Faculty

Celebration of Excellence: Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship

2019 Recipient: Dr. Victoria Zigmont, Assistant Professor of Public Health

About the award

SCSU recognizes the importance of faculty scholarship and creative activity in furthering its mission. The Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowships aim to support this goal by providing recipients with a significant amount of reassigned time at an early stage in their careers at Southern.

About the recipient

Dr. Victoria Zigmont, assistant professor of Public Health, has amassed significant data on college student food insecurity, which is defined as “the uncertainty of being able to acquire enough food, or enough nutritious food, needed to maintain a healthy diet.” Her research on solutions to student food insecurity seeks to expand upon her previous research, analyzing data about risk factors and food insecurity status and identifying solutions to the problem.

According to Dr. Zigmont’s notes, although college students experience food insecurity at higher rates than the national average, they are often deemed ineligible to receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. A 2016 Southern-wide study conducted by Dr. Zigmont revealed that 30 percent of undergraduate students reported some degree of food insecurity; furthermore, that that insecurity leads to lower average grade point averages, increased anxiety or depression, and poor nutrition.

In addition to further measuring the effect of food insecurity on academic performance and identifying variables in existing data associated with food insecurity, Dr. Zigmont’s project will culminate in two manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals and a conceptualized grant for external funding to expand this work.

According to Dr. Zigmont, “This project has implications to benefit students across the country… [It] will share new knowledge with educators, public health providers and the general academic community to show what the disparities in academic outcomes are for students who are food insecure.”

Dr. Zigmont received a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health from The Ohio State University; a Master of Public Health in Health Promotion from Southern; and a B.S. in Chemistry and Physiology & Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut.

Celebration of Excellence: Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship

2019 Recipient: Md Shafaeat Hossain, Associate Professor of Computer Science

About the award

SCSU recognizes the importance of faculty scholarship and creative activity in furthering its mission. The Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship aims to support this goal by providing mid-level faculty members with a significant amount of reassigned time at this crucial stage in their careers at Southern.

About the recipient

Dr. Hossain is researching multi-biometric systems (both parallel fusion-based and serial fusion-based) in hopes of developing a new serial fusion-based verification scheme. Its application is significant, as the core of all information security — computer security, cyber security, and network security — is the concept of user authentication, which ensures that only legitimate users can access the resources they need and that unauthorized users are blocked.

Dr. Hossain’s development of a new serial fusion-based biometric verification scheme, he wrote, “would provide a scheme that performs better than or at least as good as a parallel fusion based-scheme, and at the same time, provide a significant amount of convenience to the genuine users.”

Professor Hossain’s Ph.D. work is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has been published in “Applied Intelligence” as well as in prestigious peer-reviewed IEEE conference proceedings. His multi-faceted research plan entails literature review; verification scheme development; data collection; data cleansing and processing; coding and experiments; analysis; and finally, publication and reporting and the possible procurement of additional research funds from DARPA.

Professor Hossain received a Ph.D. in Computational Analysis and Modeling, an MS in Computer Science, and an MS in Mathematics from Louisiana Tech University. He also received an MS in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Dhaka.

Celebration of Excellence: Million Dollar Club

2019 Recipient: Alycia Santilli, Director of CARE

About the award

The Million Dollar Club is calculated to include all grants and awards brought into Southern by faculty over the years. This club originated in SPAR in 2004 as a means of publicly recognizing faculty who have consistently pursued grants throughout the years as well as those who secured a single or multi-year large award.

About the recipient

As Director of the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) at Southern, Alycia Santilli transforms her everyday ethos — directly involving people most impacted by health disparities in the development of solutions to create health equity — into tangible successes.

Ms. Santilli began her relationship with CARE, which works collaboratively with community organizations and neighborhood groups across New Haven to improve the health of the city’s residents, in 2007 after its inception at Yale. With years of experience as a community organizer and as a coordinator of research projects at the Yale School of Public Health, she was instrumental in providing administrative oversight and strategic direction.

She quickly rose to a leadership position, becoming Director in 2016. She brought to the role all the ingredients for success: more than a decade of experience in community engagement; deep ties to the New Haven community; expertise in community-based intervention development; and a strong educational background in social work.

Under her directorial leadership, Ms. Santilli and the CARE team began implementing a renewed path offered through this unique university partnership. Recently, CARE secured several grants and contracts of varying sizes, including two major sources of funding.

Ms. Santilli also serves as the Principal Investigator for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and as the Principal Investigator of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health. This award has the potential to bring more than $3.6 million to New Haven. In its first year, CARE is proud to distribute 38 percent of this funding directly into the community.

