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student success

Owl pride is running sky high thanks to a growing list of accomplishments that position Southern among the best. Here are some of the university’s many exciting achievements and initiatives.

Owl Pride graphic with Otis and banner

* Southern’s student-faculty ratio is 14:1, tied for the lowest among public universities in the state.

* Students receive free supplemental instruction, tutoring and academic success coaching in topics such as time management and study strategies at Southern’s Academic Success Center. There were 30,000 visits in 2016-17.

* 150-plus student clubs and organizations offer a wealth of opportunity. These clubs host more than 3,000 events annually. In fall 2017, 3,584 students were club members.

* An innovative trans-Atlantic partnership between Southern and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) offers research internships, study abroad opportunities, and faculty exchanges. The partnership provides Southern with unique opportunities at LJMU, a community of more than 23,000 students from 100-plus countries.

* Southern was one of only five colleges and universities to receive the “Excellence in Assessment” designation in 2017. The designation recognizes institutions of higher learning that best proactively use assessment data to strengthen undergraduate education.

* Beginning with the Class of 2020, all first-year students accepted into the Honors College receive a merit-based scholarship covering one-half to full in-state tuition.

*Student retention rates in Southern’s Honors College historically have been well-above 90 percent — in step with many of the most-selective private institutions of higher education.

* Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification was awarded to two campus buildings: the new science building and the home for the School of Business. The certification recognizes construction and design meeting exceptional ecological standards.

* Southern is home to the CSCU** Center for Nanotechnology, the only system-wide center for the field in the state.

* Also housed at Southern, the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies is the only CSCU** center dedicated to faculty-mentored student research that addresses environmental issues along the Connecticut shoreline and Long Island Sound.

* Southern’s campus will soon be home to the Barack H. Obama Magnet University School through a partnership with the city of New Haven and its school system. A true win-win initiative, it will provide in-classroom teacher training for education majors and an exceptional learning environment for students in kindergarten through fourth grade.

* In 2016, Southern partnered with CARE (the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement), which was founded at Yale University. In the following three years, CARE has been transitioning from Yale to SCSU’s campus — with Southern becoming responsible for CARE’s community engagement work. Yale will continue to manage and finance CARE’s research agenda while gradually shifting that work to Southern.

* Alumna Jahana Hayes, ’05 was the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. Southern graduates also swept many of the state’s top teaching awards for 2016, earning honors as Connecticut’s “Best of the Year” in the superintendent, teacher, school counselor, and many other categories. Most recently, alumnus Dan Kahl was named the state’s “Adaptive Physical Education Teacher of the Year.”

* Computer science majors Michael Solati and Robert Crowdis won first place at the 2017 College Tech Challenge — standing out among many of the state’s top engineering and programming students. The duo won a $5,000 prize.

* In the past four years, 98-plus percent of students in Southern’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program passed the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination) the first time — among the best records in the state. (State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, May 2018)

* A Southern team was a semi-finalist in the 2017 American Marketing Association’s Collegiate Case Competition. Southern was the only institution of higher learning in Connecticut to score among the semi-finalists and finalists — and joined Providence College as one of only two in all of New England.

* Sandra Gomez-Aceves, ’17, beat out nearly 500 applicants to win one of only twelve coveted spots at the 2017 ProPublica Data Institute, a seminar for journalists and journalism students. Gomez-Aceves was one of only three of the latter chosen by the Pulitzer Prize-winning organization to participate. The invitation covered all tuition costs.

* There are 11,000 student members in the American Marketing Association (AMA), and recent graduate Julia Rotella,’17, was one of the best, finishing second in the organization’s 2017 “Student Marketer of the Year” competition.

* Southern is an NCAA Division II athletics powerhouse. The Owls rank among the top 10 nationally with 80 individual titles and in team championships with 10 titles.

* In fall 2016, Southern’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists was named the “Outstanding Campus Chapter” for region 1, which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

* Two Southern graduates were among a total of only 10 librarians chosen from throughout the U.S. to receive the 2016 “I Love My Librarian Award,” sponsored by the American Library Association.

* Southern previously was recognized at the White House Summit on Computer Science for All.

