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Celebration of Excellence, faculty awards

Southern faculty are known for striving to make a difference in the lives of their students, as well as for their contributions to their respective disciplines and to the community in general. Each year, the university’s Celebration of Excellence ceremony presents an opportunity to recognize the special achievements of a few faculty and reflect on what is possible in higher education.

At this year’s ceremony, held on April 25, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Durnin called the event “a public affirmation of the fact that, as a university, we hold faculty research, teaching, service, innovation, and student advising in high regard.”

The Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowships aim to provide junior faculty members with a significant amount of reassigned time at an early stage in their careers at Southern for these purposes. Two fellowships are awarded each year. This year’s recipients were Amy Smoyer, assistant professor of social work, for her project, “Prison at the Margins: Understanding the Intersecting Vulnerabilities of Incarcerated Lives,” and James Kearns, assistant professor of chemistry, for his project, “The development of methods to quantify arsenic contamination in rice and other common food sources by chemical digestion and measurement with an atomic absorption spectrophotometer.”

The Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship aims to provide mid-level faculty members with a significant amount of reassigned time at this crucial stage in their careers at Southern for these purposes. This year’s recipient is Jonathan Weinbaum, associate professor of biology, for his project entitled “Assessment of a New Late Triassic Fossil Bonebed in Arizona.”

The Technological Teacher of the Year Award recognizes the importance of the effective use of technology in the classroom and the faculty who embrace it. Leon Yacher, professor of geography, was named the 2016 Technological Teacher of the Year. Yacher designed and developed the university’s first course in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)and he has made innovative use of pedagogical tools such as Blackboard, clickers, and TOPHAT.

Named in honor of the late Robert E. Jirsa, former Faculty Senate President and P & T Committee Chairman, the Robert E. Jirsa Service Award is given annually to a full-time faculty member who has made extraordinary contributions and demonstrated outstanding leadership in his or her service to the university. This year’s recipient is David Pettigrew, professor of philosophy. Pettigrew came to Southern in 1987, and over the years, he has been deeply involved in the life of the university, having served and chaired most Philosophy Department committees, as well as School of Arts & Sciences and university-wide committees, among them Faculty Senate, the Faculty Academic Strategic Planning Committee, and the University Promotion and Tenure Committee. In addition to his committee work, he coordinated PROJECT CONNSTRUCT to reform Mathematics and Science in Southern’s teacher education program while collaborating with the New Haven Public Schools; initiated the Annual Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Conference, the University-wide lecture series, and the university film festival series, “Cinema du Monde”; and served as chair of the Forum on Islam, as co-coordinator of selected Holocaust Remembrance activities, and as co-chair of Southern’s Big Read, among other activities.

Carol Stewart, assistant professor of management, was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Academic Advisor Award. Stewart has advised students in the LEP program as well as the former AUR in the Business Administration and Management concentrations, as well as advising transfer students. In addition to EAB training, her advising is informed through her work with the Undergraduate Curriculum Forum (UCF).

The Board of Regents Adjunct Faculty Teaching Awards are given to recognize part-time faculty who have distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers with a track record of increasing student learning and promoting instructional improvements for their programs or departments. Michael Pascucilla, currently an adjunct professor in SCSU’s Department of Public Health, is the Southern nominee for this year’s award.  An adjunct professor in Southern’s Department of Public Health since 2013, he teaches four to five 3-credit classes in public health each year, serves as a mentor to students, and regularly hosts student internships in Public Health and Environmental Health.

The Board of Regents Teaching Awards are given to recognize faculty who have distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers for at least five years and have a minimum of two years’ track record of promoting instructional improvements for their programs/departments. The BOR-approved SCSU campus winner for this award is Jess Gregory, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies. Gregory came to Southern in 2010 and has been recognized several times for her excellence as a teacher and mentor, having received the J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teaching Award for 2014-2015; and been nominated four times for the SCSU Outstanding Academic Advisor Award. She teaches courses in education law and leadership, and has numerous publications, presentations, awards and grants.

The Board of Regents Research Awards are given to recognize faculty from the four state universities who are doing exceptional research/creative work. The BOR-approved SCSU campus winner for this award is Christine Unson, associate professor of public health. Unson teaches Biostatistics, Research Methods, and Special Projects at the graduate level, and Health Promotions and Research Methods at the undergraduate level. She has also served as director of the Office of Research Integrity since 2013. Her research interests include aging and work-life extension, participation in clinical trials, caregiver burden, and predictors of student success, and she has many publications and presentations, and has received a number of awards and grants for her work.

The Faculty Scholar Award recognizes scholarly and creative work of exceptional merit by a full-time member of the SCSU faculty.  This year’s recipient is Armen Marsoobian, chairman and professor of philosophy, for his book Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia. In the book, Marsoobian uses his family’s story in the late Ottoman period to construct the history of the Armenian minority in central Anatolia. In writing this book, he employed a vast array of primary source material, and the selection committee was impressed by the depth of his scholarship and the sheer quantity of archival and investigative work it required. In addition, the committee appreciated the precision of Marsoobian’s writing, the richness of the narrative, and his ability to weave micro or personal history together with broader political developments. Marsoobian serves as chair and professor of philosophy, and since 1993 has been editor-in-chief of Metaphilosophy (an international journal of philosophy).

