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health and wellness

#SouthernStrong graphic with photo collage of SCSU students, faculty, staff, and alumni
As the university prepares to reopen, here’s a look at how the Southern community responded to the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic — and upheld its commitment to education.

First, the good news. Southern’s physical campus is slated to reopen for fall 2020, with classes beginning on Aug. 26, following a staggered move-in for residence hall students. Courses will be offered in a HyFlex model, a combination of on-ground and online courses. Public health guidelines will be followed (face coverings, class size, etc.) and, if the need arises, the university is prepared to pivot to an all online schedule. The goal is to complete the entire fall semester as scheduled, with one caveat – on-ground classes will end at the Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, all remaining classes and final exams will be held online and all student services will be offered remotely.

The plan is a promising return to normalcy for the campus community.

The first campus-wide warning came in January: an email with tips for fighting seasonal influenza included a sentence about the outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan, China. The news became increasingly dire in the following weeks, and, on Feb. 26, U.S. officials reported the first non-travel-related case of the illness now officially known as COVID-19.

On campus, the disease’s rapid-fire spread came to light on March 10, after a Southern student attended an event where another participant later tested positive for the virus. Southern’s physical campus was closed (initially for five days) for a deep cleaning, a process that included licensed professionals in HAZMAT suits.Southern’s campus has remained shuttered through spring and summer to date, following the Office of the Governor’s directives for statewide closures and the decision of the Connecticut State Universities and Colleges system.

At the macro-level, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented: in early June when the university magazine in which this article first appeared went to press, there were more than 1,800,000 cases and 106,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — figures that have been tragically surpassed today. Like the nation and, indeed, much of the world, Southern is mourning profound losses. Students, university employees, and alumni have become ill from the virus, some seriously. While impossible to track all cases, Southern graduates have died from COVID-19.  No student has died from the virus as of June 24. The university is also navigating a new world order, driven by an overarching directive: ensuring the health and welfare of the Southern community and the community-at-large.

To be clear, the university was never closed. Instead, over a 10-day period that corresponded with students’ spring break, faculty prepared to adopt remote/online learning for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. On March 23, all Southern courses began being offered remotely /online, with summer sessions soon following suit. With fall’s campus opening in sight, here’s a look at some of Southern’s initial responses to the early phases of the pandemic.

More at:  go.SouthernCT.edu/strong    inside.SouthernCT.edu/coronavirus

Demographic of SCSU students, Grad assistants/interns/faculty/staff, with collage images
The People:

Piloting Southern through the COVID-19 pandemic is complex. The university is a home-away-from-home for 11,072 people — more residents than 44 percent of cities/towns in Connecticut. In spring 2020, the Southern community included 9,212 students (1), a figure that comprises 7,456 undergraduates and 1,756 graduate students, both full- and part-time. There are also 2,050 faculty and staff, including some 190 students working as graduate assistants/interns.

FEMA setting up cots in response to Covid-19 at SCSU Moore Fieldhouse
Changing Places:

On March 31, 2020, the National Guard began assembling a 300-bed “Connecticut Medical Station” inside Southern’s Moore Fieldhouse [above]. (2) Designed as “overflow” space for Yale New Haven-Hospital in anticipation of a surge of COVID-10 patients, the facility fortunately had not been needed as of early June. The university also made available 2,500 rooms in nine residence halls, which were used minimally to house some National Guard staff.

A New Way of Working:

Following the governor’s mandate for statewide closures, about 1,662 faculty and staff began working remotely. They are responsible for most university operations — from admissions and teaching to information technology and health services. Those designated essential employees — 34 unsung heroes as of press time — continue to regularly report to campus. Among them: the police chief and officers, and the facilities team, including grounds crew, custodians, receiving staff, mailroom workers, supervisors, dispatchers, and building tradesmen.  An additional 116 employees are on-campus on an interim basis.