* In November 2018, Southern celebrated its second annual Social Justice Month with almost 100 events, all designed to further social justice education and awareness on campus.

* Southern is the first breast-feeding friendly campus in the state and the nation. — Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition

* Southern will provide residential leadership scholarships that cover housing expenses for 10 incoming New Haven Promise Scholars beginning next fall. The selected students — known as Promise Community Ambassadors — will mentor Southern’s New Haven Promise Scholars and city high school students. As of December 2017, Southern has had more New Haven Promise Scholars (339) than any other university.

* Sierra Magazine and the Princeton Review have repeatedly cited Southern among America’s greenest universities.

* Since being installed on campus, refillable water bottle stations have been used more than 1 million times. That’s a lot of plastic kept out of landfills.

* More than 3,000 solar panels were installed on campus through a renewable energy program expected to generate over a million kilowatt hours of electricity annually — with no capital investment or upfront costs to Connecticut tax payers.

* By May 2018, Southern’s award-winning Food Recovery Project had collected 33,677 pounds of nutritious, unspoiled and unserved food from the dining hall and other campus dining establishments. The equivalent of 27,500 meals were then delivered to area food pantries and soup kitchens. Over the years, more than 50 student interns from Southern’s Office of Sustainability have helped drive the program.

* Southern’s organic garden produced 1,500-plus pounds of food from 2016 – spring 2018 — a bounty shared with area soup kitchens and local families through the Community Garden Nutrition Program, a partnership with CARE (Community Alliance of Research and Engagement) and New Haven Farms.

* Southern sends organic waste, including food scraps, to Quantum Biopower in Southington, Conn., where it is converted into energy, soil-based fertilizer, and compost.

* The university has been building communities and empowering lives for almost 125 years. Get ready to celebrate Southern’s anniversary in 2018!

**Connecticut State Colleges and Universities

Cover graphic for Southern Alumni Magazine, Fall 2017 issue

She did what she loved and success followed. Julia Rotella, ’17, graduated summa cum laude after being spotlighted as one of the country’s top student marketers.

School of Business and Honors College graduate Julia Rotella, '17

Among the 11,000 students who are members of the American Marketing Association (AMA), graduating business administration major Julia Rotella is a standout, finishing second in the organization’s 2017 Student Marketer of the Year competition. “It was really amazing to see my name up on the screen,” says Rotella of the honor, which was sponsored by Northwestern Mutual and announced at the AMA’s International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans in March.

The Monroe, Conn., native has always been drawn to the world of business. “I knew I wanted to be a marketing major since I was very young. As a kid, I actually had an eBay account and would sell things,” says Rotella. She also assisted her mother at craft fairs — learning about trade shows and how to best display products. “I enjoyed the satisfaction of selling things — being able to see the results of marketing. . . . Of course, I didn’t know that it was called marketing at the time,” she says with a smile.

That changed in Rotella’s sophomore year at Masuk High School in Monroe, Conn., when she enrolled in a marketing class. “I remember thinking, ‘Yes! This is what I want to do,’” she says. A gifted high school student, she took Honors level and Advanced Placement courses — and was an ideal candidate for very selective colleges and universities. After considering tuition costs, she chose Southern where she was accepted in the Honors College and received a Presidential Scholarship, a merit-based award that covered her full in-state tuition and fees for four years.

Choosing to commute to campus, Rotella made the most of her Southern experience, joining Southern’s collegiate chapter of the AMA, now known as SUMA — SCSU Undergraduate Marketing Association. As a sophomore she became president of the organization, a post she held until graduation. “SUMA has really helped me to become rooted here, to feel like I am part of a community,” she says.

It’s a community marked by achievement. In 2017, SUMA was a semifinalist in the AMA’s prestigious Collegiate Case Competition, finishing among the top 17 colleges and universities. (Semifinalists and finalists were listed in alphabetical order within each category without a specific ranking.) Southern was the only institution of higher learning in Connecticut to reach this level — and joined Providence College as one of only two in all of New England.

