Monthly Archives: July 2020

It's a challenging time for student-athletes with all Northeast 10 fall competitions canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — including football. Helping to lighten the load, the Football Alumni Network, a dedicated group of former players, remains committed to directly supporting today's student-athletes.

[From left] Longtime friends Larry Ciotti, 66, M.S. '71, 6th Yr. '92, and Joe Ginnetti, '69, M.S. '75, have teamed up alongside other former Southern football players to support the Owls.

Joe Ginnetti and Larry Ciotti go way back — to the summer of ’65 when Ginnetti was a recent high school graduate from Wilbur Cross attending preseason practice with Southern’s football team, and Ciotti was a rising senior picked to captain the team that fall. The two hit it off and began a friendship that has spanned six decades. “I call Larry my big brother from another mother,” Ginnetti says. “The bonds you develop over the years last a lifetime.”

It’s a special friendship born of Southern football, one they hope to pass on. Their shared goals: to give future generations the opportunity to forge similar bonds with teammates and to help them enjoy success like they had in their glory days. Together, they launched the Football Alumni Network (FAN), which raises money to provide additional scholarships to the program, a unique venture for Southern athletics.

Ciotti, a center and linebacker, led the ’65 team to the first of four consecutive conference titles as captain his senior year, when he was All-New England and All-Eastern League. In 1998, he was inducted into the Southern Athletics Hall of Fame. Ginnetti was also an all- conference center on conference championship teams. His junior year, they whipped University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a team stocked with future NFL players, including Art Shell and Emerson Boozer. “To this day we still don’t know how the hell we did it, but we did,” Ginnetti says. “We were a powerhouse.”

Ciotti clearly recalls the impact Southern played during his formative college years. “I, like many of the others, had such a wonderful time at Southern,” he says. “The coaches were very nurturing. So were the professors. They really cared for us. It’s still the same way even though the faces have changed. We all have a passion for Southern.”

The friends also understand the university’s unique challenges. Southern is the only public university in the Northeast 10 (NE 10) conference and, as is the case for most urban state universities, its resources are limited. In the 2019-20 season, the Owls competed against eight private colleges in football. (Not all NE 10 members play the sport.) “There are a couple of teams in the league that have historically been on top in terms of scholarship dollars. But in the last 20 years, there’s also been a huge increase in the importance of football at many of the private institutions,” says head football coach Thomas Godek, ’88. “We have one-fourth of the scholarships of our conference rivals.”

Without scholarships, Ciotti says, “We don’t get the players” to remain competitive on the field.

Building a Legacy
When Ciotti and Ginnetti attended Southern, tuition was $50 a semester — providing both with an opportunity to earn their degrees. Ciotti grew up in Portsmouth, N.H., the son of an ironworker, who was frequently out of work. He ended up marrying the girl who gave him and his teammate a ride to a social mixer his first day of orientation. They wed spring of senior year, one of six football couples who married that spring and summer. Five are still together, 55 years later. Larry and Barbara now have four children and 12 grandchildren.

After graduation, Ciotti took a job teaching physical education at Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Conn. Over 19 seasons (1970-1988) he became a legendary football coach, winning four state championships and being inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame. He then coached 21 years at Yale University, primarily as the running backs coach, and now serves as a special adviser to head coach Tony Reno.

Ginnetti, the son of a first-generation, Italian-American father with an eighth grade education, grew up in the Annex neighborhood of New Haven and was the first in his family to go to college. He chose Southern because he wanted to stay close to his high school sweetheart, Ida, who followed him to the university the following year and graduated with a degree in art education in 1970. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year by renewing their vows in a 14th century church in Florence, Italy.

Like his buddy Larry, he, too, became a teacher, working with sixth-grade students who had learning disabilities and emotional difficulties. Ginnetti also played five years in the Atlantic Coast Football League. While he and Ida raised their three children, Ginnetti supplemented his teaching income by waiting tables in the evenings for half a dozen years so she could stay home with the kids. A friend offered him a job in sales and eventually he moved to The Raymond Corporation, a division/subsidiary of Toyota, where he was vice president of sales until he retired last year. He and Ida have two granddaughters.

Since the two friends started FAN three years ago, they have held several events to raise awareness for their cause. These include a gathering of about 50 football alumni early on at Brazi’s Italian Restaurant; a production of The Guys, a play about New York firefighters during 9/11; and a tent at Homecoming this past fall.  The Guys, starring Dan Lauria, ’70, a former Owl linebacker turned actor (best known for his roles as the father in The Wonder Years and as Vince Lombardi in the Broadway play) and Wendie Malick (This is Us and Hot in Cleveland), raised more than $20,000. But Ciotti and Ginnetti emphasize that these events are more about educating Southern football alumni and fans about the need to support the program.

Coach Godek, also a former Owl football player, concurs: “We have more than seven decades of former players. They have great history and wonderful memories — and through the Football Alumni Network they can help us take on the financial challenges that will ensure the program’s future.”

He notes that the support has never been more vital, particularly with so many students and their families facing economic difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have a very organized and committed executive board as well as an advisory board — and we are always looking for former players who are interested in joining the program and sharing ideas,” says Godek. He notes that all proceeds directly benefit members of the team as scholarship support — adding that consistent contributions ensure that Southern can continue to help students each year.

FAN has already made a significant impact. Their first year, FAN raised $67,500. FAN’s fundraising increased to more than $114,500 their second year and the goal is to continue to raise $100,000 annually — enough to provide 25 players with a $4,000 scholarship. The first scholarships were awarded to students for the 2018-19 academic year.

