Monthly Archives: April 2019

Professor Kevin

✉️ Deliver to:

Dr. Kevin Buterbaugh
Professor and Department Chair
Department of Political Science


Dear Professor,

You see the best in students and invest in them accordingly. You constantly introduce students to scholarships, internships, and extracurricular opportunities that you think they should strive for. Even when a student feels they are not equipped for it, you encourage (and convince!) students to try anyway. You address your advisees as your equals; never once have I seen you talk down to a student or make them feel as if their questions or concerns are not worth your time.

Thank you,
Tea Carter, ’20 🦉


About Dr. Buterbaugh

Favorite Teaching Moments:

I have many favorite teaching memories. I have two in regards to Tea Carter who nominated me.

Tea in my Contemporary World Politics class asked me a question on civil war resolution. I gave a rather cursory answer to Tea. Once class was over I realized that my answer was insufficient. I went home and reviewed the material we read for class and reviewed material I had collected on civil wars and their resolution. I began my next class by answering properly Tea’s question. Why is this a favorite memory? This is why I teach – to be challenged by students – and to interact. I learn as students learn. And, it is often through the most challenging questions that I learn the most. Or even learn that I do not have an answer.

Two weeks ago I read the first draft of Tea’s thesis proposal. I was amazed by its quality and the growth that it showed. Tea came in as a very strong student, but her thesis proposal shows she has reached a new level. Watching her grow through 3 years at Southern has been a wonderful experience. I am proud of the small part I may have played in her growth. And, I feel honored to be her thesis advisor.

Teaching Philosophy:

My primary philosophy is that students write to learn – and learn to write.

Thus, my classes have many small writing assignments connected to course readings. These assignments help students to engage with the course material. In engaging, they learn to write.  Through their writing, they learn the course material – but more importantly – how to interpret, critique, and discuss course material. The assignments are low pressure – none will be decisive in the grade – this allows students to work without fearing failure. The assignments are significant in total but each on its own is not.

I also work to encourage students – especially – through advisement. I often send students emails encouraging them to participate in an activity, to compete in a contest or to apply for an internship. I hope by encouraging students that they will expand their world and become more active in their educations. Students often do not know how good they can be. Part of my role is to prod them into activities where I believe they can thrive, even when they may not believe it themselves.

Favorite Course to Teach:

This is a difficult one. I guess “PSC 230: War” is my favorite course. It is a Tier 2 LEP course that is not tied at all to the major. So, I get a wide variety of students that take it.

The course covers a broad range of content – theories of war, ethics in war, and the experience of war (soldiers and civilians). The diversity of the classroom leads to some very interesting discussions. This is especially the case when we get to the experience of war, as students engage with first-person narratives.

I created this course in 2012 when the new LEP came online. I teach it every semester. I have tweaked the course occasionally – but in general – the course has been so rewarding that I have kept the general framework of the course the same. This is rare for me. Most of my courses change fundamentally every 3 or 4 years.

Recent Courses Taught:

Fall 2018:

  • PSC 230: War
  • PSC 398: Terrorism – Extreme Politics

Ariana Bengston, Victoria Bresnahan, Taylor Hurley, and Zachary Jezek

Four outstanding students at Southern have been selected for the Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award.

A total of 12 students are chosen for the award each year from the four Connecticut State University campuses, including a quartet from Southern. It is considered among the university’s most prestigious awards. Criteria include a 3.7 GPA and having demonstrated significant participation in university and/or community life. They were honored at a recent banquet at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.

*Ariana Bengtson of Newington is an English major with a concentration in professional writing and a history and Spanish minor with a 3.94 GPA.

She is a member of the Honors College and recipient of the Presidential Scholarship and the Roberta B. Willis Merit Scholarship. She is president of the SCSU Global Brigades, where she organized and executed a medical brigade with 18 students to Nicaragua.

Bengtson is also a writing tutor in SCSU’s Academic Success Center and an editorial assistant at SCSU’s Metaphilosophy journal. She is an intern with the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants in Bridgeport, helping victims of human trafficking get access to legal and social services. She eventually hopes to work for a nonprofit organization to help immigrants and refugees, and then as a human rights lawyer.

Cynthia Stretch, professor of English, praised Bengtson both as a student and as a writing tutor she supervised.

“Ariana excelled at her work,” Stretch said. “I never had to second guess or worry about the actual reading and writing instruction she was providing to the students; it was always on point. And she very quickly established a near-peer tutoring relationship with the students that was friendly, approachable, and yet down-to-business.”

