Dr. Jonathan Wharton
Dr. Jonathan Wharton

Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, has agreed to continue to serve as the full-time interim associate dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies for another year. He served in this role for the fall semester, beginning August 26, 2020. Given the complexities the COVID-19 situation poses in conducting a nationwide search, the arrangement allows the university to maintain continuity for ensuring student success and effective completion of the ongoing SGPS and SCSU initiatives. Wharton has “passion for, and a proven track record in, effectively contributing to graduate education at SCSU,” said Manohar Singh, dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Wharton is faculty advisor to SCSU’s College Republicans, College Democrats, and Golf Club. He earned his BA in history, cum laude; MPA (Public Policy Analysis); and Ph.D. in political science, state and local government from Howard University, and an MA in history from Rutgers University.

Wharton’s full-time appointment began January 1, 2021. The search for a permanent associate dean has been postponed and will be resumed at an opportune time.

He traveled the country on behalf of the American Red Cross, counseling those affected by hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Irene, and Harvey as well as the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., and Las Vegas. Today, David Denino, ’75, M.S. ’76, has needed to adapt his strategies — working from home to help those fighting Covid-19.

Working from his home, David Denino is the disaster mental health co-leader for the American Red Cross in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

David Denino, ’75, M.S. ’76, trained as a Red Cross crisis responder following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Today, he’s supporting those fighting coronavirus-19 in Connecticut and Rhode Island, administering what he calls “psychological first aid” to Red Cross volunteers and others impacted by the pandemic. In April, Denino — a licensed professional counselor and director emeritus of counseling services at Southern — talked to the university about that mission.

Tell us a bit about your responsibilities related to Covid-19.
As the corona virus began its trek throughout the United States, my colleague Dr. Wayne Dailey and myself began to prepare for the delivery of mental health services to Red Cross staff and volunteers as well as the clients we serve. Wayne and I are the disaster mental health co-leads for Connecticut and Rhode Island and supervise licensed volunteers in the six territories that cover both states. Between the both of us, we have worked at a large number of relief efforts including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, as well as bombings and mass casualty shootings.

Are people — including Red Cross workers — confronting a different level of stress and anxiety related to Covid-19 in comparison to other disaster situations you’ve worked in?

This event gave us pause as to how to begin and sustain the kind of support we typically provide in person: being there for people who have been gravely impacted by a major and traumatic event.

To that end, we began to plan for delivery of services in two ways: 1) to support the Red Cross staff and volunteers who would be challenged by the delivery of services to people and 2) to provide services to people impacted by the virus. We also need to maintain mental health services for other traumatic issues that arise — house fires, weather-related disasters, etc.

You’ve volunteered at numerous disaster sites. What makes this situation unique?
This event is different. It doesn’t have bookends

.* Can’t see it, smell it, or touch it.
* Uncertain beginning and end.
* Doesn’t want to go away.
* After it ends, it might come back.

It also has created a level of anxiety that people have never experienced, which then begins to turn to fear.

How are you helping others address this fear?
As most medical providers are doing now, our mental health mission turned toward providing services by way of telehealth and the use of web-based means for individual or group meetings.

We developed long and short webinars to cover important topics for our fellow Red Cross staff and volunteers, including these:

How is Pandemic Different from Other Disasters?
Coping and Self Care When Staff are Stricken by Covid-19
What are our fears? Anxieties? How do we combat them?

Additionally, we have developed an easy talk webinar for all Red Crossers that will look at coping and self-care during stressful times. Anyone connected to Red Cross can join and have that live chat about how they are doing.

For people who have been impacted by any type of disaster (home fires, large traumatic events, weather related) we will continue to do what we have always done: provide immediate mental health services (psychological first aid). The change in providing these services is that the delivery will mostly be via phone or web-based means.

In general, the Red Cross is working around the clock to provide services that they always have — being mindful of the health and safety precautions we all have to undertake at this time.

How has the need for social distancing impacted health care providers?
The delivery of services at this time will encompass all guidelines set forth by national and local governments. For some, it’s a new world and my thoughts are that for a time we will miss that up close and personal contact we all were able to provide. But personal health is what matters most.

Any words of advice to those of us in the general public who are feeling stressed and/or anxious?
We are being daily inundated by the news. So, the good advice you are reading or hearing about is all applicable: limit the amount of news you watch, chose a healthy diet, get enough sleep, exercise, find some fun stuff to do, etc.

Here is a concept I developed and have taught across the country over the past decade. Called “Lend A Hand,” it helps us understand how we might assist others who have or are developing mental health issues that impact their lives — especially anxiety and depression. I adapted the letters from the title for people to use as a daily reminder.

Live each day with a deep breath.
Extend your voice and help to those in need and struggling.
Normalize what you can, stay with what you do have control of.
Develop a small list of what you can do each day to feel better.

Acknowledge to yourself: this too shall pass.

Hopefulness is contagious, help to spread it.
Accomplish what you can each day, you cannot control everything.
Navigate your new normal with others to help calm the storm.
Deepen your resolve to be well.

