Monthly Archives: July 2016

Christine Denhup

The death of one’s child to cancer – or due to any reason, for that matter — is one of the most emotionally devastating events that could befall a person.

While suffering intense sadness, each parent handles the grieving process in unique ways. But Christine Denhup, an assistant professor of nursing at Southern Connecticut State University, recently found five common threads among parents who participated in an in-depth study of what their lives have been like since losing their child.

The qualitative study involved lengthy interviews with six parents across the country – five mothers and one father – from six different families who had lost a child to cancer. Their children’s ages ranged from 4 to 12 at the time of death, and their illnesses included leukemia, lymphoma and brain tumors. The interviews were conducted at least 16 months after the loss of their child, but in one case, 41 years had elapsed.

“Surprisingly, there has been very little research on the experiences that parents have undergone when losing one of their kids to cancer,” Denhup said. “It is important for health-care providers and others to better understand what life is like for these parents so that we can help them.”

Denhup, who has been a nurse for more than 25 years, in addition to teaching at SCSU for the last eight years, found the following five common experiences among the parents:

*New State of Being – Participants said they were thrust into a permanent “new normal” after the loss of their child. “They referred to it as the aftermath of a tsunami in their lives,” Denhup said. After the initial grief, many changes persisted.

*Profound Suffering – Each individual had “triggers,” things that sparked an acute bout of increased negative emotions. Those specific triggers differed from person to person, but each experienced them in some way. “For one parent, seeing their child’s friends growing up was a trigger,” Denhup said. “Yet, for another parent, seeing their kid’s friends grow up helped reduce their suffering.” All experienced profound suffering at certain times, triggered by different stimuli.

*Continued Parenting Relationship – In each case, the parent continued to have a relationship with their child even after their death, according to Denhup. This kind of relationship differed from parent to parent. “One mom talked out loud to their child,” she said. “To honor his son, one dad went to a Cub Scout graduation – a ceremony that his son would likely have been part of if he had still been alive.”

*Self-renaissance – Their identity – who are they are a person – changes forever. They developed a “pretend self” to help them cope with day-to-day life. For example, they might be very sensitive to their loss at home, but at work, they take on a different persona that helps them avoid an emotional meltdown.

*Journey Toward Healing – In learning to live with the loss, the parents developed forms of self-care. For one parent, journaling about their feelings and experiences was a way to help them.

Denhup said that family, friends and co-workers often will try to help the parents through the most difficult periods. But she said there are some approaches that can help to mitigate their suffering, while other approaches may provoke increased sadness, unintentionally.

Positive steps that others can take include remembering the children in some way and engaging in a conversation about the children if the parents are willing or eager to do so. But comparing their own losses to a parent’s loss of a child often elicits a negative response because of the perceived disproportionate grief. Similarly, relatively trivial complaints about their own life is bound to engender a similar reaction. Worse, telling a parent that they have other healthy children or that they need to get on with their lives can be very hurtful.

Denhup’s research constituted her dissertation for her Ph.D. in nursing from Seton Hall University. The research was published in the August 2015 online edition of the Omega Journal of Death and Dying. It also served as a basis for a chapter in the book, “A Parent’s Guide to Enhancing Quality of Life in Children with Cancer.”

Last fall, Denhup delivered a presentation, “Advancing Nursing Knowledge of Parental Bereavement Through Phenomenology,” during a joint meeting (via video-conferencing) between nursing faculty at SCSU and Liverpool John Moores University. The two universities entered into a partnership last year.

Among the courses she teaches at SCSU is the “Palliative and End-of-Life Colloquium.”

Graduate reading program, dyslexia

Southern’s graduate degree programs that instruct educators on the teaching of reading have earned a full three-year accreditation from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA).

Southern is one of only about 26 schools in the country – and only the second in Connecticut – to have earned that designation since the organization began offering accreditations in 2012. The accreditation applies to both the Master of Science degree and Sixth-Year Certificate programs in reading. It is awarded to schools that are deemed by IDA to best be able to train teachers to alleviate, prevent or remediate reading difficulties, including dyslexia.

