Yearly Archives: 2017

Sandra Gomez, journalism student, Hartford Courant

Out of hundreds of journalists who applied from across the country, only a dozen were selected for a recent intensive 11-day program focusing on understanding and communicating data-rich and complex statistical information. Sandra Gomez-Aceves, who graduated from Southern just two months ago, was among them.

The ProPublica Data Institute is a program run by an independent investigative journalism newsroom. Attendees learned data journalism, design layout and programming concepts such a HTML/CSS, JavaScript and Python. They even built a website from scratch.

“The Data Institute opened up a new world of journalism to me that I knew existed, but not to the extent that it does,” Gomez-Aceves said.

The journalists who have been accepted are career professionals who range from students to mid-level. ProPublica chose 12 applicants out of nearly 500 applicants.

“It’s like a 2.5-percent acceptance rate,” Gomez-Aceves said. “I thought ‘Oh my God, this was just meant to happen for me.’”

After graduating from SCSU with a B.S. in journalism and a concentration in political science, she then went on to complete the program at the ProPublica Headquarters in New York City. But her selection came while she was still a student – one of only three students chosen.

Gomez-Aceves said that she learned about the program when Jodie Gil, SCSU assistant professor of journalism, sent her a link to the application. Gil said she was so proud when she heard about the acceptance and she knew that ProPublica picked the right person.

“I was blown away because it’s such a prestigious program. They (ProPublica) have been around for nine years and they’ve won four Pulitzer prizes,” Gil said.

Gomez-Aceves’s first experience with data was in the Digital Media Skills course during her freshman year at Southern. Throughout her four years at Southern she strived to learn data, but there wasn’t always sufficient interest from students for a class to be offered.

“I really love data and I wanted to learn about it when I was in school,” Gomez-Aceves said.

Gil said the ProPublica Data Institute was a way for Gomez-Aceves to connect on a national playing field and shows that Southern students can compete with anyone.

Participants conducted research, evaluated data and created data sets in classroom workshops from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and had homework assigned each day.  The most challenging aspect for Gomez-Aceves was “scrapping”, a method of using code to plug in data into an Excel document from a given website.

“Everyone wanted to be there, everyone wanted to work hard,” Gomez-Aceves said. “I think it definitely helps me just want to do better and learn from the people who have had this experience.”

Gomez-Aceves was recently hired as a breaking news reporter for the Hartford Courant. She said she is excited to incorporate her love of data journalism in her future reporting.

“I have a new love for websites and the Internet,” Gomez-Aceves said. “You kind of just take the Internet for granted. But when you start seeing how pages come together and all the work that goes into HTML, CSS and JavaScript. A web page is a lot of work.”
Sandra Gomez, journalism student, Hartford Courant

 

LJMU archeological dig with SCSU President Jo Bertolino and SCSU and LJMU students

In a bucolic, rural setting not far from the town of Chester, England, a group of Southern anthropology students worked meticulously to unearth the remains of men, women, and children buried centuries earlier in unmarked graves.

The Poulton Research Project has yielded the largest amount of medieval bones from the years 1066 to 1485 to come out of English soil. And for the eight Southern students who joined peers from partner institution Liverpool John Moores University at the site during a two-week field study this May, it provided an opportunity that can’t be replicated on this side of the Atlantic.

“We’re uncovering human remains from the Middle Ages, finding out how and why they were buried that way, and trying to figure out how these people died — it’s a great way to learn,” said Jarod McAnern, a Branford sophomore. The chance to participate in an archaeological field study abroad was one of the things that drew him to the Anthropology Department, and to Southern, he said.

McAnern and his fellow students uncovered medieval pottery and coins, along with the skeletal remains, while learning to survey, document, and photograph the burial sites and perform forensic testing in the labs at LJMU.

“Instead of these students doing simulated field work in a lab setting, they’re getting real-life experience in one of the most significant archaeological sites in England,” said Anthropology Department Chair Kathleen Skoczen, who led the SCSU group.

LJMU and SCSU students digging at archeological site in Chester, England

The field study represented another development in the blossoming Trans-Atlantic Alliance between SCSU and LJMU, which in its third year has included research internships, study abroad for students from both institutions, faculty exchanges, and the approval of the first programs in a portfolio of joint master’s degrees.

SCSU President Joe Bertolino and Provost Ellen Durnin were part of a small delegation that visited Liverpool in May to meet with LJMU leadership and advance the university’s first major international partnership

“Our institutions have much in common, both in their roots and the populations they serve,” Bertolino said. “At Southern, our top priority is to give our students as many experiences as possible while preparing them to live and work in a global economy, and this partnership furthers that goal.”

Entering the third year of the partnership, SCSU and LJMU are focused on expanding its reach. Already this summer, 20 LJMU students spent three weeks at Southern as part of a cultural immersion experience. In Iceland, 35 students and four faculty members from both institutions engaged in a field-based exploration of the interrelationships between the economy and the environment.

Projections are that more than 20 students will spend a semester abroad in Liverpool in spring 2018, while more than 30 LJMU students are expected to make the reverse crossing during the 2017/18 academic year. Research and teaching collaborations have been under way, or are planned, in more than 15 disciplines, ranging from creative writing and art, to public health and computer science.

