Monthly Archives: May 2020

The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our sixth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are lending a helping hand, with acts of kindness large and small, not only for their fellow Owls, but also for friends, neighbors, and strangers.

We recognize and celebrate Parker Fruehan, Loida Reyes, Cara Richardson, Shuei Kozu, and Andrew Smyth for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Parker Fruehan

Parker Fruehan, systems librarian at Buley Library, was nominated by a colleague, who wrote that he “has been an instrumental part of Buley Library’s transition to being fully online and he’s making a difference beyond the Southern community during this pandemic.”

Fruehan’s nominator explains that as the systems librarian, Fruehan works with the technology needs of the library. When campus closed, he worked tirelessly to ensure all library faculty and staff had laptops and other any other technology needed to continue their services remotely. He worked with library employees to answer their questions and support them in any way needed. In addition to this, he updated the library website and catalog to highlight Buley’s virtual services and resources. These updates allow students, faculty, and the entire Southern community to find digital resources such as articles, e-books, and streaming videos, without sifting through physical items that are current inaccessible due to the building closure. All of this work has allowed the entire library to seamlessly switch to a virtual platform as it continues to provide support to all academic departments, students, faculty and more across the university’s now virtual campus.

Fruehan is also making a difference beyond Southern during the pandemic. His nominator wrote that he is working with UConn Health to print mask exoskeletons using the 3D printers from Buley Library’s Makerspace. The mask exoskeletons, which were highlighted on scsulibrary’s Instagram page on April 9, create a better seal for non-respirator masks. Fruehan and his student worker each brought home a 3D printer and the necessary filament before campus closed and have been printing the mask exoskeletons at home and sending the masks to Uconn Health.

His nominator continued, “I believe all of these reasons make Parker Fruehan an excellent candidate for the SouthernStrong Award. I’m proud to be able to call him my colleague and hope that his hard work can get recognized.”

Parker Fruehan

Shuei Kozu

Shuei Kozu, assistant professor of social work, was nominated by a graduate student, who wrote that she “has made the transition to online learning enjoyable rather than extremely stressful.” According to her nominator, Kozu was able to re-evaluate the course syllabus to adjust assignments and accommodate accordingly and “has reached out to the quiet students individually to address if they needed anything or if she can further support them in any way. She has went as far as to chat with her students on the phone.” Her nominator added that Kozu “has been extremely empathetic and accommodating to all students and had started a support group for social work staff. Her dissertation in crisis management has prepared her to handle situations like this in the most professional and supportive way. As a graduate student, I am extremely grateful and thankful to have had Dr. Shuei as a professor.”

Shuei Kozu

Loida Reyes

Loida Reyes, assistant professor of social work, was nominated by a student, who wrote that Reyes “has done a tremendous job of reminding her students that despite this difficult time, that we will get through this. Along with the rest of the SCSU class of 2020, my SWK 491 class expressed our feelings of sadness in regards to our graduation ceremony getting cancelled. Being the empathetic person that she is, she threw a graduation celebration for our class through Zoom. She played the graduation song, gave us each our own personalized speech about our achievements throughout the Social Work program, and recognized all of our hard work that we have put into this program. She also invited other faculty and their students in the program to join our Zoom session as well. Although this is not the graduation ceremony that we had all planned on having, she completely went out of her way to make sure that her students knew that their work would be recognized. This was the most thoughtful gift that she could have given us, and this act of kindness is something that I will always cherish, and never forget. Dr. Reyes is such a caring, compassionate, and inspiring teacher that deserves this recognition.”

Loida Reyes

Cara Richardson

Student Cara Richardson holds many leadership positions, both on and off campus. On campus, she is a Peer Mentor, a Presidential Student Ambassador, the Panhellenic Delegate of Alpha Sigma Alpha, the co-vice president of Psi Chi, and a Representative at Large for SGA and the class of 2021. Her nominator wrote that Richardson is “constantly reaching out to her peers to make sure they are okay during these trying times,” as well as making service efforts in her hometown. She is a volunteer for a local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and she has been collecting food and clothing items to donate to her local shelter during the pandemic to help those who have been affected by this crisis.