*Victoria Bresnahan of Trumbull is a journalism major and women’s studies minor with a 3.97 GPA.

She is the recipient of the Outstanding Women’s Studies Student Award, the Robin M. Glassman Journalism Scholarship, and the Charles S. and Eugenia M. Whitney Journalism Scholarship for academic excellence and commitment to her major. She is a news editor and general reporter for Southern News, and a co-editor in chief of Crescent magazine. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, where she served as secretary.

She also worked as a copy editor for a local art magazine and is currently manager of the Southport Galleries. After graduation, Victoria intends to write for a newspaper or accept a fellowship, and plans to obtain her master’s degree in women’s studies or journalism.

Cindy Simoneau, chairwoman of the Journalism Department, said Bresnahan has been an excellent editor who also served as a mentor to her fellow student journalists.

“I have seen this confident and selfless approach toward fellow students in the classroom as well as through these student activities,” Simoneau said. “Victoria is simply, a leader among students who will, no doubt, be a leader among professionals someday soon.”

*Taylor Hurley of Canaan is an elementary education major and interdisciplinary studies minor with a 3.94 GPA.

She received several scholarships, including the Roberta B. Willis Merit Scholarship and SCSU Foundation scholarships. She is an Urban Education Fellow, which is a student-led program for students committed to social justice and education.

Hurley also worked with students at the Beecher Museum Magnet School, Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School, and Quinnipiac STEM School. She volunteers at Noble Horizons, assisting residents in daily living; and at Salisbury Central School.

She hopes to work in the education system with an interest at studying systemic inequities in education and the goal of attending graduate school.

Jessica Powell, assistant professor of curriculum and learning, said Hurley demonstrated strong leadership and collaborative skills in her classroom and as an Urban Education Fellow.

“She worked with her peers to navigate and grapple with controversial topics and helped the group come to consensus,” Powell said. “She also was a leader in presenting ideas to the class and challenging her peers to consider the ethical dimensions of education. I feel confident that Taylor is graduating from our program as a beginning teacher who will be a positive change agent in whichever school community she serves.”

*Zachary Jezek of Moodus is a public health major with a 3.92 GPA

He was the owner of Grist Mill Market in Moodus from 2005-18, where he helped address the issue of food insecurity. Currently, Jezek is an intern with the state Department of Public Health Food Protection program, where he is responsible in helping review and test data systems, log foodborne illness complains, and track certified food inspectors and food establishment inspection reports.

Jezek will be trained in the National Environmental Reporting System and become a certified food inspector. He belongs to the East Haddam Lions Club, where he twice served as president and was awarded the Lions International Melvin Jones Fellowship. He is a member of the East Haddam Leos, where he advises 12- to 18-year-old students through community engagement. He intends to earn his master’s degree in public health at SCSU with the goal of becoming a health director.

Elizabeth Schwartz, instructor of public health, said Jezek was not only prepared for each class, but was ready to tackle challenging concepts.

“Though he often came to class with a given perspective on an issue, he also made it very clear that he is open to grappling with new ideas and points of view, an attitude that I believe is at the core of a meaningful college education,” Schwartz said. “In presenting this combination of gentle confidence and open-mindedness. Zac was a role model to his classmates, demonstrating that being a distinguished student isn’t just about knowing the ‘right’ answers but is about exercising patience, fortitude, respect and encouragement.”

Get to know the 2019 Barnard Scholars in these video interviews.

 

 

Daisha Brabham, '17

To meet Daisha Brabham is to be immediately swept up in her infectious enthusiasm for history. Brabham graduated from Southern in 2017 with a degree in history, and her passion for her discipline, along with her scholarship and creative activity, are taking her far. She has just been awarded a prestigious U.S. Fulbright – U.K. Partnership Award that will allow her to receive full funding to complete a Master’s of Public History degree at Royal Holloway University of London during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Brabham currently teaches U.S. history and an advanced placement course in human geography at the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, based at the University of New Haven. Previously, she taught for a year at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.

Her Fulbright project will involve a play she wrote for an independent study in the Women’s Studies Program in her senior year. During her senior spring and the summer following, the play — Homegoing: A Herstory of the Black Woman — was performed on campus, but Brabham has reworked the script and says it is now “an entirely new play.” Homegoing reflects the history of Black womanhood in America, beginning with the Yoruba tradition of West Africa and going on to travel with a number of different African American women, such as Venus Hottentot, Billie Holiday, and Mammie.

