Monthly Archives: July 2014

*Southern’s Lyman Center for the Performing Arts was prominently mentioned in a July 27column written by Joe Amarante of the New Haven Register. The play, “Pericles,” was being rehearsed at Lyman in preparation for its run at Edgerton Park in New Haven starting on Aug. 14.

*Jay Moran, who was recently named the new athletic director at Southern, was profiled in two newspaper pieces. Chip Malafronte, a columnist with the New Haven Register, wrote a columnthat ran in the July 25 paper. The piece talked about the passion and energy that Jay possesses and will bring to Southern. The Hartford Courant ran a story on Jay that ran on July 18.

*Channel 61 ran a July 25 segment on men’s basketball player Deshawn Murphy, who is participating in the Greater Hartford Pro Am summer basketball program.

*A story and video about men’s basketball player Michael Mallory appeared July 20 in theWaterbury Republican-American regarding his participation in the Greater Hartford Pro Am summer basketball program.

*Southern was mentioned in a positive light in a July 15 story that appeared Tuesday in the New Haven Register. In the article, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy referred to the Southern course offerings in design as an example of colleges and universities meeting the needs of businesses.

*An article about Police Chief Joe Dooley’s selection as the 2014-15 president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association appeared in the July 11 edition of the Milford Mirror. It marks the first time the chief of police at a college or university has been chosen for that post.

*President Mary Papazian was interviewed on July 7 about on the value of public higher education,Southern’s initiatives to support Student Success, and more Monday on WCAP’s (Boston) Mara Dolan Radio Show.

*Armen Marsoobian, chairman of the Philosophy Department, was interviewed on July 7 by Civilnet, an Armenian news and information site about the Armenian Genocide and about the current relationship between Armenians and Turks.

*The Connecticut Health I-Team — an online news site that focuses on health, safety and medical issues — published an article on July 5 about female veterans returning home from Iraq with injuries from the war. Cheryl Eberg, who just graduated from Southern in May, was interviewed in the article.

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!

    This summer’s Southern in Paris program is now under way. The following is an account of the activities and adventures of students and faculty members Camille Serchuk and Luke Eilderts as they explore the City of Light. The account was written in the form of a letter by Serchuk and Eilderts, co-directors of Southern in Paris.

    Accompanied by Professor Eilderts, the students were met by Professor Serchuk after arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. The group was very happy to see that Professor Serchuk had brought many bottles of water, orange juice, and a choice of pastries (what the French call viennoiseries) for their enjoyment. The students had their first encounter with the efficient transportation system as they took the RER directly from the airport to their accommodations at the Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre, at the Cité universitaire, the International Residence Campus located in the southern part of the capital. As several of the students have remarked about the Parisian transportation system, “You can take a metro, bus, tram, or RER basically anywhere,” and “Coming to Paris I was under the impression that I was going to have a hard time with the metro system but once you do it on your own and try to figure it out on your own it becomes easy.”

    As directors of the program, we are delighted to be able to share Paris with the students. One of the participants of the program has written, “Ever since I was in middle school and started to learn French, it had been my dream to visit Paris, France.” This is a common theme for many of the students, and we are glad to see that the city does not appear to disappoint. Several students have been struck with the city’s architectural beauty: “Everything about Paris is breathtaking, from the monuments to the stone walkways. The energy is high and a simple walk down the street can leave you feeling appreciative of life,” and “The old historic buildings take my breath away.” Indeed, there is a lot to see, and it can become a bit overwhelming at first as this student astutely comments: “My first impression of Paris was that the city reminded me of an amusement park. I wanted to see everything, I wanted to taste everything, and I wanted to go everywhere. I felt like a little kid again encountering an overwhelming sensation of excitement and disorientation.” Luckily, as students have become more comfortable with their surroundings, this disorientation has turned into one of confidence.

    Once students had access to their rooms, we gave them a bit of time to get settled in and then took them for lunch at the student center at the heart of the international campus. Many students were surprised by the choice and the quality of food at the cafeteria. With lunch finished, students returned to their rooms to rest for a bit before we departed for the Eiffel Tower. Clear blue skies and an abundance of scenery prompted the students to opt for walking as much as possible. After a quick group photo, we made our way to a neighborhood known for its lively pedestrian streets and excellent selection of reasonable restaurants.

    On Wednesday students caught up on sleep and met in the reading room of the residence hall for the first orientation meeting, after which Professor Eilderts brought them to the nearest grocery store where students could find some necessities for their stay. The big event of the day was our first weekly visit to the Louvre, where Professor Serchuk dazzled the students with a tour of what she has come to call, “the greatest hits,” among which are the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. The evening ended with dinner at the Troumilou restaurant where students were enchanted by some traditional French dishes.

