Tags Posts tagged with "social justice"

social justice

Mr Nyle Fort
Mr Nyle Fort

On January 15, 2021, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 92 years old. The university commemorates Dr. King’s birthday each year with special events highlighting issues that resonate with his mission of racial equality and justice. This year, Southern will host two virtual events to honor the legacy of the civil rights pioneer: one on January 27 (co-hosted with other local institutions) and one on February 8.

“The Work Ahead, The Work Within: Reflecting on King’s Dream”
Wednesday, January 27, 2021 
7:15-8:30 p.m.
Registration required
The university and Greater New Haven communities are invited to attend this year’s intercollegiate virtual MLK Commemoration that honors the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With generous sponsorship from our campus partners, Yale University’s 2021 MLK Commemoration Planning Committee, Gateway Community College’s Office of Student Activities, Quinnipiac University’s Department of Cultural and Global Engagement, and Southern Connecticut State University’s Multicultural Center are co-hosting this inaugural intercollegiate event that will feature Patrisse Cullors (co-Founder of Black Lives Matter and best-selling author of When They Call You a Terrorist) and Yamiche Alcindor (White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and NBC and MSNBC political contributor).

This virtual event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please visit this site to register: https://tinyurl.com/YaleMLK21.

Visit MLK.YALE.EDU for more info.

poster for intercollegiate MLK event 

“Commemorating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Pandemic, Privilege and Protest” Virtual Event
Monday, February 8, 2021
1:00 p.m.                                  

Join us as we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This event will feature keynote speaker minister, activist, and scholar Nyle Fort. Mr. Fort will explore not only how the pandemic reveals deeper patterns of racial inequality, but how students and staff can respond in order to save our fragile experiment in democracy by drawing reference to some of Dr. King’s work. Sponsored by the Multicultural Center. Register here to receive the meeting link.

Nyle Fort
Nyle Fort

From Mr. Fort: Pandemic, Privilege and Protest

About 2 million people worldwide have fallen victim to COVID-19. Over 380,000 have died in the United States. While the pandemic affects everyone it disproportionately harms black communities.

Racial inequality in medical care, wealth, employment, housing, and incarceration all impact death and infection rates. African Americans have more underlying conditions and less access to health care than white Americans. Black workers bore the brunt of coronavirus layoffs and those still working risk their lives to make ends meet. Even the ability to practice social distancing depends on race, class, and zip code.

Meanwhile, police violence continues to run amok as evidenced in the recent police killing of George Floyd. Amid the deadliest pandemic in over a century, protesters are taking to the streets to challenge legacies of racial injustice.

This is an unprecedented moment in American history. 

This virtual talk and Q&A with Nyle Fort will explore not only how the pandemic reveals deeper patterns of racial inequality, but how students can respond in order to save our fragile experiment in democracy by drawing upon Dr. King’s teachings



student Jierah Reid, '22, with VP for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree
Student Jierah Reid, '22, with Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree in the campus food pantry

Southern student Jierah Reid, ’22, was recently named one of 30 randomly selected winners in Sodexo’s “Spread The Joy Sweepstakes” as part of its fall resident dining promotion series. Sodexo is the university’s dining services provider. This national prize sweepstakes focused on the positive things we can spread – like joy to others – giving students across the United States the chance to win one of 30 $500 donations made in their name to their campus food pantry or a local hunger-related charity. This comes at a time when food pantries are deeply in need of donations, given the COVID-19 environment. Reid selected the SCSU Food Pantry as her charity beneficiary. In addition to the donation, Reid will receive a $100 VISA® gift card to spend any way she would like. Reid presented the food pantry with her $500 donation at a recent event held in the food pantry, which is located in the Wintergreen Building.

The SCSU Food Pantry opened October 28, 2020, and 40 dedicated volunteers ran the pantry six days a week during the fall semester. To date, over 1,400 lbs. of food have helped 50 SCSU student shoppers in 132 visits. The food pantry is open over the semester break on Mondays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and Wednesday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The pantry recently added a baby section of diapers, food, and wipes. There are plans to stock more refrigerated and frozen items to better support the needs of SCSU students.