IDA is a non-profit, scientific and educational organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia, as well as related language-based learning differences.

During the accreditation process, independent reviewers are assigned to each university to evaluate their programs and determine whether they align with IDA Standards. The review examines course syllabi and other course materials and requirements, as well as interviews with program directors and a site visit to the school, according to the IDA website.

“Our reading faculty have always had a sterling reputation in Connecticut and the impact that they have had on reading teachers has been profound. But this designation validates our program even further, based on the science of reading,” said Ruth Eren, chairwoman of the SCSU Special Education and Reading Department.

She noted that the department has long held and continues to hold an accreditation from the International Literacy Association, which is considered the gold standard among higher education reading programs. In addition, 97 percent of students in the program have passed the state reading specialist exam to obtain certification in Connecticut since the test started in early 2015.

“Our goal in pursuing this additional accreditation was to best address the instructional needs of students who may or may not be working to capacity due to dyslexia and other types of reading disability,” said Regine Randall, SCSU graduate reading program coordinator.

The designation also will help students in their search for teaching jobs. Laura Raynolds, SCSU associate professor of special education and reading, pointed out that state Individualized Education Program documents now include a check off box specifically about whether a student has dyslexia. The forms must be filled out by educators regarding the program of instruction for student with disabilities.

Previously, the document required teachers to check off whether a student had a learning disability, but now dyslexia is a sub-category. “School PPT (Planning and Placement Teams) teams want someone who is well-versed on dyslexia, and this accreditation will give students graduating from our program an extra boost,” Raynolds said.

An estimated 3 to 20 percent of the population is considered to have some form of dyslexia. SCSU had 94 students enrolled in its graduate reading programs last fall.

Museum of Amsterdam

By Rebecca Weinberger

You may or may not already know, but Amsterdam is one of the most fascinating places to visit. Why? Amsterdam is rich in culture, historical monuments, and politics.

Today in class we focused a lot on religion and politics in the Netherlands. Our guest speaker, David J. Bos, Ph.D., took us on a journey through the history of Amsterdam. Some interesting aspects I learned were the differences between religions, and how religion plays a major part in today’s votes for office, such as parliament. Pillarization (a separation of society) still takes place even today. In comparison, one might look at the requests catholic, orthodox protestant, socialists, and liberal protestants made when demanding that their religion deserve the most privileges – good education, health care, and media were the aspects each religion had most in common. Throughout the ages, segregation and religious battles continued. Today anyone can vote for parliament, providences, and the European parliament.

Amsterdam has come a long way from hundreds of years ago. After class we winded down and ate a short lunch in the University of Amsterdam’s cafeteria. Later, we visited the Museum of Amsterdam. There were audio recordings, which talked about the history of Amsterdam, as well as rooms that depicted modernized culture and artwork. Spoiler alert! Inside the museum are many artifacts and knowledge about gay heritage, and the effects of Amsterdam’s drug and brothel culture. As the night ended, we came together as a group and chatted in the courtyard of our dormitory, then took a walk to get a “late night” snack near the infamous Red Light district.

First Day in Amsterdam

By Erica DeBlois

We’ve been here since Friday and the weekend gave us all a great opportunity to get the lay of the land and explore different parts of the city.  Settling in and getting comfortable for the month-long classes, we all have been talking about what we’ve seen and how interesting the Dutch people and their culture are.

The most interesting thing to me so far is how many bikes there are and the many different and creative ways I’ve seen people riding them. There have been some bikes with single riders while on other occasions, there have been one bike with three people on it: the person peddling, a small child on the back wheel, and another on the handle bars.

Since getting here, we’ve explored many different restaurants and tried many new foods.

Today marked our first day of actual class and we got to meet Mirjam, the program director here at the University of Amsterdam. She gave us an introduction to Dutch life, told us what to expect from the program, and gave us our welcome packets of information. She talked a little about how that the Dutch built Amsterdam on the sea and we are actually below sea level.

We reconvened after lunch to discuss our overall experience so far here in the Netherlands and specifically what we are going to learn about. We got our first reading assignment and are all set to kick off tomorrow with our first guest speaker!

