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Meeting of the School of Graduate Studies, Research, and Innovation

Southern’s School of Graduate Studies recently expanded its portfolio to include research and innovation, to form the new School of Graduate Studies, Research, and Innovation (GSRI). “There are many exciting new initiatives at Southern,” says Christine Broadbridge, dean of GSRI as well as a physics/engineering researcher with expertise in nanotechnology and the education director for a National Science Foundation Center of Research Excellence at SCSU/Yale.  “We have a new president, a new provost, and a new strategic plan. Innovation is a big part of that plan.”

But how to define “innovation”? Broadbridge, who previously established the Office for STEM Innovation and Leadership (STEM-IL), points to innovation as the common theme between GSRI and STEM-IL. One of her goals, she says, is to engage in dialog with the internal and external communities to ask the questions, “What is innovation?” and “How does Southern define innovation?”

Nanotechnology students at SCSU's Academic Science and Laboratory Building

To begin the conversation, in May GSRI hosted a panel discussion at Southern on the Green to look at innovation in business and industry. This first “Defining Innovation” event was held in partnership between GSRI, UCONN School of Engineering, and the UConn School of Business. The panelists included representatives from a few companies listed by Forbes Magazine as among the World’s Most Innovative Companies:

  • From Alexion in New Haven: Rachael Alford, Vice President, Global Product Development
  • From Medtronic: Danyel Racenet, Director of Research and Development
  • From Assa Abloy: Amy Vigneux (Vigo), Director, Sustainable Building Solutions

“We started with experts – those that are in the trenches,” Broadbridge explains. The panel’s goal was to begin defining innovation for industry, and specifically Connecticut’s industry. “People at SCSU have been innovative for a long time,” Broadbridge says, “but how do we foster and encourage it? How do we teach students to be innovative as they move forward into their careers?  How do we most effectively reward and celebrate the innovations of our faculty, students, staff, and community? ”

professor and students in lab; SCSU Academic Science and Laboratory building

Essentially, she says, innovation is about collaboration and partnership – getting people to think about things in a way that they haven’t thought of before, and encouraging communication. Broadbridge has brought in an entrepreneur-in-residence, Deborah Santy, to help facilitate events around innovation and to help create partnerships with groups in the community. Santy says innovation is “anything new and different, and Christine has always been doing that.” She points to the SCSU BioScience Academic and Career Pathway Initiative (BioPath) and Southern’s systemwide Center for Nanotechnology as examples of innovation. Santy is working closely with industry to create curriculum that addresses its needs, while also helping students form partnerships with business.

She, along with Suzanne Huminski, who leads the Sustainability Office on campus, were organizers of the Innovation Connection event, as well as Robin Ann Bienemann, entrepreneur-in-residence at the UConn School of Engineering and the UConn School of Business. Huminski says that incorporating innovation into the classroom is best when it involves a process with protocols, as it does with business and industry. Innovation is about problem solving, she says, so the university needs to think about it educationally and offer programs that meet the needs of students.

Huminski makes the point that sustainability is at the intersection of multiple disciplines, and requires  innovative solutions to succeed. Fostering successful and scalable sustainability solutions means interdisciplinary collaboration, and asking what each discipline can bring to the table to solve sustainability challenges of many different types. She adds that students can benefit by learning to be innovative and how to create partnerships in their future careers.

Rain Harvester collecting water for recycling in front of SCSU Academic Science and Laboratory building

Both Santy and Broadbridge also emphasize that innovation is all about partnerships and collaboration. Previously, Santy was executive director of Connecticut’s SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) office, which worked with all the small businesses in the state and large businesses to bring innovation to Connecticut. Santy says that based on her experience, “I believe that every innovation I’ve seen involves partnership.”

Broadbridge is looking at continuing to define innovation and what it means at Southern. She points to the new Academic and Laboratory Science Building, designed as a collaborative, innovative space, as well as a new space in Buley, adjacent to the GSRI offices, designed for student collaboration. “We’re about initiatives that foster innovation and deliver it for our institution,” Broadbridge says. “I believe that there are many different types of innovation, depending on the context, and an infinite number of applications.”

students collaborating in private study room; SCSU Hilton C. Buley Library

From innovation in education to government, from healthcare to business, the resulting impacts on our society are without limit, Broadbridge says. “Innovation is a key driver for prosperity, opportunity, and growth in all sectors, and Southern is primed to become a regional leader in educational innovation through partnerships.”