The competition — open to AMA’s 370 collegiate chapters — challenged teams to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for e-commerce giant eBay. Southern’s chapter tackled the assignment admirably. “The students were thrilled. They deserve a lot of credit for finishing in a group that included representatives from some very prestigious schools,” says Randye Spina, assistant professor of marketing and SUMA’s faculty adviser. SUMA also received the AMA’s award for outstanding chapter planning.

Looking forward, the group hopes to build on its success under the leadership of Jennifer Bucci, incoming SUMA president. Among the organization’s greatest challenges — obtaining funding to attend the AMA’s international conference. “They are going to make finals,” says Rotella, who is seeking a position with a marketing agency. “I am not going to be a part of it. But I will be watching from the outside. It’s going to be amazing.”

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SCSU_17_Julia-1292f-1

Passing the Torch
More from recent graduate Julia Rotella, ’17, including a few of her tips for current and future Owls.

Self-Motivated: As a sophomore, Rotella launched her own company, JR Marketing. She’s created websites, logos, brochures, social media posts, and more for numerous clients, including the Monroe Youth Commission, the Monroe Economic Development Commission, Alcohol and Drug Awareness of Monroe (ADAM), and others.

Scholarship support: In addition to the Presidential Scholarship, Rotella received the Eleanor Jensen Endowed Scholarship and the Anthony Verlezza Endowed Scholarship.

Advice to Honors College students: “Push through it. At times, the work load is very strenuous. But if you are in the Honors College, it’s because you can handle it.”

One recent honor: Southern’s Scholastic Achievement and Leadership Award in Marketing in May 2017

Real-world experience: Rotella had marketing internships with TeamDigital Promotions; GoECart, a provider of on-demand ecommerce solutions; Talking Finger, a social media marketing agency; and ASSA Abloy, an international company offering a complete range of door-opening products, solutions, and services.

On building relationships: “Talk to your professors. If I had a question about a paper or an assignment, I’d meet during their office hours. . . . Having those conversations helped me a lot.”

Get involved: “College is what you make it. If you are motivated . . . a go-getter who is going to make things happen, then you are going to enjoy your experience. I enjoyed my years at Southern because of SUMA Marketing.”

High school valedictorians 2016

When Miguel Diaz was 7 years old, he moved with his family from Puerto Rico to the U.S. He spoke only Spanish and was taught in a bilingual classroom for two years. But by fourth grade, his lessons were entirely in English — and, in 2016, he delivered the valedictory speech at the graduation ceremony for Bullard-Havens Technical High School in Bridgeport, Conn. Today, Diaz is a talented, hard-working member of Southern’s Class of 2020 — on track to become the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree.

A fellow member of the Class of 2020, Kyley Fiondella — the valedictorian of H. C. Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden, Conn. — shares his commitment. “I’m also a first-generation college student,” she says. “My parents have always been very driven. ‘Do your best in school. Go to college. Make your life better,’ they told me. It was a big motivation.”

Fiondella — a student in Southern’s Honors College — has wanted to be a nurse since childhood. She enrolled in her high school’s Health Technology Program and, at the age of 15, became a certified nursing assistant. Today, she works at Montowese Health and Rehabilitation in North Haven, in addition to answering phones at a pizzeria and attending school full time. With her pre-acceptance into Southern’s Nursing Program, she moves one step closer to realizing her dream. “I almost cried when I received the letter,” says Fiondella, who hopes to work in pediatrics.

Diaz also plans to work with youth — as a high school Spanish teacher. It’s an aspirational shift for the polite young man who, until recently, envisioned a career in automotive technology. “My parents are my mentors,” he says of his father, a janitor at another nearby university, and his mother, who cares for children for a living. “They left Puerto Rico in search of more opportunities,” Diaz explains. “They inspired me to get an education.”

In high school, Diaz interned at BMW. Today, the full-time student helps finance his education by working 30 hours a week at Pep Boys, an auto parts and services retailer. Automobile technology remains a strong interest, and he speaks with pride of his brother who attended Gateway Community College and works at Nissan.

But for Diaz, the promise of a teaching career has taken hold. “I grew up in a low-income community. Some of my friends weren’t focusing on their studies, especially in middle school. They would get in a lot of trouble, surrounded by violence and negative influences,” says Diaz. “As a teacher, you support students — give advice and help them to keep moving forward. Education is the key to success.”

