School of Arts and Sciences

Following a national search, Dr. Therese Bennett has been appointed as the associate dean for STEM in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Bennett joined Southern in 1996 as a full-time assistant professor in the Mathematics Department. In 2001, she was tenured and promoted to associate professor. Six years later, Bennett was promoted to professor of mathematics. Between 2010-2016, she served as department chairperson. Bennett has also served as co-director of the LEP with distinction and has worked tirelessly to ensure the seamless transfer of hundreds of students to Southern.

Dr. Therese Bennett

She earned a B.S. at Temple University and an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

Bennett brings a wealth of institutional knowledge to the associate deanship position and will work closely with the associate dean for the liberal arts and the dean of arts and sciences to advance the mission of the School and the University.

Bennett’s first day will be August 30.

✉️ Deliver to:

Dr. Meredith Sinclair
Assistant Professor of English
Department of English


Dear Professor,

Thank you for devoting countless hours to advising your students, formally and informally, and guiding us to the best options, particularly in the teaching field. Your strongly held belief in the transformative effect of good teaching inspires me to seek what’s best for me, and for future generations. You extended your advising through the student group Urban Education Fellows. By helping us develop a mission in urban schools, you make education more than a matter or a career.


About Meredith Sinclair

Favorite Teaching Moment:

I most love when students ask questions I don’t have an immediate answer for. I try in my pedagogy to support students in being curious and being comfortable with discomfort. When they do spring the tough questions and then engage in the intellectual work of sorting through answers—that’s a really great feeling.

Teaching Philosophy:

It’s important for students to understand their purpose for being in an educational space and to be truly invested in the work (instead of being there because they have to be). I’m always looking for new ways to engage students in dialogue—with the work, with classmates, and with their own thinking—to help them find that purpose. I have to model this, too, of course. I’m always rethinking how a course looks, what assignments we do and so on, and try to be transparent with students about that process so that together we learn how to build challenging intellectual spaces. Above all, I think we have to have true care for and interest in our students as human beings.

Favorite Course to Teach:

ENG 492, which is a course focused on reading pedagogy, is my favorite course to teach because that’s my primary area of research and a particular passion. I also love EDU 413 because I get to introduce pre-service teachers from all disciplines to some of the fundamentals of the profession. My Young Adult Literature class (ENG 372) has taught me a lot and has been an exciting course to design. I always love the energy I get from working with our English pre-service teachers during student teaching (ENG 496).

Recent Courses Taught:

  • ENG 372: Young Adult Literature
  • ENG 496: Student Teaching Seminar (English)
  • EDU 413: Secondary Teaching

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

 

"I feel so blessed to have had the support of the SCSU community and the U.S. Department of State, who believed in me and my research from day one." -- Fulbright recipient and Southern graduate Alanna Wagher

A young Dutch girl adorns Alanna Wagher with the colors of the U.S. and the Netherlands, her Fulbright host country. Orange is the color of the Dutch royal family and a symbol of national pride in the Netherlands.

Alanna Wagher, ’16, M.S. ’18, is a gifted scholar. She graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in communications disorders — then excelled in Southern’s highly regarded graduate program in the same discipline. Still, she admits to being nervous about applying to the U.S. Fulbright Student Program. “There were people who had tons of opinions about the feasibility of me getting this grant, especially considering the notorious cut-throat competition,” says Wagher.

To be sure, “Fulbrighters” are a uniquely accomplished group. Thirty-seven have served as heads of state or government, 86 received Pulitzer Prizes, and 60 were Nobel Prize winners.

Wagher is now a member of the prestigious Fulbright alumni club, having spent the 2018-19 academic year in the Netherlands as a Fulbright scholar through the English Teaching Assistant Program. In addition to teaching, she collaborated with Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences on her research, which was inspired by her experience as a Southern student. Wagher minored in Spanish at Southern and used techniques from the world of speech-language therapy (her major) to correct her pronunciation. She wondered: would others studying a foreign language benefit from similar techniques?

Alanna Wagher, who holds two Southern degrees, presented her clinical findings at a United Nations educational conference in Amsterdam.