Ciotti and Ginnetti are pleased with what they’ve started and how well it has been received. Perhaps that goes back to a lesson Ginnetti learned from his father. “He taught me there are two types of people in this world, givers and takers,” Ginnetti says. “The takers eat well. The givers sleep well.” ■

Directly support student-athletes on Southern’s football team with a gift to the Football Alumni Network. Please write “FAN” in the memo section of your check, or for online contributions, select “Other” in the designation section and add “FAN.” Thank you!

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Southern’s state-of-the-art Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program earned full accreditation this spring by the American Library Association (ALA), earning it notoriety as the only accredited program of its kind in Connecticut and one of just three in New England. With an emphasis on technology, the program is designed not only to prepare professionals to implement and manage library and information services, but with COVID-19 shaping the way people interact with physical spaces, like libraries, it also will help future librarians steer the changing landscape.

“This is a significant achievement for Southern following seven years of hard work, planning, and new decisions,” Stephen J. Hegedus, dean of Southern’s College of Education said. “The work and planning are aligned with our commitment to social justice and meeting the needs of our regional and state partners through an affordable and accessible degree program. This is the product of a shared commitment and dedication to the library communities and our students by the faculty and senior administration at Southern.”

Southern’s former Master of Library Science (MLS) program was accredited for 45 years, from 1970 to 2015. True to its name, the new online MLIS program, which launched in fall 2016, builds upon the expertise of the former program but features a curriculum that teaches students to “embrace, utilize and critically assess both current and emerging information technologies.” It consists of six core courses, including a field-based internship, five courses focused on specializations of a student’s choice, and one concluding capstone experience, which enables students to showcase and apply their knowledge and skills.

“This accreditation is very important,” Hak Joon Kim, chairperson of the Department of Information and Library Science, said. “All librarian jobs in the United States and Canada require an ALA-accredited degree to even apply. Southern’s program truly is unique.”

Kim noted that while the program has been a success so far, the journey was not without its obstacles — most notably building a program from the ground up and attaining accreditation during a pandemic.

“It takes years to even develop a new course — and we developed 20 of them to launch this program,” Kim said.

The department had prepared for an on-site visit from ALA this spring to conclude the accreditation process but quickly switched gears because of the pandemic.

“We had prepared everything for their visit,” Kim said. “ALA had never had to deal with this — Corona — and so we had to prepare for a virtual 3-day site visit instead. Everyone needed to meet online — faculty, administrators — and we shot videos instead. For the first time ever, ALA did a virtual, onsite visit, even lunch. We were caught in the middle of the pandemic, but they accommodated us and vice versa. ALA believed in us, and we had 45 years of history with them.”

In addition to its status as one of a kind in Connecticut, Kim said the MLIS program is set apart by the fact that it “closes the loop” — meaning it continually improves as the department compares learning outcomes with data sets, each semester.

“And we always ask faculty, ‘How can the program can be better?’” Kim said.

Students’ opinions also factor in. MLIS student Tanner Mroz, ‘20, sat on the Department Curriculum Committee (DCC) and has served as a graduate assistant; as such, he’s contributed student input and curriculum feedback.

“I did my undergrad at Southern,” Mroz said. “I worked at Wallingford Public Library and knew people who went to Southern, and they said [the MLIS program] was a great experience.”

An avid lifelong reader, Mroz’s ultimate goal is to work in a public library, but acknowledges that at least for now, in light of COVID-19, libraries must move away from “brick and mortar and just books.” The digital component of Southern’s MLIS program, which offers courses such as Digital Librarianship, the study of and practice in designing, constructing and evaluating digital libraries for today’s digital media curation, can help future librarians guide libraries in this process.

“At the end of the Digital Librarianship course, we picked something we were passionate about,” Mroz said. “I picked music, because I have a lot of cassettes, and then I chose to create an inserts library for the cassettes. We were developing a virtual library experience, which is especially relevant because of COVID. I think there’s a lot of creative opportunity now to help brick and mortar libraries so we can supplement them, not replace them.”

Hegedus concurred: “Libraries play a critical role in our society both in the academic communities and at the municipal level. Their identities continue to evolve with the needs of society. We are proud to offer a new library science accredited master’s program — the only one in Connecticut — that will benefit all library organizations.”

The Department would like to express its sincere thanks for the support of the University President, the Provost, the Dean of the College of Education, the ILS Advisory Board, and the Connecticut Library Community.  ILS looks forward to the future growth of the program and its continuous updating in line with the needs of the profession.

The SCSU President’s Commission on Social Justice Recognition Committee proudly presents our fifteenth and final group of SouthernStrong awardees. During the months that the university has been operating virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these awards have shined a light on faculty, staff, and students who have been 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 now recognize and celebrate the staff of the Information Technology Department for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness have been making a positive impact during this difficult time.

A staff member nominated the entire IT Support Services Department, writing, “Since mid-March they have worked above and beyond at accommodating all of us with the ability to work remotely and providing us online training and guidance on how to navigate technological platforms many of us were unfamiliar with. This was not an easy feat as they were transitioning all members of the campus community at the same time and troubleshooting hardware, software, authorization approvals and other unique situations. To this day, many of us have had the occasional hiccup that something technology related has happened and we have to reach out to the IT Help Desk/Support Services Department. Sometimes we are in a panic or frustrated at our own inability and ineptness to understand what they are all so tech-savvy and understanding of. All IT responders — from student workers to professional staff members — each has responded with patience, kindness, respect, encouragement and help. And if one person doesn’t have the answer they work as a team to help the person in need until the issue is resolved. I feel IT needs to be nominated because without them none of us would’ve been able to continue to work from home and they are unrecognized examples of always displaying a Southern Strong can do attitude of support, community and care! Thank you.”

