Yearly Archives: 2014

    Christine Beck was wandering the Louvre one day in 1999 and came upon a painting that grabbed her attention. The artwork‚ “The Madonna of Justice,” painted in 1620 by Bernardo Strozzi, depicts the Madonna and child with an angel, typical subjects for a work of the Italian Renaissance. But there was something different about this painting that stopped Beck in her tracks: Mary is pointing to a large book with the Latin words “Suprema Lex Esto, or, “the highest law. Beck, an adjunct English professor and former lawyer, says, “If you’re a lawyer in the Louvre, which I was, and you see a painting of a mother and a baby and a law book, it gets you thinking.”

    Beck has just published a book of poetry, Blinding Light, which she says was initially inspired by the Strozzi painting. After seeing the painting, she researched it on the Web, but only found explanations saying the Madonna represented the law of the Old Testament. Beck disagreed. “I decided it was the law of mothers,” she says. “She’s got a baby and a book.” As a lawyer who is also a mother, Beck was intrigued.

    She became interested in the notion of Mary and the law of mothers, what Beck calls “Lex Maturnus.” Yet “I knew I wasn’t going to write a book just about Mary,” she says. “I had to bring her down to my level. I had to think about the concerns of all mothers, about loving a child and not knowing what is going to happen in that child’s life.” The Strozzi painting poem was the first she wrote that is in her book, but the poem, like her ideas about the painting, evolved over time.

    Some time after she wrote the poem, Beck took a writing workshop and chose to work on this poem. “One instructor told us to end our poems with a strong sensory image,” she says. “I thought about Mary feeling like her body had been taken over when she was carrying the baby. She might feel a baby’s heel pushing on her from the inside. This became the sensory detail I used in the poem. Once she had this image of the heel, she began to have many other ideas for poems. “It is mostly about a sense of things getting out of your grasp, things you can’t control.”

    Beck wrote many of the poems as a student in Southern’s M.F.A. in creative writing program, and the book is a shorter version of her thesis. She graduated in 2013 and since then has been teaching creative writing at Southern and literature at the University of Hartford, where she taught law for nine years and later chaired the paralegal department. Her practice of law lasted more than 20 years, and during that time, she says, she was not thinking about writing poetry. But after leaving the legal field, she began to write and eventually decided to enter Southern’s M.F.A. program.

    She entered the program with a clear goal: she wanted to write a book. She had some poems written when she started the program, the poem about “The Madonna of Justice” among them. As a former lawyer, she was new to the study of literature and creative writing, but she says her studies “forced me out of my comfort zone.”

    Beck says that her book reads like a memoir but is also a meditation. She calls it a “braided narrative,” with poems about being a mother, poems about the law and poems about “blinding light‚” the desire to have a spiritual solution made clear, as in the case of Moses and the burning bush. But “while you’re waiting for the blinding light,” Beck says, “there are other things happening. The important thing is to go where life takes you and see what emerges.”

    Many people say students today are more aware of the world around them than at any time in history. The technological boom in the 21st century – where news of events happening thousands of miles away can be reported instantaneously via social media – certainly helps make that a plausible argument.

    We saw evidence to support that theory in our own backyard this week as social studies classes from four area high schools attended an April 7 forum at Southern called, Crisis in Ukraine: What Happened and What’s Next?” The latest developments in the standoff between Ukraine and Russia – and between East and West — were the focus of a panel discussion.

    Panelists at Southern's forum on Ukraine ponder a question from moderator Chris Velardi (far left), a news anchor at Channel 8.
    Panelists at Southern’s forum on Ukraine ponder a question from moderator Chris Velardi (far left), a news anchor at Channel 8.

    Faculty experts representing a variety of disciplines and perspectives shared their views and insights. The panel discussion included a look at what the United States can and should do in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea, as well as with the threat of further territorial encroachments.

    Costel Calin, an assistant professor of political science at Southern, gives his assessment of the situation in Ukraine.
    Costel Calin, an assistant professor of political science at Southern, gives his assessment of the situation in Ukraine.

    The high school contingent – representing Amity High School of Woodbridge; Shelton High School; and Hillhouse High School and Sound School, both from New Haven – totaled about 100 students. In all, about 250 people attended, which also included college students (mainly from Southern), faculty, staff and some individuals from the general public.

    A Southern student takes notes during the panel discussion.
    A Southern student takes notes during the panel discussion.

