Announcements

President Joe Bertolino signed the climate emergency declaration, with students (left to right) Michaela Garland, Idongesit Udo-Okon, Lauren Brideau, and Brooke Mercaldi, along with Suzanne Huminski, coordinator of campus sustainability, and Robert Prezant, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

May be the first college or university in the United States to sign such a declaration

In response to recent student advocacy for stronger climate action, Southern now publicly recognizes climate change as a global emergency because of impacts on the environment and humankind. SCSU President Joe Bertolino signed a climate emergency declaration on May 30, 2019, making Southern possibly the first university in the United States to make such a declaration.

The emergency declaration is based on the following:

  • The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C and evidence therein that a clear disproportionate burden of climate change impacts the most vulnerable members of societies
  • Unprecedented acceleration of atmospheric carbon levels that as of May 2019 are measured at 415 parts per million
  • Local community, health, environmental, and economic risk associated with hotter summers, declining air quality, diminished biodiversity, extreme weather and changes in precipitation trends, sea level rise and acidification, drought, and other manifestations of climate change

Southern pledged a carbon neutrality goal in 2008 and since then has cut its carbon footprint for buildings by 56 percent, a considerable achievement. Over 600 other campuses made the same pledge, and several have reached the goal of being net carbon neutral. Despite that collective progress, climate change presents humankind with a global emergency that will continue to grow — that is what this declaration signifies.

“Southern’s track record on reducing campus carbon emissions supports this declaration,” Bertolino said on signing the document. “We are a decade ahead of our original carbon goals, with additional projects planned. Carbon reduction has reduced operating costs and has not exceeded capital budgeting. Sustainable operations includes fiscal responsibility, community benefit, and environmental stewardship– we’re committed to all three.

“We welcome and support students’ advocacy for climate action and hope they continue. We understand the urgency of challenges that climate change presents to communities, and Southern is dedicated to leading and participating in solutions. The only way we will meet these challenges is if we work together.

“Recent reports from the United Nations show that even if we and other universities meet our carbon reduction goals, there will, of course, still be a global crisis caused by climate change. With this declaration, we’re signifying that we understand the need to boost our efforts even further through collective action, community engagement, partnerships, sharing best practices, and open platforms for innovation.”

Learn more about sustainability at Southern

The Declaration:

A Climate Emergency

Southern Connecticut State University is a public university with a mission to foster social justice on campus and as part of a broader community. In response to recent student advocacy for stronger climate action, SCSU reaffirms its Climate Leadership Commitment and the We Are Still In Declaration and publicly recognizes climate change as a global emergency because of impacts on the environment and humankind.

We base this emergency declaration on:
• The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C and evidence therein that a clear disproportionate burden of climate change impacts the most vulnerable members of societies
• Unprecedented acceleration of atmospheric carbon levels that as of May 2019 are measured at 415 parts per million
• Local community, health, environmental, and economic risk associated with hotter summers, declining air quality, diminished biodiversity, extreme weather and changes in precipitation trends, sea level rise and acidification, drought, and other manifestations of climate change

Building upon a decade of participation in the Climate Leadership Commitment for colleges and universities, today, May 30, 2019, Southern Connecticut State University declares a climate emergency.

After a decade of prioritizing climate leadership, SCSU is proud of its longstanding commitment to climate action, including:

  • Installation of a 1MW solar array on the west side of campus, and the development of a further 1MW of solar power on the East Campus
  • LEED Gold certification for the Academic Science and Laboratory Building
  • A four-year contract to procure 100 percent Green-e certified electricity, 2018-22
  • Extensive energy efficiency and waste reduction throughout campus, including commercial-scale composting of food scrap
  • 2018 launch of an undergraduate major in Environmental Systems and Sustainability
  • Endowed interdisciplinary research on climate and coastal resilience at the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies
  • Designing a new $48 million net-zero emissions School of Business building that will generate all of its energy and power needs through sustainable technologies

Through this emergency declaration, SCSU also recognizes the need to accelerate both pace and scale of our efforts, and a need for more unified and collective action to address the climate crisis. SCSU pledges to:

