Yearly Archives: 2017

The JFK assassination. UFO landings. The Illuminati.

These three subjects have been the focus of conspiracy theories for many years, and there is no indication that they are about to subside any time soon. But are these theories based in fact, or are they merely the racing thoughts of wild imaginations?

Students at Southern are examining these and other conspiracy theories in a new course being offered called, “The Class They Don’t Want You To Take: American Conspiracy Theories in History and Photography.”

“We want students to hone their skills of assessment and analysis to prove or disprove their ideas, or to reach a conclusion that is inconclusive,” said Troy Rondinone, professor of history who co-teaches the class with Jeremy Chandler, associate professor of art and an expert on photography. “But wherever they may fall on a conspiracy theory, one of the main goals is to sharpen their skills of critical thinking.”

Chandler agreed. “We even encourage students to bring their own conspiracy theories with them to class,” he said.

Rondinone said many of the Founding Fathers were conspiracy theorists. “George Washington had references to The Illuminati in his writings,” he said. “And Thomas Jefferson wrote that King George III was systematically trying to enslave the American colonists. The Founders’ talk about conspiracy theories actually helped muster support for the American Revolution.”

He said theories have abounded throughout American history. “In the case of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, there actually is strong evidence of a conspiracy to overthrow the government,” Rondinone said.

But he said typically, though not always, there are logical fallacies espoused by conspiracy theorists. “The specific theories change, but the same patterns are pretty consistent,” he said. “If often gets to the point where some people will not change their minds when faced with facts that disprove their theories, even insisting that the evidence is actually falsified by those involved in the conspiracy.”

Rondinone said that in addition to the conspiracy theories embedded in history, the class will look at modern theories – such as those who believe that the government was behind the 9/11 tragedies (sometimes known as Truthers), and that President Obama was born in Kenya (commonly known as Birthers).

Chandler said the students also will study photographs involved in conspiracy theories, and learn how today’s cell phones take photos and how those pictures can and can’t be doctored.

The first 100 days of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration is the focus of a new course at Southern called “Presidential Elections and Transitions.”

Art Paulson, SCSU professor emeritus of political science, is teaching the class that began Jan. 22. It is a course open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Paulson noted the class was approved before Election Day, and therefore without knowing who would be president.

“Donald Trump’s election makes an interesting course even more fascinating because of its historical uniqueness,” Paulson said. “It marks the first time that someone without any governmental or military experience has become president.”

He said the three main areas of study will be the Trump transition; the office of the presidency from both a theoretical and practical standpoint; and an examination of the presidency and the executive branch of government.

“We are going to be looking at Trump’s Cabinet selections and his Supreme Court nomination, as well as his policy proposals,” Paulson said. “In fact, I plan to ask students to generate policy suggestions for Trump as if they were working in his administration. They’ll be trying to sell ideas that fit within his policy framework.”

Paulson said he is confident those ideas will generate interesting discussions that will help shape the direction of the class.

He said the way that the president shapes the Supreme Court and vice versa will be among the subjects addressed in the course. The president’s role in running the executive branch of government will be addressed, as well. “It might be surprising that most of the people working in the executive branch of government are not political appointees, and therefore, the president cannot control most of the branch.”

The separation of powers and Trump’s relationship with Congress also will be studied in the course, according to Paulson.

NOTE: This class has received considerable media attention. The Connecticut Post ran a story. An article also appeared in the CTNewsJunkie, and a segment aired on WSHU.



minority students, Education major

A project to increase the number of minority students pursuing a career in K-12 education is about to be launched in the spring by Southern and a consortium of school superintendents in the region.

The Minority Educator Initiative – a brainchild of Stephen Hegedus, dean of the SCSU School of Education – will include setting aside a significant number of scholarships to minority students who are accepted into one of the university’s education preparation programs (undergraduate and graduate). Acceptance for undergraduates typically is determined at the conclusion of the sophomore year at Southern.

The initiative also will include mentorship programs – such as between SCSU education majors with high school students who are considering a career in teaching; between existing K-12 teachers with SCSU students; and between school district leaders, such as the Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, with SCSU students.