Brabham says that originally, the play “was like a physical manifestation of my search for myself.” During her junior year, she studied at the University of Plymouth, U.K., where she became interested in researching the lives of women in Elizabethan England. But then, she says, she realized she was studying women who had already been studied extensively and she was “leaving out women who looked like me.”

She changed her focus to African American women and decided to write Homegoing, but as the play has evolved, it has come to be more about women in the African diaspora around the world. “I am drawing all of these narratives together about what it means to be black,” she says. She sees the play as a celebration of resistance and as bringing to the public “those stories we don’t talk about.”

The play features 10 actresses, the majority of whom are high school students from the Greater New Haven area. Brabham herself is also in the play. A teacher to her core, Brabham wants her students to learn the history of the women they are portraying in the play.

Being a teacher can be confining, she says, due to curriculum requirements, adding that she works in a school where more than half of the students are African American, and she “really wants African American people to know about their own history.” In the play, she uses traditional African modes of communication, such as song, dance, and movement.

Homegoing is now Brabham’s bridge to her future, as she’ll be incorporating voices from black Britain in the play as part of her Fulbright project. As a student at Royal Holloway, she will have access to the National Archives, the London Records Office, the Black Cultural Archives. She also plans to interview some of the women she meets.

“I’m a public historian,” Brabham says, explaining that public history is about bringing historical knowledge to the public in engaging ways, such as museums, exhibitions, documentaries, and theater. This means of presenting history is important, she says, because it makes history accessible. “It lets people learn about themselves,” she says.

Tricia Lin, who served as the faculty adviser/sponsor for Brabham’s senior independent study, wrote in her Fulbright recommendation for Brabham that her project “will be of tremendous contribution to the literature/scholarship on Black womanhood . . . The complex untold stories of Black women is . . . Daisha’s intellectual project—which is truly her calling.”

Darcy Kern, assistant professor of history, who was Brabham’s adviser at Southern, wrote in her letter of support for Brabham’s Fulbright application that Brabham was “the most enthusiastic student I have had at SCSU” and that Brabham “offers a unique, refreshing perspective on women’s history, in part because of her own background.”

Assistant Director of the Office of International Education Michael Schindel, the Fulbright Program Advisor, says that, “Those who have worked with Daisha know that she is incredibly persistent. She is receiving this award after her third attempt at applying for a Fulbright grant. There is only one slot for the U.K. Partnership Award to Royal Holloway University and it is highly competitive.”

Brabham credits the people she worked with at Southern over the years with helping her realize her goals. “The History Department really changed not only my view of the world but also of myself,” she says. “I received such loving, caring feedback, advice on life, etc. – they gave me great advice not only on how to be a historian but also on how to be a good human.”

And the Women’s Studies Program “taught me how to be a good person and not to give up and be persistent and keep going. The confidence they had in me helped me keep going,” she says.

Homegoing: A Herstory of the Black Woman will be presented twice on May 5, 2019: at 12 p.m. and at 6 p.m., in the Garner Recital Hall (Engleman C112). Tickets are $10 with an SCSU I.D. and $15 for general public. Purchase tickets online.

Digital Content Editor Jeff Nowak working at computer in the New Orleans Advocate newsroom as Investigations Editor Gordon Russell walks behind. Russell was a leader in the reporting effort for the non-unanimous juries project that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Photo credit: The Advocate (Side note: Mural behind Jeff he says is one of the coolest features of our newsroom. It's a collage of front pages from New Orleans-area newspapers through the years. Picture taken in September 2017 amid the long news-gathering process for the series that debuted in April 2018).

April 2019 was a great month for journalism at Southern. Student journalists won six awards at the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Region 1 Conference in Boston and a recent alumnus was part of a New Orleans-based newspaper team that won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

As part of The Advocate team that won the nation’s most prestigious journalism award, Jeffrey Nowak, a 2012 journalism graduate, prepared the digital presentation, compiled a massive splash page, created an interactive timeline, and led social promotion for a series that helped change Louisiana’s controversial split-jury law.

Nowak, a native of Windham, Conn., and graduate of Windham High School, joined The Advocate digital content staff in April 2106. He leads many efforts in New Orleans while also working remotely with Baton Rouge and Lafayette, La., newsrooms. His team consists of four digital content editors and a digital general manager.