  1. Maintain our commitment to become carbon neutral and accelerate outcomes of the Climate Leadership Commitment and We Are Still in Declaration
  2. Expand research to advance climate action and resilience as part of a broader community
  3. Align SCSU climate action with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  4. Expand university partnerships with business and industry; local, state, and federal agencies; community organizations; and other institutions of higher education to advance climate and sustainability goals
  5. Expand collaboration with local and regional communities to enhance resilience from climate impacts
  6. Galvanize inclusive, equitable participation in climate action across all sectors of the SCSU community, and allow citizen assemblies to support the direction of our climate actions
  7. Expand and participate in open-source platforms and networks that support rapid interdisciplinary innovation to meet challenges of the changing climate
  8. Create and maintain a roadmap projecting where and how the campus becomes carbon neutral.

Signed,

President Joe Bertolino
May 30, 2019

 

SCSU Commencement speakers 2019: Milana Vayntrub, Michael R. Taylor, Lynn M. Gangone

Milana Vayntrub, actor, activist and humanitarian, will be the keynote speaker at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 24, 2019, at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. The ceremony begins with an academic procession at 10:15 a.m.

Michael R. Taylor, Chief Executive Officer for the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, will be the speaker at the 2 p.m. Graduate Commencement for the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Health & Human Services on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Lynn M. Gangone, an education leader, association executive, lobbyist, and policy analyst, will speak at the 7 p.m. ceremony for the Schools of Business and Education, including Library Science. Both graduate commencements will be held at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.

Many know Milana Vayntrub (above left), as saleswoman Lily Adams in AT&T’s popular series of commercials, or as Sloan from This Is Us on NBC. But she also has a compelling story as an ex-refugee and advocate for combatting the global refugee crisis.

At the age of two, Vayntrub fled religious persecution in Uzbekistan with her parents to make a home in America. Twenty-five years later, she co-founded the grassroots #CantDoNothing organization, created to encourage others to give their time, money, and voice to assist refugees worldwide.

An Upright Citizens Brigade-trained comedian, Vayntrub has appeared on TV and the big screen, including on Showtime’s House of Lies and HBO’s Californication, as well as in Ghostbusters and Life Happens. She was also cast in the role of Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s 2018 series, New Warriors, on Free Form.

In 2016, Ms. Vayntrub was named among the top 100 thinkers, makers, and doers in marketing and media by Adweek, which described her as a “creative force for good.”

Michael R. Taylor (above, center) has been employed by the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center (CS-HHC) since 2010 and served as its chief executive officer since 2012.

Prior to that, he was founder and president of a health care consulting firm that served more than 200 community health centers nationally and also held leadership positions with several national accounting and health care consulting firms, including The Lewin Group.

Taylor is a creative entrepreneur who is deeply passionate about community health’s capacity to improve the quality of people’s lives. Under his guidance, CS-HHC’s leadership team fortified the health center’s financial position; blazed a trail of care integration, quality, and patient centeredness; renovated and expanded or replaced existing care sites; added new care sites and services; and bolstered internal systems and infrastructure.

Due in large part to these efforts, CS-HHC is projected in the next two years to direct more than 700 staff members who annually serve over fifty thousand Greater New Haven residents.

Dr. Lynn M. Gangone (above, right) is a seasoned education leader with association, agency, and campus-based leadership experience.

She began her career in education working on Carl Perkins Vocational Equity grants, working through the New York State Education Department, and went on to develop and deliver PK-12 professional development to teachers and guidance counselors in New Jersey.

Later, as vice president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association, she led the association’s academic policy and related lobbying work, with specific oversight of teacher education and education accreditation.

She has held faculty appointments at two colleges of education: visiting professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development in Washington, D.C., and full professor (clinical) at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education.

Prior to her appointment as president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), she served as vice president at the American Council on Education (ACE), where she and her team guided ACE’s suite of programs, products, and services for current and future leaders.

