Out and About

School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin with Mike Haggerty, Haggerty Financial Partners (left), and Richard Dyce, Director of Operations, Amazon (right)

School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin and the Southern Connecticut State University Business Advisory Council hosted the 2nd annual Business Leadership Breakfast on Wednesday, October 2, 2019, at the New Haven Lawn Club. SCSU President Joe Bertolino was in attendance, along with 150 key members of the Greater New Haven business community.

Sponsored by Haggerty Financial Partners, the event featured a keynote address by Richard Dyce, Director of Operations for Amazon’s North Haven Fulfillment Center on the topic “Regional Economic Development: Investing in the Local Community.”

Dyce, who was introduced by North Haven First Selectman Mike Freda, captivated the audience with a discussion on Amazon’s beginnings and its successful customer-focused business model, and detailed how it manages the incredible feat of getting product to our doorsteps in two days or less.

The popular Business Leadership Breakfast is an important component in building the relationships between industry and education to prepare graduates for both current job opportunities as well as jobs of the future. SCSU School of Business is pleased to bring together all parties for the benefit of the region’s economy.

Art Professor Mia Brownell and her husband, Martin Kruck, a professor and Art Department chair at New Jersey City University, were both awarded sabbaticals last year. Their joint interest in Roman art and architecture lead them to both being awarded Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome during the month of October 2019. Their research took them to additional locations in Sicily and Malta. Artwork created during sabbatical by Brownell and Kruck is on display in a two-person exhibitionSkeptical Realism — at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, N.J., through January 2020. The exhibition opened this month.

According to the museum’s description of the exhibit, “Brownell’s series Plate to Platelet simultaneously draws on scientific images of platelets (tiny blood cells shaped like plates) and the history of the painted food still life. She explores the realism of eating by recognizing the entanglement between the consumerist idealization of food with its biological engineering and the molecular strains that then interact with our bodies. The space she paints attempts to capture this paradoxical perspective, one that is equally rational and fantastical, material and in constant flux, Brownell said. She encourages viewers to consider this question: If we are what we eat, what are we becoming?”

A sabbatical leave, CSU Research Grant, and Faculty Creative Activity Research Grant supported Brownell’s creative activity research during the 2018-2019 academic year.

In addition, Brownell’s painting Pear and Grape, oil on canvas, 2008, is featured in the group exhibit Foodie Fever at NYC’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Shiva Gallery. This painting was also on display at the USA Department of State Embassy in Hong Kong during the Obama administration.

Her painting Passing Fruit, oil on canvas, 2008, was also featured in the exhibit Foodie Fever at NYC’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Shiva Gallery.

Brownell’s painting Bird and Bees, oil on canvas, 2014, is featured on the cover of SCSU’s English professor Margot Schilpp’s new book of poetry Afterswarm.

Bird and Bees

The paintings below, as well as the painting featured at the top of this story, are all from Brownell’s sabbatical and are on display with many others at the Hunterdon Art Museum.

Left to right: Charlotte McMillan; Justin Paolillo; Patty Conte, Internship Coordinator, SCSU School of Business; Sarah Thompson; Dean Ellen Durnin, SCSU School of Business; Michael Agyeman; Kyle Ballou, Vice President, YNHH; Amber Schultz; Taylor Chisholm; and Kevin Inahuazo (In absentia: intern Alan Duran)

For the first time, Yale New Haven Health has hired eight SCSU School of Business students as summer interns: Charlotte McMillan, Justin Paolillo, Sarah Thompson, Michael Agyeman, Amber Schultz, Taylor Chisholm, Kevin Inahuazo, and Alan Duran.

At Yale New Haven Health, an internship on the business side of the healthcare industry presents opportunities to explore the multifaceted nature of business, finance and information technology in this dynamic field. Interns enjoy exposure to financial reporting, budgeting, systems analysis processes, and billing in one of the leading healthcare systems in the Northeast.