Nursing Grads

A half dozen Southern students have received their doctoral diplomas in nursing education – the first group of students to earn that designation from the university.

The students participated in the winter graduate commencement exercises at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. The undergraduate commencement ceremony was held earlier in the day.

The Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) in nursing education program was launched in 2012 as a collaborative effort with Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. The six SCSU contingent is among a group of 14 students who have completed their degree requirements at the two universities.

“It is exciting to have our first graduates receive their degrees,” said Lisa Rebeschi, chairwoman of the Nursing Department. “Each has worked diligently in their pursuit of developing the science of nursing education. The students have completed dissertation studies that add to the body of knowledge with regard to teaching and learning in nursing education.

“Our faculty are extremely proud of their significant accomplishments,” she said. “We are confident that these alumni will continue to have a significant impact within higher education.”

The program is geared toward individuals with a master’s degree who would like to teach nursing. It typically takes students about three years to complete the 51 credits needed. The students take the classes part time so that they can continue working while they pursue their degree.

Rebeschi said enrolled students come with varied professional backgrounds and have previously demonstrated clinical expertise in nursing practice.

“The structure of the program allowed me to continue working as an advanced practice registered nurse while completing my degree, thus lowering the financial impact on my family,” said Philip Martinez, who works at Middlesex Hospital in the Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. He also serves as a specialty coordinator for the Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing (GEPN) program at the Yale School of Nursing.

“I am quite proud of being in the first cohort of graduates and plan on using my degree to continue teaching in the university setting, while continuing my research on the academic needs of second degree nursing students in accelerated nursing programs,” he said.

Rebeschi said Linda Roney, who became the first student to complete the degree program when she successfully defended her dissertation in August, is another example of someone with valuable clinical experience. Roney served as the pediatric trauma program coordinator at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital from 2009-2014. She currently serves as a full-time faculty member in the Fairfield University School of Nursing, while maintaining her practice as a clinical nurse at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital Bridgeport campus.

Most nursing doctoral programs in the country fall under the Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or D.N.P. (Doctor of Nursing Practice) designations. The former focuses on research, while the latter centers on clinical skills.

But the Ed.D. program is geared toward developing nursing teachers and was one of only a handful in the country when launched. It is designed to address a state and national shortage of nursing faculty. With such a shortage, it is difficult for colleges and universities to maintain or expand their nursing programs, even though there is both a serious need for more nurses and increasing student interest.

“I want to congratulate the faculty of both (SCSU and WCSU) nursing programs, particularly those faculty who have been engaged in the development and implementation of this program from its inception,” said Greg Paveza, dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “I also want to express my appreciation to my fellow deans and provosts both here and at Western, past and present, for the time and energy also devoted to ensuring the success of this program.”

 

In spring 2016, the first group of students will cross the Atlantic to study abroad under a new agreement formalized Dec. 3 by Southern and Liverpool John Moores University.

This “Trans-Atlantic Alliance” will offer students the chance to take classes in both New Haven and Liverpool, England, as well as benefit from dual-taught undergraduate and graduate-level programs, delivered by LJMU and SCSU faculty members through video link and guest lectures.

SCSU President Mary Papazian and Edward Harcourt, LJMU’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement, formally signed the agreement in the foyer of Southern’s new science building.

“(LJMU) is an institution very much like ours,” Papazian told the New Haven Register. “This allows us to look at problems around sustainability, public health, health care management, business, creative writing from a variety of perspectives.”

Papazian predicted the partnership would be “a robust exchange, so many of our students have that chance to have that global experience.”

“It’s a great place, a safe place for our students to experience the world,” she said of the historic port city, home to the Beatles, the Cunard steamship line and Liverpool F.C., one of the world’s most well-known professional soccer clubs.

LJMU traces its roots back nearly 200 years to 1823 and the opening of the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institute. Over the decades, the institute merged with other institutions to become Liverpool Polytechnic; traditionally providing training, education and research to the maritime industry, before earning university status in 1992. Now ranked among the top 400 universities world-wide, LJMU offers 250 degree courses to 25,000 students drawn from more than 100 countries.