Ariana Bengston, Victoria Bresnahan, Taylor Hurley, and Zachary Jezek

Four outstanding students at Southern have been selected for the Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award.

A total of 12 students are chosen for the award each year from the four Connecticut State University campuses, including a quartet from Southern. It is considered among the university’s most prestigious awards. Criteria include a 3.7 GPA and having demonstrated significant participation in university and/or community life. They were honored at a recent banquet at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.

*Ariana Bengtson of Newington is an English major with a concentration in professional writing and a history and Spanish minor with a 3.94 GPA.

She is a member of the Honors College and recipient of the Presidential Scholarship and the Roberta B. Willis Merit Scholarship. She is president of the SCSU Global Brigades, where she organized and executed a medical brigade with 18 students to Nicaragua.

Bengtson is also a writing tutor in SCSU’s Academic Success Center and an editorial assistant at SCSU’s Metaphilosophy journal. She is an intern with the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants in Bridgeport, helping victims of human trafficking get access to legal and social services. She eventually hopes to work for a nonprofit organization to help immigrants and refugees, and then as a human rights lawyer.

Cynthia Stretch, professor of English, praised Bengtson both as a student and as a writing tutor she supervised.

“Ariana excelled at her work,” Stretch said. “I never had to second guess or worry about the actual reading and writing instruction she was providing to the students; it was always on point. And she very quickly established a near-peer tutoring relationship with the students that was friendly, approachable, and yet down-to-business.”

*Victoria Bresnahan of Trumbull is a journalism major and women’s studies minor with a 3.97 GPA.

She is the recipient of the Outstanding Women’s Studies Student Award, the Robin M. Glassman Journalism Scholarship, and the Charles S. and Eugenia M. Whitney Journalism Scholarship for academic excellence and commitment to her major. She is a news editor and general reporter for Southern News, and a co-editor in chief of Crescent magazine. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, where she served as secretary.

She also worked as a copy editor for a local art magazine and is currently manager of the Southport Galleries. After graduation, Victoria intends to write for a newspaper or accept a fellowship, and plans to obtain her master’s degree in women’s studies or journalism.

Cindy Simoneau, chairwoman of the Journalism Department, said Bresnahan has been an excellent editor who also served as a mentor to her fellow student journalists.

“I have seen this confident and selfless approach toward fellow students in the classroom as well as through these student activities,” Simoneau said. “Victoria is simply, a leader among students who will, no doubt, be a leader among professionals someday soon.”

*Taylor Hurley of Canaan is an elementary education major and interdisciplinary studies minor with a 3.94 GPA.

She received several scholarships, including the Roberta B. Willis Merit Scholarship and SCSU Foundation scholarships. She is an Urban Education Fellow, which is a student-led program for students committed to social justice and education.

Hurley also worked with students at the Beecher Museum Magnet School, Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School, and Quinnipiac STEM School. She volunteers at Noble Horizons, assisting residents in daily living; and at Salisbury Central School.

She hopes to work in the education system with an interest at studying systemic inequities in education and the goal of attending graduate school.

Jessica Powell, assistant professor of curriculum and learning, said Hurley demonstrated strong leadership and collaborative skills in her classroom and as an Urban Education Fellow.

“She worked with her peers to navigate and grapple with controversial topics and helped the group come to consensus,” Powell said. “She also was a leader in presenting ideas to the class and challenging her peers to consider the ethical dimensions of education. I feel confident that Taylor is graduating from our program as a beginning teacher who will be a positive change agent in whichever school community she serves.”

*Zachary Jezek of Moodus is a public health major with a 3.92 GPA

He was the owner of Grist Mill Market in Moodus from 2005-18, where he helped address the issue of food insecurity. Currently, Jezek is an intern with the state Department of Public Health Food Protection program, where he is responsible in helping review and test data systems, log foodborne illness complains, and track certified food inspectors and food establishment inspection reports.

