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For students who are considering a career in scientific research or who are interested in doing work to help food, farms, forests, or the environment, a new internship program co-sponsored by Southern and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station could be an ideal way to become immersed in field- or laboratory-based research projects and engage in hands-on learning.

The Summer Undergraduate Fellows in Plant Health and Protection program offers 10 undergraduate research internships during summer 2017. During the internships, which will be funded by the USDA, students will participate in research projects focused on plant health and protection, including: plant pathology, analytic chemistry, entomology, microbiology, molecular biology, plant physiology, and forest health.  Weekly enrichment activities will include field trips to learn about research careers in the public and private sector, and workshops to develop scientific leadership and communication skills.

Interns will be provided with free housing, a meal plan, and a stipend. The nine-week program beginning on June 5 will culminate with student presentations at Plant Science Day held on August 2 at the CT Agricultural Experimental Station’s outdoor research facility, “Lockwood Farm”. Students interested in conducting scientific research in areas related to agriculture and crop health are encouraged to apply.

The program is open to undergraduate students from any college or university who: are U.S. citizens or permanent residents; are at least 18 years of age; will have completed two to four semesters toward a biology, chemistry, or related science major by June 2017; are in good academic standing; and can commit to live at SCSU and to work full-time from June 5-August 4, 2017 (not including July 4). Underclassmen and novice researchers (students with no prior paid research experience) are strongly encouraged to apply, as are first-generation and minority college students. The deadline for applications is March 10, 2017.

For more details or to apply, visit www.planthealthfellows.com.

Katie Crochet, swimmer, Northeast-10

Southern’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will look to continue their dominance of the Northeast-10 when they host the conference championship at Hutchinson Natatorium Feb. 16 to 19.

The men’s team is seeking its 13th NE10 championship title in the past 14 years and seventh in a row.

The women have won 10 NE10 championships in the previous 13 years and have finished in the top three of every single competition.

One of the standout performers on the women’s team is All-American scholar and athlete Katherine Crochet, who won six events at the 2016 conference championship. As a child, Crochet was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and swimming offered a way to channel her energy.

For more on Katherine Crochet and her inspirational journey, see the video and Q and A below:

 

Meet the Student-Athlete

Katherine Crochet
Majoring in communication disorders, minoring in psychology
Swimming and Diving co-captain
Hometown: Watertown, Conn.

Honors: Pre-season All American (2016) * All American in the 50 and 100 freestyle * Northeast-10 (NE-10) Swimmer of the Year in 2016 * Won six events at the 2016 NE-10 Championship and named Most Outstanding Champion * Two first place finishes at the 2015 NE-10 Championship * College Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All American

Record breaker: Southern’s all-time fastest in the 50 Freestyle (23.31) and 100 Freestyle (51.19) * Also holds the Owls’ record in the 400 Freestyle Relay, competing with teammates Sydney Fromkin, Emily Wolfe, and Katherine Krajcik.

In the pool: As a child, Crochet was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Swimming offered a way to channel her energy.

Inspiration: “I wasn’t a very good swimmer growing up,” says Crochet, who credits her former Watertown Parks and Recreation coach Paul Catuccio, ’97, M.S. ’01, 6th Yr. ’10, with igniting her competitive spirit when she was in eighth grade. “He told me, ‘If you put some effort in to it, you could be really good.‘ It just clicked,” she says. Today, Catuccio is the athletics director at Watertown High School.

Hit by pre-NCAA Championship Nerves: “I talked to former All American national champion Amanda Thomas, [’13, M.S. ’15] — someone I always looked up to. . . . She told me, ‘You deserve to go. You are just as fast as any of those girls.’

Puppy love: Cares for her own rescue dog, Wesley, and helps her mom, Stacy — owner of Stacy’s Pet Porium — provide foster care for animals. “We have anywhere from 10 to 15 puppies at any one time — all rescues.”

On her Teammates: “We have one common goal this season — winning the NE-10.”

Katie Crochet, swimmer, Northeast-10

Students in Nicaragua

Winter break may feel like just a distant memory for most students by now, but for one group of Southern students, this year’s break created memories that will last a lifetime.

Members of a university club called Global Brigades traveled to Nicaragua from January 5-13 to work on a project to help improve water access and sanitation for a remote village. The students did all of the planning and fundraising for the trip and did not receive course credit for their work; their efforts were all volunteer. “I think this level of volunteerism abroad is a first for SCSU,” says Michael Schindel, assistant director of the Office of International Education and the club’s adviser.

