Yearly Archives: 2015

Many young women are regularly using a gravelly, croaky speech intonation called ‘vocal fry.’

You’ve almost certainly heard the “vocal fry” inflection in conversation. You might even use it yourself. But you probably aren’t familiar with the term, nor that it has become a cultural phenomenon.

You know that creaky, gravelly voice that is most commonly used by – but not exclusive to — high school girls and young women, especially at the end of sentences. That’s vocal fry.

It may be the 21st century successor to other forms of youthful speech patterns that became commonplace during the late 20th century. Remember that totally gnarly “Valley Girl/Surfer Dude-speak” of the 1980s? But the fry might have more widespread use than that California-centric speech pattern.

It is in many ways the opposite of the “up turn” mode of speaking that makes declarative sentences sound like questions. The upturn has been frequently used in the United States – certainly during the last half century. With fry, the tone actually goes in the opposite direction, toward a lower-than-normal pitch.

Lesley Wolk, associate professor of communication disorders at Southern, was the lead investigator of a research project conducted in 2011 while she served as a faculty member at Long Island University. She, along with two of her colleagues, had found that about two-thirds of the 34 female students between the ages of 18 and 25 who participated in the study habitually used fry when speaking. The results were published in a 2012 edition of the Journal of Voice.

“It was interesting that most of them said they had no idea they were talking that way,” she says.

Wolk says she was involved in a follow-up study of 34 male students at Long Island University in 2013, but that the results were strikingly different. Very few of the young men used vocal fry.

“Although it’s not exclusively used by young women, they seem to use verbal fry more frequently than young men or older individuals,” she says.

Wolk says she first became aware of vocal fry when working with people who had vocal cord problems. The actual term was first used to describe a vocal pathology, she says.

“But I noticed that as they became teenagers, my daughters and their friends were speaking with the fry,” she says. “At the same time, as a faculty member, I would hear this speech pattern in my interactions with students, as well. So, I became interested in studying this phenomenon.”

Wolk says there are different theories as to why this is happening. “Some people believe that it originated as a way to emulate pop stars, such as Brittany Spears and Kim Kardashian, who are known to use fry when performing,” she says. “Another hypothesis is that the deeper pitch is a way for young women to be taken more seriously, or to be heard. And others say it’s used by teen girls and young women to be accepted as part of a peer group, in much the same way that slang is used by young people.”

She notes that her study shows that fry is generally used at the end of sentences, occasionally in the middle of sentences, but rarely at the beginning.

Wolk would like to pursue additional research on this subject. “My research was conducted in New York,” she says. “And I know there has been a study done in California that also showed use of vocal fry. But I would like to see if this pattern is also something we would hear frequently in the South or the Midwest.”

She also would like to examine the potential physical effects on the vocal cords from habitually using fry, as well as various socio-cultural questions. “Many people – especially older adults — find this tone unappealing,” she says. “I wonder how much it affects the perception of individuals who speak this way.”

    the authors
    Michele Vancour, a professor of public health, and Michele Griswold, a graduate of Southern’s public health master’s program as well as a nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

    When a breastfeeding mother returns to work, her separation from her infant can disrupt breastfeeding, and many workplaces lack policies and procedures to support mothers who wish to continue nursing their babies. According to Michele Vancour and Michele Griswold, such policies don’t exist just to cater to families — they are good for business by contributing to greater employee satisfaction and retention. Yet many working mothers stop breastfeeding because of the barriers they encounter in the workplace.

    Breastfeeding Best PracticesIn their new book Breastfeeding Best Practices in Higher Education, Vancour, a professor of public health, and Griswold, a graduate of Southern’s public health master’s program as well as a nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), examine breastfeeding and the workplace as a public health issue. They address the need for support of breastfeeding on university campuses; describe best practices as implemented at several U.S. higher education institutions and provide examples of how college and universities can work toward becoming more supportive of breastfeeding among employees and students.

    Both Griswold and Vancour have expertise on the topic of breastfeeding, both as a health issue and as a workplace issue. Griswold chairs the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition, and Vancour is on the board. Griswold’s master’s thesis looked at breastfeeding in the pediatric primary care setting, and she has worked as a lactation consultant in a primary care setting. Vancour was Griswold’s thesis adviser and has long researched and written on work/life balance. She was an advocate for the university establishing a lactation space on campus, where nursing mothers can pump in private when away from their infants. Such a room was eventually made available in Connecticut Hall.