Jezek will be trained in the National Environmental Reporting System and become a certified food inspector. He belongs to the East Haddam Lions Club, where he twice served as president and was awarded the Lions International Melvin Jones Fellowship. He is a member of the East Haddam Leos, where he advises 12- to 18-year-old students through community engagement. He intends to earn his master’s degree in public health at SCSU with the goal of becoming a health director.

Elizabeth Schwartz, instructor of public health, said Jezek was not only prepared for each class, but was ready to tackle challenging concepts.

“Though he often came to class with a given perspective on an issue, he also made it very clear that he is open to grappling with new ideas and points of view, an attitude that I believe is at the core of a meaningful college education,” Schwartz said. “In presenting this combination of gentle confidence and open-mindedness. Zac was a role model to his classmates, demonstrating that being a distinguished student isn’t just about knowing the ‘right’ answers but is about exercising patience, fortitude, respect and encouragement.”

Get to know the 2019 Barnard Scholars in these video interviews.

 

 

The late John Daniels (left) and Biagio DiLieto, former mayors of New Haven

Southern’s Buley Library will now be the repository for the papers and related materials of three New Haven mayors, thanks to a fund established by alumnus and attorney Neil Thomas Proto, ’67.

Southern had recently acquired the papers of former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who served from 1994-2014. The Neil Thomas Proto Mayoral Papers Fund will now see that the university houses documents dedicated to former mayors Biagio DiLieto (1980-1990) and John Daniels (1990-1994).

Included in the Mayoral Papers will be correspondence, special project materials, proclamations, and memoranda such as newspaper articles, photographs, and campaign literature from each mayor’s tenure. The archive will also chronicle the mayors’ early lives and feature supporting items from individuals who served or associated with DiLieto and Daniels during their time in office.

“As New Haven’s public university and consistent with its historically thoughtful relationship with the city, Southern is a natural home for this important archival collection,’’ said Proto, who last year established a Scholar and Civic Fund in Law and Social Justice at the university. “I knew both mayors. They made valuable contributions to the civic good and political life of the city long before and during their mayoralty. Their lives warrant this active effort to preserve and chronicle who they were.”

The fund will also support a public exhibition of the three collections of Mayoral Papers, sponsored and organized by Southern, and scheduled to be held in 2020.

Neil Thomas Proto, ’67 (right)

“The exhibit will provide a wonderful insight into the processes of city government and how critical decisions were made,’’ said SCSU President Joe Bertolino. “Neil Proto’s generosity has helped create an archive of historical and societal significance for the City of New Haven.”

Clara Ogbaa, director of Buley Library, has been charged with management of the Mayoral Papers project, aided by librarian Jacqueline Toce and SCSU political science faculty members Jonathan Wharton and Theresa Marchant-Shapiro.

A retired partner with Washington, D.C., law firms, Proto has made his mark in numerous professional fields since graduating from Southern with a degree in political science and history and subsequently earning a master’s degree in international affairs and a Juris Doctor degree at George Washington University.

His public service in the United States Department of Justice, counsel to a presidential committee on nuclear power plant safety, and private practice in law includes 45 years of experience in land use, environmental, and federal litigation, as well as teaching assignments at Yale and Georgetown universities.

Widely held as a leading environmental litigator, Proto has represented Native Hawaiians, fought against the construction of highways on civil rights grounds, the unnecessary use of natural resources, and harm to Indian reservations. He also chaired two New Haven mayoral inaugurations and represented the city in its successful battle to stop regional shopping malls.

The Top Owl Social Justice Award is given to recognize contributions toward helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates, and advances student and campus diversity.

This award, selected by the President’s Commission on Social Justice, are being awarded this academic year during the months of December, January, February, March, and April to recognize the contributions, leadership, and service of a worthy faculty, staff, part-time student, and full-time student.

For the month of March, the Top Owl Award winners are undergraduate student Madison Caruso; Michelle Mann, department secretary in the Department of Public Health; and Meredith Sinclair, assistant professor of English.