The Southern group is a chapter of the national nonprofit organization Global Brigades, the largest student-led international community service group. Global Brigades operates in four countries — Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama — and provides ongoing support within the countries. Essentially, different college chapters fundraise to pay for airfare, accommodation, and funds to support the projects in these countries for periods of one week to 10 days, with the option of going for longer. One university chapter joins a project after another leaves, so that the projects can remain continuous. The projects focus on different community needs relating to public health, medical and dental needs, engineering, microfinance, water access, and human rights.

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

The Southern chapter has been on campus for two years, and this was the group’s first time conducting a “brigade” abroad. Students Sleman Hussein and Amanda Saslow and a core group of other students started the chapter; they drafted the constitution, made all the connections with the national organization, and recruited members. For the trip to Nicaragua, the executive board oversaw all of the travel arrangements, as well as fundraising, planning the “Charla” (a community public health lesson that was presented to a group of children, entirely in Spanish), and designing the t-shirts.

Hussain praises the dedication of the students who joined Global Brigades. “We went through many hurdles and obstacles to build the club,” he says. “We have 14 devoted people who spent the last couple years fundraising money, not for a vacation, or to donate to a church or soup kitchen. No, we have 14 devoted people who took time out of their busy college schedules to go to a third world country and break their backs for a week.”

Saslow agrees, adding, “I am so beyond proud of not only the 14 individuals joining us on the brigade but the entire Global Brigades family that we’ve established at Southern. It has been incredible seeing students support each other and stand by each other in an environment where it’s very easy to feel alone. Working with these 14 people has been a life-changing experience and I’m definitely walking out of here with a heck of a lot more than just a degree.”

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

Student Emily Gersz, a member of the club who went to Nicaragua, says she found the experience “life-changing.” She admits the trip “was a ton of hard work . . . but I’d do it 100 times over to see the gratitude in the eyes of the families we helped.”

According to Paul Nicholas, a member of the club’s e-board, the students did manual labor each day for five days, waking up at 6 a.m., taking a two-hour bus ride to Jinotega, the community where they worked, and then working side-by-side with the families they were helping. Together, they built concrete floors, sanitary stations, and septic tanks for homes that were typically made out of cinderblocks and wood branches, with dirt floors.

“The families were so welcoming and humble; letting us (complete strangers) work in and outside their homes,” Nicholas says. He explains that the group worked on building sanitary stations because many families don’t have toilets or showers at all. Because the women have back problems from always bending down to scrub clothes when doing laundry, the wash stations in the sanitary stations were raised to a higher level.

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

Nicholas says the conditions some of the families live in helped him realize that “there are so many more important things to worry about in this world . . . as opposed to all the small things we worry about here in the U.S.” He learned that the men in Jinotega make about two dollars a day, while the women have to walk miles carrying clean water from a clean source. Before Global Brigades became involved in helping Jinotega, the village’s water had a high concentration of fecal matter, causing parasites and disease. The solution Global Brigades is providing is to build an irrigation system directly connecting clean water from the mountains to many communities.

Part of the Global Brigades model is to have the community receiving assistance also participate in the work and provide some funding, so that the community is helping itself and taking ownership of the improvement projects.

Student Annie Kaczmarczyk’s outlook on life was transformed by her experience on the trip. “My perspective on what I take for granted has been drastically changed after seeing people live without basic life necessities,” she says. “What impacted me most on the trip is truly how much compassion and joy the people of Nicaragua have, even in such a dire state.”

Schindel says, “I am so proud of and impressed by this group of students. They took all of this on, set a goal, and worked all year towards achieving it.” Schindel applauds the students for volunteering their winter breaks “to spend it digging trenches for water pipes, laying concrete foundations in people’s homes, building sanitation stations with access to potable water and waste removal, and teaching children about proper hygiene.”

See an album of students’ photos from the Global Brigades trip.
Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

iGem, Mayor Toni Harp, proclamation

Mayor Toni N. Harp Wednesday honored a group of Southern  science students – including a New Haven Promise Scholar — for earning a bronze medal at a recent international synthetic biology competition.

Harp presented the SCSU students, as well as faculty and administrators, with a proclamation at a ceremony at Southern on the Green, located on the 10th floor of 900 Chapel St.