The Board of Regents for Higher Education has voted to select Dr. Joe Bertolino as the 12th President of Southern Connecticut State University. A Board of Regents search committee recommended Dr. Bertolino among three finalists after a five-month long nationwide search.

“I want to thank everyone who participated in this process, especially the University Advisory Committee for their time and collective input,” said Larry DeNardis, Chair of the Regents Search Committee. “Dr. Bertolino greatly impressed the Committee and I am confident he will be a perfect complement to the great talent we have at Southern.”

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark E. Ojakian agreed:  “Dr. Bertolino’s commitment to students and their access to high quality higher education is very clear. He is going to be a great advocate for Southern and our system.”

”I am both honored and humbled to serve as Southern’s next president,” shared Dr. Bertolino. “While there are certainly many challenges ahead, the institution’s potential far outweighs those challenges.  I look forward to working closely with the Southern team to ensure that we continue to build strong relationships and that our institutional core rests in our mission and in service to our students.”

Dr. Bertolino is currently the President of Lyndon State College in Vermont and Special Assistant to the Chancellor for System Integration and Related Efforts at the Vermont State Colleges. He replaces Dr. Mary Papazian who resigned as of July 1. He will begin August 22, 2016, at an annual salary of $294,700.

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Dr. Bertolino’s Curriculum Vitae can be found here:


Founder's Gate
Founder's Gate
From a unique outdoor classroom to one-of-a-kind works of art, here’s a look at a few quintessentially Southern locations. When you spy these views, you know you’re in Owl territory.

A tie to Southern’s past, Founders Gate is part of a newly instituted tradition: each fall, the incoming class enters campus through the gate following new student convocation. In the spring, graduating seniors will cross it again to mark the culmination of their undergraduate experience. The gate spans the area between Lyman Center and Engleman Hall, but originally stood on the school’s first campus on New Haven’s Howe Street. After being restored and moved to its current location, it was dedicated during Homecoming in 1987.

Geological Rock Garden
Geological Rock Garden

A unique outdoor classroom, the Geological Rock Garden includes 52 rocks that are indigenous to Connecticut. Numerous quarry operators in the area donated boulders for the display, which was created with the aid of Thomas Fleming, chairman of the Department of Earth Science. Some of the boulders are from Stony Creek Quarry, which provided stone for many iconic buildings and monuments, including the base of the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, and the Smithsonian Institution.

H2O: Liquid Zone
H2O: Liquid Zone

Set along a well-traveled path on the Fitch Street side of Engleman Hall, the stainless-steel sculpture, “H20: Liquid Zone,” was designed by award-winning international landscape architect Mikyoung Kim. Rain, snow, and ice collect on the sculpture, changing the view on an ongoing basis. The artist’s stunning portfolio includes the Crown Sky Garden in Chicago, the roof garden of the John Hancock Tower in Boston, and the ChonGae Canal Restoration Project — Source Point Park in Seoul, Korea.

Commissioned through Connecticut’s Art in Public Spaces Program

End of the Line/West Rock
End of the Line/West Rock

Nature lovers are invited to view West Rock in a whole new light, courtesy of the environmental sculpture, “End of the Line/West Rock,” which was installed in 1985 on the Farnham Avenue side of Brownell Hall residence hall. The sculpture was designed by Nancy Holt, a pioneer of the land-art movement, which began in the late 1960s in response to growing awareness of environmental issues and debates about what constituted “real” art. In this work, two rings frame views of West Rock, showcasing the geological formation as an art object. Holt, who died in 2014, said of her designs, “I am giving back to people through art what they already have in them.”

Commissioned through Connecticut’s Art in Public Spaces Program

Sculpture on top of Engleman Hall
Sculpture on top of Engleman Hall

Is it an Owl’s outstretched wings, an open book evoking the quest for knowledge, or perhaps both? Perched on top of Engleman Hall, this sculpture can be seen from much of Southern’s campus.

Rain Harvester
Rain Harvester

Every cloud has a silver lining, and, on campus, it’s the rain harvester located outside of the Academic Science and Laboratory Building. Named in recognition of the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority for its leadership-level support, the rain harvester is ecologically sound as well as beautiful. Water drains into a 40,000-gallon underground collection system that is used to water surrounding greenery — reducing the need for irrigation of the area by 50 percent. An ultraviolet-purification system eliminates bacteria.

