Yearly Archives: 2016

School of Business students

It was a simple suggestion that grabbed the attention of Modern Plastics President Bing Carbone: If he hired someone for just six hours a week to update social media accounts, brand recognition would rise and marketing costs would drop.

That nugget of advice – backed by solid market research – came not from a high-priced consultant, but from a group of five business-minded students at Southern Connecticut State University.

The hiring recommendation was part of a larger social media campaign to help the Shelton-based plastics distributor increase profits and boost sales of two older products, Plexiglas acrylic and COVESTRO MAKROLON® Polycarbonate. The proposal netted the students a $1,000 prize from the company.

“Wow, I’m blown away,” said Carbone after listening to the students’ pitch at the School of Business during the week of final exams. “I’ve been to other presentations and have been thoroughly disappointed. Here, I can’t say enough.”

The presentation was the culmination of a semester-long project aimed at giving students a real-life experience in the business world, says Robert Forbus, associate professor of marketing and assistant to the dean of the School of Business. The project was part of a marketing class he taught during the fall semester.

School of Business students

Forbus divided the class into six teams, asking each to research ways Modern Plastics could tap back into the Plexiglas and polycarbonate market. The company shifted its focus away from those products over the years, favoring the larger profit margins of high-end engineering and medical grade plastics, but other companies have found them profitable. Forbus then gave the teams 10 minutes each to pitch their ideas.

“Ideally, what they’ll leave this class with is a new skill that’s very much in demand in the workplace,” Forbus says. “Plus, they’ll have a deliverable – this plan – that they can actually show to a hiring manager.”

The winning team suggested numerous ways the company could increase sales by stepping up its online presence – using blogs, targeted ads, discounts and promotions and more frequent and engaging Facebook posts.

Carbone said just as he had hoped, the students approached the problem with fresh ideas and a youthful perspective.

While he intends to use some recommendations from each team’s presentation, he said the winners stood out by offering something he could implement immediately. Carbone said he’s thinking about offering the new social media position to a Southern student as an internship.

“I thought they hit it right on the nose with things I ought to be doing,” Carbone said. “I feel that I could implement their ideas tomorrow.”

School of Business student

The university-business partnership began after Carbone approached Judite Vamvakides, SCSU director of annual and leadership giving. Carbone’s two daughters attend Southern, and he said he wanted to give something back.

Vamvakides arranged for Forbus and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Durnin to tour the plastics company, and during their conversations, the contest was born.

Members of the winning group said the experience was nerve-wracking, especially since they had to start more than three weeks before the deadline after being told their first plan wouldn’t work.

“We initially wanted to do something with 3-D printing, but they didn’t have the manufacturing ability, so we had to start from scratch,” said senior Charlie Dunn.

Junior Chanelle Clarke said the presentation helped her overcome her fear of public speaking. “I was really shy and nervous about the whole process, but my teammates really encouraged me to go out there and kill it,” she said.

Senior Brielle Grestini said the most valuable lesson was learning how to work together as a team. Other winning team members were seniors Ashley Tomanio and Melanie Sivo.

Durnin said the students’ role in the project should give them an edge in job interviews, and she commended Forbus and Carbone for providing the opportunity. “This is a real focus of what we do in this school,” Durnin said. “We want students to feel as if when they leave here, they have the skill set they need to succeed.”

While the heartwarming images of soldiers happily returning home into the loving arms of their families after years of service are ingrained in the American consciousness, the transition back to civilian life is often filled with unanticipated challenges.

The integration back into society – family life, the workplace, school – can be a bit of a bumpy road, especially for those who have been away for many years. It is even more difficult for those veterans who must contend with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as those suffering from depression, anxiety, and even thoughts of suicide.

As part of an effort to assist in this transition, the Family Clinic at Southern has created a program called, “A Soldier’s Home Project.” It involves free therapy services to active duty soldiers, veterans and their families. A range of services are available, including those focusing on healthy living after and during deployment, relationship building, PTSD, parenting during and after deployment, mindful living, emotional regulation, anxiety, suicide prevention, and grief and loss. Family members may participate in services even if their soldier is deployed or cannot attend. Group and individual sessions are available.

“Our soldiers and veterans have given so much to their country, and this is one way in which we can help them,” said Julie Liefeld, clinic director. “And we also want to assist families who are affected, as well.”

