Faculty

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 interviewed on WTNH recently about her respiratory therapy work on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Watch the interview, “Wednesday Warrior: Joan Kreiger, Program Director for the Respiratory Care Program at SCSU” (May 6, 2020).

She was also 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

Jean Breny, chair of the Department of Public Health, recently delivered the Presidential Address at the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE)’s virtual annual conference.

The title of Breny’s address, “Advancing Health Equity: Taking an Anti-racism Approach to Health Promotion Leadership and Action,” provided an understanding of how public health professionals can work towards health equity in their communities by using an anti-racism framework.

From: James Thorson, Chairman of the SCSU Department of Economics:

How likely is a recession as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of many businesses?

If the social distancing measures remain in place for a month or more, then a recession is almost inevitable. Even in our increasingly online economy, many of our transactions involve face-to-face transactions. In many sectors of the economy, spending is being curtailed — which results in lower incomes. The good news is that if the virus gets under control fairly quickly, any downturn should be relatively short.

James Thorson

Will the economic stimulus help stave off a worse recession and help it bounce back more robustly when the virus is finally under control?

In all likelihood, economic stimulus should lessen the severity of a recession — as long as the stimulus induces additional spending in the economy. This additional spending is likely because many people have had their incomes reduced dramatically, so they will need the stimulus money to survive. Once the virus is under control, the economy should bounce back pretty quickly because there will be much pent up demand.

What are your thoughts on the volatility of the stock market?

The stock market hates uncertainty and this virus has caused uncertainty. What we thought was going to be a two week or so social distancing period has extended to an uncertain period of time. This is having devastating effects on businesses such as restaurants, hotels, airlines, among others. When this will end is anybody’s guess. Such uncertainty always makes investors nervous. The good news is that the virus will eventually come under control, and the economy and the stock market will eventually recover.

What effect is the pandemic having on small businesses?

Many small businesses are going to be hit very hard by the pandemic, at least in the short term.  For example, many restaurants and stores have shut down for the time being.  That means that these business owners are still paying rent and property taxes, but they are receiving no income. Even businesses not directly affected are likely to see a slowdown.  The supply chain in the United States is still operating, but more slowly and not as completely.

Also, productivity is likely to be lower, even with people working from home.  For most of us, our houses are just not set up as efficiently as our workplaces, so that makes it more difficult to get work done.

With the market in decline, is this generally a good time for people to increase their investments, such as in a 401(k), or to sit tight?

The general question of market timing is always a difficult one, and stock prices are inherently unpredictable.  For a person with a long-tern horizon, I would not shy away from investing in the market.  Those who invested in the market in 2008-2009 still have done very well, even with the market decline.

The best time to invest in the market is when things are at their worst. But there are two potential challenges with that strategy.  First, we never really know beforehand when “the worst” is.  Second, it can be psychologically difficult for many people to do this. That is one reason why automatic investment strategies, such as when we have money withheld from our paychecks to be put in a 401(k) or 403 (b), can be very successful over time.

 

 

 

 

Looking for some safe and healthy fun outdoors? Here’s some advice from Joe Milone assistant professor of recreation management, Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management Department, on spending time outside during a time when many of us are studying or working from home and practicing self-distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Joe Milone

Q: Is it okay to go to a park and take a hike?

A: Hiking is excellent for one’s physical and mental health, which is important in times like this. I just got back from a hike in West Rock Ridge State Park in Hamden with my dog. There were actually quite a few people with their canine companions out on the trail today.

If someone decides to go out for hike, it is absolutely important to minimize exposure to others. As with all the other warnings from local, state, and federal officials, practicing good hygiene and social distancing are key. Parks and trails provide plenty of open space and allow us to keep our distance from others. Do not congregate with a large group of people – that defeats the purpose of social distancing.

Of course, if you are showing symptoms or think you have been exposed to the virus then you should stay home and follow CDC and local public health agency guidelines. In addition, there is a lot we don’t know about the virus or impact on our specific community, so continue monitoring announcements because information is always changing.

Q: How can people prepare for their outing?

A: Research nearby parks. Some parks can be extremely busy, so finding a lesser-visited park could be a good option, but either way do some research before you go. Go during off-hours, if possible, to avoid large groups of people – this also lessens the environmental impact of the trails.