Madison Caruso is an Honors College student who is committed to pursuing social justice for those suffering from mental illness. Her honors thesis concerns advocacy for social justice by inviting the SCSU community to a talk on mental illness, then offering them the opportunity to make artwork in response to the talk. Those who complete the artwork will have a chance to share stories and come to a better understanding of how mental illness impacts us all, as well as how art has the potential to heal us all.

Caruso took advantage of SCSU’s Social Justice Grants program to provide the Southern community with these opportunities to both learn and create, and, her nominator wrote, “I applaud both her initiative and care.”

Her nominator continued, “Madison is going above and beyond what is required of an Honors Thesis to also better all of us at SCSU, especially those struggling with mental illness and/or those who know someone struggling with mental illness.”

As the department secretary in Public Health, Michelle Mann was described by her nominator, a student worker in the department, as “Office Mom!” and “the glue that keeps this department together.” Mann, her nominator wrote, is thoughtful and caring, baking cakes for birthdays, taking student staff on museum trips, and open to learning about others’ backgrounds and cultures. “I have never seen Mrs. Michelle be biased, judgmental or close minded to any topic, culture, or any challenge,” her nominator wrote. Her nominator particularly noted Mann’s care and concern for her department’s student workers, writing, “Mrs. Michelle is the kind of person who would encourage me to go to counseling services rather than clocking in. Mrs. Michelle is the kind of person who will take a walk with you just to listen about your concerns. Mrs. Michelle is the kind of person who will slip $10 in your backpack after you persisted to tell her not to just to help you out. Mrs. Michelle has opened her home, and her arms up for me, and I am ever so grateful. She has encouraged me to challenge myself, and believe in my abilities.”

Further, when it comes to social justice, Mann’s nominator wrote, “she is not complacent nor quiet in the eyes of oppression. Graduating from UCONN with a history degree, she found her stance against racial discrimination and promotes cultural awareness to her child and the rest of her staff. She is ready to march at any time, to open her mouth against things that aren’t right. She is open minded, and exposes herself to many cultures. She is the woman on all of the boards, has the huge dinners for her church, and orchestrates fellowship among different cultures and people.”

Meredith Sinclair has taken a leading role at SCSU in promoting anti-racist and culturally responsive pedagogy for future PK-12 teachers and for university educators. She is a co-director of the Urban Education Fellows, a student-driven organization for future teachers who are committed to teaching in urban schools and promoting activism through education. She is also a member of the SCSU Racial Justice Pedagogy Project and of the Faculty Senate Curricular Task Force for Social Justice and Human Diversity, as well as being a leader in AAUP Committee W. Her nominator wrote, “Dr. Sinclair integrates Social Justice in her teaching, research, and outreach, and many teacher candidates are grateful for her guidance, support, and struggle against inequities in education.”

 

 

Manohar Singh, dean, SCSU School of Graduate and Professional Studies

Southern has tapped Manohar Singh, former dean of the College of Professional Studies at Humboldt State University (Arcata, Calif.) with a track record of initiating new programs, to become the new dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Singh recently began his new duties after a nationwide search concluded last November. Robert Prezant, provost and vice president for academic affairs, called him a “proven fundraiser,” and noted that he has been making the rounds on campus to meet members of the campus community and to increase his understanding of the graduate program needs.

“When you see him, please join me in sharing a hearty Southern welcome,” Prezant said. “I also want to thank Dr. Jose Galvan who recently served as our interim dean with enthusiasm and wonderful dedication.”

At Humboldt, Singh helped launch an effort to raise $10 million for an endowed R.N. to B.S.N. program. He also led the development of new programs, such as online programs in education in collaboration with Cal State Tech.

Before his role at Humboldt, he served as division head for the Division of Business and Social Sciences at Penn State University – Abington, and interim chair of the Department of Finance at Long Island University.

At Penn State, he led the effort to establish new academic programs, such as a fast track M.B.A. in collaboration with Penn State Great Valley, as well as bachelor’s degrees in rehabilitation and human services, and in accounting. He also launched four minors.

He has a background in finance and economics, having earned a Ph.D. in finance from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and two master’s degrees in economics – an M.A. from the University of Waterloo-Ontario, Canada, and an M.A. with honors from Punjab University in India.

