In the News

English Professor Tim Parrish

New Haven’s Daily Nutmeg website has kicked off its Summer Reading Month series with a profile of English Professor Tim Parrish, a founder of the university’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program who teaches fiction and memoir. Parrish is the author of the short story collection Red Stick Men (2000), the memoir Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist (2013), and the novel The Jumper (2013). In the Daily Nutmeg profile, Parrish — who grew up in Baton Rouge, La. — discusses the theme of racism in his works and how he deals with his “upbringing in a racist culture.”

The Daily Nutmeg will publish excerpts from Parrish’s work over the next few days, and this article will be updated with links to those excerpts.

Read the profile of Parrish — “Southern Exposure” by Kathy Leonard Czepiel — in the Daily Nutmeg (August 6, 2019).

Excerpt from Parrish’s short story “Roustabout,” part of his collection Red Stick Men.

Excerpt from Parrish’s novel The Jumper

 

Journalism Professor Frank Harris III

August 1, 2019, marked the month of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in America 400 years ago. Journalism Professor Frank Harris III has created a website to commemorate the first Africans and their descendants in America. Harris writes on the site:

“When it occurred to me several years ago that 2019 would mark the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans brought to America, I began asking Americans how America should observe the 400th, if indeed it should be observed,

“Invariably, every person I spoke with was unaware of the 400th until I informed them, and when I did, they were awestruck.

“​My mission became to utilize my role as a journalism professor, news columnist, filmmaker and public speaker to get the word out about the 400th, to encourage activities to observe it. In the process of doing so, I learned much more about slavery that makes this site relevant beyond 2019.

“This site is designed to commemorate and inform about the first enslaved Africans in America and their descendants. It was important to me that 2019 not pass without some acknowledgment of their presence, some recognition of their existence.”

The site includes a list of events to observe the 400th, as well as multimedia presentations and interviews about slavery and the 400th.

Harris’ 400th project has received considerable media attention:

“Slavery’s legacy: SCSU prof studies tragedy, racism today” by Ed Stannard, New Haven Register

“Remembering Those We’ve ‘Overlooked'” by Carmen Baskauf & Lucy Nalpathanchil, WNPR

“400 years ago, first slaves arrived in American colonies” by Ed Stannard, Litchfield County Times

“What the 400th means” by Frank Harris III, Hartford Courant

 

Jacob Santos, ’19, one of 14 in the nation awarded prestigious fellowship

Jacob Santos, ’19, graduated in May with dual degrees — business administration with a concentration in accounting and theatre. Today, his education continues in both subjects thanks a prestigious fellowship from the Newman’s Own Foundation, designed to provide young emerging leaders with experience in the nonprofit sector.

Santos, one of only 14 to receive the award for 2019-20, has been placed at Westport Country Playhouse, where he is a managing director fellow — a post he calls his “dream job.” “My career goal is to become a theater manager with a focus on diversity and inclusion,” says Santos. “I’m excited that my first steps into the industry are with the Playhouse, which shares my creative values and is growing from an already impressive 88-year legacy. I look forward to learning as much as I can from its excellent staff and creative team.”

The Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship is designed to help future leaders gain critical experience and a better understanding of the importance of philanthropy and giving back. About 150 apply for the fellowship each year, and the foundation annually selects a cohort of no more than 20. Each fellow receives a $38,000 stipend and health benefits from their host organization during the 12-month fellowship. The program also includes five, four-day in-person workshops focused on personal and professional development.

Santos, 24, graduated cum laude from Southern where he was very involved with the campus theater program. He is the founder of the Crescent Players of Color, a coalition of current students and alumni of color dedicated to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. He also was a managing intern/casting associate with the Elm Shakespeare Company — Southern’s theater in residence. As a student, he won several awards, including the 2019 Arts Impact Award at the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

Michael Barker, managing director at the Westport Country Playhouse, notes the fellowship is a win-win: “Jacob brings a new perspective to the Playhouse’s managerial work,” says Barker. “His judgement and knowledge are beyond his years, and as a recent college graduate his fresh perspective has already made us question assumptions and will lead to thoughtful analysis of our current practices.”

The Newman’s Own Foundation, an independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, has been offering the fellowship since 2015.