A giant step forward will see the launch of two joint master’s programs — projected for the fall of 2018: an M.S. in coastal resilience, under the umbrella of SCSU’s Department of Environment, Geography, and Marine Sciences and its LJMU counterpart, and an International Master’s of Business Administration, offered by the respective Schools of Business.

Pending approval by the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) Board of Regents, two additional jointly delivered master’s degrees will launch in the following academic year: an M.S. in global health, and another master’s degree focusing on recreation, tourism, and sport management. Other potential shared graduate programs in creative writing and anthropology are in the pipeline.

The addition of these programs would place SCSU and LJMU in rarified territory as the only American/Anglo universities offering more than one joint master’s program. And these new offerings, built on a hybrid platform of online courses combined with time on the ground at both institutions, would be a draw for an international pool of students, senior leaders said.

“As we celebrate our 25th anniversary year, Liverpool John Moores University continues to develop its global outlook and unleash as many opportunities for our students to experience the unique international environment a university education offers,” said Professor Nigel Weatherill, vice chancellor of LJMU. “SCSU, like us, is a pioneering modern institution and this partnership will enhance our strengths across a wide range of subjects for the benefit of staff and students on both universities, for years to come.”

overview of LJMU dig at Chester, England

Professor Amy Smoyer and a photo of kitchen staff preparing food

What’s it like to be a woman in prison? Assistant Professor of Social Work Amy Smoyer’s research focuses on women’s lived experiences of incarceration, and she has found that a big part of living in prison is food: the kinds of food that are served, how they are served, how they are prepared, and how women feel about eating them. In her conversations with incarcerated women, she says, one woman told her, “food is what it’s all about in prison,” that “people who have been in prison all talk about the food.”

Before she became interested in the experiences of incarcerated women, and food in particular as part of that experience, Smoyer was an HIV social worker. For her research into the impact of incarceration on HIV risk, she would go to prisons to work with inmates, and through her work with these individuals, she became interested in prison. There’s a difference between lived experience and academic research, Smoyer says. She decided she wanted to look at women’s actual experiences living in prison, and she quickly learned about food’s importance.

It’s not about nutrition, she says. “Food is a tool we use to build identity, place, culture. It’s about a memory of being with family or friends. It’s an important part of our human experience, and we send cues to each other by what we eat.” People in prison are no different than anyone else when it comes to food, Smoyer says. “They use food in the same ways.” Questions like, “Who do you cook with?” and “Who do you eat with?” are important. Food and eating involve trust issues.

When she talks with incarcerated women about the prison cafeteria, Smoyer says, they say things like “the food is like slop”: it tastes, smells, and looks awful. The low quality of the food sends a powerful message to incarcerated people about how they are seen, she says, adding, “Food should send a message that says, ‘I see you as a human being and I’m giving you food that I would eat myself.’”

When Smoyer spent two months as a Fulbright Scholar in Denmark, teaching and conducting research about Danish prison food systems, she saw differences in the role of food in Danish prisons as opposed to American prisons. In Denmark’s prisons, she says there are no cafeterias; instead, prisons have kitchens where inmates can prepare and eat their own food. “It’s about being able to take care of your own body and regain control over your own nutrition, and your own lives.”

Talking to incarcerated women about what food means to them and how they’re taking care of themselves with food, Smoyer says, is a different way to talk about prison, allowing people to see the humanity of those in prison. “We all eat,” she says, so talking about the role of food in prisoners’ lives “humanizes people. People who live in prison are just normal people.”

Smoyer’s interest in the topic of incarceration encompasses more than food. She started off thinking about the massive incarceration of people in the United States and what might be done to reduce the prison population. There’s been a move to release nonviolent offenders, she says, or those who are in prison by mistake, or are in for small charges. “It’s important to remember,” Smoyer says, “the U.S. still has the largest population of incarcerated persons in the world. In Europe, the maximum sentence you can get is 15 years, while in this country you can get a life sentence for drug charges. We have to look at people who have committed felonies. If we want to reduce the number of people in prison, we have to be able to make modifications to our sentencing.” Thinking hard about “when is it enough time?” to serve is necessary if we’re going to have movement, she says.

Forgiveness as a part of reforming the criminal justice system is something to consider, Smoyer believes. “We have to be able to forgive others, ourselves, our country.” In April, she led a panel at Southern on “Breaking Good: The Role of Forgiveness and Atonement in Reducing the Number of Incarcerated Women in Connecticut,” part of the 64 Days of Nonviolence Program sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program. The forum started with a small step, Smoyer says: asking the question, “What does forgiveness mean to you? Can we forgive people for doing horrible things?”

For the panel, she brought in four women who have been impacted by the criminal system, “people who have really struggled with forgiveness and have thought a lot about what forgiveness means.” The forum was about creating a space for formerly incarcerated women to lead participants in a discussion, Smoyer says, adding that movements are most successful when led by people who are most impacted by them. And, she adds, intergroup dialog is how we learn.

