Giving

The SCSU food pantry

The numbers can be disheartening. More than 30 percent of students at Southern Connecticut State University are food insecure.  And nearly 80 percent of students at Southern rely on jobs to provide for their basic needs yet many are still coming up short. Nationally, 72 percent of economically disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out than any other demographic, according to a University Business study. This fall, however, the creation of Southern’s Food Pantry and Social Services Center offers hope in a new set of numbers, one that will help students — and the university – tell a different story about student success.

Numbers like 819.73: how many pounds of food have left the food pantry since it opened on Oct. 28. And 28: how many shoppers have visited the pantry in just a few weeks. And $531,720: how much Southern’s alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends raised in 2020’s Day of Giving to support students. More than 34 percent went directly to the Support Our Students Fund and, according to Kaitlin Ingerick, director of Annual Giving, is “an enormous part of the reason” Southern can provide aid.

“Everything inside the pantry has been donated by faculty, staff, and students,” Student Affairs Case Manager Sue Zarnowski said. “We are part of the Connecticut Food Bank, but it is so inundated, they can’t help as much. We also team up with M.L. Keefe Community Center for produce and dairy. The food pantry’s aisles look like a mini supermarket. We even have baby food items, a cereal section. Even snacks.”

“Since we opened,” Zarnowski said, “more than 800 pounds of food have left the pantry, and some of our shoppers have been repeat visitors. When the pantry was mobile, it was a 50/50 split between commuters and students living on campus. Now we see more commuters, more students who may be non-traditional.”

That doesn’t surprise Jules Tetreault, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students, who acknowledged that as Southern increasingly focuses on access, the student populations that are growing are those that need the extra support; that extends beyond food.

“The idea is that the food pantry is step one in a larger project,” Tetreault said. “We know that students have insecurities about needs in general. COVID adversely affected subsets of our population, especially financially insecure students, and exacerbated their situations.”

While the pantry gives students immediate access to food, in the future Tetreault said the center also will connect students to various types of assistance through the Social Services Center.

“I work with students who are homeless,” Tetreault said. “We have students whose families have been laid off, and they are the breadwinners on minimum wage. The Social Services Center will be a hub to support these pieces, like referrals for other assistance programs as aid is shrinking. It will help us make connection points as we continue to increase access and success.”

Using the Food Pantry

The food pantry is located in the Wintergreen Building. It is open to all undergraduate and graduate student shoppers Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. The pantry will be closed Nov. 25. Students can visit the pantry directly during business hours or make an appointment, which usually lasts 15 minutes, through SSC Navigate. When they visit, students simply pick what they need.

Ways to Help

Southern’s food pantry is currently stocking its shelves with food to help students meet their basic needs. Funding is needed to help keep the shelves stocked with food and sustain the food pantry for the entire year. Donors can make a gift to the Support Our Students (SOS) Fund, which supports the food pantry initiative. To do so, visit www.southernct.edu/giving and choose the “Support Our Students Fund” in the dropdown.

Donors also can donate directly through Amazon Prime, which ships free to the pantry, or through similar platforms.

It has been a year of tremendous growth and opportunity for the Department of Music at Southern Connecticut State University. The department was just one of five in Connecticut to receive accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), it has gained a new departmental chair (associate professor Joshua Groffman took the reins this August), and is pursuing the development of a one-of-a-kind music therapy degree. And most recently, the music program has received a $250,000 gift in merit-based scholarships from the Stutzman Family Foundation.

The gift joins several other generous commitments to the program from the Stutzman Family Foundation, including music scholarships, and the Southern Applied Music Program, which provides free weekly voice or instrument lessons. Walter Stutzman, ‘09, teaches traditional and online classes as an adjunct faculty member with the Music Department and the First Year Experience (FYE) program; the foundation, established to further music education, was named in tribute to his parents, Geraldine and Jacob Stutzman.

Although access is a crucial component to the Stutzman Family Foundation’s mission, Craig Hlavac, associate dean, College of Arts & Sciences, said the department was not expecting a gift of this magnitude.

“This is a huge step in the area of scholarships,” Hlavac said. “These scholarships will be given over the next five years to music students. This is a major step in both the longevity of the agreement and in the focus.”

According to Groffman, the scholarships also give Southern a more competitive edge when attracting musical talent.

“A lot of the support from the Stutzman Family Foundation enables us to go beyond just courses and go into intensive music training,” Groffman said. “Yes, it lowers barriers to bring students to Southern, but it also raises the overall level of music making on campus. The caliber of students is already high, but there’s a problem with access even to the top-level pool of students.”

Joshua Groffman

The merit-based scholarships provide music majors with up to $6,000 a year in funds and can be combined with other financial grants and awards.

“We’re bringing access to a high-quality music education to everyone at a state school,” Groffman said. “We have stellar faculty, free applied lessons, and departmental growth with new programs and an increased technological component.”

In short, the department is on an upswing, and there is no sign of slowing.

“There’s so much growth potential,” Groffman said. “Music education is continuing to evolve. There’s new kinds of teaching. Music as a field isn’t unhealthy, and there’s a lot of passion to tap into. The Stutzman Family Foundation has continued to help drive the dialogue that this is an excellent program that’s evolving and growing in exciting ways.”

Walter Stutzman, ’09

It's a challenging time for student-athletes with all Northeast 10 fall competitions canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — including football. Helping to lighten the load, the Football Alumni Network, a dedicated group of former players, remains committed to directly supporting today's student-athletes.

[From left] Longtime friends Larry Ciotti, 66, M.S. '71, 6th Yr. '92, and Joe Ginnetti, '69, M.S. '75, have teamed up alongside other former Southern football players to support the Owls.

