School of Arts and Sciences

C. Michelle Thompson teaching Vietnamese History class

Vietnam is often viewed by Americans as a country heavily influenced by China, its neighbor to the north. After all, the Vietnam War – etched in the collective memory of the Baby Boom Generation – is remembered as a proxy fight between the United States and China/Soviet Union. And it would be inaccurate to say that Vietnam has been devoid of considerable Chinese influence.

But the relationship between Vietnam and China is quite complex, according to Michele Thompson, professor of history and an expert on Southeast Asia. She explores that relationship through a medical lens in her book, Vietnamese Traditional Medicine: a Social History.

The book, published by the National University of Singapore Press, was so highly regarded by her peers that Thompson was selected as the recipient of the 2018 SCSU Faculty Scholar Award on the basis of the book.

“The (Faculty Scholar Award Committee) was impressed by your use of multilingual source material, the interdisciplinary range of your book, and the fact that it forces scholars to re-examine long-held assumptions about the relationship between Chinese and Vietnamese traditional medicine,” said Rex Gilliland, chairman of the Faculty Scholar Award Committee.

Thompson focuses on the 18th and 19th centuries, and the social and political context of Vietnamese medicine. “While it is very closely connected to Chinese medicine, it is not some carbon copy,” she said.

She points to Vietnam’s acceptance of early Western vaccination techniques as a key example in how it differentiated itself from China in the medical realm.

In the late 1700s, British doctor Ed Jenner discovered that people who had cowpox didn’t seem to get smallpox. The viruses that cause the two diseases are closely related, though cowpox usually has milder symptoms.

Jenner was a pioneer in the effort to begin a form of vaccination, albeit a primitive one. In other areas of the world – those without European cows — doctors began attempts to eradicate smallpox through arm-to-arm, human-to-human vaccination from those who had cowpox.

Vietnamese medicine preferred this Western approach to the Chinese alternative inoculation method. The latter involved taking a small amount of material from smallpox sores and transferring them to others. The Chinese method sought to produce a weakened form of the virus.

Thompson said it is an honor to be selected for the Faculty Scholar Award. “I was surprised,” she said. “I remember getting the envelope with the announcement in it, but it came at the end of the fall semester, when everything is pretty hectic. So, I just sort of randomly opened that particular envelope and was surprised to see what it said.

“But I am honored to follow in the footsteps of so many other excellent scholars before me.”

Thompson began teaching at SCSU in the fall 1998. Before coming to Southern, she taught at the University of Washington. She previously taught English as a Second Language in Taiwan.

She grew up in Alabama, and currently resides in New Haven. Her expertise is in Southeast Asia, with a particular focuses on Vietnam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are not familiar with a nanometer, it might be hard to imagine just how small it is (for reference: there are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch, and a fingernail grows 1 nm per second). It might be harder still to imagine just how important it is. Yet nanoscience — the science of the very small — has grown increasingly crucial, so much so that scientists are finding that as nanotechnology evolves, it impacts all sectors of science, such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, the environment, energy production, agriculture, and more. And the CSCU Center for Nanotechnology (CSCU-CNT) at Southern Connecticut State University is a key player in this evolution.

The CSCU-CNT exists, in part, thanks to a task force put together by former Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, the State Legislature, and the Connecticut Office for Workforce Competitiveness. Each supported nanotechnology research as a means to keep Connecticut competitive in the nanotechnology revolution. Dr. Christine Broadbridge, director of the CNT and professor of physics, served on the task force; she, alongside fellow industry experts, spent significant time with state representatives discussing how the growth of the technology could be supported statewide.

“The force’s findings were published in 2005 in a report prepared for the state legislature by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice,” Broadbridge said. “Essentially, the findings said a statewide nanotechnology center needed to be created.”

But where? In addition to a physical space, the report noted the need for educational materials and programs, at multiple levels, to train a skilled nanotechnology workforce. There also needed to be collaboration between public and private interests, as well as the capability to perform nano-scale materials research.

Physics faculty at Southern quickly realized that Southern was the ideal location.