Chart showing pre- and post-Covid remote learning accounts, participants, and sessions

Teaching Remotely:

Between mid-March and the end of the month, the Office of Online Learning held more than 70 webinars — including individual and group support sessions. The focus was on teaching/learning through the use of several platforms: WebEx (web conferencing), Teams (an online communication and collaboration platform), Kaltura (video), and Blackboard (educational technology). In April, the office also held a three-day online Teaching Academy, with all sessions filled to capacity. In addition to the staff from the Office of Online Learning, faculty volunteers have helped with training.

SCSU Academic Success Center has Coach Team Meeting online

Academic Support:

The Academic Success Center is working virtually to help students succeed. The center’s hours have stayed the same and its tutors, 100 PALS (Peer Academic Leaders who focus on gateway and foundational courses), Academic Success Coaches, and more than 200 student workers all mobilized online through Microsoft Teams. “The short answer is we’re here,” says Kathleen De Oliveira, director of the ASC. “We want them to succeed. Just like before, all they have to do is come and ask.”

Buley Library:

The building is closed, but the library is open for business, with 100 percent of staff working remotely. They’re a busy group. Between the shutdown and mid-May, they redesigned their web page to promote online resources and services (100,000 visitors), answered 180 questions from students, hosted numerous online events (including an online exhibit for National Poetry Month), and even used 3D printing to create mask components for health care workers at UConn Health. Since the shutdown, they’ve also activated 3,500-plus online resources, including thousands of ebooks and streaming videos.

A Global Issue:

The pandemic has been particularly challenging for students who were far from home. There were 13 Southern students studying abroad during the spring 2020 semester: 10 returned home in mid-March and three signed waivers after deciding to remain in their host countries. International students studying at Southern — both exchange students and those who are matriculated at SCSU — were helped by the Office of International Studies (OIS) and, when needed, Residence Life. (They coordinated flights and airport shuttles, ensured access to food and housing, and much more.) The 26 international exchange students studying at Southern this spring returned home by early April. But many of the 65 matriculated international students remained in the U.S., staying with extended family or in campus-sponsored accommodations at an extended stay hotel with other students.
Looking forward, Southern is holding strong to its long-term commitment to international education. Intercultural engagement and global diversity in the classroom “are the antidote to the isolationism and nationalism that the pandemic has fueled in some parts of the world,” says Erin Heidkamp, director of the Office of International Education.

SCSU student and Army National Guard member Renee Villarreal with baby
Renee Villarreal — parent, student, Army National Guard member
The Ties that Bind:

“The current situation is hard for students,” says Sal Rizza, director of New and Sophomore Programs, reflecting on the spring 2020 semester. “We’re trying to bring a little life and enjoyment. There are a ton of activities happening.” Among them: SCSU Music Trivia, The Dan Baronski Hour (peer mentor and orientation ambassador Baronski talks fashion and music), Cooking with Kyra, Coffee Chat with Student Involvement, and more.

Campus Recreation and Fitness held programs to get students moving, including a live-stream workout with President Joe Bertolino and his trainer, Hunter Fluegel, that drew about 300 viewers. Similarly, more than 200 students and 100 faculty and staff signed up for A Southern Strong Step Challenge. Many student clubs also met online, with Daphney Alston assistant director of Student Involvement, noting that the university is “really proud of how clubs and organizations have tried to figure out this new normal.”

SCSU President Joe Bertolino and volunteers deliver lawn signs to 2020 future graduates

Celebration:

With large gatherings prohibited, Southern is holding a virtual commencement ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students on Aug. 15 — and also found ways to immediately honor students safely. More than 1,000 celebratory yard signs were delivered to graduates; an emotional virtual pinning ceremony was held for graduating nursing majors; and seniors submitted photos and memories for a virtual yearbook and social media spotlights.

Helping Hands:

When the Southern campus closed suddenly in mid-March, Chartwells was left with an abundance of food. That’s when an existing food recovery program run by Southern’s Office of Sustainability and Chartwells sprang into action. Several students and Chartwells staff packaged more than 300 pounds of food for delivery to St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden, Park Ridge Tower Affordable Senior Living in New Haven, and Monterey Place Senior Living in New Haven.
There were countless other outreach efforts. Southern police collected equipment from university labs/clinics to assist in relieving the PPE shortage, numerous community members made and donated face coverings, Buley Library staff 3D printed components for face masks, and more.