Joe Ginnetti and Larry Ciotti go way back — to the summer of ’65 when Ginnetti was a recent high school graduate from Wilbur Cross attending preseason practice with Southern’s football team, and Ciotti was a rising senior picked to captain the team that fall. The two hit it off and began a friendship that has spanned six decades. “I call Larry my big brother from another mother,” Ginnetti says. “The bonds you develop over the years last a lifetime.”

It’s a special friendship born of Southern football, one they hope to pass on. Their shared goals: to give future generations the opportunity to forge similar bonds with teammates and to help them enjoy success like they had in their glory days. Together, they launched the Football Alumni Network (FAN), which raises money to provide additional scholarships to the program, a unique venture for Southern athletics.

Ciotti, a center and linebacker, led the ’65 team to the first of four consecutive conference titles as captain his senior year, when he was All-New England and All-Eastern League. In 1998, he was inducted into the Southern Athletics Hall of Fame. Ginnetti was also an all- conference center on conference championship teams. His junior year, they whipped University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a team stocked with future NFL players, including Art Shell and Emerson Boozer. “To this day we still don’t know how the hell we did it, but we did,” Ginnetti says. “We were a powerhouse.”

Ciotti clearly recalls the impact Southern played during his formative college years. “I, like many of the others, had such a wonderful time at Southern,” he says. “The coaches were very nurturing. So were the professors. They really cared for us. It’s still the same way even though the faces have changed. We all have a passion for Southern.”

The friends also understand the university’s unique challenges. Southern is the only public university in the Northeast 10 (NE 10) conference and, as is the case for most urban state universities, its resources are limited. In the 2019-20 season, the Owls competed against eight private colleges in football. (Not all NE 10 members play the sport.) “There are a couple of teams in the league that have historically been on top in terms of scholarship dollars. But in the last 20 years, there’s also been a huge increase in the importance of football at many of the private institutions,” says head football coach Thomas Godek, ’88. “We have one-fourth of the scholarships of our conference rivals.”

Without scholarships, Ciotti says, “We don’t get the players” to remain competitive on the field.

Building a Legacy
When Ciotti and Ginnetti attended Southern, tuition was $50 a semester — providing both with an opportunity to earn their degrees. Ciotti grew up in Portsmouth, N.H., the son of an ironworker, who was frequently out of work. He ended up marrying the girl who gave him and his teammate a ride to a social mixer his first day of orientation. They wed spring of senior year, one of six football couples who married that spring and summer. Five are still together, 55 years later. Larry and Barbara now have four children and 12 grandchildren.

After graduation, Ciotti took a job teaching physical education at Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Conn. Over 19 seasons (1970-1988) he became a legendary football coach, winning four state championships and being inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame. He then coached 21 years at Yale University, primarily as the running backs coach, and now serves as a special adviser to head coach Tony Reno.

Ginnetti, the son of a first-generation, Italian-American father with an eighth grade education, grew up in the Annex neighborhood of New Haven and was the first in his family to go to college. He chose Southern because he wanted to stay close to his high school sweetheart, Ida, who followed him to the university the following year and graduated with a degree in art education in 1970. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year by renewing their vows in a 14th century church in Florence, Italy.

Like his buddy Larry, he, too, became a teacher, working with sixth-grade students who had learning disabilities and emotional difficulties. Ginnetti also played five years in the Atlantic Coast Football League. While he and Ida raised their three children, Ginnetti supplemented his teaching income by waiting tables in the evenings for half a dozen years so she could stay home with the kids. A friend offered him a job in sales and eventually he moved to The Raymond Corporation, a division/subsidiary of Toyota, where he was vice president of sales until he retired last year. He and Ida have two granddaughters.

Since the two friends started FAN three years ago, they have held several events to raise awareness for their cause. These include a gathering of about 50 football alumni early on at Brazi’s Italian Restaurant; a production of The Guys, a play about New York firefighters during 9/11; and a tent at Homecoming this past fall.  The Guys, starring Dan Lauria, ’70, a former Owl linebacker turned actor (best known for his roles as the father in The Wonder Years and as Vince Lombardi in the Broadway play) and Wendie Malick (This is Us and Hot in Cleveland), raised more than $20,000. But Ciotti and Ginnetti emphasize that these events are more about educating Southern football alumni and fans about the need to support the program.

Coach Godek, also a former Owl football player, concurs: “We have more than seven decades of former players. They have great history and wonderful memories — and through the Football Alumni Network they can help us take on the financial challenges that will ensure the program’s future.”

He notes that the support has never been more vital, particularly with so many students and their families facing economic difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have a very organized and committed executive board as well as an advisory board — and we are always looking for former players who are interested in joining the program and sharing ideas,” says Godek. He notes that all proceeds directly benefit members of the team as scholarship support — adding that consistent contributions ensure that Southern can continue to help students each year.

FAN has already made a significant impact. Their first year, FAN raised $67,500. FAN’s fundraising increased to more than $114,500 their second year and the goal is to continue to raise $100,000 annually — enough to provide 25 players with a $4,000 scholarship. The first scholarships were awarded to students for the 2018-19 academic year.

Ciotti and Ginnetti are pleased with what they’ve started and how well it has been received. Perhaps that goes back to a lesson Ginnetti learned from his father. “He taught me there are two types of people in this world, givers and takers,” Ginnetti says. “The takers eat well. The givers sleep well.” ■

Directly support student-athletes on Southern’s football team with a gift to the Football Alumni Network. Please write “FAN” in the memo section of your check, or for online contributions, select “Other” in the designation section and add “FAN.” Thank you!