Singh has earned many faculty awards, including the Great Valley Award for Teaching Excellence from Penn State and the University of Nevada-Reno College of Business Researcher of the Year Award.

He served as chairman of the Penn State Grand Valley Faculty Senate and has held the title of full professor of finance since 2016.

Singh said he is excited about the opportunity to serve as the new graduate school dean, especially at this point in Southern’s development.

“I see a rewarding opportunity to serve as an anchor and a champion for our students’ personal and professional success,” he said. “It is a privilege to be part of an institution that is a pioneer in so many ways and is on an impressive upward trajectory.”

Singh said he would like the school to stand out for scientific rigor, social responsibility, market responsiveness and innovation.

“We already have several initiatives in progress to offer market demand-driven, flexible, and affordable, graduate programs in emerging areas,” he said. “We are expanding our non-degree credentials and certificate programs to serve the dynamic needs of working professionals and adult students as they aim to advance their careers.

“In addition, we are reaching out to the area employers to assess their needs and offer them customized educational and training programs for their employees. And we are creating meaningful and impactful community partnerships to promote socio-economic prosperity and regional economic development in the greater New Haven area.”

The Top Owl Social Justice Award is given to recognize contributions toward helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates, and advances student and campus diversity.

This award, selected by the President’s Commission on Social Justice, will be awarded this academic year during the months of December, January, February, March, and April to recognize the contributions, leadership, and service of a worthy faculty, staff, part-time student, and full-time student.

For the month of February, the Top Owl Award winners are undergraduate student Dayana Lituma-Solis and Victoria Zigmont, assistant professor of public health.

Dayana Lituma-Solis is an undergraduate student majoring in communications disorders and, according to her nominator, is a “living embodiment of the SCSU values of Social Justice and Access.” A student representative to the Undocumented Students Support Team, she is an integral member of the team and provides valuable ideas that have been recognized by the faculty and staff members of team. Last year she led a group of students to travel to the Capitol Building in Hartford to testify in front of the Higher Education Committee to equalize access to financial aid funds for all students regardless of immigration status. She assisted in a College Access Program for ESL (English as a Second Language) students at Wilbur Cross High School. She worked under CT Students 4 A Dream, an organization that fights for immigrant rights and the rights of undocumented students throughout the state of Connecticut. As part of her work with them she delivered “Undocupeer” training for student leaders (RA’s and OA’s) at Southern.

Lituma-Solis has has served as panelist for several immigration related events for Social Justice Month, including sharing her experience as a first generation immigrant at last year’s TRUMP CARD discussion. She is the president of the Hermandad de Sigma Iota Incorporada chapter at Southern, and under that role led several voting registration drives last fall to increase voting engagement by all students, but particularly Latino students. Last fall she also volunteered to give a bilingual tour to a group of more than 50 high schoolers and parents from Bridgeport and New Haven.

As a communications disorders major, she is an active member and secretary of the Autism Awareness ad Advocacy Club. In her free time, she is a tutor for New Haven Reads and works as a research assistant for the SCSU R.E.A.D.S. lab.

Lituma-Solis’ nominator wrote, “I could go on and on about Dayana’s accomplishments and contributions to SCSU’s mission of social justice. But the truly remarkable quality about Dayana is her willingness to step out of her comfort zone to assist her peers and pave the way for students to achieve their higher education goals.

“Even though she is only 20 years old, she has developed a vast network of contacts at SCSU and the New Haven community. She has referred many students and parents to my office to make a personal connection to talk about coming to SCSU. Dayana does not get any financial benefit from helping these students apply to SCSU, yet she goes above and beyond to ensure that these prospective students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college, are able to navigate the application process and make a personal connection with key people in the faculty and staff that look like them or speak the same language.”