    Courses began in earnest on Thursday, with Professor Serchuk leading her students through vestiges of Roman Paris in the morning, and Professor Eilderts meeting his students in the Luxembourg Gardens for writing exercises before visiting a bookstore and capping off the session with practicing ordering at a chic café near the Luxembourg Palace.

    In recognition of July 4th, students were given a long weekend to explore the city and complete assignments at their leisure. During that time, students began to observe differences between Paris and the U.S. One thing that has stood out to several students is how loudly Americans speak in comparison with the French: “One trait of Parisians that has boldly stood out to me is that they aren’t loud and don’t get very excited. Many little things will make Americans extremely excited and loud although the Parisians save those emotions for bigger situations.” Students have also had a chance to use their language abilities in real-life situations, commenting on how they have had to become more flexible with themselves: “I tend to try and do things well the first time and am hard on myself. This experience will definitely teach me to have more patience with myself and to not be so controlling.” Another student with little French background noted, “Thus far, I have found some ease in deciphering language within people’s body language (besides the occasional switch in the conversation to English), but interestingly enough, there can also be communication through current events, art and architecture, and the culture of food.”

    At the close of our first week, the overwhelming consensus of students is aptly captured in these two quotes: “Coming to Paris it has the best experience of my life so far, and every day I’m eager to learn more about the culture as well as the language,” and “I am also thankful that the group of students on the trip are awesome. Everyone is so kind and fun that it makes me feel less alone being so far from home.”

    For the beginning of our second week, Professors Serchuk and Eilderts accompanied students to the Basilica of St. Denis, the traditional resting place for the kings and queens of France. Students were invited to discover one of the first examples of what has become known as Gothic architecture through an investigation of the changing building technics that allowed for taller structures and larger windows. After our visit to St. Denis, we continued to the National Museum of the Middle Ages located in central Paris. There, the highlight of the visit was the outstanding tapestry series known as The Lady and the Unicorn.

    On Tuesday, students trekked to the heart of Paris for a visit of the Sainte-Chappelle, a jewel-box-like chapel built by Louis IX, later St. Louis, to house relics of the Passion. A spectacular example of Gothic architecture, students observed similarities and differences between what they had studied the previous day at St. Denis. After the visit, Professor Eilderts class took advantage of the enjoyable weather to meet on the bank of the river Seine to practice essential daily activities as well as work through several grammar exercises.

    The next day brought students to the Carnavalet, the museum of the city of Paris. Housed in two 17th-century Hôtels particuliers or mansions in the neighborhood known as the Marais, students were asked to consider examples of non-religious architecture and the links they would find with upcoming trips to Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. That evening, we met for our second weekly outing to the Louvre where students were treated to the Marie de Medici cycle, a series of 24 paintings by Peter Paul Rubens depicting Marie de Medici’s life. After the visit, students were treated to a dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant not far from where they are staying at the Cité universitaire.

    Thursday called for a visit to the enormous Château de Versailles. Famous for its grand and imposing style, Versailles began as a “modest” hunting lodge built by Louis XIII. His son, the future Louis XIV, would transform these modest lodgings into one of the most impressive royal residences in Europe. Often more spectacular than the interiors, many visitors find the immense gardens—nearly 2,000 acres—the real high point of the château. After lunch in the gardens, students were urged to explore the immense estate at their leisure.

    Finally, on Saturday, students visited the château Vaux-le-Vicomte, the castle that inspired Louis XIV to build Versailles. Located shortly outside the city of Melun, a short 25-minute train ride from the center of Paris, Vaux-le-Vicomte was constructed by lord Nicolas Fouquet, superintendent of finances under Louis XIV. After hosting one of the most spectacular festivities the French court had ever seen, and to which the young king was invited, Fouquet thought he was at the height of his power. His residence was innovative in design, and his gardens a marvel of optical illusions. Louis XIV did not see things the same way: two weeks after the end of the festivities, Fouquet was arrested for embezzlement and sentenced to life in solitary confinement. Louis XIV employed many of the same architects, artists, and designers on Versailles, which effectively put an end to the debate over who was the most powerful man in France.

    And finally, yesterday was France’s national holiday, le quatorze juillet, what we in the U.S. call Bastille Day. A commemoration of the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, the day began with a military parade down the avenue des Champs-Élysées, complete with helicopters and jets flying overhead in a spectacular display. In the afternoon, Professors Serchuk and Eilderts joined students for a picnic on the Champ de Mars, a long grassy field facing the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed a concert organized by Radio France and France Télévisions where the National Orchestra and the Choir of Radio France played for nearly four hours. To finish the evening, there was a spectacular display of fireworks, with music, and a light show.  The theme this year was a commemoration of World War I, which began one hundred years ago. More a celebration of peace than war, the fireworks this year were absolutely dazzling. The students were thrilled.