“Research shows us that students of color tend to learn more effectively when they have had teachers and administrators who are from similar racial, ethnic and demographic backgrounds,” Hegedus said. “But in Connecticut, and throughout the nation, we have a shortage of minority educators. In fact, is can be challenging to attract educators, in general, to urban school districts.”

While the percentage of minority students in Connecticut’s public schools crossed the 41 percent mark in 2012, only about 7 percent of the state’s public school teachers at that time were black, Hispanic or Asian, according to statistics from the state Department of Education.

“This initiative is designed to encourage more black, Latino and Asian students to pursue a career in education,” Hegedus said. “By partnering with area school districts, we believe we can make significant strides toward accomplishing that goal.”

The consortium of superintendents includes Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

“Just about every adult member of a minority group who has previously succeeded in public education can identify at least one minority educator who served as a role model,” Cirasuolo said. “If you are a child who is a member of a minority group, you need to have direct experience with educators from the same minority group if you are to know fully the possibilities to which you can aspire.”

But Cirasuolo said there are benefits to white children having experience with minority educators, as well. He said the experience can provide “a fire wall against the forces of institutional racism that can infect people who are otherwise good and decent.”

“In other words, if a white child never gets to meet and interact with minority educators, that child can fall victim to the stereotypes that too often are promulgated about members of minority groups,” Cirasuolo said.

The program has the support of the state Department of Education.

“In Connecticut, we believe that all students, regardless of their own racial and ethnic identity, benefit from a teaching core that represents our diverse society,” said state Commissioner of Education Dianna R. Wentzell.

“Programs like the Minority Educator Initiative at Southern Connecticut State University serve as critical tools for encouraging more minority students to consider pursuing a career in teaching. I applaud this effort and look forward to the conversations ahead around minority teacher recruitment and retention in our schools.”

Hegedus said the scholarships are being made possible through an endowed gift of $2.2 million from the late Carol Ann Shea, an alumna who served as an SCSU faculty member for 32 years. The gift will enable the School of Education to offer about three dozen scholarships per year of $2,500 each.

“The scholarships will not be limited to minority students, and in fact, will be given for multiple purposes – including for those studying abroad,” Hegedus said. “The scholarships will be awarded on a basis of both need and merit. But one of the purposes will be to encourage students of color to pursue degrees in education.”

He said plans call for the first scholarships to be allocated in the spring.



For students who are considering a career in scientific research or who are interested in doing work to help food, farms, forests, or the environment, a new internship program co-sponsored by Southern and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station could be an ideal way to become immersed in field- or laboratory-based research projects and engage in hands-on learning.

The Summer Undergraduate Fellows in Plant Health and Protection program offers 10 undergraduate research internships during summer 2017. During the internships, which will be funded by the USDA, students will participate in research projects focused on plant health and protection, including: plant pathology, analytic chemistry, entomology, microbiology, molecular biology, plant physiology, and forest health.  Weekly enrichment activities will include field trips to learn about research careers in the public and private sector, and workshops to develop scientific leadership and communication skills.

i-MvGxgZC-X3Interns will be provided with free housing, a meal plan, and a stipend. The nine-week program beginning on June 5 will culminate with student presentations at Plant Science Day held on August 2 at the CT Agricultural Experimental Station’s outdoor research facility, “Lockwood Farm”. Students interested in conducting scientific research in areas related to agriculture and crop health are encouraged to apply.

The program is open to undergraduate students from any college or university who: are U.S. citizens or permanent residents; are at least 18 years of age; will have completed two to four semesters toward a biology, chemistry, or related science major by June 2017; are in good academic standing; and can commit to live at SCSU and to work full-time from June 5-August 4, 2017 (not including July 4). Underclassmen and novice researchers (students with no prior paid research experience) are strongly encouraged to apply, as are first-generation and minority college students. The deadline for applications is March 10, 2017.

For more details or to apply, visit

Katie Crochet, swimmer, Northeast-10

Southern’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will look to continue their dominance of the Northeast-10 when they host the conference championship at Hutchinson Natatorium Feb. 16 to 19.

