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!
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!”
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.”
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!”
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!”
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.'”