The Top Owl Social Justice Award is given to recognize contributions in helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates, and advances student and campus diversity at Southern Connecticut State University.
The DEI Advisory Council seeks nominations for the Top Owl Social Justice Awards to be presented monthly in the 2022-2023 academic year. The Top Owls are publicly recognized on campus and receive a certificate and an honorary Social Justice pin. The awards recognize the contributions, leadership and service of deserving part-time and full-time faculty, staff, and students for upholding Southern’s core values of dignity, respect, kindness, compassion and civility. Awardees are individuals who contribute to promoting the principles of human rights, social justice and anti-racism at Southern Connecticut State University.
For the month of February 2023, the Top Owl Award honorees are Alessandra Lupo, ‘22, who was nominated while still a student; Associate Bursar Esteban Garcia; and Adjunct Professor of English Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy.
Alessandra Lupo, ‘22, received three nominations, all of which spoke to her commitment to social justice. She served on Delta Phi Epsilon’s leadership team as the sorority’s first vice president of equity and belonging, and as such, she put on many events related to social justice education, including an educational movie night about the D9 sorority AKA, a privilege walk, Rep Your Identity, a paint night with the sisters of Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, and a sex ed workshop.
She also helped to organize a period product drive alongside the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, and she wrote statements for her organization in response to many issues, such as the war in Ukraine. One of her nominators wrote that Lupo “has shown exemplary understanding of social justice and compassion to everyone.”
Esteban Garcia chairs and/or sits on several committees on campus where he works to carry out the core values of the university. He is a co-chair of the DEI Advisory Council and heads up the DREAMers Action Alliance, which has three primary goals: to identify and break down barriers faced by undocumented students and their families; to engage the campus community in conversations about immigration issues, and to educate the community about the realities of being an immigrant in the United States; and to advocate for policies that support our students on the campus, state, and national level. He also led the creation and implementation of Southern en Español; a university-wide initiative with the goal of making the university more accessible to Spanish-speaking families, and he has presented at several conferences at the state and national level about making universities more accessible and supportive of marginalized and underserved populations.
Garcia’s nominator wrote, “I want to highlight the work that he does in the Dreamers Action Alliance for our undocumented students. Esteban keeps us updated on all the changes and always calls us into action. His dedication to our Southern community and social justice is truly admirable, and I think he is well deserving of such an award.”
Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy received three nominations, all of which spoke to her actions in support of social justice. Two of her nominators wrote about her organization of Creative Connections, a program that pairs MFA creative writing students with homeless and housing insecure youth in the New Haven area to open spaces for writing and storytelling. One nominator wrote, “This has led both the MFA students and the youth to increased confidence and new realizations about writing and the power of storytelling and sharing their own stories.”
Another nominator wrote that Stoehr-McCarthy “creates an energetic and inclusive space in the classroom for students to engage with readings and issues related to social justice and anti-racism.” Her election to the AAUP advisory board at Southern and her work as the founding leader of the Equity for All adjunct caucus show her dedication to promoting the voices, concerns, and rights of part-time faculty. This nominator praised her “investment in advocacy” and her “ongoing and important efforts at making Southern a more inclusive place.”