Lewis DeLuca works with students on improving their financial literacy.

The website LendEDU has released its annual Top 50 Financial Literacy Programs report, and Southern made the list for the third year in a row. After analyzing colleges and universities based on LendEDU’s unique scoring system, LendEDU placed Southern in the top 50, at #9, up from #29 in 2018.

LendEDU is a marketplace for private student loans, student loan refinancing, credit cards, and personal loans, among other financial products. LendEDU’s goal is to create transparency in these markets to help consumers make educated decisions and better manage their money. It annually compiles a ranking of the 50 best financial literacy programs offered at colleges throughout the United States, looking at hundreds of colleges and universities that are known to have a financial literacy program. The rankings were based on three specifications:

  • The number of workshops and resources available
  • Access to one-on-one financial consultation
  • Incentivizing programs available (e.g., scholarships for attending workshops)

According to LendEDU, Southern “takes the ninth spot by offering over 100 annual workshops about financial literacy and education. Some workshops include Paying for College, Budget Talk$, and Life After College. The university also has an active and personalized financial advising program, with over 3,174 individual financial plans having been created over the years for students. Many resources have been gathered to a centralized webpage, including student discounts, recommended reading, and videos.”

LendEDU also includes Southern in the recent article, “Colleges That Are Making a Difference By Improving Financial Literacy.”

Lewis J. DeLuca, Jr., coordinator of Student Financial Literacy and Advising, advises students on financial literacy. Through advising, outreach and on-campus programming, he works closely with students and parents to raise awareness about financial literacy, student aid programs and scholarships, as well as the advantages of the timely completion of a degree.

“Financial aid departments in colleges and universities have people who talk with students, but generally not in the kind of depth that we are able to provide on a consistent basis,” DeLuca has said. “And we are available to talk with high school students and potential transfer students, as well.”

West Haven High's Liam Leapley is an incredibly inspiring teacher, says recent college grad Alice Obas -- which is why she successfully nominated him for a highly prestigious teaching award.

West Haven High School teacher Liam Leapley, '00, was nominated for the award by Alice Obas. "Mr. Leapley has not only upheld the values of equity and inclusion during his teaching career but has also instilled those values in his hundreds of students, and in me," says Obas, who recently graduated from Williams College.

With graduation fast approaching, Alice Obas, then a senior at Williams College, was considering an important question in addition to planning her next phase of life: who, among her former teachers at West Haven High School, had the most influence on her education?

Such contemplation is a rite of passage for seniors at Williams, who, each year, are invited to nominate their former teachers for the George Olmsted Jr. Class of 1924 Prize for Excellence in Secondary Education.

For Obas, the choice was obvious: Southern alumnus Liam Leapley, ’00, a special education teacher at West Haven High who also leads the Program for Accelerated Credit Recovery in Education (PACE) at the school. Leapley designed and implemented PACE and, years ago, worked closely with Obas when she was a talented high school student serving as a teaching assistant with the program.

“While the Olmsted Prize is for nominating former teachers, and I was not a part of the PACE program, I feel that I learned and was taught more from Mr. Leapley than my AP [advanced placement] and Honors classes taught me out of a book,” says Obas. The judging committee was inspired as well, selecting Leapley as one of only four recipients of the Olmsted Award. In recognition, he received $3,000, and an additional $5,000 was presented to West Haven High. The award is particularly prestigious in light of the college’s standing: it’s been cited repeatedly as the top liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Forbes, including this year.

PACE — an intervention program for at-risk youth in grades 8 through 12 — incorporates outside the box approaches to education, including a community-based work experience component, to reignite students’ interest in learning, “Every child can move forward, but you must be willing to work with them no matter where they begin and at which pace they move,” says Leapley, who’s been a special education teacher since 2000 and led the PACE program since 2009.

Award recipient Liam Leapley, ’00, receives an award for exceptional teaching at the high school level at Williams College’s Ivy Exercises.

His influence, notes Obas, has been profound and far-reaching. “Mr. Leapley has not only upheld the values of equity and inclusion during his teaching career but has also instilled those values in his hundreds of students, and in me,” she says.

