In the News

Four Southern students were honored recently as the recipients of the Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award.

Each year, 12 students are selected for the award from the four universities in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. Four of the 12 students come from Southern. All 12 students were feted to a dinner at the Aqua Turf in Southington.

Criteria include a GPA of 3.7 or better, and having demonstrated significant participation in university and/or community life.

The four students are:

*Jessica Holman, an English major with a GPA of 3.79. She is an Honors College student and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa. Holman earned SCSU’s Top Owl Social Justice Award, the Multicultural Legacy Award and the Outstanding Women’s Studies Student Award. She received the Gail Burns-Smith Dare to Dream Scholarship from the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

She is a resident assistant and president of the Peer Educators Advocating for Campus Empowerment (PEACE). She is a peer educator at the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy and Support Center, and the Support and Resource Team for survivors of sexual misconduct. Her thesis project, “Empowering a Community of Active Bystanders: The Expansion of Bystander Intervention Training at SCSU,” involved helping to train students to safely intervene in problematic situations.

“Social justice has been a core part of Jessie’s experience,” said Julia Irwin, professor of psychology. “She has volunteered with Amelia’s Light, an organization that helps survivors of human trafficking develop their own businesses. Most importantly, her honors thesis was the development of a Bystander Intervention Program to prevent sexual misconduct on campus.”

*Rebecca Harmon, an elementary and special education major with a GPA of 3.75. She graduated in December as an Honors College Student, and was a recipient of many scholarships. She is a member of Zeta Delta Epsilon, as well as the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, the Golden Key International Honour Society and the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success.

She plans to continue presenting research related to LGBTQ and other social justice issues in educational practice. Rebecca was a student teacher, and is a long-term substitute at an elementary school in New Haven.

“She embodies all that we stand for here at Southern: scholarship that deepens knowledge; service to our community; and as Mahatma Ghandi famously said, ‘a commitment to being the change we want to see in the world,’” said Jessica Powell, assistant professor of curriculum and learning. “Rebecca’s work here at Southern and in the larger New Haven community captures these qualities.”

*Kanita Mote, a French and political science major with a GPA of 3.86. She is an Honors College student and a recipient of the Tarini Foundation Scholarship and Roberta Willis Scholarship. She is a member of the Pi Delta Phi French Honors Society.

Mote, whose family was granted political asylum to the United States in 1999 from Indonesia, is an organizing committee member from New Haven Rising, and established the International Socialist Organization as an official SCSU club. She was a French tutor at the SCSU Academic Success Center and a research intern at the UNITE HERE International Labor Union. She also spent a semester in France, tutoring students in both English and French.

“Few students exemplify Southern’s commitment to social justice in the same way that Katina does,” said Luke Eilderts, assistant professor of world languages and literatures. “Not only does she demonstrate a real commitment to Southern’s home city of New Haven, fighting for those who often do not have the resources to fight for themselves, but also to Southern itself, as well as the CSU system, going to the capitol to educate our state legislators on the importance of higher education in Connecticut.”

*Kevin Redline, an interdisciplinary studies major with a 3.79 GPA. He is an Honors College student, peer mentor and resident assistant. He is circle president of the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society and president of the SCSU Pre-Law Society.

Kevin earned the Crescent Players Scholarship and was costume crew manager for the Crescent Players. He performed at the Kennedy Center College Theater Festival (KCACTF), and presented at KCACTF for original costume design for a SCSU’s production of “35mm: A Musical Experience.”

“Kevin has been an exemplary member of the SCSU community through the meaningful participation in clubs and organizations,” said Sobeira Latorre, director of the interdisciplinary studies program. “He has done so while maintaining an impressive academic record and achieving academic honors regularly…I cannot think of a more deserving student for the award.”

 

 

 

 

Michele Vancour, President Joe Bertolino, and Chandra Kelsey

Over 50 members of the campus community were honored at a recent campus celebration to mark Southern’s official designation as a Breastfeeding-Friendly Campus by the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition (CBC) — the first college or university to receive this designation in the state and in the nation. These community members, who have volunteered to serve as “Breastfeeding Champions,” are a critical component of the breastfeeding-friendly initiative. At the celebration, Public Health Professor and Director of Faculty Development Michele Vancour and President Joe Bertolino were presented with a certificate by Chandra M. Kelsey, Vancour’s CBC co-chair — an award, the CBC says, that “distinguishes SCSU for their work of making the campus accessible and providing lactation space to students, faculty, and visitors. Their unique approach to recruiting breastfeeding champions and alternate spaces alongside information and on-site professional lactation support set a new standard for providing necessary support on campus.”

This step is important for Southern because it is building an awareness that mothers who breastfeed their babies need access to safe, clean, and private spaces to express milk, says Kelsey. “Mothers who return to work or to school should be encouraged and supported both in their pursuits as well as their desire to provide food for their baby. A majority of students are not mothers, but bringing awareness to the need and the space changes social norms. Personally, I see it as a way to empower women.”