The men’s team is seeking its 13th NE10 championship title in the past 14 years and seventh in a row.

The women have won 10 NE10 championships in the previous 13 years and have finished in the top three of every single competition.

One of the standout performers on the women’s team is All-American scholar and athlete Katherine Crochet, who won six events at the 2016 conference championship. As a child, Crochet was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and swimming offered a way to channel her energy.

For more on Katherine Crochet and her inspirational journey, see the video and Q and A below:


Meet the Student-Athlete

Katherine Crochet
Majoring in communication disorders, minoring in psychology
Swimming and Diving co-captain
Hometown: Watertown, Conn.

Honors: Pre-season All American (2016) * All American in the 50 and 100 freestyle * Northeast-10 (NE-10) Swimmer of the Year in 2016 * Won six events at the 2016 NE-10 Championship and named Most Outstanding Champion * Two first place finishes at the 2015 NE-10 Championship * College Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All American

Record breaker: Southern’s all-time fastest in the 50 Freestyle (23.31) and 100 Freestyle (51.19) * Also holds the Owls’ record in the 400 Freestyle Relay, competing with teammates Sydney Fromkin, Emily Wolfe, and Katherine Krajcik.

In the pool: As a child, Crochet was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Swimming offered a way to channel her energy.

Inspiration: “I wasn’t a very good swimmer growing up,” says Crochet, who credits her former Watertown Parks and Recreation coach Paul Catuccio, ’97, M.S. ’01, 6th Yr. ’10, with igniting her competitive spirit when she was in eighth grade. “He told me, ‘If you put some effort in to it, you could be really good.‘ It just clicked,” she says. Today, Catuccio is the athletics director at Watertown High School.

Hit by pre-NCAA Championship Nerves: “I talked to former All American national champion Amanda Thomas, [’13, M.S. ’15] — someone I always looked up to. . . . She told me, ‘You deserve to go. You are just as fast as any of those girls.’

Puppy love: Cares for her own rescue dog, Wesley, and helps her mom, Stacy — owner of Stacy’s Pet Porium — provide foster care for animals. “We have anywhere from 10 to 15 puppies at any one time — all rescues.”

On her Teammates: “We have one common goal this season — winning the NE-10.”

Katie Crochet, swimmer, Northeast-10

3 new undergraduate programs

Three recently approved programs promise to meet workforce needs and prepare Southern students for jobs in exciting, rapidly evolving fields.

The university is adding Bachelor of Science degree programs in biotechnology and in environmental systems and sustainability studies, both of which will start this fall. While the two programs are rooted in science, they will be multidisciplinary in nature to provide students with the breadth of knowledge and the tools to take on real world issues.

Meanwhile, a concentration in public utility management – within the Bachelor of Science degree program in business administration – is designed to focus on utilities, such as water, gas, electric and wastewater. The program also is interdisciplinary and intended to provide students with an opportunity to fill managerial and technological job openings that are occurring as a result of the aging of the workforce in the public utilities field.

The B.S. in biotechnology requires 32 credits in biology and 23-24 credits in the related areas of math, physics and chemistry. The program will include a combination of existing courses and several new courses – such as Introduction to Bioinformatics and Seminar in Biotechnology. It also will provide students with internship opportunities with bioscience companies throughout the region.

“We are very excited to offer this major,” said Nicholas Edgington, an associate professor of biology who will serve as coordinator of the new program. “Jobs – good, high paying jobs – are plentiful in this cutting-edge field. Students will come away with a background that will enable them to be competitive for these biotechnology positions.”

Christine Broadbridge, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Innovation, said she is thrilled with the launch of the degree program. She noted its connection with the Bioscience Academic and Career Pathway Initiative (BioPath) — a partnership between Southern and the city of New Haven that was designed specifically to meet the workforce needs of area biotech companies.

“We have optimized our courses to align with the needs of local industry,” Broadbridge said. “Students will be uniquely prepared for internships with these companies and for immediate employment.”

