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MFA student William Conlon, in 1960 and 2016
MFA student William Conlon, in 1960 and 2016

Back when Bill Conlon was an undergraduate at Southern in the early 1960s, he happened to know Walter Tevis, who was teaching creative writing at Southern at the time and later went on to write the novel The Queen’s Gambit, upon which the wildly popular Netflix miniseries is based. Based on Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, The Queen’s Gambit is a coming-of-age drama created for Netflix in 2020. Tevis also wrote The Hustler, which was made into a movie starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason; The Color of Money, which was made into a film starring Newman and Tom Cruise; and The Man Who Fell to Earth, which also was made into a film, starring David Bowie.

But when Conlon knew Tevis, he was a writing teacher and “a superb storyteller.” Conlon is himself a storyteller, and is now a graduate student in the English Department‘s MFA in creative writing program. Here Conlon shares his own story about his early years at Southern and his friendship with Tevis.

Tell me a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Have you lived in the New Haven area your whole life?

I was born at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., on July 8, 1942. The oldest of six siblings, I attended St. Mary’s School and graduated in 1956 with the English prize. I spent three years at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Conn., and graduated with honors from Derby High School in 1960.

What was it like to be an undergraduate at Southern in the early 1960s?

I started my studies at Southern Connecticut State College in the fall of 1960. In May 1963, I married and moved to New Haven where I worked, 3-11, at the Hospital of St. Raphael since the summer of 1960. Marriage, employment, and fatherhood impacted my involvement at Southern, scholastically and socially. After SC² became SCSU, I transferred to the class of 1965 to enroll in the B.A. program and escape student teaching. Unfortunately, low grades prevented my graduating, and I didn’t earn my B.A. until 2016.

In what ways is it different to be a graduate student at Southern in 2020?

I am presently retired from the work force and enrolled in the MFA program in creative writing. Devoting adequate time to my studies allows me to appreciate the admirable faculty of Southern’s English Department. I earn the grades that I dreamed of as an undergraduate. I also have time to partake of activities like answering this questionnaire.

I understand that you knew Walter Tevis, who wrote the book The Queen’s Gambit, on which the popular miniseries is based. Tevis taught creative writing at Southern when you were an undergraduate student here. How did you know him, and what was he like?

When Walter Tevis taught at Southern, he was well known as the author of The Hustler. I was never in his class. We did meet and chat on a number of occasions. We lived equidistant from the Yale Bowl Café on Derby Ave. Passing the café on my way home from work, I would look through the window to see if Mr. Tevis was at the bar. I would then check my pockets for a spare half dollar for a couple draft beers and join him. Mr. Tevis was an affable gentleman and a superb storyteller. He enjoyed talking about the pool room he ran, off campus, at the University of Kentucky where he majored in English. He said that the fixes that got the entire UK basketball team banned from the NCAA took place in his poolroom. He later wrote the science fiction novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth. He also talked about making the movie of The Hustler, his role as technical advisor, and hobnobbing with the movie stars. He spoke of being at the home of George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst when Liz Taylor and Richard Burton dropped in for cocktails. He suggested that I take his class, but I couldn’t envision finding time to write.

What made you want to enter Southern’s MFA program? Have you always been a writer? Where are you in the program, and what kind of writing do you do?

After finally earning my degree, I took advantage of the generous CSCU program for senior citizens and continued taking courses. I took introductory courses in creative writing because I had often dreamed of writing as I am sure most avid readers sometimes do. My excellent teacher, Jason Labbe, encouraged me to apply for the MFA program. Before taking Jason’s classes, I had never written anything other than school assignments except for a one-page story when I was in second grade. I applied to the program, and I was accepted. Presently, I am about halfway through the 48-credit program. My major is fiction writing. I have been writing mostly stories about after-hours night life in the 1970s. During these past two semesters, I have explored a burgeoning interest in writing poetry.

How are virtual writing classes going?

The virtual writing workshops have gone remarkably well. One misses the camaraderie that is part of the workshop experience, but I believe my writing has improved as it would have in the classroom environment.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I would advise any aspiring writer to take beginning courses in creative writing to ground oneself in the techniques of craft. Then write and continue writing and write some more.

an early photo of Walter Tevis
Walter Tevis, around 1960

Vivian Shipley

English Professor Vivian Shipley, a Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, has won the grand prize in The MacGuffin’s 25th Annual Poet Hunt Contest with her poem “No Rehearsal.” The MacGuffin is a national literary journal established in 1984 at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich. The winning three poems, selected by this year’s guest judge, poet Matthew Olzmann, will be published in a short feature appearing in Vol. 37.1 due out in early 2021.