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

The water is just fine in New England, where research on coral and kelp is providing a crash course on the potential influence of climate change. Sean Grace, professor of biology, dives in to investigate

On November 22, Sean Grace (left), professor of biology, and Gabriella DiPreta, ’16, M.S. ’19, a researcher at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, wade into Long Island Sound to conduct research.
On November 22, Sean Grace (left), professor of biology, and Gabriella DiPreta, ’16, M.S. ’19, a researcher at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, wade into Long Island Sound to conduct research.

It’s a chilly February day in New England, and Sean Grace can’t wait to get back in the water. A dive is scheduled for later in the week in Rhode Island, and despite the frigid temperatures, the professor of biology is primed to continue his research on temperate coral and kelp systems.

Say “coral” and the average person thinks Aruba, St. Thomas, or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. But Grace has a different research paradise in mind: Long Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound, the waters off Cape Cod. All offer a wealth of opportunity for the scientist who typically has several studies in progress. When it comes to marine research, much like real estate, it’s all about location — and Grace considers southern New England to be ideal. “We’re at the northern-most [habitat] range of many southern species. And we’re at the southern-most range of many northern species. They all come together — living and competing in a very interesting way,” says Grace, chairman of the Department of Biology and co-director of the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies at Southern.

He’s particularly interested in how environmental factors, specifically global warming, are influencing this melting pot of northern and southern species. One example: the decline of kelp and the increase of bushy turf algae in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island between 1980 and 2018. This study — conducted by Grace and two other researchers and published in Scientific Reports — points to increasing water temperatures as the primary reason for the shift.

Grace continues to collaborate with other scientists on kelp research: they’re compiling video records; conducting transect studies; and studying the attachment strength of kelp growing on rocks versus kelp growing on the aforementioned turf algae. The kelp attached to the latter “pops right off,” notes Grace, despite attachment points that extend out — seemingly looking for a firm footing. This kelp is smaller. Less healthy.  “Every time an organism expends energy in one area, they lose it in another,” says Grace.

In southern New England, the shift is in full swing — and the kelp is losing ground. “If I was a young person interested in climate change, I’d want to be where it was going to be demonstrated really quickly — which is what we’re seeing here,” says Grace.

Such research is important on a global perspective: kelp is a vital home for marine life and similar shifts are being seen in many locations. But research is also significant from an educational standpoint — and it has been greatly forwarded by the Werth Family Foundation. In 2014, the foundation pledged $3 million to Southern, to be awarded over 10 years, for several initiatives, including $1,500,000 to endow Southern’s Center for Coastal and Marine Studies,  and an additional $750,000 to cover operating costs. The center was named in honor of the Werth family. The remaining funds were earmarked for two initiatives that combine science education and real-world experience through seminars, internships, and research opportunities. “If it wasn’t for the foundation’s support, we would be having a completely different conversation — and it would not be about research,” says Grace.

A Scientist is Born

Portrait of SCSU Professor of Biology Sean GraceRaised in Fall River, Mass., several blocks from the Rhode Island border, Grace has been pulled by the tides since boyhood. His father, a high school graduate who served in the military, was a dock worker for Shell Oil with a shift-worker schedule. When his afternoons were free, he’d take Grace and his brother fishing at a nearby dock.

Grace loved the outings. “But I could have cared less about the fish,” he says, instead recalling a deep fascination with the barnacles and mussels growing on the dock. Grace, a first-generation college student, followed his passion to the University of Maryland, where he earned an undergraduate degree and was hired as a research assistant. “We went all over the Caribbean to study how corals feed,” says Grace, who lived in the underwater Aquarius laboratory for two science missions. He was set to begin graduate school on the West Coast, but changed plans to be closer to his parents, who were dealing with medical issues.

Enrolling instead at the University of Rhode Island’s graduate program, he shifted his research focus to the coral found along the New England coastline. Grace was certified to SCUBA dive in Rhode Island — and had long known about this local coral. Still, he remembers the early warnings: “The best coral people would say, ‘You might find five or six here. Maybe 20 over there. You’re never going to find a lot. So be careful what you want to study, because you might not have enough for a sample size.’”

His first dives as a graduate student were deeply disappointing. Then he changed his search pattern. “And I saw what I was looking for — and it’s everywhere,” he says. Called Astrangia poculata, it’s also known as northern star coral, and like all corals, it’s an animal, an invertebrate related to jellyfish and anemone. Far less showy than its tropical relatives, Astrangia, is a hard, small (typically smaller than a fist) non-reef-building coral, ranging in color from white to brown.

Despite its more subdued appearance, Astrangia has its own superpowers. Many corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae that live in its tissue. “They photosynthesize and give the host some benefits, and they get a home,” says Grace. Tropical coral gets much of its vivid color from zooxanthellae, which produces oxygen, helps the coral remove waste, and provides vital nutrients. If there’s not enough zooxanthellae, the tropical coral bleaches, turns white, and usually dies.

But Astrangia is another story. Healthy Astrangia sometimes has zooxanthellae in its tissue: the coral appears brown. But it also lives successfully with little or no algae: it’s white but doing just fine. And successful Astrangia colonies can include multiple polyps living side by side, ranging in color from white to brown (presumably with and without zooxanthellae).

Astrangia is hardy in other ways. Reef-building corals cannot tolerate temperatures below 64° Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In contrast, Astrangia withstands the extremes of New England — blazing-hot summers, frigid winters, and everything in between. “This coral is kind of a model system,” sums Grace.

