentrate in creative writing, but bringing an MFA program to Southern would benefit student writers in ways the master’s concentration could not.

Parrish presented his first proposal to the English Department in 1997 — “just a sketch of an idea for an MFA program” he says – and the department supported it. In 2002, Parrish and English Professor Jeff Mock, a poet, wrote the first formal proposal. In 2004, fiction writer Robin Troy joined the English Department faculty, and together, Parrish, Mock, and Troy began rewriting the proposal. “We finally got it approved in 2009 and brought in the first class of MFA students that same year,” says Parrish.

“We started out with poets mostly, and a couple of fiction writers,” Parrish says. “The next year we started getting a lot more out-of-state students. I thought we’d be serving primarily Connecticut residents, but we became a national program. We had a really good word-of-mouth reputation.”

Troy, the author of two novels, recalls that when she first came to Southern, Parrish had already done “much of the heavy lifting” to get the MFA program off the ground, “and I got to arrive in time to join the fun. Sure, we still had a lot of work to do on the proposal, and presenting our program to the chancellor in Hartford, but the fundamental work of convincing our university why we should have an MFA program had already been done.” She calls Parrish “our hero, the true heart behind the program, without whom it never would have gotten off the ground.”

Troy explains that nationally, MFA programs generally are small, but are also highly competitive and very popular. These programs “undeniably bring an identity to their university,” Troy says, “and our program was no exception. MFA programs attract students full of heart and passion, and we felt that in our program at SCSU from the start. To me, bringing that kind of intense, passionate, terminal-degree program to a university is priceless.”

Parrish agrees, adding that a key ingredient in the program’s success is that it is a teaching community that is both very accessible and supportive to students. The MFA faculty develop close mentorships with students, Parrish says. “We try to help them realize their vision as writers – we meet them where they are.”

Troy adds that the MFA experience at SCSU extends far beyond the classroom, to one-on-one mentoring, after-class gatherings, on- and off-campus readings, events in New Haven, conference attendance across the country, and celebrating each other at thesis readings and in parties in people’s homes. “All of this contributed to our momentum in building a program that has clearly gained recognition for Southern as a whole,” she says.

English Professor Vivian Shipley, a CSU Professor and a highly-acclaimed poet, also speaks warmly about her mentoring relationships with her MFA students. “I have been lucky enough to have the program’s  wonderful students in my MFA poetry workshops, and I am honored to be a part of it,” Shipley says, adding that she is especially proud of the students who chose her to direct their MFA poetry thesis and published a book as a result of the thesis, among them Lori DeSanti, Christine Beck, Pat Mottola, Brendan Walsh, Lynn Houston, and Mick Powell. Many of the rest of Shipley’s students have published extensively in major national journals and are now professors themselves. “So,” she says, “my teaching life has been enriched by the efforts of Tim Parrish and all he has done for the MFA.”

Parrish agrees with Shipley that Southern’s MFA grads “have had a lot of poetry books come out, and we’re starting to get more on the fiction and memoir side.” He says his initial instincts about the Southern’s creative writing students were correct – many of them have published books, some have become professors, and one made the New York Times bestseller list.

“People don’t have to come here as stars,” he says, “because we’re interested in folks who have a passion for literature and studying literature and who want to become better writers.” And that is clearly happening.

On campus, Parrish says, MFA students have a reputation for being smart and reliable. They’re in demand for working in departments around campus. Several students have become teaching interns and develop mentor/mentee relationships with undergrads. Interns work with full-time faculty in the classroom and learn from them, and in the process develop their own pedagogy. “People come out of our program and teach in others,” says Parrish, pointing to another example of the program’s success. He gives as examples creative writing alumni Sheila Squillante, now the MFA program director at Chatham University; Jeff Voccola, now a professor of creative writing at Cuttstown University; and Lisa Mangini, who now teaches at Penn State.

Assistant Professor of English Rachel Furey, the program’s newest faculty member, says that the internship program is helpful for faculty, too, as having another person in the classroom can bring a fresh perspective to familiar material. Furey came to Southern in 2016 to teach fiction, and she enjoys the age diversity of students within the MFA program and the variety in the writing that her students do. “They’re not afraid to experiment a lot with their writing,” she says, “and this is good for me to see, as a writer myself.” Furey also points to the sense of community among the MFA students and faculty as one of the program’s strongest points.

Troy speaks nostalgically about the program, having left Southern in 2014 and now co-directing the Beargrass Writers Workshop in Missoula, Montana. “We just had so much fun together,” she says. “We represented such a range of ages and life experiences, all coming together with the common goal of making our varied, colorful voices heard. There was such a mutual respect among us, such a lack of pretension — and a shared feeling of never to want to say good-bye. I love seeing how our grads, even if they’ve moved on to different jobs or states, still stay in touch and circle back to Southern and each other. Ten years might sound like a long time, but it’s actually just a blink, and in that blink the MFA faculty at Southern has created a competitive, spirited program with real legs and heart. I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

RSVP for the October 4 MFA alumni reading and reception.