You helped, too:

Responding to students’ heightened need, more than 1,000 donors contributed over $500,000 during Southern’s Day of Caring, held on April 22.

SCSU Alumni collage during Covid-19 pandemic

Alumni Pride:

Thoughts are also with our alumni, many of whom are in the frontlines of fighting the pandemic. Among them are more than 11,000 graduates of the College of Health and Human Services. Similarly, as the largest educator of teachers and educational administrators in the state, Southern salutes its graduates of the College of Education — who have turned to technology to educate their young charges.

Through it all, our 93,500-plus alumni have remained a source of pride, strength, and optimism. Consider Fairfield, Conn., couple Maureen and Dan Rosa (3), both graduates of the Class of 2010, who met as Southern students in 2006. Tragically, Maureen’s father Gary Mazzone was among those killed in the crash of a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane on Oct. 2, 2019, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. A year later, the couple faced the fear of welcoming their first child during the epicenter of the pandemic. And, yet, they persevered and triumphed — and the media heralded their joy on April 2 when they welcomed their new daughter: Cecilia Hope Rosa.

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

How does music influence those with mental illness? Adam Christoferson, ’10, the director of the nonprofit organization, Musical Intervention, has joined a team of Yale professors looking for answers.

Adam Christoferson, '10, founder of Musical Intervention

Adam Christoferson, ’10, the founder and director of Musical Intervention in New Haven, is working with a group of Yale Researchers to study how music influences people with psychotic illnesses. The project is being forwarded by a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its Sound Health initiative — a partnership between the NIH and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in association with the National Endowment for the Arts. Philip Corlett, a cognitive neuroscientist and associate professor in the Yale School of Medicine, is the principal investigator of the Yale study.

For Christoferson, the research project will further a long-held commitment to helping others through music. At Musical Intervention, he shares the therapeutic power of music with the community, including New Haven’s homeless and recovery population. The nonprofit organization, located in a downtown storefront on Temple Street, provides a drug- and alcohol-free space where people can write, record, and perform their own music.

Christoferson has felt music’s healing power personally. Much of his childhood was difficult. His mother had schizophrenia, and he grew up in a rent-subsidized apartment on Rock Street in New Haven, on the edge of one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods. His father, a Vietnam veteran, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. For Christoferson, music was a source of comfort and escape.

The entire community is invited to jam at Musical Intervention on Thursday nights.

At Southern, he majored in recreation and leisure studies. (Today, it’s the Department of Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management.) His adviser, James MacGregor, now chair of the department, set him up with an internship at Yale New Haven Children’s Psychiatric Inpatient Service unit, where he was later hired as a recreation therapist, a job that sowed the seeds for Musical Intervention. His first week there, Christoferson noticed a girl drawing a picture of someone singing. “I asked her if she wanted to make music with me,” he recalls. His supervisor gave him permission to bring some recording equipment onto the unit. “And it was a hit,” Christoferson says. “This girl completely transformed, being able to make music and record it.”

His work was later featured in the World Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Christoferson was invited to speak at international symposiums.
In 2015, he won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to work with the homeless population. The following year he opened Musical Intervention.

The organization remains his passion. “There are people who have been homeless for such a long time, they haven’t had a guitar to play. That’s what we provide. There are people who are in crisis with drugs or mental illness and they let [music] go years ago and missed it,” Christoferson says. “While they’re in treatment, they’re able to come to us and regain all of that passion and creativity that was lost.”

In addition to Corlett and Christoferson, the research team includes Michael Rowe, co-director of the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health; Sarah Fineberg, MD; Al Powers, MD; and Claire Bien. The group is affiliated with Connecticut Mental Health Center, a clinical and research hub of the Yale Department of Psychiatry that is run in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS).