    But it wasn’t a matter of a few teachers forcing their classes to sit through a college program. The students generally and genuinely seemed excited to be with us and were attentive to the discussion. In fact, a few teachers told us beforehand that the students had been discussing the situation in Ukraine in their classes and were eager to attend the forum to learn more about what is happening.

    To be sure, any group of 100 high school students is likely to include a few who wished they could be somewhere else. Of course, that’s true of adults, too. But by and large, their behavior and enthusiasm was impressive, especially at a time when young people are often criticized as having a short attention span. Most listened intently during the 1 hour, 45 minute program as the professors enlightened and opined.

    These Amity High School students are enjoying their trip to Southern.
    These Amity High School students are enjoying their trip to Southern.

    In fact, many of the Shelton High School students were continuing the discussion after the program’s conclusion, according to their history teachers Sharon Cayer and James Allan.

    “From my observation, the high school students – and the audience, in general – certainly seemed engaged,” said Greg Adams, chairman of Southern’s Sociology Department and a panelist for the forum. “That gives me hope for the future.”

    Hillhouse High School students are eager for the program to start.
    Hillhouse High School students are eager for the program to start.

    Adams was part of the six-person panel that also included: Kevin Buterbaugh, SCSU professor of political science; Patricia Olney, SCSU professor of political science; Krystyna Gorniak-Kocikowska, SCSU professor of philosophy; Costel Calin, SCSU assistant professor of political science; and Matt Schmidt, assistant professor of political science and national security at the University of New Haven.

    In addition to Sharon Cayer and James Allen from Shelton High, the teachers whose classes attended included John Buell from Sound School; Jack Paulishen from Hillhouse; and James Clifford, Chris Borelli and Lee Ann Browett from Amity.

    Sound School students are among the first to arrive for the forum.
    Sound School students are among the first to arrive for the forum.

    If you would like to see the program in its entirety, you can check it out thanks to the Connecticut (Television) Network – CT-N.


    For college students, the first few weeks after completing the spring semester is often a time to catch their breath, return to the comforts of home and get ready for a Memorial Day picnic or two.

    But that won’t be the case this year for Krystina Morgan, a sophomore at Southern, who has volunteered to help impoverished South American children as part of the Cruz Blanca program.

    The Ansonia resident will be trading in the temperate late spring Connecticut weather for the late Peruvian fall. Instead of relaxing at a beach, she’ll be working with hammers and nails to build houses for poor families. And forget about the comforts of home – her nightly accommodations will be a sleeping bag on the floors of families she is trying to help.

    “Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to the challenge of living in harsh conditions,” Morgan says. “It’s for a good cause — to help keep the costs down so that we can maximize our assistance to the people.”

    Morgan, who will be stationed in Lima with about a dozen other Connecticut residents taking part in the program, will be helping children who usually get just one meal a day.

    “Typically, the kids are being raised by single moms who are working all day,” she says. “There is usually one mother who cares for all the kids in the neighborhood during the day. And they are living in homes that are more like huts.”

    And when Morgan and her cohorts are not building decent houses for the poor families, she will be playing and interacting with the children, who are generally in kindergarten through third grade. “We want to boost their spirits, as well as help provide them with a nice religious environment.”

    Cruz Blanca is a Peruvian non-profit charity that provides campus and other activities for poor children from the shanty towns of Lima, Peru. Children attend the camps throughout the year.

    The May 22 to June 1 trip is being coordinated by Sister Gabriella DaVilla, a religion teacher at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull who taught Morgan in her senior year. She has remained in contact with her former teacher and might have gone on the trip to Peru last year, but it coincided with a vacation she had already planned.

    Morgan, a journalism student who would like to go into the broadcast news field, can often be found working in the campus bookstore when she is not in class.

    She says donations are welcome. About half of the proceeds go toward living expenses while the other half goes to supplies and food for the poor. Those wishing to donate can do so at the following website:

    People can also donate directly to Cruz Blanca at the website:


    A group of nine nursing students at Southern flew to Jamaica last month for their spring break. But unlike many of their college peers, these students didn’t get a chance to spend much time on a beach, taking a break from the rigors of academic life. Instead, they volunteered their time alongside Jamaican healthcare professionals to assist at various medical and care centers.