Examples of biotechnology uses include the biopharmaceutical industry to treat or cure diseases, such as cancer; testing the body’s reaction to medical devices, and clinical genetic testing.

The B.S. in environmental systems and sustainability studies will offer students the chance to focus on one of three concentrations within the major – environmental systems, coastal marine systems, and environmental policy and management.

“It really is going to be an exciting program,” said Vincent Breslin, professor of the environment, geography and marine sciences, who helped organize the major. “It takes a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to environmental and sustainability issues.

“As an example, let’s take climate change. Sure, the solution sounds simple – eliminate the use of fossil fuels. But realistically, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So, what are our options? What steps can we take? The students will look at those options and the social and economic consequences they could have on society. There is a need for professionals who understand the complexities associated with environmental problems and solutions,” he said.

The program will require students to take about 40 credits in their major, differing slightly based on their concentration. All students will take 15 foundational credits, including an introduction to environmental and marine studies, an introduction to the principles of sustainability and a research methods course. They will also will complete an experiential component, such as an internship, research experience and participating in a seminar.

Breslin said the major incorporates various disciplines – including biology, geography, earth science, environmental studies, marine studies, public health, political science and business management.

The public utilities management concentration requires 30 credits, including courses in crisis/risk management, green energy and environmental sustainability, and workforce safety and industry regulatory codes. It also includes courses in business communications, business law, public utility/governmental accounting, and business continuity planning.

The program is a collaborative effort that also includes public utility companies in the region and Gateway Community College. Students at Gateway can earn a certificate or an associate degree in public utility management, and then transfer to Southern to pursue a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in public utility management.

The departments facing the most pressing hiring needs in the public utility field include customer service, field operations, employee relations, information technology, purchasing, and finance and quality assurance, according to an industry study conducted by SCSU and Gateway.

“At Southern, one of our commitments is to meet the needs of the state workforce,” said Ellen Durnin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This is exactly the type of program that will accomplish that goal. At the same time, it will provide our students with skills necessary for a career in that field.”



Hello again! Here are the three videos I created from my trip to Italy. I went to Rome, Florence, and Pisa over an eight-day period. It was the biggest trip I went on in Europe but I went with my two Southern flat mates, Shannon and Andrea. We planned the entire trip on our own from the hostels, to trains across the Italian country side, to finding tours or simply exploring the cities ourselves! We got a lot of tips and advice from friends and family who have previously studied abroad or went to these cities.

The videos were all done with my iPhone and a selfie-stick. I held the selfie stick like holding someone’s hand so the entire blogs are meant to look as if YOU, the viewer, was with me the whole trip!

Italy has always been somewhere I wanted to go but it greatly exceeded my expectations. The Italian culture is simply beautiful from the language, to the historic roman architecture, and of course, the food! The people we met were also completely inspiring and enriched this experience. We me an older couple from Florida who raised kids and made a good life for themselves but then decided two years ago that they wanted more out of life. So what did they do? They sold their house and everything they owned, and have been traveling across Europe for the past two years. We were lucky enough to meet them in a café in Roma. We also met a nineteen-year old who was enjoying the views of the Vatican on his last day of his 11-month solo journey around the world.

My eyes of the world significantly got wider from this Italian adventure. It was an experience I will never forget. These videos try to do justice to what I saw and experienced for those eight days. I hope you enjoy them, and if I were you, start planning your trip to Italia!


America in Liverpool



School of Business, marketing students

Southern’s Student Marketing Club (SUMA Marketing) recently placed among the semi-finalists at the prestigious International Collegiate Case Study competition after developing a comprehensive campaign for an ecommerce giant.

Each fall, the American Marketing Association hosts the Collegiate Case Competition for its 370 student chapters around the world. Every year, a different company sponsor provides the chapters with a marketing problem that they are prompted to solve through a comprehensive 40-page marketing plan.

“This was the first time that an ecommerce company (eBay) was used as a case study, so for our students, this was great experience in digital marketing,” said Randye Spina, assistant professor of marketing and faculty advisor to SUMA.