“We had the funding, the strength, the passion, and the students,” Broadbridge said.

Southern also had the collaboration. Through Broadbridge’s leadership, Southern’s Physics Department had developed strong ties with Yale, UCONN, the Connecticut Community Colleges, other regional universities, and local industry. Under Broadbridges’ lead the CNT would support, with federal grant funds, the establishment of three CNT regional-hubs at Central, Eastern, and Western Connecticut State Universities. Faculty, dedicated to scientific research and teaching, would help develop new knowledge while disseminating that knowledge to Southern’s diverse student population.

It was a win-win.

Now, 13 years later, the CNT sits as the foundation of Southern’s 103,608-square-foot, four-level academic and laboratory science building. Focused on world-class nanotechnology research and related student opportunities for experiential learning, the CNT helped to motivate the building. The center has stayed true to its mission of collaboration: equipment aligns with local faculty expertise and complements, rather than competes with, facilities available at UCONN and Yale. Regional companies such as Proton Onsite, Nomad Metallurgy and KX Technologies pay membership fees to use CNT research facilities; they also hire students trained in CNT facilities.

“We’re providing cutting edge science and technology to students,” Broadbridge said. “We’re also providing access. Small businesses get access to technology and students get hands-on experience.”

The center also is the primary resource for SCSU’s Werth Industry Academic Fellowship Program, the CSCU Nanotechnology Graduate Certificate, and the Professional Science Master’s in Applied Physics, the only such degree in New England.

But back to the evolution.

“Nanotechnology has changed,” Broadbridge said. “The focus used to be in electronics, but there is new, more advanced instrumentation. Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at a very fine level, resulting in beneficial technologies. Those new technologies benefit all sectors of science, including, as examples, environmental sustainability, renewable energy, life and health science. The CNT has expanded its focus and resources to support these important areas.”

For example, through the BioScience Academic and Career Pathway Initiative (BioPath), a partnership between the City of New Haven and Southern to support the growing biotechnology sector of the economy, the CNT has placed interns at, among other companies, Arvinas, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapeutics for cancers and other difficult-to-treat diseases. Via on-going industry-academic partnerships, a growing internship program and faculty/student research the CNT continues to make significant progress in better understanding nano-scale phenomena in materials.

Nanoscience may be the science of the very small, but the Center for Nanotechnology at Southern is affecting students, faculty, businesses, the economy, and the world’s scientific fields in big ways.

Clara Ogbaa was recently named the university’s new Director of Library Services. Ogbaa has been the Director of Library Services at Gateway Community College since 2008 and the Interim Director of Education Technology at Gateway since 2016. Under her leadership and management, the GCC Library experienced tremendous growth and a complete transformation of library services and resources for students. Ogbaa oversaw the successful consolidation of the GCC Long Wharf and North Haven campus libraries’ services and collections and moved them into the new state of-the-art downtown college facility. The consolidation improved services and facilities, increased students’ information literacy and increased the educational technology skills of students and faculty. As Gateway’s representative on the CSCU Council of Library Directors, she was highly involved in the 2017 implementation of the new system-wide library platform;  Ogbaa will remain on the Council, now as Southern’s representative.

Ogbaa has presented locally, nationally, and internationally on information literacy and emerging technologies. She is a member of the American Library Association, the Association for College and Research Libraries, and the Connecticut Library Association.

Prior to her work at Gateway, Ogbaa was Administrative Librarian at Texas State University (2004-2008), and Coordinator of Library Instruction here at Southern (1998-2004). Ogbaa holds her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from University of Bridgeport, and her master’s in library and information science and bachelor’s in English from University of Texas at Austin.

Ogbaa, speaking about joining the Buley Library team, says that she is delighted to come back to Southern as library director and believes this opportunity at Buley will be an amazing experience. “I am excited about the myriad of opportunities created by extensive study areas, computer stations, makerspace — tools that can help our students think, create, explore, innovate, collaborate, and fulfill their dreams.