Patty Conte, internship coordinator for the School of Business, says, “We are thrilled that our students have had the opportunity this summer to partner with Yale New Haven Health, a rapidly expanding group of hospitals, specialty groups, and physician networks with a reputation for professionalism and excellence. During their time at YNHHS, our students will be gaining experience in HR, accounting, IT, finance, training and development, and patient experience.

“According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers reported converting an average of 51.7 percent of their eligible interns into full-time hires. Knowing that statistic, we are hopeful that not only will our students have the chance to learn a great deal about the business side of health care through their internships, but they also might be fortunate enough to someday become a full-time employee of YNHH, one of the most sought-out employers in Connecticut.”

 

 

When Southern student Cameron Hotchkiss, a graduate student in social work, interned with Cheshire’s Human Services Department — whose targeted clients are elementary, middle school, and high school students — this past year, it was exactly what he was looking for: clinical experience in a school setting. As someone who likes helping people, Hotchkiss’ internship enabled him to work directly with children who were struggling with emotional issues, in particular those students who had missed enough school to be labeled truant. Now an MSW graduate, Hotchkiss’ unique perspective on those students may help shape school policy.

Until recently, truancy had been handled by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Due to an influx in cases, the cases were delegated to the Department of Human Services for each individual school district, therefore eliminating the need for a DCF referral. A high number of those cases ended up with Hotchkiss.

“DCF let cases filter through us before they had to get involved,” Hotchkiss says. “At my internship, it was the first year they were doing that.”

Since it was the first time the Department of Human Services was in charge of overseeing all of the school truancy cases, there wasn’t a protocol to follow. Hotchkiss’ professor, Lorrie Gardella, associate professor and MSW program coordinator, thought that if Hotchkiss focused his capstone project on the reasons behind the truancy and was able to recommend policy, it would be a win-win.

“The goal of MSW capstone special projects is to assess and respond to a community need,” Gardella says.

Hotchkiss agreed. After conducting months of research, his capstone project, “School Refusal Protocol,” identified the main contributing factors for school avoidance: bullying, separation anxiety, and social anxiety and recommended finding an assessment tool that would allow a professional to identify the contributing factor to their client’s school avoidance issues.

“Once that factor was established,” his capstone states, “the worker will then follow the created protocol on how to help the client, whether it be helping them use specific therapeutic interventions, or getting outside support from an intensive in-home care provider.”

As Hotchkiss moved along with the project, his internship supervisor Ann-Marie Bishop, youth and family counselor for Cheshire’s Department of Human Services, helped with need assessment: how to move forward with treatment and a time frame for treatments.

“As an agency, we typically work with issues like substance abuse, but more and more we see anxiety-related issues, and oftentimes with anxiety comes truancy,” Bishop says. “Cameron’s proposal was a nice marriage of Southern’s social work program and help to us as an agency. It really filled a gap on our end.”

According to Bishop, Hotchkiss’ proposal could be piloted as early as next year.

“We have a set protocol for how we handle school issues related to substance abuse, and we wanted to have one for chronic truancy, too, so we deliver consistent guidelines,” Bishop says. “They [Cheshire schools] want assistance, and we need assistance, so it meets many needs at once.”

Ultimately, the experience met Hotchkiss’ needs as well.

“I got to work with school avoidance kids,” Hotchkiss says. “The capstone actually focuses on the research, but the kids themselves helped point me in the direction to work for. I would love to try to implement [this protocol] in other school systems. My experience at Southern was great— I wanted a combination of clinical work and school work. Southern covered all aspects of social work and reaffirmed that it’s exactly what I want to do.”

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.

As a high schooler, Haroon Chaudhry saw college like this: You go to class, you graduate, and you are done.

“That’s all I expected,” he says, “to just do it.”

Four years ago, Chaudhry was accepted to the track team at Southern Connecticut State University and enrolled on a full academic scholarship. Before starting his freshman year, he attended the Southern Educational Opportunity Program (SEOP) Summer Academy, which helps students ease their transition to Southern. The program helped — he got to know several people and the campus — but the first day of classes he didn’t see any of those people.