Shipley, who earned her bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in English from the University of Kentucky and her doctorate in Victorian literature from Vanderbilt University, has taught at Southern since 1969 and has published 16 books of poetry. She teaches undergraduate and graduate poetry writing workshops in the English Department. She says that her winning poem is about the coronavirus.

Shipley’s work has received many accolades. Her book All of Your Messages Have Been Erased (Louisiana Literature Press, 2010) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and won both the 2011 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and the Sheila Motton Book Prize for Poetry from New England Poetry Club. It was also recognized as Best Creative Work by the Connecticut Press Club and was a finalist for both the Connecticut Book Prize and the Milton Kessler Poetry Prize from SUNY-Binghamton. Shipley has received many other awards and recognitions as well, including being chosen as SCSU Faculty Scholar three times and named to the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Robert McEachern

In this strange era through which we are all navigating new territories every day, it’s easy to feel a little lost at times. In an essay he published recently on Inside Higher Ed, entitled “Directionless,” English Professor Robert McEachern “contemplates the first time in many years that he didn’t spend the first day of classes roaming the halls of his university helping students who couldn’t find their way.”

Read “Directionless”

Inside Higher Ed is a leading source of news, analysis, and services for the entire higher education community.

 

On June 16, English adjunct instructor Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy and her family will share their lives on a national stage when a documentary film about the family, Little Miss Westie, is screened on several TV channels. Stoehr-McCarthy, a graduate of Southern’s MFA in creative writing program who teaches composition at Southern, won the university’s prestigious J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teacher Award for 2017-18 and, more recently, the CSUS Board of Regents Adjunct Faculty System-Wide Teaching Award. She and her husband Chris McCarthy are the parents of two transgender teenagers, and the family’s journey over the past few years has been captured in Little Miss Westie. The film is named after an annual beauty pageant that takes place in West Haven, where the family lives. In the film, the McCarthys’ daughter, Ren, a trans girl, competes in the Little Miss Westie Pageant, and her older brother, Luca, a trans boy, coaches her on posing, make-up, and talent. Luca competed several years ago when he was living as a girl, so he’s an experienced adviser.

The film was made four years ago when son Luca (19 now) was 15 and daughter Ren (now 14) was 10.

“Little Miss Westie” premieres on WORLD Channel Tuesday, June 16, at 8 p.m. during his LGBTQ+ Pride Month and on worldchannel.org as part of its “America ReFramed” series. (It’s also on certain PBS stations Tuesday, namely WGBY in Springfield, Mass., and streaming platforms such as amdoc.org and PBS.org.)

The New Haven Register recently ran a feature about the McCarthy family and Little Miss Westie. Read “‘Little Miss Westie’ tells of West Haven family with 2 transgender kids,” by Joe Amarante, June 12, 2020

Download the PDF: ‘Little Miss Westie’ tells of West Haven family with 2 transgender kids

Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy

 

 

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.

 

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.

On November 15, English adjunct instructor Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy and her family will open up their lives to the university community when a documentary film, Little Miss Westie, is screened on campus. Stoehr-McCarthy, an MFA fiction writing student who teaches composition and won the university’s prestigious Outstanding Teacher Award last year, is the mother of two transgender teenagers, and the family’s journey over the past few years has been captured in Little Miss Westie. Stoehr-McCarthy’s husband and the teens’ father, Christian McCarthy, is a doctoral student in Southern’s Educational Leadership program. The film is named after an annual beauty pageant that takes place in West Haven, where the family lives. In the film, the McCarthys’ daughter, Ren, a trans girl, competes in the Little Miss Westie Pageant, and her older brother, Luca, a trans boy, coaches her on posing, make-up, and talent. Luca competed six years ago when he was living as a girl, so he’s an experienced adviser.

When Luca came out in 2015, Stoehr-McCarthy wrote an article about his transition, and someone who works with filmmaker Dan Hunt saw the article and connected him with Stoehr-McCarthy. Hunt, with over 25 years of filmmaking experience focusing on gender, sexuality, aging, and prison reform, teamed up with documentary filmmaker Joy E. Reed and they “just started filming” the family’s day-to-day life, Stoehr-McCarthy says. Filming began during Stoehr-McCarthy’s first year at Southern, in the fall of 2016. Hunt and Reed secured grant funding and became able to hire a crew, and the film crew “followed us around for a year,” says Stoehr-McCarthy. Eventually they began to figure out the “spine” of the story, which was the beauty pageant.