    It has been a very eventful two weeks, and we are looking forward to guiding the students in their discovery of even more parts of the city.

    Best regards,

    Luke Eilderts & Camille Serchuk
    Co-directors, Southern in Paris



    In the interval since our last report, we spent most of our time exploring the art and history of Paris in the nineteenth century. Professor Serchuk’s class visited some of the architectural projects associated with Napoleon, whose imperial vision can be found throughout the city. Professor Eilderts’ class took advantage of the many on-site visits by refining their written and oral capacities in French while also interacting with local French-speakers. Almost all of our teaching takes place on the spot, visiting neighborhoods, monuments and galleries, even at the movies. Paris is a wonderful classroom.

    Among the highlights of the last few weeks was a guided tour of the Paris Opera, built by Charles Garnier between 1861 and 1875. The students were really dazzled by the sumptuousness of its architecture and decoration. Every surface is covered with colored stone, paint, gilding or mosaic, and the effect is mesmerizing. Our guide pointed out some of the classical features and references of the design, and the students had strong opinions about whether they preferred the original auditorium ceiling by LeNepveu, or the newer one painted by Marc Chagall.

    Later that evening we visited the Louvre, exploring the lavish apartments of Napoleon III, and then visiting the Islamic galleries. This section of the museum reopened in 2012 after a long renovation, and we have not usually included it in our program. But this year it seemed to fit, and the students were awed by the intricate calligraphy and of the many fine pieces on display. In Professor Eilderts’ class, when asked to write about their favorite piece out of all the museums they had visited, several students returned to the Islamic collection for inspiration. After our visit, we enjoyed a delicious Moroccan couscous dinner. Most of the students were unfamiliar with the vivid flavors of this cuisine, but they loved it.

    The Paris that we know and love today owes a great deal to the vision of one man, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. In particular we considered his legacy as the driving force behind most of the grand vistas and wide avenues of Paris since  more than any other individual, he shaped the city as it is today. We not only considered how he transformed the city, but also how his contemporaries viewed these transformations. The Impressionists, in particular, had very strong views about the “New Paris” and we took a good look at their works to learn more about the city.

    The Musée d’Orsay provides a great environment to study the development of Impressionism. We had an early reservation this year, and were allowed into the museum before the public: a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The Orsay is magnificent, but it gets very crowded, and it was a treat to move through the silent galleries and study the paintings without anyone else around. The students loved this collection—and went back on their own to visit it again.

    On Monday, July 21st, we gathered at the Gare St. Lazare for a trip out of the city to Claude Monet’s famous house and gardens at Giverny. The skies were a bit overcast, and so the crowds stayed away. The gardens were in full bloom, and because of all the rain we have had, lush and richly colored. The students explored all parts of the garden, and they delighted in sitting on a bench in the shade of the willows admiring the water lilies and the Japanese bridge. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the city.

    The next day we visited the Musée Marmottan, where we feasted our eyes on a wonderful collection of paintings that includes the painting that gave the name to the Impressionist movement: Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. There are some beautiful paintings of Giverny, there, too, and it was gratifying to see the students make connections between the gardens they had seen the previous day and the paintings of them at the Marmottan. After our visit to the museum, we ate at a restaurant whose specialty is the tarte flambée, a dish from Alsace in eastern France. Our students loved the paper-thin crust, crème fraîche, and any number of toppings, and they benefitted from one of the few “all-you-can-eat” dishes available in France. No one went away hungry!

    On Wednesday the 23rd, we returned to the Louvre for our final visit. We visited the nineteenth-century paintings galleries, where we looked at paintings large and small, including works by Delacroix, Géricault, and David. We started with the small ones, and the students were able to examine the studies and oil sketches for the better-known large-format paintings elsewhere in the museum. They saw earlier versions of Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa and Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus, and marveled at the differences between the sketches and the final versions. We left the museum and went on to enjoy a great meal at a Provencal restaurant in Montparnasse.

    We gave the students an extra day off that week so that they could catch up on their work or take advantage of France’s excellent transportation system. Several decided to travel to destinations that included London, the Normandy beaches, and Belgium.

    In the final week of the program, Professor Serchuk took her students to see the work of Hector Guimard, who also designed many of the Métro entrances as well as many apartment buildings in the Sixteenth Arrondissement. The students were especially impressed by Guimard’s first major project, the Castel Beranger, built in 1897. They also visited some of the Grands Projets commissioned at the end of the twentieth century by François Mitterand, including the Pyramid of the Louvre, the Institute of the Arab World, and the National Library.

    Last week in Professor Eilderts’ course, students chose one of the 20 arrondissements to study and present to their classmates in a walking tour that took place this week. For several of the presentations, students took their classmates to parts of the city they had not yet discovered (the Buttes Chaumont park with its breathtaking views was a group favorite). In addition to the presentations, students continued their study of the French social, cultural, and political landscape by interviewing local Parisians, thereby building their linguistic and cultural competencies, skills they will be able to apply in their future lives.