Other scientists agree. The Astrangia Research Working Group unites researchers from more than 15 institutions. Their goal: to establish temperate corals, including Astrangia, as a model system for investigating how coral responds to environmental change. Grace and faculty members Koty Sharp from Roger Williams University and Randi Rotjan from Boston University are co-organizers of the group.

coral species Astrangia poculata could help tropical corals threatened by climate change.
Research on the hardy coral species Astrangia poculata could help tropical corals threatened by climate change. Patrick Skahill/Connecticut Public photo

Grace is currently conducting several Astrangia studies — all of which have implications for exotic tropical corals as well. In one study, he is looking at the competition between Astrangia and Cliona celata, commonly known as the red boring sponge. The sponge settles near the coral, burrowing beneath it. “It literally produces a chemical that wears away the coral’s ability to hold on. And it pulls the coral off the substrate,” explains Grace. The study will be among the first to examine the attachment strength of coral in a natural setting. “You can’t go to the Caribbean and pull coral off the reef. But there are billions of this organism out there. So, we get to ask and answer more questions,” says Grace, noting that sponges also are becoming more dominant in tropical reefs.

A separate study, conducted in collaboration with the NOAH (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Milford, Conn., looks at the influence of ocean acidification on Astrangia coral. The research team includes two of Grace’s former Southern students: David Veilleux, ’99, M.S. ’06, the biological science laboratory technician and shellfish hatchery manager at the Milford center, and Gabriella DiPreta, ’16, M.S. ’19, a researcher at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Water. During the first phase of the study conducted at NOAH over a three-month period, pre-weighed Astrangia was kept in ocean water at three separate pH levels: 8 (similar to the ocean currently); 7 ½ (moving toward more acidic); and  7 (pH neutral). The pH scale is logarithmic, so a one-unit change on the scale means a tenfold change in concentration.

During the next phases, Grace is examining how the various pH levels affect the corals’ weight, structural strength, and ultimately, its chemical composition. A lot is at stake — particularly as temperate coral also has implications for reef-building coral, which can’t be studied in the same way. Consider just some of the benefits coral brings to the planet: preventing coastal erosion, spurring tourism/recreation opportunities, and creating critical habitats for marine life. Coral is home to more than 1 million diverse aquatic species, including thousands of fish species, according to the International Coral Reef Initiative.

So, the research continues. “Our oceans won’t hit 7 for — who knows — a very, very long time, if ever,” says Grace. “But we know the direction we are going. This will help us see how organisms with calcium carbonate skeletons or makeups might fare — if the oceans ever did get to that point.” ♦

The World’s Oceans are Big Business

giant kelp; Project Blue photo

The global ocean economy could double in size by 2030, reaching approximately $3 trillion, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Looked at locally, in Long Island Sound, the “Blue Economy” — defined by the World Bank as sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and ocean ecosystem health — is projected to grow by 67 percent during that same period to an estimated $13.3 billion, according to a team of Southern researchers.

Helping to drive this growth, Southern has launched Project Blue Hub, with a goal of creating a Blue Economy center for research, tech transfer, and innovation in New Haven. Created by a team of dedicated researchers and uniting academia, business, and the government sector, Project Blue Hub was 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.

Among the first focuses: expansion of the locally grown kelp industry by finding alternative channels and niche markets for kelp to grow local businesses. 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. ■

More at:  projectblue.SouthernCT.edu

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Grant helps Southern prepare tomorrow’s workforce while supporting the community.

The Business Success Center at SCSU
The grant from Wells Fargo supports the School of Business Success Center. Pictured from left are: Patty Conte, internship coordinator; business administration major Kiersten Snyder, '20; business administration major Paulina Lamot, '20; Kevin Burke, Wells Fargo; Ellen Durnin, dean of School of Business; Amy Grotzke, program coordinator; and Sue Rapini, director of external relations

A $40,000 grant from Wells Fargo will significantly enhance initiatives offered through the Business Success Center at Southern Connecticut State University’s School of Business — providing students with the “soft skills” most valued by hiring professionals. Soft skills, which encompass everything from time management to conflict resolution, are in high demand as revealed by a slew of business studies. For example, 91 percent of hiring managers agree that finding candidates with strong soft skills is increasingly important, according to LinkedIn, which also designated soft skills as the top business trend last year.

“The School of Business Success Center (BSC) was established based upon feedback from employers about the skills sets they were looking for in new hires. Employers report that college graduates are generally well-prepared academically, but lack the soft skills that are necessary to succeed,” says Ellen Durnin, dean of the School of Business.

The BSC provides a wide range of professional-development programming and services to students and alumni. These include paid-internship placements, resume and interview preparation, and professional-development workshops and seminars. The latter are offered in a range of topics, including networking basics, managing your social media presence, and business communication.

The Wells Fargo grant will fund expanded services at the BSC, including face-to-face mentoring and mock interviewing. It will also provide software platforms so students can film virtual interviews and receive feedback.

Students in SCSU Accounting class, School of Business
Students attending an accounting class in the School of Business.

The grant was awarded in conjunction with Southern’s Day of Caring, which took place on April 22. The School of Business designated the BSC as a key priority during the Day of Caring campaign. The Wells Fargo grant, along with gifts from alumni, faculty and staff, and friends provided vital funding.

“I am very grateful for this support for our students, which will be directed to offering them paid internships at New Haven-area nonprofits,” says Durnin. Click here to see a video about a business major interning with Marrakech, a New Haven-based nonprofit organization.

The Wells Fargo Foundation cites financial health as a primary philanthropic focus, notes Kevin Burke, a senior vice president and market executive for Wells Fargo Commercial Banking in Connecticut and the New York Capital Region.

Burke is also a member of the School of Business Advisory Council. “In my experience one of the best ways to ensure financial health is through education,” he says. “As the economy has evolved, the importance of a college education has become even more critical. Dean Durnin was passionate about the need for the Business Success Center and we at Wells Fargo are proud to contribute in a small way to the success of Southern’s business students.”

Like many in Connecticut, the Burke family has a personal connection to Southern. Burke’s wife, Margaret, is a Southern alumna from the Class of 2002. She had earned an associate’s degree immediately after high school. After raising two daughters, she returned to college at Southern and earned a bachelor’s degree.