“With our beautiful newly renovated library, our library stands as a rich resource for learning, research, and scholarship on campus.  With a team of dedicated, knowledgeable library faculty and staff working well together the library will provide effective services and programs that will positively impact student achievement and success in a welcoming learning and social environment. Some of my goals are to maximize our new space, to effectively collaborate with all the shared resources in the building, and to provide effective access to information sources and services.”

 

Thanks to Rebecca Hedreen, Library Coordinator for Distance Learning, for contributing to this story.

Photo credit: Shirley Anderson

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian, public speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times #1 best-selling author. She will talk about her newest book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, November 3, at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets.

Her seventh book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, published in September 2018 by Simon & Schuster, is the culmination of Goodwin’s five-decade career of studying the American presidents. The book delivers an illuminating exploration into the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership as exemplified by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. It provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field and for all of us in our everyday lives.

Goodwin’s career as a presidential historian and author was inspired when as a 24-year-old graduate student at Harvard she was selected to join the White House Fellows, one of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. At the White House celebration of the newly chosen Fellows, she found herself sharing the dance floor with President Johnson. He told her he wanted her to be assigned directly to him in the White House. But it was not to be that simple. For like many young people, she had been active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and had co-authored an article that called for the removal of LBJ, published in the New Republic several days after the White House dance. Despite this, LBJ said: “Bring her down here for a year and if I can’t win her over no one can.” Goodwin worked with Johnson in the White House and later assisted him in the writing of his memoirs.

She then wrote Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, which became a national bestseller and achieved critical acclaim. It will be re-released in spring 2019, highlighting LBJ’s accomplishments in domestic affairs that have stood the test of time: The three historic Civil Rights bills that he steered through Congress—ending segregation in the South, providing the precious right to vote to African Americans, and Fair Housing—changed the face of our country, as did the host of bipartisan landmark bills that comprised the Great Society—including Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, PBS, NPR, federal aid to education and immigration reform.

Goodwin followed with No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She also authored a bestselling memoir Wait Till Next Year and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, which was adapted into an award-winning five-part TV miniseries.

Her last book was the critically acclaimed and The New York Times bestselling The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (November 2013). Winner of the Carnegie Medal, The Bully Pulpit is a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners has acquired the film and television rights to the book.

Spielberg and Goodwin previously worked together on Lincoln, based in part on Goodwin’s award-winning Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, an epic work that illuminates Lincoln’s political genius, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president. Team of Rivals was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize, the inaugural Book Prize for American History, and Goodwin in 2016 was the first historian to receive the Lincoln Leadership Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

The film Lincoln grossed $275 million at the box office and earned 12 Academy Award® nominations, including an Academy Award for actor Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln.

Well known for her appearances and commentary on television, Goodwin is seen frequently on all the major television and cable networks and shows including Meet the Press and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Most recently she played herself as a teacher to Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons and a historian on American Horror Story.

Goodwin has served as a consultant and has been interviewed extensively for PBS and HISTORY’s documentaries on Presidents Johnson, Roosevelt and Lincoln, the Kennedy family, and on Ken Burns’ The History of Baseball and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. She served as a consultant on HBO Films’ All the Way starring Bryan Cranston as President Johnson.

Goodwin graduated magna cum laude from Colby College. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in government from Harvard University, where she taught government, including a course on the American Presidency.

Among her many honors and awards, Goodwin was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize, given by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, the New England Book Award, as well as the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

Goodwin lives in Concord, Massachusetts. She was the first woman to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room, and is a devoted fan of the World Series-winning team.

Purchase Tickets 

Elm Shakespeare Company returns to New Haven’s Edgerton Park this summer with one of the Bard’s less performed plays, Love’s Labour’s Lost. Celebrating its 23rd season, Elm Shakespeare is Southern’s theater company in residence and provides world-class theater, free of charge, to audiences of approximately 30,000 people from throughout greater New Haven and statewide. This year will mark the company directorial debut of Producing Artistic Director Rebecca Goodheart and will also feature the return of Elm Shakespeare Company Founding Artistic Director James Andreassi in the role of Don Armado.

