Faculty

Jack Gesino, an associate professor of social work at Southern who specializes in elder care, said that social isolation and loneliness can alter a person’s genetic response to disease even in normal times. This represents an even bigger challenge — especially for the elderly — during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, when social distancing is crucial to staying healthy.

“The virus adds an ‘uncertainty’ as to what is happening — will I get it, when will it end and so on,” Gesino said. “From a neurobiological perspective, the brain hates uncertainty and frequently responds with either depression, anxiety or both.”

Jack Gesino

But Gesino said that while these are challenges, there are steps senior citizens can take to reduce the chances of becoming depressed or overly anxious. They can also help people of all ages.

He recommends the following:

  • Setting a goal each day, as this literally calms the brain.
  • Limiting one’s exposure to the news once a day.
  • Taking the opportunity to have 15 minutes of sunshine (the brain perceives this as a reward, in addition to the health benefits of sunshine).
  • Laughter. Watch some funny sitcoms.
  • Novelty. Do something out of your routine. An example could be eating breakfast for dinner.
  • Savoring music. Scientific data shows that music provides a benefit to the brain and its ability to decrease stress.

Gesino said caregivers for the elderly also can face psychological challenges of their own. He said adult children often feel guilty in not being able to see or assist their parents.

“Video chat technology can be helpful, such as FaceTime and Skype,” he said. “Many elders who have the financial means are pretty sophisticated on using technology.

“I hope public officials have a plan in place to help elders who are disadvantaged to maintain regular social contact.”

Gesino said that in many instances, disadvantaged elders are living in public housing or apartments, although in some cases, they are living in their own homes.

 

 

Frank LaDore teaching the Death and Dying class (photo courtesy Cara McDonough, New Haven Independent)

The New Haven Independent ran an article, “SCSU Prof, Students Work Through The Covid Grief” (March 31, 2020), about Frank LaDore, director of Transfer Student Services, who teaches the Death, Dying & Bereavement class at Southern. LaDore, who has worked at the university for 28 years in a variety of departments, has been teaching the course since 2012.

The class, offered by the Department of Public Health, is described on the university’s website as “understanding death in our culture and social and personal mechanisms for responding to death, dying and bereavement.”

While the university remains closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the course is meeting online for the rest of the semester.

 

Journalism Professor Frank Harris III

Journalism Professor Frank Harris III, an award-winning columnist for the Hartford Courant, speculated about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in a recent op-ed, “We don’t know where the coronavirus is taking us, but off we go nonetheless” (Hartford Courant, March 17, 2020). As Harris writes, “I will adjust and adapt, just as we all must in this journey along the road of our oh-so-exciting lives.”

In addition to teaching journalism and writing a column for the Courant, Harris formerly served as chair of the Journalism Department. He also makes documentary films.

 

 

A scene from the film "Outbreak"
You’ve probably said it to yourself more than once during the past few weeks: “I feel like I’m living in a movie.” The coronavirus pandemic has turned people’s lives upside down, and the daily news reporting is unnerving, and even frightening. Images in the newspaper and on TV can seem unreal, like something we’ve only seen in films. Troy Rondinone, professor of history, is a scholar of American culture, and in a recent blog he published in Psychology Today, he discusses the portrayal of pandemics in film. In the blog, he addresses the question, “What has Hollywood taught us about pandemics?”
Rondinone is also the author of Nightmare Factories: The Asylum in the American Imagination.
Troy Rondinone

Thuan Vu, Meredith Miller, and Terrence Lavin (Meredith Miller photo credit: Tanya Marcuse)

Three members of the Art Department faculty have received grants to support their work through the Artist Fellowship Program of the Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA). Art Professor Thuan Vu, a painter, received one of seven Artistic Excellence Awards, while Art Professor Terrence Lavin, Art Department chairman and a jewelry maker and metalsmith, and photographer Meredith Miller, an adjunct faculty member in the Art Department, won Artist Fellowship grants.

The Artist Fellowship Program provides competitive grants to encourage the continuing development of Connecticut artists. These grants provide support for artists to pursue new work and achieve specific creative and career goals.

There are three types of grant designations awarded under this program based on reviewer assessment. The Artistic Excellence grants are $5,000 each, while the Artist Fellowship grants are $3,000 each.
Emerging Recognition grants are $1,000.

The awards covers all arts disciplines including the visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, crafts, installation, illustration); music (music production, music composition, and opera); writing (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and Young Adult fiction); dance and choreography; and theater (playwriting, film, and writing).

Of the top seven recipients of Artistic Excellence grants, Vu is one of only two visual artists to receive this grant. Of the paintings he entered in the awards competition, Vu says, “The black and white painting of flowers are a meditation on creating meaning and beauty in a world of conflict, division, and loss. Conceptually, the flowers were painted in a grisaille palette to convey how joy and beauty feel tempered during this time in my life and in our nation’s history.”

Thuan Vu, “Kintsugi no. 2″/ Oil on linen/ 18” x 18”/ 2019; and “Kintsugi no. 1″/ Oil on canvas/ 60” x 40”/2019

Lavin, who teaches jewelry and metals, writes of his work, “My current research is focused on looking toward the creation of a body of creative work that will adapt emergent digital tools and industrial manufacturing processes to the traditional forms, materials and practices of metalsmithing & sculpture. I’ll be working with 3D modelling software and rapid prototyping to explore 3D-printed output in two specific areas:

  • direct casting of 3D printed forms into metal and glass (via lost-wax and/or sandcasting processes)
  • electrolytic deposition (electroforming) of copper on 3D printed models”

Lavin is one of 35 artists in the state who were chosen to receive a $3,000 award from the COA. The funding provides an opportunity for these artists to continue their artistic development and creation of new work.