    Antoinette Towle, an assistant professor of nursing who teaches the class “Understanding Global Healthcare,” visited Jamaica with her husband to do a trial run shortly before the trip with her students. “I was amazed at the lack of healthcare and how one can leave these beautiful resorts and beaches to find a third world country in the midst of all this wealth,” says Towle, who is also an APRN.

    The trip marked the Nursing Department’s first educational trip outside the United States. The objective of the course is to offer nursing students an opportunity to study within a culturally diverse and vulnerable environment.

    At the beginning of the trip, she prepared the students for the long, rigorous days of working in the field by participating in challenging team-building exercises.

    “We went to Dunn’s River Falls and climbed the 950-foot waterfall as a group,” says Nicole Valeriano, a junior from Stratford.

    The students observed the Jamaican medical professionals at work, but they also provided assistance with checking patients’ vital signs and performing general health assessments.

    Visiting the Jamaican countryside induced a bit of culture shock for the students, as the local nursing home was a “big ward instead of individual rooms,” and a vast majority of the natives walked around barefoot and had no access to running water, creating some unsanitary conditions, according to Towle. Some of the patients were amputees, the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes.

    The students also volunteered at a children’s hospital in the capital city of Kingston, where they saw patients who suffered from asthma and chicken pox.

    “The children were so kind and were so happy to see us that (we) really felt like just (our) presence was changing their lives,” Valeriano says.

    In addition, the nursing group volunteered and brought toys, coloring books and reading books to children at, “Fellowship Hall,” a one-room schoolhouse in the Parish of St. Mary.

    Preston Briggs and Melina Raucci, juniors from Old Saybrook and North Branford, respectively, said the children were animated and seemed to appreciate the group and gifts. “We were attacked with hugs the second we walked into (the school),” Raucci says.

    Towle says she developed a great appreciation for the positive demeanor of the Jamaican people, and was very moved by their warm and welcoming manner once they became familiar with the Southern nursing class.

    Raucci says she also was impressed by the upbeat attitudes of the local people, despite the seemingly underprivileged conditions in which they lived.

    “Money is not their reason for happiness,” Raucci says. “But they get excitement out of working hard and showing others how beautiful Jamaica is.”

    As a teacher, Towle’s favorite part of the trip was watching the students’ perspectives transform throughout the week, as they went from seeing “the big, stark buildings with no windows,” to valuing and understanding the people.

    Regardless of the tropical weather and beautiful resort, Valeriano said the trip changed her life by giving her a greater appreciation for the opportunities and cleanliness in the United States, and changed her perspective on mission trips. “I look at people differently now and will take my experience with me wherever I work,” she says.

    *President Mary Papazian was interviewed in the March 27 edition of the New Haven Register about Southern’s new downtown presence, “Southern in the Green.”

    *Rafael Hernandez, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, was quoted in a March 27 story in the Meriden Record-Journal about the debate as to whether individuals from Portugal, or of Portuguese heritage, are considered Latino.

    *Greg Adams, chairman of the Sociology Department, was interviewed March 7 on WTICradio’s morning show (1080 AM) regarding the situation in Ukraine (no link available). He is one of the panelists for the March 31 SCSU forum, “Crisis in Ukraine” What Happened and What’s Next?”

    *An article about the university’s “Southern on the Green” initiative — which involves leasing the 10th floor of the 900 Chapel Street building from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce — was posted March 6 on the New Haven Register’s website. The space will be used for fundraising, classes and customer service purposes.

    *Frank Tavares, professor of communication, was interviewed on March 6 by WUTC, a Chattanooga, Tenn. radio station, about his career that has included his faculty position at Southern, the former “voice” of National Public Radio and as an author.

    *President Mary Papazian was quoted in a March 5 New Haven Register  story pertaining to a visit by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to the Whitney Center in Hamden. The president spoke about the governor’s proposed Transform CSCU 2020 program that would infuse $134 million into the ConnSCU schools next year.

    *The Waterbury Republican-American ran a March 2 story about a recent book of short stories written by Frank Tavares, professor of communication. The book is called, “The Man Who Built Boxes.”

    *A talk at Southern by Jared Bernstein, former chief economist and economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, was covered in a March 1 story in the New Haven Register. As one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), he discussed that topic during the event.

    The Owls had a big weekend in swimming, track and field, and basketball. Congratulations to Raymond Cswerko, Nick Lebron, and men’s basketball!


