Southern in the Spotlight

Assistant Professor of Anthropology William Farley sets out to answer an archeological question for the ages.

William Farley, assistant professor, at home in the Anthropology Lab.

When humans invented agriculture some 10,000 years ago, it forever changed how people worked and lived. In just about every place in the world where agriculture took hold — from Mesopotamia to Mesoamerica — small, transient hunter-gatherer tribes morphed into villages and large cities.

With these new, bustling settlements came sweeping cultural changes, new social hierarchies and, often, vast extremes of poverty and wealth. (Think pharaohs and slaves; kings and commoners.)

Except, that is, in New England.

In fact, around 1,000 A.D., when maize agriculture migrated here from Central Mexico and the Southwest, life seemed to go on pretty much as usual. Or so archaeologists thought.

Now, new research conducted by Assistant Professor of Anthropology William Farley is challenging that assumption. In a paper published last April in American Antiquity, Farley and coauthors Gabriel Hrynick and Amy Fox highlight a pattern of architectural changes that coincide with the arrival of maize farming in New England — shedding new light on a mystery that has stumped archaeologists for decades.

“The answer isn’t what people thought before, which is that maize came into the region and nothing happened,” Farley says. “The changes are subtler than in places like Mesopotamia, where you had 50,000 people living in a city. But we do start to see these subtle changes in houses. And from research we know that houses tend to strikingly reflect cultural values.”

Like so many good ideas, Farley’s was born on the back of the proverbial cocktail napkin, over drinks with Hrynick, a former University of Connecticut classmate, now also an archaeologist. The two were attending a conference and, having reconnected at a hotel bar, were deep in conversation, pondering age-old questions about the arrival of agriculture in New England — and its seemingly negligible influence on society.

“Why does New England look so different from other parts of the world? Why can’t we find these villages?” Farley recalls asking. Although some early European settlers describe encountering villages in the region, archaeologists have never found any evidence, Farley explains.

The talk was a serendipitous meeting of the minds. Farley is an archaeobotanist (he studies the interconnection of plants and humans), while Hrynick’s wheelhouse is architecture. Farley’s geographic focus is southern New England; Hrynick’s is northern Maine and Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

Assistant Professor Farley guides students at an archeological dig at the Henry Whitfield State Museum in Guilford, Conn.

Farley recalls the conversation: “We were talking about different sites in the region and Gabe [Hrynick] said, ‘You know, the houses stayed really small in the North.’” Unlike southern New England, the North adopted agriculture only after Europeans arrived.

In contrast, Farley observed that in southern New England, where he had worked on archeological digs, some of the houses grew larger during later periods. Could it be a pattern? And could maize farming be the reason for the shift?

“Maybe we should explore that,” he remembers thinking. It took a setback — one that threatened to derail Farley’s Ph.D. ambitions — to catapult the idea from barroom brainstorm to bona fide research project.

In January 2017, around the same time he was offered a full-time teaching job at Southern to start the following fall, Farley was diligently plugging away at his doctoral dissertation when his research came to a standstill. “I lost half of my data,” recalls Farley, a UConn grad student at the time. “I was looking at this site from Massachusetts, and the people who controlled the data told me I couldn’t use it anymore.”

He had six months to complete his dissertation. “I was in crisis mode,” says Farley. Forced to find a new topic, he called his friend Hrynick, now a professor at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. “Hey, do you want to write that paper together that we talked about that time at the bar?” Farley asked him.

And so the archeologists joined forces. They later recruited Fox, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto and a “brilliant mathematician,” says Farley, to help with the statistical analysis.

Although their research examined more than 100 archeological sites from New York City to Newfoundland, “we didn’t move a spoonful of dirt,” Farley says. Instead, he spent eight hours a day for nearly two months in libraries around the region, poring over more than a century’s worth of often-obscure archaeological literature.

“Anytime anybody had excavated a house, a wigwam, a pre-European Native American house, we were going to measure them,” Farley says.

After he amassed and crunched all the data, an interesting pattern emerged. In the Maritime Peninsula, where agriculture had not taken hold, houses stayed the same size and shape — small and round — for some 3,000 years. The same was initially true in southern New England — until about 1,000 years ago, when bigger, more elongated houses appeared.

“Things changed right at the same instant, archeologically speaking, that maize arrived in the region. You got a bifurcation of the data,” says Farley.

He can’t say exactly why the shift occurred. “It could be that a social hierarchy is emerging. It could be changes in labor practices,” he says. “I don’t think we’ve got enough data to say for sure. But I think there’s evidence that when maize agriculture arrived, society started changing,” he says. Seeing his work published in American Antiquity, the premier academic journal for American archaeology, marked a major career milestone for Farley, who is 33.