Cara Richardson

Andrew Smyth

Andrew Smyth, chairman of the English Department, was nominated by four of his colleagues in the English Department, all of whom expressed deep gratitude for his exceptional leadership, kindness, and sensitivity during the pandemic and move to virtual classes.

One nominator wrote that Smyth has “juggled his many responsibilities with grace, skill, and — when needed — a sense of humor. His care for both students and colleagues is evident. He’s thorough and efficient in providing information, taking care to keep us up to date while also respecting our time. He’s responded to my questions with amazing speed and remarkable patience and thought, providing guidance that has allowed me to better serve my students.” Smyth has held regular office hours on Teams so faculty knew there was a time they could check in with questions, and he even started a weekly department happy hour via Teams to provide his colleagues “with much-needed time to chat and laugh together. He’s helped to lift the spirits of both students and colleagues.”

A second nominator added that Smyth has been “a model of thoughtful, helpful leadership, and our semester would have been much harder without his guidance.”

A third nominator wrote of Smyth, “In addition to answering any student and faculty questions and regularly addressing any concerns, I wanted to draw especial attention to his sincere and consistent efforts to provide resources and a voice of support for our part-time faculty colleagues. Andrew recognized the particularly vulnerable situations that many part-time faculty have found themselves in over the last couple of months, and has been outspoken in seeking to help them navigate this crisis. Somehow, he is able to offer this same level of support to full-time faculty, students, and staff both within and beyond the English department as well — I cannot see how he ever has time to sleep, given all that he does!”

His fourth nominator wrote that most of the many reasons for which she felt Smyth deserved to be recognized with a SouthernStrong Award “fall into two categories: advocating for students by modeling and urging empathy for what is actually happening in their lives right now; and communicating clearly and consistently with faculty and students in order to keep everyone as calm and focused as possible.” He was able to help a student who had become housing insecure and had her hours at work cut, and he supported his faculty even more than he usually does by responding quickly to emails, Teams chats, and phone calls, and doing all of this “with grace and good humor.”

She added, “The English Department is large, with over 60 full- and part-time faculty. What Andrew is doing for me, he is doing for all of us. He is definitely Southern Strong. I hope you will recognize his extraordinary efforts on behalf of our students.”

Andrew Smyth

Otus and President Joe Bertolino make a lawn sign delivery to a graduating senior.

About 300 members of the class of 2020 were surprised this week when volunteers from Southern’s staff, faculty, and administration — including President Joe Bertolino and Otus the Owl — visited their homes to hand deliver congratulatory lawn signs and to create the experience of a commencement ceremony. The undergraduate class of 2020 was to have celebrated their commencement on May 22 at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena, but the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The university has been actively looking at rescheduling commencement ceremonies to late summer or the fall, depending on what happens with the virus and related guidelines for large events.

Read more about the lawn sign deliveries and front-lawn “commencements” in “SCSU brings commencement home for some graduates – literally” (By Brian Zahn, New Haven Register, May 22, 2020).

See the photo gallery of lawn sign deliveries.


As one of only four students in Connecticut to receive the Bob Eddy Scholarship, Jason Edwards is being recognized for talent and promise.

Spring 2020 will be one to remember for Southern rising senior Jason Edwards — and he has the photos to prove it.

In addition to completing online courses, working as a student photographer for Southern’s communications and marketing department, and serving as photo editor of the student-run Crescent magazine, the talented journalism major is turning his camera lens on his neighbors to visually capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Connecticut Naugatuck Valley.

Edwards is one of only four recipients of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Foundation’s Bob Eddy Scholarship, which recognizes excellence and promise in the field. The award is open to rising college juniors and seniors attending Connecticut universities as well as state residents who are studying elsewhere.

In related news, numerous Southern student journalists were recognized for their work in Crescent magazine and the Southern News from the Society of Professional Journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

Saluting the Class of 2020, SCSU student Alexis Zhitomi

As a child, Alexis Zhitomi was a late speaker. She barely talked until she was 3 years old, and even in kindergarten, she could not complete a full sentence. But years of persistence, help from a speech therapist, and encouragement from her parents would eventually pay off.