The members of the Information Technology staff are:

  • John Bergevin – Technical Support Engineer
  • Nicholas Brenckle – Director, Edge Computing
  • Charles (Trever) Brolliar – Director, Academic Technologies
  • Phil Bryant – Coordinator, High-Tech Classrooms
  • Ralph Buonocore – Telecom Manager
  • Robert Carpentier – Technical Support Engineer
  • Steve Collison – Enterprise Infrastructure Specialist
  • Kenneth Cook – Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure Manager
  • Robert (Bob) Cuddihee – Media Instructional Services Specialist
  • Jon Garbutt – Enterprise Infrastructure Manager Network
  • Adam Gerstein – Technical Support Engineer
  • Ciara Houghton – ERP/Academic Applications Manager
  • Kurt Jagielow – Voice and Video Network Manager
  • John Jaser – Director, Systems and Applications
  • Raymond Kellogg – Director, Computing Infrastructure
  • John (Ivan) Kozin – Technical Support Engineer
  • Jisong Li – Programmer Specialist
  • Edward (Rusty) May, Jr. – Director, Technology Administration
  • Ali Mohseni – Programmer Specialist
  • Amanda Mojica – Director, Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects
  • William Moroz – Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure Manager
  • Andrew Mortensen – Programmer Specialist
  • Karen Musmanno – System Manager
  • Jeffrey Otis – Director – Cloud Computing
  • Jill Pelletier – Secretary 2
  • Chris Perugini – Web Application Development Specialist
  • Dennis Reiman – VP, Technology and CIO
  • Chamis Reinhart – Instructional Support Specialist
  • Mary Robinson – Lead Telephone Operator
  • Charlene Rocanelli Leichter – Data Base Manager
  • Vinnie Rubano – Network Administrator
  • Chester Sample – Customer Support Center Manager
  • Marvin Thomas – Director, Systems Integration
  • Vu Trieu – Director – User Services
  • Lindsay Wargo – Customer Support Center Lead




President Joe Bertolino in an interview with New 8's Ann Nyberg

Ahead of a Town Hall special, “Educating in a Pandemic,” on WTNH on July 30, 2020, News 8’s Ann Nyberg sat down for a one-on-one interview with President Joe Bertolino, to discuss the reopening of the university, among other related issues. As President Joe says in the interview, “There will be light at the end of the tunnel, it’s going to be okay. And while things may not get back to normal or be the same as it was before, I do think that we’re going to grow from the experience.”

Watch the interview:

One-on-one interview with SCSU President Joe Bertolino on COVID-19 impact on higher education

The SCSU President’s Commission on Social Justice Recognition Committee proudly presents our fourteenth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who have been 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 Melisa Beecher, Mikayla Bruton, Phil Bryant, Dee Dee Dahlman, Shermaine Edmonds, Adam Gerstein, Erin Heidkamp, Lisa Kortfelt, Cassi Meyerhoffer, Chelsea Ortiz, Barbara Paris, Robin Peters, Angela Ruggiero, Stanley Seligas, Cynthia Shea-Luzik, Cindy Simoneau, Alisa St.Georges, Jacqueline Toce, and Vu Trieu for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness have been making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Melisa Beecher

Student Melisa Beecher has not missed a beat when it comes to updating the True Blue Owls social media platforms, her nominator wrote, adding that “She has demonstrated that even when times get tough, you persevere and push through. Some of her posts on Instagram during the beginning of the pandemic and campus closing received the most traction on their page. This is because she tried to use uplifting stories and pictures of her baby Otus to bring the morale of the Southern Community back to campus. She continued to update the Southern community and keep everyone happy while staying safe as well as Southern Strong, throughout the entire campus closing. Even today she continues to post and use baby Otus as a tool to bring happiness and joy to all of her fellow Owls. After all, we are all connected to our ONE Southern, Owl Nation of Owls Helping Owls.”

Melisa Beecher

Mikayla Bruton

Mikayla Bruton was nominated by a fellow student, who wrote that Bruton is SouthernStrong because she has been taking two summer classes while still battling COVID-19 at her job as a PCA. Her nominator wrote that Bruton “radiates the utmost positivity and loves to ensure her patients are receiving the best care possible. She always makes sure to check in with you even though her schedule is always packed with things to do. Being such a busy person, Mikayla still continues to care for those around her and is genuinely such a kind person to all.”

Mikayla Bruton

Phil Bryant

Coordinator of High-Tech Classrooms Phil Bryant was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Bryant “has been instrumental in getting 20 Hy-Flex (Hybrid-Flexible) classrooms configured with new technology needs while under critical time constraints and with minimal resources. The rooms are designed to enable simultaneous teaching of students in the room as well as online.”

The first 12 classrooms were completed last week and the last eight will be done by August 14, according to Bryant’s nominator. Bryant, he wrote, was “very responsive and did a tremendous job coordinating efforts with Facilities, other IT Staff and multiple vendors including HB Communications (AudioVisual), Mercury Communications (network wiring), Purchasing, and Receiving” and did all this within an eight-week window, while still handling normal operations.

Phil Bryant

Dee Dee Dahlman

Nominated by a colleague, Dee Dee Dahlman, IT Coordinator for Residence Life, has been working tirelessly to support the housing assignment needs for Southern students. Dahlman’s nominator wrote that she “has operationalized all housing adjustments in billing, configured rooms to meet current occupancy guidelines, and is now working diligently to get students assigned to housing and fill residence hall beds. Dee is remarkably dedicated to our students and our program!”