State law protects the rights of women who wish to breastfeed or express breast milk at their place of employment, during breaks and in private spaces designated for these purposes. But students are not protected by the workplace law, Vancour points out. “The culture is different for students from employees,” she says. “As a result of unequal access to supports, students are forced to leave school, miss classes, or pump milk in unsafe environments like bathrooms and cars.” The Breastfeeding-Friendly Campus initiative broadens support to include students and even visitors to campus who may wish to breastfeed or express breast milk.

The designation certainly “sends a signal about what kind of campus we are,” says Terricita Sass, associate vice president for enrollment management, who is a volunteer Breastfeeding Champion.

Kelsey agrees, adding, “Southern is off to a great start towards being a family-friendly environment for students and faculty by going a step beyond offering a basic lactation space. What they have done is to create a culture of support with faculty volunteering to be breastfeeding champions. These champions serve to bridge the gap when accessing the space is too far from their next class or next meeting. They work within their departments to identify a space that can be used on a temporary basis as well as be a point person if a mother needed more resources. This is not only an important piece, community support, for breastfeeding moms, it also benefits the university as a work place (reduced absenteeism, health care savings, employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity).”

A celebratory group of Southern’s Breastfeeding Champions

Vancour believes that Southern can serve as a model for other campuses around the country and in fact has been contacted by individuals at other universities who are working towards attaining the Breastfeeding-Friendly designation.

The Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition (CBC) is organized around the six sectors identified in the 2011 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding (SGCTA). Each Sector has a committee that is led by a board member-liaison and is responsible for implementing actions in response to the SGCTA. Each committee is tasked with contributing to the discussion and advancement of breastfeeding goals within the state. The CBC’s overall mission is to “improve Connecticut’s health by working collaboratively to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.”

Read an article in the Washington Post about Southern’s designation as a Breastfeeding-Friendly Campus.

 

 

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will deliver this year’s Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture on March 23 at Southern Connecticut State University.

The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.

Biden, a former six-term U. S. senator who went on to serve two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, is expected to speak on some of the most pressing issues facing the nation in a moderated conversation. These include domestic and foreign policy, as well as his commitment to cancer research though the Biden Cancer Initiative, which he co-founded with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

He is the author of the book, Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose, released by Flatiron Books last year. The book examines how the loss of his son, Beau, affected his life.

The talk marks the 20th installment in the Distinguished Lecture Series, which began in 1999. Among the past speakers are: Gen. Colin Powell; the late Walter Cronkite, iconic CBS anchorman; former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Tickets for this year’s event are sold out. Parking will be available in the Wintergreen Parking Garage.

interview with SCSU Professor David Pettigrew with the the Federal News Agency (FENA) regarding the then-impending verdict in the Ratko Mladić case in Bosnia

For more than a decade, Philosophy Professor David Pettigrew has been traveling to Bosnia to perform research, give lectures and interviews, and advocate for the victims of atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia on March 1, 1992, triggering a secessionist bid by the country’s Serbs backed by the Yugoslavian capital, Belgrade, and a war that left about 100,000 dead, including the mass slaughter of many Bosnian Muslims by Serb forces. In addition, the crimes committed at the town of Srebrenica have been ruled to be genocide.

While all his efforts are part of a personal commitment to human rights and social justice, Pettigrew’s work on Bosnia also has an academic dimension, expressed through his lectures, publications, film screenings, and other work. He also teaches a holocaust and genocide studies course at Southern.

In late November, Pettigrew traveled to Bosnia to give two lectures in Sarajevo and an interview with the Federal News Agency (FENA) regarding the then-impending verdict in the Ratko Mladić case. The case concerned crimes Mladić committed during the Bosnian War in his role as a general in the Yugoslav People’s Army and the chief of staff of the Army of Republika Srpska. The verdict was delivered on November 22: Mladić was convicted of 10 of the 11 charges against him, including genocide, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Following the verdict, Pettigrew was called upon for expert analysis, appearing on one of the most popular talk shows in the Balkans, seen by Bosnians around the world, and now with over 20,000 views on YouTube.

Lecture poster, Professor David Pettigrew in Bosnia

Earlier this year, in July, Pettigrew was in Bosnia for about three weeks, during which time he gave lectures and interviews and engaged in activities around genocide recognition. He gave three lectures: one for KRUG 99, an association of independent intellectuals in Sarajevo; one for the International University of Sarajevo Summer Program; and one for the American University in Bosnia Summer Program. His lectures largely addressed obstacles to justice and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also gave three interviews, two for television and one for an academic journal, Novi Muallim.

During the July trip, Pettigrew also met with representatives from the International Commission on Missing Persons, the United Nations Development Program, and the European Delegation in Sarajevo. He attended a book launch by a genocide survivor and met with a foreign affairs adviser to the Bosnian president. In Višegrad, he went to see the new 15-foot-tall Russian cross that had been erected in honor of the Russian volunteers who served (that is, “committed atrocities,” says Pettigrew) with the Bosnian Serbs. Pettigrew calls the cross “another example of the glorification of the perpetrators.” He traveled to Srebrenica in order to help receive 71 coffins of genocide victims who had been identified for burial this year. He was an invited guest at a commemoration ceremony on July 11 with genocide survivors and dignitaries from around the world.