Fast forward to her college years. Zhitomi has been a representative of her class since her freshman year, and became president of Southern’s Student Government Association in the fall semester of her junior year. She has held that position ever since, essentially becoming the voice of her peers on a variety of issues affecting students.

During the COVID-19 crisis, she even served as the moderator for a recent “virtual town hall-style meeting” in which students, faculty and staff could ask SCSU President Joe Bertolino questions about how Southern was adapting to the coronavirus pandemic.

Zhitomi said that although her background did not single-handedly spark her interest in becoming an advocate for her peers in student government, it may have played some role.

“Innately, all speech language pathologists are advocates because they are speaking up for those who may not have the ability to do so themselves,” she said. “So my speech services when I was younger might not have directly gotten me on the path to student government, but it was certainly an impactful part that helped shape who I am.

“And listening to my parents share their story of how much my speech pathologist helped me definitely got me interested in the field.”

The Shelton High School graduate and communication disorders major will graduate later this month. She was recently selected as one of SCSU’s four recipients of the prestigious Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award, given for outstanding scholarship and community service. She plans to pursue a master’s degree this fall in speech language pathology.

She has conducted research in conjunction with the West Haven Veterans Administration to assess the benefits or negatives of certain routes of care for individuals with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Her focus was on dysphagia (difficult swallowing), a symptom of ALS. She presented her findings last November at a national American Speech-Language Hearing Association convention in Orlando, Fla.

Zhitomi, who compiled a 3.97 GPA, has been a member of the SCSU Honors College and a recipient of several scholarships. She has volunteered with several university initiatives, such as participating in the Adopt-a-Family campaign and the SCSU Day of Service. She also was a Yale-New Haven Neuro-Speech Volunteer. She also has been an orientation coordinator for the university’s Office of New Student and Sophomore Programs.

“She has proven to be a passionate, diligent, and self-motivated student and is most deserving of this type of recognition,” said Heather Warner, SCSU associate professor of communication disorders. “Given the depth of her classroom discussions, it was easy to see her passion for people, desire to help, and thirst for knowledge.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree also has been impressed by Zhitomi’s accomplishments.

“Alexis loves Southern and has a passion for making a difference in service to her peers,
Tyree said. “She has grown significantly as a result of these many opportunities and her learning has been reflected in each subsequent experience.”




Nancy Green

Nancy Green is no stranger to dark times, but as the 56-year-old graduating senior at Southern Connecticut State University lay in a hospital bed this March, deathly sick with the coronavirus, she had a thought she’d never had before.

“My lungs were so tired,” she said. “I had pneumonia, acute asthma. I was in respiratory failure. I had a fever. I felt like I was at the bottom of the ocean, and it was the only time in my life I’ve ever thought, maybe I can’t do this.”

Green had every right to feel exhausted. In many ways, she had been battling her whole life: child abuse, domestic violence, tumors (some in her pancreas, some in her esophagus), breast cancer, financial uncertainty, but the Coronavirus brought her to a frightening new low. She closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.

When she woke the next day, it took her eyes a while to adjust to the sunlight. But the sight of the sun through the window brought to mind a refrain she had been repeating to herself since childhood: My eyes can see farther than they can look.

“I said it to myself, and then I said, ‘Girl, you are getting out of here!’ ”

The refrain “my eyes can see farther than they can look” is Green’s own — she first wrote it in her diary when she was 12. “You might see a wall or a building, but there is life beyond that,” she said. “That was my own saying, and I always kept it with me.”

Green also shared it with others, like her friends and classmates at Southern, who affectionately referred to her as “auntie” and “cool grandma.” (Green, a sociology major, is, in fact, a grandmother to a few, but she says when she enrolled at Southern, she “gained another 150.”)

The refrain kept hope alive in Green when, as a child, she dreamed about moving past the abuse and going to college. “Growing up in the south, there was a big emphasis on boys going to school,” she said. “All my brothers got educated, and I told myself, someday, it’s going to come to me.”