Before relocating to New Orleans, Nowak worked as a digital editor, production desk chief and sports producer at The Sun in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Previously he had been a reporter at The Daily Voice in Westborough, Mass., and a freelance sports writer for the Hartford Courant. While a student at Southern, Nowak was editor-in-chief of the Southern News. And in 2102 he received the Outstanding Journalist of the Year award from the Journalism Department.

Meanwhile, at the regional SPJ conference, journalists from Southern’s new student-published Crescent magazine won four awards, including the Finalist Award for Best Student Magazine for its fall 2018 edition, the second publication in its young start.

Alumna and journalism minor Jefferine Jean-Jacques was the winner in the Feature Photography category for her series of photos, “Through the lens,” published in Crescent’s inaugural edition in spring 2018. Jean-Jacques’ photo package was culled from various trips she took with her three children to countries including Haiti, India, Ghana and Ethiopia. Her photos will move on to the national SPJ college competition.

Other regional winners for Crescent included managing editor Jacob Waring, who won a Finalist award for the non-fiction magazine article, “A lot to juggle,” about SCSU students who are also parents in the fall 2018 edition. Photo editor Meghan Olson, a Studio Art-Photography major, won a Finalist award for Feature Photography, for “Funky hair,” the fall 2018 cover package.

Southern News Editor-in-chief Kevin Crompton won a finalist award in the Sports Writing category for a profile on Owls linebacker Jhaaron Wallace, “Wallace joins elite company in record books.” The story highlights the journey from high school to college for one of the top defensive players to come through the Owls football program.

The student newspaper’s second award went to former Managing Editor Joshua LaBella, alumnus, and former Op Ed/Features editor August Pelliccio: a finalist award for Breaking News Reporting.

Each category included one winner and one finalist. SPJ Region 1 encompasses universities from Maine through New England to New York, New Jersey to Philadelphia.

Photo credit for home page image: The Advocate (Digital Content Editor Jeff Nowak working at computer in the New Orleans Advocate newsroom as Investigations Editor Gordon Russell walks behind. Russell was a leader in the reporting effort for the non-unanimous juries project that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.)

Could research on an Amazonian plant save indigenous tribes - and help get you through that mid-afternoon slump? Assistant Professor of Chemistry James Kearns helps investigate.

On site in Ecuador are [from left] James Kearns, assistant professor of chemistry; a member of the Secoya; Luke Weiss, an American who assimilated into the Secoya and is fighting to save their way of life; and senior Brokk Tollefson.

He’s endured sweltering temperatures, swum in treacherous waters, hunted wild rodents for food, and encountered the occasional inhospitable native. And then there were the bugs — swarms of tiny sandflies eager to feast on any bit of exposed ankle or shin.

Welcome to the world of scientist James Kearns, who spends part of his professional life in the laboratory and Southern classroom — and the other conducting research in remote corners of the world.

An assistant professor of chemistry at Southern, Kearns travels deep inside the Amazon jungle for several weeks each summer, living with an indigenous tribe known as the Secoya. His research subject is the Paullinia yoco, a tropical vine that grows wild among the trees in the eastern Ecuadorian rainforest, near the Peruvian and Colombian borders.

As the sun sets, Tollefson cools off from the blistering heat.

Kearns has studied the plant’s chemical properties (its bark contains high concentrations of caffeine and theobromine, a stimulant found in chocolate) and is exploring its potential use in energy drinks. The Secoya make a tea from the bark and consume it early in the morning for sustained energy before a day of hunting or farming.

A member of the Secoya scrapes bark from the vine. Assistant Professor Kearns helped investigate the chemical composition of various parts of the plant.

“It’s similar to taking in a couple of cups of coffee, but the effects lasts longer because materials that are in the bark result in much slower absorption into the stomach,” Kearns explains.

It’s not unusual for scientists and academics to conduct fieldwork in remote places, or even to bring adventure-seeking students along. But Kearns describes his Amazon trips as “a totally different level of incredible insanity.”

The Secoya village is only accessible by boat.

The journey alone is a test of mental stamina. Traveling to the village begins with an eight-hour plane ride to Ecuador’s capital, Quito, followed by 12 hours on a bus to Lago Agrio, an oil city that developed in the 1960s as a base camp for Texaco. From there it’s a two-hour taxi ride to the village of San Pablo, and another 40 minutes by motorized canoe to a Secoya settlement accessible only by boat.