The J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching is presented to one full-time faculty and one part-time faculty member for exemplary teaching. Thomas O’Malley, instructor of communication, has been selected as the recipient of the part-time faculty award. He teaches Interviewing Skills, Communicating Online, Fundamentals of Professional Presentation Skills and Intellectual and Creative Inquiry. He began teaching at Southern in 1996.

Helen Marx, associate professor of elementary education, has been selected as the recipient of the full-time faculty award. Marx joined the faculty in 2011 and currently teaches Integrated Curriculum, Social Studies in the Elementary Classroom, and the Capstone Student Teaching Seminar, which also entails student teacher supervision. She is also the coordinator of the Elementary and Early Childhood Program.

The university is pleased to welcome 21 new tenure-track faculty members into our ranks this year.

From countries as diverse as China, Romania, South Korea, Turkey and Bangladesh – and from states all over the United States, from Louisiana in the south to Utah in the west — they bring with them a wide variety of experiences and expertise. Among them are a former president of the Connecticut School Counselor Association, a medieval historian who speaks seven languages; a strategic planner and marketing manager for Aetna, and a deputy national security advisor to the president of Romania. Their scholarly interests range from church-state relations since the 16th century to experimental and nuclear physics, from diabetes research to the psychology of donation behavior, to how art can boost literacy.

Our new faculty members’ talents add to the rich palette of teaching, creative activity, and service that characterizes our academic community. We wish them well as they begin their Southern careers!

School of Arts and Sciences

Alan Brown, assistant professor of sociology, joins Southern’s faculty after serving as an assistant professor of sociology/anthropology at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California in Riverside, Calif. He also has an M.A. in sociology from the University of New Orleans, and a B.A. in sociology from San Francisco State University. He was named Best Professor in Halifax in 2014 by Coast Magazine. He has written extensively on sociological aspects of sexuality.

Costel Calin, assistant professor of political science, becomes a tenure-track faculty member after a pair of one-year special appointments at Southern, and five years as an adjunct faculty member at Quinnipiac. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Tennessee. He also has an M.A. in political science from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., and a B.S. in technological systems’ engineering and management from University “Politehnica” in Bucharest, Romania. He served as deputy national security advisor to the president of Romania and head of that country’s National Security Council staff from 1997 to 2000. He has presented papers on U.S. foreign policy at various academic conferences.

Jason Lawrence Cootey, assistant professor of English, comes to Southern after many years as an adjunct faculty member and a graduate instructor, including a most recent stint as an adjunct faculty member teaching technical writing at Salt Lake Community College in Utah. He holds a Ph.D. in the theory and practice of professional communication at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. He also has an M.S. in literature and writing from Utah State, and a B.A. in psychology and an honors B.A. in English, both from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He has served on his community’s library board of directors, and has attended conferences on the use of software and educational games to improve student learning.

Evan Finch, assistant professor of physics, becomes a tenure-track faculty member following a one-year special appointment at Southern. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from Yale University, where he also earned an M.S. and an M. Phil. in physics, and a B.A. in physics. He is a co-author of more than 200 journal articles pertaining to high-energy and nuclear physics. He is a member of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experimental high-energy astrophysics collaboration for the International Space Station.

Darcy Kern, assistant professor of history, joins us at Southern after a year as a visiting professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. She previously taught at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She holds a Ph.D. in history from Georgetown, where she also earned an M.S. in history. She graduated summa cum laude in history and Spanish from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. She has studied six world languages (other than English) and has presented papers on medieval Europe.

Binlin Wu, assistant professor of physics, comes to Southern from Weill Cornell Medical College in Yonkers, N.Y., where he served as a postdoctoral associate. He also had been an adjunct faculty member at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY). He holds a Ph.D. in physics from CUNY, where he also earned a master’s degree in physics. He has a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Nankai University in Tianjin, China. He has conducted biomedical research in many areas, such as various types of cancer, diabetes and cardiac disease, using in-vitro, ex-vivo and in-vivo optical imaging.

School of Business

Russell Engel, associate professor of accounting, becomes a tenure-track faculty member after teaching at Southern last year on a special one-year appointment. He previously had been an assistant professor of accounting at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he also earned an M.S. and B.S. in economics. His research interests include studying how people react to uncertainty and incentives. He also studies how companies deal with large amounts of foreign earnings and how investors value foreign cash.

Mehdi Hossain, assistant professor of marketing, comes to Southern from Minot State University in North Dakota, where he served as an assistant professor of marketing. He holds a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Texas at Arlington. He has an M.S.S. in economics from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, where he also has a B.S.S. Honors in economics. His research interests include the psychology of donation behavior, and the role of affective and cognitive motivation in consumer decision making.