In 1984, Green enrolled at Norwalk Community College, but she was just 21 and raising twins, and education took a backseat. In 2016, she enrolled again in community college — this time Naugatuck Valley — and completed her associate degree.

“I thought the idea of getting an education would be out of my system,” she said. “But then I thought, ‘I have a taste. I need more!’ ”

When one of the deans at NVCC suggested she apply for the President to President Scholarship, which would cover full tuition and fees for two years at Southern, Green scoffed, thinking she was too old. She soon got a letter from Southern President Joe Bertolino saying otherwise.

“When I got the scholarship I thought, ‘I’m really going to do this!’ ” Again she repeated her refrain — “my eyes can see farther than they can look” — and thought, “Now I’m going to look a little farther and get my bachelor’s.”

As Green tells it, she fell in love with Southern, which started to feel like a family. She developed close relationships with her peers, despite the dramatic age difference. “The more we listened to each other, the more we gained perspective,” Green said. “I opened up to them, and they opened up to me.”

Bi-monthly, beginning in October 2018, she started making home-cooked meals, complete with dessert, for dorm and commuter students that they could pick up on Mondays. Much like her “grandchildren,” she started with five and ended up with 100.

Green still had dark days. She sometimes had to catch a bus at 5 a.m. in Waterbury to make it to campus on time (it was a 2-hour, 3-bus trip). Books, laptops, and supplies were extra expenses. She struggled with domestic issues of control and abuse. She had surgery in January 2020 then fell ill with the coronavirus in March and again in April. She grieved the loss of close to 30 family and friends from COVID-19. But postponing graduation in May was never an option.

“I will do whatever I have to do to get to where I have to go,” Green said. “The word no doesn’t exist. I had a burning desire in me. I waited 30 years to start my education again, and I didn’t want it to be a dream gone by because I was sick.”

Throughout the winter and spring, while she was recovering, Green kept on track with school commitments by asking for work ahead of time, sometimes months in advance and sometimes working from a laptop in the hospital. Staff at Southern helped if they were able. Medical Director Diane Morgenthaler, for instance, drove a nebulizer from Southern’s Student Health Services to Green’s residence when Green was unable to get one after being hospitalized.

“Dr. Morgenthaler showed me how to use it right there in the parking lot,” Green said. “Because of that act of kindness and love, that kept me from going back to the hospital.”

Roland Regos, administrative assistant in the Office of the President, kept Green’s spirits up by sending her funny memes and encouraging words. To Regos, bringing humor and laughter — “light” — into her darkened world was the least he could do. Regos coordinates the Presidential Student Ambassadors program, and Green has served as one of the Ambassadors.

“Nancy is one of the most driven, dedicated, and kindest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “Her positive attitude is infectious, as is her can-do spirit. She actively mentors and seeks out troubled students in order to help them. “

Green, fourth from left, in her role as a Presidential Student Ambassador

“She is living proof that age is just a number, that anyone with the right mindset can achieve anything. Her life story has consistently humbled me,” said Regos. “Graduation means so much to Nancy. The pain and suffering she has gone through in order to get herself to the finish line is inspirational.”

Southern will be holding its commencement at a later date, either on-ground or in a virtual setting, but on May 22, Green will throw her own graduation ceremony, complete with a cap and gown and a virtual celebration.

“I have been looking forward to this for a lifetime!” she said. “I am the little train that did, not could. It all boils down to how badly do you want it? And I have wanted this for a long, long time. I have so many career choices. Look beyond the wall. The future is bright.”

Read “‘I am going to walk’: Cancer, coronavirus can’t stop grandmother from graduating SCSU,”
New Haven Register, by Brian Zahn, May 25, 2020

The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our fifth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are lending a helping hand, with acts of kindness large and small, not only for their fellow Owls, but also for friends, neighbors, and strangers.