“There are a lot of challenges and risks,” Kearns says. He first learned about the Secoya as a college student in 1996. While studying biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts, he worked for an engineering firm that was developing a water-filtration system for the tribe.

Assisting with farming is part of the experience.

The Secoya live downriver from Ecuador’s largest oil fields, and decades of drilling and exploitation by the petroleum industry has contaminated their water sources. In response, villagers have turned to harvesting rainwater, Kearns explains.

In 2012, shortly before joining the faculty at Southern, he first traveled to Ecuador for a separate research project that involved testing water samples for airborne pollutants. There, he met Luke Weiss, an American who had assimilated into the tribe and married a Secoya woman.

Kearns helps the family prep dinner while Weiss carves a paddle.

Weiss is working with Amazon Frontlines, a nonprofit organization that is helping the 500 or so Secoya and other nearby tribes reverse the devastation caused by industrialization and preserve their way of life.

The pair became fast friends (Kearns is now godfather to Weiss’ daughter), and on a canoe trip one afternoon, Weiss led Kearns to a wild yoco vine entwined around a fallen tree. He showed him how to scrape off the bark with a machete and squeeze it into a gourd to make a cold-water infusion, similar to a tea.

The dream, Weiss told him, was to harness the plant’s stimulant properties for use in an energy drink, turning the wild vine into a sustainable cash crop that could reduce the Secoya’s dependence on oil drilling as an income source. (Many younger Secoya have taken jobs with oil companies in nearby cities, threatening the dwindling tribe’s future.)

Weiss sips a beverage made from the Paullinia yoco plant.

So in 2013, just as Kearns was settling into a new teaching job at Southern, Weiss enrolled in a master’s program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science to study the plant’s viability as an agricultural product — and he enlisted his friend the SCSU chemist to help with the research.

The pair spent the next two years analyzing samples of the woody vine in a lab at Yale, using a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography to measure caffeine and theobromine levels in the bark, seeds, and leaves. They found higher levels of the chemicals than initially thought, with the greatest concentrations in the bark. Perhaps not surprisingly, they also discovered that the most potent plants were those with the thickest stems. Their findings were published in the Yale journal Tropical Resources in 2015.

Amazon Frontlines has used the newfound knowledge to help pinpoint the yoco’s optimal growing conditions, and is now helping the Secoya and allied tribes experimentally farm some 3,000 of the formerly wild plants. In August 2018, Kearns returned to the settlement with Southern student photographer and sociology major Brokk Tollefson to document their progress.

The pair also spent part of the trip in the Andean region of Ecuador, working with a women’s cooperative that uses sap from the Agave Americana plant to make agave-based sweeteners. Kearns is leading a research project at Southern that involves testing the sap for the presence of toxic metals as well. (He received a provisional patent for a low-cost field kit that detects metal levels. It was developed based on research conducted in collaboration with then-student Cody Edson, ’16, M.S. ’17.)

Camera in hand, senior Brokk Tollefson travels to the next research site.

Embracing the Challenge
Because it’s so demanding, Kearns usually travels to the rainforest solo. But he was confident the 26-year-old Tollefson, who served four years active duty in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Afghanistan, could handle the trip. Staying with Weiss and his family, they spent 10 days immersed in tribal routines, which included back-breaking agricultural work in extreme heat. Tollefson took more than 1,000 photos of the yoco farming and other aspects of Secoya life for an independent study project.

Even the military-trained Tollefson, however, wasn’t fully prepared for life in the jungle. “The bugs were crazy, the weather was hardly bearable, and after waking up to a very large cockroach the size of my fist crawling on my arm, it was hard to sleep,” he says. “It was the most sobering and surreal experience of my life.”

But then he adds: “I’d love to do it again.”

Photos by Southern student Brokk Tollefson, a sociology major and journalism minor, who will graduate in May 24, 2019.

Alumna's debut young adult novel is among the most eagerly anticipated.

Erin Jones, ’10, majored in journalism at Southern -- and has made her mark in the red-hot young adult book market with her debut novel, Tinfoil Crowns.

Barnes & Noble (B&N) stocks more than 1 million titles for immediate delivery — so it’s a particular thrill for authors to find their work among the mega-retailer’s most eagerly awaited. So it was for author Erin Jones, ’10, whose debut young-adult novel, Tinfoil Crowns, (Flux Books) was included on B&N’s “10 Most Anticipated Indie YA Books for 2019.”

