Out and About

As one of only four students in Connecticut to receive the Bob Eddy Scholarship, Jason Edwards is being recognized for talent and promise.

Spring 2020 will be one to remember for Southern rising senior Jason Edwards — and he has the photos to prove it.

In addition to completing online courses, working as a student photographer for Southern’s communications and marketing department, and serving as photo editor of the student-run Crescent magazine, the talented journalism major is turning his camera lens on his neighbors to visually capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Connecticut Naugatuck Valley.

Edwards is one of only four recipients of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Foundation’s Bob Eddy Scholarship, which recognizes excellence and promise in the field. The award is open to rising college juniors and seniors attending Connecticut universities as well as state residents who are studying elsewhere.

In related news, numerous Southern student journalists were recognized for their work in Crescent magazine and the Southern News from the Society of Professional Journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

Just Bagels President Cliff Nordquist, '90

When Cliff Nordquist, ’90, and James O’Connell, ’90, founded Just Bagels in 1992, philanthropy wasn’t their No. 1 priority — growing the business and paying the bills was. But now that the company has established roots in its Bronx neighborhood, supporting the neighbors has become a part of daily operations, even though business is down 60 to 70 percent.

Until COVID-19 hit, Just Bagels sold their distinctive line of water-bath bagels nationally and internationally to large retailers such as Fresh Direct, Whole Foods, and Starbucks; airlines such as United Airlines; college campuses; Marriott and Hilton properties; and Barnes & Noble cafes in all 50 states. Now, with the market upended by the pandemic, Just Bagels President Nordquist said his biggest revenue generator is QVC.

“We are non-stop with QVC,” he said. “We started with them last May, and it’s what’s keeping us alive.”

The market may be uncertain, but Just Bagels’ continued commitment to the neighborhood isn’t. The company has started donating bagels to frontline workers and nurses in nine local hospitals in the Bronx.

“Being here so long, as you grow, you want to give back, so we love giving back and supporting the local community,” he said. “We have donated to churches, homeless shelters, the local police station, and food pantries, and I thought that would be a nice thing to do, to give something to our frontline workers, so we started. We can’t do it forever, but the neighborhood knows they can come in and we will be there, supplying the bagels.”

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.

Looking for some safe and healthy fun outdoors? Here’s some advice from Joe Milone assistant professor of recreation management, Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management Department, on spending time outside during a time when many of us are studying or working from home and practicing self-distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Joe Milone

Q: Is it okay to go to a park and take a hike?

A: Hiking is excellent for one’s physical and mental health, which is important in times like this. I just got back from a hike in West Rock Ridge State Park in Hamden with my dog. There were actually quite a few people with their canine companions out on the trail today.

If someone decides to go out for hike, it is absolutely important to minimize exposure to others. As with all the other warnings from local, state, and federal officials, practicing good hygiene and social distancing are key. Parks and trails provide plenty of open space and allow us to keep our distance from others. Do not congregate with a large group of people – that defeats the purpose of social distancing.

Of course, if you are showing symptoms or think you have been exposed to the virus then you should stay home and follow CDC and local public health agency guidelines. In addition, there is a lot we don’t know about the virus or impact on our specific community, so continue monitoring announcements because information is always changing.

Q: How can people prepare for their outing?

A: Research nearby parks. Some parks can be extremely busy, so finding a lesser-visited park could be a good option, but either way do some research before you go. Go during off-hours, if possible, to avoid large groups of people – this also lessens the environmental impact of the trails.

I would choose a trail that will not be crowded. This can be difficult to determine ahead of time, so you might have to change plans when arriving at the park. If a trail looks crowded, find another option. That’s why it is good to bring a map. Close to the SCSU campus, the loop around Lake Wintergreen in West Rock Ridge State Park or the Sleeping Giant State Park tower trail are both very popular hiking spots. However, there are plenty of other trail options at each park to get away from the large crowds.

As always have extra food, water, and, of course, hand sanitizer. Check the weather. Know your skill level and that of the people you are with to determine how long to be out and trail difficulty.

Q: Do you recommend any resources to help people plan their outing?

A: The internet is full of great resources but here are a few to get you going.

Hiking For Beginners

Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Trail Club

Connecticut State Parks

Connecticut Forest and Parks Association

REI – Best Hikes in CT

Southern Connecticut State University’s Blue Economy project in Long Island Sound is gearing up to have a profound green impact.

The Project Blue Hub, created by a team of dedicated researchers and 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 at SCSU, is the initial step towards creating a Blue Economy research, tech transfer and innovation hub in New Haven. By expanding the market for locally grown kelp and developing potential innovations aimed at the processing and marketing of kelp, the project will focus on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved lives, and ocean ecosystem health.