Southern Alumni Magazine cover, Fall 2019, featuring Peter Marra, '85

Read more stories in the Fall ’19 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Dr. Jia Yu, assistant professor of economics, and Alexandra Ball, RN, MBA, '19

Alexandra Ball, ‘19, presented her MBA thesis at the Ninth International Conference on Health, Wellness and Society at Berkeley, CA, on September 19th, 2019. Ball’s research seeks to identify which U.S. region renders the highest quality patient care of total knee arthroplasty as measured by impact on patient discharge disposition, hospital length of stay, and adverse outcomes during a three-year span of 2008-2010.

The results of the study found that lowest lengths of stay are noted in the West and Midwest, and that the West had the highest patient outcomes.  Demographic characteristics of age, race, and marital are associated with shorter lengths of stay, however, discharge status is only significantly impacted by age. These findings are utilized to evaluate cost- efficiency of the surgery in the regions of the United States.

Ball’s advisor, Jia Yu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Economics said that this is a great international conference that brings together many health and medical researchers from different disciplines and countries, giving attendees the opportunity to learn different perspectives on health-related problems from a variety of countries.

She says, “We have also built up some connections with researchers from Hong Kong and Singapore for future collaboration possibilities.” And continues, “It is a wonderful opportunity for Southern students to know the world and let the world know about Southern as well.”

The 2019 Special Focus of the International Conference on Health, Wellness and Society was Inclusive Health and Wellbeing, stating “…the volume of healthcare research and wealth of groundbreaking healthcare technology continues to expand, leading to more advanced health delivery systems and an increased quality of living. Not all people or all groups are benefiting from these advancements equally; significant barriers to accessing these developments still exist across the globe…This conference aims to explore the implications and effects that geographic, socioeconomic, and political barriers pose to health and wellbeing as well as constructing means across these barriers moving forward.”

When it comes to keeping communities safe and healthy, graduates of Southern’s public health programs are leading the charge as area health directors.

As director of the Westbrook Health Department in Connecticut, Sonia Marino, '09, M.P.H. '14, oversees public health for more than 6,900 residents.

As the first full-time health director in Westbrook, Conn., in more than a decade, Sonia Marino, ’09, M.P.H. ’14, is working to develop a community health plan that could touch on everything from opiate dependency and emergency preparedness to outdoor activities for children.

“Public health is my passion,” says Marino, who took the job in January 2015, replacing a part-time director. “It’s not just about wells and septic and food. It’s so much more.”

Marino envisions a forward-looking health department for her town, with public education and prevention programs, and social media campaigns tailored to the community’s needs.

She credits Southern, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public health, for shaping her comprehensive approach and for providing the broad background she needs to deal with the numerous issues that come across her desk, from landlord-tenant conflicts to restaurant inspections.

When it comes to keeping communities safe and healthy, graduates of Southern’s public health programs are leading the charge as area health directors.

“The professors are great,” says Marino. “I had a wonderful relationship with all of them.”

Marino is one of about 20 Southern alumni now serving as health directors across Connecticut’s 74 local health agencies. Many more hold jobs as deputy directors and sanitarians — the latter, a public health worker with knowledge of environmental and public health issues such as food protection, water quality, product safety, and more.

Peggy Gallup, professor of public health and coordinator of the undergraduate program, says she was contacting Connecticut health directors for a project recently and was struck by how many she recognized as former students.

Professor of Public Health William Faraclas says producing graduates who would lead local health efforts in the state was a dream of founders who launched the program in 1980.

“We dreamed big and our dream came true,” says Faraclas, who chaired the department for 33 years.

Southern’s was one of the first undergraduate public health programs in the United States when it began, Faraclas says, and it continues to serve as a national model. The Master of Public Health program — state law requires local health directors to have the degree — was added at Southern in 1990.

While many graduates work in hospitals or nongovernmental organizations, Southern graduates are particularly suited for jobs in local health departments because of the program’s strong focus on community-based aspects of public health.