Pettigrew was also able to visit a new museum, a permanent exhibition installed in February 2017 in the Potočari Memorial Center in Srebrenica. He was seeing the museum for the first time, after having edited all the texts in the exhibition, the first permanent comprehensive educational exhibition of the Srebrenica genocide. He also proposed the title for the exhibition: “Srebrenica Genocide: The Failure of the International Community.” Instead of the word “war,” he proposed “Serb aggression,” or “genocide.” Instead of “fighters,” he referred to the armed militias that defended the civilians of Srebrenica as “defenders.”

The language used to describe what happened in Srebrenica matters, Pettigrew says. Different groups use the words “war” and “genocide” to describe the same events. “My research has addressed the extent to which the rhetoric of the ‘90s has been in full operation since 2007,” he says, “with the glorification of war criminals, genocide denial, threats of secession, a referendum challenging the authority of the national court, and many other provocations attempting to prevent refugee return.”

Professor David Pettigrew laying flowers in Bosnia

At the memorial service Pettigrew attended in the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Cemetery in July, people were burying their loved ones whose remains had been exhumed from mass graves and identified for burial. At one point, after Pettigrew had helped one family bury a loved one’s remains, a man stopped him and said “I know who you are and what you are doing, and I want to thank you for everything you are doing for my country [Bosnia]. I only ask that you promise that you will never give up.” Pettigrew promised the man he would not.

“Sometimes,” he says, “people ask me how I keep going in the face of the cruelty of genocide denial, the glorification of war criminals, and other human rights violations in Republika Srpska, along with the numerous tactics designed to intimidate Bosnian Muslims from returning to their former homes. Given the circumstances, giving up is not an option. Elie Wiesel wrote in his Nobel lecture that ‘There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ And I am always inspired by young people in Bosnia who lived through the genocide and through exile as refugees and who have kept their hearts open to the hope that telling the truth about the genocide will lead to justice.”

 

Media links:

December 9, interview that appeared in Al Jazeera Balkans website:
http://balkans.aljazeera.net/vijesti/david-pettigrew-rs-je-u-daytonu-nagradena-za-uspjesan-genocid

November 24, interview on popular FACE TV (international program) by host Senad Hadžifejzović, perhaps the most famous journalist in Bosnia. The program, FACE TO FACE, is watched all over the world by Bosnians. It had over 19,700 views on YouTube as of December 1:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO0uTK7ZYKs&feature=youtu.be

November 22, after the verdict, interview with TV1:
http://tv1.ba/video/gost-dnenvika-david-pettigrew-profesor-filozofije-holokausta-i-genocida/

November 21, interview with Mark Gollum of Canadian Broadcasting Company:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ratko-mladic-tribunal-verdict-bosnia-1.4410805

November 18, interview with FENA (federal news agency), published in Bosnia press:
http://bnn.ba/vijesti/pettigrew-osudujuca-presuda-mladicu-moze-biti-prekretnica-0

July 10 and July 11, 2017, interview on N1, a CNN affiliate:
http://ba.n1info.com/a173899/Vijesti/Vijesti/N1-na-1-sa-Davidom-Pettigrewom.html

July 2, interview on national TV (TV1) in Sarajevo:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDZw0jznUVQ

Press coverage for the KRUG99 lectures:

November 26, 2017 KRUG 99 press conference and lecture:
http://avaz.ba/vijesti/bih/325545/petigru-podrinje-bi-trebalo-identificirati-kao-nacionalno-spomen-mjesto

From July 2017:

https://www.klix.ba/vijesti/bih/americki-profesor-pettigrew-ne-smijemo-zaboraviti-srebrenicu-jer-je-konstantno-negiraju/170702035

http://ba.n1info.com/a172290/Vijesti/Vijesti/Ne-smijemo-zaboraviti-Srebrenicu-zbog-istine-i-prezivjelih.html

http://www.avaz.ba/clanak/301159/david-pettigrew-ne-mozemo-i-ne-smijemo-zaboraviti-srebrenicu

http://www.bhrt.ba/vijesti/bih/david-pettigrew-ne-mozemo-ne-smijemo-zaboraviti-srebrenicu/ 
(includes a video link)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collin Walsh, '08, competed in the 55 meters at the James Barber/Wilton Wright SCSU Alumni Track and Field event on November 11 at Moore Field House

Former Southern track and field All-American Collin Walsh, ’08, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been paralyzed from his mid-section to his toes, competed in the 55 meters at the James Barber/Wilton Wright SCSU Alumni Track and Field event on November 11 at Moore Field House. Owl Nation cheered him on every step of the way, especially when he successfully completed the 55 meters at the event.