50-foot-tower sundial
50-foot-tower sundial

Incoming students are invited to learn many things during orientation, including how to tell time using the nearly 50-foot-tower sundial found on Engleman Hall. Built in 2005 of precast concrete and aluminum, the sundial is an award winner. The American Institute of Architects’ Connecticut chapter recognized it as the top design in the art/architecture category in 2006. The project’s architects are Howard Hebel (Herbert Newman & Partners) and Frederick Sawyer, who is a co-founder of the North American Sundial Society.

Hilton C. Buley Library clock
Hilton C. Buley Library clock

Those who haven’t mastered Southern’s sundial turn to the Hilton C. Buley Library clock. The bars light up in blue to show the hour, while the dots glow a golden hue for minutes. The clock was installed in 2015 as part of the renovation of the original section of the library. For a picturesque view of campus, go to the fourth floor of the library and look out of the clock’s transparent face.

Serie Metafisica XVIII
Serie Metafisica XVIII

Set on a hill overlooking the campus pond, the bronze sculpture, “Serie Metafisica XVIII,” was created by Herk Van Tongeren and installed on campus in 1983. In 1987 the New York Times fittingly described the late sculptor’s work: “The walls, columns, and steps of the theaters were mysterious and incomplete. They suggested Greek and Roman theaters, but it was unclear who would take their place on stage and what roles they would assume.” On sunny days, students are often found sitting on the sculpture, bringing Tongeren’s vision to life.

Commissioned through Connecticut’s Art in Public Spaces Program

Summer issue of Southern Alumni Magazine 2016

Mawano Kambu

Powering through a diet of hot-cup ramen noodles and sleepless nights spent working at his kitchen table, Southern alumnus Mawano Kambeu, ’08, laid the foundation for what ultimately would be recognized by Harvard Business School’s Africa Business Club as the Best New Venture for 2015. “In Africa, it always seems you’re told what you cannot do. You need to stay positive and prove those people wrong,” says Kambeu, founder of the award-winning Dot Com Zambia, one of Africa’s fastest-growing ecommerce companies. The online service provides Zambians with a lifeline to merchandise from both local and international retailers (ranging from bus tickets to popular items from websites like eBay and as well as fulfillment and shipping services.

Dot Com Zambia got its unofficial start in 2007 after Kambeu discovered that was not delivering U.S. goods to Zambia. Kambeu — who traveled between the two countries — would receive “shopping lists” from family and friends in Zambia, and would return to his homeland with multiple suitcases filled with the requested items.

“The world is getting smaller. We watch the same TV shows. We want the same things,” he says, noting that access to goods and services in Zambia is limited. Kambeu eventually started charging a premium on items he brought back. Meanwhile, his customers began asking for goods from the United Kingdom and China as well. The business expanded, moving out of Kambeu’s home in Derby, Conn., into warehouses in Orange, Conn., and Zambia — and today the company even has a presence in the United Kingdom and China.

A modern American success story, Kambeu worked for UPS (United Parcel Service) loading and doing odd jobs while pursing a Southern degree in business administration. While at Southern, he drafted a proposal for one of Dot Com Zambia’s services, Bus Tickets Zambia, a system that enables travelers to buy bus tickets online ahead of time. The service filled a basic need, says Kambeu, explaining that in Zambia consumers would typically pay for a ticket at a chaotic station or on the bus, and then wait for hours or even days before the bus filled and departed. Kambeu conducted market research and interviewed thousands of people to determine if they were willing to pay extra for more convenient ticketing and service. His “on-the-ground” audience analysis helped Dot Com Zambia adapt its ticketing strategies to the needs and customs of the locals, giving the company an edge over larger, more well-known competitors.

Kambeu’s corporate experience helped him compete as well. After UPS, he moved on to Prudential Financial. He initially sorted papers at the company but quickly rose through the ranks to the position of manager of investment and sales. He says his greatest hurdle was quitting his job at Prudential and moving back to Zambia where he struggled for two years to build the business. “There will always be a headwind,” says Kambeu. “My personal philosophy is to find a way around obstacles.”