Liefeld, who also serves as director of the SCSU Marriage and Family Therapy program, said that PTSD is not unusual among those who have served in the military, especially in combat. Certain triggers – which vary from person to person – can spark a PTSD incident. She said that in some individuals, it can be the skidding sound of wheels while driving, or a truck that jackknifes and mimics a gunshot sound. In others, it might be a certain smell, or even the sight of garbage on the road.

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The limbic system, a part of the brain that regulates the fight-or-flight function, is responsible for an individual remembering certain sounds, sights or actions and translating them into danger signals, Liefeld explained.
She also said that while soldiers who are deployed are hypervigilant out of necessity, it takes time to adjust to the more laid back civilian lifestyle. “It’s not like flipping a switch in which people can just turn it off right away, especially for veterans who were deployed for a long period of time,” Liefeld said.

“We even see it in the classroom,” she said. “For example, some veterans want to make sure their backs are not to the door.”

She said that even if being hypervigilant does not create an immediate problem, it can lead to depression when sustained for too long.

Liefeld has worked on establishing this new program with Jack Mordente, SCSU’s coordinator of veterans’ and military affairs.

“Veterans are never going to forget their experience, but this program will help them come to terms with it,” said Mordente, a veteran who served during the Vietnam War era. “It will give them and/or their families another form of support.”

Mordente stressed that the lives of spouses and children of veterans also are affected by deployment and returning from combat. “The dynamics of family life change, so it’s an adjustment for them, too,” he said. “The Family Clinic here at Southern wants to reach out to the families, as well, and that’s very important.”
The Family Clinic is staffed by faculty in the SCSU Marriage and Family Therapy program, as well as many advanced graduate students.

SCSU also offers a variety of services for veterans, including a Drop-In Center, and the university Veterans’ Association.

(For further information about the “A Soldier’s Home Clinic” program, or to make an appointment, call the clinic at 203-392-6413.)

Male college students tended to predict higher scores on their impending chemistry tests than their female classmates, even though their actual performance on those tests was nearly identical, according to a study co-authored by a faculty member at Southern.

The results of the research by Jeffrey Webb, assistant professor of chemistry at SCSU, and Andrew Karatjas, associate science professor at Johnson and Wales University, were published in in a recent article in the Journal of College Science Teaching. Karatjas is a former faculty member at SCSU.

“This difference in perception could play a role in the gender gap that we see in the higher levels of the sciences,” Webb said. “There is parity in ability, but their perceptions were significantly different.”

Among students who tallied scores of higher than 90 percent, as well as those with scores of less than 50 percent, gender played little or no role in perception. “A” students tended to underestimate how they would fare with little difference based on gender. Similarly, male and female students who failed with scores of less than 50 percent overestimated their eventual score by about the same margin.

But among the mid-level students – those scoring between 50 and 90 — a statistically significant difference was found. A perception gender gap of 2.3 percent existed among “B” students, a 3.6-percent gap existed among “C” students and a 4.2-percent gap existed among “D” students. Those who scored between 50 and 59 percent had a 4.1-percent gap.

In general, “A” students underestimated their abilities; “B” students slightly underestimated their skills; while “C” “D” and “F” students overestimated their abilities, but males overestimated at a more pronounced level.

A total of 2,547 surveys were collected in the 100-level courses at SCSU during a 16-month period that included the spring 2013, summer 2013, fall 2013 and spring 2014 semesters. The surveys asked students what grade they believed they would get on that particular test, and the process was repeated before each test.

Webb, a resident of Branford, said that far fewer women than men nationally are enrolled in doctoral science programs.

“There is a slight difference at the master’s degree level, but a major difference at the Ph.D. level,” he said. “Based on this study, that gender gap might be associated with how women tend to perceive their science ability. If you don’t think you are good at something, you are less likely to pursue it at the higher level. That might well be what is happening.”

Dr. Geoffrey Martin, geography professor emeritus and a prominent historian of American geography, will discuss “On the History of the Book — American Geography and Geographers: Toward Geographical Science” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 21, 2016, at the Library of Congress. This special event, which is free and open to the public, will focus on Martin’s most recent major work, and will include a display of related rare maps and atlases from the collections of the library’s Geography and Map Division. Opening remarks will be delivered by Ralph Ehrenberg, Chief of the Geography and Map Division, and Douglas Richardson, Executive Director of the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Ronald Abler, immediate past president of the International Geographical Union, cited Martin’s book as “unparalleled in the scope and depth of its research and in its meticulous exposition of the evolution of geography in the United States through the 1970s.”