This year’s production will also feature acclaimed professional actors and theater professionals with ties to Southern, including SCSU faculty and sound designer Mike Skinner, Theatre Department Chair Kaia Monroe-Rarick, and lecturer Benjamin Curns. The company also employs a number of current and former Southern students as actors and production staff for the summer, including senior Matt Iannantuoni as company manager and recent graduates Kevin Redline as wardrobe supervisor, Ashley Sweet as second assistant stage manager, and Cailey Harwood Smith as property master. The Love’s Labour’s Lost cast also features several SCSU alumni, including Betzabeth Castro as Katherine (pictured above), Brianna Bauch as Moth, and Gracy Brown as Boyet, as well as senior Sasha Mahmoud as Maria.

The powerful longstanding partnership between Elm Shakespeare and Southern, begun in 1997, became official in 2016 with the signing of an official Memo of Understanding designating Elm Shakespeare as the Theater-in-Residence at Southern. Elm Shakespeare now has offices on campus, offers a variety of its educational programs to youth ages 7-18 at Southern, and is fully integrated into the SCSU Theatre Department activities and facilities.

The 2018 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a whimsical jazz-age tale chock full of witty wordplay, music, dance, and riotous mishaps. Love’s Labour’s Lost marks the start of Shakespeare’s most lyrical comedies. With live music before and throughout the performance, Elm’s production promises to be as luscious in language and look as Edgerton Park itself, while posing questions about consent, class, and a woman’s role in the political arena. Love’s Labour’s Lost is a tale of love — for big ideas, for delicious words, and for that special someone. The King of Navarre has sworn to give up the pleasures of the world for serious study and contemplation. But when the Princess of France arrives, exuberant frivolity triumphs over studious drudgery, and the whole town erupts in pursuit of what (and who) they love!

Goodheart says “Love’s Labour’s Lost is indeed a romp and yet it’s also a timely story of what happens when, too enraptured by our own desires, we fail to listen. Love can still win, but there is a price to be paid.”

Summer performances will run Thursday, August 16 through Sunday, September 2, Tuesday-Sunday at 8 p.m. (with live music beginning at 7:30 p.m.) in Edgerton Park in New Haven, located at 75 Cliff Street. The performances will be free to the public with a suggested donation of $20, $10 for students and $5 for children 12 and under. Picnicking prior to the performance is encouraged. Visit the Elm Shakespeare website for more information on cast and production staff bios, play synopsis, directions, news on New Haven food vendors in the park, Tree Talks, and protocol for cancellations due to inclement weather.

Photo: Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media

Dana Casetti, an adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department, was featured on the front page of the New Haven Register (July 15, 2018) for her participation in two global projects in astrophysics. Casetti taught last month in the summer school program at the Vatican Observatory, one of only a handful of astronomy experts selected to teach Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers and other outstanding astrophysics students from around the world. She also recently had been part of a team of experts who used NASA’s Hubble Telescope to help provide an answer to an astronomical mystery pertaining to two satellite dwarf galaxies. Astronomers believe that project is providing additional insight into how stars are “born.”

The following is a link to the Register story:

https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/SCSU-adjunct-Yale-researcher-looks-to-the-stars-13076625.php 

A group of students, accompanied by Assistant Professor of French Luke Eilderts and Professor of Art History Camille Serchuk, recently returned from this summer’s International Field Study in Paris, France. Eilderts and Serchuk provided the following account of the students’ experiences. 

Dear Friends of the Southern in Paris Program:

With the close of the program only a few short days ago, Dr. Camille Serchuk and I would like share with you some of the highlights of this year’s trip to the French capital and its region.

We departed New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 31, 2018, shortly after 11 p.m. After picking up baggage and making our way through passport control and customs, Dr. Serchuk, who had departed a few days earlier, met us at arrivals bearing croissants and water to the great excitement of the students. After a short ride on the RER—the regional train system that serves the Paris region—we arrived at our lodging for the month. Built to house students from Belgium and Luxembourg, the Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre also welcomes guests for short stays during the summer months. This is our third time staying with them, and we continue to be impressed with their dedication to the students’ comfort and wellbeing.