I would choose a trail that will not be crowded. This can be difficult to determine ahead of time, so you might have to change plans when arriving at the park. If a trail looks crowded, find another option. That’s why it is good to bring a map. Close to the SCSU campus, the loop around Lake Wintergreen in West Rock Ridge State Park or the Sleeping Giant State Park tower trail are both very popular hiking spots. However, there are plenty of other trail options at each park to get away from the large crowds.

As always have extra food, water, and, of course, hand sanitizer. Check the weather. Know your skill level and that of the people you are with to determine how long to be out and trail difficulty.

Q: Do you recommend any resources to help people plan their outing?

A: The internet is full of great resources but here are a few to get you going.

Hiking For Beginners

Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Trail Club

Connecticut State Parks

Connecticut Forest and Parks Association

REI – Best Hikes in CT

Jonathan Wharton

The arrival of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state of Connecticut has necessitated the swift move to online courses at the state’s public colleges and universities, aimed at reducing the risk of the virus spreading among large groups of people in close quarters.

Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs at Southern, has published an op-ed on CT News Junkie, “Coronavirus Is Forcing Higher Education to Reinvent Itself” (March 13, 2020), in which he discusses the move towards online modes of delivery for courses at Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education, made necessary by the spread of COVID-19. Wharton says that “Connecticut is overdue for providing alternative and nontraditional delivery methods of higher education to address our student enrollment and generational staffing concerns.” Read the op-ed.

 

Bruce Kalk, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, at the University's graduate commencement ceremony

After an extensive national search, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Prezant has announced that Dr. Bruce Kalk will now officially take the role of dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Kalk has served as interim dean of the College since fall 2017. Prior to his role as interim dean, he served as associate dean of Arts and Sciences and a professor in the University’s History Department.

Bruce Kalk

The search was highly competitive and attracted outstanding candidates, Prezant says, “but there was wide consensus among the many evaluative groups that Bruce was the individual who could best use his insight, attention to detail, and forward thinking to continue to move the College forward. His understanding of and experiences in CAS and his dedication to Southern in concert with his creativity and academic grounding gives him a strong advantage in advancing the College.”

Looking forward, Prezant added, Kalk will continue to help insure an outstanding learning environment for Southern’s students, new outlets and opportunities for faculty and staff, and deepening links to external entities.

Prezant added his thanks for the efforts of the Dean of Arts and Sciences Search Committee: Winnie Yu (Computer Science), Siobhan Carter-David (Women and Gender Studies), Jeffrey Webb (Chemistry), Jim Thorson (Economics and Finance), Barbara Cook (Communication Disorders), Wendy Hardenberg (Research Librarian), Kristine Anthis (Psychology) Elena Schmitt (World Language), Chelsey Cerrato (student), and Cynthia Patterson (Registrar’s Office), and especially Margaret Generali (Counseling/School Psychology) for her service as Committee Chair. Prezant also recognized Norma Valentin and Linda Robinson for their excellent attention to details in the coordination of the search.

Southern Connecticut State University’s Blue Economy project in Long Island Sound is gearing up to have a profound green impact.

The Project Blue Hub, created by a team of dedicated researchers and spearheaded by Colleen Bielitz, associate vice president for Strategic Initiatives & Outreach, and Patrick Heidkamp, professor in the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences at SCSU, is the initial step towards creating a Blue Economy research, tech transfer and innovation hub in New Haven. By expanding the market for locally grown kelp and developing potential innovations aimed at the processing and marketing of kelp, the project will focus on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved lives, and ocean ecosystem health.

Rich in biodiversity, kelp can be grown and harvested year round. It doesn’t need chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides, so its production is low impact. Kelp forests are home to a wide array of species, from invertebrates and fish to marine mammals and birds. Perhaps most importantly, kelp helps improve water quality by ‘fixing’ the nitrogen content of the surrounding water, reducing ocean acidification.

The world’s oceans are big business: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports the global ocean economy could double in size by 2030, reaching approximately $3 trillion. Based on information from a Southern Connecticut State University research team, the Long Island Sound Blue Economy is projected to grow by 67% during that same time frame to an estimated $13.3 billion.