Dr. Victoria Zigmont is committed to improving Southern’s students’ health and well-being through her work on campus and in the community. She recognizes the relationship between social justice and academic (and personal) success for Southern students. She has been involved in several initiatives that include her service on committees, leadership in projects and grant-funded research studies to reduce food insecurity among students on campus. Her efforts resulted in greater access to food and resources in a manner that protects and respects students’ privacy. She contributed to the relocation of the mobile food pantry, creation of satellite pantries housed across campus, and planning for a sustainable large pantry. She has been successful in building momentum, creating a sense of urgency, and engaging collaborators to remedy students’ food insecurity and related needs.

Dr. Zigmont also has demonstrated her commitment to student success through her involvement of graduate and undergraduate students in her research and practice in this area. She has led and engaged her students in campus-wide assessments and steps to address identified needs on campus and in the community.

Her nominator wrote that Dr. Zigmont “is committed to a mission of social justice, which is evident in all that she does. She is an exceptional role model who fully embraces her students and colleagues with dignity, respect, kindness, compassion and civility.”

Nominate a member of the Southern community for a Top Owl Social Justice Award.

 

Xhenet Aliu

Southern’s English Department and its creative writing program, as well as the university in general, have turned out a number of successful writers over the years. One such Owl alum, whose 2018 debut novel has been enjoying critical acclaim, will bring her talents back to campus to kick off the university’s celebration of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing Program‘s 10th anniversary.

On March 7 at 7:30 p.m., alumna Xhenet Aliu, ’01, will read from her novel, Brass, followed by a Q & A and refreshments. The reading, which will take place in Engleman A120, is free and open to the public.

Aliu graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in English and went on to earn an MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an MLIS from The University of Alabama. A native of Waterbury, Conn., she was born to an Albanian father and a Lithuanian American mother. She now lives in Athens, Ga., and works as an academic librarian.

Her debut fiction collection, Domesticated Wild Things, and Other Stories, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, and Brass was published by Random House in spring 2018. Her stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Barcelona Review, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere.

English Professor and Creative Writing Coordinator Tim Parrish was Aliu’s thesis director. He says, “Xhenet Aliu is a fantastic writer who perfectly exemplifies the exceptional quality of authors coming out of Southern’s undergraduate and Master of Fine Arts’ Creative Writing programs.”

The MFA program is a full-residency, terminal-degree program, preparing students for careers as publishing writers, teachers, editors, and professionals in the publishing world. While the curriculum focuses heavily on the writing workshop and the creative thesis, the MFA also requires students to study literature at the graduate level and provides opportunities for students to train for teaching collegiate-level writing, and in some cases to teach their own courses. The year 2019 marks the program’s 10th anniversary, which will be celebrated over the course of the coming year, culminating in a weekend of special activities in October.

Since its publication in early 2018, Brass has received the following honors, among others:

  • One of Entertainment Weekly‘s “10 Best Debut Novels of 2018”
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Book of 2018
  • Named a “Best Southern Novel of 2018” by Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • One of Bustle‘s “31 Debut Novels from 2018 That You Seriously Shouldn’t Miss”
  • Named a “Best Book of 2018” by Real Simple
  • A Spring 2018 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection
  • Starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal
  • New York Times’ Book Review Calendar of “Must-Know Literary Events in 2018”
  • Elle‘s “21 Best Books of 2018”
  • Southern Living‘s “Books Coming Out This Winter That We Can’t Wait to Read”
  • Huffington Post’s “60 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018”
  • Book Riot‘s “101 Books Coming out in 2018 That You Should Mark Down Now”
  • Elite Daily‘s “2018 Book Releases That’ll Make Reading More Your New Year’s Resolution”
  • Bookish‘s “Must-Read Winter Books 2018”
  • The Millions‘ “Most Anticipated: The Great 2018 Book Preview”
  • Christian Science Monitor‘s “5 New Titles to Check Out in the New Year”
  • Kirkus Review’s “11 Debuts You Should Pay Attention To”

From reviews of Brass, which is set in Waterbury, Conn.:

“Lustrous . . . a tale alive with humor and gumption, of the knotty, needy bond between a mother and daughter . . . [Brass] marks the arrival of a writer whose work will stand the test of time.” — O: The Oprah Magazine