“It really was a bit of a lightning strike — a combination of Gabe’s and my interests,” he says. “This was a nagging question that archaeologists have been interested in for many decades in New England. We took a different approach than anyone has ever used before. We just got a little bit lucky that it worked.”

Photographs chosen among the best student work in the nation by the Society of Professional Journalists

Award-winning photographer Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18

Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, has a way with a viewfinder — a gift that’s led the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to recognize her photographs among the best student work in the nation. In spring 2019, she was named one of only two finalists in the “feature photography” category of the SPJ’s national Mark of Excellence Awards, which honor the best of student journalism.

Jean-Jacques’ award-winning photos — taken during trips to Haiti, India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and more — were included in the inaugural issue of Crescent Magazine, a lifestyle publication produced by Southern students. Jean-Jacques advanced to the national competition after winning first place at the SPJ, Region 1 conference, which represents universities throughout New England, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. (It was a great day for Southern students, who won five additional regional awards for their work on the Southern News student newspaper and Crescent Magazine.)

For Jean-Jacques, the national recognition came at an opportune time, validating her dream of becoming a photojournalist. She came to Southern after earning an associate degree at Housatonic Community College. At Southern, she majored in interdisciplinary studies, with concentrations in studio art and journalism. In addition to working as a photographer, she’s currently a finance billing specialist with a company in West Palm Beach, Fl.

Following, she talks about her approach to photography — and the unique challenges and rewards of earning a degree while raising three boys.

What was it like to be one of only two finalist in the national SPJ competition?
I was overjoyed and in total disbelief, especially since I was unaware I had been entered in the SPJ competition. [Jean-Jacques graduated in May 2018, before the national competition took place. But as a regional winner, she automatically moved on to the national competition.]

A portrait of several generations photographed by Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, in Ghana.

This recognition has come at quite a pivotal point in my journey. I have been seriously contemplating leaving the field of photography and focusing my energy toward philanthropy. I have wrestled fretfully — doubting my skills, talents, and abilities. When Dr. [Cindy] Simoneau, [department chair and professor of journalism,] shared this most unexpected and welcomed news, I received concrete affirmation of my aspirations. Dr. Simoneau and Southern believed in me from the start, and I am truly thankful for their continuous and unwavering support.

How did you first become interested in photography?
I was always one of those kids who watched television incessantly. I loved how cinematography made me feel. Often times, I would think a particular scene would make a great photograph. I also loved flipping through magazines and being pulled into that moment in time. I think, ultimately, I loved photography because it made me feel like I was momentarily transported to a different place. I always had a desire to leave my Brooklyn home and see the world beyond.

Women photographed in Varanasi, India.

Do you remember the first photograph you approached artistically?
The first photograph I remember taking was in my first year of college for a black and white photography class. I went to the train tracks and took pictures of old buildings and alleyways — and wondered what kind of things took place in these spaces. I was responsible for developing the film, and found the entire process creative and rewarding.

What’s your favorite image among the photos you’ve taken?
My absolute favorite photograph is one I took in Ethiopian of a woman making coffee with her son wrapped in beautiful garb on her back. . . . This humble and proud woman welcomed me — a foreigner — into her home, and allowed me to document her daily routines and activities with her child. I felt blessed and grateful. Visually, her life appeared so different from mine. I was ecstatic to have captured this wonderfully beautiful difference. But I realized at that [same] moment that we were much more similar than different.

Asked to select a favorite among the photographs she’s taken, Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, selected this image of a mother and child in Lalebela, Ethiopia.

The Crescent Magazine article explained that you were raising your children while attending Southern. What was most challenging about that time and were there advantages to attending college as an adult?
The two most challenging aspects of attending college as a seasoned adult were arriving home late — and having minimum energy upon that arrival. It was difficult carving out time to assist with my three sons’ homework assignments. I had my own homework to do.

In essence, I worked full time, attended school full time, and managed a family of three young boys, all as a single mother. Yes, challenging, to say the least! There were certainly not enough hours in the day to get it all done. However, with a great deal of planning and a tremendous amount of support from my sons, everything worked out. My sons were true troopers through it all!

Attending college as an adult was much more fulfilling than my earlier collegiate career. Real-life experiences were of great value when interacting with fellow students and professors. I was able to process a great deal of information quickly and make connections to the material being covered.

Siem Reap, Cambodia, is among the 30 some countries Jean-Jacques has traveled to in recent years, often bringing along her children.

Share five things that inspire your work.

Culture and tradition greatly influence my work. I am enthralled by the different cultures of our world — and by the traditions embedded in those cultures. I also am empowered by photographing people in their element. That being said, it stands to reason, my work is inspired by their personal and unique experiences. It is my passion to tell the intimate details of their lives through the lens of my camera.

Lighting is a motivating factor, as well. It’s critical and crucial to any composition. How lighting is used. How it hits the subject. How it ‘playfully plays’ and changes the mood. The affects are infinite.