Terrence Lavin, “Core Fragment” and “Prototype C”

Miller was also one of the 35 artists to receive a $3,000 award. She received an Artist Fellowship from the COA with her photographic series, “On Trail: Portraits on the A.T.” She began this project in July 2019 during an artist residency at Monson Arts in Monson, Maine, an official Appalachian Trail Community. She explains, “My studio was conveniently located across the street from a hostel for thru-hikers. I plan to continue this project and am applying to other artist residencies situated along the A.T throughout New England.”

Meredith Miller, “Fireball,” “Barefoot,” “Earbuds,” “Wild Jay-Horsepower-Sparkle Machine – and Sister Bunny,” and “Twinkle Toes”

 

Social distancing and the closing of typical meeting places are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus). Public health officials believe these steps can be effective tools in slowing down the impact of the virus.

And while necessary, these changes are often psychologically difficult for people, according to Julie Liefeld, associate professor of marriage and family therapy and director of the SCSU Family Therapy Clinic.

“Even if you identify as mostly introverted, a public health directive to distance yourself from others for safety causes our fight or flight impulses to kick in and try to take over,” Liefeld says.

“This is due, in part, because of the forced choice nature of the directive and because you are facing the unknown. So many of us will notice that we are more restless, anxious, worried, and/or unable to take advantage of the downtime during this phase of managing COVID-19. “

SCSU professor Jule Liefeld
Julie Liefeld

Liefeld offers 10 suggestions to help manage our feelings and our mental health:

  1. Be mindful of what you are going through. Even if you aren’t ill or in a difficult situation, you are experiencing stress. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel. Write them down and talk them out. Every morning write out what is weighing on your mind. Set a timer for 5 minutes and let it rip. Don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. Close the journal and leave it all right there. Don’t spend time re- reading what you wrote down.
  2. Establish a pattern or routine for your day and evening, and stick to it. Writing down a schedule or a plan for your day has been shown to make you feel grounded and safer. Even if you don’t do all the things on the schedule – writing them down is the calming factor). And keep your sleep schedule healthy.
  3. Make movement a part of your day. Find a way to move or exercise, even if it’s climbing your stairs a few times. Do some stretching, march in place, do some yoga. Investigate guided exercise or movement online. Lots of gyms and places that feature yoga are streaming free classes every day.  Don’t give into any internal cues that say, “why bother” or “I will do that tomorrow.”
  4. Open your windows or go outside. The CDC is recommending getting fresh air while complying with social distancing. Take a walk around your block, yard or patio.  Breathe in and practice mindfully noticing your surroundings.
  5. Minimize or avoid the use of alcohol and/sedatives as a coping mechanism to relax or de-stress. Instead, take a bath, drink tea or a similar non-alcoholic drink. Remember that the restlessness that accompanies worry only lasts for 90 seconds.
  6. Incorporate sound in your environment. That can include music and talking to a friend, partner, or family member by phone or video chat. Change up your hand washing song.
  7. Moderate your exposure to the news and people who are focused on increasing your worry. Once you have your daily information of the general situation and for what your role in the world is, turn it off. For those friends and family members who make you feel MORE anxious, limit your interactions to a polite check in and then move on to more constructive conversations.
  8. Manage your feelings of guilt, fear, blame, anger, and shame by noticing how you feel, and reminding yourself about what you can and can’t control. Focus on what you can control and being good at taking care of those things.
  9. Ask for help if you think you might need it. You can dial 211 to get more support for mental health support, financial support, or instrumental needs such as food or heat.
  10. Allow yourself to adjust to this new mode of being. Acknowledge how you are feeling and reacting to it, and then create a structure that supports healthy function.  We are learning as we go, and you are not alone.

Be well.

 

 

In a recent article in The New London Day, Lee deLisle, a professor in the Department of Recreation, Tourism, & Sport Management, discusses the impact that COVID-19 has had on our favorite leisure activities and how it affects us on a personal level. He comments on the trend of sports programs being postponed/cancelled for safety reasons in light of the pandemic, and the importance of sports and entertainment in society.

Read “Loss of live entertainment leaves seats, people empty.”

Lee deLisle

 

Finding yourself wanting to exercise more during these stressful times? Kristie Rupp, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Movement Sciences, knows all about that. Her research focuses on increasing physical activity engagement, and she is also an avid runner herself. Regarding exercise during times of stress, Rupp says, “We definitely want to encourage people to be physically active while practicing social distancing! Walking or running is a great way to exercise and get outside, while still maintaining a safe distance from others. There are also a host of free workout videos on YouTube and other platforms that you can use to help you stay active indoors for those who have been instructed to do so. Now, more than ever, it is important to engage in regular physical activity to help promote overall health and personal well-being during these challenging times.”

Kristie Rupp

Professor Joan Kreiger is a licensed Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and the Respiratory Care Program Coordinator in the Health and Human Performance Department at Southern. She was recently interviewed on WTIC News/Talk 1080 Radio about the effects of COVID-19 has on the respiratory system and the types of respiratory therapy that may help patients with the virus.

Listen to the brief interview: https://bit.ly/2U9XmeA

Kreiger has an extensive background in teaching healthcare curriculum at public and private universities, and at major urban not-for-profit health care, education and research enterprises. Learn more about the Respiratory Care Program.

Joan Krieger