In West Haven, where the family lives, local girls are invited each spring to participate in the Little Miss Westie Pageant, held in the West Haven High School auditorium. The pageant, which usually draws about 40 participants each year, started as a fundraiser for Project Graduation, a post-graduation celebration provided for free to WHHS graduates in June.

“The 2016 presidential election changed our experience and then changed the film,” Stoehr-McCarthy says, explaining that “Trump’s election was devastating within the trans community.” A trio of groups In New Haven serves trans kids and their families, and people come from all over Connecticut to take part in these groups. Stoehr-McCarthy says that the groups’ coordinator reported that after the 2016 election, his phone line “turned into something like a suicide hotline,” as he talked to parents of trans kids to help them so that their kids weren’t terrified.

“No one knew if the federal government would suddenly turn around and say you couldn’t change your name and gender markers,” Stoehr-McCarthy says. “Everyone was trying to get documents changed as quickly as possible after the election.” The documents pertain to name-changing, Social Security, passports, and other materials related to personal identity. The family rushed to legally change the kids’ names and genders on their documents, a process that involved a court hearing. Dr. Adrian Demidont, a doctor in New Haven who specializes in the care of adolescent and adult trans- and gender-diverse individuals, ran a free document-changing clinic for trans kids in the period following the election.

Stoehr-McCarthy says that her family managed to get all their documents done by the end of 2016, “and our kids are now the same as cis children in terms of how they appear on paper.” The term “cis” refers to a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.

Luca, a senior at Common Ground High School in New Haven, is taking two courses at Southern in the English and political science departments and wants to be an art teacher. Ren is almost 13 and started this fall at a therapeutic school in New Haven. Both Luca and Ren have suffered with anxiety and depression. They attend the Yale Gender Program, staffed by a team of doctors and mental health professionals that provides family-centered care for children, teens, and young adults who are questioning their assigned gender and/or seeking gender-affirming consultation and treatment.

Stoehr-McCarthy started teaching as a GTA with English Professor Charles Baraw as her mentor. Both won the university’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2018. Stoehr-McCarthy has had a couple of trans students in her classes, one of whom “was really struggling. I mentioned my kids, and this student was so happy I did. He wasn’t out yet and was a freshman and kind of scared.” She says her experience of Southern has been one of “an open, tolerant, accepting community.” The English Department, she says, has been “especially encouraging of faculty and students to be their best selves.”

Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy

English Professor Tim Parrish, director of the MFA Program, says that Stoehr-McCarthy is “the ideal MFA student and teaching colleague. She’s smart, incredibly dedicated, talented, caring, a great community member and team player, and really funny and warm. She’s also a consummate pro in whatever she chooses to do, and she’s also a great mother. We’re all lucky in the English Department to know her.”

The screening of Little Miss Westie will take place at 8 p.m. on November 15 in the Adanti Student Center Theater and will be followed by a Q&A with Stoehr-McCarthy and her family, along with filmmakers Hunt and Reed. The SAGE Center and Residence Life will host a pre-screening reception from 7-8 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of Transgender Awareness Week and Social Justice Month.

 

Photo credit of Ren McCarthy: Rob Featherstone

 

 

The J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching is presented each year to one full-time and one part-time faculty member for exemplary teaching. The award is one of the university’s highest honors, and faculty honorees are recognized at undergraduate commencement with a plaque and an honorarium of $2500.

The awardee for 2017’s full-time award is Associate Professor of English Charles Baraw, known for his thoughtful, meticulously prepared and stimulating English classes, as well as his rare ability to switch gears if that’s what he senses students need. The awardee for the part-time award is Michelle Stoehr-McCarthy, Adjunct Professor of English, an accomplished writer, who has made a remarkable impact on students and colleagues during her short time at Southern as an adjunct professor teaching composition/academic writing.

In eight years at Southern, Baraw has designed and taught more than a dozen different courses and created two new ones again this year. He has a broad range of experience teaching 19th- and 20th-century literature, as well as the works of Shakespeare and the British poets.