Southern has historically been a leader in the field of education, with graduates of the School of Education earning many top awards at the state level and beyond. Among the honorees is Jahana Hayes,’05, who was named the National Teacher of the Year in 2016 and went on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Students Brooke Mercaldi and Lauren Brideau perform research with fellow student David Bakies at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn.

Summer is finally here, and that means heading to Connecticut’s coast to splash in the waves and sunbathe on the beach. But you may want to go right now. According to analysis conducted by Brooke Mercaldi and Lauren Brideau, juniors at Southern and paid researchers for Southern’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies (WCCMS), those miles of beach are quickly shrinking, and unless the state changes the way it handles coastline management, they won’t be back any time soon.

It’s a long-held belief that there is a seasonal rhythm to beaches in Connecticut: they erode during winter storms and are rebuilt during calmer summer months, thanks to fair-weather wave fields. However, Mercaldi and Brideau’s research on wave energy asymmetry is proving otherwise — that the state’s beaches don’t work this way and that our neighbor, Long Island, is the reason why.

Using laser surveying technology, Mercaldi has been studying the dynamics of Connecticut’s coasts since 2015. “We take three profiles at five beaches across the Connecticut coast: Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Bayview Beach in Milford, Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic, and Ocean Beach in New London,” she says.

Mercaldi’s research has shown that Long Island actually intercepts the fair-weather waves, the waves that originate in the Atlantic and have sufficient energy to rebuild our beaches after a storm. Mercaldi has found that Connecticut’s locally generated fair-weather wave field lacks the requisite energy to move the sand from the bars back onto the beach.

“Brooke has discovered some things about how Connecticut beaches work that go against the textbook train of thought,” says James Tait, professor of marine and environmental sciences and co-coordinator of WCCMS. “Along Connecticut shorelines, swell waves from distant storms, they run into the South shore of Long Island before they reach Connecticut,” he says. “So, the shoreline of Connecticut erodes and nothing happens. If we could get rid of Long Island, we’d be all set.”

Since moving Long Island isn’t an option, alternatives that combat erosion are needed, and that’s where fellow researcher Brideau is lending her expertise. She has focused exclusively on Hammonasset, which draws more than one million annual visitors and has had beach and dune erosion problems along its western half. As part of her beach sand transport and deposition study, Brideau is evaluating the fate of a 2017 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that involved transporting about 300,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the Housatonic River on barges to Hammonasset — for an estimated $9 million.

“If you showed up at Hammonasset you wouldn’t notice right away, but pictures show what’s happened,” says Mark Sulik, Environmental Protection, Parks and Recreation supervisor at Hammonasset. “We know we lose sand, and you’ll see after a storm that the drop-off is really noticeable. Then two weeks later it’ll be back, but we have noticed that over the past 30, 40, 50 years consistently, most of it disappears for good.”

Brideau, who has become the “go to” beach scientist for the park, has set up a network of approximately 30 beach profiles that she measures every three months using a total station and reflector. She has been working with park management and with the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as well as supplying additional data to the Corps such as depth of closure measurements and measurements of the dunes.

“Right now I’m still monitoring sediment and taking beach profiles,” says Brideau. “I survey the beach, the beach volume and width, and see where sediment is moving from and where it’s accumulating. We graph everything and compare all of the graphs on top of each other. It’s a visual way to see where sediment is going.”

The next phase, according to Brideau, is moving into designing sediment management — that’s where her expertise and Mercaldi’s have saved, and can continue to save, the state a significant amount of money.

“The towns don’t have the money to hire independent researchers to do this kind of investigation,” says Tait. “We’re doing it for free. It would probably cost them $100,000 to do this study if they hired a private company. We are saving the state millions in the long run, hundreds of thousands in the short term.”

What’s more, says Tait, importing sediment at the cost of $9 million per trip isn’t practical or sustainable. The idea, essentially, is to use Brideau and Mercaldi’s research to change the state’s mindset about coastal sustainability.

“What Lauren is doing — and Brooke as well — is to help them understand what’s happening to their eroded beach materials, and they use our data to move forward,” says Tait. “Nature isn’t going to put the sand back. We have to do the work that nature does. We always run into the erosion issues. We’re trying to push this idea that we do it once, then try to keep track of where it’s eroding and accumulating. So the idea is to reclaim and not re-nourish. It makes a huge amount of economic sense.”