That evening we began our culinary tour of the city; we try to introduce students to regional French cuisines and International foods that they might not find at home. Our first meal together was a dinner at the Crêperie Plougastel, a restaurant specializing in the cuisine of the western region of Bretagne (often called “Brittany” in English). Students feasted on savory galettes and sweet crêpes until they could eat no more. Tired from travel, we headed back to our rooms and turned in for the evening.

As a part of their introduction to the city, students familiarized themselves with the neighborhood by visiting the local grocery store, bakery, and banking locations. Since it is vitally important that students become proficient users of the city’s many transportation options, one of the orientation activities included a race to see which three-person group could reach the Louvre the fastest. Not only entertaining, this activity turned out to be a very useful exercise since the transportation workers had announced multiple strikes throughout the month. With this early training in problem solving, students were well prepared to tackle a variety of challenges.

Since we use Paris as our classroom, every day brought a new adventure and a new piece of French art, architecture, history and culture to study. From the remains of the Gallo-Roman Arènes de Lutèce, an amphitheater that could hold up to 15,000 people, to the Centre Pompidou, the modern art museum; from the Basilica of Saint Denis, the first example of Gothic architecture, to the Art Nouveau architecture of the Métro system. While Paris offers a nearly inexhaustible list of objects to study, we also traveled outside the city to important sites such as the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Palace of Versailles, the medieval town of Provins, and Monet’s gardens at Giverny. With each visit, students were asked to consider several probing questions and/or exercise their linguistic and cultural competencies.

Throughout our stay, Dr. Serchuk and I asked the students to reflect upon their time in France. Here are a few of the impressions they gathered as well as some of the lasting memories they made:

“I think one of the amazing qualities I took away from studying abroad was patience, with myself, others, with the RER B. Paris has stolen my heart, and if I ever have the opportunity to return I will do it in a heart beat.” – Kulsoom Farid

“I have grown through this program tremendously and not just through my school work but as a person. I’m more independent, confident, resourceful and mature and these are just a few things that have changed.” – Lauren DeNomme

“It’s my last day here studying abroad and I’m actually really nervous. It feels strange that I won’t be in Paris anymore. I’m not sure if I’ll get an opportunity like this again. […] I’ve actually considered moving here.” – Joseph Warzel

“One of my goals this trip was to improve my French speaking & use it whenever I could! Since I decided to make my own food every now and then, I’ve met some French speakers in the shared kitchen we have. They’re all so nice and help me with my French if I get stumped. I got invited to attend some events with them on campus & they made sure I was going to be able to attend the floor family dinner & photo op near the end of the month.” – Jessica Hartwell

“We’ve seen many things in France, but my favorite would have to be the Louvre. I loved the gothic chapels as well, but the stories told within their stained glass cannot match the stories told within the endless works of art at the museum. One night, we had class in one display room of the Louvre, and spent a long time analyzing each painting in the [Marie de Médicis] sequence. It was so interesting, I didn’t even feel the discomfort from standing in virtually the same spot for an hour! I look forwards to Louvre classes the most, because there is just so much the museum holds that I know the class material will always be interesting.” – Madelon Morin-Viall

“I cannot thank my two professors enough for their generous effort throughout this trip. Reflecting back, I can see how much time and energy they put into showing us the ins and outs of Paris. I do not know how they do it, but they have created a fantastic program that I am blessed to be a part of not only once, but twice. MERCI BEAUCOUP!!” – Alexandra Takacs

“Though I have only been in Paris for [a short while], I feel at home. The room where I stay I have made my own, I see familiar faces in the hall each day such as my friend Katherine from Luxembourg, and whenever I want, I can hop on the RER (across the street) and take it to whichever place I choose. One thing can be guaranteed- no matter where I go, it will be beautiful and there will be really good food.” – Ally Morin-Viall

“A month seems like a long time but it’s not. Every single day I spend in Paris is precious and I’m not gonna waste a second. The only great thing about coming home after my trip in Paris is I get to brag to all my friends about my new experiences!!!!” – Trevon Homeward-Bennett

Finally, we would like to thank the Office of International Education for all the work that they do before, during, and after the trip.