The forum followed Smoyer’s participation in January in Temple University’s Inside-Out Training program, whose mission is “to create opportunities for people inside and outside of prison to have transformative learning experiences that emphasize collaboration and dialogue and that invite them to take leadership in addressing crime, justice, and other issues of social concern.” This summer, she launched an Inside-Out undergraduate course (SWK350: Research Methods) at the Manson Youth Institute in Cheshire. This course includes SCSU undergraduates and men at MYI in a transformative learning experience grounded in intergroup dialogue. All students earn three credits towards their bachelor’s degree.

For spring 2017, Smoyer was awarded the Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship to work on her portfolio of studies about the lived experience of incarceration. In her project, “Prison at the Margins: Understanding the Intersecting Vulnerabilities of Incarcerated Lives,” she planned to analyze existing qualitative data about the incarcerated lives of two vulnerable populations — people living with HIV and transgender individuals.

Smoyer earned her Ph.D. in social welfare from Hunter College of the City University of New York, her MSW and MPA from Florida State University, and her B.A. in women’s studies from Columbia University. She has been an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work since 2015, after serving as a post-doctoral fellow at the Yale University School of Public Health from 2013 to 2015. For more information about Smoyer and her work, visit her website.

Assistant Professor James Kearns in chemstry lab with chemistry major Cody Edson

He failed an AP Chemistry class in high school. But five years later, Cody Edson has not only earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in chemistry as part of an accelerated program at Southern, but has co-developed a testing kit to detect even small amounts of arsenic in drinking water.

And in the fall, Edson will begin a Ph.D. in chemistry program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The kit is believed to be more sensitive than many other testing procedures, accurately measuring arsenic levels as low as 5 parts per billion, according to James Kearns, an SCSU assistant professor of chemistry who served as Edson’s faculty advisor. Kearns recently obtained a provisional patent for the testing kit.

The World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency consider arsenic levels above 10 parts per billion to be unsafe. But current tests for arsenic often are unable to accurately detect anything less than 20 parts per billion.

Although similar projects to improve the accuracy and sensitivity of arsenic testing are under way around the globe, the Kearns-Edson test could be part of a public health breakthrough as an estimated 100 million people worldwide have significant amounts of arsenic in their drinking water. While a large percentage of those individuals live in parts of Asia, such as Bangladesh, there are some locations in America that have significant levels of arsenic in the water supply, as well. Kearns said they tend to be located in mountainous regions, such as New Mexico.

Edson explained that the new test replaces the traditional mercury bromide strip with one made of silver nitrate. He said the testing procedure also uses digital analysis.

“I am happy that it might be able to save lives and protect the health of a large number of people in the future,” Edson said. “It would be great if we could market it, too. But I really want to use my skills as a scientist to help the environment and to help people.”

Arsenic is considered to be a toxic substance with carcinogenic properties. Acute symptoms of arsenic poisoning include gastrointestinal distress. Long-term effects include lung, kidney and liver problems, as well as skin discoloration.

Kearns said he is quite impressed with Edson as a student. “I have probably taught nearly 2,000 students during my career, and Cody is one of the most successful of all of them,” he said.

Edson said he began working with Kearns in his junior year. In addition to their work on arsenic detection, the two also have worked on a project pertaining to the testing of toxic metals in agave nectar, which is prevalent in Ecuador.

Edson noted that he has learned a lot from his mentor, who he now considers a friend, as well. “We’re homies,” chuckled Edson, who said the two often talk about mutual interests, such as Heavy Metal music– which might seem appropriate for scientists who actually study metals.

Edson, a guitarist, resides in Milford. He considered joining the U.S. Navy when he was in high school, as well as having pondered a possible career in firefighting. But after learning about Southern’s Honors College program from an SCSU admissions representative, he decided to apply. He doesn’t regret the decision.

As a student at SCSU, he helped start a program in which campus food leftovers were collected and sent to nearby food pantries.

Paris Diaries 2017

Dear Friends of the Southern in Paris Program,

It is almost cliché to say, but time has flown by. Today marks our eleventh day in Paris, and the students have already experienced so much. I’d like to take a moment and reflect on our activities, as well as showcase some of the students’ work so far.

We departed New York’s JFK airport on May 31st on an overnight flight to Paris. Students settled in and enjoyed the in-seat entertainment, food, and service provided by our carrier, Air France. Although airline food does not have the best reputation, some students remarked that they were surprised by the quality. Arriving in Paris at 8 o’clock in the morning, we were greeted by one of the longest immigration control lines the program has ever had to endure. Luckily, the agents were quick and efficient, and we were picking up our bags and getting into the shuttle in no time.

Our residence, the Foundation Biermans-Lapôtre, welcomed us with open arms, clean rooms, and recently installed Wi-Fi. Built to house students from Belgium and Luxembourg, the foundation allows groups hailing from other countries to stay for short visits, and we are very grateful for their continued hospitality and professionalism.