    GENEVA, Ohio  – Southern Connecticut State University swimmer Raymond Cswerko (Torrington, Conn.), touched the wall first in the 200 fly on Friday evening at the NCAA Division II Championships. Cswerko led the field by nearly a full second (1:46.25) to capture his first NCAA individual title. The effort came roughly 24 hours after he finished as the NCAA runner-up in the 400 individual medley.

    In four races at this year’s Championships, Cswerko secured one first place, one second place and one fifth place (200 IM) finish.

    The national title was the 77th individual crown in SCSU history. Cswerko was the lone representative at the nationals from the Northeast-10 Conference.

    Read more here


    WINSTON SALEM, N.C. – For the second time in three years, Nick Lebron (Newington, Conn.) has captured the NCAA Championship in the heptathlon. After winning the crown in 2012 and also earning All-America honors last year, Lebron claimed this year’s title with a new NCAA Division II record score of 5,765 points.

    Lebron sealed up the title on Saturday with first place finishes in the 60 hurdles and 1000 meters, along with a fourth place showing in the pole vault. He was also in first place after day one.

    Read more here

    SWEET 16! Owls Advance to East Regional Final Tuesday

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A Tylon Smith (Manchester, Conn.) floater with 2.4 seconds left gave the No. 2/4 Southern Connecticut State University men’s basketball team a 79-77 victory over Franklin Pierce in the NCAA second round game. The win puts the Owls into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996-97.

    Smith scored four of his team-high 21 points in the final minute. The junior also distributed eight assists and grabbed five rebounds.

    Down a bucket with less than 60 seconds to go, Luke Houston (Pearl River, N.Y.) and Smith combined to knot things up. Houston forced Franklin Pierce freshman Donte Gittens (Hartford, Conn.) into making a telegraphed cross-court pass, which was anticipated and stolen by Smith.

    The Ravens’ freshman was able to get back on the play, stuffing the layup by the Owls’ point guard. However, Houston, hustling all the way, had the put back to send Moore Field House into euphoria.

    For the contest, Houston grabbed 12 rebounds and scored nine points.Michael Mallory (Waterbury, Conn.) added 17 points, while Deshawn Murphy (Hamden, Conn.) tossed in 10 for the home team, which scored the game’s final six points. Greg Langston (Stratford, Conn.) scored eight points to move into third place on the Owls’ career scoring chart (1,856 points).

    Southern Connecticut, which led 45-39 at the half, set a school-record with its 29th victory of the season.

    With the victory, the Owls, 29-2, face Saint Anselm (22-7), the No. 3 seed, in the East Regional Final Tuesday night. Presale tickets for tomorrow’s game will take place at the field house box office from 5-8 pm today (Monday, March 17).

    Read more here

    For a look at some practical applications of everyone’s favorite irrational number, check out a previous post in Wise Words.

    Enjoy a slice of pie.
    Enjoy a slice of pie.

    It’s hard not to like pi!

      Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whom the New York Times called “the most popular poet in America,” will give a reading at Southern Connecticut State University on Wed., April 9, at 7:15 p.m. The reading, which will take place in the Charles Garner Recital Hall (Engleman C112), is free and open to the public. It will be followed by an audience Q&A and a booksigning.

      Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. His work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The American Scholar, and he is a Guggenheim fellow and a New York Public Library “Literary Lion.” His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry. His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience – enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio – includes people of all backgrounds and age groups.

      Collins has published 10 collections of poetry and two chapbooks; edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry — Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day; was the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2006; and edited Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds, with paintings by David Allen Sibley. His most recent book is Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems 2003-2013.

      Included among the honors Collins has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also been awarded the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, and the Levinson Prize — all awarded by Poetry magazine. In October 2004, Collins was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry. In April 2013, he was selected as the fourth winner of the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry.

      In June 2001, Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. In January 2004, he was named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-06. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, as well as a Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College.

      Collins’ visit to SCSU is co-sponsored by the university’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. For more information, call (203) 392-6589.

        Individuals interested in making a career change to accounting will be able to take a major step toward that goal with a new program being offered at Southern.

        The certificate in accounting program, scheduled to begin at the start of the fall 2014 semester, is designed for college graduates who have a degree in a discipline other than accounting. Students will take eight required courses in undergraduate accounting for a total of 27 credits. Admission to the program requires a minimum GPA of 2.3 at the undergraduate level, along with a bachelor’s degree.