Reid is a junior at Southern. She is majoring in Healthcare Studies with a concentration in Clinical Research and a minor in Public Health. Reid is an active member of the Southern community; she has been involved in the Residence Hall Association since her freshman year and is currently serving as an RA. Reid is passionate about supporting others and says the SCSU Food Pantry is something she is a huge advocate of. Of the sweepstakes win, Reid said, “I want more students to be able to benefit from the food pantry. My hope is to eliminate the stigma that may be attached to the service and instead have the food pantry embraced as an valuable campus resource. There are so many students who are in need, whether they’re residents or commuters, I want them to see this and know about it. I hope this will raise awareness and build momentum for the SCSU Food Pantry so it can continue to expand its offerings and become something more people are comfortable utilizing.”

Featured at more than 600 Sodexo-managed colleges and universities nationwide, Sodexo’s fall resident dining promotion series featured a number of safe, physically distant events for students in addition to the Spread The Joy Sweepstakes. Two core dining showcase events, #RockTheBlock and Foodie Revolution, celebrated the beautiful outdoor weather and capitalized on the historic 2020 election with themed foods, activities and more.

Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com), the leading Quality of Life services company in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, delivers On-site Services in Corporate, Education, Health Care, Government and Remote Site segments, as well as Benefits and Rewards Services and Personal and Home Services. Sodexo, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD., funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation (HelpStopHunger.org), an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $22 million in grants to end childhood hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at blogs.sodexousa.com.

Santa greets a young fan at the 29th annual "Friends of Rudolph" event, held at Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven.

Every December, Southern and the New Haven Police Department co-sponsor a “Friends of Rudolph” program that collects new, unwrapped toys to give to local New Haven families in need. The event typically begins with an arts and craft session and then a gift-giving assembly in Lyman Center. The day’s events are run by volunteers, including SCSU faculty and staff members, students from various campus clubs and organizations, New Haven police officers, and New Haven area high school students.

This year, because of safety precautions around COVID-19, the 29th annual university-sponsored Friends of Rudolph program was a drive-up event held at New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park. Santa and his elves were on hand to distribute coats, toys, books, and more to members of the community. Southern and the New Haven Police Department were joined as sponsors by 94.3 WYBC, The City of New Haven, The Youth & Recreation Department, and the university’s community partners.

View a gallery of photos from the event

Santa’s helpers sort through toys and coats inside the Lighthouse Point carousel building.


The SCSU food pantry

The numbers can be disheartening. More than 30 percent of students at Southern Connecticut State University are food insecure.  And nearly 80 percent of students at Southern rely on jobs to provide for their basic needs yet many are still coming up short. Nationally, 72 percent of economically disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out than any other demographic, according to a University Business study. This fall, however, the creation of Southern’s Food Pantry and Social Services Center offers hope in a new set of numbers, one that will help students — and the university – tell a different story about student success.

Numbers like 819.73: how many pounds of food have left the food pantry since it opened on Oct. 28. And 28: how many shoppers have visited the pantry in just a few weeks. And $531,720: how much Southern’s alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends raised in 2020’s Day of Giving to support students. More than 34 percent went directly to the Support Our Students Fund and, according to Kaitlin Ingerick, director of Annual Giving, is “an enormous part of the reason” Southern can provide aid.

“Everything inside the pantry has been donated by faculty, staff, and students,” Student Affairs Case Manager Sue Zarnowski said. “We are part of the Connecticut Food Bank, but it is so inundated, they can’t help as much. We also team up with M.L. Keefe Community Center for produce and dairy. The food pantry’s aisles look like a mini supermarket. We even have baby food items, a cereal section. Even snacks.”

“Since we opened,” Zarnowski said, “more than 800 pounds of food have left the pantry, and some of our shoppers have been repeat visitors. When the pantry was mobile, it was a 50/50 split between commuters and students living on campus. Now we see more commuters, more students who may be non-traditional.”