The late Harm de Blij characterized Martin’s book as “a monumental and magisterial work, exhaustively researched and documented, judiciously presented and extremely important as evidence of the foundation from which the discipline arose and evolved. Like Hartshorne’s Nature of Geography many decades ago, this will become a milestone in the record of the field, and it will engender productive debate for decades to come.”

Geoffrey MartinThe official AAG archivist for nearly 30 years, Martin received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of London (London School of Economics). He is the author of The Mark Jefferson Paris Peace Conference Diary, as well as other books on Mark S. W. Jefferson, Ellsworth Huntington and Isaiah Bowman. Martin and P.E. James co-wrote All Possible Worlds: A History of Geographical Ideas . Martin and James also produced The Association of American Geographers: The First Seventy-Five Years, 1904-1979. He has been the recipient of numerous national and international honors, including East German Visiting Scientist, visiting scientist to Cambridge University, visiting scholar at Yale University and National Science Foundation grant recipient in 1984, 1989 and 2010. Professional awards include both AAG’s Honors and the J.K. Wright Award. In addition, Martin has presented at more than 30 major universities in the U.S., U.K., Denmark, the former East Germany, India, Japan, Serbia and Sweden.

Martin’s talk will be held in the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division on Floor B of the Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. SE in Washington, D.C. The most convenient way to reach the Library of Congress is via public transportation, specifically the subway. The closest Metro station is Capitol South (Blue/Orange/Silver Line), which is located across the street from the Madison Building. Please allow adequate time to pass through the security checkpoint at the Library’s Independence Avenue entrance in time to be seated for the start of the event. The rare maps display will be available for viewing prior to and after the presentation.

Meet Nick Abraham, ’05 — musician, songwriter, and the “music mentor” of reigning “American Idol”-winner Nick Fradiani.

Musician Nick Abraham, ’05, is on the brink. While not quite ready to quit his day job at a local pharmacy, Abraham — the lead guitarist for Connecticut-based band Beach Avenue — is enjoying major success along with band-mates Nick Fradiani (guitar/vocals), Ryan Zipp (drums), Nick Fradiani Sr. (keyboards/vocals), and Jonah Ferrigno (bass).

The band has opened for everyone from STYX, Jefferson Starship, and REO Speedwagon to Third Eye Blind and Bad Rabbits. Twelve million viewers watched Beach Avenue perform on the 2014 edition of “America’s Got Talent.” Even the powers-that-be behind trendy retailer Hollister Co. are fans, featuring the band’s “Feel the Beat” on the in-store playlist, along with hits by megastars Taylor Swift, One Direction, Charlie XCX, and more.

And that’s just the beginning. In May, Beach Avenue’s lead singer Nick Fradiani won season 14 of “American Idol,” with Abraham and Zipp cheering him on every step of the way. Two days after his win, with the show’s full blessing, Fradiani invited the two to help with promotions leading up to the “American Idol Tour.”

The ensuing months were marked by one rock star moment after another. The three performed Fradiani’s hit single “Beautiful Life” in Times Square for VH1. Soon after, the guys traveled to Nashville to film the song’s official video. Later, it was off to Vancouver, Canada, to perform at the FIFA World Cup the day before the U.S. women’s team captured the trophy. A summer update on Beach Avenue’s Facebook page sums it up nicely: “We hopped on 9 flights in 11 days totaling well over 10,000 miles traveled.”

Far from an overnight sensation, Abraham has been a hard-working musician throughout most of life. His early childhood memories include listening to his mother sing and tirelessly banging on the pots and pans she gladly provided. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began playing drums at age 10 and went on to master more instruments — including the guitar, the mandolin, and the glockenspiel.

He joined his first band at 13. Others followed, and while Abraham initially planned to become a music teacher, he gradually realized that he wanted to be a professional musician.

At Southern, he majored in music, playing in numerous university ensembles. He notes that Mark Kuss, professor of music, was particularly inspirational. “He is an incredible pianist and composer. . . . He really inspired me and taught me a lot. I think he understood what I was looking to do with my music — and that really made a big difference.”