 

Kyley Fiondella, Class of 2020

On her High School Valedictory Speech

“It went well. I’ve always been super-nervous when speaking in front of people — but I’ve also been pretty good at hiding it. . . . My main message was about the importance of finding your passion, and then, if possible, following through and turning it into a career.”

The Road to Southern

“During my application process, I decided that Southern was my first choice, primarily because I am extremely close with my family and wanted to study close to home. I also have a job and volunteer with my church, which I didn’t want to give up. I was able to keep doing all the things I loved and still go to a great school.”

Best Part of Being an Owl

“I like all of the activities. It’s so easy to get involved. Southern really focuses on student involvement.”

Well Rounded

On campus, she’s joined the Intervarsity Southern Christian Fellowship and the Program Council, which organizes entertainment and educational activities for students and the community. She also is active at her church, serving as a teen leader and a lead singer.

Advice to Students

“Find the reason behind what you’re doing . . . something that motivates you. Then all of the hard work — the studying, the note taking, the homework — becomes easier.”

 

Miguel Diaz, Class of 2020

On his High School Valedictory Speech

“In the beginning of the speech, I was really nervous. But as I went on, I felt more comfortable. It was basically inspirational . . . to keep moving forward. You never know what you’ll be able to accomplish in life.”

The Road to Southern

“I wanted to major in Spanish secondary education, and I heard that Southern was a great school for teachers. It also was close to me, and I wanted to commute.”

He’s looking forward to ____________:

“Joining a club or organization at Southern . . . perhaps, OLAS [Organization of Latin American Students].”  He also is active at his church, serving as a teen leader, and playing guitar and piano.

Advice to Students

“I would say to really focus on school. In the end it will definitely pay off — and always remember that you can do more than you think can.”

Starting a new school year brings both challenges (expected and unexpected) and opportunities. It gives students a chance for a fresh start — a way to right some of the wrongs from the previous year and to exceed expectations. But to do so, it is important to have a plan of action.

Students wishing to improve their chances for a successful year should begin with a plan before the first day of classes.
Students wishing to improve their chances for a successful year should begin with a plan before the first day of classes.

Today, Wise Words offers the last half of a 2-part series on how to start the year off right and lay the groundwork for a successful year.

Part II

Kelly McNamara, assistant professor of counseling and school psychology at Southern and a former school psychologist in both Connecticut and Massachusetts, shares her suggestions:

*Develop a schedule…Using the previous tips as a guideline, create a plan to get everything done (including fun). “If you tend to be a more detail-oriented person, or an overachiever, a schedule can help reduce feelings of anxiousness that may arise when contemplating how all of the tasks you have taken on will actually get done,” McNamara says. “If you tend to have more of a laid back, go-with-the-flow type of personality, a schedule can help provide an anchor to keep you grounded so that you are less likely to get caught up in the here-and-now, running out of time for completing assignments and having fun.”

*…But be flexible… “Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, so make sure there is room in any schedule to move things around,” she says. “On any given day, you may need to spend more time completing assignments; a fun activity may run later than expected; a project may take longer than you thought it would; your club meeting or sporting event may run late; or you may need to pick up am extra shift at work.”

*…And find some balance. “Certainly, there will be times when you are spending more time studying, working and completing assignments than you might like,” she says. “But it is important to remember that spending all of your time studying and completing assignments, working or even going to meetings or practice can start to feel routine. Try to balance your time so that you are (fulfilling your obligations), but also spending time with your friends, family and having some fun. “This balance is often hard to achieve, but if we plan for it, and consciously try to achieve it, we have a better chance of realizing it.”

*Establish priorities. Since balance can be difficult to achieve, know what really matters so that you can be sure to put what matters first when time runs short. “It can be really challenging to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, and you may even change your mind a few times along the way,” McNamara says. “But at any given time, it’s important to have an idea of where you want to go, and have a plan to get there. So, decide what is important to you, and make sure that this priority, or those priorities, show up prominently in your schedule and in your life.”

Good luck to all the students — and their parents — for a successful 2014-15 school year!