It hasn’t been easy, however. Problems with differing social customs, weak infrastructure, and politics continue to be roadblocks for Kambeu and his team, which now includes 23 employees plus additional contractors. But the entrepreneur remains undeterred. “Let’s work on what we control; What’s Plan A, Plan B, Plan C? We want to do what’s good for the country,” he says.

In 2014, Dot Com Zambia brought in $741,000 in revenue, and more recently, has received $500,000 from investors. With growth comes change, and Kambeu now serves as managing director of the company and reports to an executive board.

Meanwhile, Dot Com Zambia’s success is both measurable and motivational. In November 2014, the company was named the runner-up in the Top Start Up category at the Global Innovation through Science and Technology Tech-I competition, led by the U.S. Department of State. The following year, the company was named the Best New Venture in Africa at Harvard Business School, winning $15,000 in support. Kambeu also won the Zambian Government Award and the Zambian Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

He says he’ll never forget his experiences as a struggling student and attributes the foundation of his success to Southern, particularly lessons learned from a practical business writing class taught by Jennifer Lee Magas, adjunct professor of English and the vice president of communications at Magas Media Consultants. As a result of the assignments, particularly the proposal, he felt prepared to follow his entrepreneurial passion, and he has willingly returned to Southern to share his experiences with today’s students.

“Life is a sound bite,” says Kambeu. “From the job to everyday life, it’s all about pitching. And if you love what you do and can communicate your passion, you will find success.”

Summer issue of Southern Alumni Magazine 2016

Mitch Hallock, '89, TerrifCon
TerrifiCon™ founder brings the world of comic books to his fellow fans — because with great power, comes great responsibility.

A young Mitch Hallock, ’89, was sitting in his dad’s parked car on the day destiny came calling. It was the early 1970s and the 5-year-old had been left alone, happily perched on the bench-style front seat while his dad ran into the neighborhood pharmacy to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Hallock will celebrate his 50th birthday this summer. But he still recalls the moment with picture-perfect clarity: “I was looking at my dad through the store window. There was a spinner rack next to the register, and I saw him picking out a few comics —  a Batman, a Shadow, a Spiderman. He came back to the car and handed them to me. ‘I had these when I was a kid,’ he said. My grandmother had tossed them out when he joined the service. ‘Don’t ever throw them away,’ he told me.”

Hallock stops for a moment and laughs: “He didn’t realize I was this obsessive-compulsive kid who would take his advice way too seriously.”

Decades later, comics remain Hallock’s passion as well as his livelihood. After working as an art director and in marketing, the self-described “fanboy” went on to launch TerrifiCon™, an annual Connecticut-based comic con — or comic convention — that showcases comic books and their creators, as well as films, television programs, pop-culture, and gaming.

This year, some 25,000 fans are expected to attend TerrifiCon™, held Aug. 19-21 at the Mohegan Sun Convention Center in Uncasville, Conn. The event sold out in 2015, and based on industry trends, the future is promising. In 2014, comic book sales in North America (print and digital) were about $935 million, according to Comichron and ICV2, which tabulate industry statistics.

The popularity of comic book-related films and television shows is at an all-time high as well. “Marvel’s The Avengers,” the top comic book-film adaptation to date, had worldwide ticket sales of more than $1.4 billion, according to Box Office Mojo (BOM). Equally telling, at press time, BOM listed more than 35 comic book film adaptations in development.

“In the early 2000s, the film industry realized that special effects had reached a point where we could capture what we could draw. We could show all of these great stories on film,” says Hallock.

His own story is intrinsically tied to Southern. Hallock majored in art, working as a staff cartoonist for the student newspaper, and as an actor and publicity director for the university’s Crescent Players. He met his future wife, Sharon, while working on a production.