Dee Dee Dahlman

Shermaine Edmonds

Nominated by a member of the university administration, Shermaine Edmonds, administrative assistant in the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, “has shown an exemplary dedication to students’ academic success and personal wellbeing.” Her nominator wrote that Edmonds’ “work ethic and effectiveness to complete projects and tasks support the School of Graduate and Professional Studies in achieving new successes in terms of building enrollments and moving convincingly in new strategic directions. She is knowledgeable and the go-to person for all of us. Her professionalism, positive personality, and great sense of humor helps the SGPS team feel like a family working together to make positive change in the lives of our students. During Covid times she was at the forefront of our campus office transition to virtual office and led the multidimensional coordination from IT to Budget to student services, and to outreach activities very successfully. She has very deservingly earned respect and affection of everyone in our team. She is an inspiration and defines our strength!”

Shermaine Edmonds

Adam Gerstein

Adam Gerstein, Technical Support Engineer in IT, was nominated by a faculty member, who wrote that, “During the COVID-19, Adam has offered the WLL department for various technological consultations. When the department decided to distribute the Ipad pro to the full-time faculty members for teaching preparation. Adam helps the lab director to check in the supervision account and try out the devices and prepare to provide the solutions for us. Adam is very proactive and responsible. He always explains how he is going to solve the problems, which gives us a whole picture to understand problem-solving progress. We appreciate Adam and his effort should be recognized.”

Adam Gerstein

Erin Heidkamp

Erin Heidkamp, the director of the Office of International Education, was nominated by a colleague, who wrote, “The pandemic has disrupted our campus community in dramatic and difficult ways including the loss of our sense of international community. Our international students have suffered a great deal as a result of the pandemic and the Presidential proclamation in recent weeks, they have faced great uncertainty about their futures and Erin has been a fierce advocate and compassionate source of stability as we navigated this situation. Additionally, our Southern students have lost the opportunity to study abroad but through Erin’s vision for a virtual ‘Owls in Flight’ international exchange, students have had the opportunity to connect with students at our partner institutions all over the world from the safety of their homes. In the face of uncertainty, disappointment, and disruption, Erin has remained committed to fostering international community and connection. At a time when International Education as a sector is being challenged like never before, Erin has found innovative ways to continue to provide our international and domestic students not only with the support they need, but with new and exciting opportunities to develop global connections and cultural exchange. It is through her guidance and leadership that the Office of International Education has remained a steadfast resource for our international and domestic students.”

Erin Heidkamp

Lisa Kortfelt

Nominated by a university administrator, Lisa Kortfelt, the director of environmental health and safety for the University, has played the lead role in developing all safety measures in compliance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC). According to her nominator, she has worked tirelessly with faculty, staff and facilities personnel to prepare the campus for opening and has gone so far as to meet with vendors at 4 a.m. to review facilities and necessary campus installations.

Lisa Kortfelt

Cassi Meyerhoffer

Nominated by a faculty colleague, Cassi Meyerhoffer, associate professor of sociology, has “completely immersed herself in racial justice work over the past few months.” Her nominator wrote that Meyerhoffer has worked to support antiracist organizing in Hamden and New Haven, particularly around ending police brutality, and has also “helped organize white accountability and learning spaces to further help challenge fellow white people to deeply understand and then undo racism.” Meyerhoffer’s research and teaching interests are in the areas of systemic racism, racial residential segregation, and the role of race in American policing.

Cassi Meyerhoffer

Chelsea Ortiz

Chelsea Ortiz, the Department of Nursing‘s information and admissions coordinator, was nominated by a faculty colleague. However, wrote Ortiz’s nominator, “she is more than her title. Chelsea is one of the most invaluable members of our department. Chelsea takes on projects, and streamlines processes without being asked. She is helpful to all of us in whatever role we hold in the department. She has an open door policy with the students. Always ready to help them. They know they can contact her and she will be there. During the pandemic she has continued to not only do her job but continued to look for new ways to support the students during these very uncertain times. She’s not only supportive of our current students, but also all the incoming students who have a multitude of concerns as they start their education in nursing and reach out to her to get answers.”

Chelsea Ortiz

Barbara Paris

Nominated by a student, Rabbi Barbara Paris is the advisor to Southern’s Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus. Throughout COVID-19, her nominator wrote, “Rabbi Barbara has continued to be a mentor, educator, and ally. She has not let this global pandemic dim her spirit or her passion for connecting with students. She adapted without hesitation to our new online format and not only continued to be involved in campus life but spread her impact even further.”

As the Hillel advisor, Paris has been offering opportunities for students to learn about Judaism and take part in Jewish customs virtually. Beginning in April, and still occurring every Friday afternoon, Paris hosts Hebrew classes over Zoom, and later in the evening, she hosts a Shabbat candle lighting service. “Because of her,” Paris’ nominator wrote, “I (and several other students) can now read Hebrew and am learning about my culture.”

Every week for Shabbat, her nominator wrote, Paris has one student take the weekly Parsha (a weekly portion of the Torah) and deliver a commentary. “I have found this to be tremendously interesting and also inspiring,” her nominator wrote. “She is challenging me to delve into the Torah, offer my own interpretations, and engage in conversation with others. She has been such a light in the exceptionally trying times and has given me an outlet to not only learn but to express myself.”

Paris also hosted a virtual Passover Seder in April. Hillel club members joined her and her family as they learned about and celebrated Passover. Paris also assembled and delivered Passover baskets filled with traditional foods for senior citizens and those in need in her community.

Paris’ nominator wrote that “Rabbi Barbara has responded to this pandemic with such kindness, compassion, and perseverance. I am so grateful that I have had her throughout all of this. She has truly been an ally and I know I can reach out to her whenever I need to. She is not letting this pandemic deter her from helping others, whether that be through Zoom calls or by delivering a challah from 6 feet away. She truly epitomizes ‘SouthernStrong’ and is keeping her spirit high while raising the spirits of those around her.”