Colleen Bielitz and Patrick Heidkamp

“Project Blue is so important is because it will allow for continuous economic growth and the advancement of our local community,” Bielitz said. “Through our hub, we will resolve social problems in a sustainable and efficient way. We will develop new technologies, products and services to meet the needs of our community and beyond while continuously improving our capabilities through better use of our resources and assets, particularly the Long Island Sound.”

By using the emerging Long Island Sound kelp/seaweed industry as a catalyst for subsequent Blue Economy initiatives, Project Blue Hub aims to find alternative channels and develop niche markets for kelp through a concerted effort of research and development, innovation, and tech transfer to incubate local businesses.

These business will play a key role in the expansion of the kelp market, such as designing kelp-based cosmetic products; the creation of animal feed from seaweed; the development of bioplastics from Kelp/Seaweed; the utilization of kelp-based bioyarn and biotextiles; and assessing the potential for kelp use in the pharmaceutical industry. Rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and magnesium, expansion opportunities are ripe for kelp-based food products for consumers (for example, Fresh Kelp, Kelp Jerky, Kelp Beer, etc.). Kelp also is high in antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which help to fight against disease-causing free radicals.

Through partnerships with Gateway Community College and CT Next, Southern is prepared to provide up to 300 students with practical research and learning experiences in the burgeoning kelp industry in the next two years, creating an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation.

“Our students will form research innovation teams and create proof-of-concept products and innovations in the Blue Economy,” Bielitz said. “This will eliminate or shorten the learning curve to enter the blue innovation workforce. With our hub specifically designed for Blue Economy ideas to be hatched, we will provide students with the hard and soft skills needed to operate in this space.”

Southern’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies and the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences have long served as advocates for and experts in Connecticut’s oceanic health; now, partnering with government agencies, relevant local NGOs and business partners, Southern’s Blue Economy Project is leading the charge to create an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation — the economy of which encompasses renewable off-shore energy development, tourism, fisheries, maritime transport, waste management, climate change, coastal resilience, and more.

“Our work will highlight the close linkages between ocean health, climate change, and the well-being of the state,” Bielitz said. “This goes beyond viewing the ocean economy solely as a mechanism for economic growth. We want to create sustainable models based on the circular economy. Similar to the Green Economy, our Blue Economy hub will focus on being inclusive while acting as good stewards of our earth with a focus on social equity, while also meaningfully reducing environmental threats and ecological scarcities.”

A peaceful demonstration in New Haven following the April 2019 shooting of an unarmed couple

Associate Professor of Sociology Cassi Meyerhoffer studies the role of race in American policing, as well as systemic racism and racial residential segregation, but her work on these issues extends beyond the classroom. Last spring, when police shot at an unarmed couple in the Newhallville neighborhood of New Haven, Meyerhoffer was among the many New Haven and Hamden residents – as well as Southern and Yale students – who spoke out and showed up at numerous peaceful demonstrations around the city. In the widely-publicized incident, 22-year-old Stephanie Washington was shot and seriously wounded by a Hamden police officer and a Yale police officer, who fired 16 rounds at her and Paul Witherspoon, the driver of the car in which she was a passenger. Witherspoon was not injured. The police were responding to a 911 call of a reported armed robbery at a mini-mart, but at the time of the shooting, neither Witherspoon nor Washington was in possession of a firearm.

“In my classes I have more and more black women and Latinx folks,” Meyerhoffer says. “I want my students to see that there are things they can do about what we’re discussing in the classroom. They get frustrated.”

After the shooting in Newhallville, she says, “students were just thrown. They felt that could have been them.”

Meyerhoffer is just back from a fall sabbatical during which she worked on her book proposal: From the Old Jim Crow to the New: Reconstruction, Residential Segregation and the Policing of Black Bodies. Policing of neighborhoods is a particular area of interest for her, and she says that Newhallville is “an over-policed neighborhood,” drawing attention from the Hamden and Yale police departments as well as New Haven’s. Meyerhoffer points out that while the police who fired at Washington and Witherspoon were Hamden and Yale police, Newhallville is not within their jurisdiction. “We have students living in these neighborhoods,” she says. “Every semester I hear stories from students of color – it could be our students that these things are happening to.”

“Black and brown neighborhoods are over-policed,” Meyerhoffer says. “We know this as social scientists. When we talk about white privilege, we’re also talking about the luxury of not walking around feeling threatened all the time.” She adds that living under constant stress contributes to deterioration of health in black and brown people.