Meanwhile, hands-on programs, such as the popular two-week field study trip to Guatemala, foster the resilience and “roll- up-your-sleeves” attitude needed for jobs in public service.

Students must also complete an internship that takes them to the front lines of public health practice, says Faraclas.

It was an internship during his senior year at Southern that launched Robert Rubbo’s career with the Torrington Area Health District in 1996. Two decades later, he is running the place.

After graduation, Rubbo, ’96, M.P.H. ’02, was offered a position as a sanitarian trainee and worked his way up, becoming a sanitarian, deputy director and, in 2013, the director.

Comparing notes with colleagues who attended other schools, Rubbo says he realizes how much Southern stands out in terms of quality.

“I really feel like they have one of the more challenging M.P.H. programs out there,” Rubbo says.

Gallup notes Southern’s relationship with local health departments is reciprocal. Health directors often email her if they are looking for interns or resources for projects.

One graduate student worked with a health department to survey pediatricians about their lead-screening practices for young children; another created a brochure on healthy homes and household environmental hazards. In Westbrook, Marino says Southern students have helped her conduct a community health assessment in town.

Maura Esposito, ’90, M.P.H. ’11, director of the Chesprocott Health District, which covers the towns of Cheshire, Prospect, and Wolcott, says she recently had several Southern students working for her as interns, and would love to work with more.

“I take Southern interns all the time because I know the program, and I know the quality of work that is expected,” Esposito says. In return, she gives them plenty of opportunities to work in the trenches.

“Anybody who comes through my department should be able to get a really good job,” she says. ■

A group of committed SCSU students, faculty, staff, and administrators have come together as The University of Compassion Initiative to inspire compassionate action in the community. The Compassion Lecture Series is one of many creative ways to enhance the university’s overall mission of justice and service, while cultivating an environment that supports the well-being of students, staff, administrators, and faculty, said Dana Schneider, an associate professor of social work who has been helping to spearhead the effort with a campus wide coalition. A March 9 presentation by Dr. Randall Horton, “Forgive Me, Father,” is the kickoff lecture in the Compassion Lecture Series sponsored by Faculty Development and corresponds with the 2nd Annual Week of Wellness. Horton’s lecture will take place in the ASC Theatre from 7-9 p.m. He will lecture on the power and necessity of compassion as it relates to his newly released Hook: A Memoir, which chronicles a narrative of addiction, homelessness, and incarceration, and how kindheartedness saved his life.

Dr. Randall Horton
Dr. Randall Horton

Originally from Birmingham, Ala., Horton now resides in Harlem, N.Y. He is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature. He is also a member of the band Heroes Are Gang Leaders, a group whose unique blend of blues, jazz, funk, hip hop, go-go, R&B, soul, classical music, poetry, dramaturgy and prose, continues the legacy of poet Amiri Baraka. Horton is a Cave Canem Fellow, a member of the Affrilachian Poets and associate professor of English at the University of New Haven. Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press is the publisher of his latest poetry collection Pitch Dark Anarchy. Augury Books published Hook: A Memoir in fall of 2015.

In addition, Horton has been interviewed on Fox News, NPR, CTNPR, the New Haven Register and countless online journals, magazines, and radio shows. He is also on the Board of Directors of Pen America’s Pen Prison Writing Program.

The aims of the Compassion Lecture Series are to: educate faculty and the larger university community on the role of compassion in creating more just societies and will provide forums for ongoing dialogue about compassion; demonstrate the value of compassion in the promotion of well-being, health, and the environment; expose the faculty and larger community to the scientific research examining the role of compassion in the lives of individuals and communities; provide examples for faculty, staff, and students of compassion in action in university life and the global community; and further the aims of the University of Compassion Initiative to reduce suffering and promote compassionate engagement in all facets of university life.

More on The University of Compassion Initiative:

As members of the SCSU family, we believe it is our responsibility to engage others with mutual respect and equity while fostering a safe and care caring environment for all, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, appearance, disability, and socioeconomic status. Compassion inspires a fulfilled humanity through informed empathy, ethical actions, an appreciation of diversity and the value of relationships. Through compassion we aspire to promote wellbeing and engage in harmonious relationships with all beings and manifestations of the natural world. We have the power to break down political, dogmatic, ideological, and religious boundaries, and foster unity throughout our communities.