“Aliu is witty and unsparing in her depiction of the town and its inhabitants, illustrating the granular realities of the struggle for class mobility.” — The New Yorker

Brass simmers with anger — the all too real byproduct or working hard for not enough, of being a woman in a place where women have little value, of getting knocked down one too many times. But when the simmer breaks into a boil, Aliu alchemizes that anger into love, and in doing so creates one of the most potent dramatizations of the bond between mother and daughter that I’ve ever read. . . . I left this book with the sure sense that the characters were alive beyond its pages, though I wouldn’t dare try to guess what they are up to — Elsie and Lulu are too real for that.” — The New York Times Book Review

The Top Owl Social Justice Award is given to recognize contributions toward helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates, and advances student and campus diversity.

This award, selected by the President’s Commission on Social Justice, will be awarded this academic year during the months of December, January, February, and March to recognize the contributions, leadership, and service of a worthy faculty, staff, part-time student, and full-time student.

For the month of January, the Top Owl Award winners are graduate student Mykelle Coleman; Sedell Hairston-Hatton, secretary from the Student Involvement and Leadership Development Office; and Yi-chun Tricia Lin, director and professor of Women’s Studies.

Mykelle Coleman, a second-year graduate student in the School Psychology Program, has shown a passion for and commitment to social justice throughout her time at Southern. For the past two years, she has headed the Counseling and School Psychology Department’s Social Justice/Diversity Committee, a group that designs and coordinates learning experiences to meet these goals. In addition, last year Coleman worked on the On Our Own Turf Project, a Social Justice Committee grant-funded activity that looked at issues of microaggressions, discrimination, and injustice on the SCSU campus. She also developed and led the Clothesline Project, an art-based activity dealing with issues of sexual assault and violence, and a showing and discussion about the film For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf during last year’s Social Justice Month. This year she was a student leader for two major Social Justice Month activities, the Racial Justice Film Festival and the Sleep Out America event, to bring attention to the issue of child, youth, and college student homelessness. She has also helped to provided diversity training to Southern staff.

One of Coleman’s nominators wrote that she “embodies the ideals of social justice and utilizes the core values of SCSU to bring those ideals to her peers and fellow Owls. As a leader in the social justice committee, she has organized events at Southern that promote awareness of some challenging issues that we face today, both as Owls and members of our larger society.” Aside from the activities she is involved in on campus, a nominator wrote, “she exhibits a nurturing nature towards all, accepting and celebrating others constantly. She is a positive spirit who is always there for others. [She] is able to light up a room with her presence while also shining the spotlight on others around her. She has an incredible spirit that Southern is very lucky to have as a part of its community.”

Sedell Hairston-Hatton, who is also known as Dell, was described by her nominator as “such a beautiful person inside and out, and she is extremely helpful! She is very reliable and always willing to go out of her way to make sure those around her get the assistance that they need. She does a lot of behind the scenes work to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

Her nominator added that Hairston-Hatton is “a remarkable person who has a heart of gold, and it is evident that she takes her job not only seriously but has a passion for what she does. I think these are very important qualities to have as a staff member at the University, and she is a wonderful candidate for the Top Owl Award.”

As the director of the Women’s Studies Program, Yi-chun Tricia Lin has been organizing the 64 Days of Nonviolence program at Southern for many years. As part of that program, every spring semester she puts together a wide array of events to promote social justice on campus. Her nominator wrote that Lin “does this work tirelessly and on a shoestring budget” and pointed out that the 64 Days of Nonviolence program predates Social Justice Month by more than a decade. One of the most impressive feature of the 64 Days of Nonviolence, wrote Lin’s nominator, “is the wide array of topics covered, from Indigenous, women’s, and LGBTQ rights, to Black Lives Matter, to increasing social justice for girls and boys. She really is a model advocate for the teaching and learning of social justice on campus.”

Congratulations to January’s Top Owl Award winners!

To nominate someone for a Top Owl award, visit the university’s Social Justice website.