Barbara Paris

Robin Peters

Nominated by a staff member, Purchasing Assistant Robin Peters “has helped to keep purchasing moving smoothly during this chaotic time in our lives. She has been patient in explaining what docs are needed for each specific process while at the same time getting everything handled in a timely manner,” her nominator wrote, adding, “Things would be a mess if [Peters] wasn’t there to help keep things organized and moving along with all the vendors and contracts that come across her desk.”

Robin Peters

Angela Ruggiero

Angela Ruggiero was nominated by a university administrator, who called her “one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic academic advisors on our campus.” In her new role as associate director of Healthcare Studies, her nominator wrote, Ruggiero “works tirelessly to guide new and continuing students through this degree program or prepare to submit applications to our nursing program. She provides outstanding training and mentoring to her staff. She does her job quietly and with great humility. She encourages, inspires, and celebrates our students’ successes.”

Angela Ruggiero

Stanley Seligas

A member of the Facilities Operations staff, Stanley Seligas was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Seligas has helped to lead the preparation for classrooms for the return to campus. His nominator wrote that Seligas “has met with faculty and staff to determine location of plexiglass and other necessary preparations for the safety of students, faculty and staff. He has ordered PPE and supervised the installation of all safety measures related to the virus and a safe return to campus.”

Stanley Seligas

Cynthia Shea-Luzik

Manager of Procurement Services Cynthia Shea-Luzik was nominated by a colleague, who wrote, “I am strongly recommending Cynthia Shea-Luzik because since COVID19 hit she has been working tirelessly with facilities, residence life and other areas to secure PPE products to protect our students, faculty and staff. She has done extensive research to find quality products while paying close attention to the University’s bottom line all while continuing to do her job as the Manager of Procurement Services. During COVID she has become one of the ‘go to’ persons for all things related to dealing with preparations for COVID, answering phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night.”

Cynthia Shea-Luzik

Cindy Simoneau

Cindy Simoneau, chair of the Journalism Department, was nominated by a faculty member, who wrote that  Simoneau “always goes above and beyond — but especially so in response to COVID-19. In her many roles as a campus leader, she has worked tirelessly since campus transitioned to remote learning.”

As Journalism Department chair, Simoneau has been in constant communication with full-time faculty and adjuncts, keeping all up-to-date on the return to campus in the fall. Her nominator wrote that Simoneau has held countless meetings, both one-on-one and as groups, to help answer questions and hear faculty concerns. She helped organize a virtual retirement party for Journalism Professor Jerry Dunklee, incorporating more than 50 people, including Journalism alumni, faculty, and his family members. She also planned and led a graduation celebration for the department’s seniors.

As chair of UCF, Simoneau helped the large committee finish out the semester without complication, completing important university business while faculty were still navigating the new normal. She continues to work behind the scenes to get UCF ready for business in the fall.

As adviser to two campus media outlets (The Southern News and Crescent magazine), Simoneau guided students through coverage of important campus issues, and pushed them to think of new ways to complete their work.

Cindy Simoneau

Alisa St.Georges

Nominated by a colleague, Alisa St.Georges is an administrative assistant in the Office of the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Her nominator wrote that “as soon as the university shut down, Alisa swung into action…coordinating with the Health & Human Services department secretaries to make sure we had access to everything we needed to successfully work from home. She has organized weekly meetings so that the secretaries feel connected to each other and to the university, giving us a ‘safe place’ to air our concerns and anxieties as well as share successes and workarounds. Alisa is constantly sharing updates regarding policies and procedures, the fall reopening, and everything else that may be relevant. She is always available to answer questions and never hesitates to lend a helping hand. As a new SCSU employee, it would have been very easy for me to feel completely overwhelmed when the university suddenly switched to remote operations – but knowing Alisa was there to help really lowered my stress level and enabled me to focus on learning and performing my duties. In addition, she has provided unlimited training and insight, all while remaining upbeat and positive about everything. Alisa has so many of her own responsibilities, but she has unselfishly taken on so much more in order to ensure the continued success of HHS and every single person who works with her!!”

Alisa St.Georges

Jackie Toce

Nominated by a colleague, Jackie Toce is the Head of Technical Services in Buley Library. While a lot of the work done in the Technical Services division is “behind the scenes,” her nominator wrote, its impact is not — the library added over 70,000 electronic resources to its collection since March. As the division head, Toce has worked with library faculty and staff colleagues to ensure that everyone in the Technical Services division had what they needed to get that work done while telecommuting.

Toce coordinated with the other supervisor in the division to make sure that staff had what they needed to complete their projects and to provide opportunities for staff professional development, especially as staff shifted toward more electronic resources and online services. Toce also personally cataloged thousands of those newly added resources to make them accessible in Southern Search. Her nominator wrote that Toce “has also repeatedly considered the good of the the division and the library in making decisions about her own schedule, professional development opportunities, and work.”

At the system level, Toce participated in the CSCU libraries’ response to the pandemic as the Expert Team leader for Resource Management for which, among other things, she quickly reviewed records for hundreds of temporarily added resources to facilitate their prompt inclusion in the libraries’ catalogs.

Jackie Toce

Vu Trieu

Vu Trieu, director of User Services in IT, was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Trieu “has been instrumental in getting 20 Hy-Flex (Hybrid-Flexible) classrooms configured with new technology needs while under critical time constraints and with minimal resources. The rooms are designed to enable simultaneous teaching of students in the room as well as online.”

The first 12 classrooms were completed last week and the last eight will be done by August 14, according to Trieu’s nominator. Trieu, he wrote, was “very responsive and did a tremendous job coordinating efforts with Facilities, other IT Staff and multiple vendors including HB Communications (AudioVisual), Mercury Communications (network wiring), Purchasing, and Receiving” and did all this within an eight-week window, while still handling normal operations.