“I was nervous,” he says. “I was shy.”

Fate stepped in when Chaudhry bumped into Dian Brown-Albert, coordinator of Multicultural Affairs.

“She told me about the Muslim Students Association, and I thought that would be a great way for me to get to know other Muslims on campus,” he says. (The Muslim Students Association, or MSA, is an organization for Muslims and non-Muslim students at Southern and provides a welcoming atmosphere for students of different cultures and backgrounds.)

Chaudhry always had been passionate about his Muslim heritage. Born in Pakistan, he was 13 when he and his family moved to America in 2009. He steadily had been conducting research on what it means to be Muslim in America and had even won a scholarship in high school for his research.

“That’s [joining MSA] where the transition happened for me,” he says. “I went from shy to most extroverted.”

At first, Chaudhry was just a member, but then, in his sophomore year he became president.

“Jumping in was completely unfamiliar,” he says. “I had to learn how to run an organization that at the time was a group of 30 to 40 people. I was just a sophomore and some of the members were juniors and seniors. I was nervous. But I had to learn.”

This is the point when Chaudhry amended his original philosophy of college, of thinking that it meant just going to class, graduating, and being done. This is when he realized that what he put into the experience greatly mattered — and that the experience could alter his destiny.

“I started doing speeches on campus about who Muslims are, what we do,” Chaudhry said. “People started seeing me, recognizing me, and I started becoming more extroverted, and speaking more in public. I was educating people of other faiths about what it means to be Muslim, and I started inviting other groups to collaborate.”

The momentum Chaudhry gained further spurred him on.

“Southern provided me everything,” he says. “My passion increased for the college, and I wanted to give something back, so I started to attend everything. I utilized everything that was available, and slowly, slowly, I started to get more recognition. It felt like, ‘Muslim people are stepping up.’ I started getting invitations to go to various classes and teach about Islam and how we celebrate various events.”

Chaudhry indeed was getting recognition. He was invited to become an orientation ambassador, welcoming incoming students to campus just as he himself had been welcomed. He was awarded the Social Justice Top Owl Award, recognized at National Student Athlete Day for cross country and track, and for the first time in history, the SCSU Muslim Student Association took part in the 12th annual IRIS 5k run for refugees.

Even with all his on-campus success, Chaudhry knew he had to challenge himself academically as well. As a major in Business Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in International Business, Communication, and Leadership Development, Chaudhry decided to test his newfound determination and to study abroad, choosing the EDHEC Business School in France.

“I felt it would put me apart from other students,” he says. “Everything changed when I studied abroad. I met so many people, and I went there with an open mind. I wanted to represent Southern to the best of my ability.” He did: While in France, Chaudhry ran a half-marathon in Marseilles, proudly wearing his Southern jersey.

When he came back to campus, he decided to “really” put himself out there, in a business sense. He created a LinkedIn profile and started touting his accomplishments.

“People started noticing me,” he says. “Someone from Amazon contacted me through LinkedIn. They’d seen all the articles written about me at Southern. They asked if I wanted to be a Brand Ambassador. I had to interview for it, and it was intense.”

Again, Chaudhry would need his Southern gear.

“Amazon wanted me to go to Seattle for training, and they asked me to put a Southern t-shirt on. I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to.’”

Now an Amazon Brand Ambassador, Chaudhry’s popularity knows no limits. He receives free products from Amazon to give away throughout the campus, plus coupons for 20 percent off on books. He’s also a Student Ambassador for the School of Business, and a Brand Ambassador for GMR Marketing and Dyson companies.

This May, Chaudhry graduated with a 3.7 GPA — earned while working six jobs, simultaneously. He is the first in his family to receive dual degrees, both a bachelor of science and a bachelor of arts within four years. He is the 2018-19 recipient for the Student Affairs University Leadership Award. He was recognized by the University Access Program for his excellent GPA and was honored by Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society, for excellence in leadership and academics. Under his presidency, the Muslim Students Association received the 2018-19 Impact Award.