After settling into our rooms, students headed to the local grocery store to pick up essentials. Now a bit more familiar with the neighborhood, the group returned to the foundation for a well-deserved rest. Student intern Andrew “André” Janz and I took advantage of this moment to visit the nearest transportation office to purchase our Navigo cards. These magic items allow us to use every facet of Parisian public transportation, even including the regional train system! For many of the students, it is quite a change from relying solely on a personal vehicle to get around. That evening, we took a walk to a neighborhood known as “Montparnasse,” which is anchored by one of the only skyscrapers inside the city limits. There we enjoyed some refreshments at a local café while enjoying one of the most popular Parisian pastimes: people watching! Once we had had our fill, we enjoyed a dinner of galettes and crêpes at Crêperie Plougastel, an event that has become a bit of a tradition for the program on the night of arrival. Filled with cheese, chocolate, and a variety of other tasty ingredients, it was time to turn in for the night.

Friday included a few program set-up activities, lunch at a student-favorite bakery called Paul, and a walk through the courtyards of the Louvre. Students had the evening free to themselves, and many took advantage of the mild weather to explore more. On Saturday, we made our first visit to the Louvre, where we saw the three ladies: the Mona Lisa, the Venus di Milo, and the Victory Angel of Samothrace. These pieces of art alone draw an amazing number of tourists each day, and many students were surprised at how much activity buzzed around them.

On Sunday, we made our first program visit ever to the village of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage site about eighty kilometers outside of Paris (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/873). Known for its medieval architecture and underground tunnel system, the city was one of the most important economic centers of the European world during the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. The next day, we continued our exploration of the medieval world with a visit to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, often considered one of the first examples of “French Work,” as it was known at the time, and that we have come to know as Gothic Architecture. Students marveled at the stained glass, arched ceilings, and funerary statuary since Saint-Denis is the traditional resting place of the French monarchy. Following this early example, Sainte-Chapelle did not disappoint during our visit the following day. An example of later gothic style, Sainte-Chapelle was built to house the relics that king Louis IX, later Saint-Louis, brought back from the crusades. With walls appearing to be made of only stained-glass, this favorite stop on the trip continues to marvel visitors nearly 770 years after its consecration. Finally, we ended that day’s visit with a stop at the Conciergerie, formerly part of the royal palace and often used as a prison.

On Wednesday, students met at the Musée de Cluny, a museum dedicated to medieval life and art. Built upon Roman baths, the museum houses a very impressive collection of tapestries, the most notable of which is probably the series known as “La Dame à la licorne,” or “The Lady and the Unicorn.” After leaving the museum, we took a detour and stopped in at Angelina’s, a famous tea room specializing in hot chocolate and delicious pastries. Students marveled at the consistency of the drink, remarking that it was indeed like drinking melted chocolate. They all agreed that it was like nothing they had had before! After enjoying our short rest at Angelina’s, we made our way to the Louvre to explore the medieval foundations discovered during the renovations of the 1980s, followed by a short tour through the French small-format paintings. We then walked along the rue de Rivoli and the Seine to get to our dinner reservation at the Trumilou. Offering traditional French fare, the restaurant did not disappoint. Hesitant to try them on their own, students eagerly split a plate of a dozen escargots. Savoring the buttery, garlicky, and earthy flavors, many of the students were surprised at how much they enjoyed the typically French dish.

Thursday and Friday were free days for the students, while Saturday we left the city for an all-day visit to the 17th-century castle Vaux-le-Vicomte. A highlight of the trip, the property offered up all it had to offer to the students, who explored the property for nearly six hours. As spectacular as the building itself is, the gardens are indeed the highpoint. Designed by famed landscape artist André Le Nôtre, the gardens play tricks on the visitor’s perspective and uncover surprises as s/he walks further into the grounds.

Interested in reading what the students have to say? Take a look at our program’s Tumblr page at https://scsu2017paris.tumblr.com.

Some highlights include:

“What caught my attention were the stained glass windows all around the church. The usually dark colors like the red and the blues shone exceptionally well. I enjoyed the light pouring out into the church.”

“One of my fondest memories from my first visit to France is my first visit to the chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. I was born and raised in a small town (around 5,000 people) and find it somewhat difficult to adjust to the pace of city life. While Paris is a fantastically unique city, the Vaux has always offered me a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of metro trains and pedestrian laden streets.”

“After our brief visit [to the Louvre], we were desperately hungry […]. We went to a nice cafe called Cafe Joli and I had a fantastic Croque Monsieur. I was in heaven after eating that.”

“I can only wonder how the Mona Lisa feels. Launching into the spotlight is difficult for anyone, but she didn’t ask for this. Why, of all da Vinci’s breathtaking works, why her? Why this piece? Bulletproof glass, a wooden rail, two bodyguards, and a fabric rope barring the spectators from getting too close. She sees thousands of people a day, and I can only imagine she’s lonely on her private wall. I wonder if she feels guilty about drawing people away from the other pieces in the room, either by sucking the public in like a fly to her web, or repelling visitors completely from the room as a whole to avoid the buzz in the middle.”

Wishing you all the best from Paris,

Luke L. Eilderts, Ph.D.
Director, Southern in Paris program 2017
Assistant Professor of French
World Languages & Literatures

When it comes to keeping communities safe and healthy, graduates of Southern’s public health programs are leading the charge as area health directors.