Our actions are supported by a global movement represented by the Charter for Compassion. We are also following in the footsteps of our sister institutions, WCSU and CCSU, to become a designated University of Compassion.

Current Events:

  1. “Mindful Mondays” (a contemplative practice forum open to the entire SCSU community) meets Mondays 12:15-1:00 p.m. in Buley 449.
  2. The University of Compassion Initiative recently joined forces with Unity Pledge Committee.
  3. The Initiative sponsors the Compassion Lecture Series.

 

 

 

 

Dr. Sandra Minor Bulmer, professor of public health, has been named as the university’s new dean of the School of Health and Human Services, effective immediately.

Bulmer has served as a faculty member in Southern’s Department of Public Health since 1999, as a full professor since 2009 and interim dean of HHS since 2014. A specialist in college student health issues and women’s exercise and health, she has excelled as a teacher/scholar, demonstrated a strong commitment to mentoring students, and provided a high level of service to her department and the university.

Bulmer has been active in campus leadership activities, including a six-year term on the Faculty Senate, chairing the Honors Thesis Committee since 2010 and chairing searches for the Vice President of Student Affairs and, most recently, the new Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Since fall 2014, in her role as interim dean, Bulmer has focused on building a community environment within the School, expanding inter-professional collaboration among faculty and students, increasing resources for high-demand degree programs, and developing new programs that address workforce needs in the state of Connecticut.

Under her leadership the Department of Nursing initiated reforms to their admissions process, the Exercise Science Department created and launched a new degree program in respiratory therapy, and the Social Work Department is creating a new doctoral degree program.

She also led a team of 20 faculty through the development of an initial building program for the School, worked with her associate dean to expand collaborations and build relationships in the New Haven community, and supported faculty with the launch of academic partnerships with Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture (BUCEA).

In addition to her work at Southern, Bulmer is the current president for the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), volunteers with the Institutional Review Board and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program at Yale University, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut and Western Massachusetts Division of the American Heart Association.

Bulmer has been the recipient of several notable honors, including the J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teaching Award in 2003 and the Society for Public Health Education’s Outstanding Service Award in 2011. During her tenure as Director of Fitness Operations with Western Athletic Clubs in San Francisco, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) selected her as their first ever Fitness Director of the Year in 1991.  Under her guidance, Western Athletic Clubs was one of the first major employers in the fitness industry to require college degrees and relevant certifications for personal trainers and other fitness professionals.

In 1997, Bulmer left her position at Western Athletic Clubs to obtain her Ph.D. in health education at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Tex.  She also holds a B.S. in physical education from California State University Hayward and an M.S. in physical education with a focus on exercise physiology from the University of Oregon.

Food Recovery NetworkEver wonder what happens to that sandwich in The Bagel Wagon that has reached the “best by” date on its label? Prior to this past summer, it would be thrown away, but now, foods that Chartwells can no longer sell when they reach that date no longer go to waste, thanks to the efforts of the Sustainability Office, Chartwells, and a dedicated student intern.

This past summer, Southern joined the Food Recovery Network, a national organization that supports college students recovering perishable and non-perishable foods on their campuses that would otherwise go to waste and donating them to people in need.  Heather Stearns, recycling coordinator, says that Chartwells hired a student intern, Ashley Silva, who is focused on sustainability, and has been working with her on a weekly food collection schedule. Each week, Silva makes the rounds to the Bagel Wagon, Davis Outtakes, and the North Campus Kiosk and collects perishable foods — including salads, sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, bagels, and hummus — that have reached their “best by” date. The foods would be thrown away when they reach that date, but they are still safe to eat. So after Silva collects them, they are donated to Connecticut Food Bank, a private, nonprofit organization that works with corporations, community organizations, and individuals to solicit, transport, warehouse and distribute donated food.

newshub-triad-food-recovery-15
In addition to the food collected from campus Chartwells locations, fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the campus organic garden are harvested and donated to local soup kitchens such as the Community Dining Room in Branford and St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden. Pounds of produce such as squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, various greens, corn, peas, potatoes, peppers, and basil, are donated on a regular basis. This fall, Southern donated almost 200 pounds of fresh produce that was grown at the garden, located behind Davis Hall.  Suzanne Huminski, sustainability coordinator, says that throughout the fall semester, between the garden and FRN efforts, over 600 pounds of food have been collected and donated.