Scholarship support was helpful as well. Abraham received the Bellmore Family Scholarship, which benefits students who are majoring in music at Southern. “I was a musician myself,” says Roger Bellmore, who studied communication at Southern, and paid his way through school by playing in a rock band. “The cost of going to school has gone up significantly since I was a student,” Bellmore continues. “We wanted to make it a little easier for a musician, so he or she could focus more on music and classes.” He and wife, Sharon, have two sons, Nick and Charlie, both professional musicians. The latter majored in music at Southern.

Abraham notes that the scholarship met the Bellmore family’s objectives.

“The scholarship was huge in two ways,” he says. “First, in the financial sense, it was a big help. But it also was a big motivation. You feel like you have some support. . . . It’s an inspiration. It says ‘Okay, you are doing well, and you should continue down your path.’”

That path eventually led Abraham — then a Southern student — to successfully audition for a band that included drummer Ryan Zipp. When their lead vocalist left, Fradiani joined on and Beach Avenue was born, named after the Milford, Conn., street where the group got its start.

With only a few practice sessions under their belts, Beach Avenue went on to win Mohegan Sun’s Battle of the Bands in 2011, besting those who had been playing together for years. “Our prize winnings allowed us to put together a CD,” says Abraham.

An invitation to compete on “America’s Got Talent” in 2014 thrust the band into the national spotlight. The group played original music — typically not a winning formula for the show — and still made it through two rounds before being eliminated. “Howie Mandel wasn’t into it,” Abraham says with a smile. Fortunately, others were. “We were upset at the time. But when everything aired on TV, we had this huge response. . . . The song we played charted on ITunes. Social media exploded. So we were thrilled,” Abraham says.

Soon after, Fradiani auditioned for and was ultimately crowned the winner of “American Idol.” “We were really proud and happy for him. He’s our best friend about to win this incredible tournament,” says Abraham of watching the competition.

Fradiani, in turn, was quick to share the stage. Leading up to the show’s final weeks, the remaining competitors each had a homecoming parade and concert, and Beach Avenue was invited to play for the 10,000-plus fans gathered on the Guilford Green in Connecticut.

More surprises followed, with “American Idol” flying Abraham and Zipp out to watch the finale in person. There, Abraham was brought on stage so that Fradiani could introduce him to the world as his music mentor. Both Nicks were presented with cars from Ford. “I felt like I was on a game show. You don’t think things like that happen,” says Abraham, all smiles, shaking his head incredulously. “But they do.”

See Nick’s band page: Beachavenuemusic.com.

Southern Alumni Magazine, Winter 15
Read more in the latest issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Junior, majoring in mathematics (secondary education)
Women’s Track and Field
Hometown: Norwalk, Conn.

Best of the best:

Won the NCAA Div. II National Championship in the indoor 4×400 meter relay last year, along with teammates Georgette Nixon, Sarah Hill, and Shatajah Wattely. Crystle ran first.

More accomplishments:

Southern record holder in six events: the 500 meter (indoor), the 400 (indoor and outdoor), as a member of the 4×400 (indoor and outdoor), and as a member of the 4×200 (outdoor). Northeast-10 champion in the 500 indoor. Placed seventh in the 400 at the NCAA Div. II Outdoor National Championships. Numerous academic honors.

In the family:

Hill is a third-generation track athlete.

All owls:

“On the track we are teammates, and if we are in the same race, we’re also competitors. . . . But off the track we are great friends. I feel like I am running with my sisters.”

Always running:

As a Peer Mentor, Hill helps students suc- cessfully transition to college. In fall 2015 she made a presen- tation to student-athletes on how to succeed in the classroom and on the playing field. Also, treasurer of the Math Club, and worked in the Office of Admissions over the summer.

One math faculty fave:

“Having a conversation with Professor [Joe] Fields brings out the best in me. I’ve learned a lot just by talking with him and visiting in his office. He’s that intelligent and easy to be with.”

Career aspiration — math teacher:

“I used to sit in my room and make up math tests to give to my parents. When friends came over, I would say, ‘Let’s play school.’” Her goals include finding a position in an inner-city school and working with those students who need most assistance.

Southern Alumni Magazine, Winter 15
Read more in the latest issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Wishing everyone a spectacular year ahead!

Happy New Year everyone!

We hope your 2016 will be a great one from start to finish.

 

Delphi, Greece

Sunday was our last full day in Greece. After an early breakfast at our hotel we boarded our motor coaches for the two-and-a-half hour ride to Delphi. On the way we passed through the small ski resort town of Arachova, where our bus somehow managed to navigate the narrow, winding streets.