    Vancour knew from her research that colleges and universities were an area where lactation support was lacking. National public policy initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act have put out guidelines requiring workplaces to have more supports in place for breastfeeding mothers, so Vancour and Griswold decided to collaborate on a book that would look specifically at such support in the higher education setting. They say it should serve as a useful resource to those who are working to bring their workplaces into alignment with such policies.

    “In the book, we place breastfeeding in a larger context – why it is important for both mothers and children. It’s good for our country’s future – breastfed babies grow up healthier,” says Griswold. She points out that breastfeeding can help to prevent childhood obesity, ear infections, colds and flu. And for mothers, it can protect against breast and ovarian cancers. Premature infants do much better when they are fed their mothers’ milk.

    Vancour says she has always been a big proponent of best practices, and the book focuses on six institutions that she and Griswold believe have created environments that support breastfeeding: George Washington University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of California Davis, the University of Arizona, Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins University.

    Vancour and Griswold say that for an institution to become fully supportive of their employees who are breastfeeding, a paradigm shift is required: a move from thinking about the company to thinking about how to support employees – which in turn is good for the company.

    *Siobhan Carter-David, assistant professor of history, was quoted in a Feb. 28 article in theHartford Courant pertaining to Eastern Connecticut State University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award. Siobhan delivered the keynote address at the event

    *Sarah Michaud, director of the Drug and Alcohol Resource Center, was quoted in a Feb. 27story that appeared today in the New Haven Register about the prevalence of ecstasy and similar drugs on college campuses. Sarah noted that there have not been any reported cases recently of overdosing on these kinds of drugs at Southern.

    *For those of you who were unable to see the story last night on Channel 8, health reporter Jocelyn Maminta put together a nice segment about the new high-tech treadmill obtained by the Human Performance Lab that is able to generate 3-D gait analyses of runners. Bob Gregory, assistant professor of exercise science, was interviewed about the equipment and how it works.Bob Axtell, professor of exercise science, also was interviewed after using the treadmill himself.

    *Jim Barber, director of community engagement and former long-time track coach at Southern, was featured in the Hartford Courant on Feb. 22 in the newly created “Hometown Heroes” section. The article talks about his lifetime of service to the university and to the New Haven community. Jim began working at Southern in 1967.

    *Greg Paveza, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, was interviewed Feb. 22 on the Channel 30 morning newscast. He spoke, along with Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Tony Rescigno, about the future of health care in Connecticut.

    *You won’t see the works of Aristotle being discussed on TV newscasts very often. But Chelsea Harry, assistant professor of philosophy, was interviewed on that very subject Feb. 15 onChannel 30’s Sunday morning newscast. Chelsea discussed her research of how Aristotle appears to have endorsed the theory that dogs and other small animals have a limited concept of time. Modern science is debating that subject today, but there seems to be growing evidence that this is the case. Jackson, Chelsea’s golden retriever/German shepherd mix, accompanied her on the air.

    *An Associated Press photo taken of actor Henry Winkler during his appearance as the featured speaker at Southern’s 2005 undergraduate commencement ceremony was published Feb. 3 in the online version of the magazine, “The Atlantic.” The picture was taken during the procession at the Connecticut Tennis Center. Winkler is best known for his role as Fonzie on the 1970s sit com, “Happy Days.”

    *Carmen Martell, who participated in December’s graduation ceremony at Southern after earning an M.S.N. degree, was featured Feb. 2 as the cover story in the Woman section of theWaterbury Republican-American. Her story is compelling as someone who grew up in a series of foster homes and was on her own as a teen, but later overcame that tough early life to become a nurse.

    *The New Haven Register ran an article on Feb. 2 that included an announcement about the upcoming citizens’ police academy at Southern.

    *Lesley Wolk, associate professor of communication disorders, was interviewed Feb. 1 onChannel 30’s Sunday morning newscast about the cultural phenomenon of “vocal fry.” She talked about the increasing use of a voice inflection in which a person opts to talk in a deep, gravelly tone. She noted that high school girls and young women seem to use this way of talking the most and the “fry” is generally done at the end of sentences.

    Good afternoon everyone!

    As we are all well aware of by now, we have been experiencing some extremely cold temperatures.  In order to protect our facilities and ultimately faculty and staff personal space, we need your help in making sure all windows are closed in offices and classrooms.  Since many of our buildings have units located on outside walls, it is extremely important to make sure windows are closed so piping won’t freeze.