The students competed in October at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition in Boston, where they presented their research on trying to find a faster testing method to detect tuberculosis.

The event included nearly 300 teams of students – mostly undergraduates, but some graduate students and high school students. It marked the first time Southern competed in the program, and SCSU was among only three teams from Connecticut to do so this year. Yale University and the University of Connecticut also earned bronze medals.

Julio Badillo, an SCSU student and a New Haven Promise scholar, was a member of the team.
“We are so proud of Julio and the entire team of Southern students,” Harp said before reading the proclamation. “(Their work) is awe-inspiring.”

The students’ accomplishment was so inspiring that it brought one of Badillo’s former teachers to the ceremony.

Lana Rowan, a teacher in the New Haven Public Schools, was Badillo’s freshman biology teacher when he was a student at the Connecticut Scholars Academy, a sub school of Wilbur Cross High School.

“Julio was an A-student and someone who was motivated and asked questions in class,” Rowan said. “But I also remember him being one of the nicest students in class and was generally a pretty quiet kid. We are very proud of him.”

Rowan said she was told about the ceremony by Richard Therrien, science supervisor for the school system, and she immediately expressed an interest in attending, along with Therrien.

Several of the students presented a synopsis of the team’s work during the ceremony.

“We are very proud of you,” said SCSU President Joe Bertolino. “You have represented yourselves well as scientists, and you also have represented Southern well.”

The project was the latest example of a partnership SCSU forged in 2015 with the city of New Haven, as well as the region’s bioscience industry. The agreement, named “BioPath,” calls for SCSU to expand its bioscience offerings and to work with area school systems in the development of curricula to prepare them for college-level programs in the biosciences. The biosciences are an important economic sector for Connecticut, employing nearly 25,000 people statewide. The Greater New Haven region is the No. 2 bioscience cluster in New England with companies advancing the science in oncology, antibiotics, rare disease treatments and other specialties. Notable companies include: Alexion, Arvinas, Achillion, Melinta and BioArray.

As part of the BioPath agreement, the city has agreed to assist with grant applications that would help pay for equipment and other expenses, as well as promote the new SCSU programs with local businesses, and to assist with internships for SCSU students at biotech companies.

SCSU opened a new, high-tech science building before the start of the fall 2015 semester that has provided students with more research and laboratory opportunities in areas such as biology, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, earth science, marine studies and more.

The team sought to develop a screening test for TB that is both accurate and speedy. The more accurate tests today require a wait that can take several weeks before learning the results.

The DNA materials that the team generated have been sent to a repository where future college teams from around the globe can use to advance this effort. In addition, Thomas Hoang, a member of the SCSU team, will seek to finish the project on his own after securing an SCSU undergraduate research grant.

Pina Palma, professor of Italian, has been chosen by the Faculty Scholar Award Committee as the recipient of the 2016 award.

Palma’s application, consisting of her book Savoring Power, Consuming the Times: The Metaphors of Food in Medieval and Renaissance Italian Literature (University of Notre Dame Press), was found to be “outstanding and impressive” by the committee, chaired by William Lunn, associate professor of human performance.

The committee was particularly impressed with the quality of journals that had positively reviewed Palma’s book, as well as the breadth of her work and her candid inclusion of negative reviews to balance positive critiques.

“Moreover, committee members volunteered that your publication was just plain fun to read,” Lunn wrote. “Your chapter on “The Language of Food in Boccaccio’s Decameron” was a particular joy.”

The book, according the the publisher’s website, “is an innovative look at the writings of five important Italian authors—Boccaccio’s Decameron, Pulci’s Morgante, Boiardo’s Innamorato, Ariosto’s Furioso, and Aretino’s Ragionamento. Through the prism of gastronomy, Palma examines these key works in the Western literary canon, bringing into focus how their authors use food and gastronomy as a means to critique the social, political, theological, philosophical, and cultural beliefs that constitute the fabric of the society in which they live.”

Palma earned her Ph.D. at Yale University and is a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. She will be honored at the Celebration of Excellence event during the spring semester.

President Joe Bertolino said, “My congratulations to Pina, and the Department of World Languages and Literatures. Her achievement is yet another example of the tradition of excellent scholarship and research established by our faculty.”