Hallock also connected with other classmates who would later work in the comic book industry. He took art classes with Ron Garney, now an acclaimed comic book artist and writer known for his work on JLA (Justice League of America), The Amazing Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Daredevil, and Captain America. And in student theatrical productions, Hallock also crossed paths with Michael Jai White. White, now an accomplished professional actor and martial artist, played the title role in “Spawn,” becoming the first African American to star as a superhero in a major motion picture. Hallock has run into both former classmates at industry events. Following, he shares memories from these impromptu mini reunions and a few pivotal life moments — including being fired from Southern’s student newspaper.

Mitch Hallock, TerrifiCon

Hallock has loved comics for as long as he can remember. His earliest memories include drawing Fred Flintstone on the wall of his home. He was 3.

“My mom wrote to Stan Lee when I was about 5 — and he wrote back. [The legendary Lee worked with several artists to create Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, and more.] He told me to work hard and to keep practicing. We hung that card on my wall, and I would look at it every day.”

Comics remained a childhood passion. 

“Marvel’s arch nemesis is DC Comics. Mine was [my friend] Al — my big competition. We starting writing and drawing our own comic books. At school, we would sit in the back of the room, take out our spiral-bound notebooks, and draw. . . . We kept up with it into high school until we developed some other interests. It helped with we went to an all-boys Catholic high school. The nuns hated those notebooks.”

Following in the footsteps of his aunt and older sister, Hallock came to Southern.

“I was going to go to an art school, but my dad was a marine, a no-nonsense kid of guy: ‘You can’t just draw pictures. You need to get a degree.’ So I enrolled at Southern, which ended up being a great decision for me.”

He was an active member of the Crescent Players.

“There used to be a public access television studio nearby. I would go to the Theatre Department, and when the actors showed up, I’d tell them, ‘I can get you on TV.’ . . . They’d come down, and we would do these sketches. I tease my kids. I tell them, ‘I was the internet before there was an internet.’”

Hallock continued to love comics.

“I was the cartoonist at Southern News, and I would get fired every year. They’d tell me I was getting too weird . . . that I needed to tone it down, which is the wrong thing to say to the kid who’s been in Catholic school since he was 6. [laughing] I had to break free! So I would get fired. Then I’d come up with a new strip, and I’d send it in under a different name. I think I was Hal Mitchell at one point . . . “

Hallock kept drawing.

“I got fired again. But I was working late night at a copy shop in New Haven, and I would draw, then turn out thousands of comics. My friend delivered Southern News to all the dorms, and I would put my comics right next to the paper.”

He found work in a creative field.  

“After college I got a job at a studio in Branford. I was 23, working as an assistant art director when my boss was fired. It was 1989 — I was making $17,000 a year — and the owner said he’d give me a raise if I could do the work for six months.”

Hallock also kept thinking about comics.

“So I was working on a catalog for office supplies and I thought, hmm, what will work? What do I know? The answer was comic books. . . . I came up with a story about a guy who has to make a presentation at work. He’s a complete wreck. Then he hears a voice from the heavens that tells him to use these products. . . . So I made the pitch to do a comic — and they liked it. Which is great. But now I’m a complete wreck — because I don’t know how real comics are made.”

So he reached out to a stranger.

“I called Marvel in New York and eventually got through to the secretary. I explained everything and she says, ‘I know what to do.’. . . and connects me to John Romita! [Romita is perhaps best known for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man.] I’ve always wanted to draw like this man. I couldn’t even speak . . . But eventually I explained everything to him. He told me to sit down — and for 45 minutes, John Romita walked me through the process of making a comic. So I did the catalog. It’s a hit. Sales are up. It’s written up in the industry magazine . . . and I get a raise. Now they’re paying me $30,000.”

He later rocked his dream interview.

“I had the opportunity to interview with Marvel. I met with the head of the marketing department — and I got it. They offered me $23,000 to work in New York City. I was married, making $40,000 a year, living and working in Connecticut. So I stayed. I regretted it somewhat at the time, but soon after there were massive layoffs [in the comic book field].”

He continues to love comics — and his alma mater.

“I had class with [alumnus] Ron Garney, an amazing artist with Marvel. He used to be a bartender in New Haven many years ago. At the time, Batman 1989 was premiering and there was a costume contest. I dressed up as the joker. Many years later, we ran into each other at a comic con, and realized I’d ordered a drink from him — dressed like the joker. He’s an amazing artist.