Rich in biodiversity, kelp can be grown and harvested year round. It doesn’t need chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides, so its production is low impact. Kelp forests are home to a wide array of species, from invertebrates and fish to marine mammals and birds. Perhaps most importantly, kelp helps improve water quality by ‘fixing’ the nitrogen content of the surrounding water, reducing ocean acidification.

The world’s oceans are big business: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports the global ocean economy could double in size by 2030, reaching approximately $3 trillion. Based on information from a Southern Connecticut State University research team, the Long Island Sound Blue Economy is projected to grow by 67% during that same time frame to an estimated $13.3 billion.

Colleen Bielitz and Patrick Heidkamp

“Project Blue is so important is because it will allow for continuous economic growth and the advancement of our local community,” Bielitz said. “Through our hub, we will resolve social problems in a sustainable and efficient way. We will develop new technologies, products and services to meet the needs of our community and beyond while continuously improving our capabilities through better use of our resources and assets, particularly the Long Island Sound.”

By using the emerging Long Island Sound kelp/seaweed industry as a catalyst for subsequent Blue Economy initiatives, Project Blue Hub aims to find alternative channels and develop niche markets for kelp through a concerted effort of research and development, innovation, and tech transfer to incubate local businesses.

These business will play a key role in the expansion of the kelp market, such as designing kelp-based cosmetic products; the creation of animal feed from seaweed; the development of bioplastics from Kelp/Seaweed; the utilization of kelp-based bioyarn and biotextiles; and assessing the potential for kelp use in the pharmaceutical industry. Rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and magnesium, expansion opportunities are ripe for kelp-based food products for consumers (for example, Fresh Kelp, Kelp Jerky, Kelp Beer, etc.). Kelp also is high in antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which help to fight against disease-causing free radicals.

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, creating an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation.

“Our students will form research innovation teams and create proof-of-concept products and innovations in the Blue Economy,” Bielitz said. “This will eliminate or shorten the learning curve to enter the blue innovation workforce. With our hub specifically designed for Blue Economy ideas to be hatched, we will provide students with the hard and soft skills needed to operate in this space.”

Southern’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies and the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences have long served as advocates for and experts in Connecticut’s oceanic health; now, partnering with government agencies, relevant local NGOs and business partners, Southern’s Blue Economy Project is leading the charge to create an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation — the economy of which encompasses renewable off-shore energy development, tourism, fisheries, maritime transport, waste management, climate change, coastal resilience, and more.

“Our work will highlight the close linkages between ocean health, climate change, and the well-being of the state,” Bielitz said. “This goes beyond viewing the ocean economy solely as a mechanism for economic growth. We want to create sustainable models based on the circular economy. Similar to the Green Economy, our Blue Economy hub will focus on being inclusive while acting as good stewards of our earth with a focus on social equity, while also meaningfully reducing environmental threats and ecological scarcities.”

Left to right: Tyler Newkirk, Ariana Harris, Vittoria Cristante, Chris Varanko

Southern’s student thespians had another successful year at the Kennedy Center Region 1 American College Theatre Festival, bringing home awards and other recognitions for their work in university theater productions. The festival took place in Hyannis, Mass., on January 27 – February 2.

Started in 1969, the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide that has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. The annual Region 1 festival, in which Southern competes, brings together over 600 students from colleges and universities in the northeast region.

“It is a great honor for our students (and the faculty who mentor them) to receive recognition for their hard work,” says Michael Skinner, Theatre Department chairman. “At the festival, students competed in varying events and attended workshops and auditions. They networked with industry professionals and graduate programs.”

The following Merit Awards were granted for student work done throughout the academic year and season:

  • The Ensemble Cast for Devised Work – The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
  • JT McLoughlin for Sound Design – Jack of All Trades, Master of One Acts
  • Ivan Orson Kelly for Directing – One Acts
  • Vittoria Cristante – Asst. Choreography – Pippin
  • Christopher Varanko – Sound Mixing – Pippin
  • The Cast for Ensemble Work – The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

At the festival, these students took home the following awards for the various competitions they participated and presented in:

  • Tyler Newkirk – Regional DTM Legacy Award (DTM= Design Tech & Management)
  • Ariana Harris – SPAM Award for Excellence in Props (SPAM = Society of Properties Artisans & Managers)
  • Vittoria Cristante – The Regional 1 Arts Administration & Management Award for Distinction in Festival Support

In addition, Southern’s performance students did well competing against over 200 other students from different institutions:

  • Matthew Lopes and his scene partner Leah Herde advanced through the preliminary and semi-final rounds to perform as 1 of 16 finalists.
  • Julia Raucci and her scene partner Jack Storm advanced through the preliminary and semi-final rounds to perform as 1 of 16 finalists.