As someone who received all of her education at public schools and state universities in Connecticut, and as a dedicated resident of New Haven, Ms. Santilli ’s experience — both hands-on and career-based — have helped her improve the health of the city, and beyond.

Celebration of Excellence: Faculty Scholar Award 

2019 Recipient: Dr. C. Michele Thompson, Professor of History 

About the award

Conferred jointly by the Faculty Scholar Award Committee and the University President, the Faculty Scholar Award recognizes scholarly and creative work of exceptional merit by a full-time SCSU faculty member.

The BOR-approved SCSU campus winner for this award is Dr. Michele Thompson, Professor of History.

About the recipient

Dr. C. Michele Thompson has been a member of Southern’s faculty since 1998. Alongside her distinguished academic career, her book, Vietnamese Traditional Medicine: a Social History, is the distillation of more than 20 years of research in Vietnam, Taiwan, The Peoples’ Republic of China, France, and Portugal.

Vietnamese Traditional Medicine is the first book-length publication on the history of Vietnamese traditional medicine in any Western language. According to Dr. Thompson’s notes, her book is “an examination of the relationship between China and Vietnam, a key issue in Vietnamese studies, through a medical lens.” Using as a case study the story of the first introduction, from Macau, of vaccination for smallpox to the royal court of the Nguyễn dynasty, she examines Vietnamese attitudes towards foreign medical theories and techniques.

Since its publication in 2015, the book has been reviewed in nine peer-reviewed international journals, and Dr. Thompson has been sought out as a source in numerous publications, including Scientific American. This interdisciplinary interest, from anthropology to medical history to the general field of Southeast Asian Studies, speaks to its broad importance. Even more, her research has overarching implications: it is pertinent to current environmental issues in Mainland Southeast Asia, where a false understanding of Chinese and Vietnamese medicine is driving a devastating trade in wild animals.

For her research, Dr. Thompson referenced documents in modern Mandarin; Classical Chinese; modern Vietnamese; archaic Vietnamese written in Norn, French, Portuguese; and Spanish. She also conducted oral interviews in Mandarin and Vietnamese, noting that “perhaps the most innovative aspect of my book is the cross-disciplinary nature of my sources and my methodology.”

Dr. Thompson received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington; her Master of Arts in History from the University of Alabama; and her Bachelor of Arts in History and Anthropology from the University of Alabama.

Professor Kevin

✉️ Deliver to:

Dr. Kevin Buterbaugh
Professor and Department Chair
Department of Political Science


Dear Professor,

You see the best in students and invest in them accordingly. You constantly introduce students to scholarships, internships, and extracurricular opportunities that you think they should strive for. Even when a student feels they are not equipped for it, you encourage (and convince!) students to try anyway. You address your advisees as your equals; never once have I seen you talk down to a student or make them feel as if their questions or concerns are not worth your time.

Thank you,
Tea Carter, ’20 🦉


About Dr. Buterbaugh

Favorite Teaching Moments:

I have many favorite teaching memories. I have two in regards to Tea Carter who nominated me.

Tea in my Contemporary World Politics class asked me a question on civil war resolution. I gave a rather cursory answer to Tea. Once class was over I realized that my answer was insufficient. I went home and reviewed the material we read for class and reviewed material I had collected on civil wars and their resolution. I began my next class by answering properly Tea’s question. Why is this a favorite memory? This is why I teach – to be challenged by students – and to interact. I learn as students learn. And, it is often through the most challenging questions that I learn the most. Or even learn that I do not have an answer.

Two weeks ago I read the first draft of Tea’s thesis proposal. I was amazed by its quality and the growth that it showed. Tea came in as a very strong student, but her thesis proposal shows she has reached a new level. Watching her grow through 3 years at Southern has been a wonderful experience. I am proud of the small part I may have played in her growth. And, I feel honored to be her thesis advisor.

Teaching Philosophy:

My primary philosophy is that students write to learn – and learn to write.

Thus, my classes have many small writing assignments connected to course readings. These assignments help students to engage with the course material. In engaging, they learn to write.  Through their writing, they learn the course material – but more importantly – how to interpret, critique, and discuss course material. The assignments are low pressure – none will be decisive in the grade – this allows students to work without fearing failure. The assignments are significant in total but each on its own is not.

I also work to encourage students – especially – through advisement. I often send students emails encouraging them to participate in an activity, to compete in a contest or to apply for an internship. I hope by encouraging students that they will expand their world and become more active in their educations. Students often do not know how good they can be. Part of my role is to prod them into activities where I believe they can thrive, even when they may not believe it themselves.