That doesn’t surprise Jules Tetreault, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students, who acknowledged that as Southern increasingly focuses on access, the student populations that are growing are those that need the extra support; that extends beyond food.

“The idea is that the food pantry is step one in a larger project,” Tetreault said. “We know that students have insecurities about needs in general. COVID adversely affected subsets of our population, especially financially insecure students, and exacerbated their situations.”

While the pantry gives students immediate access to food, in the future Tetreault said the center also will connect students to various types of assistance through the Social Services Center.

“I work with students who are homeless,” Tetreault said. “We have students whose families have been laid off, and they are the breadwinners on minimum wage. The Social Services Center will be a hub to support these pieces, like referrals for other assistance programs as aid is shrinking. It will help us make connection points as we continue to increase access and success.”

Using the Food Pantry

The food pantry is located in the Wintergreen Building. It is open to all undergraduate and graduate student shoppers Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. The pantry will be closed Nov. 25. Students can visit the pantry directly during business hours or make an appointment, which usually lasts 15 minutes, through SSC Navigate. When they visit, students simply pick what they need.

Ways to Help

Southern’s food pantry is currently stocking its shelves with food to help students meet their basic needs. Funding is needed to help keep the shelves stocked with food and sustain the food pantry for the entire year. Donors can make a gift to the Support Our Students (SOS) Fund, which supports the food pantry initiative. To do so, visit www.southernct.edu/giving and choose the “Support Our Students Fund” in the dropdown.

Donors also can donate directly through Amazon Prime, which ships free to the pantry, or through similar platforms.

Hundreds of students, faculty, administrators, and staff marched on campus on September 30 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to call for racial justice. The march started at 5 p.m. at Buley Library and moved over the footbridge to the Residence Life Quad, where a speak-in with art and music on racial issues took place, followed by a vigil to commemorate the Black lives lost at the hands of police brutality and racial injustice.

Student Cameryn Arpino-Brown organized the event as a way of helping students find their voices, and several campus organizations joined in, including a group called “Athletes Fighting Social Injustice,” formed through the Athletics Department.

TV stations WTNH and NBC30 covered the march:

“Hundreds gather at SCSU for march and vigil for racial equality”

“SCSU Students Hold Black Lives Matter March On Campus”

David Pettigrew with Bakira Hasečić outside of the Pionirska Street House in Višegrad, where nearly 60 civilians (women, children, and elderly) were burned alive in 1992.

In an article in the Fall 2020 issue of VQR (The Virginia Quarterly Review), journalist Jack Hitt recounts a trip to Bosnia he took in August 2019, accompanied by Philosophy Professor David Pettigrew, upon whose research Hitt’s article is generally based. As Hitt explains the purpose of his trip, “Theoretically, I traveled to the Balkans to look at statues, memorials, even plaques on buildings because I’d heard how new sculpture and construction were rewriting a violent history right on top of the land where it happened.” The violent history he refers to is the genocide that began in the Balkans in 1992 when Serb nationalists in Bosnia attacked the country’s Muslims, the Bosniaks. Pettigrew has extensively researched, written, and spoken about this period in Balkans’ history and its aftermath.

In the article, “More Lasting than Bronze: Touring the Architecture of Revisionism,” Hitt writes of Pettigrew, “For the last several years, Pettigrew has campaigned inside Bosnia and from his desk in New Haven for the implementation of a law forbidding the authorities to engage in genocide denial, which has been met with delays and postponements and promises of further study. But Pettigrew pushes on. I have a file folder of letters he’s sent, op-eds he’s written, videos of appearances on Bosnian television.”

David Pettigrew and Bakira Hasečić at the memorial to Bosnian Muslims who were victims of genocide in Višegrad. In his article, Hitt refers to this moment when Pettigrew and Hasečić hold up the word “genocide” on the memorial. A stonecutter had scratched out the word from the memorial after the Višegrad municipality deemed the use of the word to be offensive.