Delphi, Greece

Delphi Theatre, Greece

Delphi is home to the most important religious site of the ancient Greek world. Thousands of Greeks came to Delphi to consult the oracle, who delivered the words of Apollo by inhaling vapors, slipping into a trance, and uttering her message to a priest. The priest would then pass these words onto the visitor.
Above: The theater at Delphi, where up to five thousand spectators enjoyed plays, poetry readings, and musical events.

SCSU students and chaperones in Delphi, Greece.

Above: SCSU students and chaperones in Delphi.
Below: SCSU Honors Colleges students with President Papazian (left), and Terese Gemme (right) in Delphi.

SCSU Honors College students in Delphi, Greece

Below: SCSU students in Delphi.SCSU students at Delphi, GreeceAfter touring the site we visited the adjacent Archaeological Museum of Delphi. The museum’s extensive artifacts were unearthed during excavations at the Delphi oracle and vicinity.

Large Sphinx of Naxos at the Delphi Museum.Above: The Large Sphinx of Naxos at the Delphi Museum.
Below: The Charioteer of Delphi at the Delphi Museum.

The charioteer of Delphi at the Delphi Museum.A steady rain began just before we left the site for lunch. The day ended with a final dinner in the Plaka district. We grabbed just a few hours of sleep before leaving for our very early flight back home.

Final dinner in Athens, GreeceAt our final dinner in the Plaka shopping district. Antio from Athens!

 

On Saturday the choir performed its final concert. The venue was the beautiful Piraeus Municipal Theater, considered one of the finest examples of 19th-century Greek public architecture. Sunshine and warmer temperatures provided the perfect backdrop for a post-concert group photo in front of the theater.

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After lunch in the Plaka shopping district we headed over to the Acropolis Museum.
Located about 1,000 feet from the Acropolis, the museum is built on top of several layers of the ancient city, and houses all many artifacts found at the Acropolis, including the Frieze of the Parthenon and the Caryatids from the south porch of the Erechtheion. Opened in 2009, it is considered to be one of the top museums in the world. A transparent floor provides views of the excavation, and the upward slope of the floor alludes to the ascent to the Acropolis.

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The day concluded with a lively festival farewell dinner, where two choir members with recent birthdays received surprise cakes.

Greece_15-7529Photos from top: The SCSU choir in front of the Piraeus Municipal Theater; Artifacts at the Acropolis Museum; Choir members Ashley and Sarah Jane celebrate their birthdays; From left: University of Alberta Madrigal Singers choir director Leonard Ratzlaff, guest director Simon Carrington, Michael Clohesy of KI Concerts, SCSU choir director Terese Gemme, and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish choir director Matt Eldred.

Boarding the

On Friday we took a day-long cruise to three Greek Islands: Hydra, Poros, and Aegina, located in the Aegean Sea. We boarded the “Athens One Day Cruise” ship in Piraeus, a port city six miles southwest of central Athens. We arrived in Hydra a little over an hour later, where we had enough time to explore the shops along the waterfront, and hike the narrow stone-paved streets. Many of us tried out the island’s traditional mode of transportation – the donkey!

Riding donkeys on Hydra, Greece

Back on the ship we sat down to a buffet lunch of pasta, greek salad, fish, and chicken.

Next up was a short visit to Poros, with its small, winding streets. Although many of the shops and cafes were closed due to the holiday, the cheek-to-jowl whitewashed homes with colorful orange roofs provided a stunning setting. Steep steps led up to a clock tower and a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

Pulling into Poros, Greece

Our final stop was Aegina, known for “the best” pistachios in the world, as well where Nikos Kazantzakis wrote “Zorba the Greek.” Many from the group opted for the Panoramic Bus Tour – a drive across the entire island, with a stop at the Church of Saint Nectarios.

Seafood snack in Aegina, GreeceChoir members enjoying a “seafood snack” on the island of Aegina.

Aboard the "Athens One Day Cruise"On board the “Athens One Day Cruise.”

Donkeys on Hydra, GreeceDonkeys at the port of Hydra, Greece.

President Papazian with her daughters Marie and Ani in Poros, GreecePresident Papazian enjoying the water views with her daughters Marie and Ani on the island of Poros.

Greek dancing aboard the "Athens One Day Cruise"

A traditional Greek folk show with costumed singers and dancers entertained us as we made our way back to Athens.

Dancing aboard the ship on the way back to Athens, Greece