Other students who participated in the festival included:

  • T.L. Johnson presented a scene in the Stage Directing Competition with the following students acting in his scene:
    • Patricia Castle
    • Liam Welsh
    • Keegan Smith
    • Ariana Harris
  • Patrick Ballard participated in the Stage Management competition by presenting his work on Southern’s production of Pippin.
  • Christian Gunzenhauser participated and performed in the Musical Theatre Initiative.

Congratulations to all who took part in the festival!

Students tour RWA’s Control Room. Jacob Lessne; Eddie Ramirez; Bryan McLean, Operations Team Lead; John Santos; Karl-Marx Delphonse

South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA) hosted a tour for Southern Connecticut State University School of Business students on January 17 at its 90 Sargent Drive location.

RWA has partnered with SCSU to create a unique Public Utilities Management Program to address the fact that the nature of public utility operations is rapidly changing in the New England region. The industry faces the common challenges of an aging workforce, looming retirements, aging infrastructure, additional regulations, and heightened financial burdens, and Connecticut’s utility companies are seeking skilled managerial and technical workers.

The Public Utilities Management Program is designed to align with career tracks in water, wastewater, gas and electric utility management. Coursework and internships will enable students to gain theoretical and practical hands-on knowledge important for working in public utilities.

A group of interested students from a variety of Business Administration concentrations, including management, finance, and marketing joined RWA employee Jim Hill, operations special projects manager, and Paul Ruggiero, Regional Water Authority police captain, on a tour that introduced students to the Control Room, which is the heart of the vast RWA operations; the Water Quality Department, where students learned how the RWA ensures our drinking water is consistently safe; and the Finance Department, where students heard about how rates are designated and how financial planning is utilized to fund the vast expense of maintaining the infrastructure of the water treatment and delivery.

Students also visited the largest water treatment facility in the Regional Water Authority’s network, Lake Gaillard in North Branford. This station supplies an average of 32 million gallons of water daily, representing approximately 60 percent of the average number of gallons that RWA pumps daily, and has a total capacity of 80 million gallons per day. Students also got to see Lake Gaillard up close, thanks to the access road that surrounds the lake and is a whopping seven miles long.

“Public utilities face a potential watershed in the shortage of young people applying to take the place of our aging and retiring workforce,” said Larry Bingaman, president and CEO of the RWA. “It is this challenge that led to our unique partnership creating the Public Utility Management Degree programs at SCSU and Gateway Community College. Their success will allow the RWA and other utilities to continue delivering our life-sustaining products and services for generations to come.”

The SCSU School of Business understands the importance of both bringing members of the business community to campus to talk with students, and exposing students to the day-to-day operations of the local employers. Immersive experiences complement the rigorous classroom curriculum offered at SCSU, and provide students with the well-rounded understanding that makes them some of the most sought-after employees in our region.

There will be an informational session and lunch on the SCSU Public Utilities Management program on February 26, 2020, at 1 pm at the School of Business. To learn more about the program, or to RSVP for the info session, contact Amy Grotzke at grotzkea1@southernct.edu.

Left to right: Nicole Fry, ‘16; Eliza Tobaka, ‘17; School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin; Larry Selnick; Deepta Ramesh, ‘15; Tom Dzierlatka, ‘15; and Brandon Lyn, ‘19

Nearly six years ago Webster bank hired its first Southern Connecticut State University School of Business intern and kicked off an exclusive relationship that has seen 100 percent placement of each of the five interns who have gone through the Corporate Treasury Management Program.

Larry Selnick, CTP, SVP, Director of Treasury and Payment Solutions Sales Webster Bank, and SCSU School of Business Advisory Council member, proposed the paid intern program through SCSU because of its treasury management course work. “The Essentials of Treasury Management course is offered in partnership with the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) to provide the same body of knowledge used by AFP to deliver the Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) designation training and certification testing,” Selnick said at the inception of the internship program.

The program prepares students to sit for the Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) examination to earn the Certified Treasury Professional Associate (CTPA) credential. Students with their CTPA credential are eligible to earn the CTP designation after two years of full-time finance-related work experience.

The School of Business partnership with Webster Bank provides students with financial assistance for course materials and the CTP exam, and gives students the unparalleled experience of working in the financial sector as a paid intern.

The strength of the Webster and Southern relationship can be seen in the successes of the interns, all of whom have been offered full-time jobs upon graduation and have continued to be key players in the Webster Bank organization.

Selnick says, “The Webster SCSU Internship program has been very successful for Webster. Webster has hired each intern to-date after a successful rotation in the Treasury and Payment Solutions team program. The selection process was very deliberate, and with great support from the School of Business team. The candidates presented were prepared, not just with updated resumes and practiced interview skills but also a sense of the importance to understand an organization’s Mission and Vision and how Webster supports the communities we serve. These interns have found roles in Finance, Audit, Credit, MIS and, of course, Treasury Management.”