Thank you for supporting Summer study abroad programs!

Drs. Camille Serchuk and Luke Eilderts
Co-Directors, Southern in Paris 2018

Allegra Itsoga with the children of the village of Koar, to whom Le Korsa provides school supplies

Like most college students after graduation, women’s studies graduate student Allegra Itsoga wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career. Her inspiration came from one of her economics professors, who was from Ghana and talked positively about being taught by Peace Corps volunteers. With a B.A. in French and development economics from the University of San Francisco, as well as an interest in Francophone countries, Itsoga’s transition to Peace Corps volunteer made sense. The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for driven innovators to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side-by-side with locals to address challenges of today.

In 2003, Itsoga, a native of Watertown, Conn., joined the Corps and was sent to Gabon, located in Central Africa, where she spent 27 months living with a host family. During those months she developed and implemented English as a Second Language curriculum for children, ages 11 to 19, and organized and implemented an AIDS Awareness March with 5,000 students, as well as increasing levels of AIDS education and awareness. “Because of my fluency in French, I was able to immerse myself in the culture really well,” Itsoga says. She loved the experience so much, she decided to stay an additional 14 months.

Living abroad for Itsoga was easy; the harder part was coming back to the States. Her time in the Peace Corps ignited her passion for social justice and made her realize that interacting with communities and individuals was a must for her future employment. “After an experience like the Peace Corps, I knew I couldn’t work for a for-profit company,” she says. She found her next opportunity at the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, where she started as a customer service representative and worked her way up to events management. Itsoga believed in the mission of public broadcasting, which is dedicated to providing diverse communities with a mix of entertainment programs and services.

After CPBN, Itsoga worked at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which is focused on funding Type I diabetes research. Itsoga’s focus at JDRF was event fundraising with families who had a member with Type I diabetes and were passionate about funding research. Both at CPBN and JDRF, Itsoga enjoyed the development more than the fundraising, but was skilled at both. “It’s all people skills, “ she says. “It’s all identifying the right people and working with them to make them feel passionate about the cause that you’re working for.”

Currently, Itsoga is director of Le Korsa, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving human lives in Senegal, Africa. Korsa translated from Pulaar, a Fula language spoken mainly by the Fula and Toucouleur peoples in the Senegal River valley area, to English means, “love from respect,” and it shows in the work Le Korsa does. Le Korsa is unique because it works directly with the population to determine what the people want, and then designs projects around those wants.

“Most NGOs do a cookie-cutter project and keep repeating it over and over in other areas,” Itsoga says. These fly-by-night organizations might build a hospital and be gone the next day, leaving the population with no knowledge or funding to run such an operation. “Community-centered development is the only development that is sustainable,” she says.

One such project Itsoga led was the Women’s Health Initiative, which resulted in the Keur
Djiguene Yi Women’s Health Center in Dakar, the first free, government-sanctioned women’s health care facility in Senegal. Itsoga thinks of herself as a facilitator; the real heroes, as far as she’s concerned, are the people she’s working with: The doctors that choose to stay in Senegal and work for practically nothing, the teachers that go into these tiny villages and live without power to help children, the farmers who are growing food and then giving it to the community, and the women who are getting together to do outreach.

Itsoga with Dr. Juliette Faye, the director of the Keur Djiguene Yi Women’s Health Center in Dakar

With the creation of the women’s center, Itsoga realized she needed to further her education to learn more about why, precisely, projects like the women’s center are so vital. “I knew I wanted to get my master’s, I just wasn’t sure in what,” she explains. Knowing that Itsoga wanted to pursue women’s studies, a friend of hers recommended Southern’s master’s program, where one of the most highly regarded professors in the field, Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, teaches.

