Monthly Archives: April 2017

Inauguration of Joe Bertolino

Joe Bertolino outlined his vision Friday for Southern – a vision that establishes the university as the regional higher education institution of choice for students and community partners.

At the same time, he wants to help foster a university culture that promotes respect, compassion and kindness; where members of the campus community care about one another personally and professionally; and from which Southern becomes a statewide leader for social justice.

Bertolino discussed his vision during an inauguration ceremony at SCSU’s Lyman Center for the Performing Arts, where he took the oath of office as the school’s 12th president.

“At Southern, as many of you know, our students are drawn from all types of backgrounds – racial, ethnic, religious, gender and economic,” Bertolino said. “Many have had to overcome life’s obstacles to reach their goal: working jobs while studying, supporting children or elderly relatives; taking those initial, uncertain steps into higher education as the first in their families to attend college.

“So when we help provide the empowerment to achieve their goal – it is just that, a personal achievement that means a great deal, because these young men and women truly had to strive and sacrifice to get there. But the needs of our students and their goals cannot be achieved without an institutional commitment to building relationships, strengthening communities and ensuring that social justice is a core value of Southern.”

Bertolino, 53, began his duties as president last August after being selected by the state Board of Regents for Higher Education. He previously served as president of Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vt.

He already has immersed himself in projects designed to enhance SCSU’s profile; boost enrollment and graduation rates; streamline the transition process to Southern for students; and bolster community partnerships.

Bertolino succeeds Mary A. Papazian, who left SCSU last summer to become president of San Jose State University in California.

Speakers at the ceremony included Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University system; Lawrence DeNardis, a member of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education; Ugo Eze, a former student of Bertolino, and Patricia Cormier, president emeritus of Longwood University, based in Farmville, Va. Regents Merle Harris, Naomi Cohen and Scott Jackson also attended.

Ojakian said that from the first interview, he could see Bertolino possessed the qualities that would make an excellent president. “I saw the passion. I saw the commitment. I saw the selflessness,” Ojakian said.

DeNardis expressed similar sentiments.

“I think we have chosen wisely and well,” DeNardis said, noting the new president’s “boundless energy and sense of purpose.”

In addition to being a lecturer and educator, Bertolino is the author of many articles and book chapters. He is the co-author of “Let The Games Begin, A Guide for Peer Mentors,” which was published in 2012.  His research interests include student immigration, campus community development, campus social change, leadership development, service learning, multicultural worldviews and LGBTQ student issues.

He is a member of the American Association of State Colleges & Universities, American Council on Education, New Haven Promise Board of Directors and the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA Board of Directors.

Before becoming president of Lyndon State, Bertolino served as vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at Queens College/City University of New York from 2004 to 2012.

He earned an Ed.D. in higher education administration and leadership development from Columbia University Teachers College in 2003. He also holds a Master of Social Work degree from Rutgers University and a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and sociology from the University of Scranton in 1986.


Southern students are bringing their expertise in the rapidly growing field of data analytics to area agencies looking to use “big data” to help grow their companies.

Eight students are serving internships in a variety of fields – a local law firm, the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the Regional Water Authority and SCSU’s own Office of Assessment and Planning. In addition to the internship experience, students earn an IBM badge they can put on their resumes. Students are currently applying for the fall’s Watson Analytics Internship Program.

Michael Ben-Avie, director of assessment and planning, said the internship experiences benefit the students, the local businesses and IBM. “We’ve taken a leadership position in being the first university to use IBM Watson Analytics at the institutional level to analyze how to most effectively promote students’ academic achievements, retention and graduation,” Ben-Avie said. “And that partnership has really taken off.”

He pointed out that the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce wants to expand its membership. “Our students are conducting an analysis of the industries that the chamber has not yet penetrated to a significant level, and which have the potential to be growth areas,” he said. “That information could help the chamber accomplish its goal.”

Data analytics is a growing field used increasingly by businesses and other organizations. The experience gained by the students through the partnership with IBM and area firms will help them considerably in attaining jobs in a field that has become increasingly lucrative over the last few years. It helps find trends and behavioral patterns that might not be readily apparent by conventional analytical methods.

IBM Watson Analytics does not require a person to know computer programming or coding, according to Ben-Avie, which makes its use accessible to a greater number of people. This kind of data also enables organizations to do micro-targeting in a somewhat similar manner as political operatives can micro-target voters.

At Southern, Ben-Avie said the information already has helped the university uncover enrollment and statistical trends. For example, the question often comes up of as to whether Southern has a high percentage of first-generation college students. He said the answer depends upon how you define “first-generation college student.”