Walsh was an All-American during his undergraduate career at Southern and competed with the cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field squads. He was an All-New England performer and conference champion, and was also recognized with numerous academic honors. Walsh also completed an internship at the White House during his senior year.

After graduation, he went on to serve as a Milford police officer and pursued additional graduate coursework at UConn, Indiana University and abroad in India. In April 2016, he headed to Washington, D.C., to work for Diplomatic Security Service as a special agent specializing in counter-terrorism.

However, after just days there, he became stricken, and during his hospitalization was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Walsh became paralyzed and unable to walk. Since then, he has undergone extensive medical treatment, even going to India for treatment.

SCSU President Joe Bertolino with Collin Walsh, '08, Jim Barber, and coach

Walsh’s participation in the event garnered local media attention:

New Haven Register: “Former SCSU runner with MS participates in alumni track meet”
By Clare Dignan

Fox 61: “Former police officer, track star with MS walks in track meet”

News 12: “Former Milford officer who was told he’d never walk again defies odds”

Milford Patch: “Former Milford Cop Doesn’t Let Crippling Illness Slow Him Down”

 

Larry DeNardis receives honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University

Lawrence DeNardis, a member of the Connecticut State Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR), recently received the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). One of 12 Fellows chosen for 2017, DeNardis was honored for his outstanding achievement in creating transatlantic academic opportunities. He was instrumental in helping to establish the pioneering transatlantic partnership between Southern and LJMU, which provides a unique student exchange program, including opportunities for joint degrees.

DeNardis received the award during LJMU’s graduation ceremony, held at Liverpool Cathedral before an audience of over 3000 graduates and guests.

The Trans-Atlantic Alliance between SCSU and LJMU, now in its third year, has included research internships, study abroad for students from both institutions, faculty exchanges, and the approval of the first programs in a portfolio of joint master’s degrees. SCSU President Joe Bertolino and former Provost Ellen Durnin were part of a small delegation that visited Liverpool in May to meet with LJMU leadership and advance the university’s first major international partnership.

The Fellowship was presented to DeNardis by Sir Malcolm Thornton, who joined LJMU’s Board of Governors in 2001 and became chairman and pro-chancellor in 2007, a position he held until 2013. Thornton and DeNardis have known each other for 35 years and share a “passion for education as an engine of change,” said Thornton in his remarks during the presentation. A few years ago, together they began to plant the seeds for the transatlantic partnership between LJMU and SCSU.

Thornton said, “It’s not easy to establish a formal partnership between universities on different sides of the Atlantic. We have succeeded – we have succeeded because of shared values, shared beliefs and because our academic staff, here and in America, have seized the opportunity to create new ways to work together.”

DeNardis said of his award, “It is with great pleasure to have this honour bestowed on me and to my wife to be here with me. It is true that this 35-year friendship has led to a strong partnership between SCSU and LJMU – a partnership that will benefit countless students at both institutions for decades to come.”

LJMU’s highest honor, the Honorary Fellowship is bestowed each July during Graduation Week upon a select group of individuals from outside the university, in recognition of their outstanding achievement in a given field or profession, and who personify the university’s ethos and go on to inspire others.

The Fellowship of the university is an association of individuals who are closely connected with the work of LJMU, and Fellows play an active role in the life of the university by delivering guest lectures, hosting events, helping with projects and in some cases mentoring and supporting individual or groups of students.

DeNardis’ own academic career includes 16 years as an associate professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science at Albertus Magnus College, visiting professor of government at Connecticut College, guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution, and seminar instructor at Yale University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of the Holy Cross and a master’s and a Ph.D. in government from New York University.

He has pursued a combined political and educational career and as a public servant has worked to create opportunities to raise the aspirations of the communities he has served, Thornton said.

President Emeritus of the University of New Haven and a former United States Congressman from Connecticut, DeNardis has been a federal and state legislator and chief executive officer, in addition to his work as a political science professor. He represented Connecticut’s Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 after serving five terms in the Connecticut State Senate from 1971.

He was the Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1985-86 and was appointed by President George Bush to serve as a member of the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine.

In 2005 and 2006, DeNardis was an official election observer for national parliamentary and presidential elections in Ukraine and Tanzania and co-chaired delegations from both the Association of former members of Congress and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He also led a delegation of former members of Congress to meet with the new president of Chile in February 2006.

DeNardis was appointed in 2012 to the BOR, which governs Connecticut’s four state universities; 12 community colleges; and Charter Oak State College.

 

Lisa Tedesco, film student

For anyone in the film industry – or anyone interested in film, for that matter — the renowned Cannes Film Festival in France is considered one of the most prestigious festivals in the world. Each year in May, producers, directors, screenwriters, actors, and many others involved in the process of filmmaking, from all over the world, flock to Cannes to see others’ films, show their own films, and network.

This year, Southern student and screenwriter Lisa Tedesco will be among the crowds at Cannes, but not as one of the paparazzi or a mere film fan. Tedesco will be screening her short film, August in The City, one of about 200 short films chosen from among about 10 thousand submissions for the festival’s “Short Film Corner.”