Durnin adds that the center and, indeed, the School of Business in its entirety have a particularly strong partnership with the regional corporate community. “More than 85 percent of our graduates live, work, pay taxes, and serve their communities in the state of Connecticut,” she says.

She also emphasizes the need for the support to Southern students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.

“In these challenging times, our students and area nonprofits need our support more than ever as they prepare for their careers and help those in the community who need it most,” says Durnin.

Student interns work with Sustainability Coordinator Suzanne Huminski (left) on the campus' urban oasis at Beaver Pond.

Self-quarantine isn’t affecting just people. Fewer humans on beaches means sea turtle hatchlings are doing better than they have in years. Less boat traffic in Venice, Italy’s canals means marine life is actually visible. Reduced air pollution in Africa means that its second-highest mountain can be seen from Kenya’s capital city. And right here at Southern, sustainable efforts from the SCSU Campus Green Fund mean that the harvest from the Campus Community Garden can supply local soup kitchens with 800 pounds of fresh produce.

There’s no better time to keep up the momentum than on Earth Day! Help SCSU continue to make a big environmental impact by supporting the SCSU Campus Green Fund. The fund puts students at the heart of environmental change through sustainability internships and fellowships, ecological restoration at Beaver Pond, student conference travel, rain garden construction in New Haven neighborhoods, food recovery and composting programs, and more.

The bigger it is, the more we can do!

By the numbers:

  • 800 pounds: The amount of organic produce each season that has been donated by the Campus Community Garden to local soup kitchens
  • More than 60,000: The number of meals, since 2017, that SCSU has donated in the greater New Haven area through composting efforts as a member of the Food Recovery Network
  • More than 100 tons: The annual amount of food scrap SCSU has diverted from the waste stream thanks to its compost project
  • 36: The number of trees SCSU students have planted on Farnham Avenue in collaboration with Urban Resources Initiative and the City of New Haven
  • 200 campus community members: The number who have signed SCSU Climate’s Declaration — join here!
  • Less than 57%: SCSU has reduced its carbon footprint for campus buildings 57% below our 2008 benchmark
  • 100% Green Energy Purchase: SCSU made the switch to 100% clean, renewable electricity purchase in May 2018
  • 1.2 mega-watt solar array: SCSU’s first solar installation on Farnham Avenue

Give Now!

Southern's Black Student Union (BSU) has supported students, alumni, and the community-at-large for more than six decades. A newly endowed scholarship forwards that important work — while honoring Barbara Matthews, one of the BSU's first advisers.

Barbara Matthews, SCSU's associate director emeritus of counseling

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who understands college students better than Barbara Matthews, associate director emeritus of counseling. “I’ll tell you one thing about Southern students. They come here determined,” says Matthews, who worked with thousands during her 30 years at Southern — including members of the Black Student Union (BSU), which she advised throughout her tenure.

Originally called the Organization of Afro-American Students, the BSU was formed in 1968 and was still a young organization when Matthews came on board in 1972. Its establishment reflected a national movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination in education on the basis of race, color, and national origin. Still, many black students who enrolled at predominantly white colleges and universities faced hostility. In an effort to support students and promote positive change, in 1966, the first Black Student Union in the nation was established at San Francisco State College [now University].*  Two years later, Southern followed suit. “Black students on campus needed direction and a voice. The Black Student Union made that happen,” says James Barber, ’64, M.S. ’79, Southern’s director of community engagement.

Donate to the Barbara Matthews Scholarship Fund during Southern’s Day of Caring.

Throughout the years, Matthews remained a mentor. “We were a force to be reckoned with, I’m proud to say,” recounts Michael Jefferson, ’86, who was elected president of the BSU in 1984. “We had to meet certain challenges, and I don’t know if students today appreciate how difficult it was at times. She [Matthews] was a huge influence. She was my confidente,” adds Jefferson, now an attorney based in East Haven.

Like many BSU alumni, he’s remained active with the organization and was instrumental in setting the groundwork for the scholarship. It began with “Martinis and Wings,” a BSU reunion held at Jefferson’s home in 1997. BSU alumni came to reconnect and raise funds to support students. They also celebrated Matthews, who received an award for paving the way for so many.

In 2019, the fund was fully endowed. The Barbara Matthews Endowed Scholarship was awarded for the first time during the 2019-20 academic year and will continue to benefit students who are active members of the BSU in good academic standing.

The scholarship is a fitting tribute to Matthews, who devoted her career to higher education. A 1968 graduate of Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY), she first worked in academia at a city-run residence hall for college students. Urged on by her coworkers, she earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in 1971, and joined the staff at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, which had just opened its doors as the youngest institution in the CUNY system.

Then she heard about a newly created position at Southern. “Students from the BSU came up with the plan,” recalls Matthews. “They were reaching out for someone to work with them. That’s why I felt an immediate connection, and it hasn’t been broken since. This one caught my heart. It’s been a love affair,” she says.

Several alumni of the Black Student Union (BSU) gather to formally establish the Barbara Matthews Endowed Scholarship, named in honor of the longtime adviser of the BSU. [Seated from left] Matthews and Michele Helms, ’92, an ESL teacher. [Standing from left] James Barber, ’64, M.S. ’79, Southern’s director of community engagement; Attorney Michael Jefferson, ’86; President Joe Bertolino; and Kermit Carolina, ’94, M.S. ’03, supervisor of youth development and engagement with New Haven Public Schools.
Several alumni of the Black Student Union (BSU) gather to formally establish the Barbara Matthews Endowed Scholarship, named in honor of the longtime adviser of the BSU. [Seated from left] Matthews and Michele Helms, ’92, an ESL teacher. [Standing from left] James Barber, ’64, M.S. ’79, Southern’s director of community engagement; Attorney Michael Jefferson, ’86; President Joe Bertolino; and Kermit Carolina, ’94, M.S. ’03, supervisor of youth development and engagement with New Haven Public Schools.