One of his most popular classes, “Comics and the American Experience,” ends with a project in which students create their own comic, along with an essay about the creative process behind their productions.

“I have to listen carefully to what students say and what they do not say in their conversations with the text, with each other, and with me,” Baraw wrote of his teaching style. “And I have to be ready to act accordingly, to change, to try a different approach. What do we do, for instance, when students are reluctant to speak in class because, as some have told me, they are ‘afraid of being wrong’? Or when students do not know what to look at or what to look for in a text, or when they don’t or won’t or can’t do the assigned reading?”

One colleague, calling Baraw “respected and admired,” said that he “has made a dramatic and positive difference for our English majors and for students across the university.” The colleague added that Baraw’s instructional design is “brilliant,” and he has “deep care for the learning and development of each student.”

Baraw has said his core philosophy of teaching, is based on a “mutual imperative to trust,” explaining, “I have to trust that all students can learn . . . and they must trust that I can teach them,” he said.

Baraw has been a champion of study abroad, and in recent years has been a key figure in the university’s growing relationship with Liverpool John Moores University. He has also started, and through his family endowed, a foundation fund to help Southern students with limited financial means to travel to Liverpool, or elsewhere, for their studies.

Beyond academics, Baraw has steadfastly promoted the AAA fund, designed to help at-risk students in times of financial crisis. The fund aids Southern’s efforts to encourage student retention and persistence.

A graduate student-turned-colleague of Baraw’s describes him as an “incredible mentor,” who has guided her through tough situations. The student said Baraw modeled behavior that has changed not only “how I teach, but how I live, with a focus toward progress, not perfection.”

Colleagues also said they’ve learned a lot about the art of teaching from Baraw. “Chuck is one of a very small number of my ‘go-to’ people in the department when I want to talk teaching,” one colleague said, adding that Baraw is “a font of great ideas, sensitive self-criticism, and constructive experimentation in light of actual classroom results.”

Baraw holds a Ph.D. in English from Yale University, a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College, and a bachelor’s degree in English literature and American history from the University of Vermont.

 

Stoehr-McCarthy says that her goals in the classroom “have been not only to teach reading and writing, but to promote social and personal engagement and commitment to excellence,” adding that “one of my talents as a teacher has been to discern student strengths, and to bring those out through positive feedback with attention to student-generated goals, while minimizing student weaknesses through redirection.”

She frequently ask students to present their writing both in and out of class in order to build their confidence and to promote leadership skills “that will serve my students in future SCSU classes and in life.”

One colleague wrote that Stoehr-McCarthy “has taken a leading role in encouraging students at all levels to present their research and writing to the public.” The colleague explained that Stoehr-McCarthy instituted a partner system among the 20 students in her class so they could respond to each other’s postings and work collaboratively in class. “Since that time, I have seen more evidence of why Professor Stoehr-McCarthy’s students, colleagues, and fellow writers respect her so much. She works closely with writers of all levels and cultivates confidence among them,” the colleague wrote.

Another colleague of Professor Stoehr-McCarthy’s said that while she’s certain there are many who can attest to her highly effective, engaging, and innovative teaching model, “what makes her a truly outstanding teacher is her commitment outside of the classroom to the profession itself.”

A student who had Stoehr-McCarthy for the spring 2017 semester said that she is a fabulous teacher, but most of all a wonderful person who took great care of her emotionally when the student’s brother died.

The student wrote: “Never in my life have I known such grief and have been tormented by such pain; Shelley was the only professor that took time out of her day to sympathize with me, and made sure I was ever okay. During my leave of absence from class, she put my mental health first before my assignments that I was going to miss. When I returned to her class, she was so patient with me and would come over to my desk to encourage me when I would look or act withdrawn from what we were doing. I have never been more thankful for an educator that had such a big heart for her students.”

Another student wrote that Stoehr-McCarthy “truly made the class relatable for all the students, giving a technological twist for our millennial culture. She gave us, the students, the ability to express our thoughts and have intelligent class discussions about what our feelings were on topics and she even told us about herself and how she related to such topics.”

Professor Stoehr-McCarthy holds a bachelor of arts degree from Connecticut College with a major in dance and a minor in English. She is an author and has held many writing positions, including as a freelance editor, ghost writer, freelance reporter for Milford Patch, and guest book reviewer for The San Francisco Chronicle. From 1992-1996 she served as head teacher for School for Education in Dance in New York City. She is an MFA candidate in creative writing at Southern.