TEN QUESTIONS FOR: DEANNA SCOTTO, ’18

Italian major Deanna Scotto was recently selected for a prestigious internship with the U.S. headquarters of the National Organization of Italian American Women. Scotto has been working this semester in their Manhattan office, doing social media marketing for them, and her knowledge of Italian language was instrumental in her selection for this valuable experience. Erin Larkin, associate professor of Italian, says that Scotto “is the kind of student we would all like to have and would be an excellent representative for SCSU.”

We asked Scotto a series of questions about her internship, and her experiences as a student at Southern, and her career goals:

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a Junior Italian major (B.A.) with a minor in Communication. My hometown is Meriden, CT, and I attended high school at Mercy in Middletown, CT. At Southern I’m a member of the Honors College, Newman Society, Italianissimi Italian Club and I’m a tour guide!

Tell us about your internship.

I am a digital marketing intern with the National Organization of Italian American Women. While the organization is represented across the country, I work out of the main office in Manhattan, NY. I take the train into the city two days a week.

I first discovered the organization and internship during an assignment for one of my Communication classes, and this semester everything worked out really well with my class schedule so I applied! The internship lasts the semester, with is perfect because I am going abroad for the spring. Most of my work involves keeping our many lanes of communication updated: the website, mailing lists, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

How do you balance school and your internship?

I am very fortunate that three out of my five classes only meet once a week, and that all of my classes meet in the beginning of the week. I do most of my homework on the train rides. It’s about an hour and 45 minutes each way, so I’ve got plenty of time to get things done.

What was it about this internship that made you want to apply for it?

I am of Italian descent, and I attended an all-girls high school, so I can really identify with the values of the  National Organization of Italian American. It also was a great way to bring together skills I’ve learned in my Italian major and in my Communication minor.

deanna-scotto-crop

What was your experience with social media before applying for the internship?

Being the former president of the Italian Club on campus, Italianissimi, probably prepared me the most for this internship. Many of the goals of the Club and Organization are the same (although scale is pretty different). Through the club I already had practice engaging our followers and members on platforms like Instagram, Twitter and OwlConnect.

What do you enjoy most about your academic experience at Southern?

The Honors College has really enriched my experience at Southern. My favorite professors have been Honors College faculty, and I really enjoy being part of a tight-knit group of students. I also lived in the Honors College Living Learning Community my freshman year, and it made the transition to college really special.

Have you done any other internships or had any other professional experiences during your time at Southern?

I haven’t had any other internships, but I would definitely be open to more opportunities later on. Right now, I’m focused on preparing to study abroad next semester, and beginning my thesis when I return.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from your internship?

The most valuable thing I’ve learned through this internship is all of the resources focused on preserving Italian and Italian American culture. There are so many opportunities to connect with Italian heritage, particularly in the Northeast.  I also have really appreciated the overall professional experience and being the New York City environment.

How is doing social media professionally different from doing it in your personal accounts?

I’ve found that the primary difference is what type of response you’re trying to get. In my personal accounts, it’s more of a one-way communication. Professional accounts focus more on getting a response from followers and members and engaging them in comments, retweeting, etc. Your goal is to build a loyal community that with potential of becoming active members in the organization.

What is your ultimate career goal?

Ideally my dream job would be working for an Italian or Italian American cultural organization. I’m open to a lot of different things, maybe in the translation or tourism industries. At the end of the day, my passion is sharing my heritage and promoting Italian American culture.

Meesha Ann Daley

Meesha Ann Daley has always found joy in fashion.  “I was born into it,” says the Jamaican native who is enrolled in Southern’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. “My uncle is a tailor. Growing up, I was constantly in his sewing room, going through his scrap box for fabric to make doll clothes.”

Modeling and pageants held allure as well. A passageway in the family’s home became an impromptu runway for the young Daley, who practiced walking with books balanced on her head. She also spent hours happily watching pageants with her mother —  “a petite, gorgeous woman,” she says.

“The expectation was for me to be a contestant someday. Unfortunately, I was not the size you are ‘supposed to be’ in these competitions,” she says with a smile.

Growing up, Daley unsuccessfully tried a slew of diets.  “At home I was a social butterfly. I felt beautiful, loved and supported. At school I was the reserved child in the corner. I was teased constantly about my weight,” she says.