When Chaudhry speaks about Southern, it’s easy to see how much his outlook has changed from his arrival four years ago, when college seemed like nothing more than a simple checklist.

“I fell in love with Southern, and my goal was to make connections. All over campus.”

And, it seems, the world.

Read about 2019 Commencement.

 

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.

Photographs chosen among the best student work in the nation by the Society of Professional Journalists

Award-winning photographer Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18

Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, has a way with a viewfinder — a gift that’s led the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to recognize her photographs among the best student work in the nation. In spring 2019, she was named one of only two finalists in the “feature photography” category of the SPJ’s national Mark of Excellence Awards, which honor the best of student journalism.

Jean-Jacques’ award-winning photos — taken during trips to Haiti, India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and more — were included in the inaugural issue of Crescent Magazine, a lifestyle publication produced by Southern students. Jean-Jacques advanced to the national competition after winning first place at the SPJ, Region 1 conference, which represents universities throughout New England, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. (It was a great day for Southern students, who won five additional regional awards for their work on the Southern News student newspaper and Crescent Magazine.)

For Jean-Jacques, the national recognition came at an opportune time, validating her dream of becoming a photojournalist. She came to Southern after earning an associate degree at Housatonic Community College. At Southern, she majored in interdisciplinary studies, with concentrations in studio art and journalism. In addition to working as a photographer, she’s currently a finance billing specialist with a company in West Palm Beach, Fl.

Following, she talks about her approach to photography — and the unique challenges and rewards of earning a degree while raising three boys.

What was it like to be one of only two finalist in the national SPJ competition?
I was overjoyed and in total disbelief, especially since I was unaware I had been entered in the SPJ competition. [Jean-Jacques graduated in May 2018, before the national competition took place. But as a regional winner, she automatically moved on to the national competition.]

A portrait of several generations photographed by Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, in Ghana.

This recognition has come at quite a pivotal point in my journey. I have been seriously contemplating leaving the field of photography and focusing my energy toward philanthropy. I have wrestled fretfully — doubting my skills, talents, and abilities. When Dr. [Cindy] Simoneau, [department chair and professor of journalism,] shared this most unexpected and welcomed news, I received concrete affirmation of my aspirations. Dr. Simoneau and Southern believed in me from the start, and I am truly thankful for their continuous and unwavering support.

How did you first become interested in photography?
I was always one of those kids who watched television incessantly. I loved how cinematography made me feel. Often times, I would think a particular scene would make a great photograph. I also loved flipping through magazines and being pulled into that moment in time. I think, ultimately, I loved photography because it made me feel like I was momentarily transported to a different place. I always had a desire to leave my Brooklyn home and see the world beyond.

Women photographed in Varanasi, India.

Do you remember the first photograph you approached artistically?
The first photograph I remember taking was in my first year of college for a black and white photography class. I went to the train tracks and took pictures of old buildings and alleyways — and wondered what kind of things took place in these spaces. I was responsible for developing the film, and found the entire process creative and rewarding.

What’s your favorite image among the photos you’ve taken?
My absolute favorite photograph is one I took in Ethiopian of a woman making coffee with her son wrapped in beautiful garb on her back. . . . This humble and proud woman welcomed me — a foreigner — into her home, and allowed me to document her daily routines and activities with her child. I felt blessed and grateful. Visually, her life appeared so different from mine. I was ecstatic to have captured this wonderfully beautiful difference. But I realized at that [same] moment that we were much more similar than different.

Asked to select a favorite among the photographs she’s taken, Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, selected this image of a mother and child in Lalebela, Ethiopia.