Using cognitive analytics, the university is now able to discern the enrollment patterns of students who are the first in their families (including siblings) to attend college and compare those patterns with those who do not have a parent or guardian who graduated with a four-year degree. He said data analytics has enabled the university to ascertain the nuances on this subject and other trends. In turn, that data can be valuable for marketing, recruitment, retention and other purposes.

The partnership between Southern and IBM began about a year ago. Last summer, IBM had asked to publicize the innovative work at Southern. Ben-Avie agreed — with the condition that IBM offer a free boot camp to students.

In a meeting with the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce after the boot camp, the idea for an internship program was born. To further publicize Southern’s use of Watson Analytics and data discoveries, Ben-Avie and Randy Messina (manager of IBM Watson Analytics, worldwide public sector) recently teamed up to organize an international webinar.

Applications are now being accepted for the internship program in the fall and is open for students enrolled in any academic program. Knowledge of statistics is not required. The program is limited to 20 students.


Students from the Department of Communication Disorders presented three research papers at the 2017 National Black Association for Speech Language and Hearing Conference on April 8. Two of the papers earned the distinction of highlighted posters, and were recognized among “the best research posters presented by faculty, students and clinicians.”

Undergraduates Coral Jiménez, Jacqueline Hernández-Flores, Teresa Wirtemburg, Shea Keeley, and Giovanna Diana presented “Cultural Competence Club–Join-Up!”  The paper examined the development of Southern’s trailblazing student-led organization Cultural Competence Club, which invites cross-disciplinary involvement in learning about and engaging across cultures.

Pictured Left to Right: Shea Keeley, Glenda DeJarnette (Mentor), Jacquelin Hernández-Flores, Coral Jiménez, Teresa, Wirtemburg.

Graduating senior Taylor Bird presented “Systematic Review of African American English (AAE) Narrative Discourse: Impact on Literacy.” The paper was an extension of research Taylor conducted as a recipient of the 2016 SCSU Undergraduate Research and Creativity Grant to determine AAE narrative skills across disciplines.

Pictured: Taylor Bird

Graduate students Caroline Berkovich and Peyton Moss presented “Gauging Institutional Commitment to Cultural Competence for CLD Populations.” The research examined policies from national organizations in health-related fields regarding professional workforce preparation to address cultural diversity.

Pictured Left to Right: Peyton Moss and Caroline Berkovich

“Numerous faculty colleagues approached me to share how impressed they were with the caliber of research and professionalism demonstrated by our students,” said Glenda DeJarnette, faculty mentor to the projects. “I watched as each student fielded questions and engaged attendees in very thoughtful conversations about their research. As a mentor for these projects, I extend kudos first to the students who worked diligently on the research and secondly to colleagues at Southern whose efforts have helped to shape these promising scholars.”



Haitian native Rey Alabre, ’09, is living the American dream — in the spotlight as one of the top franchise owners in the nation.

Rey Alabre, alumni, school of business

Husband and wife Nathalie and Rey Alabre, ’09, receive the H&R Block National Franchisee of the Year award.

Growing up in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Reynold “Rey” Alabre, ’09, was surrounded by inspiration. “My mother was a single parent, raising my sister and me in poor conditions,” says Alabre. “But she always had a business mindset. She did everything she could as far as businesses to help support us. Selling clothes, shoes, candies.” Eventually, the hardworking mom began traveling to the Dominican Republic — located next to Haiti on the island of Hispaniola — to buy items less expensively and earn a greater profit.

Her determination left a lasting impression on Alabre, who today runs a successful H&R Block franchise in Bridgeport, Conn. In October, H&R Block, the global tax services provider, named Alabre the National Franchisee of the Year, recognizing him for excellence in the one to two store category among more than 1,500 franchisees considered for the honor.

The achievement is particularly sweet for Alabre, who crossed the ocean and numerous hurdles on the way to success. “My first day in the U.S. , it wasn’t that great,” says Alabre, who flew to the U.S. alongside his sister in winter 2002. It was the first time Alabre saw snow, and he was wearing a thin T-shirt, comfortable attire in his island homeland. He expected to be met at the airport by his father, who he hadn’t seen in about 15 years. But there were complications. Alabre’s father hadn’t yet told his wife in the U.S. that the teens were coming and didn’t travel to meet them — and so the two waited alone at the airport. Neither spoke English. Eventually, they fell asleep. Alabre was 18.