“This of-the-minute narrative is accessible and authentic, layered with diverse, flawed, and immensely likable characters.” -Kirkus Reviews

Coming to readers on May 7, Tinfoil Crowns is about a 17-year-old YouTube star named Fit and her mission to become famous. But there’s one thing her fans don’t know: when Fit was 3 years old, her mother, who was suffering from postpartum psychosis, tried to kill her and her sibling. The book is also noted as a rainbow read (LGBTQ) and for including an adult point of view. It’s a portrayal Kirkus Reviews calls “an empathetic glimpse into the rise of tomorrow’s celebrity du jour.”

Jones graduated magna cum laude from Southern with a degree in journalism and went on to earn a graduate degree from Emerson College, where she’s now an affiliated faculty member. She’s also editor-in-chief of the Platform Review, a literary journal focused on publishing quality literature from emerging and established writers. The former head of marketing at Ploughshares, Jones regularly contributes to the Ploughshares Blog.

A Global Brigades service trip to Ghana provides senior Princess Bart-Addison with an opportunity to "give back" and connect with her family's heritage.

Taking a break, during Global Brigade's 2019 trip to Ghana. Princess Bart-Addison is second from left.

Senior Princess Bart-Addison was born and raised in the Bronx. But she grew up hearing stories about the Republic of Ghana — her parents’ homeland — and, while English is her first language, she also speaks Twi (Akan), one of the more than 250 languages and dialects spoken in the country. In 2018, she paid her first visit to Ghana, traveling alongside her mother who’d left the country more than two and a half decades earlier and was returning for the first time.

Bart-Addison recalls the trip as life-changing; the people electrifying. Children walked throughout the streets selling items to passersby. A young woman carried her child on her back, deftly balancing large packages on her head as she walked through the streets. “Everyone is doing something. There is so much determination,” says Bart-Addison. Inspired, she visited an elementary school in Ghana — and, upon returning to the U.S., helped her sister, a high school senior, collect much-needed supplies to send to the students.

In January 2019, Bart-Addison returned to Ghana, traveling with the university’s chapter of Global Brigades — a secular, student-led service organization. Global Brigades has university chapters throughout the world with an overarching goal: to empower volunteers to help resolve global health and economic disparities in communities around the globe.

Founded in 2016, Southern’s chapter has quickly attracted members. Bart-Addison was one of 21 Southern students to join the brigade along with a faculty member. “I was so excited to be going back to Ghana. The first time was a vacation. This time was for service. It was a different feeling,” she says.

Southern participated in a “public health brigade,” traveling to the community of Ekumpoano in Ghana to help local masons build biodigester tanks for use with pour-flush toilets. The work is critically needed. Nationally, 22.9 percent of people in Ghana do not have access to any sanitation facilities (open defecation is the norm) and only 15 percent use improved, unshared sanitation facilities, according to UNICEF.

Global Brigades launched its first public health initiative in Ghana in January 2019, so the Southern students joined the effort on the ground floor. For Bart-Addison, the prospect was simultaneously exhilarating and intimidating. “There was a group before us, so we saw what they had built [a completed biodigester tank]. I remember thinking, ‘How are we going to do this?” she says.

Members of Southern’s Global Brigade team hard at work on the biodigester.

The group began by meeting with families in the community. “We went to their homes to introduce ourselves . . . to ask them about their problems, and learn about their families and their needs,” says Bart-Addison. The next day, the students divided into groups of four or five, and were paired with a local mason. The construction techniques were vastly different than in the U.S. “We have machines to mix the cement. Over there, they pour the cement on the floor, add the water, and then turn it with a shovel,” says Bart-Addison, who was able to assist her group as a translator.

The students stayed in a modernized hotel, traveling by bus each day to the community. With temperatures rising through the 90s, they worked from early morning through the late afternoon, using cement, cinder blocks, bricks, and sand to help construct the biodigester tanks. “There was so much sand and dirt in our shoes and on our clothes. And we were so tired immediately after, but on the bus ride back we always had enough energy to sing and talk,” she says.

Southern’s team built five biodigesters. After completing the project, they provided lessons on how to correctly use the systems. They also taught a children’s class on hygiene, demonstrating proper hand-washing techniques with a song. “One of my friends wrote it in their language. It was really nice. The children sat in a circle and sang it to us,” says Bart-Addison.

Students received an invitation to meet with the local chief.

This connection with the community was a high point for Bart-Addison. The group enjoyed trips to several historical and cultural sites — and was invited to meet with the chief at his palace. He thanked the students profusely, invited them back, and even exchanged cellphone numbers.