Shying away from social gatherings, Daley focused on her school work — and teachers gradually noticed the quiet girl in the back of the room who received top marks. “For some kids, it’s soccer. For me, it was school work. I had found my strength. Then came the revolution,” says Daley. She became a peer counselor and the prefect of her class, and went on to graduate valedictorian of Pembroke Hall High School in Kingston, completing her studies at the age of 15. After furthering her education at a second high school, she was accepted at the University of Technology (UTech) in Jamaica. “It’s famous in the U.S. for our athletes — Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell,” says Daley.

At UTech, she majored in accounting and minored in banking and financial services. For the first time, Daley also was free to choose her school clothes, a significant turning point for the fashion-focused young woman. “Jamaica has a very strict school system. We wore uniforms. My uncle made every single one, from the time I was 2 years old to 18.”

When Daley signed on to a program that permitted students to work in the U.S. during the summer, her uncle made her work clothes as well. Staying with extended family in New York City from May to August, she held a variety of jobs, often simultaneously. She worked as a junior auditor at a law firm, babysat, and took shifts at McDonald’s and Old Navy. Then it was back to UTech to finish up to eight classes a semester.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Daley moved to the U.S. permanently, with a five-year plan that included starting a business and earning a graduate degree. When an early attempt to run an online clothing store was unsuccessful, she put that dream on hold and decided to earn a master’s degree. Prompted by an advertisement, she came to Southern’s graduate student open house, and met Samuel K. Andoh, now dean of the School of Business.  “He helped me throughout the whole process, even though a person at his level could easily have passed me on to an assistant,” says Daley. “Others say the same. He really cares.”

A modeling career also has become a reality for Daley, who entered her first modeling competition — Full Figured Fierce — after being inspired by the organization’s message of “empowerment, self-love and positive body image.” She won the online competition and has gone on to additional modeling work, most recently gracing the cover of the September issue of Queen Size Magazine. The photo shoot, which focused on “clothes college students need in their closets,” took place on Southern’s campus. Daley suggested the site. After modeling for the publication several times, she was asked to serve as its fashion editor.

She says she’ll always be drawn to fashion and plans to revisit her dream of opening an online clothing store. But another issue has become a driving force as well. Working with classmate Asa Cort, Daley hopes to launch #trustfund, a seminar covering financial topics for young people and their families.  “This seminar not only will cover money management, but also the important role education plays in developing financial stability,” says Daley.

She notes that the goal of the project meshes closely with her work as a plus-size model — furthering her commitment to self-empowerment. “In my eyes, we need not associate the concept of beauty with a size, color or shape. That is the industry I want to help build . . . the industry I am moving toward.”

 

Thuan Vu, art professor, exhibit

As a Vietnamese-American whose family came to the United States as refugees when he was very young, Art Professor Thuan Vu knows what it means to be an outsider looking in. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Vu settled with his family in New Orleans, La., when he was just two years old, and the thematic core of his work as an artist has always been the exploration of his identity.

“As a Vietnamese refugee, I grew up in New Orleans wanting to be a model American citizen,” he says, adding that his “misplaced strategy” as a teenager was to absorb all things Western and American. “I was the surely the only 15 year old who was thrilled to learn about the art of Currier and Ives and Thomas Cole . . . and who could happily sing the Great American Songbook by 17 years of age,” he says. His interest in the American canon, he says, reveals a love for tradition and its development, and he grew into his Vietnamese-American identity “through the acquisition of cultural knowledge: adopt the tradition, adapt it to my life, and use it to grow.”

Vu’s latest body of work – a series of paintings called “The New World” — is now on display at the New Haven Lawn Club, 193 Whitney Avenue, New Haven. The opening artist’s reception took place at the Lawn Club on Tuesday, November 15. The exhibit is on display and open to the public through December 21.

The recipient of numerous awards and grants, Vu exhibits and lectures nationally. His research has taken him to Vietnam and Paris, where he studies Vietnamese communities worldwide.

“My drawings and paintings document how I grew into my Vietnamese-American identity,” Vu explains. “In my work, I reflect on themes of growth, integration, and reconciliation. These paintings combine Eastern and Western traditions of depicting nature to describe a space that is as much emotional as it is physical. These spaces, created through a combination of memories, photographic references, and my own imagination, mirrors the refugee experience of re-creating a sense of home.”