As director of the Westbrook Health Department in Connecticut, Sonia Marino, '09, M.P.H. '14, oversees public health for more than 6,900 residents.

As the first full-time health director in Westbrook, Conn., in more than a decade, Sonia Marino, ’09, M.P.H. ’14, is working to develop a community health plan that could touch on everything from opiate dependency and emergency preparedness to outdoor activities for children.

“Public health is my passion,” says Marino, who took the job in January 2015, replacing a part-time director. “It’s not just about wells and septic and food. It’s so much more.”

Marino envisions a forward-looking health department for her town, with public education and prevention programs, and social media campaigns tailored to the community’s needs.

She credits Southern, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public health, for shaping her comprehensive approach and for providing the broad background she needs to deal with the numerous issues that come across her desk, from landlord-tenant conflicts to restaurant inspections.

When it comes to keeping communities safe and healthy, graduates of Southern’s public health programs are leading the charge as area health directors.

“The professors are great,” says Marino. “I had a wonderful relationship with all of them.”

Marino is one of about 20 Southern alumni now serving as health directors across Connecticut’s 74 local health agencies. Many more hold jobs as deputy directors and sanitarians — the latter, a public health worker with knowledge of environmental and public health issues such as food protection, water quality, product safety, and more.

Peggy Gallup, professor of public health and coordinator of the undergraduate program, says she was contacting Connecticut health directors for a project recently and was struck by how many she recognized as former students.

Professor of Public Health William Faraclas says producing graduates who would lead local health efforts in the state was a dream of founders who launched the program in 1980.

“We dreamed big and our dream came true,” says Faraclas, who chaired the department for 33 years.

Southern’s was one of the first undergraduate public health programs in the United States when it began, Faraclas says, and it continues to serve as a national model. The Master of Public Health program — state law requires local health directors to have the degree — was added at Southern in 1990.

While many graduates work in hospitals or nongovernmental organizations, Southern graduates are particularly suited for jobs in local health departments because of the program’s strong focus on community-based aspects of public health.

Meanwhile, hands-on programs, such as the popular two-week field study trip to Guatemala, foster the resilience and “roll- up-your-sleeves” attitude needed for jobs in public service.

Students must also complete an internship that takes them to the front lines of public health practice, says Faraclas.

It was an internship during his senior year at Southern that launched Robert Rubbo’s career with the Torrington Area Health District in 1996. Two decades later, he is running the place.

After graduation, Rubbo, ’96, M.P.H. ’02, was offered a position as a sanitarian trainee and worked his way up, becoming a sanitarian, deputy director and, in 2013, the director.

Comparing notes with colleagues who attended other schools, Rubbo says he realizes how much Southern stands out in terms of quality.

“I really feel like they have one of the more challenging M.P.H. programs out there,” Rubbo says.

Gallup notes Southern’s relationship with local health departments is reciprocal. Health directors often email her if they are looking for interns or resources for projects.

One graduate student worked with a health department to survey pediatricians about their lead-screening practices for young children; another created a brochure on healthy homes and household environmental hazards. In Westbrook, Marino says Southern students have helped her conduct a community health assessment in town.

Maura Esposito, ’90, M.P.H. ’11, director of the Chesprocott Health District, which covers the towns of Cheshire, Prospect, and Wolcott, says she recently had several Southern students working for her as interns, and would love to work with more.

“I take Southern interns all the time because I know the program, and I know the quality of work that is expected,” Esposito says. In return, she gives them plenty of opportunities to work in the trenches.

“Anybody who comes through my department should be able to get a really good job,” she says. ■

Aussie Natasha Fitzpatrick has made Southern her second home — and set a university record in the process.

It takes about 30 hours for Natasha Fitzpatrick to travel the 10,403 miles between her home in Tasmania, Australia, and Southern’s New Haven campus. The senior public health major transferred to Southern after completing two years of college in her native country — and although she’s only been home once in two years, she’s found her comfort zone. A record-setting member of Southern’s Track and Field Team, Fitzpatrick has met students from around the world while living in North Campus on a floor for international students. “We help each other out,” she says. “I’ve met people from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom . . . ”

As for the U.S., she says the country has exceeded her preconceptions, which she jokes came largely from movies, like “High School Musical” and “Mean Girls.” “That was the only idea I had of the U.S. It was a lot different than I expected it to be, which was probably for the best,” she says with a smile.

She, in turn, has corrected her classmates on a few fallacies about life Down Under, including common catch phrases like, “Throw a shrimp on the barbie.”  “We call them prawns, so it’s a little ironic,” Fitzpatrick says. Americans do, however, have some things right. “The word ‘mate’ is definitely used as much as people think it is,” she says. Following, she shares more of her Southern story.

 Tell us a bit about Tasmania.

Natasha Fitzpatrick: We’re a little island at the bottom part of Australia. It’s the typical Australian scene, with the beaches really close by and warm weather. We get a winter, but nothing as extreme as in New England.

So February in Connecticut was an adjustment.