The Crescent Magazine article explained that you were raising your children while attending Southern. What was most challenging about that time and were there advantages to attending college as an adult?
The two most challenging aspects of attending college as a seasoned adult were arriving home late — and having minimum energy upon that arrival. It was difficult carving out time to assist with my three sons’ homework assignments. I had my own homework to do.

In essence, I worked full time, attended school full time, and managed a family of three young boys, all as a single mother. Yes, challenging, to say the least! There were certainly not enough hours in the day to get it all done. However, with a great deal of planning and a tremendous amount of support from my sons, everything worked out. My sons were true troopers through it all!

Attending college as an adult was much more fulfilling than my earlier collegiate career. Real-life experiences were of great value when interacting with fellow students and professors. I was able to process a great deal of information quickly and make connections to the material being covered.

Siem Reap, Cambodia, is among the 30 some countries Jean-Jacques has traveled to in recent years, often bringing along her children.

Share five things that inspire your work.

Culture and tradition greatly influence my work. I am enthralled by the different cultures of our world — and by the traditions embedded in those cultures. I also am empowered by photographing people in their element. That being said, it stands to reason, my work is inspired by their personal and unique experiences. It is my passion to tell the intimate details of their lives through the lens of my camera.

Lighting is a motivating factor, as well. It’s critical and crucial to any composition. How lighting is used. How it hits the subject. How it ‘playfully plays’ and changes the mood. The affects are infinite.

Lastly, my work is inspired by authenticity. I strive to capture the true nature of a subject while bringing different life experiences to the forefront for all of us to see.

A playful moment in Ghana, captured by Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18.

What role does travel play in your work?
I traveled to approximately 30 countries in the past six years — and yet, that number is far, far below my wishes and aspirations. The cultures, the people, the smells, the colors, the mystique — all of it drives my work. I possess a strong desire to see more of the world and capture the interesting, the beautiful, the ugly, the unique. In the meantime, I will continue to try to see my surroundings with a new set of eyes so I can recognize the interesting, the beautiful, the ugly and the unique right where I am.

A moment in Kenya photographed by Jean-Jacques.

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.

 

A shot of a Burmese python from Chandler's film

Associate Professor of Photography Jeremy Chandler’s work is part of a group exhibition titled “Subversive Suburbia” at Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami, Fla. The exhibition runs from from June 7 – July 27. Chandler’s documentary film collaboration, Invasive Species, will be included in the exhibition, and he will be present at the gallery for a public screening and artist talk during the opening reception on June 7.

More about Chandler’s work and the exhibition:

Invasive Species Synopsis (40 min 2 sec):

The Florida landscape comes alive in this experimental documentary film created by Shawn Cheatham and Jeremy Chandler. Striking cinematography and a haunting original score guide the viewer through a contemplative glimpse into the state’s ongoing struggle with the Burmese Python. Told from the perspective of “the local”, Invasive Species explores how pythons were artificially thrust onto this fragile ecosystem and continue to challenge the ethical, social, and psychological paradigms of a people learning to live side-by-side with a new predator. The landscape is presented as a dangerous, wild space that can harbor and effectively conceal an entire breeding population of apex predators, as the python invasion becomes a vehicle to poetically meditate on metaphysical concepts of place, masculinity, and the indigenous.

Watch the trailer for Invasive Species.

Read the gallery press release about the exhibition.

Chandler’s bio:

Chandler is a photographic artist who creates through a variety of conceptual and formal approaches, such as straight photography, tableaus, and documentary and narrative film projects. His work subverts ritualized expressions of masculinity to reveal a more nuanced idea of maleness while questioning how culture and myth can often intertwine to create altered perceptions of space and place.

In addition to being the 2008 Photographer Laureate for the city of Tampa, Florida, he has exhibited at notable venues, including: Hagedorn Foundation Gallery in Atlanta, GA; Balzer Art Projects in Basel, Switzerland; and Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, CT. He received his BFA from the University of Florida in Creative Photography and MFA from the University of South Florida. He is currently an Assistant Professor teaching photography at Southern Connecticut State University.