The New World (American Hymn 3), charcoal on paper, 18" diameter, 2016
The New World (American Hymn 3), charcoal on paper, 18″ diameter, 2016

“The New World” is a series of paintings that he began in 2011 and is the latest manifestation of his life as an individual, an American, and an artist.

Vu explains that over his career, his art has traced his process of growth and integration, especially in the exploration of his ethnic heritage since he visited Vietnam for the first time in 2002, 27 years after his family fled the country. In the various series of his work, he has used different visual languages to express the specific thematic content. “I use the languages of the many cultural traditions that I studied in order to express how I navigate my identity,” he says.

With The New World series, Vu says, he hopes to evoke the feelings involved in building a new life in a young and innocent America. “Contemplative and hopeful, these paintings share the emotive ethos of early 19th century American painters who went out to discover this new land. I correlate the American experience with that of my parents: Coming to America with seven of their eight children, I imagine their sense of awe, confusion, and hope. I feel their search for a ways to adopt, adapt, and grow. I can picture their appreciation for the opportunity that America represents.”

Visually, the work combines Eastern and Western traditions of depicting nature. Elements of Romanticism and abstraction are mixed with an Asian sensibility to create an image meant for Zen-like contemplation.

“In this series,” Vu says, “I chose to use nature as the universal constant, the one thing that affects all people, that can create a sense of awe, and that can inspire the mind to contemplation.”

The series’ name, “The New World,” echoes the Vietnamese term for “new world” – “doi moi” — a term coined to describe a Vietnamese age of optimism and open trading in the mid-1980s after the Vietnam War.

“The term recognizes a turbulent history yet optimistically accepts change,” Vu says. “In this series, I depict overlapping natural elements in ambiguous perspectives to create an unexpected space. This space — which is as much emotional as it is physical — can be at once thunderous, ethereal, and peaceful. It is the visual expression of the complicated, and often confusing task of building a new life faced by many refugees. Nature is used to mirror this journey and is depicted in numerous ways, from the sublime to the minute, from the literal to the abstract. In its variety, it expresses the non-linear task faced by us all in building a sincere sense of self and a true sense of home.”

Thuan Vu painting, The New World (Fall 2)
The New World (Fall 2), oil on canvas, 36″ x 48″, 2016

View an online gallery of Thuan Vu’s work

Frank Harris, journalism

Perhaps the most controversial word in the American lexicon is a word many do not speak. The word commonly known as “the n-word” has a longer history in the United States than many people realize, but what is behind its taboo nature and its loaded meanings?

“Everyone has an n-word story,” says Journalism Professor Frank Harris III, and a couple of years ago, he set out on a journey across America to get to the bottom of the word’s meanings and place in American culture. The product of his research, the film “Journey to the Bottom of the n-Word,” combines interviews with diverse Americans, research through hundreds of newspaper archives, and surveys of today’s news media. In the film, Harris takes viewers on an informative, provocative journey that fosters discussion about “the word that persistently rattles the chain from our past to our present,” as he describes it.

On November 16, as part of Social Justice Week, Harris screened his film and led a discussion about it in the Adanti Student Center Theater.

Of his project, Harris says, “Frankly, I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would receive. After all, it’s not every day that a man with a camera walks up to people and asks them about the n-word and their first or most memorable experience with it.”

The film began with his research on the many racial names by which Americans of black African descent have been identified over the years. “My focus soon shifted toward the n-word and my desire to track its origins,” he says, “as well as the experiences that Americans of all backgrounds have had with this word.”

Harris says, “It is an interesting encounter when the interviewer and interviewee are of the same race. It becomes even more interesting when the two are of a different race. The stories told by the many people I interviewed, interspersed with the word’s usage in America’s news media, provided a compelling story that I wanted to share.”

The film examines the haunting, persistent link of the word and its variant forms with the words “kill” and “death” and violence against blacks. It includes painful stories from older black Americans about their experiences with the word, along with portrayals of the experiences of younger African Americans who use it as an acceptable and different term of endearment, never having felt its sting. Harris has also captured stories from whites, Asians, Hispanics and others in America about their experiences from parents who taught them the word or told them never to say it.

Among those who appear in the film are former Black Panther Party leader Ericka Huggins, discussing the n-word and the Panthers; journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, recalling her experience at the University of Georgia in the early 1960s; Yale child psychiatrist Dr. James Comer discussing the effects of the n-word; and Mississippi civil rights workers describing the physical pain of violence that often accompanied the word in their experiences.