Brideau hopes that by bringing her findings to General Assembly, the research will help spur better coastal management and policy.

“Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is aware of these projects and has been helpful in guiding our initiatives,” Brideau says. “But a better approach is to bring it to the legislature to implement policy change. Connecticut state beaches need to be manually replenished. People don’t know this or recognize it, and there’s no money for it. The next step is to bring it to the legislature and find someone who understands the urgency of it.”

Sulik, of Hammonasset, understands. “In the long-term, we don’t really have a plan to protect the beach,” he says. “Any information we get is beneficial. For future generations we need to look at better management plans.”

WTNH did a story recently on the students’ research at Hammonasset. Watch the video to learn more about Brideau’s and Mercaldi’s research, along with fellow student David Bakies.

 

Ryan Leigh Dostie, BA, '11, MFA, '16

A 21-year-old soldier is raped in her barracks by a fellow soldier, and she reports the assault right away. But Army commanders don’t trust her story, and instead of trying to bring the rapist to justice, they look for ways to delegitimize the woman. It’s a familiar narrative in today’s #MeToo environment, and in alumna Ryan Leigh Dostie’s memoir, Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line, published on June 4, the reader accompanies Dostie – who was raped at 21 while serving in the U.S. Army – on her journey of pain, outrage, trauma, and survival, as she navigates the military and life beyond its hierarchy as a rape survivor.

Dostie, who holds an MFA in fiction writing and a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern, has been receiving a lot of attention for her book, even well before its publication. Last November, Formation was selected as Shelf Awareness’ “Gallery Love of the Week,” in an industry newsletter that reviews books not yet published. More recently, Formation was chosen by Amazon editors as June’s top debut, and it is listed as #2 in Esquire’s “Best Books of Summer 2019.” BookRiot named Formation one of its “50 of the Best Books to Read This Summer”; Patch named Formation one of “The 10 Best Books To Read In June”; and PureWow listed it as one of “9 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in June.” The book has also been reviewed on Publishers Weekly, Amazon, and Goodreads.

When Dostie joined the Army in 2000, she did so as a linguist. By now, she has studied six languages, and she had spent a year of high school studying in Japan. When she joined the Army, she intended to become a Japanese interrogator. However, the Army had other plans for her and sent her to the prestigious Defense Language Institute of Monterey for an intensive program in Persian Farsi, the language spoken in Iran.

In 2001, an enlisted man in her unit raped her, and she immediately reported the assault to her superiors, who were at best skeptical and unsympathetic. Even after reporting, Dostie was forced to continue working with her rapist. The commanders who questioned her about what happened pressed her on whether or not she had told her rapist “no,” and they tried to paint her as promiscuous, or to portray her as trying to protect her reputation by accusing her attacker of rape. In the end, the Army dropped the case, and Dostie was left with PTSD, which would eventually take a toll on her mental health and ability to function.

“The book is about rape and how the Army handles it,” Dostie says. But it also is a devastating account of what happens to a rape victim when she reports and is not believed. Dostie stayed in the Army after her attack, and in April 2003, when the Iraq War was well under way, she was sent to Iraq. She had been told that her PTSD “could be a problem if she was deployed,” and it was: she says of that time, “I was not mentally sound.” She did spend 15 months there, however, and her presence in a war zone, compounded by her PTSD, essentially added one trauma to another.

In April 2004, when the uprising in Sadr City occurred, after Saddam Hussein was caught, Dostie says, “We were all packed to go home, and then they said we had to stay.” She did return to the United States eventually, and says at first she felt fine but then started showing signs of PTSD. She got out of active duty in 2005 and eventually returned home to Connecticut, which helped her PTSD. She began to attend Southern and date the man who would become her husband.

An Honors College student and history major at Southern, Dostie wrote two honors theses: one was in history and one, a creative writing thesis, was the beginnings of Formation. She says the manuscript that would eventually become Formation had actually started in an introductory fiction writing class as a “sci-fi futuristic Civil War-type story about a woman in the infantry – a woman working with all men in this masculine military environment.” When she told English Professor Tim Parrish, who taught that course, that she had been in the military, he advised that the story should be about her own experience. She rewrote it into a story about a woman in the military in Iraq, and it became her honors thesis.