Favorite Course to Teach:

This is a difficult one. I guess “PSC 230: War” is my favorite course. It is a Tier 2 LEP course that is not tied at all to the major. So, I get a wide variety of students that take it.

The course covers a broad range of content – theories of war, ethics in war, and the experience of war (soldiers and civilians). The diversity of the classroom leads to some very interesting discussions. This is especially the case when we get to the experience of war, as students engage with first-person narratives.

I created this course in 2012 when the new LEP came online. I teach it every semester. I have tweaked the course occasionally – but in general – the course has been so rewarding that I have kept the general framework of the course the same. This is rare for me. Most of my courses change fundamentally every 3 or 4 years.

Recent Courses Taught:

Fall 2018:

  • PSC 230: War
  • PSC 398: Terrorism – Extreme Politics

Robin Troy has always wanted to write a story that shows that age is just a number and the human spirit is ageless. “We live in a society that doesn’t pay attention to the elderly,” she says. In her new novel Liberty Lanes, published just last month by the University of Nevada Press, the associate professor of English and director of the M.F.A. program in creative writing looks at the lives of a group of senior citizens who come together at a bowling alley in Montana and are determined to live life to the fullest.

So far, Troy’s book has garnered some positive reviews. Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red, says, “Liberty Lanes is a transcendent story about the power of love and friendship. You’re never too old to discover the wonders of love.” Deirdre McNamer, author of “Red Rover,” says, “Liberty Lanes is a wonderfully calm and large-hearted examination of the ways that ordinary people meet the demands of age and infirmity with surpassing grace.”

Robin Troy

Troy says she began writing the novel on a CSU grant in 2006, during the summer after she first came to Southern. She was inspired by a group of senior bowlers she had come to know in Missoula, Mont., where she was a graduate student in the University of Montana’s M.F.A. program and a reporter for a local newspaper.

Around the holidays, Troy’s editor at the paper asked her to write a feature story about someone playing Jesus in a pageant. But Troy asked around and couldn’t find anyone playing Jesus; however, she told her editor she could do a story about a 70-year-old man she knew who played Santa. Each year at Christmastime, he would dress up as Santa and board a helicopter with another man dressed as an elf, and they would fly to several Montana towns, delivering chocolate Santas and outdated chapsticks donated by Avon.

“I met him when he was in his 30th year of playing Santa,” Troy says. “We really hit it off.” He invited her to meet him at the local bowling alley to finish her interview for the article.

“I walked into that bowling alley, and whammo!” Troys says. The place was full of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s, “and there was such positive energy and perspective, I just immediately wanted to be a part of it.” She started spending time with the bowlers.

During the three years that she was in Missoula, working on her degree, Troy says, “these people made a real difference” for her. They have parties on the weekends, to which she was invited, and “by the end, I was like a member of the family.”

“This group was a fantastic illustration of what it’s like to be in your 80s and really living with spirit,” Troy says. The characters in the novel are inspired by the people she knew, Troy says, but no one character is any one real person.

In the novel, Liberty Lanes is a bowling alley in a small Montana town where a senior bowling league meets three times a week. Nelson Moore, one of the bowlers, has recently become a local hero by saving a teammate from choking on a happy hour chicken bone. Now he must deal with his newfound fame while coping with the early stages of dementia.

Troy felt she might have some trouble finding a publisher for her book, given what she perceived as low interest regarding the elderly as subjects of a novel. But she met an editor at a book fair and after they talked, Troy says she “knew that this book had found a home.” She revised the manuscript based on extensive feedback from the publisher and got the final word last spring that it would be published.

“The editing was very careful and loving,” Troy says, “but I had to tone down a lot of the language. These are tough, no-nonsense people. Many do manual labor or worked for the state, and they all came to know each other through bowling.”

Troy is traveling to Missoula this month to read from her new book at the Montana Festival of the Book. While in Montana, she will see her bowling friends, do a couple of book signings and give a radio interview. “This is really a celebration of these people for me,” Troy says.

She will give a reading at Southern on Nov. 10 with CSU Professor Vivian Shipley. Troy is also the author of another novel, Floating.

The cover of Jeff Mock’s new book is a stark photograph of barbed wire in extreme closeup, the focus on the sharp point of a rough barb – not exactly an image that makes a reader think of poetry. But writer Allison Joseph says Mock’s new book, “Ruthless,” is “just that—ruthless in its precise and incisive vision of our off-kilter world, cutting through the shams of language and thought to arrive at hard-won humor that makes his readers see his—and their—foibles all the more clearly.” The image of the barbed wire speaks to the collection’s toughness and incisiveness.