Itsoga joined Southern’s women’s studies graduate program in fall 2017. While it’s challenging balancing work with her master’s program, Itsoga says, “the unique thing about the women’s studies department is that they get what it’s like for working women.” Her work at Le Korsa and the curriculum of her master’s program don’t always intersect, although her most recent thesis, on how the patriarchal funding structure of NGO’s disenfranchises small, women-led organizations, is inspired by her nonprofit work.

Her advice to students considering nonprofit work? Do an internship. “You will get so much more as an intern at a nonprofit than doing an internship at a for-profit because nonprofits need interns to breathe,” she says. “We cannot survive without interns/volunteers. So much more responsibility, more interesting projects.” Itsoga also wants to fight negative stereotypes about nonprofits, explaining, “The stigma about no money in nonprofits isn’t true. You won’t be a millionaire, but you can live comfortably. “Plus,” she adds, “you go to bed feeling like you’ve made a difference. Can’t put a price tag on that.”

Allegra Itsoga

Jesse Manning, '18, and Heidi Reinprecht, '17

Recent graduate Jesse Manning, ’18, and his girlfriend, Heidi Reinprecht, class of ’17, are already using their communications expertise to change lives 7,000 miles away in Uganda.

Manning, 22, and Reinprecht, 25, who have started their own film production company, will fly to Uganda July 12-25 to film a documentary on a primary school built from donations that has positively changed life outcomes for more than 550 children from nursery school to 7th grade.

Their hope is that by telling the poignant stories about the value of education through the eyes of the children, parents, and educators, more people will want to donate money and/or time to the cause.

“Making the film will make them grow in ways you can’t imagine,” Reinprecht said of the documentary. “It’s a small, grassroots organization and I don’t know how they do it.”

The school was established through HELP International Uganda, a partnership between HELP International and the Ugandan people in Eastern Africa. The mission focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and hunger in the small, poverty-stricken Ugandan village of Masese.

Manning, who hails from Trumbull, majored in communication and became enthralled with the cause after a friend, Christopher Martin, who attends Molloy College in New York, returned from an internship in Uganda.

Martin couldn’t stop raving about the beauty of the school’s impact through educating, feeding, and delivering medical care to 550 impoverished children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend school. Primary school in the village normally is not free and so many don’t automatically receive an education. When Martin shared his experiences, Manning felt an instant connection.

“$1 there can help feed a family for a week, $30 can change someone’s life,” Manning said. “I felt I wanted to do my part.”

The couple already has a film company — Little Tree Farm Productions — and the farm in the name is intended to convey that people can “grow their ideas,” Reinprecht said.

Promoting the school through film “felt natural,” said Reinprecht, who noted, “I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said.

The couple has raised $5,000 toward the trip — enough to get them there — but are fundraising about $10,000 more to pay the rest, including insurance, medical expenses such as vaccinations, and production costs.

They are donating their time to make the film.

The pair met in their first film class at Southern and were always paired after that in class.

Reinprecht, originally from Watertown, graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in film and television.

Reinprecht says she has sensitive ears and is an audio production specialist, while Manning is a natural with the camera.

“He’s my extra set of eyes and I’m his ears,” she said.

Their approximately 40-minute documentary will highlight the climate of the village before the school was built, what it has become, and an expansion planned for the future.

“We want people to take away from it that they can really help,” Manning said.

Reinprecht added, “The children love this school.”

Martin became involved during his sophomore year of college when he interned with a global justice NGO aligned with the United Nations. Martin’s area of expertise was micro-finance, which included giving small business loans to people in developing nations.

His professor was involved in the school in Uganda.

“We decided to team up to give small business loans to people in the village,” Martin said.

But he fell in love with the school as well, and this summer Martin will make his fourth trip to Uganda in three years, volunteering in the school, tutoring the children, and helping in any other way needed.

“The people there are just so amazing,” Martin said. “They are extremely poor – they live on about $1 per day, but they’re so friendly and excited we’re there.”

Martin is excited about the impact of his friends’ documentary.

“The biggest thing for people who have not seen the project – film might make them want to help,” he said.