The challenge was to increase eBay’s participation in the online trading marketplace by Millennial and Generation Z non-users. Listed as one of the most valuable brands in the world with more than $8 billion in revenue in 2015 and with an estimated 164 million active buyers as of the second quarter of 2016, eBay is facing an increasingly crowded and competitive market with competition from rivals such as Amazon, Alibaba, craigslist, and Etsy.

To address the challenge, SUMA collected primary and secondary market research, devised a marketing strategy, and created an integrated marketing communication plan with creative marketing tactics — all within the sponsor’s provided budget.

From data collected through 186 completed surveys of commuter and resident students “we learned that many young adults think of eBay as their parents’ website, while theirs is Amazon,” said SUMA Marketing President Julia Rotella.

“To overcome this, our recommendations included tapping into their existing business assets including Shyp (their trucking company) and StubHub (the world’s largest ticket site),” Rotella said. “In addition we recommended using several demographically-relevant social media influencers as spokespeople and we recommended simplifications to their website to make the user experience easier for younger audiences who don’t want to ‘bid’ but would rather buy.”

The resulting annual plan for July 2017 through August 2018 saw Southern’s team placed among the top 20 competing colleges, when results were announced in January.

“The students were thrilled, this is a major accomplishment for them,” Spina said. “They deserve a lot of credit for finishing in a group of finalists that included representation from some very prestigious schools.”

This year, for the first time, due to the complexity and difficulty of the project, the AMA Case Study was run as a three-credit course (MKT 398). Past Southern entries were based solely on club activities, Spina said.

About SUMA Marketing

SUMA (SCSU Undergraduate Marketing Association) is Southern’s collegiate chapter of the American Marketing Association. SUMA provides members with marketing and professional experience through national competitions, fundraising, community service, and much more. For more information visit:

About the American Marketing Association

American Marketing Association student membership and AMA collegiate chapter affiliation offers many benefits, from career resources, platforms for professional development and experiential learning, execution of chapter events, leadership development, to taking part in the many AMA competitions offered annually. For more information visit:

Students in Nicaragua

Winter break may feel like just a distant memory for most students by now, but for one group of Southern students, this year’s break created memories that will last a lifetime.

Members of a university club called Global Brigades traveled to Nicaragua from January 5-13 to work on a project to help improve water access and sanitation for a remote village. The students did all of the planning and fundraising for the trip and did not receive course credit for their work; their efforts were all volunteer. “I think this level of volunteerism abroad is a first for SCSU,” says Michael Schindel, assistant director of the Office of International Education and the club’s adviser.

The Southern group is a chapter of the national nonprofit organization Global Brigades, the largest student-led international community service group. Global Brigades operates in four countries — Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama — and provides ongoing support within the countries. Essentially, different college chapters fundraise to pay for airfare, accommodation, and funds to support the projects in these countries for periods of one week to 10 days, with the option of going for longer. One university chapter joins a project after another leaves, so that the projects can remain continuous. The projects focus on different community needs relating to public health, medical and dental needs, engineering, microfinance, water access, and human rights.

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

The Southern chapter has been on campus for two years, and this was the group’s first time conducting a “brigade” abroad. Students Sleman Hussein and Amanda Saslow and a core group of other students started the chapter; they drafted the constitution, made all the connections with the national organization, and recruited members. For the trip to Nicaragua, the executive board oversaw all of the travel arrangements, as well as fundraising, planning the “Charla” (a community public health lesson that was presented to a group of children, entirely in Spanish), and designing the t-shirts.

Hussain praises the dedication of the students who joined Global Brigades. “We went through many hurdles and obstacles to build the club,” he says. “We have 14 devoted people who spent the last couple years fundraising money, not for a vacation, or to donate to a church or soup kitchen. No, we have 14 devoted people who took time out of their busy college schedules to go to a third world country and break their backs for a week.”

Saslow agrees, adding, “I am so beyond proud of not only the 14 individuals joining us on the brigade but the entire Global Brigades family that we’ve established at Southern. It has been incredible seeing students support each other and stand by each other in an environment where it’s very easy to feel alone. Working with these 14 people has been a life-changing experience and I’m definitely walking out of here with a heck of a lot more than just a degree.”