Tedesco wrote the screenplay for the film and is executive producer. She teamed up with Los Angeles-based director Christie Conochalla (Once Upon a Zipper, Forever Not Maybe) to produce August in the City. Shot in Brooklyn and Oceanside, N.Y., last November, the production team has now begun its run on the film festival circuit.

August in the City has already screened at the ClexaCon Film Festival in Las Vegas, Nev. Local audiences can see August in the City on Friday, May 5, at 6:15 p.m., when it is shown in the New Haven International Film Festival.

A visionary project in lesbian filmmaking, August in the City deals with the theme of love, loss, and attempting to persevere throughout life without feeling quite whole. August (Daniela Mastropietro) is a woman who has always seen the world through her parents’ eye. They had stability and a loving relationship that August grew from and wanted. August’s husband Salvatore (John Solo) is an old-school Italian man who loves family values and the simple life. Together they have raised two daughters, Ana and Marie (Stacey Raymond and Amanda Tudor). Upon hearing of Ana’s impending return home from college with Nick (Raquel Powell), a new love, August prepares to meet him. When August sees that Nick is a young woman, not the young man she had expected, the film flashes back to 1978, the night when August let her true happiness slip away from her.

Tedesco attributes her vision for the screenplay to a story her mother wrote about her when she was off at film school, about 12 years ago. Her mother, Southern alumna Nancy Guthrie Manzi, ’76, had been an English major with a concentration in journalism while at Southern and says she has always loved to write.

“My mom had called me one night and said that she has written a little something about me,” said Tedesco. “It was about my very first love that I had in college – her name was Nick – and she was expecting to see a young man when I brought her home.” Her mother had been surprised when Nick turned out to be female. Manzi’s story sparked Tedesco’s imagination, and she began thinking about the perspective of the mother in the story.
Lisa Tedesco, film student

Tedesco asked her mom for permission to use the story. “I wanted to do more with it,” she says. She decided to do a “time hop” about the mother’s side of the story — which she adds doesn’t reflect Manzi’s experience — and delve into the fictional mother’s past. Tedesco’s screenplay for August In the City took that element from her mother’s original short story and combined it with her own dramatic touches to make something new.

Tedesco explains that her film is 16 minutes long, and within the short film genre, films can range from one minute to 30 minutes in length. “Starting out, you don’t have access to a lot of the resources you’d have with a Hollywood budget,” she explains. “Short films are good when you have a low budget. “

At film festivals, short films can help filmmakers network and sell their work. At Cannes, for instance, Tesdesco says, “the hope is that you’ll get noticed and get more money to build upon the short” and possibly produce it as a feature film. She explains that distributors from all over the world come to the Cannes Short Film Corner to see the films, and “high production value increases your chance of getting someone’s attention.”

In addition to attending Southern part time and working on her film career, Tedesco works the second shift at Sikorsky as an electrical aerospace technician. A native of West Haven, Tedesco now lives in New Haven and worked on August in the City mostly within the New York City film community.

A media studies major, Tedesco credits her professors in that department with motivating her to “go for it” and make the movie. She says that Associate Professor Charlene Dellinger-Pate “gave me a sense of stability in knowing I could overcome the stigma of women being underrepresented in the film industry.” Associate Professor Rosemarie Conforti, Tedesco says, is supportive and “just wants you to succeed at everything.” Chairperson and Professor Wesley O’Brien says he and the entire department are proud of Tedesco, adding that she is “a self-directed young woman who knows what she wants and is wise enough to pursue it.”

For more information about August in the City, visit:

Teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2Pb7P_Izj8

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6388694/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

https://www.facebook.com/AugustintheCity/

https://twitter.com/AugustCity_Film

 

President Joe Bertolino shares thoughts on Southern, how he came to the university, and the life-changing power of Camp Ockanickon.

It was the ultimate college acceptance — albeit with a bit of a twist.

The message came by phone and the recipient, Joe Bertolino, had been invited to become Southern’s new president. Roughly eight months later, Bertolino is no longer the new kid in town. Since officially taking the helm at the university on August 22, he’s quickly become “Top Owl” in name and deed, crisscrossing campus, New Haven, and beyond in an ongoing quest to connect with students, alumni, and business and community members.

In recent months, Bertolino — or President Joe as students call him — has met with scores of legislators and industry leaders, joined the board of directors at the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA and New Haven Promise, rolled up his sleeves at the university’s day of service, jointly led an on-campus social justice forum with his partner and fellow higher education leader Bil Leipold, and connected with neighborhood schools. Among the Owls most vocal fans, he’s even tackled the t-shirt cannon, gamely shooting Southern swag to the cheering crowd at Jess Dow Field.