He continues, “This speaks to the capability and preparedness of the students who graduate from the SCSU School of Business, which focuses on developing students within the ‘Change for Good’ mission statement and its emphasis on Impact, Engagement and Innovation. On a personal note, I have the pleasure to relate to each SCSU Webster intern alumni via LinkedIn and at the office. I learn from them every day!”

Dr. Ellen Durnin, dean of the SCSU School of Business, sums up the relationship by saying, “Our mission is to prepare students for the world of work and to meet the employment needs of regional organizations. Our partnership with Webster Bank provides our students with valuable professional experience, and we have been able to deliver high-quality permanent employees to Webster at the end of the internship periods. This continues to be a win-win collaboration.”

To hear more about SCSU School of Business internship opportunities, contact Patty Conte at the Business Success Center at ConteP2@SouthernCT.edu.

 

Sean Grace (left) and Gabriella DiPreta. Credit Patrick Skahill / Connecticut Public Radio

Radio station WNPR (90.5 FM) aired a story on December 9, 2019, about an ongoing study of the Northern Star Coral conducted by Sean Grace, chair of the Biology Department, and Gabriella DiPreta, an adjunct faculty member in the Biology Department who is a former student of Grace. The coral has “hearty New Englander” qualities in being able to withstand changes in the water temperature and acidity due to global warming better than other corals. The hope is that by researching why these corals are more resistant to such changes, scientists may be able to improve the resiliency of other corals and sea life. The study is a joint effort with the Milford Laboratory of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Read and listen to the WNPR story, which is by reporter Patrick Skahill.

School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin, far right, participates in the Women’s Power Panel at The Big Connect, New Haven

Dr. Ellen Durnin, dean of Southern’s School of Business, joined three other powerhouse women and moderator Stephanie Simoni of WTNH-TV in a discussion on “Navigating Strategic Partnerships,” part of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce’s annual Big Connect business exposition on November 21 at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale.

The panel discussion, modeled after the daytime talk show The View, tackled overcoming personal and professional setbacks, carving out paths that are both rewarding and well-paying, and managing societal expectations that predominantly impact women.

When Durnin first went to college, she said, she chose the traditionally female career path of elementary education. She pointed out that everyone gets a wake-up call in life at some point, and she is grateful hers came early in her career, when, after spending time in an elementary school, she realized that was not the right choice for her. She went back to school and earned her master’s degree in labor relations and later her Ph.D. in business. She started her career in union organizing, and there she learned valuable lessons about conflict resolution and negotiations.

Another panelist, Nancy Butler’s, career was jump-started when she was newly divorced with small children and no high school diploma. She built an asset management and financial planning business with not much more than grit, a willingness to learn, and the knowledge that networking was key. Butler had $200 million in assets under management before she sold her business 12 years ago.

Panelists Alice Turner and Simone Morris were both comfortable in corporate careers until they were downsized. Turner, finding herself unemployed in midlife, was terrified, but found a way to leverage what she’d learned in her corporate life to create URISE, an award-winning nonprofit with an innovative approach to education and economic development, preparing minority youth for careers in STEM fields as leaders, employees, and entrepreneurs. She is focused on bettering the educational experience for Connecticut’s urban youth, and finds immense fulfillment in her pursuits. She’s even talking about going back to school herself, embracing the fact that we are all lifelong learners.

Morris had to overcome her introverted nature to find success in her entrepreneurial career after losing her corporate IT job. She utilizes LinkedIn as a key component in her networking strategy, but admits she is most successful when she gets out from behind her computer. Morris’ current business, Simone Morris Enterprises, is her third LLC and specializes in corporate diversity and inclusion training, career workshops, and success coaching.

Butler and Morris both stress the importance of building name recognition when growing a business. Butler sent out mailings offering her services as a public speaker, and reached out to other local professionals with an offer to buy them lunch. But she cautioned, “You can’t build a business quickly by seeing one person at a time. You need to get in front of a lot of people.” Their seats on the Women’s Power Panel show these successful women are still practicing what they preach by getting in front of a crowd.

Durnin, in her role as the SCSU School of Business dean, is used to interacting with strong personalities, including faculty members and her Business Advisory Council, two groups who are valued for their strong opinions. She admits it can be difficult managing a group of people with differing priorities and opinions, but knows that by digging deeply, connections can be made. Durnin also touched on the importance of not only managing down, but managing up. She mentioned two supervisors from her past, one who wanted a high level overview of a topic, and the other who needed every detail. She says it’s critical to know what your boss needs and how they need it delivered for both your success and theirs, adding, “Managing your boss is a critical skill for navigating strategic relationships.”