We recognize and celebrate Noelle Brideau, Trever (Charles) Brolliar, Derek Faulkner, Lisa Kortfelt, and Jackie Scott for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Noelle Brideau
Noelle Brideau, a student, was nominated by a faculty member. Brideau was enrolled in this professor’s HON 300 course, Introduction to Service Learning, this semester, a course that focuses on food insecurity in the community. Because of COVID-19, the class’s planned community service projects fell through, and students had to develop new projects that could be accomplished while most students were living off campus and social distancing. “Not even a week into quarantine,” Brideau’s nominator wrote, “Noelle reached out to me to see if we could organize donations to send to a fellow SCSU student who spoke to our class earlier in the semester about her struggles with food insecurity. Noelle’s leadership helped us raise money to send to this student.” Her nominator continued, “A few weeks later, while our class was meeting over video chat to discuss service options, Noelle announced that she had already been serving the food insecure during the pandemic, volunteering to grocery shop for individual elderly members of her community. She asked if this work could count for her service requirement in our class. I said: of course!! We all then gave her a round of applause, as she is obviously a leader in more ways than one. I’m very impressed with Noelle’s quick action-minded thinking that has benefitted a number of people during this difficult time.”
Noelle Brideau
Trever (Charles) Brolliar
Trever Brolliar, director of academic technology, was nominated by a faculty member. His nominator wrote that this semester she was chairing a faculty search committee for Curriculum and Learning in the College of Education, and when the university closed, she was charged with conducting virtual campus visits (multiple interviews and presentations) for candidates but had very little idea of where to start. She wrote that she was referred to Brolliar, who “got in touch with me immediately and walked me through setting up WebEx meetings (approximately 15 meetings in all). I was so concerned about getting this right,” she wrote, “especially because it involved so many people — candidates from the outside, SCSU faculty and students, and our Dean and Dept. Chair. At one point, a candidate was having a lot of trouble with her audio and Trever worked with her to fix the issue so she could do her teaching and research presentations. His patient, generous support were key to a successful week of virtual campus visits that presented SCSU and the College of Education in a positive light. We can’t thank him enough!”
Trever Brolliar
Derek Faulkner

Student Derek Faulkner was nominated by a member of the staff, who described him as “an outstanding student leader who goes above and beyond when it comes to the Southern community.” When the University needed to close due to the pandemic, Faulkner worked with Chartwells to recover food off the line and at all of the retail locations across campus. The day after the University closed, he returned to campus to work with Chef Ernie Arroyo to clean out the refrigerators and deliver the food to St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.

At the end of March when the residential students moved out of the residence halls, Faulkner returned to assist with the nonperishable food donated during move out. With the help of the Facilities Operations Grounds Crew, he managed to get the food boxed up and stored in the warehouse. Faulkner coordinated with the nonprofit organization Haven’s Harvest to pick it up and deliver it to area food pantries in New Haven, his nominator wrote.

Lisa Kortfelt
Lisa Kortfelt is director of environmental health and safety for the entire SCSU campus. Her nominator, a colleague, wrote that “whenever you have a question or issue she is there ready to help you and will help you. She has bi-weekly safety meetings for us trade guys and training on equipment and other things.” When COVID-19 happened, Kortfelt’s nominator wrote, “she sent out a training booklet about the procedures we should be following on campus while we are still here working. She also handmade about 30 mask for us and dropped them off (she lives over an hour away). I haven’t talked to her about what she has been doing at home for her community and family. But if she is doing stuff for us workers I’m sure she is doing stuff at home too. Great lady, glad to have her on my team!!”
Lisa Kortfelt
Jackie Scott
Jackie Scott, an SCSU alumna who will begin her PhD program at Southern next month, was nominated by a fellow student. Scott happens to supervise her nominator at Recovery Network of Programs, a non-profit substance use treatment agency in the greater Bridgeport area. “Jackie has taken on so many new roles since this pandemic hit,” her nominator wrote. “She has been on the front lines, every day, working with the most vulnerable populations. She has been assisting clients in applying for basic needs, getting them phones to engage in telehealth, volunteering at local food banks, gathering food for the homeless, and helping our clients resolve their anxieties and traumas on a daily basis. All the while, Jackie has remained not only my boss, but my mentor. She calls me every single day just to ‘check in.’ If I start talking about work, she quickly diverts my attention back to “whats really important”, and that is my own personal struggles and progress during this trying time. Jackie has helped me to make important decisions about my college career, and she was one of the biggest reasons I chose Southern! Jackie is a perfect example of #SouthernStrong.”
Jackie Scott

Canadian geese on campus. Photo from student Jacob Waring's award-winning "Campus Jungle" photo package.