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

Student Emily Gersz, a member of the club who went to Nicaragua, says she found the experience “life-changing.” She admits the trip “was a ton of hard work . . . but I’d do it 100 times over to see the gratitude in the eyes of the families we helped.”

According to Paul Nicholas, a member of the club’s e-board, the students did manual labor each day for five days, waking up at 6 a.m., taking a two-hour bus ride to Jinotega, the community where they worked, and then working side-by-side with the families they were helping. Together, they built concrete floors, sanitary stations, and septic tanks for homes that were typically made out of cinderblocks and wood branches, with dirt floors.

“The families were so welcoming and humble; letting us (complete strangers) work in and outside their homes,” Nicholas says. He explains that the group worked on building sanitary stations because many families don’t have toilets or showers at all. Because the women have back problems from always bending down to scrub clothes when doing laundry, the wash stations in the sanitary stations were raised to a higher level.

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

Nicholas says the conditions some of the families live in helped him realize that “there are so many more important things to worry about in this world . . . as opposed to all the small things we worry about here in the U.S.” He learned that the men in Jinotega make about two dollars a day, while the women have to walk miles carrying clean water from a clean source. Before Global Brigades became involved in helping Jinotega, the village’s water had a high concentration of fecal matter, causing parasites and disease. The solution Global Brigades is providing is to build an irrigation system directly connecting clean water from the mountains to many communities.

Part of the Global Brigades model is to have the community receiving assistance also participate in the work and provide some funding, so that the community is helping itself and taking ownership of the improvement projects.

Student Annie Kaczmarczyk’s outlook on life was transformed by her experience on the trip. “My perspective on what I take for granted has been drastically changed after seeing people live without basic life necessities,” she says. “What impacted me most on the trip is truly how much compassion and joy the people of Nicaragua have, even in such a dire state.”

Schindel says, “I am so proud of and impressed by this group of students. They took all of this on, set a goal, and worked all year towards achieving it.” Schindel applauds the students for volunteering their winter breaks “to spend it digging trenches for water pipes, laying concrete foundations in people’s homes, building sanitation stations with access to potable water and waste removal, and teaching children about proper hygiene.”

See an album of students’ photos from the Global Brigades trip.
Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

A team of Southern business students has earned a berth in next month’s Northeast Venture Capital Investment Competition after securing a victory recently in a similar statewide event.

The team of Peter Blanchet, Alec Santo and Paul Barlow turned back stiff competition from Quinnipiac and Fairfield universities in December to gain the win. It marked the second straight time a Southern team won the Connecticut Venture Capital Investment Competition. Last March, the trio of Santo, Barlow and Egzon Dauti took the inaugural edition of the state competition.

Student teams from Connecticut colleges and universities presented business and investment plans. The investment plans were evaluated by investment industry professionals.

“It was a wonderful achievement for our students,” said Adam Abugri, chairman of the Economics and Finance Department and faculty advisor. “To qualify for competition against schools such as Harvard, MIT, and Cornell speaks to the capabilities of Southern’s students. We all should be proud of our students.”

In addition to the trophy, the team earned a $500 grant from the Entrepreneurship Foundation Inc. to support the travel expenses that will be incurred for the trip to Boston for the regional competition. The team’s entry fee for the regional competition has also been paid for by the foundation.

“Your students acquitted themselves well,” said Mike Roer, president of the Entrepreneurship Foundation, to Abugri. “You should be very proud of them.” Roer plans to present the trophy to the team at a future event on campus.

“Applying classroom investment techniques in a competitive, hands-on atmosphere is truly exhilarating,” Santo said. “This experience motivates my passion to pursue a competitive career path.”

Blanchet expressed similar sentiments.

“I learned a lot from this experience and it was exciting to hear pitches from so many passionate student entrepreneurs,” he said. “I was impressed by how dedicated these entrepreneurs were to their start-ups, and it was interesting to negotiate with them as if we were truly in a position to invest heavily into their companies.”