“Since his first days on campus, he’s been incredibly involved,” says Corey Evans, a senior political science major and president of Southern’s Service Commission, which runs student-led community outreach programs. “He’s very committed to social justice. It’s one thing to talk about it, but he puts himself out there, helping with planning and going to events. . . . When I look back at Social Justice Week and the other programs that were held on campus during his first semester, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Such commitment is a given says Bertolino, who has 25-plus years of leadership experience at private and public universities, the latter in Vermont, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

“I come from a social work background. I firmly believe it’s all about relationships — and students always come first.”

Before Southern, he was president of Lyndon State College in Vermont for four years, spearheading the development of new master and strategic plans, the launch of nine academic programs, and an almost 200 percent increase in annual giving in three years.

He joins Southern at a pivotal time, highlighted by the dramatic transformation of campus, including the construction of a state-of- the-art science building, a new home for the School of Business, and the expanded Hilton C. Buley Library, now twice its original size. The obstacles facing the university are dramatic as well, including a statewide budget deficit and a shrinking population of high school graduates. But Bertolino remains upbeat.

“In terms of our financial position, yes, we are facing challenges,” he says. “But I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we have a lot to be proud of. When I look out over this campus, I see great facilities. Great research opportunities. Great faculty. A strategic plan that I am very excited about and will be particularly aggressive about implementing.”

A longtime social justice educator, Bertolino has pledged to continue championing the cause. In November, he became one of an initial 110 college and university presidents to issue a joint letter to then President-elect Donald Trump urging a forceful stance against “harassment, hate, and acts of violence.”

“I want people in this city, state, and beyond to know Southern as the university dedicated to social justice.”

It’s a message he’ll be sharing throughout Southern and the community-at-large. “At the moment, I am going to be out and about a lot. It’s kind of nonstop,” says Bertolino. Following, he pauses briefly to share some personal stories and his thoughts on the university’s future.

What role did education play in your family?

I’m the product of a traditional lower-middle class family, born and raised in the suburbs of South Jersey. Faith, family, and education were the priorities in our home — in that order. I had 16 years of private school education. My younger sister and I attended a catholic grammar school and high school. I went on to the university of Scranton, a catholic college in the Jesuit tradition. It was always assumed that my sister and I would go to college. It was just something you never questioned.

How about your parents?

Neither of my parents initially had a college degree when i was growing up. My father had a high school education and took some community college classes. He worked for the shipyard in Philadelphia and, later, for what was then bell Telephone. He was a switch operator before going into management. My mother went to nursing school after she graduated from high school. At the time, people typically didn’t think about getting a college degree to become a nurse. But when I was in about seventh grade, my mother went back to school to get a BSN [bachelor of science in nursing].

Did that make an impression on you?

Absolutely. She worked very hard. I consider myself to be a first-generation college student in the traditional sense. But my mother was the first in the family to get a college education, which she did as an adult while simultaneously raising a family.

What was your college experience like?

When I look back at grammar school and high school, it’s all a blur. I don’t have negative memories, but they’re not particularly fond either. But college was amazing. That’s one of the great benefits of higher education. It gives you the opportunity to reinvent yourself a bit . . . to explore. You find your cohorts . . . your people. I was in a group that included the band and singers. Last year, I went back to my alma mater to celebrate our former director’s 35th anniversary. Here it was 30 years later, and I was so excited to see everyone.

Your parents have many fans on campus. They made great comments about being proud of you on Facebook.

It’s very, very sweet. [laughs] My mother always emphasized education, but it was important to my father, too. He started his professional life as a blue-collar worker and worked very hard. The summer after I graduated from high school, he found a job for me at a cable TV factory. Later, when I was packing to leave for college, he came to my room and asked how I had liked working there.

‘I hated that job,’ I told him. ‘It was horrible. horrible.’ He looked me in the eye and said, ‘And that is why we are sending you to college. Don’t forget it.’ I never did.

Now, both my sister and I work in education. She works in pre-K and here I am in higher education.

You recently were named to the board of directors at the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA. You’ve had a long association with the YMCA. How did it start?

It was the summer after my freshman year of college. The local newspaper — the Courier-Post — had a job listing: ‘Counselors Wanted.’ I remember thinking, ‘I’m majoring in psychology. I can be a counselor.’ I didn’t have a clue. . . . So I went to the interview. Drove up and there’s a big sign: YMCA Camp Ockanickon [in Medford, N.J.] I went to the director’s office, and he proceeded to ask me a series of questions. Have you ever been to camp? Nope. Do you swim? Nope. Play any sports? No. Boat? Nope. Practice archery? No. Arts and crafts? Maybe. Umm, no.

How about working with children? I’d like to, I told him — and he thanked me and I left. Soon after my mother called to tell me they’d offered me the job . . . which I thought was just crazy.

So was that director right? Was it a good fit?

I worked at camp every summer — both when I was in college and, after, while working as a high school teacher. I went on to serve on the camp’s board of directors for 13 years and was the president of the board from 2006 to 2010.

It’s the relationships that stand out. I met Stephan, one of my first campers, when he was 9. His parents were getting divorced that first year. From then on, he came back and stayed in my cabin every summer. Eighteen years later, I was the best man at his wedding. His oldest son, Matthew, is my godson. Last summer we sent Matthew off to Camp Ockanickon, where he stayed in the cabin where his dad and I met.