Donald Yacovone, '74 (Photo by Photo by Mary E. Yacovone)

Historian Donald Yacovone, an associate at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research and a 2013 winner of the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, was recently interviewed by the Harvard Gazette about a book he is writing, ““Teaching White Supremacy: The Textbook Battle Over Race in American History.” Yacovone is a Southern alumnus, having graduated in 1974 with a B.S. in history.

Yacovone, who co-authored “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” with noted historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. in 2013, spoke at the History Department‘s honor society induction ceremony last fall about his research on textbooks and white supremacy.

From videos produced by History Department faculty, clockwise, from upper right: "Attica! Race, Incarceration, and Radicalism" by Troy Rondinone; Steve Judd; "Militarization and Its Consequences in the Time of COVID" by Jason Smith; Julian Madison

History provides the much-needed context for how we got to the present moment, says Jason Smith, an assistant professor of history at Southern. George Floyd’s death in March 2020 and the Black Lives Matter Movement only strengthened his belief that now, more than ever, “thinking historically” can help students model what it means to be historians and humanists. To make connections to the movement, racism, police brutality, the pandemic, and other related issues, Smith and fellow history faculty created a teach-in lecture series; it’s been widely received — and not just by history majors.

“The project originated from a number of questions that emerged at the beginning of the summer,” Smith said. “I wondered how I might personally respond to the death of George Floyd and all of the history that lay beneath it, especially given the health risks associated with participating in mass protests.” He noted that he wanted to respond to current events from a historian’s perspective, modeling for students how we see historical evidence bearing on the present.

“We’re in a moment when we feel so disconnected from our students, and this also was a way to address these questions coming up on social media,” Smith said. “It was a collective effort, to show how in this moment histories and humanities are so important.”

Jason Smith

The series features Smith’s “Militarization and Its Consequences in the Time of COVID”; Professor of History Troy Rondinone’s “Attica! Race, Incarceration, and Radicalism”; Associate Professor of History Julian Madison’s “The Psychology of Racism”; Professor of History Steve Amerman’s “Listening to Indigenous Peoples”; Professor of History Steve Judd’s “Are the BLM Protests America’s Arab Spring”; and Associate Professor of History Marie McDaniel’s “History and Statues in 2020.”

An historian of war and American society, Smith’s lecture addresses the ways in which militarizing the encounter with COVID-19 may have certain lessons to teach us about the expansion of executive power, new rituals surrounding death, the scape-goating and brutalizing of an enemy, and more.

“It struck me as interesting and significant that in March-April, similar tropes were being used to confront COVID-19,” Smith said. “We were fighting a ‘war’ and ‘an invisible enemy.’”

The response to the series has been enthusiastic, and the lectures have been viewed hundreds of times, particularly Madison’s “The Psychology of Racism,” which Madison attributes to curiosity about “how all of this got started.”

“There has always been prejudice, even back to the Roman Empire,” Madison said. “It used to be illegal to marry people with blond hair! [William] Shakespeare actually had a relationship with a Black woman, and he wrote about prejudice and racism, but there hadn’t been laws mandating discrimation. Racism isn’t that old. It’s been prevalent since the 1600s, but it wasn’t always so.”

As for whether the series may continue through the fall, Smith is uncertain. What he does know is that the opportunity for everyone — student and non-student alike — to learn about history and how it intersects with the present is too important to pass by.

“The History Department took up the project enthusiastically, and I want to thank our faculty and staff for participating and really spearheading this project,” Smith said. “I think we view it as part of our department’s larger effort to reach students where they are, to make strides to build a sense of social and intellectual community among our students and alumni, in particular, as they must remain off campus and out of the classroom, as they confront very difficult and sometimes hopeful events often in isolation. We don’t stop being teachers when we’re kept out of the classroom. These times present new, challenging, problematic, but also exciting opportunities to teach.”

You can view the entire teach-in video archive on the Department of History YouTube channel. The faculty also compiled a list of recommended readings, which is posted on the department’s website.