Vu Trieu



The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our thirteenth 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 Shawneen Buckley, Resha Cardone, Katie DeOliveira, Afia Opoku, and Jose Zapata Cabrera 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!

Shawneen Buckley

Nominated by a colleague, Shawneen Buckley is the Clinical Field Placement Coordinator for the graduate program in Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Communication Disorders. She is charged with ensuring that graduate students in the program are placed in and successfully complete a series of clinical externships they need to graduate and subsequently enter the workforce. Her nominator wrote that “This is a daunting task under typical circumstances, and became a seemingly impossible task in March when all medical and educational externship sites shut down and/or excluded student interns due to the pandemic. This left a cohort of 45 CMD graduate students potentially unable to complete their program, graduate, and enter the workforce. To say it simply, Shawneen worked miracles to explore and eventually establish clinical placement experiences that has allowed virtually every student in this group to complete their program. She invested endless hours tirelessly reaching out to professional colleagues across the state and the country, helping them to explore and establish mechanisms to accept and support our students. No one initially thought this could be done, and across the nation similar programs have failed to do so, but due to Shawneen’s creativity, commitment and tireless work, our students thrived and successfully completed their graduate program!”

Shawneen Buckley

Resha Cardone

Nominated by a colleague, Resha Cardone is chair of the World Languages and Literatures Department. Her nominator wrote that “Chair Cardone has acted proactively and timely to assist the WLL department to transform our course online smoothly. She initiated an online teaching committee and asked the language lab director, Elu Tu, to lead the committee. Her leadership creates transparent communication allowing faculty members to express challenges in pedagogy and technology. She has worked with the lab director closely to provide devices and technological resources to support the whole department. She also checks in on a regular basis to assure the colleagues’ health. I strongly recommend the Chair Cardone deserves the award.”

Resha Cardone

Katie DeOliveira

Nominated by a student, Katie DeOliveira is director of the Academic Success Center. Her nominator wrote that DeOliveira “has had her hands full ever since the transition to online classes in the Spring. Katie, along with the rest of the ASC staff, seamlessly facilitated the transition to online academic services including online PAL sessions, online tutoring, and online academic coaching sessions.”

This summer, DeOliveira has been working with the ASC staff and the coordinators to provide online training for new PALs, tutors, navigators, and coaches. She has even been planning to offer a new CRLA certification program for PALs and coaches, in addition to the existing tutor CRLA certification program.

Currently, she is hard at work preparing for the ASC to safely operate in the fall. She has facilitated the installation of Plexiglas to keep the students and success navigators safe, along with many other safety protocols. She is also planning to host as many in-person academic services as possible in accordance with social distancing and safety guidelines.

As DeOliveira’ nominator wrote, “With SCSU’s students’ success and safety as her highest priorities, Southern is lucky to have an ASC Director as competent and as caring as Katie!”

Katie De Oliveira

Afia Opoku

Afia Opoku, ’13, (B.S. in Sociology) is currently an M.A candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies and was nominated by a faculty member. Her nominator wrote, “As a mental health and social justice advocate, Afia centers her academic work and life purpose around Black feminism and the healing of historically oppressed and marginalized communities through art, storytelling and activism. In the last few weeks of combatting twin pandemics, COVID-19 and racial injustices, we have gotten to witness the power of Afia’s activist passion and dedication for #BlackLivesMatter and racial justice. During these intense and unprecedented times, she has stepped up and exercised her activism by giving back to her community.”

Currently she, along with two of her sister friends (Southern alums), has created safety kits for protestors on the front line in the New Haven and Hartford area. In addition, she is also fundraising for bail-out funds, grassroots organizations, and local therapists to provide free sessions for individuals who do not have access to therapy. Her nominator wrote, “No doubt, in our mind, Afia exemplifies the best of SouthernStrong spirit!”

Afia Opoku

Jose Zapata Cabrera

Recent graduate Jose Zapata Cabrera, ’20, is a former intern in the state Department of Children and Families. He has volunteered in countless nonprofit organizations, ranging from after-school programs to churches. Last year, he ended his volunteer service at Yale New Haven Bridgeport Hospital, where he was awarded a brief internship. He continues to advocate for oppressed and vulnerable populations, as he has done for more than 10 years. Since he is also a Youth Ministry Leader at a local Christian church in Bridgeport, he has made hundred of calls, has referred families in need to local community resources and has been in frequent talks with local politicians to enhance social justice. All in all, his nominator wrote, Zapata Cabrera “will continue to do everything that is in his power to lift his community now more than ever, that he has been awarded his BSW from Southern through his emblem of ‘good prayers translated to good actions.'”

Jose Zapata Cabrera



Photographer Ebony McKelvey, '10 (photo by Kathy Leonard Czepiel)

Alumna Ebony McKelvey, ’10, was featured recently on the Daily Nutmeg website for her photography business, Ebony B. Photography. The article, “Big Pictures” (by Kathy Leonard Czepiel, July 8, 2020), introduces McKelvey as “a portrait and art photographer whose mission is ‘capturing the beauty of the African American woman.’ That mission comes from the message she heard repeatedly from other children when she was growing up in New Haven, first in Rock View off Wilmot Road and later at Farnam Courts in Fair Haven,” according to the article.

Image provided courtesy of Ebony B. Photography.

McKelvey graduated from Southern in 2010 with a B.S. in liberal studies, with concentrations in psychology, sociology, and studio art.

A past exhibition of McKelvey’s, The Beautiful Ghetto, highlighted photographs of real people in the Newhallville, Fair Haven, and Hill neighborhoods in New Haven. She is now working on a project about people who were molested.

See more of McKelvey’s photographs and read more about her.

Image provided courtesy of Ebony B. Photography.