Camp has been the single most important influence in my life. I credit the fact that I am sitting in this chair — that I’m the president of Southern — to that camp.

An article in Vermont Business magazine mentioned that you contemplated becoming a priest?

I was in the seminary in Scranton for a year and a half. In hindsight, it was far more conservative than I would have liked. But I didn’t leave for religious reasons or a lack of faith; I left because I wanted to forge my own path — and that presented an unexpected opportunity. I took a leave of absence and was assigned to teach religion at a Catholic school in South Jersey. I never went back to the seminary. Teaching led to graduate school, which led to my starting a career in Student Affairs in higher education — and I’ve never left higher education.

What led you to pursue the presidency at Southern?

Southern is a highly diverse community located in a great, culturally rich, urban environment. The university educates many first-generation college students and is positioned to be a strong community partner — the traits that I really love in a university setting. New Haven is also a great city, and it’s a lot closer to my family than Vermont. My partner Bil and I talked about it — and I thought I had nothing to lose by throwing my hat into the ring. It’s a great opportunity. So here I am. Bil and I recently closed on a home in Morris Cove in New Haven. We are excited.

You’ve been described in the press as one of the country’s first openly gay university presidents. Does that carry an added responsibility?

When I started at Lyndon [State College] there were about 20 to 25 openly gay presidents in the U.S. There are now about 70 to 75. I do think that for the LGBTQ community — and also for the Student Affairs community — I feel an added responsibility to “represent” . . . to go above and beyond. But I also remind folks that I am not the gay president. I am the president who, by the way, just happens to be in a committed relationship with a man. Period. It’s not really a focus for me and the work that I do. That said, I am certainly honored if my role at Southern inspires others — lets them see the possibility of holding a public leadership position.

Describe your leadership style in five words.

Compassionate. Kind. Collaborative. Relationship focused.

What are your immediate goals for Southern?

Topping the list, I would like Southern as a community to become even more focused on social justice — in every possible way. I have been a social justice educator for more than 25 years, and my administration will be committed to social justice, not just in word, but in action and deed. Secondly, raising the profile of the institution is key. As I said during my interview [for Southern’s presidency], ‘I’m a PR man!’ I welcome the opportunity to share Southern’s accomplishments and all the benefits it offers to our students, our community, and the state. Third, we will be having solid discussions to address our financial challenges through the promotion of entrepreneurship, the development of new and innovative community partnerships, and a greater emphasis on private fundraising. And this is extremely important to me — we are focusing on student success, furthering efforts to enhance academic excellence, remove obstacles to graduation, and improve retention.

Last summer, prior to officially becoming president, you attended an on-campus dialogue, “A Campus Conversation on Race, Policing, Advocacy, and Action.” You briefly shared your concerns for Joel (pronounced Jo-el), a young man from Jamaica.

My family is very nontraditional. I refer to Joel as my son, though he’s not in a legal sense. But I believe family is defined by love, not by blood or paperwork. When Joel’s first baby was arriving, he told me, ‘You are going to be a grandfather.’ His son Roman calls me Grandpa Joe.

It’s important for people to know how we define family . . . who in our lives are important to us — especially if this helps me to better understand the young men and women at Southern.

[Bertolino first met Joel Welsh Jr. at Queens college. Then a student, Joel worked as his exercise trainer. Today, he is the head strength and conditioning coach at Delaware State University.]

You’ve invited the students to call you President Joe. Why is this important?

I want members of the community to think of me as a person . . . a member of the community. I also want to be somewhat informal. But that doesn’t take away from the seriousness of my role. I tell people not to confuse my smile and my informality with a lack of seriousness. But too many times, people get stuck in their own hype. I think ‘President Joe’ invites people to engage in a conversation and build a relationship.

Speaking of conversations, you’ve been talking to many constituencies — from students and alumni to faculty to legislators. Have you learned anything that surprised you?

One thing I am really excited about is the quality and the caliber of our student population. The academic excellence and rigor at Southern is far beyond what many realize. Our students are sometimes underestimated. In the sciences, a team of Southern students recently won a bronze medal at an international synthetic biology competition. Southern’s Society of Professional Journalists was named the Outstanding Campus Chapter in our region [Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island]. Our freshman class includes many top students, including three high school valedictorians. We are a community of scholars, artists, and community activists. I’m looking forward to seeing all that we accomplish.

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— This article was featured in Southern Alumni Magazine, Spring 2017

Once again, Southern goes for the green!

For the third year in a row, Southern has been named one of the 361 most environmentally responsible colleges by The Princeton Review (www.PrincetonReview.com). The education services company known for its test prep and tutoring services, books, and college rankings features the university in the 2016 edition of its free book, The Princeton Review Guide to 361 Green Colleges.

Published October 4, the 160-page guide can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide.