A lot of incredible talent comes through Southern. Among those talents is Michael Jai White, who has starred in numerous films, and portrays Marcus Williams on the TBS/OWN comedy-­drama television series, “Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse.”

“I met Michael Jai White at that same convention in New York City. He was promoting ‘Black Dynamite,’ a hysterical movie, which he [co-]wrote and starred in. . . . He looked familiar, so I asked him if he had gone to Southern? He said yes — and then it hit me. So I asked him, ‘Were you Larry the Lobster?’ It was a crazy play we did about a lobster about to be boiled. . . . I was working stage crew. He was Larry. . . . Does anyone have a photo of Michael Jai White playing Larry? Because if they do, I want it to blackmail him.”

Hallock continued to love comic cons.

“It’s Woodstock for geeks and nerds — but without any of the bad stuff.”

So he founded TerrifiCon — and is living the dream.

“I have to downplay it somewhat, but I am still that 8-year-old kid who wants to grow up and work at Marvel. Take Neal Adams. [Adams created some of the iconic modern imagery for DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, and Green Arrow.] If there was a Mount Rushmore of comics, he would be one of the four heads. I will always see him as legendary — and I have the opportunity to sit and talk to him. And I get to bring him to TerrifiCon™ — so others who feel exactly the same way get to see him, too.”

He says he’ll always be a fan — and here’s one reason why.

“We weren’t the wealthiest people in the world, and it wasn’t always easy. That’s one of the things about comic book heroes. They’re from poor families. They have problems. Peter Parker is living with his aunt who is sick. He’s a scrawny guy, not popular. Then he gets bit by a radioactive spider, and he becomes Spiderman. It’s inspiring. It gives kids a reason to stay on the right path. It gives you hope.”

And he’ll never tire of meeting his fellow fans at TerrifiCon™.

“It’s the coming together of like-minded people — those former 10-year-olds who were sitting in the back of the room drawing comics. You grow up, go to this event, and realize you are not alone. . . . I find that a lot of kids who loved comics grew up to be police officers and firefighters. They come to help society in very important ways. . . . When you talk to them at a comic con, you immediately see that 9-year-old boy or the 10-year-old girl. But the hero is there too.”

For more, go to

Summer issue of Southern Alumni Magazine 2016

Students and faculty participate in a two-day boot camp on data analytics offered by IBM.

IBM and Southern recently teamed up to offer a “boot camp” for about 70 university students and faculty members in the use of IBM Watson Analytics – a cutting-edge, cloud-based service designed to simplify and enhance data analysis.

The participants engaged in a two-day program, which focused on how to analyze “big data,” as well as understanding analytic software and offering a taste of what it is like to work as a data scientist. The program was offered for free by IBM, according to Michael Ben-Avie, SCSU’s director of the Office of Assessment and Planning and coordinator of the boot camp.

“We thank IBM for its willingness to offer this program at no cost to our students,” Ben-Avie said. “This was a great opportunity for Southern.” He added that students also received free five-year licenses for Watson Analytics.

The program came about as a result of a budding relationship between the university and the technology giant. While the software has been used for a variety of purposes, including by faculty as a classroom tool, Ben-Avie said Southern’s use of it marked the first time a university has used it at the institutional level to discover trends and important predictors of student success.

Ben-Avie analyzed SCSU assessment data using IBM Watson Analytics. The data included statistics — such as SAT scores, class rank, retention rates and graduation rates – as well as the results from the Southern Experience Survey. Watson’s cognitive analytics helped the university to see the “difference that makes a difference” when it comes to student retention and achievement, according to Ben-Avie. “SAT scores were weak predictors,” he said. “Instead, a sense of belonging and the quality of the relationships that students formed with faculty and staff were far stronger predictors.”

IBM began showcasing SCSU as an example of how the data can be used successfully for university-wide purposes.

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“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who is as passionate about student success as Michael,” said Randy Messina, an IBM representative.

Messina noted that IBM agreed to offer the boot camp because of its ability to help not only SCSU, but the state. “We know that about 80 percent of Southern graduates live and work in Connecticut after graduation, and that’s important,” Messina said. “We are more than happy to invest in Southern.”