The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our twelfth 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 the Registrar’s Office staff 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 who wrote that everything the Registrar’s Office staff does is a team effort, this individual added that this team “has kept the school afloat in many ways. In addition to handling probably hundreds of late withdrawals and pass/fail requests, there has been a strong effort to ensure that students graduate or progress across the board.” He wrote that, “Individuals such as Bob Drobish and those who work with him have applied Herculean efforts to redo the entire fall schedule to help make students aware of what is happening in a couple of months. Alicia [Carroll] has been incredible in redoing the catalog with all that is going on so that the newly approved programs will be in place before the students arrive on campus in a couple of months. I know the Registrar’s Office doesn’t normally get recognition as the more high profile areas on a campus get, but I think in this situation they should.”

The Registrar’s Office staff include:

  • Linda Friess-Mordente, Assistant Registrar
  • Kelly Weiler, Office Assistant
  • Ebonee Brown, Assistant Registrar
  • Jen Ruggiero, Assistant Registrar
  • Evalisa Alvarez, Secretary
  • Kaitlin Kiely, Graduate Assistant
  • Bob Drobish, Associate Registrar
  • Rondell Butler, Office Assistant
  • Cynthia Patterson, Office Assistant
  • Jaime Alexander, Assistant Registrar
  • Alicia Carroll, Registrar
  • Monica Raffone, Associate Registrar
  • Nuncia Moniello, Assistant Registrar
  • Andre Scott, Assistant Registrar
  • Elizabeth Lopez, Office Assistant
  • Kathie Cervone, Office Assistant
  • Cynthia Hicks, Office Assistant

An ecologically minded health director turns to solar power to keep local waters clean — and sets an example for the nation.

Long Island Sound is a little greener, a little cleaner, and a little quieter, thanks to Michael Pascucilla, ’92, who oversaw the development of the world’s first full-size solar- and electric-powered pump-out boat. The utility craft, which removes sewage from other boats, finished its first season in the Branford River and Branford Harbor last summer.

Christened the Solar Shark, the boat is being heralded as a model response to the climate crisis. Its carbon footprint is one-tenth that of gasoline-powered counterparts, prompting Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s third district, to call the Solar Shark “a great achievement” — and it’s an idea unlikely to have seen the light of day if Pascucilla hadn’t taken Professor Emeritus of Public Health Gary Gesmonde’s “Diet and Nutrition” course as a college sophomore.

Fascinated to learn how food could be considered medicine and changing eating habits could cure illnesses, Pascucilla registered for more nutrition and public health courses. He ditched his plans to become an accountant, majored in public health, and went on to complete a master’s degree in public health at the University of Connecticut. After stints with state and federal government offices, he has been the chief executive officer/health director of the East Shore District Health Department since 2010, serving the communities of Branford, East Haven, and North Branford. “It’s not just a job or a career,” he says. “It’s a calling.”

Several Southern professors were influential in encouraging Pascucilla to answer that call. The beloved late faculty members Danny Gonsalves and A. Kay Keiser both provided the structure he needed as an under- graduate. Professor of Public Health William Faraclas gave counsel, discussing various career options and connecting him with his first internship with the public health office in West Haven.

“He was the voice of reason,” Pascucilla says of Faraclas. “He gave me that direction.”

Pascucilla pays it forward by teaching courses in wellness and environmental health at Southern and serving on the advisory board for the university’s Department of Public Health. He also lectures on epidemiology at Yale University.

The solar/electric pump-out boat began with an epiphany almost five years ago. Pascucilla’s office had been looking for ways to save taxpayer money and be more environmentally friendly at a time when one of its two pump-out boats needed to be replaced. Having just received a grant for an electric-hybrid vehicle, he thought, “Why not use the same technology for a pump-out boat?”


Pascucilla takes the wheel. The team recently applied for a U.S. intellectual patent for the project.


A boater himself — he lives by the water with his wife and their two young sons — Pascucilla had witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change in his neighborhood, with roads flooded by rising tides. He’d also seen the global impact on the news: fires, floods, and storms. The pump-out boat project gave him the opportunity to do his part in response.

He pitched the idea to state officials, wrote some grants, and secured $150,000 in funding through the Federal Clean Vessel Act through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CDEEP). Pascucilla credits the CDEEP’s Kathryn Brown for championing the idea. He raised an additional $50,000 through fundraising efforts, assisted, in part, by his Southern students. Yale University students assisted with research.

Pascucilla admits to being intimidated by the responsibility of developing the new concept. “It was a little scary given the amount of money at stake,” he says.

It got scarier when the initial bid for a solar/electric boat that could perform like a conventional gas- powered design — able to reach speeds of 40 miles per hour — came in at over half a million dollars, more than double the budget. Forced back to the drawing board, Pascucilla and his team realized they could aim for less power since the boat would travel primarily on rivers or no-wake areas. They also swapped out the fiberglass hull for an aluminum one. It took two years, but they eventually came up with a viable design that had a 400-gallon holding tank and two four-horsepower Torqeedo engines powered by rechargeable batteries and a canopy of solar panels. With the batteries providing the main source of power and the solar panels a trickle charge, the boat is able to run for up to 10-12 hours at zero emissions.

From May through September 2019, the boat serviced five communities in the Long Island Sound, which is a no-discharge area, meaning boaters must have the waste on their boats pumped out, similar to the way a truck empties a residential septic tank. Boaters can schedule appointments at one of two marinas where the pump-out boat docks.

The electric/solar boat costs less to operate and maintain than a traditional gas-powered pump-out boat. Pascucilla and Sean Grace, chairman of Southern’s Department of Biology and co-director of the university’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, are studying the benefits to aquamarine life of reduced noise from the quieter pump-out boat. [Read more on Grace’s other research projects.]