She graduated with her B.A. in 2011, and when she joined the MFA program in creative writing a few years later, she rewrote the honors thesis into her MFA thesis. Parrish says, “Having worked with Ryan on this material from the time she took her first Intro to Fiction class through her MFA thesis, I’ve seen how she earned this book, not only in terms of her incredible work ethic and steadfast growth as a writer, but maybe moreso as a person with the courage and steadfastness to confront and process so much awful history, to survive, and to make great art from her experience. This book is not only outstanding, it’s important.”

Dostie sold the book several days before the #MeToo movement broke, and she says now #MeTooMilitary is gaining traction. There has been a spike in the number of reporting sexual assaults in the military, she says, adding, “They’ve changed how you report it, but if you report, it can still affect your career.”

The Army is now doing SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) briefings to teach soldiers about sexual assault and harassment. The briefings can be effective, Dostie says, “but people have to take it seriously. They are learning about consent and what is sexual harassment. It’s about trying to change the culture.”

Learn more about Ryan Leigh Dostie

Dostie will be a featured reader at the SCSU MFA Program’s 10 anniversary celebration in fall 2019. Find out more about her upcoming local events (readings, book signings, etc.).

Sean Grace with students

Sean Grace, associate professor of biology, was interviewed recently by WSHU radio about a study he participated in regarding the loss of kelp in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Grace was one of three researchers who conducted the study, which pointed to increasing water temperatures as the primary reason for the declining levels of kelp in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

Kelp is a brown algae found in underwater forests. They have a variety of uses, and serve as important nutrients for fish and other sea life.

Listen to the WSHU interview.

Read the original article about the study by Grace, Colette J. Feehan, and Carla A. Narvaez that appeared in the journal “Scientific Reports.”

The Criscuolo family, with Athletics Director Jay Moran (far left) and Head Baseball Coach Tim Shea (second from left) at Senior Day for the SCSU baseball team

It’s been a rough year for senior baseball captain Tyler Criscuolo and his family. Both Tyler and his mom endured serious accidents within the past six months, but both have made remarkable recoveries, and they were able to celebrate their progress and their family’s strength at Senior Day for the SCSU baseball team on May 1, 2019. The New Haven Register ran a May 1 story about Tyler, his mom, and their family that chronicles the obstacles they’ve overcome.

“On Senior Day at SCSU, a resilient mother and son celebrate” by Jeff Jacobs

Tyler was also recently named to the 2019 Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) All-East Region Team, as announced on Tuesday, May 15, 2019. He was previously named to the Northeast 10 Conference First team. Read more about Tyler’s successes in SCSU baseball.

Tyler Criscuolo at bat on Senior Day, May 1, 2019 (Photo credit: Julie Golebiewski)

 

West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi with Tony Fusco, recently named the city’s first poet laureate (Photo credit: Michael Walsh/New Haven Register)

SCSU creative writing alumnus Tony Fusco, a West Haven, Conn., resident, was recently named that city’s poet laureate. Fusco is co-president and past-president of the Connecticut Poetry Society and has a master’s degree in creative writing from Southern. He was the editor of Caduceus, the anthology of the Yale Medical Group Art Place, and past editor of The Connecticut River Review, Long River Run, the Southern News, High Tide, and Sounds and Waves of West Haven. His work has appeared in many publications including the Connecticut Review, Louisiana Literature, the Red Rock Review, The South Carolina Review, Lips, and The Paterson Review.

His most recent book is Extinction, published in 2018.

His book Java Scripture was published in 2014 by Flying Horse Press. Previous books include Droplines (Grayson Press) and Jessie’s Garden (Negative Capability Press), which feature poems about his youth in West Haven, Savin Rock, and Allingtown. His poetry has won prizes in many contests, including The Sunken Garden Poetry Prize. His poem “Harvest” was nominated for a Pushcart Award. He is a member of the New England Poetry Club, past literary chair for the West Haven Council of the Arts and the Milford Fine Arts Council. Fusco produced West Shore Poets, a television poetry series at CTV, and served on its board of directors and the Cable Advisory Council.

The New Haven Register published an article about Fusco being named West Haven’s poet laureate, which is available here.