The Princeton Review chose the schools for this seventh annual edition of its “green guide” based on data from the company’s 2015-16 survey of hundreds of four-year colleges concerning the schools’ commitments to the environment and sustainability.

The profiles in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 361 Green Colleges provide information about each school’s admission requirements, cost and financial aid, and student body stats. They also include “Green Facts” about the schools with details on the availability of transportation alternatives at the schools and the percentage of the school food budgets spent on local/organic food.

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Suzanne Huminski, SCSU sustainability coordinator, says, “The SCSU community should be proud of this rating, because it is a hard-won reflection of the effort by our campus community.” Huminski points to Southern’s long and strong leadership record with energy efficiency, green building design, waste reduction and recycling. The university is also recognized for sustainability in curriculum, research, student involvement, and community outreach, and finding symbioses among all of these elements to strengthen the campus community and surrounding neighborhoods.

Southern’s focus on food security has been an important contributor to these kinds of connections. Huminski explains that student volunteers collect excess food from Conn Hall and campus retail locations and deliver it to soup kitchens and pantries in the New Haven area, primarily St. Ann’s soup kitchen on Arch St., near Southern’s campus.

“This project could never happen without a strong partnership and collaboration with our administration, dining services staff, management, and students,” Huminski says. She credits public health and geography faculty and students with research in the area of food insecurity. In addition, CARE [Community Alliance for Research and Engagement], newly arrived on the SCSU campus, is integrally involved with reducing hunger in New Haven, establishing food security as a priority at New Haven City Hall, and developing a network of non-profits that have streamlined goals and communication. Multiple student organizations organize food drives and donations, and for Southern students experiencing food insecurity, the SCSU Office of Alumni Relations coordinates campus visits from a mobile food pantry.

“There is a great deal of potential to further align and unify these campus-wide efforts, and together we’re working on this,” says Huminski.

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The Princeton Review first published its green guide in 2010. It remains the only free, annually updated downloadable guide to green colleges.

CARE, New Haven

Above, left to right: Yan Searcy, associate dean of the School of Health and Human Services; Sandra Bulmer, dean of the School of Health and Human Services; Alycia Santilli, CARE director; and Jeannette Ickovics, CARE founder

The Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) is partnering with Southern Connecticut State University to enhance its ongoing efforts to improve the health of residents in New Haven’s lowest-income neighborhoods.

Since its founding in 2007 at the Yale School of Public Health, CARE has worked to identify solutions to health challenges such as diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung diseases through community-based research and projects focusing on social, environmental, and behavioral risk factors. During the next three years, CARE will transition from Yale to SCSU’s campus, with SCSU becoming responsible for CARE’s community engagement work. Yale will continue to manage and finance CARE’s research agenda while gradually shifting that work to SCSU.

“This partnership with SCSU represents a powerful next step in the evolution of CARE by engaging with a local state university to drive deeper change into our neighborhoods,” said CARE founder Jeannette Ickovics. “This is an opportunity of mutual benefit:  a way to extend CARE’s work in New Haven, provide continuity and new energy to the work, and provide a platform to launch a center at Southern. “

The new SCSU Center for Community Engagement will help foster student service learning, advance community-engaged scholarship, and benefit CARE’s community partners, said Sandra Bulmer, dean of SCSU’s School of Health and Human Services (HHS). With Alycia Santilli as director, and Ickovics serving in an advisory capacity, CARE is beginning its transition to SCSU this month, Bulmer said.

Southern’s School of Health and Human Services is unique in Connecticut in combining seven disciplines under a single umbrella –  communication disorders, exercise science, marriage and family therapy, nursing, public health, social work, and recreation, tourism, and sport management. As a result, academic opportunities are highly interdisciplinary, while the school’s wide range of internships means that students participate in the community while earning their degrees.

“SCSU’s students and faculty are tremendous assets that will bring CARE expanded opportunities in community-based research, programming, and policy change, leading to further improvement in the health of New Haven residents,” Bulmer said.

During the transitional period, YSPH will remain as the central hub of CARE’s research activities, with a focus on data analysis from its New Haven Public Schools and neighborhood health surveys, said Santilli, who began her employment with SCSU Sept. 23 as a special appointment faculty member in the Department of Public Health.

“The potential of student, faculty, and staff power, combined with the legacy of work initiated over the past decade at the Yale School of Public Health, will be leveraged in a new way that I hope will have a lasting impact for another decade to come,” Santilli said.

“I am excited about the capacity and resources that this expanded partnership can bring to the SCSU campus community and the Greater New Haven area. As I become familiar with SCSU, two things stand out: the drive to best serve students and the commitment to social justice. These are simultaneously familiar and fresh perspectives from which CARE can begin to refine our focus on improving health in the New Haven community.”

Santilli, who has been with CARE since 2007, will spend the coming months transitioning CARE’s operations to Southern’s campus, developing CARE’s new strategic plan, and launching its new community engagement activities. She will split her time between offices at Lang House and Southern on the Green in downtown New Haven.

More information about CARE, including its accomplishments and publications, can be found on the CARE website.