Generosity and Kindness Characterize SouthernStrong Awardees
The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our seventh 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 Alan Bensen, Haroon Chaudhry, Diane Morgenthaler, Roland Regos, and Sue Zarnowski 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!
Nominated by a faculty member, Alan Bensen is a biology major who took Physics 201 this spring, a course designed for non-Physics majors. His professor wrote that Bensen was an excellent student and very responsible, but at some point during the semester, he requested some accommodation for an exam time change. At that point, Bensen’s nominator wrote, “I learned from him that he is a first responder, working in the EMS. And he had a very busy new schedule. At some point later, he told me that ten of his patients were confirmed with COVID-19. Even in such a situation, he still got a perfect grade for that exam. I asked him if there was anything I (we) could do to help. He said the best way for people to help was to stay home and practice social distancing. I have been truly touched by his service, his attitude, and his performance, and feel that he should be recognized.”
Graduate student Haroon Chaudhry was nominated by a faculty member, who wanted to recognize Chaudhry for his offer of free resume and cover letter editing, and practice interviewing to students and recent graduates. “These are services for which he could be paid,” she wrote, “but is giving back to the community by offering these services for free.”
Chaudhry is an undergraduate alumnus (class of 2019) and a graduate student in the accelerated MBA program. He takes time from his own busy work and academic schedule to offer his time and skills to help ungraduated students and recent graduates. In Chaudhry’s Facebook post, where he offers his services, he writes, “This university has given me everything a student can ask for and now I want to give back to the community. I typically charge people for professional services but I’m offering free services to everyone. First, congratulations to the class of 2020.”
Chaudhry continues, “Currently, we are living in a global crisis and many of us are struggling. I know people who have been laid off or had internships cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak and I know this is happening everywhere. I want to help out in any way I can and would love to edit resumes or cover letters, do a practice interview or provide career advice. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!”
Diane Morgenthaler, director of Student Health Services, was nominated by a student who recently graduated. This student had been hospitalized for three weeks with COVID-19, and when she was finally well enough to go home, she was told she needed to have a nebulizer to give herself breathing treatments. There were no nebulizers available anywhere in the state for her to have at home, and her breathing began to slowly deteriorate again. Roland Regos (see below), a member of President Bertolino’s staff and and an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Recreation, Tourism and Sport Management, asked this student to give him some time to make calls and send emails to try to get a nebulizer machine. Otherwise, she would have gone back to the hospital. “Then,” she wrote, “a miracle happened. I received a phone call from Diane Morgenthaler. She learned from Roland about my plight. Diane left her home in Old Saybrook and drove to the SCSU campus and picked up a nebulizer machine and medicine. She then drove to Waterbury to bring me this life-saving equipment. I couldn’t believe it! Diane stood in the parking lot and was showing me how to properly use the nebulizer. The teamwork that Roland and Diane performed truly saved my life.”
Roland Regos, nominated by the same recent graduate who nominated Morgenthaler, coordinates the Presidential Student Ambassadors program and served as a mentor to his nominator, who was an Ambassador. But, his nominator wrote, he “was more than a mentor to me . . . He encouraged me to do my best and to have a positive attitude in good and bad times. In March, I was admitted into Waterbury Hospital extremely ill from COVID-19. Every day I struggled to fight this virus. Roland called and allowed me to call him any time of the day. There were many days of pain, fear, and tears. Roland faithfully was there for me as I lost many family and friends to COVID-19. Often, I would tell Roland to just make me laugh. I was so exhausted from the struggle to breathe. Roland always found a way to make me want to fight on! The funny pictures and Snapchat memes of himself made me smile when I wanted to give up.”
His nominator reports that Regos still checks on her just about every day. “His dedication and commitment are priceless,” she wrote. “I will be forever grateful to one of the kindest, caring, and supportive people on earth.”
Nominated by a colleague, Sue Zarnowski serves as case manager for the Dean of Student Affairs Office, where she supports students who encounter challenges of all types. Prior to quarantine, Zarnowski helped connect students to countless resources in the community and at Southern, from accessing financial resources to, as an example, working with hair salons to help students access free hair cuts for job interviews. Since the university moved online, Zarnowski has been integral to helping students find and access resources. Her nominator wrote, “She is often the person behind the scenes that is moving pieces into place so that students can be successful or sometimes, just receive some relief from the burdens of the world. She has worked tirelessly to identify ways to provide wifi, financial assistance, shelter, and other basic needs. She connects with countless students individually to help them to build a strategy, learn how to advocate for themselves, and sometimes just to listen. Going well beyond her role at the university, she has an unwavering commitment to Southern, students, and people in need.”