In the Netherlands, Wagher tested her theory, working with Dutch students who were studying English as a second language. The goals included evaluating the effectiveness of speech-language therapy techniques at 1) reducing foreign-accented speech and 2) improving students’ comfort and confidence as English speakers. The Dutch students perceived that speech-language techniques were beneficial in both areas. “The study [also] aimed to establish evidence-based standards for the evaluation and treatment of bilingual children with speech sound disorders,” notes Wagher, who presented her findings at a United Nations-sponsored educational conference in Amsterdam.

“I feel really blessed to have been able to research a topic that I hope will benefit bilingual children and adults,” she says. Of course, the benefits of the experience were highly personal as well. “Overall, I think one of the biggest takeaways of this experience has been the importance of believing in yourself, especially as a young woman,” says Wagher. Her advice to other would-be “Fulbrighters”: “I would definitely encourage more students to apply.”

man holding math object

✉️ Deliver to:

Dr. Braxton Carrigan
Associate Professor
Department of Mathematics


Dear Professor,

You have been my inexhaustibly patient informal advisor. You entertain my half-baked math questions. You offer direction on my independent research. With your recommendation, I was invited to visit a graduate school recruitment program in October. We recently published a result on a problem that I learned about from your math colloquium series last year. I learned LaTeX as a direct consequence of our co-authorship. With your help, I have learned math subtopics and been allowed opportunities that otherwise would have been inaccessible to me. If I am admitted to graduate school next year, it will be impossible to overstate your influence. On top of all that, you are fun and energetic about math. Southern is represented well by you, Dr. Carrigan, and I feel lucky to have worked with you.”

Thank you,
David Diaz, ’19 🦉


About Braxton Carrigan

Favorite Teaching Moment:

My favorite “memory” is a bit more general. When a student comes into a course claiming to “hate math” and then at some point says, “you know, this is really fun” or “that’s cool,” it’s incredibly rewarding. One of the funnier instances of this happened during a summer course. The student was taking the only required math course for roughly the 4th time. About halfway through the course, she came up to me and said, “I think if I had you sooner, I may have wanted to learn all this crap! It really isn’t that bad and you do seem to enjoy it.”

Teaching Philosophy:

Students have to be active participants in the learning process. Mathematics is not a spectator sport! Getting students engaged helps them develop problem-solving skills, activates inquiry, and gives them ownership of their knowledge. Most importantly, it trains them to be life long learners, which I believe is the key for success as the world changes so much throughout our lifetime.

Favorite Course to Teach:

MAT 250 – Foundations of Mathematics: This course serves as the gateway to most upper-level mathematics courses. Majors encounter the foundations of mathematical abstraction and develop the inquiry needed for a career in mathematics. I love to be a part of students’ growth and development as abstract thinkers!

Recent Courses Taught:

  • MAT 150: Calculus 1
  • MAT 178: Elementary Discrete Mathematics
  • MAT 260: Geometry in the Arts

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.

Following a national search, Dr. Craig Hlavac has been appointed as the associate dean for the liberal arts in the School of Arts & Sciences. Dr. Wesley O’Brien led a search committee in conducting and completing the search.

Hlavac joined Southern in 2007 as a full-time instructor in the Music Department. After serving for three years in this position and after a national search, he was appointed as an assistant professor of music. In 2013 he was promoted to associate professor and elected by his colleagues as department chairperson, a position he held until his appointment by President Bertolino in 2017 as the interim associate dean for Arts & Sciences.

Hlavac received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from the University of Connecticut; a Master of Music degree from Yale University; and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Hartford. An active orchestral trumpeter and freelance musician, Hlavac has performed with the New Haven Symphony, the Bridgeport Symphony, the Hartford Pops Band, the Hartford Brass Ensemble, the New Haven Brass Ensemble, and alongside the Yale Glee Club, the Yale Camerata, the Connecticut Chamber Choir, the Cape Cod Chamber Music Society, and many others.

A frequent clinician and presenter, Hlavac has delivered presentations throughout the Northeastern United States and across the country. His research interests include the impact of the organizational mission on the decision-making of educational leaders, the use of organizational and departmental missions to prioritize decision-making, and the utility of mission-based management in the administration of the contemporary university.

Hlavac brings a wealth of institutional knowledge to the associate deanship position and will work closely with Dr. Bruce Kalk, interim dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, and the associate dean for STEM to advance the mission of the School and the University.

Hlavac’s official first day was June 21, 2019.

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.