English professor Mock’s first published full-length poetry collection, “Ruthless” came out on Jan. 1, and he calls its publication “a relief.” He explains that the way poetry books get published is by winning competitions. His manuscript “bounced around for several years,” he says, as he sent it to different contests and publishers. It came close to being published on several occasions, sometimes a semifinalist and sometimes a finalist. At last, poet Deborah Keenan selected it as the winner of the Three Candles Open Book Competition.

Although “Ruthless” is Mock’s first full-length book, he has numerous other publications. His first book, “Evening Travelers,” a chapbook, was published in 1994 by a very small press, with handset type on handmade paper and a handsewn binding. It is no longer in print.

His second book, “You Can Write Poetry,” was a commission, designed for a specific audience. A poetry writing guidebook for writing groups and individuals, “You Can Write Poetry,” now also out of print, was aimed at beginning writers.

Mock has also published a number of poems in such prominent journals as The Atlantic Monthly, Cincinnati Review, Connecticut Review, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, The Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, New England Review, The North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Quarterly West, Shenandoah, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review and others. He is now working on two other books: one is a book of longer poems of five to 12 pages each, and one is more thematic, a sequence of poems spoken by gods and goddesses that Mock is calling “American Pantheon.”

Although Mock remembers hating to write poems in second grade, he says he’s been a poet for most of his life. He explains, “writers have to write – it’s like an obsession. We don’t have a choice. That need to make something – we all have it, and we each find the outlet that serves us best. I think like a poet more than like a fiction writer.”

Thinking like a poet, Mock says, involves putting into words those images or moments that “strike us and stick around. Writers put words to those things and see what happens.

Seeing where it goes, finding out what happens, writing to find something out. Things can become clearer in the writing.”

He quotes a line from poet Robert Frost’s essay “The Figure A Poem Makes”: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” That little surprise in a poem, Mock says, “is what brings a story alive.”

Mock, who has been at Southern since the fall of 1998, teaches undergraduate and graduate poetry courses. He came to Southern from The Gettysburg Review, where he spent seven years as assistant editor.

A co-director of the Creative Writing Program with English Professor Tim Parrish, Mock worked with Parrish to create the English Department’s new Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program. He credits his colleagues Robin Troy, assistant professor of English, and CSU Professor Vivian Shipley for their help in developing the program as well.

Mock gave a reading from his new book at the university on April 15, along with writer Steve Almond, best-selling author of the books “Candyfreak,” “My Life in Heavy Metal” and The Evil B.B. Chow,” among others.

 

 

Southern’s second terminal degree program is the first of its kind in the state

Writers and poets with a drive to learn more about their craft, and to do it within a community of other writers, now have a home at Southern. On Sept. 17, the state Board of Governors for Higher Education approved a new degree program at the university: a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, only the second terminal degree to be offered by the university and the first full-residency M.F.A. program in the state.

The English Department has long offered the M.A. and M.S. with creative writing option; the M.F.A. will replace these degree options. The primary difference between these degrees and the M.F.A. is that the latter is the terminal degree in the field of creative writing. A more rigorous program than that leading to the M.A. or M.S., the M.F.A. is essentially the equivalent of the Ph.D. in its field, preparing students to become published writers and to seek jobs as university-level writing instructors. Southern’s M.F.A. joins the Ed.D. program as one of the university’s two terminal degree programs.

Left to right: Vivian Shipley, Tim Parrish, Robin Troy, Jeff Mock

“The M.F.A. offers a different level of professionalism, with different expectations,” says English Professor Tim Parrish, one of the architects of the new program. “In the abstract, M.F.A.s prepare people to be flexible thinkers, great written communicators and facilitators in groups,” he says, “but personal enrichment is really the draw. Students get to be part of a serious community of writers.”

English Professor Jeff Mock, who worked with Parrish on developing the proposal for the M.F.A., agrees. “We’ve had a wonderful writing community here,” he says, “but it’ll be a major difference to have these students here for this specific purpose.”

The creative writing faculty, which includes CSU Professor Vivian Shipley and Assistant Professor of English Robin Troy, along with Parrish and Mock, say that there has long been a need in Connecticut for a full-time M.F.A. program in creative writing. Western Connecticut State University offers a low-residency M.F.A. in professional writing, and Fairfield University recently added a low-residency M.F.A. program in creative writing. Low-residency programs allow students to do most of their coursework online, with only occasional visits to campus.

“With an online degree program, one misses the presence of a human community and the opportunities for personal interaction,” Shipley says. Southern’s is an on-site program, which, the faculty say, will give students a sense of common purpose and enable them to develop close friendships and working partnerships. And, as Troy points out, “People from Connecticut will have the opportunity to complete this degree without leaving the state.”