To promote community awareness of hunger and food insecurity in Connecticut, students working on FRN at Southern organized a recent campus event called “Hunger 101,” meant to be a conversation about food access and food justice in the state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines “food security” as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” According to the Sustainability Office’s website, over 14 percent — of New Haven County residents — nearly 123,000 people — are food insecure, and over 19 percent of all hunger-stricken residents are children.

To expand the university’s food donation program, the Sustainability Office is placing permanent food donation boxes in the lobby of the Facilities building, in the Wintergreen building, and on the second floor of Engleman, outside of the FYE Office. Members of the university community are encouraged to donate non-perishable food items year-round. Donations from these collection sites will be brought to the Connecticut Food Bank in Wallingford each week. Stearns also encourages staff and faculty to bring food items to the Sustainability Office during the regular Swap Shop open houses.

Anyone interested in helping with FRN efforts on campus can call Silva in the Sustainability Office at (203) 392-7135.

student doing a push up
The focus on student health and wellness is part of a larger culture change that has been taking place on campus in recent years and continues to grow.

The key to student success is a multifaceted approach to students’ health, says Southern’s new Student Health and Wellness Center coordinator, Emily Rosenthal, MPH, MSW.

Rosenthal was hired late last year to develop a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to health and wellness education for students.

Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree envisions Rosenthal’s efforts will bring together the growing number of health and wellness initiatives around campus while boosting overall awareness of programming.

“While we have a lot of great people and offices who focus on the health and wellness of our students, Emily will help us provide a more integrated and intentional approach,” Tyree says. 

“Student wellness is a top priority, as it is critical to students’ capacity to learn and be successful at Southern.”

Since arriving on campus in January, Rosenthal has been meeting with key leaders in these areas. “My goal is to find out how a wellness coordinator can help,” she says. “Where do they see gaps, needs, priorities?”

In response to her findings, Rosenthal has preliminarily outlined four general priority areas for student wellness: sleep, stress, nutrition and sexual health. She says that tobacco cessation is a priority as well, and she intends to look at student health data, which the university collects every two years.

Reporting to Diane Morgenthaler, the Center’s director, Rosenthal will head a collaborative wellness team with representatives from Student Health, Counseling, the Fitness Center, Campus Recreation, the Drug and Alcohol Center (DARC), the Women’s Center, the Multicultural/SAGE Center and relevant academic departments.

Morgenthaler says Rosenthal’s “vision to develop a holistic wellness experience is one that we anticipate will contribute significantly to our students’ overall success.”

“There’s so much that is already being done here,” Rosenthal says, “and so much we can do. But it’s important that we take the time to focus and see what our priorities are, so that we’re more effective and efficient.”

With two master’s degrees – in public health and in social work — from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and an undergraduate degree in psychology from Harvard University, Rosenthal has always worked in health-related fields, mostly focusing on teens and young adults.

Prior to arriving at Southern, she worked in residence life at Harvard and held a variety of positions over a period of three years. As a resident dean in one of the university houses, she worked closely with students as well as faculty and staff around campus.

Now, Rosenthal looks forward to applying her health background and student-focused experiences to strategic health and wellness programming.

“Based on what we see in the student health data, we will come up with a central goal and message that we can collaborate around.”

A HEALTHY CAMPUS

The focus on student health and wellness is part of a larger culture change that has been taking place on campus in recent years and continues to grow. As part of this movement towards a healthier campus community, Southern is now considering a campus-wide policy that would prohibit smoking and tobacco use.