Completing the project brought an amazing sense of accomplishment and gratitude. “It definitely gives you a great sense of appreciation. I have a toilet that flushes — and I don’t think anything of it. But to them, this is probably the best thing that has happened in a very long time. . . . It will make a difference in their lives.They will remember it,” says Bart-Addison, with a smile.

As will she. An interdisciplinary studies major with concentrations in forensic science, sociology, and social science and medicine, Bart-Addison plans to work with at-risk youth. She’s spent the past three summers as a counselor at Epworth United Methodist Church Day Camp in the Bronx — and also volunteers with KHAIR (pronounced “care”), which serves at-risk youth from New Haven through mentoring and workshops on topics like financial literacy and dressing for success. On campus, she’s a vital member of the True Blue Owls team, working within the Division of Institutional Advancement to highlight the importance of giving.

“I loved how our group was so open to new experiences like trying new foods and listening to new music. The people from Global Brigades would play African music on our bus. By the end of the trip, our group was singing along.” — senior Princess Bart-Addison

Bart-Addison graduates in May and is looking into service work opportunities. Meanwhile, her Global Brigades teammates have stayed in touch — in person and through social media. “We’ll put pictures up. If someone is listening to a song we heard in Ghana, they’ll share it with everyone — and it always brings me right back,” she says.

Photos by Southern student Brokk Tollefson, a sociology major and journalism minor, who will graduate in May 24, 2019.

See an album of photos from Ghana.

A lively welcoming committee met the Southern students each day.

The late John Daniels (left) and Biagio DiLieto, former mayors of New Haven

Southern’s Buley Library will now be the repository for the papers and related materials of three New Haven mayors, thanks to a fund established by alumnus and attorney Neil Thomas Proto, ’67.

Southern had recently acquired the papers of former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who served from 1994-2014. The Neil Thomas Proto Mayoral Papers Fund will now see that the university houses documents dedicated to former mayors Biagio DiLieto (1980-1990) and John Daniels (1990-1994).

Included in the Mayoral Papers will be correspondence, special project materials, proclamations, and memoranda such as newspaper articles, photographs, and campaign literature from each mayor’s tenure. The archive will also chronicle the mayors’ early lives and feature supporting items from individuals who served or associated with DiLieto and Daniels during their time in office.

“As New Haven’s public university and consistent with its historically thoughtful relationship with the city, Southern is a natural home for this important archival collection,’’ said Proto, who last year established a Scholar and Civic Fund in Law and Social Justice at the university. “I knew both mayors. They made valuable contributions to the civic good and political life of the city long before and during their mayoralty. Their lives warrant this active effort to preserve and chronicle who they were.”

The fund will also support a public exhibition of the three collections of Mayoral Papers, sponsored and organized by Southern, and scheduled to be held in 2020.

Neil Thomas Proto, ’67 (right)

“The exhibit will provide a wonderful insight into the processes of city government and how critical decisions were made,’’ said SCSU President Joe Bertolino. “Neil Proto’s generosity has helped create an archive of historical and societal significance for the City of New Haven.”

Clara Ogbaa, director of Buley Library, has been charged with management of the Mayoral Papers project, aided by librarian Jacqueline Toce and SCSU political science faculty members Jonathan Wharton and Theresa Marchant-Shapiro.

A retired partner with Washington, D.C., law firms, Proto has made his mark in numerous professional fields since graduating from Southern with a degree in political science and history and subsequently earning a master’s degree in international affairs and a Juris Doctor degree at George Washington University.

His public service in the United States Department of Justice, counsel to a presidential committee on nuclear power plant safety, and private practice in law includes 45 years of experience in land use, environmental, and federal litigation, as well as teaching assignments at Yale and Georgetown universities.

Widely held as a leading environmental litigator, Proto has represented Native Hawaiians, fought against the construction of highways on civil rights grounds, the unnecessary use of natural resources, and harm to Indian reservations. He also chaired two New Haven mayoral inaugurations and represented the city in its successful battle to stop regional shopping malls.

To Bonnie Edmondson, a world-ranked Olympic athlete and program coordinator of the School Health Education Program at Southern, the support systems in place for Olympic-level athletes are no different than those needed by today’s students — and she’s not alone in her thinking. Nationwide, health education policy is gaining traction, and it means an increase in demand for qualified professionals in the field.