Yes! My first winter was a bit of a disappointment. There wasn’t much snow. [laughs] I kept hearing about this thing called the snow day! But I had my snow day this year — and by the time the morning passed, I was ready for things to get back to normal.

How did you come to attend Southern?

I went through a company in Australia called NSR. They recruit Australian athletes in all sports to the U.S. They help us find the right schools, the right coaches, and universities that have our major. I got introduced to coach Stoll and really enjoyed talking to her. [Melissa Stoll is head coach of women’s cross country and track and field at Southern.]

View More: http://steadyphotography.pass.us/jpg-3

Why did you choose Southern?

Mostly for athletics purposes, but I am glad I chose this school for many more reasons, including the friendly people, the academic opportunities and the opportunities to get involved within the school community.  It helps everyone to fit in.

 What activities are you involved in?

In addition to Cross Country and the Track and Field teams, I’m an orientation ambassador during the summer. I’m also involved with the Public Health Club on campus and work at Southern’s Center for Educational and Assistive Technology.

 Let’s talk about track a bit. Are there any differences between track and field in the U.S. and Australia?

We don’t have indoor track. That was probably the most nervous I’ve been — my first race lining up indoors to run the mile, which is not an event we do at home. So that was nerve-racking. But I loved it and I hope to bring it back home. We should have indoor.

 You’ve done extremely well at Southern, making nationals in cross country and setting the university record in the steeplechase. Can you explain the event?

In college, the steeplechase is 3 kilometers. Each lap has multiple hurdles. They’re the wider hurdles — so you can step on them — and there’s a water jump. The idea is to clear the water jump. But sometimes you get wet, so it’s definitely a sport to do in the warmer weather.

SCSU_17-NatashaFitzpatrick--10What was it that like to set Southern’s record?

I didn’t realize how close I was. I kind of left that up to the coaches. . . . They just kept pushing me along. When I actually broke it, they came over and congratulated me. It was quite a good moment. It felt like I achieved something for the school.

 Had you traveled previously?

I pretty much have traveled the whole of Australia. This was actually my first time out of the country. So it was a bit of a big move. But it’s been a good choice.

 Have you had the opportunity to travel in the U.S.?

I have, luckily. With the team, we get to travel a lot in the New England area, which has been a lot of fun. And during breaks I have been able to travel both the East and the West coasts.

 What are some of the things that you’ll enjoy once you’re back home?

It’s so stereotypical but we love our barbecue. Just the whole idea of going to the beach for a barbecue. I got to go home for Christmas which is [during] our summer — and I think we had a barbecue every day.

 Speaking of food, any new favorites?

I haven’t had a proper one yet, but I really want to go to Chicago for a deep-dish pizza. I’ve been to a few states and had their main dishes. The Philly cheesesteak is definitely one of the tops on the list.

What is the most common question you get from Americans?

They definitely ask things to do with the outback and the animals we have in Australia. We kind of reassure them that there aren’t too many deadly ones. [laughs] If you stick to the cities, you’ll be fine.

Since you mentioned animals and stereotypical questions from Americans, how often do you see kangaroos and koala bears?

Kangaroos aren’t in the big cities, but if you go a bit further out, you’d find a lot. They’re common — a little like deer in the U.S. [Koalas] aren’t as common because they need a certain tree — the Eucalyptus tree.

And since you’re from Tasmania, you know where this is leading.

I’ve only ever seen one wild Tasmania devil. You find a fair few in sanctuaries.

What do you plan to do after graduating?

I’ve always thought that I’d probably end up in Australia, but in the meantime, I’d love to stay — work a bit. I definitely want to do my internship in the U.S. and if I can keep studying, do graduate school [here].

SCSU_17-NatashaFitzpatrick-6263Any advice to someone who is considering coming to Southern to study from abroad?

It gives you a hugely different perspective – even traveling between English-speaking countries. There are so many differences in the way of life, in schooling, sports. It is definitely an experience I recommend.

Last but not least, vegemite. Yeah or Nay?

I am a huge fan. My mom sends over vegemite just for me. I’ve tried to get people to like vegemite as much as I do, but I don’t think it’s something Americans enjoy. We’re working on it.

Sara Beland

Bridgeport and New London are on course for the sea level of their coastlines to rise 7 to 24 inches by the year 2100, according to a mathematical model developed by a Southern biology student.

Sara Beland, a Woodbridge resident, developed the model and conducted a poster presentation at the recent SCSU Undergraduate Research Conference. Beland graduated May 19 during undergraduate commencement exercises at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

Unlike other models, which predict and use factors such as carbon dioxide levels and temperature changes in the coming decades, Beland performed straight mathematical projections based on trend lines dating back to 1938 for New London and 1964 for Bridgeport. The projected rise in sea levels based on Beland’s models fall on the more modest end of the spectrum. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a sea level rise of between 8 inches and 6.6 feet, depending on which variables are used in the calculations.

Beland examined a variety of mathematical trend lines – some using data that starts in the mid- 20th century, while others begin as late as 2000. Those that begin in 2000 show greater increases by 2100 because of the faster rate of sea level rises in recent years. Those that start further back show more gradual increases.