Lastly, my work is inspired by authenticity. I strive to capture the true nature of a subject while bringing different life experiences to the forefront for all of us to see.

A playful moment in Ghana, captured by Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18.

What role does travel play in your work?
I traveled to approximately 30 countries in the past six years — and yet, that number is far, far below my wishes and aspirations. The cultures, the people, the smells, the colors, the mystique — all of it drives my work. I possess a strong desire to see more of the world and capture the interesting, the beautiful, the ugly, the unique. In the meantime, I will continue to try to see my surroundings with a new set of eyes so I can recognize the interesting, the beautiful, the ugly and the unique right where I am.

A moment in Kenya photographed by Jean-Jacques.

Southern in the Spotlight

In the News

The New Haven Register was one of several news outlets to report on Southern’s new agreement with New Haven Public Schools offering tuition-free classes to students at city high schools.

The annual Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture featured Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps and received a slew of coverage, including this column by Hearst Newspapers sportswriter Jeff Jacobs, which focused on Phelps’ battles with depression and his campaign to promote mental health awareness.

Frank Harris, professor of journalism, was interviewed about the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans to set foot in Colonial America.

Sophomore Asma Rahimyar’s moving words spoken at the Muslim Student Association prayer vigil for the victims of the March massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, were featured in the Hartford Courant’s “Fresh Talk” opinion section.

Jack of al trades master of one-acts

Coming Up at Lyman

May 1 through 4: Student Directed One Acts, Kendall Drama Lab. 7:30 p.m. (plus 2 p.m. May 4)

May 4: Sax to the Max, with saxophonists Michael Lington, Paul Taylor and Vincent Ingala. 8 p.m.

May 31: Grover 75, with the original members of Grover Washington’s last touring band. 8 p.m.

Click here for tickets to these and other events.

Mary Xatse

Southern Social

Here are some of our latest hits on social media:
Dr. Tyree introduces Otus to Michael Phelps
14 Not-to-be-missed spots on campus
Southern alum dubbed “today’s most successful music critic”
Southern starts the conversation on mental health

 

Notable

New Haven high school history teacher Daisha Brabham, ‘17, has been awarded a U.S. Fulbright – U.K. Partnership Award. This prestigious award allows her to receive full funding to complete a Master’s of Public History degree at Royal Holloway University of London during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Tracy Tyree, vice president for student affairs, is the recipient of the CT ACE Women’s Network 2019 Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership Award.

Dana Casetti, research associate in the physics department, is the catalyst for the recent awarding of a three-year grant to Southern totaling $509,480 from the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute for a project to measure motions of distant and old star systems.

Troy Rondinone, professor of history, is the author of Nightmare Factories, the first history of mental hospitals in American popular culture, published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Cheryl Green, assistant professor of nursing’s new book: Incivility Among Nursing Professionals in Clinical and Academic Environments: Emerging Research and Opportunities was featured  in the Connecticut League of Nursing’s most recent newsletter. 

David Pettigrew, professor of philosophy, continues his research and human rights activism in Bosnia. He recently gave two lectures at the International University of Sarajevo and another for KRUG 99, the Association of Independent Intellectuals founded during the siege of Sarajevo. Titled: “Trouble in the Balkans: Republika Srpska and the Failure of the International Community,”  his lecture received extensive press coverage in on line portals, TV, and print media.

It's Giving Day

In the Lens

Southern celebrate its 4th annual Giving Day on Tuesday, April 16. In honor of our 125th anniversary, we’ve set a goal of $125,000. Help us reach it and support our students’ education by visiting SouthernCT.edu/givingday.

Click here to view all of our Southern videos.

Dan Lauria

125 Years and Counting

Here’s the fifth installment of our Living History series featuring alums from every decade since the 1930s: Dan Lauria, ’70, noted actor and star of the hit comedy TV series The Wonder Years.

Keep up with everything about our 125th anniversary celebrations and leave your memories here.

 

Announcements

Southern will hold its Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 24, 2019, at the Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main Street, in Bridgeport, beginning with an academic procession at 10:15 a.m. Graduate Commencement will be held at the Lyman Center on Thursday, May 23 at 2:00p.m. (School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Health & Human Services) and 7:00 p.m. (School of Business and the School of Education, including Library Science).

Connecticut Public Television, in partnership with SCSU,  will premiere “Student Mental Health: Crucial Conversations” on April 18 at 8 p.m., featuring student testimony and a panel of experts including Southern’s Nick Pinkerton, director of counseling services and Jermaine Wright, associate vice president for student affairs.

Parting Shot

Parting Shot

Student volunteers gathered on Discovery Day, April 6, to greet accepted students and welcome them to campus for a day of exploring all that Southern has to offer