        “The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a highly regarded, dynamic and lucrative profession,” says Janet Phillips, chairwoman of the Accounting Department. “There is tremendous demand for CPAs both because employment opportunities for accountants and auditors are anticipated to grow rapidly, and because of the expected exodus of soon-to-be-retired CPAs. The new certificate program is an excellent avenue to aid in the pursuit of joining the accounting profession as a second career.”

        A 2012 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13.1-percent growth between 2012 and 2022 for accountants and auditors. The national median annual salary for an accountant in May 2012 was $63,550.

        Phillips says the program is geared toward two populations of students already holding undergraduate degrees; those with a non-accounting, business degree (such as marketing, management or finance), and those with a degree in a non-business field.

        “Students who have an undergraduate accounting degree and are looking to advance their education would be better served by the MBA program with a concentration in accounting,” she says.

        Phillips notes that becoming a licensed CPA is a multi-step process. First, individuals must meet the minimum education requirements to take the exam. The certificate in accounting will enable them to do so provided that they also have 22 credits in general business courses outside of accounting. Second, students must pass the CPA exam. Third, students must gain two years of experience working full time for a CPA, as well as having accumulated at least 36 credits in accounting; 30 credits in general business courses and a total of 150 overall credits. Individuals also must pass a self-study ethics course in Connecticut.

        The exam for CPAs in Connecticut includes four sections – auditing and attestation; financial accounting and reporting; regulation, and business environment and concepts.

        “The new SCSU certificate of accounting program is a practical, accessible and affordable means to begin meeting qualifications to become a Connecticut CPA,” Phillips says. “The certificate is evidence of the SCSU School of Business’s commitment to meeting the needs of the state workforce and emerging economy.”

        For further information about the program, call the Accounting Department at (203) 392-5691.

        Those of us “of a certain age” can probably recall our English teachers – at least one stickler on proper grammar – telling us not to end a sentence with a preposition. Similarly, split infinitives – a verb phrase in which the word “to” is separated from the action word – were to be avoided at all costs.

        Some grammatical rules of writing, once considered non-negotiable, are being questioned and de-emphasized more often today.
        Some grammatical rules of writing, once considered non-negotiable, are being questioned and de-emphasized more often today.

        Sure, you might be able to get away with breaking the rules a bit in a science report. Even a social studies teacher might let it slide. But the following sentences in an English class would likely merit you with some “red ink” on your essay.

        • Nobody knew where the marchers were from.
        • That is what it was all about.
        • We are planning to gradually improve our grades.
        • They decided to fully implement the system.

        As students, we were inclined to accept these rules as “grammatical gospel.” But do you know who established those rules? And why can’t we end a sentence with a preposition or use a split infinitive?

        Dina Brun, an adjunct faculty member at Southern in the Department of World Languages and Literatures and who teaches Introduction to Linguistics, says the history of these rules dates back to the 17th century. She says Joshua Poole, a grammarian and rhetorician, and John Dryden, a literary writer and poet, have largely been credited with the preposition rule. Dryden was also associated with the split infinitive rule.

        “These two individuals, and others, wanted to make English more like Latin,” Brun says. “In Latin, an infinitive is a single word, so there is no split.”

        For example, she points to the Latin word, “clamare,” which means to claim, and “habere,” which means to have. The “re” part of the word is the English equivalent of “to.”

        Brun says the rules have been getting much more relaxed in recent years. “It’s been a gradual process throughout the 20th century to the point where today, ending a sentence with a preposition is pretty much accepted,” she says. “The same is true of the split infinitive.”

        And Brun said that is not necessarily a bad thing. She points out that when sentences are constructed intentionally to avoid ending in a preposition, it can lead to some awkward constructions.

        For example: This is the book I told you about. To comply with the old rule, it would need to be changed to something like: This is the book about which I told you.

        The same is true with the “no split infinitives” rule. For example: “We need your help to fully implement the process” would have to be changed to: “We need your help to implement fully the process.” The latter just doesn’t sound right.

        Brun says that before the 17th century, there really was no such rule. She notes that even great literary geniuses, such as Shakespeare, ended sentences with prepositions.

        Other language rules also are beginning to change. Brun notes that the differentiation between “who” and “whom” is beginning to wane. She says that people are beginning to drop “whom” and replace it with “who.”

        Before long, we may be writing letters “To Who it May Concern.”

        English teachers and writing coaches, what do you think? Is this progress or regression?