Those who successfully completed the two-day program earned an IBM Certificate of Achievement that will provide students with an edge when applying for jobs or graduate school, Ben-Avie said.

Data analytics is a growing field used increasingly by businesses and other organizations.

A Southern marine biologist is exploring why kelp is rapidly disappearing from Long Island Sound.

In 2008, Sean Grace was helping one of his graduate students with her thesis on kelp growth in Long Island Sound. Back then, finding suitable specimens to study was easy. The region’s kelp beds were abundant and thriving, like a plush and well-maintained lawn carpeting parts of the sound’s rocky coastline.

“The kelp beds were so thick that in some areas you couldn’t put your hand down without putting it on multiple kelps,” recalled Grace, a marine biologist and associate professor of biology at Southern, who has been diving in the sound for two decades.

Today, he doubts he could find enough to adequately conduct the research. “You barely see any kelp out there,” he said.

Kelp is a type of brown algae found in underwater forests.

Grace, who co-directs Southern’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, is working to document that dramatic decline, which scientists and divers have been reporting anecdotally over the last several years. He is one of a worldwide network of marine scientists who make up the Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network, or KEEN, an organization attempting to examine the effects of global climate change on kelp habitats.

Scientists aren’t sure what’s decimating the kelp population in the Sound, but Grace said it is likely rising water temperatures are making the environment too warm for kelp, which prefers colder waters.

Long Island Sound is the southernmost point on the East Coast where kelp beds grow naturally, Grace explained. While kelp beds in waters north of Cape Cod remain healthy and plentiful, once-covered spots in the sound and in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay are now bare, except for “a few algae here and there,” Grace said.

Around the world, other coastal spots on the fringes of where kelp beds usually thrive are seeing similar drops, he said.

“When we think about climate change, the oceans are getting warmer and the warmer water from down south is going to start encroaching into Long Island Sound. That’s really going to change the dynamics of the species that are found here,” Grace said. “From a scientist’s standpoint, it’s a really cool natural experiment to watch. But when you think about the effects of it, it’s going to be colossal.”

The decline of the seaweed forests is a huge loss, said Grace, not only for divers who admire their beauty, but for the rich collection of marine life that gets its food and shelter from the kelp beds. Kelp serves as a natural habitat for everything from fish, crabs and urchins to a multitude of invertebrates. It also keeps the Sound healthy by producing oxygen and collecting pollutants from the water, said Grace, who holds both a master’s and a doctoral degree in biological sciences from the University of Rhode Island.

“The greater diversity you have, the healthier the system,” Grace said. “Without these beautiful three-dimensional structures under water, all of those other species will just disappear.”

While some fisherman have been successful growing kelp in Long Island Sound for use in the food industry, the farmed variety does not offer all of the same environmental benefits, he noted. “They’re having great success and that’s good to hear, but these are literally ropes that are seeded with baby kelp and hanging in the water. It’s not a natural kind of setting,” Grace said.

Grace said his research will look at kelp beds throughout the Sound with known kelp habitats, including Branford’s Thimble Islands and spots off the north coast of Long Island. In addition to comparing existing kelp populations to those documented in previous studies, Grace said he will collect data on water temperature, acidity, dissolved oxygen levels and other conditions to try to pinpoint the cause of the decline.

“We’re looking at a whole lot of causes that might be affecting this, anything from temperature changes to an invasive species coming in and out, although we haven’t seen much evidence for that,” Grace said.

Jarrett Byrnes, assistant professor of biology at UMass Boston, and Aaren Freeman, associate professor of biology at Adelphi University in Long Island, are collaborating on the project.

Grace said Southern’s inclusion in the global endeavor is “a major step forward for the sciences” at the university. With 25 percent of the world’s coastlines covered with kelp forests, the research is expected to have far-reaching implications.

“Having a better understanding of what’s taking place when it comes to temperature or anything else we might find is definitely going to have a worldwide effect,” Grace said. “Understanding these ecosystems is really critical to predicting what might happen to them in the future.”