Today he shares the story matter-of-factly, smiling when he recounts the high point of that day. “A limo driver at the airport heard my sister and I speaking Creole. He asked us where we were from and our names,” Alabre says. The driver coincidentally knew another Alabre — the teens’ half-sister Angelina — and he drove them to her home.

Despite this inauspicious start, Alabre swiftly found his way. He attended Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Conn., rapidly learning English. “I’m a poet, so I picked it up quickly by writing,” he says. He also loved music, but at the urging of family and friends decided to study computer science at the University of Bridgeport. Later realizing the computer science field wasn’t a good fit, he transferred to Southern to major in business administration. When he took an accounting class, he knew he’d found his calling.

Life wasn’t easy. Alabre was homeless at one point, living in his car for several weeks. But he persevered. He worked full time while attending school, holding posts as a security guard and as a factory worker. (While still a student, he applied to work at H&R Block but was turned down.)

At a Southern professor’s recommendation, he began volunteering with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which offers free tax help to people with low incomes, disabilities, and limited English. The following year, VITA asked him to manage the site where he volunteered. When others outside of the VITA program began asking Alabre to complete their taxes, he took the leap and started a business. “I was a junior then,” he says. “One of my instructors at Southern told me exactly what to do — step by step. I rented an office space in Bridgeport for very, very little. In the beginning, it was just me . . . But then we needed to move to a bigger office.”

Eventually he partnered with H&R Block. “It is a very good relationship,” says Alabre. “They are very supportive of what I am doing in the community.” Which is quite a lot. Building on experience gained volunteering in college, Alabre supports numerous community organizations, from the Connecticut Food Bank to the Bridgeport Public Library. He also has launched his own foundation, Mind is Power, a nonprofit committed to expanding educational opportunities.

Business continues to thrive as well. The H&R Block National Franchisee of the Year award caps off a string of honors for Alabre, who also received a Mission: Possible Award from the Bridgeport Regional Business Council and was a finalist in the Celebrating Diversity in Business competition run by Business Journals.

About seven years ago, he also became a U.S. citizen. “That was one of my proudest moments,” he says. “There is no way I could accomplish all that I have in Haiti. I moved to the U.S. for hope — for a better life — and I have found that.”



Southern will host three events in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Monday, April 24, 2017. All events are free and open to the public.

‘Days of Remembrance’

1-2 p.m.: Professor Jason Stanley, Ph.D., Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy, Yale University, will share the largely unknown story of his grandmother Ilse Stanley’s heroic efforts to save more than 400 Jewish prisoners from concentration camps between 1936 and 1938, as well as her efforts to help many others escape from Germany. He will read from his grandmother’s 1957 book, The Unforgotten.
Learn more.

University Choir Concert: ‘We Will Remember….’

7:30-9:30 p.m.: The concert commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day, and also honors the 100th anniversary of the founding of the New Haven Chapter of the NAACP.  Musical selections include Daniel Hall’s hauntingly beautiful piece for choir and viola, “Reflections from Yad Vashem”; Verdi’s “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” (Va Pensiero); Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story; American spirituals arranged by Moses Hogan, Sheldon Curry and Thomas Trenney; a musical reflection for trumpet and choir inspired by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; and Wilhousky’s famous concert arrangement of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” – Learn more. 

Holocaust Exhibition in Memory of Elie Wiesel

All day: The Holocaust Exhibition showcases books, videos, mementos, and pictures from private collections and Hilton C. Buley Library. – Learn more.

Women's Studies Conference 2016

The M.A. in women’s studies degree program turns 20 this year, and in celebration of this milestone, the Women’s Studies Program will hold an alumnae/i summit, “Transforming the World With a Feminist Degree and Vision,” on April 21. Co-sponsored by Women’s Studies and the SCSU School of Graduate Studies, Research, and Innovation, the summit will draw graduates of the program back to campus to discuss their experiences in the program and beyond.

The summit program is as follows:

2-3:15 p.m. – Kick-off Welcoming Roundtable: “Looking Back, Moving Forward”

3:30-4:45 p.m. – “Transforming the Community with a Feminist Cornucopia”

5-6:15 p.m. – “Transforming the World with a Feminist Cornucopia”

6:30-8 p.m. – Dinner/Music/Spoken Word
20th anniversary Women's Studies Program

With the first course in women’s studies offered at Southern in 1971, it was among the first universities in the United States to offer courses in this discipline. The master’s degree program, conceived more than 20 years ago by a small group of colleagues — Director of Women’s Programs Rosalyn Amenta, History Professor Virginia Metaxas, and English Professor Vara Neverow, who continue to teach women’s studies today — was the first free-standing M.A. program in women’s studies offered by any university in the Northeast. Two decades later, it remains the only M.A. program in women’s studies offered by a public university in New England. Ms. Magazine, in its April 2012 issue, reviewed all of the women’s studies M.A. programs in the country and recognized the SCSU women’s studies master’s degree program as a “vibrant” regional program.