Her career has been a calling as well — one that’s enhanced the lives of generations of students. Southern’s campus has become increasingly diverse in recent years: in fall 2019, about 40 percent of the incoming class are students of color and 21 percent of full-time faculty are minorities. But when Matthews arrived in 1972, diversity was not a campus hallmark. As late as fall 1984, fewer than one in 20 full-time undergraduates was black and fewer than one in 100 was Hispanic. Among the 406 professors at Southern in 1984, only five were black — about one percent.

“Most of us were coming from the tri-state area from high schools where the student body looked very different from Southern,” says Jefferson. “Coming to a place like Southern was sometimes difficult. . . . It was important for us to create a supportive organization to deal with some of the challenges,” he says.

Throughout the years, the BSU, guided by Matthews, promoted inclusivity in countless ways. Noting a dearth of black faculty, the BSU sent student ambassadors to talk with academic department heads about the issue. Concerned about the percentage of black student-athletes who weren’t graduating on time, the BSU worked with the administration to dedicate an academic adviser to them. The group also organized cultural events for the entire campus.

Historically, the BSU’s commitment has extended to the New Haven community as well. Members worked on voter registration and advocated for children at New Haven Board of Education meetings. They also strove to enhance local neighborhoods. Michele Helms, ’92, remembers working on a comparative analysis of a nearby neighborhood while she was attending Southern. She recalls finding a high number of liquor stores and a disturbing lack of resources. It was upsetting and a call to action.

“I continue to hold BSU close to my heart because it was a platform that empowered me to make a difference — and she [Matthews] was a big part of that,” says Helms, an English as a second language [ESL] teacher in Stamford, Conn.

Her sentiment is echoed by Kermit Carolina, ’94, M.S. ’03, who, as a student, was president of the BSU. His memories of the organization include Saturday mornings spent with New Haven children who came to campus for mentoring and tutoring. “We had an opportunity to make an impact on the greater New Haven community. Every year, this commitment was passed down from president to president,” says Carolina — now supervisor of youth development and engagement with New Haven Public Schools.

Through each program and initiative, Matthews kept a careful eye on her students. “We’d be sitting in her office, talking about the BSU. And she’d casually swivel around to her desk, and say, ‘So, how are classes going? How are your grades?’” says Jefferson.

“I had access to their academic information!” Matthews says, with a laugh.

“It really was like having a campus mom,” says Jefferson.

“We never wanted to disappoint you,” adds Carolina.

This enduring, almost familial, connection — fostered by Matthews over three decades and beyond — gives the BSU much of its strength. In October 2018, the BSU held several events in conjunction with Southern’s Homecoming. The BSU tailgate alone drew about 400. Among them was Kendall Manderville, a senior majoring in recreation and leisure studies, who is president of the BSU today and the scholarship’s first recipient. He met Matthews there after hearing about her for years — and notes that the scholarship is inspiring and needed.

“Finances aren’t the only reason students of color might have difficulty staying in school, but they’re a primary issue. All of us have friends who didn’t come back because they couldn’t afford it,” says Manderville.

He continues: “I also feel students of color, especially black students, are not always aware of some of the resources available to them. They are not aware of how many scholarships are out there. So having one that’s just for them, right here at the university . . . It makes a difference.”

Donate to the Barbara Matthews Scholarship Fund as part of Southern’s Day of Caring.

Southern Alumni Magazine cover, Fall 2019, featuring Peter Marra, '85

Read more stories in the Fall ’19 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

John and Nina Caragianis firmly believed in the transformative power of education. Their daughter — now a celebrated Southern professor and administrator — has established a memorial fund that extends her parents’ legacy by helping Southern students.

Christine Caragianis Broadbridge, Southern professor, administrator, and donor, shares a photo of her parents — Nina and John W. Caragianis — taken when she earned her doctorate from Brown University.

When Christine Caragianis Broadbridge was deciding on a college major, it was her father who nudged her toward the sciences — still an unconventional path for a woman in the mid 1980s.
“He said, ‘Pick the most challenging thing you can think of, and I’ll be there for you,’” Broadbridge recalls. “So I picked electrical engineering and physics.”

Broadbridge’s initial exposure to technology came from watching her father repair jukeboxes and pinball machines at the family’s vending machine business. She is a first-generation college student, but earning a university degree was always a given. “My mother and I talked about college every day,” says Broadbridge, who went on to graduate first in her class at the University of Rhode Island (URI), where she was one of a few women engineering majors.

A master’s degree and doctorate from the esteemed Brown University of Providence, R.I., followed. “I had my child by this time,” says Broadbridge, “and my parents were so supportive and proud that I was able to earn my doctorate while starting a family.”

In 1993 — at age 26 — Broadbridge became the first female engineering professor at Hartford’s Trinity College. Today, she remains a tireless advocate for higher education at Southern, where she’s a physics professor, researcher, and the executive director of research and innovation — as well as a Yale Visiting Fellow.

Broadbridge is also a leader in the groundbreaking field of materials science, which studies the properties of materials like metals, glass, semiconductors, composites, and plastic. Her research focus is nanotechnology — the manipulation of matter at an atomic level — an emerging discipline scientists say has the potential to revolutionize everything from healthcare to alternative energy. As the founding director of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Center for Nanotechnology at Southern, Broadbridge has helped launch countless students’ careers in the field.