Music Professor Mark Kuss (right) with Music for Life International Director George Mathew

Music Professor Mark Kuss has been elected by the board of Music for Life International as interim chairman for the next 24 months. The organization’s treasurer and longtime board member, Kuss — a composer and digital entrepreneur as well as an educator — has served on the board with distinction since 2011 and as treasurer since 2013. In addition, he has generously shared his own artistry with Music for Life International over the years, as pianist, composer and arranger in several Music for Life International initiatives in the United States and abroad. Kuss will join Artistic Director George Mathew in a lecture-performance focusing on Music, Migration and Displacement this next week in Maastricht, in the Netherlands.

Since its founding in 2006, Music For Life International has pursued its mission to create transformative social impact through music for the most vulnerable human beings. Music for Life International Inc. (MFLI), which takes its name from the legendary MUSIC FOR LIFE concerts organized by Leonard Bernstein in the late 1980s at Carnegie Hall, was created to conceive and present musical concerts and related events to promote the awareness of significant international humanitarian crises and other public interest issues in the United States and throughout the world. MFLI, a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization, contributes the net-proceeds from its humanitarian concerts at Carnegie Hall to organizations directly addressing the crises and issues, which are the context for the concerts.

Kuss has received awards from the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters, the N.E.A., the Jerome Foundation, Meet the Composer, A.S.C.A.P., the Copland Foundation and others. His work has been performed by the 21st Century Consort, the Folger Consort, the State Orchestra of Romania, at Merkin Hall, the 92nd Street Y, the MacDowell Colony, the Swannanoa Music Festival, the Monadnock Music Festival, San Francisco’s Composers Inc., the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, and throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.

 

 

 

✉️ Deliver to:

Dr. Barbara Aronson
Professor of Nursing & Ed.D. Coordinator
Department of Nursing


Dear Professor,

This past semester I was faced with a very stressful family event. While on campus to see my dissertation chair, you happened to see me waiting and inquired how I was doing. I am sure youdid not expect to hear the story I told youBut you listened with kindness and understanding. You offered some supportive suggestions to help me not only manage this time in my life, but to put my educational goals into perspective. Throughout this semester you have been a source of guidance. When faced with a decision to possibly withdraw from the program, you took it upon yourself to seek out a solution that I was not able to see. You have been a source of guidance during a time of darkness in my personal life. I find that I look to you for help, but also find that I want to prove to you that I can make it through this challenging time. I am grateful to have you as my advisor. You have gone out of your way to show me that having balance is essential. It is so apparent that you truly care.

Thank you,
Deborah Morrill


About Barbara Aronson

Favorite Teaching Moment(s):

Some of my most favorite teaching memories happen after the long process of helping my students write, conduct and defend their dissertations. As I watch them on the podium during the defense, nothing can match the pride I feel for my students, knowing how hard they have worked and the many obstacles and frustrations they have overcome. Being a part of their dissertation journey, and watching them transition from novice researchers to emerging scholars, is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a faculty member at SCSU.

Teaching Philosophy:

I believe good teaching is student-centered and grounded in evidence-based teaching practices and theories of teaching and learning. Excellent teachers set high expectations for students and encourage students to be active partners in their own learning and development as a practitioner or teacher/scholar. Providing prompt feedback to students and opportunities for ongoing student/faculty interaction and collaborative problem solving will prepare students to be innovators in their future practice. Active teaching practices encourage students to be self-directed and accountable for their learning. Teachers who role model professionalism, caring, curiosity, respect and humility in their teaching and interactions with students prepare students to extend the same virtues to their patients or students in their future practice.

Favorite Course to Teach:

One of my favorite courses to teach is Theories of Teaching and Learning in Adult and Higher Education. This is one of the very first courses our Ed.D. in Nursing Education students take in the program. While they are understandably overwhelmed by the amount of work in the course, they quickly come to realize how helpful learning about educational theories can be to them in their role as academic nurse educators. What is most gratifying to me as a teacher is to hear how they are using what they are learning each week to improve their teaching. As one student said, “The knowledge and understanding of adult learning theory I gained in this class has had a tremendous impact on my teaching and course design. I have begun to incorporate the different theories into my class presentations. I now see the students as a unique, multi-generational, multicultural set of learners. This course has also shifted my framework from my teaching to student learning.”

Recent Courses Taught:

  • NUR 432: Adult Responses to Complex Health Problems
  • NUR 443: Nursing Capstone
  • NUR 801: Theories of Teaching and Learning in Adult and Higher Education
  • NUR 803: Curriculum Development, Implementation, and Evaluation in Nursing
  • NUR 813: Dissertation Seminar I
  • NUR 814: Dissertation Seminar II
  • NUR 817: Continuing Dissertation Advisement