Using a starting point of 1965, Beland’s model projects New London will encounter a sea level rise of 13.8 by 2100, while Bridgeport would see a 16.1-inch increase.

“I’m a mathematics major with a concentration in applied math, and wanted to come up with a research project that potentially could help people,” Beland said. “Scientists have different views on how much carbon dioxide levels will rise by the end of the century and what effect it will have on the oceans. So, rather than trying to predict that factor, I used a math model that is based on what actually has been happening in terms of sea level chances.”

“We believe that Sara’s model is plausible,” said Therese Bennett, SCSU professor of mathematics and Beland’s thesis advisor. Bennett noted that it falls close to the “best-case scenario” among climatology predictions, as some scientists believe a rise of 4 to 6 feet is more likely. But Beland’s projections are based on historical trends.

Jim Tait, SCSU professor of the environment, geography and marine studies, agreed.

“Even if the sea level rise is 1 foot, it would have a significant effect during a storm surge for a major event like Hurricane Sandy,” Tait said. “The flooding and damage would be that much greater. But if there were a 4-foot rise, the daily high tide would be roughly equivalent to a major storm surge. The impact would be much greater.”

He said the sea level rise would be similar along the Connecticut coastline, so that a 13 to 16 inch rise in Bridgeport and New London would likely translate to a similar rise in New Haven.

Beland said a 1-foot rise in New Haven would require about 240 people to relocate, according to Climate Control data. She said parts of Tweed Airport would be flooded unless the 9-foot tide gate was extended higher, and some houses in the Morris Cove section of New Haven would be flooded. But a 4-foot rise would translate to about 1,200 people needing to move.

Beland, an Amity High School graduate, will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics this month. She is an Honors College student and an economics minor. She recently passed two actuarial exams and is looking to pursue a career in actuarial science.

“She was self-motivated in conducting this project, which typifies our Honors College students,” Bennett said. “The fact that she already passed two actuarial exams – and that passing five is usually needed to become a fellow, considered to be equivalent to a terminal degree – is quite an accomplishment for Sara.”

Lynn Houston

After a near-death experience, you really figure out what’s important, says Lynn Houston, a poet who graduated this May from Southern’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Houston’s collection of poems, “Unguarded,” recently won the inaugural Heartland Review Press prize, and will be published this fall by the press. The collection is Houston’s first book, but she also now has two other books of poetry under contract.

Writing poetry wasn’t always part of Houston’s life plan. But a few years ago, after Houston had begun keeping bees as a hobby, one day she was stung and went into anaphylactic shock. “I woke up in the hospital afterwards and thought about my bucket list,” Houston says. Although she was a literary scholar, with a Ph.D. in English and a job as a college professor, “my heart is in poetry,” she says, and she began to make some life changes.

She started a small literary press – Five Oaks Press — with her graduate students. “I started it to have a small community feeling,” she says, “but we’ve grown and we have many submissions.”

Wanting to improve her poetry, Houston applied to several MFA programs and chose Southern’s. “I wasn’t winning contests with my poems before I came to Southern, and now I am,” she says. “I like my work better now than I did two years ago, before starting this MFA program. I’m now able to write the kind of poems I enjoy reading.” Houston points to the sense of community within the MFA program as being a key component of her success.

English Professor Vivian Shipley, one of Houston’s professors and her thesis adviser, says, “As a student, Lynn was brave enough to share very personal and difficult emotions with the other poets and she invited them to come along with her as she experimented with her poems. In order to pay tribute to all those who have served our country and those who sustained them while they were deployed, the moving and memorable poems in ‘Unguarded’ are dedicated to ‘all the women who have waited for soldiers to come home.’”

Houston explains that the poems in “Unguarded” are letters she wrote to her boyfriend when he was deployed with the National Guard last year. Some of the poems appear in the book just as they were, and some Houston edited to make into poems. “This book is my heart on pages,” Houston says.

She and her boyfriend met when she was at a writing residency program. They knew he was going to be deployed, but they didn’t know when. They were together only three weeks before he deployed, serving in the Middle East.

While he was away, Houston sent him many letters. She says that as she waited for him to come back, she was strongly aware of the passage of time. “I also felt I was part of a long tradition of women waiting for men to come back from war,” she says.

Houston explains that he had been wounded previously, having been deployed six of the past 12 years and adds that “he suffers these deployments. When he came back he was not the same man as when we met.”

When he returned to the United States after several months, she flew to Florida to meet him. He told Houston her letters had stabilized him, keeping him connected to home. They spent four days together, but soon after, he broke up with her. “He was not the same person,” she says. “I was heartbroken.”

She began collecting the letters she had written to him, working on them as poems, and sending the collection out to contests. “It’s very raw,” she says of the emotion expressed in the poems. “But now I can say it was worth it – I have the book – it lives on.”

One of the judges of the Heartland Review contest, Matt Brennan of Indiana State University, wrote of “Unguarded” that it is “a coherent whole, its arc tracing the emotional plot of a woman waiting for her lover to return from a military deployment. It effectively links the changing seasons to the speaker’s fluctuating psychic experience.”