    Last weekend we found several windows open in both classrooms and offices.   Had we not been on Campus doing snow removal these areas might not have been discovered and frozen pipes could very well have caused serious water damage.

    Please take a moment to check for open windows in your areas, and thank you for your assistance.

    Robert G. Sheeley
    Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting & Facilities Operations
    Southern Connecticut State University
    Phone:  203-392-6050
    Fax:  203-392-6058

    Nearly half of planets discovered in the Milky Way Galaxy are believed to be part of ‘binary solar systems,’ meaning there are two suns in the solar system. In some cases, these planets orbit both suns. In this photo, two white dwarf stars located about 1,600 light years from Earth orbit each other. Image credit: NASA/Tod Strohmayer (GSFC)/Dana Berry (Chandra X-Ray Observatory)

    It turns out that George Lucas might have inadvertently crossed the line between science fiction and science when he created the planet Tatooine in the iconic “Star Wars” saga.

    While the concept of a planet orbiting two suns was intended to be fictional, modern astronomy has found that such planets actually do exist in the cosmos.

    The Kepler mission – whose aim is to find Earth-like planets in parts of the Milky Way Galaxy – recently discovered that 40 to 50 percent of these bodies are actually part of binary solar systems. In other words, those planets are part of solar systems with two suns, rather than one.

    The team of scientists that made this finding was led by Elliott Horch, professor of physics at Southern.

    “Most of these planets are probably not like Tatooine, where the planet orbits twin suns that are close together. They generally orbit only one of the two stars, with the second star slowly orbiting the system at a much greater distance,” Horch says.

    But Horch concedes that at least a small percentage of the Earth-like planets in these binary solar systems do orbit two suns. In some cases, that could result in planets having constant or near constant daylight.

    Nevertheless, even for the large majority of planets that only orbit one of the two suns, their nighttime skies could be brighter than ours.

    “This would mean that during the day on the exoplanet, the closer sun would dominate, but at night there would be an especially bright star — a night sun — that hangs in the sky,” Horch says.

    If nothing else, it might eliminate the need on these planets for daylight savings time to give children some light while waiting for the school buses in the morning.

    Horch developed the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) several years ago for the National Science Foundation. The telescopic device provides astronomers with stunningly crisp images of outer space, and is being used by the Kepler mission.

    He is currently developing a portable multi-channel intensity interferometer, which essentially is a double-barrel telescope that would generate ultra-high resolutions with even more detailed information about celestial bodies.

    “With my previous instrument, the DSSI, it was like putting eyeglasses on a telescope,” he says. “This new project will be like remaking the whole eye.”

    Construction of this new device, like DSSI, is being funded by the NSF.

    President Papazian will host a University Dialogue on Tuesday, March 3 at 12:30 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Theater.

    Please join the President and members of her Cabinet to discuss issues of interest to the campus community.

      The U.S. Forest Service uses it to help fight fires, build trails, and protect wildlife. Fast-food chains rely on it to track sales and predict the most profitable sites to build new restaurants. Electric companies depend on it to shorten the duration of power outages and improve response times.

      Welcome to the expanding field of Geospatial Information Science (GIS), in which state-of-the-art technology — including the global positioning system (GPS), remote sensing, and geographic information systems — is used to gather information related to the Earth’s surface and then combine it with social, economic, environmental, and other data. Experts in the field gather, store, analyze, and use the information extensively in research, business, government, nonprofit organizations, and more.

      “GIS and geospatial technology are used almost everywhere — from forestry to marketing to public health. The opportunities and possibilities are vast,” says Eric S. West, associate professor of geography, who spoke to students about the field and Southern’s new minor in Geospatial Information Science and Technology.

      Launched in the fall 2014 semester, the minor requires the completion of 18 credits. Students take two core courses — “Maps and Map Making Technology” and “Introduction to GIS” — and complete a minimum of seven credits, choosing from electives such as “Remote Sensing” and “Cartography.” A capstone experience — a culminating course and/or an internship — furthers students’ knowledge.

      Southern formally celebrated the introduction of the minor on GIS Day, held on November 19. Students from numerous majors enjoyed presentations from two alumni, who discussed how maps and geographic information systems are used at their organizations: Ethan Hutchings, ’08, manager of operations for the city of New Haven’s Transportation Department, and Marwin Gonzalez, ’08, the GIS project manager at New England GeoSystems (NEGEO).  Both majored in geography and studied with West.