This spring, four SCSU undergraduates with academic interests in business, wellness, geography and global health will be leaving for Liverpool to study abroad for a semester. They include senior Shayne O’Brien (pictured with President Papazian and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Harcourt), who plans a career as a glaciologist. Additionally, Mark McRiley, a graduate student from public health, also will be attending LJMU in 2016 to earn his Ph.D. on full scholarship. Several students from LJMU are also expected to be attending Southern.

Liverpool John Moores University visit

Harcourt told the Register that the Alliance was a “game-changer for both institutions.

“We’re very similar, very connected to our local regions,” he said. “What we looked for is aligning comparable interests and strengths.”

Liverpool also has smaller-scale partnerships with colleges in China and Malaysia, Harcourt said, but with Southern, “the big prize longer-term is, could we get to the point where we’re presenting a joint prospectus of master’s programs,” which would be unique and enticing to students in overseas markets.

On the home front, several academic departments have hosted classes or colleagues from Liverpool via videoconference or in person. In November, the nursing departments from the respective institutions participated in a symposium in which Assistant Professor Christine Denhup presented her research on parental bereavement following the death of a child, an area of mutual interest for both groups.

In late November, John Morrissey, senior lecturer in environmental geography, natural sciences and psychology at LJMU, spoke about “Enabling Sustainability Transitions in the Coastal Zone,” during Southern’s Department of Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences’ Geography Awareness Week.

And in October, the visit of former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent for the Dr. Joseph Panza Sport Management Lecture was broadcast live to LJMU so that sport management students there could participate and ask questions of the speaker.

More collaborations are forthcoming. During the most recent visit of the LJMU delegation, Tim Nichol, dean of the Liverpool Business School, met with SCSU School of Business colleagues (below) to discuss a wide range of potential initiatives. These include collaborative research and teaching, an MBA program in comparative healthcare offered by both institutions and a shared DBA that could be offered internationally.

Liverpool John Moores University visit

James Tait, professor of science education and environmental studies, is proposing a doctoral research project examining evidence of prehistoric hurricanes in the marshes of Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn., with a goal of plotting how the intensity of these storms have changed over thousands of years.

Tait has done extensive work researching and proposing solutions to beach erosion along Connecticut’s Long Island Sound shoreline in the wake of recent hurricanes. With SCSU geography colleague Elyse Zavar and faculty from LJMU, Tait recently visited Formby Point, home of the United Kingdom’s largest collection of sand dunes, an area that faces similar issues in the wake of violent storms.

 

newshub-Early-Literacy-15

Members of local literacy organizations will gather on campus on November 19 for a research forum sponsored by the university’s Journal of Student Psychological Research (JSPR). The forum, “Early Literacy Experiences, the Brain, and Child Development,” will feature a panel discussion with Dr. Perri Klass, National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read and a New York Times columnist; Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Education; and Dr. Julia Irwin, psychology professor at Southern and senior research scientist at Haskins Laboratories. Their discussion will be moderated by Dr. Laura Raynolds, SCSU professor of special education and reading and research affiliate at Haskins Laboratories.

Klass is a professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University, where she is co-director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She has written extensively on pediatrics, literacy, medicine, and ethics for many publications, including the New York Times.

Jones-Taylor oversees early childhood programs and early intervention programs serving more than 50,000 children in the state each year. Her research expertise focuses on the effects of early care and education reform in low-income urban communities.

Irwin is author of Preparing Children for Reading Success: Hands-On Activities for Librarians, Educators, and Caregivers, along with co-author and psychology colleague, Dr. Dina Moore. Irwin’s research focuses on the development of audiovisual speech perception.

The event will take place from 5:30-8 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Theater, with light refreshments from 5:30-6 p.m, the forum from 6-7:30 p.m., and a Q&A from 7:30-8 p.m. It is free and open to faculty, students, and any members of the community with interests in language, reading, child development, and education. Anyone interested in attending must RSVP by emailing JSPR@SouthernCT.edu. The forum is being held in collaboration with the SCSU Psychology Department, with special thanks to The Literacy Coalition of Greater New Haven for its assistance.

Cheryl Durwin, professor of psychology, is secretary of the coalition and the representative from Southern. The coalition is a group of literacy organizations in the New Haven area, says Durwin, whose own research involves assessment of and early intervention with at-risk early readers in grades K-2. Durwin, along with Patricia Kahlbaugh, professor of psychology, is a faculty adviser to the JSPR.