Her commitment to these future scientists echoes her parents. Both cheered her on throughout her career, helping with college expenses so she could travel for research and training opportunities. “Education was so important to my parents,” she says. “It was something they stressed to me from a very young age.”

In 2018, Broadbridge and her husband William, who works in the high-tech electronics industry, established the John and Nina Caragianis Research and Innovation Endowed Fund at Southern. The gift continues the couples’ long-held commitment to education while honoring their memory. John Caragianis passed away in 2006; his wife, Nina, died in November at age 85.

The fund benefits undergraduate or graduate students at Southern with at least a 3.0 GPA who are enrolled in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or STEM-related field. The money can be used for books, supplies, travel, conference fees, software — or any academic endeavor that would enhance a student’s education or interest in research and innovation. Preference is given to first-generation college students.

“There are huge opportunities at Southern, and it’s really about encouraging students to seek them out, just like I did as a student,” says Broadbridge. She remembers her father taking her on trips to the bookstore at nearby Brown University, inspiring her to pursue a research opportunity at the Ivy League campus while still a senior at URI. “He always encouraged me to think about what I could do to expand my horizons,” she says. That early work — a partnership between Brown’s engineering department and Rhode Island’s jewelry industry — helped plant the seeds for her future research.

When establishing the fund at Southern, Broadbridge focused on STEM students not only because that’s where her passions lie, but as a nod to her father’s deep interest in science and technology. A self-taught businessman who ran a successful Newport, R.I., vending machine company — Newport Music/Automatic Vending Service — Caragianis chose the Navy over college. But he never stopped learning, says Broadbridge.

“As he got older, he wanted to learn everything he could about technology,” she says. Broadbridge recalls her father devouring science magazines and clipping articles he thought she’d find interesting or relevant to her work. “He was the one who started sending me articles about nanotechnology, way back before it was a hot field,” she recalls.

John and Nina instilled that same love of learning in their three children and eight grandchildren, says Broadbridge, who has a daughter, 22, and a son, 26, who graduated from Southern with a master’s in science education.

“The kids are getting older, but they still talk about my parents and their message,” Broadbridge says of her extended family. “That message was very consistent for everyone they knew: Look for opportunities, work hard, and we will be there to provide encouragement and support.”

Broadbridge says she chose to establish the fund at Southern for the same reason she joined the faculty: She believes strongly in the university’s mission and diversity, and the power of public education to transform lives.

Her life’s work has focused on projects that encourage young people in underrepresented populations — including women and minorities — to consider careers in the STEM fields. At Trinity, she started a program that paired Hartford high school students with research opportunities at aerospace giant United Technologies Corporation. It was highly successful, with 100 percent of participants going on to college, Broadbridge says.

While at Southern, she helped found the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP) at Yale and Southern. As the center’s education director and a senior researcher, part of her role is helping high school science teachers inspire new generations of STEM students.

Broadbridge says her parents would be proud to know their commitment to education will live on at Southern through an endowed fund established in their memory. “I think they would be happy that I’ve chosen to do something that celebrates their legacy by inspiring and supporting the next generation of researchers and innovators,” she says.

SouthernCT.edu/giving

See other stories from the online issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Jerry Angelica Photography

Graduating senior Terri Lane is ready to sing, to raise her voice — a soulful, mighty four-octaves — to the rafters for the latest in a lifelong series of standout performances.

Lane has opened for Foreigner and the late Johnny Winter; won WPLR’s Battle of the Bands; and sung backup for Michael and Orrin Bolton, Harry Connick Jr., Eddie Money, and a host of others. But May 18 marks a special milestone for the self-described “bluesy rocker chick,” who will sing the alma mater at Southern’s undergraduate commencement exercises — minutes after crossing the stage to receive a bachelor’s degree in music.

Commencement is a celebration of beginnings, but this will be a culmination of sorts for Lane, the final of three performances packed into an emotional two days. Southern also will hold two graduate commencement ceremonies on May 17, and Lane will sing several songs at both, including a personal selection, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Simon and Garfunkel. She’ll preface each with a short recollection. “About my journey and how there is always hope — and a helping hand to get us through,” she says.

After completing several classes during Southern’s summer session, Lane moves on to Columbia University, Teachers College to begin its prestigious graduate program in music and music education. Making her achievement all the more inspiring, she’s overcome years of horrendous childhood abuse at the hands of her mother, who suffered from severe alcohol and drug addiction.

“We lived in an upper-middle class part of Trumbull, and no one knew what was happening inside of our house,” says Lane, who recalls wearing pants and long sleeves to hide bruises — and missing school when her injuries were too severe to cover. “I was bullied because I was so thin and withdrawn,” says Lane, who still managed to earn top grades.

She suffered through years of abuse before a guidance counselor stepped in. “The types of stories I was telling . . . they just couldn’t believe it at first. It sounded preposterous. What mother would starve her own child,” says Lane. She was placed with a loving foster family for a time. But her mother refused to relinquish custody. Eventually, after being forced to return to her original home, Lane was emancipated as a minor at the age of 15.

She eventually found peace with her mother — and, says that today, she holds love and forgiveness in her heart. Later, when both her mother and a half-brother died in separate drug overdoses, she says the sense of loss “put her into a tailspin.”

Music major Terri Lane, ’18, performing at a sold-out concert at Toad’s Place in 2007. Photo: Andrew Wallach Photography

Through it all music was a saving grace. At the age of three, Lane sat at her grandmother’s piano, “pinging” out melodies heard on the radio. When she was 11, she began classical voice training — and received her first standing ovation at the age of 14 at a school concert. “School and music were my only outlets. They kept my alive,” she says.

Plans to attend college on scholarship to major in music were put on hold. But music remained a touchstone — a source of income and solace. “I never said no to a gig,” says Lane, with a smile. “I was in the studio and performing musical theater at a professional level. . . . I studied acting and got into my first band. I wrote songs.”