      “If you start to think spatially, you open up your world tremendously,” says Gonzalez. In addition to working at NEGEO where he conducts GIS projects for municipalities and regional planning agencies, Gonzalez is a marketing GIS coordinator for LEGO KidsFest and teaches at Central Connecticut State University. “I challenge my students to give me a field or career that does not use GPS,” he says. During his presentation, he highlighted numerous real-life applications for geospatial information science and technology. Examples include determining the amount of sand needed by a city snowplow driver and creating ways to securely store maps and other data for city water systems. He notes that the latter is critical in light of terrorism concerns.

      The outlook for those employed in the field is bright, with an average salary of $82,340 in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Alumnus Ethan Hutchings parlayed a successful internship obtained with the assistance of Associate Professor of Geography C. Patrick Heidkamp into a career with the city of New Haven. Hutchings initially attended the University of Maine, majoring in forestry and wildlife. The fit wasn’t ideal, and he left school and ultimately traveled across the U.S. and internationally, visiting Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Vietnam. When he later took an introductory geography course at Gateway College, he knew he had found his niche and transferred to Southern where he completed his B.S. in geography.

      As the manager of operations for New Haven’s Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking, Hutchings developed ways to help the city effectively manage data generated through SeeClickFix, which lets residents use cell phones and other technology to report non-emergency issues — like potholes or broken parking meters. He says GIS plays a major role in helping cities and businesses address peoples’ needs and concerns. For example, he notes that electronic parking meters provide a wealth of information. “They can tell us all sorts of things . . . how many people used a space in an eight-hour period . . . how they paid,” he says. “We can look at that data and determine locations where we need more meters. GIS has helped the city do a lot of interesting things.”

      West concurs: “GIS has transformed the way organizations operate and the way people in organizations handle their work flow. We are excited about propelling students forward in their knowledge of GIS and geospatial technology, and working with them to customize their education in a way that will have a positive impact on their careers.”

      Saturn (pictured above) is known for its rings, but another planet more than 400 light years away is believed to have rings that are 200 times as large. Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

      Move over, Saturn. It turns out you have a distant cousin – one that is much larger, much younger and carries a lot more “bling.”

      Astronomers recently discovered what appears to be a young giant planet with breathtaking rings in a distant solar system more than 400 light years away from Earth. Their findings have just been accepted for publication in the prestigious Astrophysical Journal.

      The astronomers – the University of Rochester’s Eric Mamejek and the Leiden Observatory’s (The Netherlands) Matthew Kenworthy – say the three dozen or so rings span nearly 120 kilometers – roughly 200 times the size of Saturn’s.

      The planet – referred to as J1407b – has a mass estimated at between 10 and 40 times that of Jupiter, which is the heaviest planet in our solar system.

      The discovery has caught the attention of Elliott Horch, a noted astronomer and professor of physics at Southern.

      “This is another signpost along the journey that is going on in astronomy right now in the area of exoplanets – planets that orbit other stars besides the Sun,” he says. “How diverse the menagerie of planets that we know about is becoming!

      “Imagine being close to this planet and having its rings take up a big chunk of the sky,” he adds. “What a sight that would be!”

      Indeed, astronomers say that if Saturn had rings of the magnitude of planet J1407b, they would be visible with the naked eye in our nighttime sky. In fact, the rings would appear larger than the moon, despite being much further away from Earth.

      The findings indicate there are gaps between some of planet J1407b’s rings, leading to a theory that moons have been formed from the rings, just as it is believed that many of Saturn’s 60 or so moons were created this way. Astronomers believe Saturn’s rings were also much larger early in its own life, before some of the material from the rings left to form moons.

      Astronomers say that while Saturn’s rings are composed of ice, J1407b has rings probably made of dust since the planet’s temperature is believed to be far too hot to have ice rings.

      Saturn, which has been around for about 4.5 billion years, is an old timer compared with the relatively youthful J1407b – a planet for a mere 16 million years or so.

      Hey Saturn, maybe you can take the newbie under your wing…er, ring.

      Godspell at Lyman Center


      Well done, Theatre Department! After a week at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the SCSU Theatre Department walked away with a number of awards.