“Athletes have family, coaches, and doctors on their team ensuring that their physical, social, and emotional needs are met,” Edmondson says. “The goals of health education work in the same way, to make sure students have the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to be successful in all that they do. Students have to be ready to learn in order to reach their maximum potential.”

More importantly, in Edmondson’s opinion, “Students need to understand why they need to make healthy choices.” For instance, “Children need a healthy lifestyle in order to learn, but physical education is just one piece of that,” Edmondson says. “Students need to understand why the physical activity is important.”

Bonnie Edmondson

Health education addresses that why; much like school nutrition, it has garnered governmental support. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) coordinated school whole health (CSH) approach has steered Connecticut schools in the development and implementation of health-promoting policies, processes, and practices. Recognizing the need for enhanced collaboration between school education, public health, and school health sectors, the CDC and ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), recently expanded and merged the CSH model with tenets of the ASCD’s whole child approach to inform a new “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC)” model, which seeks to “to engage students, families, staff, and the community-at-large to improve the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development of every child.”

In short, everyone is getting on board to positively affect student health, from top to bottom. For those passionate about this comprehensive wellness, Southern’s Master of Science degree in school health education teaches students to actively connect family, school, and community. It also prepares graduates for leadership roles in the field because, although data indicate a clear link between student health and achievement, oftentimes schools aren’t equipped to take on the task.

“Health education has evolved,” Edmondson says. “It’s not just about regurgitating facts, it’s about affecting behaviors, so preparing our health educators to be able to address these needs, it’s a significant paradigm shift.”

It’s also a timely shift.

“For the first time, Connecticut has outlined in its guidelines to school districts that health education and physical education are viable content areas for federal support,” Edmondson says. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, identifies both school health and physical education as part of a student’s well-rounded education. And new Connecticut legislation mandates that this year, all incoming high school freshmen must have one health education credit in order to graduate. In light of this new state requirement, additional health educators will be needed.

“Many high need districts are integrating whole student policies,” Edmondson says. “There’s more and more need for leaders in the field to be vocal advocates in our communities, for graduates to become ambassadors to field.”

Southern’s Master of Science degree in school health education arms graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to lead, coordinate, teach, and advocate for school health education programs in grades pre-K through 12. The skills are also applicable in community-based settings.

“This is an incredible time for us,” Edmondson says. “Southern’s Master of Science degree in school health education caters to teachers and coordinators in this field. We’re cultivating future leaders and practitioners.”

Edmondson is a two-time national champion and former world-ranked hammer thrower, a participant on expert panels, and a peer reviewer for numerous publications and journals.

Dana Casetti, research associate in the Physics Department; Elliott Horch, professor of physics; and Terry Girard, adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department

Dana Casetti, research associate in the Physics Department, is the catalyst for the recent awarding of a three-year grant to Southern totaling $509,480 from the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute for a project to measure motions of distant and old star systems.

The project entails the calibration of an older imaging camera that was used at Hubble between 1994 and 2009. Casetti said previous Hubble measurements used imaging cameras that were well studied/calibrated, but had observations taken for 10 years or less.

“We proposed using an older imaging camera that acquired measurements from 1994 to 2009, thus extending the time baseline of such measurements by 10-15 years,” she said.

“This was seen as valuable by the Hubble Space Telescope panel as it will enable numerous other studies well beyond the science we proposed in the project. It is an extremely challenging project, but our team is unique and extremely well-equipped to address this task.

“Our members are experts with more than 20 years in the field,” Casetti said. “Three of them are Southern faculty members (Elliott Horch, professor of physics; Terry Girard, adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department; and Casetti), one member is at Space Telescope Science Institute, and one is at Johns Hopkins University.”

Casetti said one of the goals of the project is to help scientists better understand the formation of the Milky Way Galaxy in a cosmological context. It also is intended to help better understand the roots of our own solar system.

“In a galaxy that underwent substantial harassment via interactions with other galaxies, it is difficult to have stable circumstances for a solar system to form and evolve to the point of developing intelligent life on a terrestrial planet,” she said.

This project will aid in helping to understand how that happened in the case of Earth.

Casetti also recently had been part of a team of experts that used NASA’s Hubble Telescope to help provide an answer to an astronomical mystery pertaining to two satellite dwarf galaxies. Astronomers believe that project is providing additional insight into how stars are “born.”

Last year, she taught in the summer school program at the Vatican Observatory, one of only a handful of astronomy experts selected to teach Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers and other outstanding astrophysics students from around the world.