Durwin says the journal was launched a couple of years ago, the brainchild of a couple of graduate students who had the idea of showcasing the research of graduate and undergraduate students. The students approached Durwin about it, and she agreed to help. While the journal is currently funded by an outside donor, the students on the editorial board have also been fundraising and are working towards the journal becoming a university organization. The forum is the first event the journal has hosted.

Current and former students work on the journal — the editors are Jessica Franco, editor-in-chief; Kandice Green, associate editor; Whitney Hoffmann, associate editor; and Joshua Ryan, associate editor.  All editors are graduate students in the M.A. program in psychology. Durwin says the journal is seeking more interdisciplinary work related to psychology from students in other departments across campus.

“It is wonderfully rewarding to mentor the students through their research,” says Durwin.

The application interview for prospective graduate school students can make the difference between being a contender on paper and actually getting accepted.

It is important to be 'ready' for a graduate admissions interview. Consider at least a few practice sessions before the big day.
It is important to be ‘ready’ for a graduate admissions interview. Consider at least a few practice sessions before the big day.

Today, Wise Words concludes a 3-part series on applying to grad school with a look at the interview and the potential value of participating in academic conferences. In Part I, we focused on the importance of self-awareness and gathering information about potential schools before applying.
In Part II, we examined the admissions essay, test and letters of recommendation.

“You should consider the interview as an opportunity to provide the individual or committee interviewing you with as much information as possible, while also trying to stress your strengths and weaknesses,” says Shirley Jackson, graduate school coordinator for the Sociology Department at Southern. “Therefore, you should really think about how you might respond to various questions.”

One way to prepare for the interview is to ask a friend or someone you trust to throw questions your way in a mock interview setting. It can be even more effective if that individual has strong interview skills, or is familiar with the types of questions a college or university may ask an applicant.

Jackson suggests this Web page at Catholic University that provides examples of the types of questions that may be asked during the interview.

“Remember, an interview for graduate school is much like an interview for a job,” she says. “You are trying to sell yourself as the best candidate for admission and the department is trying to sell itself as the best option for someone who is looking at a number of possible programs.”

Be Part of the ‘Conference Scene’

Academic conferences abound in higher education – in almost every discipline. While professors and graduate students generally participate in greater numbers than undergrads, there are opportunities for everyone to participate.

At Southern, undergrads often team up with faculty members on interesting and valuable research projects. This is beneficial for many reasons, including the visibility and notoriety gained through being associated with scholarly research. “There are even undergraduate research conferences to help to familiarize the novice conference attendee and participant,” Jackson says.

“Once you learn to navigate the ‘conference scene,’ it will become something that is enjoyable and less intimidating,” Jackson says.

And Finally…

Be prepared to make a time commitment when searching for a graduate school. “Applying to grad school can be like having a part-time job,” Jackson says. “It takes a bit of work to find a program that works for you.”

Indiscriminately getting into any program – without doing your homework and figuring out what you want to pursue — may not be a good idea because the chances of completing the degree are reduced, she adds.

But finding the right program and the right school can be valuable to your career and your future. A little effort now – okay, sometimes a lot of effort – can pay big dividends later.

Good luck in your search!

The undergraduate college essay can be a source of stress for prospective students. Many of us can relate to the angst of trying to put together an “admissions-winning” composition.

The same often holds true for students writing an essay as part of their application package for grad school.

In Part I of this 3-part series, we looked at the importance of self-awareness and gathering information about potential schools before applying to graduate school. Today, Wise Words explores the admissions essay, admissions tests and letters of recommendation — three crucial components of the application process.

The application process for graduate school involves many of the components as at the undergraduate level -- and can be just as stressful.
The application process for graduate school involves many of the components as at the undergraduate level — and can be just as stressful.

Shirley Jackson, graduate coordinator of Southern’s Sociology Department, recommends that students write their graduate school admissions essay in a scholarly fashion. “I constantly tell my (undergraduate students) that when they write assignment or papers, they should write in a scholarly fashion and to revise their work,” she says. “I do that for good reason. Both a scholarly style of writing and a heavily revised essay are key to writing the graduate school essay.”

While her next suggestion may be a given to most prospective graduate students, it may be necessary to remind a few folks, especially in this day of electronic access to all kinds of materials.

Do not use websites that offer to write personal essays for a fee. In addition to a person’s honesty and academic integrity being at stake, pragmatically it doesn’t make sense to risk your reputation with another person’s work. “There is a good chance someone will find out, and your career as a graduate student can be over before it begins.” Jackson says.