      Senior Elizabeth Beale was given a Special Mention in Costume Design. Junior Olivia Cintron was cast in a show that was produced as a part of the One Act Play Festival. And seniors Teddy Hall and Cecilia Curachi both made it to the final round of the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, with Teddy ultimately snagging first alternate — he came in second, in other words. Both students were coached by Kaia Monroe Rarick.

      In addition, not only was the SCSU production of “Godspell” invited to perform at the Festival, but Theatre Professor Larry Nye’s work on “Urinetown” was given a merit award for Outstanding Choreography, and Rarick’s production of “Circle Mirror Transformation” was given a merit award for Outstanding Ensemble – Cast and Crew.

      A small department competing with much larger BFA programs and MFA programs, the SCSU Theatre Department did very well — congratulations to all who took part!

      The SCSU Theatre Department was invited to take its production of “Godspell” to the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at Cape Cod, Mass. The regional festival — encompassing all of New England and upstate New York — represents the very best of college theater in all aspects. “It’s equivalent to making it to the regional tournament in a sport,” says Theatre Department Chair Kaia Monroe Rarick, “except there are no cheerleaders.”

      Out of nearly 200 productions considered for inclusion in this year’s festival, only six were chosen. The Theatre Department’s fall musical, co-produced with The Crescent Players, “Godspell” was the only show from Connecticut to be invited. Directed and choreographed by Associate Theatre Professor Larry Nye, this well-known musical takes the gospel according to St. Mark and brings it into modern times. Nye took the modernization one step further by setting the show in a construction zone — ostensibly a new performing arts center — and utilized props and costumes from previous Crescent Players’ shows for a deconstructed effect.

      It was both the innovative production concept and powerful ensemble singing that attracted the Kennedy Center respondent’s attention. The cast of 19 — made up of theater majors and non-majors — belted out such classics as “Day by Day” and “By My Side” for the festival audience on January 29.

        The avoidance of eye contact is a well-known characteristic of those who have an autism spectrum disorder. But does that avoidance result in the common speech difficulties and other language development problems generally seen in those with the disorder?

        Southern – in a partnership with Haskins Laboratories, which is affiliated with both Yale University and the University of Connecticut – hopes to find out the answer to that question as part of a three-year study that recently began. The research is being funded through a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. SCSU is receiving about $300,000 of the grant.

        “This study could be transformative in terms of what we learn about autism spectrum disorders and for intervention for speech language programs,” said Julia Irwin, associate professor of psychology and the lead investigator for the project. “We hope it will enable us to better understand the roots of language difficulties, which in turn, will help us to treat children at an earlier age.”

        Irwin said that most research and clinical practice involving forms of autism emphasize the auditory perception component, but the visual aspect (exposure to mouth movements in face-to-face communication) receives relatively little attention.

        “Yet, reduced gaze to the face may have cascading effects on language learning in two important ways,” Irwin said. “First, it limits a child’s experience with the movements of a speaker’s face — movements that can help the listener understand what is said, especially in a noisy environment. Second, it can make it less likely that children will imitate the speaking faces of others, which is a powerful way to learn words.”

        The non-invasive study has children watching videos of people speaking and using an eye tracker to see where they are gazing during the video. The children will wear a specially designed cap that will enable researchers to look at the electrical activity of their brains with EEG and determine if there is an underlying problem integrating the auditory and visual information.

        Later, the children participate in a therapeutic training game called “Listening to Faces” with the use of an iPad. The game encourages the participants to look at the faces of individuals speaking. They will then be tested to see if there an improvement in their ability to hear and understand people speaking.

        “Our preliminary indication is that they do show improvement,” Irwin said. “But we need to expand the pool of participants before we can reach any conclusion.”

        Irwin said the researchers are asking for child volunteers, between the ages of 6 and 12, who will be paid $10 an hour for about six hours. The testing is conducted over two visits with about three hours per visit.

        Parents wishing to have their children tested should contact project coordinator Jacqueline Turcios, an SCSU graduate student, at to see if they are eligible.

        Several SCSU departments and individuals are involved in the project, including Larry Brancazio, chairman of the Psychology Department; Ruth Eren, director of the SCSU Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders; Barbara Cook, assistant professor of communication disorders; the Center for Communication Disorders; Jonathan Preston, a former assistant professor of communication disorders; and graduate student Jacqueline Turcios.

        To learn more about the study, check out a recent article in the New Haven Register and the text version of a story on Channel 8.