Meyerhoffer writes in her book proposal, “As public discourse around police brutality and racial inequality largely centers on specific events, there is a dearth of information within the public discourse about systemic racism and how race and racism pervade every single aspect of American life. The ways in which Black and Brown people are often treated by law enforcement is reflective of larger historical racial inequities and injustices that extend far beyond the criminal justice system.” In the book, she plans to show how “the racist foundations of America [are tied] to discrimination in our criminal justice system, schools, and neighborhoods.”

Prior to coming to Southern in 2012, Meyerhoffer did work related to racial composition of neighborhoods. She says that “there’s this American idea that people want to live around people like them,” and that this notion supposedly explains the racial segregation of neighborhoods. But, she says, this segregation is actually the result of government policies, and writes, “It was not one policy that led to the segregation of American neighborhoods, but a series of policies and laws enacted by our government. Federal, state, and local governments used public housing policy, redlining, blockbusting, and banking and lending regulations to purposely segregate every metropolitan area in the nation.”

The systemic racism Meyerhoffer sees implicit in neighborhood segregation is connected to what she calls “the policing of black bodies.” She writes, “When residential segregation is coupled with stereotypes about black people, black neighborhoods, and black criminality, we are left with a culture in which black bodies are over-policed, treated more harshly by our criminal justice system, and are rarely characterized as victims when police use excessive force and are rarely held accountable for such force.”

One positive outcome of the Newhallville incident, Meyerhoffer says, is how the three communities – New Haven, Hamden, and Yale — have come together over it in working for justice. Meyerhoffer says she participated in the protests as part of a larger group, led chiefly by black women.

People all over the state in black and brown communities are taking action, Meyerhoffer says, adding, “I think it’s important for our students to see that it takes all of us to do the work of disrupting white supremacist institutions — including faculty and students — and it can’t be done comfortably from one’s office or classroom. It requires showing up for our communities.”

 

 

 

The awardees of the Faculty Creative Activity Research Grants (FCARG) competition for 2020-21 have been announced, says Robert S. Prezant, provost and vice president for academic affairs. The winning proposals selected are those which establish new research at the university, support faculty in the continuation and completion of meritorious research or encourage the development of projects with potential for external funding. The 24 awardees chosen will receive stipends of $2,500 each to support their winning research proposals.

The FCARG Committee, chaired by Rachel Jeffrey, received a number of outstanding applications this year from faculty, and this made the decisions very difficult. Nevertheless, after careful deliberations, the awardees for the 2020-21 fiscal year are:

Imad Antonios, Computer Science
Meghan Barboza, Biology
Ericka Barnes, Chemistry
Kelly Bordner, Psychology
Adiel Coca, Chemistry
Carmen Coury, History
Zara DeLuca, Communication Disorders
Nicholas Fedorchuk, Earth Science
Robert Gregory, Health and Movement Sciences
Candy Hwang, Chemistry
Mohammad Islam, Computer Science
Dushmantha Jayawickreme, Earth Science
James Kearns, Chemistry
Kalu Ogbaa, English
Yulei Pang, Mathematics
David Pettigrew, Philosophy
Sarah Roe, History
Alaa Sheta, Computer Science
Vivian Shipley, English
Jeff Slomba, Art
Janani Umamaheswar, Sociology
Kenneth Walters, Psychology
Miaowei Weng, World Languages and Literatures
Victoria Zigmont, Public Health

Congratulations to the FCARG award recipients for this year!

Sean Grace (left) and Gabriella DiPreta. Credit Patrick Skahill / Connecticut Public Radio

Radio station WNPR (90.5 FM) aired a story on December 9, 2019, about an ongoing study of the Northern Star Coral conducted by Sean Grace, chair of the Biology Department, and Gabriella DiPreta, an adjunct faculty member in the Biology Department who is a former student of Grace. The coral has “hearty New Englander” qualities in being able to withstand changes in the water temperature and acidity due to global warming better than other corals. The hope is that by researching why these corals are more resistant to such changes, scientists may be able to improve the resiliency of other corals and sea life. The study is a joint effort with the Milford Laboratory of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Read and listen to the WNPR story, which is by reporter Patrick Skahill.