    On Wednesday evening, we met for our annual banquet at the Grand Colbert. The time has passed so quickly! Their own words best communicate how much they learned and enjoyed.

    Kate Lis (Class of 2014, Elementary Education and Liberal Studies) remarked on the differences in the pace of life in Paris, writing, “The busy yet relaxing atmosphere of Paris is a wonderful change in pace. At home everything is fast paced; and in Paris people are busy, but they know how to relax and just take life in. Some of us having been going to the Seine to just sit and talk which is something that would never happen back home… I am going to take what I have learned from Paris with me forever.”

    Giovanna Bellettiere (Class of 2017, Secondary Education in English, minor in Art History) commented on the quality of the food as well as the environment, noting, “Another surprise is how good the pastries are. The ice cream, the croissants, anything sweet tastes good. Rose is my new favorite flavor of anything. I really love being here. It’s refreshing to be an environment that’s so different… I love the transportation systems, and the hustle and bustle of city life.”

    Ashley Dambowsky (Class of 2014, Theater) shared her enthusiasm for the city as well as its impact on her when she expressed, “Every single step you take the city has something to offer you. You never think that you would want to go out and explore while it is raining for days straight, but you would be surprised. It is almost as if Paris pulls you in until you have experienced every last drop. It is amazing how much I have been taught so much within this trip. You do not think that so much can be achieved within one month until you actually do it.”

    The students have all acknowledged how much the program has made them reflect on how they live their lives. They have enjoyed using public transportation, walking along the river, and even being away from their phones and Facebook accounts. Every one of them has vowed to return to Paris again soon.

    All best regards,
    Luke Eilderts & Camille Serchuk
    Co-directors, SCSU in Paris
    Southern Connecticut State University

    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:

    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):

    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

    Kirsten Famiglietti liked science as a kid. She even started working at a garden center as a senior at Guilford High School.

    But she never intended to major in biology when she came to Southern a few years ago – let alone set her sights on the field of botany. But her intentions began to change after taking a few classes with Rebecca Silady, an assistant professor of biology and the university’s botany specialist.

    “At one point, she asked me if I would be interested in volunteering in her botany lab,” Famiglietti says. “I did and enjoyed it a great deal. I was learning quite a bit. The only downside is that I wasn’t getting paid, so I couldn’t spend as much time in the lab as I would have liked.”

    Silady saw a fellowship program opportunity that was being offered by the American Society of Plant Biology (ASPB) and quickly suggested that Famiglietti apply. A few months later, Famiglietti received an email saying that she had been selected as one of 15 winners across the nation. She competed amid 55 applicants for the fellowship. In addition, she was one of only four students attending a “primarily undergraduate institution.”

    Famiglietti, who will be a senior this fall, is working during the summer doing laboratory research on the small, flowering plant called Arabidopsis thaliana, which Silady calls the “lab rat” of plant biology. Arabidopsis thaliana is in the mustard family. “We use it for experiments in the lab because it is small and grows faster than most crop plants,” Silady says.

    The goal of the research is to see how the plant responds to various stimuli, such as sunlight and gravity, and involves using mutant variants of the plant to compare the results. It hones in on how the seeds of the plant store protein, which can eventually help botanists and breeders learn about the nutritional value of grains.

    “This is a wonderful opportunity to have the time and the resources to apply my research skills,” Famiglietti says.

    She is earning a $4,000 stipend for the 10-week program, which runs from mid-June to mid-August. She will present her work next year at the annual meeting of the ASPB.

    Both Famiglietti and Silady had to submit paperwork as part of the application process. Candidates for the fellowship were judged on a variety of criteria, including a student’s promise as an undergraduate student and the proposed project itself.

    The fellowship winners are featured in the May/June edition of the organization’s magazine, ASPB News. In the article, each individual tells why the award is important to them.

    “Winning (the grant) and seeing my plans come to fruition have motivated me to work even harder and be more confident in pursuing my long-term academic goals,” she says in the article.

    While we prepare to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, you might be interested to know that the Second Continental Congress actually approved a resolution declaring the United States an independent nation on July 2, 1776.

    Many historians contend that America's actual date of independence is July 2, 1776.
    Many historians contend that America’s actual date of independence is July 2, 1776.

    In fact, John Adams originally thought that would be the date that we commemorate each year.

    “What are you doing for the Second of July?” could very easily have been the question we ask our friends around this time of year.

    So, how did July 4 become the national holiday?

    Check out a previous post that offers some trivia about our nation’s birthday. Some of the factoids may surprise you.

    Happy 4th! And Happy 2nd, too!