Amenta recalls that at the time the program was first being developed, “there were no interdisciplinary degree programs that offered a rigorous, thorough and focused history of women’s experiences, accomplishments, intellectual and creative works, and women’s ongoing challenge, from ancient times to the present, to the repressive patriarchal restrictions on their lives, activities and independent personhood.” She adds that there were no advanced courses at that time that offered a sustained interdisciplinary critique of the economic, social, and cultural oppressions not only of women and girls but also persons of racial, ethnic, age, size,  gender, sexual and ability diversities, locally and globally. Amenta says, “The Master of Arts in Women’s Studies was conceived in response to these academic deficiencies by an active community of SCSU faculty, administrators, staff and students who shared a common vision for a unique feminist graduate education. The program’s goal is to empower students to understand and critique the power structures that give voice, privilege and advantage to a few at the expense and detrimental exploitation of all others, and to empower students to apply what they are learning  in challenge to the existing status quos.”


“For this momentous occasion” of the program’s 20th anniversary, says Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, professor and chair of women’s studies, “we plan to celebrate our alums and the extraordinary work and service they do in the community and in the world. We will do it with tremendous feminist energy, interspersed with art, music, and powerful narratives.”

This summit is a reunion, an honoring, and a networking opportunity, says Lin. In this gathering, by sharing the women’s studies graduates’ talents and passions, event organizers aim to showcase the activist, advocacy, policy, and scholarly work that alumnae/i have taken on in different corners of the world and the nation for the past 20 years.

To register for the summit, click here. Lin explains that the registration fee is to offset the cost of the dinner program. She adds, “We look forward to welcoming you each back home on April 21 and hearing all about the glorious work you are doing, engaging the world and making a difference!”  For more information, call (203) 392-6133 or email

Women's Studies Program, 20th anniversary

A Southern team is trying to improve the lives of African children who have an autism spectrum disorder.

Ruth Eren, endowed chair of special education and director of the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders; Stephen Hegedus, dean of the School of Education; Doreen Tilt, coordinator of training for the Center; and Shaylah McQueen, a graduate student seeking a Master of Science degree in special education, recently spoke to a group of United Nations ambassadors and ministers from Africa.

The meeting was hosted by Necton Mhura, U.N. ambassador from the Republic of Malawi. It came about at the request of Ugoji Adanma Eze, an international human rights lawyer who is an advocate for women and children.

Eren said she was asked by Eze to speak at the U.N. to present educational interventions for children with autism. Eren then asked Fred Volkmar, professor of psychology at the Yale University Child Study Center and an expert on the medical side of autism, to join the SCSU contingent in their presentation at the U.N.

“There is still a stigma in Africa attached to having autism,” Eren said. “Many misconceptions exist. Ugoji is trying to break through and educate people about what the disorder is and what can be done to help people – especially kids – who have it.”

In fact, Eze has proposed writing a book on the subject to educate the African populace, and has asked Eren to author a chapter.

Hegedus served as the keynote speaker at the U.N. session, where he focused on the stigma. To emphasize the point that there is no need for those with the disorder to be stigmatized, he held up a photo of a nephew of his who has an autism spectrum disorder.

“That really made an impact on the 30 or so people in that room,” Eren said. “By acknowledging that someone in his family is on the spectrum, it serves as a powerful example that there is no need for a stigma to be attached to autism.”

Hegedus said the stigma problem is a socio-cultural issue that should be addressed not only though the schools and parents, but through the churches. “The churches play a significant role in education in Africa,” he said.

McQueen spoke about the genetic component of autism, which was greeted by the audience. “I was privileged to be able to speak at the U.N. about this issue and I was greeted very warmly. They know that students of today represent the future.”





What’s truly in our way of creating the life we desire? Are you ready to experience the freedom that comes with taking ownership of your life?

Evolving Soul presents “An Evening with Infinite Possibilities” with Stacy Mckenna and Anthony Mrocka on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm.

Esteemed Speaker and Executive Coach, Stacy McKenna will open up the evening followed by acclaimed Evidential Medium, Anthony Mrocka, who will talk about healing, bereavement, and connecting with loss.