The new program is an exciting development within an already vibrant department. With flourishing undergraduate and graduate literary publications, award-winning faculty members and a visiting writers series, the department is well prepared to offer the high level of literary activity expected in an M.F.A. program. Michael Shea, English department chairman, says, “The creative writing program has a long history of great teachers and courses, and the M.F.A. program is a culmination of this tradition of excellence.” Shipley, who has been a member of the faculty since 1969, says the M.F.A.’s approval “is the most exciting thing to happen in this department since I got here.” She calls her colleagues — Parrish, Mock and Troy – “miracle workers” for what she sees as their success in bringing their collective vision for the M.F.A. program to fruition.

Parrish says that the creative writing program has been steadily evolving and that the M.F.A. is the natural next step. He points to the accomplishments of Southern’s creative writing students — publications, prizes, fellowships and acceptances to demanding M.F.A. programs around the country – as evidence that the university attracts serious writing students and supports them in their craft.

The curriculum for the 48-credit program will be based in literary studies, consisting in fiction and poetry workshops, literature and theory courses and the thesis. Currently, the M.A. and M.S. curricula allow up to 18 credits of fiction or poetry workshops and six credits of creative-thesis work. The M.F.A. will retain these opportunities while increasing course requirements in literature studies, the study of rhetoric and theory and the teaching of high school and college writing. The core of the program will be the workshop, a class in which students submit their original manuscripts-in-progress for critical examination by their classmates and the instructor.

Admission to the M.F.A. program is competitive, with roughly six poets and six fiction writers admitted each year. The deadline for applications is March 1. The creative writing faculty expect that the M.F.A. will attract prospective students from out-of-state as well as from within Connecticut, due to the increasing national competition to gain admission to residential programs.

Parrish expresses his appreciation for the support of President Cheryl Norton; Selase Williams, provost and vice president for academic affairs; DonnaJean Fredeen, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences; Sandra Holley, dean of the School of Graduate Studies; Kenneth Florey, professor of English and the English Department’s graduate coordinator; Robert McEachern, professor of English; Marianne Kennedy, associate vice president for assessment, planning and academic programs, Scott Ellis, associate professor of English, and the English Department.

 

Tim Parrish recalls being in a Baton Rouge, La., department store with his mother one day during the racially tense ‘60s. A young child at the time, Parrish innocently used a racial epithet to describe an African American fellow shopper.

“I heard my parents use this word all the time at home and didn’t know there was anything wrong about it,” Parrish says, but his mother reacted with horror to his use of the word in a public place. Her shocked response made Parrish realize for the first time that “something was being hidden in my house. People had shame about their prejudices, but they didn’t try to remedy them.”

Everything about Baton Rouge is a paradox, says Parrish, an assistant professor of English who recently published a collection of short stories, Red Stick Men. The stories are set in Baton Rouge—which natives call “Red Stick,” the English translation of its name—and reveal a strong sense of the place.

Tim Parrish

The “red stick” for which the city is named was actually a cypress tree, discovered by 17th-century European settlers, that Native Americans had smeared with blood to mark a tribal boundary. While Baton Rouge’s white natives have mythologized the red stick and its historical roots, Parrish says that ironically they are reluctant now to visit the site of the original red stick, whose location is now part of the campus of the largely African American Southern University.

Parrish’s intent in writing the stories in Red Stick Men was “to demythologize Baton Rouge, to be true to the place.” Although Baton Rouge shows up in many songs because of its romantic French name, Parrish describes his hometown as “a somewhat surreal place,” with the glow from chemical plants and oil refineries lighting up the sky.

The characters in his stories, far from fitting into hackneyed romantic Southern stereotypes, are gritty blue-collar folks who work on oil rigs, as exterminators or in pipe factories. Critics have praised Parrish, the director of Southern’s creative writing program, for his ability to bring his characters to life and to show another, more realistic side of Baton Rouge.

“I have a love/hate relationship with Baton Rouge,” Parrish says of the city he lived in for 27 years. “The love comes from family and a real connection to the place that made me. The hate comes from the fact that I grew up in a very racist environment. It caused a lot of turmoil.”

Parrish was raised on the industrial side of town in a family of natural storytellers. He credits his parents and his brother especially as influences on his yarn-spinning abilities. In his fiction Parrish also draws on his own experiences as a roustabout on an oil rig, a chemical plant worker and a counter man at a post office in a hardware store.

Baton Rouge “has a full nelson on my imagination,” says Parrish, explaining why he writes about his hometown. “Every time I go back there, something about the melange of trouble and fun and conservatism and hedonism and creativity and lethargy inspires me to try and capture it.”