Rebecca Ranucci, assistant professor of management, comes to Southern after having been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Connecticut while pursuing her doctorate. She formerly had been a marketing manager, and then a strategic planner, for Aetna in Hartford. She has a Ph.D. in management/strategy at UConn, where she also earned an M.B.A. She has a B.A. in humanities from Providence College in Rhode Island. She has conducted research on firm strategy and capital markets, long-term decision making in strategic management and corporate governance.

Alison Wall, assistant professor of management, comes to Southern after working as a visiting lecturer at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. She holds a D.B.A. in management from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. She also has an M.B.A. from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a B.B.A. from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. She is a former marketing director at the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau in Louisiana. Her research interests include the moderating effects of personality with regard to turnover and the use of social media in higher education.

Sang Won Yoon, assistant professor of economics and finance, joins us at Southern after serving last year as an assistant professor of business and economics at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point, Wisc. He holds a Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. He also has an M.S. in applied economics and management at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and a B.A. in economics from Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. He formerly served as a consultant for the World Bank. His research includes environmental economics and development economics.

School of Education

Jessica Powell, assistant professor of elementary education, comes to Southern from Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, N.Y., where she had been an assistant professor of inclusive early childhood/elementary education. She holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She also has an M.Ed. in early childhood inclusive education from the University of Florida in Gainesville, as well as a B.A.E. in special education from the University of Florida. She has researched the role that families and cultures play in the education of children.

Louise Shaw, assistant professor of special education, comes to Southern after serving as an instructor of reading and language arts at Central Connecticut State University. She previously worked at Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y., where she served as director and an instructor in that institution’s Literacy Center. She holds an Ed.D. in literacy studies from Hofstra University on Long Island. She has an M.Ed. in literacy from Southampton College/Long Island University in Southampton, N.Y., and a B.S. in elementary education and special education from Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio. She has written extensively about how art can be used to boost literacy.

Kari Swanson, assistant librarian, comes to Southern after working as a systems librarian at the Ruth A. Haas Library and Robert S. Young Library at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. She previously had been chief acquisitions librarian at Yale University. She holds an M.L.S. from Southern and a B.A. in English literature from Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vt. She is a member of the American Librarian Association.

Yan Wei, assistant professor of special education, joins us at Southern after teaching courses at the University of Connecticut as a graduate assistant instructor. He also has been active as a research assistant at UConn for many projects, including those related to teaching students with disabilities and examining the achievement gap. He holds a Ph.D. in special education from UConn, where he also earned an M.S. in educational psychology/school counseling. He has a B.A. in English education from the Anhui Normal University in Wuhu, China, and an A.A. in English education from Huainan Normal College in China. He also has been a classroom consultant for many school districts in Connecticut.

Olcay Yavuz, assistant professor of educational leadership, joins us at Southern after having been the AP curriculum supervisor and director of guidance at Central Jersey College Prep in Somerset, N.J. He also has been an adjunct faculty member at the New York Institute of Technology. He holds an Ed.D. in teacher leadership from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., an M.S. in school counseling from the New York Institute of Technology, an M.Ed. in educational management and supervision from Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey, and a B.S. in primary mathematics education from Bogazici University in Istanbul. He was a teacher and counselor in the Paterson, N.J., school system for many years, and has presented many papers addressing urban education.

School of Health and Human Services

Marian Evans, assistant professor of public health, becomes a tenure-track faculty member after serving as an adjunct faculty member for three years in both public health and women’s studies. She previously had been an associate professor of public health at Southern. She formerly held the position of director of health and social services for the city of Bridgeport. She holds an M.D. from Pennsylvania State University in State College, and an M.P.H. from Southern. She also has a B.A. in biology from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Penn. She has researched various health subjects, including diabetes and menopause.
Lorrie Greenhouse Gardella, associate professor of social work, comes to Southern after many years as an administrator in higher education. She previously served as vice president for professional and graduate studies at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, where she also had been a professor of human services. She also had been associate dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Services at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. She holds a J.D. from the University of Connecticut in Storrs, where she also earned an M.S.W. In addition, she has an A.B. in government from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She has written extensively on a variety of social work topics.

Cheryl Green, assistant professor of nursing, becomes a tenure-track faculty member after three years in an adjunct role at Southern, as well as a senior therapist at Renew Counseling Associates in Fairfield, a nurse leader at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and a clinical nurse educator at Bridgeport Hospital’s School of Nursing. She holds a D.N.P. from Chatham University in Pittsburgh and a Ph.D in clinical Christian counseling from the International University for Graduate Studies from Basseterre, St. Kitts, as well as a Master of Nursing from Sacred Heart University, an M.S.W. from Southern and a B.S.N. from the College of Our Lady of the Elms in Chicopee, Mass. She has written journal articles on a variety of nursing topics.

Amy Smoyer, assistant professor of social work, comes to Southern from the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, where she has served as a post-doctoral fellow in the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. She also has been an adjunct faculty member at Southern. She holds a Ph.D. in social welfare from City University of New York/Hunter College. She also has an M.S.W. and an M.P.A. from Florida State University, as well as a B.A. in women’s studies from Columbia University in New York. She researches food in prison, especially in women’s prisons, and earned a grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in 2014.