Pascucilla has been presenting data on the boat’s features at national and international conferences. “We’re hoping to see [that] the boat not only helps with air and water pollutions, but also with noise pollution for humans and marine life,” Pascucilla says.

He and his team are working on the problems of how to dispose of the batteries and reduce development costs. Pascucilla is optimistic about finding solutions for both. In time, he believes the operational savings of electric/solar boats will offset higher production costs, especially if they are manufactured in volume,  which he sees as the future of recreational and commercial boats. “In time, you’re going to see boats like this everywhere,” he says.

That will be an important step toward addressing the climate crisis — with the Solar Shark leading the way in reducing carbon emissions, keeping coastal waters clean, and lowering noise. “We need to be better stewards of our planet,” Pascucilla says. “It all connects back to the environment. What affects the environment affects our health.” ■

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Marla McLeod

To hear Marla McLeod, ‘14, describe her passion for her former major, geographic information science (GIS), one can’t help but imagine her happily surveying the earth’s surface, gathering information and studying its infinite connections for years to come. But life had different plans for this artist, who was recently named by the Boston Globe as one of “5 Outstanding Art-School Grads for 2020.”

“I really loved geography,” McLeod says. “[With GIS] you can follow different veins and be creative and share perspective. The information builds, and you see how to build connections the more you bring in. It was the study of everything, everywhere.”

It wasn’t until she transferred from community college to Southern in 2012 and took a painting course that she found herself impassioned by the same principles — studying a subject, building up depths of color, sharing perspective – and started questioning her career path.

“I took an art class with Rachael Vaters-Carr, and in that class she told me I was really good at it. And when she told me that, I was a little skeptical,” McLeod says. “In Professor Thuan Vu’s painting course, I was trying to figure out how to paint! What kind of painting did I want to do? He suggested I try working from my own photography, and I took a picture of my friend in drag taking his makeup off, and I felt like, ‘Wow, I think I can paint!’ The colors came alive. And that’s how I got into it.”

After graduating from Southern with a degree in studio art, she took two years off to practice her technique. In 2018, she was accepted into the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (she graduates this August) and, in 2019, was the recipient of Tuft’s Tisch Library Research Grant, for which she spent the summer “researching Black identity in America and representation and combining the research with fashion found in the drag culture.”

The culmination of the research for her exhibition “RePresent” were her sculptures “Anonymous Woman” and “Baldwin,” which were presented at Black Portraitures 2019 at NYU. McLeod removed things from her sculptures  — skin, hair, features — that have to do with individuality and characteristics in culture and visual cues about who they are as an individual.

“Anonymous Woman”
By Marla MacLeod
Size: 84in (h) x 72in (w) x 72in (d)
Medium: Various textiles, acrylic paint, beads, wood, mannequin
Year: 2019

According to McLeod, “One sculpture represents the black woman in America, the visual references to negative imagery like the mammy are overlayed and altered with symbols and references to Black pride. The second sculpture represents the black man in America, the intimidating hooded figure is overlayed and altered down, adding lavish details that give the figure a sense of royalty.”

For her MFA thesis, McLeod continued her study of Black women from her undergraduate thesis at Southern.

“I began to understand how much I don’t understand about African American history,” McLeod says, “so I had to go back and research and learn and dig into the topic this time with five large portraits.”

In her oil paintings, backed with textiles inspired by Mali mud cloths to give a sense of African tribal patterning, McLeod asked herself: “You’re depicting black people, are you just putting them on display? Each woman, they’re only wearing black, and the viewer must decide what they’re putting on to that body. As I’m creating, the women are happy to be photographed, they are happy with something that’s being created of them, they’re proud. When I get done painting, I worry if I’m getting it right and then from there, it’s wondering if people will be satisfied. I feel like it’s extremely relevant at this point.”

“Ancrum.” From MacLeod’s MFA thesis project, 2020

The large-scale, realistic portraits were displayed this spring at the Tufts University Art Galleries.

As a Black artist, McLeod feels it is important to contribute to the conversation about race “because as I continue my studies it remains to be a considerable factor in what I read about African American history, and it continues to play a considerable factor in my own life. It is at the core of where we are socially in America at this moment. It’s important for me to contribute.”

Art Professor Vu agrees: “Marla is a great example of how committing to the process of art-making, self-investigation and hard work can really pay off. She learned not only the technical skills of drawing and painting, but, more importantly, she found the desire to go deeper and make work that was truly meaningful to her. By doing so, she is contributing her personal voice as a woman of color to a public audience that desperately needs to become more aware of stories from diverse perspectives. I am so happy for all her success and am so proud to have been able to assist her in her growth.”

Despite the accolades and recognition, is McLeod at peace with the fact that she left GIS for art?

“Art majors are for impractical people, either your art sells or it doesn’t,” she says. “For me, it’s been, ‘How much do I enjoy doing my work, will one person look at it?’ I had to get past that naysaying idea about an art career and once you go into it, you will find avenues that are extremely practical. There are teaching jobs, museum fields, and more. People don’t realize how much the artistic field affects every other field.”

As fate would have it, McLeod will bring her unique perspective back to Southern this fall as an adjunct professor, teaching Art 150 Introductory Drawing. In the position, she’ll be able to share her knowledge and perspective with students; as she puts it: “I had a great support system at Southern and hopefully now I’ll be doing what professors did for me.”

Marla McLeod’s work has been presented at Southern Connecticut State University; the School of the Museum of Fine Art; Ely House, CT; City Lights Gallery, CT; Dana Hall School, MA, and ESPN, amongst others. She was the 2014 recipient of the Robert EW Eisele Fine Arts award, and 2019 Will and Elena Barnet Painting Award.