After a 37-year career at Southern, David Denino retired as director emeritus of counseling services in 2009. In addition to his work with the Red Cross, he continues to teach in the clinical mental health program at Southern. In 2007, he received the J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching, one of Southern’s top faculty honors.

Andrew Toce, ’14, LPC, ADS, works in his own private counseling practice, with a focus on sports psychology. Read our interview with him and learn how he is continuing his work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

SCSU: Can you briefly describe your current employment?

AT: I am the owner and operator of my own private practice named Deep Breaths Counseling, LLC which is based out of South Windsor, Conn. Here I focus my work on sport psychology and co-occurring disorders. I have had the privilege of working with athletes of all ages and levels, from professional to youth athletes pursuing their dreams of playing at the next level.

SCSU: How has your job changed in the past few weeks with the COVID-19 outbreak?

AT: My job has changed drastically in the past few weeks. I normally am open 3 days a week and see all clients face-to-face. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, things have changed from shaking hands to keeping 6 feet from my clients at all times and spraying everything down with disinfectant in between clients.

SCSU: Have you had to move any services or parts of your job online to support social distancing? How has this been?

AT: In the last week, I have had to move my entire practice to an online platform. This has been a challenge and very new. In our field, you need to be very particular as HIPAA rights for clients need to be followed at all times. I had to create special consent forms and documents that could be electronically filled out. I needed to find ways to send secure HIPAA-compliant emails. I also needed to find a platform that was HIPAA-compliant to do video and audio sessions, as everyday software like Facetime, Skype and Zoom do not have the correct level of security to qualify. On top of that, getting insurance companies to cover online services, named telehealth in my field, was a challenge and barrier up until the second week of March. Thankfully, as I write this, most major insurance companies have enacted special circumstances to meet the needs of their customers and the providers that give these services.

SCSU: From your professional perspective, what is the local impact COVID-19, so far?

AT: From my perspective, the impact has been vast and unwavering. Companies are closing, there are more layoffs happening every day, families are struggling, and small businesses are desperate for anything to keep them afloat. It is a reminder to me of how fast everyday life can change and how we take things for granted without even realizing it. People are scared of COVID-19, as am I, but I truly believe in the phrase, “Educate to Regulate.” I started using this phrase when giving talks on substance use to local high schools, but it works in this context as well. We need to educate ourselves on COVID-19 and the facts about it. Only then will we regulate the way we do things and make it possible to flatten the curve. I have the utmost respect for doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, lab technicians, paramedics, and so many others who don’t have the option to work from home and are daily putting their own well-being on the line to help those struggling from COVID-19 and all other situations.

SCSU: What are your suggestions, personally/professionally, for getting through this pandemic?

AT: I think we are unprepared for the vast amount of ICU beds and ventilators that we will need, and I believe the answer is that companies who supply these need to recognize this is bigger than economics. In order to save lives, we need to come together as a human species and forget about any future profits and focus on the here and now. I think we need to listen to those that are on the front lines, we need to follow the advice given and recognize that if we all think, “This won’t affect me,” then it will affect all of us. Social distancing and self-isolation are the answer. We need to learn from China’s experience and also Italy’s struggles. Their government asked that everyone self-isolate and many didn’t. They now find themselves ill-prepared to handle the vast amount of cases.

SCSU: What is the impact of moving to telehealth for patients and your practice?

AT: My goal is to make this transition as low impact as possible on my clients. We are all scared and the unknown is anxiety-provoking. The last thing I want to do is add to that and create more barriers for them. I did a lot of research and found a system that is user-friendly and compatible with any device. My client simply has to go to a specific URL and enter their name at the time of their session; once that happens I see them in my virtual waiting room and I initiate the session. All copays are collected through an online processing format and the rest is normal.

Southern's information and library science programs will give you solid experience in library science while offering an array of electives in areas like digital libraries, information architecture, network management, and instructional design.

Southern’s online Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program was judged among the best in the nation — coming in at number five on Online Schools Report’s ( rating of the top 35 such programs in the U.S. for 2020. Programs were evaluated on numerous factors, including admission rates and student satisfaction.

Southern is the only Connecticut-based institution of higher learning to offer a fully online library science master’s degree. The program was granted candidacy status for accreditation by the American Library Association — and is the only program in the state to have achieved this distinction as of January.

The master’s degree in sport and entertainment management program, which is offered fully online, was also evaluated among the nation’s best, included on’s guide to the Top 49 graduate programs in the field in 2020.

The organization reviewed 333 educational programs offered through 137 colleges and universities to compile the guide, evaluating curriculum quality, graduation rate, reputation, and post-graduate employment. Southern’s program was specifically lauded for its focus on experiential learning.

The School of Graduate and Professional Studies will be holding a Virtual Spring 2020 Graduate Open House on Thursday, April 2, 2020. Learn about these and Southern’s many other exceptional graduate programs.

The fully online graduate program allows students to choose between a specialization in either sport or entertainment management.