SouthernStrong Awardees Model Empathy and Leadership

SouthernStrong Awardees Model Empathy and Leadership

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