In February 2014, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy asked Connecticut’s colleges and universities to consider going “smoke-free” as part of a federal initiative. In response, the university’s Health and Safety Committee conducted outreach and research to determine the feasibility of such a move. After several months of studying the issue, the committee concluded that the use of tobacco compromises the well-being of the campus community as a whole, and was ready to propose that Southern become a tobacco-free campus following the spring semester of 2015.

The committee’s proposed policy and timeline has been presented to the campus governance bodies for review and comment before a final recommendation is made to President Papazian. The committee has also encouraged final comments from all members of the community. Read more about the proposed policy.

In another effort to support health and wellness,  Southern is “going red” for the American Heart Association (AHA) through the 2015 Greater New Haven Heart Walk, taking place on Sat., May 2, under the leadership of President Mary A. Papazian, vice-chair of the event. The university has committed to raising $5,000 in support of the AHA, and several SCSU offices and departments have formed teams and begun fundraising by recruiting walkers and donations.

The Greater New Haven Heart Walk is a non-competitive three-mile walk that raises funds and awareness for research, education, and advocacy of cardiovascular disease and stroke right here in Greater New Haven. There is no registration fee to participate in the Heart Walk and no fundraising minimum. The walk will take place at Savin Rock in West Haven on May 2, beginning at 10 am. Learn more.

    the authors
    Michele Vancour, a professor of public health, and Michele Griswold, a graduate of Southern’s public health master’s program as well as a nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

    When a breastfeeding mother returns to work, her separation from her infant can disrupt breastfeeding, and many workplaces lack policies and procedures to support mothers who wish to continue nursing their babies. According to Michele Vancour and Michele Griswold, such policies don’t exist just to cater to families — they are good for business by contributing to greater employee satisfaction and retention. Yet many working mothers stop breastfeeding because of the barriers they encounter in the workplace.

    Breastfeeding Best PracticesIn their new book Breastfeeding Best Practices in Higher Education, Vancour, a professor of public health, and Griswold, a graduate of Southern’s public health master’s program as well as a nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), examine breastfeeding and the workplace as a public health issue. They address the need for support of breastfeeding on university campuses; describe best practices as implemented at several U.S. higher education institutions and provide examples of how college and universities can work toward becoming more supportive of breastfeeding among employees and students.

    Both Griswold and Vancour have expertise on the topic of breastfeeding, both as a health issue and as a workplace issue. Griswold chairs the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition, and Vancour is on the board. Griswold’s master’s thesis looked at breastfeeding in the pediatric primary care setting, and she has worked as a lactation consultant in a primary care setting. Vancour was Griswold’s thesis adviser and has long researched and written on work/life balance. She was an advocate for the university establishing a lactation space on campus, where nursing mothers can pump in private when away from their infants. Such a room was eventually made available in Connecticut Hall.

    Vancour knew from her research that colleges and universities were an area where lactation support was lacking. National public policy initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act have put out guidelines requiring workplaces to have more supports in place for breastfeeding mothers, so Vancour and Griswold decided to collaborate on a book that would look specifically at such support in the higher education setting. They say it should serve as a useful resource to those who are working to bring their workplaces into alignment with such policies.

    “In the book, we place breastfeeding in a larger context – why it is important for both mothers and children. It’s good for our country’s future – breastfed babies grow up healthier,” says Griswold. She points out that breastfeeding can help to prevent childhood obesity, ear infections, colds and flu. And for mothers, it can protect against breast and ovarian cancers. Premature infants do much better when they are fed their mothers’ milk.

    Vancour says she has always been a big proponent of best practices, and the book focuses on six institutions that she and Griswold believe have created environments that support breastfeeding: George Washington University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of California Davis, the University of Arizona, Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins University.

    Vancour and Griswold say that for an institution to become fully supportive of their employees who are breastfeeding, a paradigm shift is required: a move from thinking about the company to thinking about how to support employees – which in turn is good for the company.