Southern‘s student journalists have received awards and national and regional recognition for 2019 packages in the Crescent magazine and the Southern News from the Society of Professional Journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

Senior journalism major Jacob Waring was selected a national finalist, after winning the Feature Photography category in the region, for his photography of animals roaming around campus featured in “Campus Jungle” package in Crescent’s Fall edition. Waring’s package competed with the winners of other SPJ regional contests in the small colleges division. Region 1 encompassed universities from Maine to Philadelphia. Waring is managing editor of Crescent and News Editor of the Southern News.

From the “Campus Jungle” package by Jacob Waring

Junior interdisciplinary studies major, Izzy Manzo, was a finalist in the magazine regional competition for her story of “Women in STEM,” at Southern. And was also was a finalist in the regional contest in the newspaper division for her photo page in October for the Southern News on community gardens. Manzo is photo editor of the Southern News.

From a photo page on the campus community garden by Izzy Manzo

Senior Will Aliou, an interdisciplinary studies major, was a finalist for his Southern News photos in spring 2019 capturing the Take Back the Night march on campus. Aliou is photographer for the newspaper.

Southern News photo from Take Back the Night, by Will Aliou

Read more about SPJ’s 2019 Mark of Excellence National Winners and Finalists.


CSU Professor Elliott Horch

He developed a super-powered device for telescopes that enabled astronomers to snap photos of celestial objects many times clearer than had ever been taken. He was tapped by NASA to assist with the Kepler Mission – a project to find potential “new Earths” in the Milky Way Galaxy. He has assembled a stellar teaching record and demonstrated a strong commitment to student success since he began teaching at Southern Connecticut State University in 2007.

And on Thursday, Elliott Horch was recognized for the sum of his professorial achievements by being named a Connecticut State University Professor by the state Board of Regents for Higher Education. The recommendation for this honor came from SCSU President Joe Bertolino.

The designation is one of the most prestigious within the Connecticut State Colleges and University System. Only three faculty members at each of the four CSU campuses can hold the title at any given time.

Horch, a professor of physics, joins Vivian Shipley, professor of English, and David Levine, professor of art history as the Southern contingent of CSU professors. A vacancy was created with the recent retirement of Terrell “Terry” Bynum, who had been a professor of philosophy.

“A full professor since 2013, Elliott has developed a remarkable record of teaching and service excellence and has, with little company in his scholarship stratum, a remarkable record of peer-reviewed publications and grant success,” wrote Robert Prezant, SCSU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“Dr. Horch represents one of our most successful scholars in any field,” Prezant said. “Roll into the mix his strong teaching credentials, devotion to our students, and his high level of important service, and you have an individual who can easily serve as a model for newer faculty members who have high aspirations. (He) is recognized for high quality work at the international level, and that recognition, in concert with his strong global collaborations, makes him an exceptional representative of Southern across continents.”

The CSU Professorship Advisory Committee reviewed eight applications for the award this year, according to Adiel Coca, chairman of the CSU Professorship Advisory Committee.

“It is the committee’s opinion that Dr. Horch has a documented high level of effectiveness in all three categories of evaluation (creative activity, teaching, and service), including a record of outstanding performance in the area of creative activity,” Coca wrote.

Horch earned a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University in 1994. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University and the Rochester Institute of Technology and held teaching appointments at RIT and at UMass Dartmouth before coming to Southern.

His research interests are in astrophysics, binary stars, exoplanets, high-resolution imaging, and astronomical instrument building. He regularly collaborates with scientists from around the globe. During his time at Southern, Horch has co-authored 82 publications and has been awarded 10 external grants, most of which came from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.