The SCSU President’s Commission on Social Justice Recognition Committee proudly presents our fifteenth and final group of SouthernStrong awardees. During the months that the university has been operating virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these awards have shined a light on faculty, staff, and students who have been lending a helping hand, with acts of kindness large and small, not only for their fellow Owls, but also for friends, neighbors, and strangers.

We now recognize and celebrate the staff of the Information Technology Department for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness have been making a positive impact during this difficult time.

A staff member nominated the entire IT Support Services Department, writing, “Since mid-March they have worked above and beyond at accommodating all of us with the ability to work remotely and providing us online training and guidance on how to navigate technological platforms many of us were unfamiliar with. This was not an easy feat as they were transitioning all members of the campus community at the same time and troubleshooting hardware, software, authorization approvals and other unique situations. To this day, many of us have had the occasional hiccup that something technology related has happened and we have to reach out to the IT Help Desk/Support Services Department. Sometimes we are in a panic or frustrated at our own inability and ineptness to understand what they are all so tech-savvy and understanding of. All IT responders — from student workers to professional staff members — each has responded with patience, kindness, respect, encouragement and help. And if one person doesn’t have the answer they work as a team to help the person in need until the issue is resolved. I feel IT needs to be nominated because without them none of us would’ve been able to continue to work from home and they are unrecognized examples of always displaying a Southern Strong can do attitude of support, community and care! Thank you.”

The members of the Information Technology staff are:

  • John Bergevin – Technical Support Engineer
  • Nicholas Brenckle – Director, Edge Computing
  • Charles (Trever) Brolliar – Director, Academic Technologies
  • Phil Bryant – Coordinator, High-Tech Classrooms
  • Ralph Buonocore – Telecom Manager
  • Robert Carpentier – Technical Support Engineer
  • Steve Collison – Enterprise Infrastructure Specialist
  • Kenneth Cook – Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure Manager
  • Robert (Bob) Cuddihee – Media Instructional Services Specialist
  • Jon Garbutt – Enterprise Infrastructure Manager Network
  • Adam Gerstein – Technical Support Engineer
  • Ciara Houghton – ERP/Academic Applications Manager
  • Kurt Jagielow – Voice and Video Network Manager
  • John Jaser – Director, Systems and Applications
  • Raymond Kellogg – Director, Computing Infrastructure
  • John (Ivan) Kozin – Technical Support Engineer
  • Jisong Li – Programmer Specialist
  • Edward (Rusty) May, Jr. – Director, Technology Administration
  • Ali Mohseni – Programmer Specialist
  • Amanda Mojica – Director, Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects
  • William Moroz – Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure Manager
  • Andrew Mortensen – Programmer Specialist
  • Karen Musmanno – System Manager
  • Jeffrey Otis – Director – Cloud Computing
  • Jill Pelletier – Secretary 2
  • Chris Perugini – Web Application Development Specialist
  • Dennis Reiman – VP, Technology and CIO
  • Chamis Reinhart – Instructional Support Specialist
  • Mary Robinson – Lead Telephone Operator
  • Charlene Rocanelli Leichter – Data Base Manager
  • Vinnie Rubano – Network Administrator
  • Chester Sample – Customer Support Center Manager
  • Marvin Thomas – Director, Systems Integration
  • Vu Trieu – Director – User Services
  • Lindsay Wargo – Customer Support Center Lead




The SCSU President’s Commission on Social Justice Recognition Committee proudly presents our fourteenth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who have been lending a helping hand, with acts of kindness large and small, not only for their fellow Owls, but also for friends, neighbors, and strangers.