In addition to interviews, Harris uses original newspaper clips in the film to illustrate the striking ways in which the word has been used. The clips dispel the myth that rappers and hip-hop artists created the variant form of the word that ends in “-a” rather than “-er.” The film shows that the word was in use freely during and after slavery in America and reveals that even then, blacks were referring to each other using the n-word. Among the discoveries Harris made in his research was that Abraham Lincoln used the word during his 1860 presidential campaign stop in Hartford, Conn.

The film has been an Official Selection in the 2016 Twin Cities Black Film Festival and the 2016 Baltimore International Black Film Festival. It will be screened at a festival in Texas in 2017. Harris says of the film’s reception, “It’s quite amazing, the impact it has had.”

In addition to teaching journalism at Southern, Harris is an award-winning Hartford Courant columnist.

Watch the trailer for “Journey to the Bottom of the n-Word”

Siobhan Carter David

When you get dressed in the morning, are you thinking about how your clothing, or how you wear it, tells the world a story about you or your place in history?

Siobhan Carter-David, assistant professor of history, is a “reader” of clothing and fashion as historical texts and says, “We can learn a lot from studying fashion. It tells us so much about the cultural life of a particular group over time in different places.”

Currently teaching “Dress in Recent U.S. History: The Life and Times of 10 Iconic Fashions,” Carter-David  presented a talk on November 3, “Supreme Style: Fashion, Aesthetics, and the Making of a Black Heterodox Islamic Tradition.” Her talk was part of the interdisciplinary forum for faculty in the arts, humanities, and social sciences to present and discuss new scholarship, with special emphasis on emerging topics, methodologies, and areas of research in the 21st century.

In her “Dress in Recent U.S. History” course, Carter-David discusses the social and historical context and meanings of several post-World War II fashions. Blue jeans, the miniskirt, the dashiki, the studded leather jacket, evening gowns, the power suit, workout wear, the sneaker, and the hoodie all come under her lens in the course.

She plans to publish her dissertation, “Issuing the Black Wardrobe: Fashion and Anti-fashion in Post-Soul Publications,” in which she discusses what fashion and dress mean in “a post-civil-rights moment.”

Her November 3 talk, although focused on fashion and history, is a side project, she says. She became interested in the topic because, she says, “so little is done on the Five-Percent Nation,” which she explains is an offshoot of the Nation of Islam and is also called the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE). Founded in Harlem in 1964, NGE is a heterodox black Islamic faction that is intentionally flexible and individualized in its doctrine. Women members have used the NGE’s modest dress code to create an evolving aesthetic that has influenced and been influenced by many facets of post-civil rights urban life.

Carter-David says she finds the NGE interesting because of its flexible doctrine. “Everything is negotiable,” she says. “People are affiliated with it, but not members.”

This flexibility comes into play in the clothing worn by Five Percenters, which is why their fashions drew Carter-David’s particular attention. She explains that in the NGE, women – whose clothing is called “refinements” — are referred to as Earths and men as Gods (as in the Nation of Gods and Earths). Earths are expected to cover three-quarters of their bodies, as three-quarters of the earth is covered by water. The fashions are hip-hop inspired, and many rappers of the 1990s were affiliated with the Five-Percent Nation, such as Erykah Badu and Wu-Tang Clan.

Carter-David conducted oral histories for most of her research on this project, as so little academic research has been done on fashion in the NGE. What an Earth wears is negotiated between herself and her male partner, and every woman who becomes affiliated with NGE has to be taught about it by a man – not necessarily a male partner, but a man nonetheless. Yet in spite of this male influence on Earths’ experiences and refinements, Carter-David found that much of what is done with women’s fashions is feminist in nature. Her use of oral histories – interviews with Earths — helps her tell a story that is less about seeing dress through a men’s lens than through a female one.

In the 1960s, for example, older Earths would teach the younger ones how to dress, and Earths would make clothing for each other, as some of the articles of clothing were not easy to find. Earths wear headwraps, and women would share with each other in private how to wrap their heads. Carter-David says this practice has been changing with the advent of YouTube; Earths can now watch videos that show them different styles of wrapping their heads. Yet “women have created their own spaces in terms of how they do their refinement,” Carter-David says, “rather than letting men dictate it.”