Instead, Jackson suggests buying a book that can be helpful in writing the essay. “Bookstores have sections on graduate and professional schools in their reference section,” she says. “Check through their shelves to see what may be most helpful to you.”

Admissions Tests

Jackson points out that many grad programs will require taking a particular type of admissions test (GRE, LSAT, etc.) as part of the admissions process. “The test scores may not alone result in admission, but they are usually considered with the rest of a person’s application materials (essay, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.)”

One of the most often required tests for grad study in the social sciences and business schools is the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). It is offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The following link provides information about the admission tests:
http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about)

Those considering law school should prepare for an extremely competitive process, according to Jackson. She suggests the following link from the Law School Admissions Council for information about the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test): http://www.lsac.org

Some people are better test takers than others, of course. Jackson says those who are not good test takers should consider taking one of the preparation courses offered by Kaplan or Princeton Review, or checking whether there are sample test questions available through the test administrators for your particular entrance examination. Bookstores also have a large selection of test preparation books.

Letters of Recommendation

Just as you should do during the undergraduate school application process or with a job opening, give the people you are asking enough time to write a thoughtful letter. “These letters will carry a great deal of weight, especially if they can help offset weak test scores or a low GPA,” Jackson says.

She suggests:

*Choose your letter writers carefully. It may not be enough to have someone write a letter to simply say that you have received an “A” in their course, especially if the course is not related to the major or does not draw upon the skills necessary to show your potential as a grad student.

*A letter from a professor who taught a class in which you earned a “B” might be a good candidate under certain circumstances.

*Consider letters from professors who taught courses where much writing was required, or in which you wrote a research paper.

*Think about seeking letters from those professors who know you well. Do not be offended if a professor declines to write a letter. The professor may simply not know you as well as you think, or perhaps may not believe they can write a strong enough letter to support your application. If that happens, simply seek out another professor.

*Employers may also be good options, especially if they can speak to your level of commitment, positive character traits and ability to work well with others.

Coming Soon:

Part III — Admissions Interviews and Other Words of Wisdom

The rigor of the undergraduate college selection/admission process is well-known.

But if you ask people to explain what it takes to select and be admitted to graduate school, you are likely to get a sea of blank stares. After all, even in well-educated Connecticut, only about 16 percent of the population attains a graduate or professional degree.

Applying to graduate school -- and finding the right program -- is often more time consuming and involved than people think.
Applying to graduate school — and finding the right program — is often more time consuming and involved than people think.

“Many students do not consider graduate school as an option until their last year of undergraduate study. This leaves students with only one semester in many cases to prepare the application for graduate school,” says Shirley Jackson, graduate coordinator for the Sociology Department at Southern. She recently presented a workshop called “Everything You Need to Know About Applying to Graduate School Workshop.”

Today, Wise Words begins a 3-part series on navigating the graduate school process for the first time. Jackson offers her recommendations in each post.

Part I:

The first thing that a potential student should consider is whether they should go to grad school, and if so, why. She says while people are familiar with the sometimes painstaking process of getting into the undergraduate program of their choice, choosing and applying to graduate schools also requires time and attention.

“The process of applying to graduate school should not be taken lightly,” Jackson says. “It involves a lot of work. You should spend time researching programs of study, universities, faculty and funding opportunities. Information is readily available via the Internet, through bookstores and your department.”

She suggests that prospective graduate students contact the schools that they are most interested in, as well as ask those schools about the possibility of talking with graduate students currently in the program.

Jackson recommends reading “Best Graduate Schools” in U.S. News & World Report to get an idea of the strength of a school’s program. She also says this U.S. News link offers valuable information for potential grad school applicants:

Jackson notes that competition can be more intense at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level. “A much smaller number of students are admitted into graduate programs,” she says. “You are in competition with students from all over the state, nation and/or the world.”

As a result of the competition, Jackson offers two handy suggestions:

*When considering graduate school or professional school, do not limit yourself to applying to one school. You should apply to as many schools as you can afford and reasonably expect to be a successful candidate for admissions.

*Familiarize yourself with the requirements for admission and then work to go beyond these minimum requirements to increase your chances for admission.

(Southern’s School of Graduate Studies is holding its spring open house from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 23, at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Several new program offerings will be showcased.)

Coming soon:

Part II — A look at the graduate school essay, admissions tests and letters of recommendation