She also began working in the energy sector, taking classes at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Hartford and moving up the corporate ladder. She was working in management, when she had an epiphany and finally resigned. “It was time to change my lot — to go after my dreams completely, ” she says. In 2010, drawing exclusively on her extensive industry experience, Lane became an instructor of voice at the University of New Haven. The work united her love of music and teaching — and ultimately confirmed the importance of earning an undergraduate degree to further her career.

Lane’s path led to Southern, where she started undergraduate classes in spring 2014. “When I researched the schools, Southern was it,” she says. “I’d researched the professors, the degree plan, and everything offered. I was so amazed by the experience of some of the professors — especially their musicianship. . . . It was very important to me that they be actively involved in music.”

Terri Lane, ’18, [third from left] was one of the first recipients of the Stutzman Family Foundation Music Scholarship, funded by the Stutzman Family Foundation. Highly accomplished as a Southern student,
Walter Stutzman, ’09, is an award-winning adjunct faculty member. From left: Stutzman and Stutzman Scholars Kristen Casale, ’17; Lane; Jaromy Green; Mary Rose Garych, ’17; and Brendan Donovan, ’18.

After successfully auditioning, Lane was named one of several recipients of the first Stutzman Family Music Scholarship, funded by the Stutzman Family Foundation. Like other music majors and minors, she also benefited from the Southern Applied Music Program, which provides free weekly voice or instrument lessons. The program is funded by the Stutzman Family Foundation as well.

“When I started, I could sing about 3¾ octaves. They have taken me a little over four octaves since I have been here. I am actually stronger than I have ever been as a singer,” says Lane, who worked with applied lesson instructor Rebecca Barko.

The faculty, in turn, are effusive in their praise of Lane. Craig Hlavac, interim associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, comments on her acceptance into Columbia University’s graduate program: “This is a testament not only to her perseverance and talents, but also [to] how Southern can prepare students from all backgrounds to thrive in both employment and at the graduate level.”

Lane, meanwhile, can’t wait to begin the next phase of her education. She plans to start performing again once settled into graduate work — and says she’ll keep sharing her story to help others hurt by abuse. She hopes her words of survival bring courage and solace.

“I know what it is like to play in front of thousands of screaming fans — to feel that extraordinary rush of love,” she says. “ I don’t hold anything back when I sing. I give everything — even the pain. It’s the only way I know. That’s how I healed myself over the years.”

SCSU students Eric Clinton, Tracy Tenesaca, and Alyssa Pearl Korzon
Scholarship support helps students make the most of their Southern experience. A new online application process makes it easy for them to apply.

Business major Eric T. Clinton doesn’t have much down time. Since arriving at Southern in 2014, he’s helped launch a mentoring group for men of color, served as a peer mentor to new students, and tackled numerous lead roles in campus theater productions.

Public Health major Tracy Tenesaca (center) is equally driven. In addition to being a peer mentor in the Honors College, she’s vice president of the Class of 2018, a member of OLAS (the organization of Latin American Students), and an extremely active volunteer.

Then there’s Alyssa Korzon, an Honors College student with a dual major in special education and theatre. Korzon has two jobs — she’s a certified yoga instructor and works in retail — and is president of Active Minds, a group dedicated to mental health awareness and advocacy.

Clinton, Tenesaca, and Korzon have unique backgrounds, accomplishments, and dreams. But their Southern success stories share a common thread. All are scholarship recipients, a distinction that recognizes their achievements — while lessening financial pressures so they can make the most of their Southern experience. (The specific scholarships each receives are included with their photos.)

More than 300 scholarships are overseen by the SCSU Foundation, with funds benefiting both undergraduate and graduate students. In 2017, the application process was simplified, making it possible for students to apply for all by completing a single online application. Applying takes as little as 10 minutes, but students may opt to earn extra points by completing an optional short essay.

“They are quite amazing,” says Heather Rowe, business manager of the SCSU Foundation. “Our students are very passionate about what they want to do with their lives. They are dedicated to helping their peers — and they want to pay it forward.”

Three out of every four Southern undergrads receive some form of financial aid — and in 2015-2016, almost 41 percent of undergraduates received a Federal Pell Grant, awarded to those with the most extreme need. Scholarship dollars, like grants, do not have to repaid. As such, scholarships play an extremely important role in a student’s financial aid package: helping them graduate with less debt.

At Southern, about 75 percent of the Class of 2016 graduated with student debt averaging about $28,000, according to a study by LendEDU. The SCSU Foundation hopes to sharply slash both statistics with the help of donations from alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and friends.

Among them is Rowe, who last year established the Grace Rowe International Travel Award to benefit students who want to enhance their education through travel. The award honors Rowe’s mother, who received a framed certificate announcing the fund’s creation on her 95th birthday. “It represents something she firmly believes in — the power of travel to broaden your horizons. I was raised on the road and international travel was part of my upbringing,” says Rowe.

The ability to tailor a scholarship to reflect a donor’s specific desires is readily seen when browsing through the 300-plus funds. Some benefit students with certain majors or career aspirations. Others recognize specific talents like athletics success or community service. Students may browse through the various scholarships on the website — and learn about the donors.

At a time of great need, foundation scholarships were at an all-time high for fiscal year 2017 at just under $800,000. The goal, moving forward, is to encourage more students to apply and to establish additional funds to benefit them. Consider the words of David McHale, ’98, chairman of the SCSU Foundation Board, speaking at the inauguration of President Joe Bertolino: “It’s our aspiration, perhaps, in just a few short years to provide $1 million in scholarships to 1,000 students. That would be a real game changer for this university.”