Proceeds will benefit the Joseph V. Rossi Scholarship Fund. The event will be held in Southern Connecticut State University- Engleman Hall Room – C112.

See the event flyer.

Purchase tickets.

Ronnie Nunn, a former longtime NBA referee and TV show host, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Joseph Panza Sport Management Lecture at Southern.

Nunn, who refereed 1,134 regular season and 73 playoff games during a 19-year career, will deliver a talk, “Making the Right Calls On and Off the Court.” The program is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. April 20 at the Michael J. Adanti Student Center Theater..

“We’re very excited to have Ronnie Nunn joining us,” said Kevin McGinniss, director of the SCSU sport management program. “In addition to being a former referee and TV personality, he was a special education teacher and administrator in New York early in his career.”

McGinniss said Nunn will talk about life skills and how to make good decisions in life. “He’ll weave in anecdotes about his career during his lecture.”

Nunn refereed four NBA Finals games, as well as the 1996 NBA All-Star Game. He also had been the host of the television sports show, “Making the Call with Ronnie Nunn” on NBA TV.

After retiring as a referee, he served as the NBA director of officials and director of development.

A question-and-answer period will follow his speech. The event is free and open to the public.

For further information, contact Kevin McGinniss at (203) 392-8837 or at


Barnard Scholars 2017

Four Southern students were honored recently as the 2017 recipients of the Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award.

Each year, 12 students are selected for the award from the four universities in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. Four of the 12 students come from Southern.

Criteria include a GPA or 3.7 or better, and having demonstrated significant participation in university and/or community life.

The four SCSU students are:

Adam Zhitomi, Barnard Scholar 2017*Adam Zhitomi, a communication disorders major with a GPA of 3.71. He has served on the Student Government Association Executive Board and volunteered for many activities at SCSU, including Relay for Life, Special Olympics and SCSU Day of Service. He also has been a member of the Best Buddies Executive Board, which seeks to help those with various types of disabilities.

Zhitomi struggled with a series of health-related issues in high school. That struggle made it difficult for him to fully engage in the “high school experience.” But since graduation, he has made a point of becoming fully engaged in the “college experience.”

“I had the opportunity to witness Adam’s drive and determination to achieve a high level of success,” said Barbara Cook, assistant professor of communication disorders. “He has grown and developed a level of maturity and integrity that prepares him for pursuing his graduate degree, and would not only take full advantage of gaining the highest level of knowledge and competency provided by a program, but would likely contribute a great deal.”

Sadia Younas, Barnard Scholar 2017*Sadia Younas, a chemistry major with a GPA of 3.91. She has served as secretary of the New Haven chapter of the American Chemical Society and has presented posters at several undergraduate research conferences regarding cadmium concentrations in Long Island Sound.

Born in Pakistan, she moved to the United States in 2002. After graduating from high school, Younas attended Middlesex Community College, before transferring to Southern.

“Sadia is one of those students that leaves a tremendous impact on anything she does,” said Jeffrey Webb, chairman of the Chemistry Department. “I have no doubt that she will go on to be an incredibly successful scientist and will continue to serve SCSU as an outstanding alumna once she graduates.”

Brandon Brush, Barnard Scholar 2017*Brandon Brush, a communication major with a GPA of 3.93. He has been a member of the Crescent Players and the National Society of Leadership and Success. He also is providing in-home support for two young adults in Hamden with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Brush is writing and directing a pilot episode of a sitcom for his honors thesis.

“I have found him a consistently reliable provider of excellence,” said Michael Shea, chairman of the English Department. “Whatever the nature of the work, he completes it thoroughly, thoughtfully and on time. Always. He is smart, but he does not rely solely on his native intelligence – he works hard and arrives very well prepared. No excuses. No complaints. All in all, he is a great package of smarts, hard work, and courtesy, as well as earnestness, eagerness and curiosity.”

Nicholas Charnysh, Barnard Scholar 2017Nicholas Charnysh, a recreation, tourism and sport management major with a GPA of 3.8. He is vice president of the Student Government Association. He has been a basketball instructor for kindergartners and first graders with the Branford Parks and Recreation Department. He also is director of the counselor-in-training program at the YMCA Camp Sloper in Southington.

Charnysh co-created the SCSU Spirit Commission in an attempt to boost school pride and is a member of the Crescent Players.

“Nick represents to me the ideal of a Renaissance person,” said Lee deLisle, professor of recreation, tourism and sport management. “His interests are varied, ranging from management opportunities, political service to the university, creative expression through the arts and a consistent desire to explore and learn more about himself and his environment.”