He developed the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) and the SCSU Interferometer and described the DSSI as being like “putting eyeglasses on a telescope.”

Horch earned the CSU System Research Award in 2011 and was the recipient of the 2012 SCSU Faculty Scholar Award. He has taught more than 20 physics courses, including four courses that were new at the time.

“It is clear from his student evaluations that students really enjoy having Dr. Horch as an instructor,” said Coca, who noted that Horch supervised 26 undergraduate and five graduate theses.

Horch was also instrumental in the development of the Master’s in Applied Physics program at Southern, and served on the LEP Committee from 2011 to 2015. He currently serves as chairman of the university’s Research and Scholarship Committee. Horch also chairs the Scientific Organizing Committee for the Gemini Science Meeting scheduled for June.

He thanked Physics Department Chairman Matthew Enjalran for nominating him, and thanked colleagues for their letters of support.

“This designation is a tremendous honor, and something I simply could not expect given the many excellent faculty we have at SCSU,” Horch said.

“I receive this during a very uncertain time,” he added. “But my hope is that as we find our way through the COVID-19 crisis and eventually reach better times, this position would allow me to be a stronger advocate for the value of science in our society and for the positive role that SCSU plays in that regard, both in teaching and research.”

SCSU Project Blue photo of kelp underwater

Southern students in a kelp innovation class successfully combined their idealism with real-world applications to take home several awards recently at the 23rd Connecticut Business Conference and Competition administered by the Entrepreneurship Foundation.

While the judges generally listen to in-person presentations at this competition, the coronavirus pandemic changed the format so that students instead developed 60-second video “elevator pitches.” For Southern, this involved novel products made from sugar kelp grown in Long Island Sound, according to Colleen Bielitz, associate vice president for strategic initiatives and outreach.

Bielitz and Patrick Heidkamp, chairman of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences Department, created the kelp innovation class as part of the Project Blue Initiative. Kelp is a large, nutrient-rich, brown seaweed.

“For the majority of students, this class was the first time they were exposed to an innovation perspective to sustainability,” Heidkamp said. “I am incredibly proud of what the students accomplished—especially considering the course had to pivot from an on-the-ground, hands-on learning environment to a fully online course due to COVID-19.”

Heather Cushing placed first in the Blue Economy Pitches category for her proposal of a Shoreline Kelp Festival, a kelp-centric event that would feature music, kelp food and beverages, and a week-long restaurant week that includes a three-course kelp meal experience.

“I was quite surprised and excited to learn I had won, as there were some really great ideas for kelp products,” Cushing said. “Kelp has many benefits, both environmentally and nutritionally. A festival is a way to foster interest and knowledge towards Connecticut’s emerging kelp industry.”

Cushing conceded her festival idea will not happen immediately because of the coronavirus pandemic. But she is hopeful it can happen when things improve.

“The interest is there,” she said. “It’s just a matter of organizing and putting it all together. Late spring would be the ideal season to hold the event as that is when the kelp is harvested.”

Kelly Kingston placed second in the same category for her plan for Kelpie, a vegan, nutrient-rich, kelp-based egg substitute. Larissa Anderson finished third for her pitch of Kelpon, a 100-perent biodegradable tampon made with only organic cotton and kelp.

Meanwhile, the team of graduate student Louie Krak and undergraduates Maeve Rourke and Gia Mentillo won the Mobile App category. They developed an app called “Oceans of data at your fingertips,” which delivers real-time ocean data to seaweed and shellfish ocean farmers in Long Island Sound and beyond.

“The customizable data hub provides water quality parameters vital to crop health and bounty at the touch of a button, eliminating the guesswork and inconvenience of daily self-collection,” Krak said. “I could not be prouder to win alongside the outstanding and indomitable Maeve Rourke and Gia Mentillo.”

“The competition provided invaluable experience for all kelp class participants as a handful of their projects will undergo continued development this summer,” Bielitz said.

A CTNext Grant will provide a total of $75,000 for those projects to help convert the ideas into reality.