Houston says she found it difficult to be the support system for someone who’s deployed, but she adds, “My poetry has been a huge part of my healing process.”

“For other people to see the poems means so much – no other prize will ever mean so much to me,” Houston says. “It’s the record of the beautiful person I am when I’m in love with someone.”

 

A selection from “Unguarded”:

 

I Miss the Fullness of Summer Light

I’ve been up since five, and I’ve had too much

of that cold, blue glow from the computer.

What happened to the golden light of summer?

Mellifluous and wild, like well-gathered honey

with a tangy, feral taste. I’m not just talking

seasons. I’m talking about light that loves us:

second story light with its full horizon, the wide

angle of light over dunes or rolling hills, the kind

we had during afternoons in the holler.

It’s the kind of light one has to wait for,

and like anything, waiting makes it worth more.

 

She did what she loved and success followed. Julia Rotella, ’17, graduated summa cum laude after being spotlighted as one of the country’s top student marketers.

School of Business and Honors College graduate Julia Rotella, '17

Among the 11,000 students who are members of the American Marketing Association (AMA), graduating business administration major Julia Rotella is a standout, finishing second in the organization’s 2017 Student Marketer of the Year competition. “It was really amazing to see my name up on the screen,” says Rotella of the honor, which was sponsored by Northwestern Mutual and announced at the AMA’s International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans in March.

The Monroe, Conn., native has always been drawn to the world of business. “I knew I wanted to be a marketing major since I was very young. As a kid, I actually had an eBay account and would sell things,” says Rotella. She also assisted her mother at craft fairs — learning about trade shows and how to best display products. “I enjoyed the satisfaction of selling things — being able to see the results of marketing. . . . Of course, I didn’t know that it was called marketing at the time,” she says with a smile.

That changed in Rotella’s sophomore year at Masuk High School in Monroe, Conn., when she enrolled in a marketing class. “I remember thinking, ‘Yes! This is what I want to do,’” she says. A gifted high school student, she took Honors level and Advanced Placement courses — and was an ideal candidate for very selective colleges and universities. After considering tuition costs, she chose Southern where she was accepted in the Honors College and received a Presidential Scholarship, a merit-based award that covered her full in-state tuition and fees for four years.

Choosing to commute to campus, Rotella made the most of her Southern experience, joining Southern’s collegiate chapter of the AMA, now known as SUMA — SCSU Undergraduate Marketing Association. As a sophomore she became president of the organization, a post she held until graduation. “SUMA has really helped me to become rooted here, to feel like I am part of a community,” she says.

It’s a community marked by achievement. In 2017, SUMA was a semifinalist in the AMA’s prestigious Collegiate Case Competition, finishing among the top 17 colleges and universities. (Semifinalists and finalists were listed in alphabetical order within each category without a specific ranking.) Southern was the only institution of higher learning in Connecticut to reach this level — and joined Providence College as one of only two in all of New England.

The competition — open to AMA’s 370 collegiate chapters — challenged teams to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for e-commerce giant eBay. Southern’s chapter tackled the assignment admirably. “The students were thrilled. They deserve a lot of credit for finishing in a group that included representatives from some very prestigious schools,” says Randye Spina, assistant professor of marketing and SUMA’s faculty adviser. SUMA also received the AMA’s award for outstanding chapter planning.

Looking forward, the group hopes to build on its success under the leadership of Jennifer Bucci, incoming SUMA president. Among the organization’s greatest challenges — obtaining funding to attend the AMA’s international conference. “They are going to make finals,” says Rotella, who is seeking a position with a marketing agency. “I am not going to be a part of it. But I will be watching from the outside. It’s going to be amazing.”

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SCSU_17_Julia-1292f-1

Passing the Torch
More from recent graduate Julia Rotella, ’17, including a few of her tips for current and future Owls.

Self-Motivated: As a sophomore, Rotella launched her own company, JR Marketing. She’s created websites, logos, brochures, social media posts, and more for numerous clients, including the Monroe Youth Commission, the Monroe Economic Development Commission, Alcohol and Drug Awareness of Monroe (ADAM), and others.

Scholarship support: In addition to the Presidential Scholarship, Rotella received the Eleanor Jensen Endowed Scholarship and the Anthony Verlezza Endowed Scholarship.

Advice to Honors College students: “Push through it. At times, the work load is very strenuous. But if you are in the Honors College, it’s because you can handle it.”

One recent honor: Southern’s Scholastic Achievement and Leadership Award in Marketing in May 2017

Real-world experience: Rotella had marketing internships with TeamDigital Promotions; GoECart, a provider of on-demand ecommerce solutions; Talking Finger, a social media marketing agency; and ASSA Abloy, an international company offering a complete range of door-opening products, solutions, and services.

On building relationships: “Talk to your professors. If I had a question about a paper or an assignment, I’d meet during their office hours. . . . Having those conversations helped me a lot.”

Get involved: “College is what you make it. If you are motivated . . . a go-getter who is going to make things happen, then you are going to enjoy your experience. I enjoyed my years at Southern because of SUMA Marketing.”