We recognize and celebrate Melisa Beecher, Mikayla Bruton, Phil Bryant, Dee Dee Dahlman, Shermaine Edmonds, Adam Gerstein, Erin Heidkamp, Lisa Kortfelt, Cassi Meyerhoffer, Chelsea Ortiz, Barbara Paris, Robin Peters, Angela Ruggiero, Stanley Seligas, Cynthia Shea-Luzik, Cindy Simoneau, Alisa St.Georges, Jacqueline Toce, and Vu Trieu for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness have been making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Melisa Beecher

Student Melisa Beecher has not missed a beat when it comes to updating the True Blue Owls social media platforms, her nominator wrote, adding that “She has demonstrated that even when times get tough, you persevere and push through. Some of her posts on Instagram during the beginning of the pandemic and campus closing received the most traction on their page. This is because she tried to use uplifting stories and pictures of her baby Otus to bring the morale of the Southern Community back to campus. She continued to update the Southern community and keep everyone happy while staying safe as well as Southern Strong, throughout the entire campus closing. Even today she continues to post and use baby Otus as a tool to bring happiness and joy to all of her fellow Owls. After all, we are all connected to our ONE Southern, Owl Nation of Owls Helping Owls.”

Melisa Beecher

Mikayla Bruton

Mikayla Bruton was nominated by a fellow student, who wrote that Bruton is SouthernStrong because she has been taking two summer classes while still battling COVID-19 at her job as a PCA. Her nominator wrote that Bruton “radiates the utmost positivity and loves to ensure her patients are receiving the best care possible. She always makes sure to check in with you even though her schedule is always packed with things to do. Being such a busy person, Mikayla still continues to care for those around her and is genuinely such a kind person to all.”

Mikayla Bruton

Phil Bryant

Coordinator of High-Tech Classrooms Phil Bryant was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Bryant “has been instrumental in getting 20 Hy-Flex (Hybrid-Flexible) classrooms configured with new technology needs while under critical time constraints and with minimal resources. The rooms are designed to enable simultaneous teaching of students in the room as well as online.”

The first 12 classrooms were completed last week and the last eight will be done by August 14, according to Bryant’s nominator. Bryant, he wrote, was “very responsive and did a tremendous job coordinating efforts with Facilities, other IT Staff and multiple vendors including HB Communications (AudioVisual), Mercury Communications (network wiring), Purchasing, and Receiving” and did all this within an eight-week window, while still handling normal operations.

Phil Bryant

Dee Dee Dahlman

Nominated by a colleague, Dee Dee Dahlman, IT Coordinator for Residence Life, has been working tirelessly to support the housing assignment needs for Southern students. Dahlman’s nominator wrote that she “has operationalized all housing adjustments in billing, configured rooms to meet current occupancy guidelines, and is now working diligently to get students assigned to housing and fill residence hall beds. Dee is remarkably dedicated to our students and our program!”

Dee Dee Dahlman

Shermaine Edmonds

Nominated by a member of the university administration, Shermaine Edmonds, administrative assistant in the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, “has shown an exemplary dedication to students’ academic success and personal wellbeing.” Her nominator wrote that Edmonds’ “work ethic and effectiveness to complete projects and tasks support the School of Graduate and Professional Studies in achieving new successes in terms of building enrollments and moving convincingly in new strategic directions. She is knowledgeable and the go-to person for all of us. Her professionalism, positive personality, and great sense of humor helps the SGPS team feel like a family working together to make positive change in the lives of our students. During Covid times she was at the forefront of our campus office transition to virtual office and led the multidimensional coordination from IT to Budget to student services, and to outreach activities very successfully. She has very deservingly earned respect and affection of everyone in our team. She is an inspiration and defines our strength!”

Shermaine Edmonds

Adam Gerstein

Adam Gerstein, Technical Support Engineer in IT, was nominated by a faculty member, who wrote that, “During the COVID-19, Adam has offered the WLL department for various technological consultations. When the department decided to distribute the Ipad pro to the full-time faculty members for teaching preparation. Adam helps the lab director to check in the supervision account and try out the devices and prepare to provide the solutions for us. Adam is very proactive and responsible. He always explains how he is going to solve the problems, which gives us a whole picture to understand problem-solving progress. We appreciate Adam and his effort should be recognized.”

Adam Gerstein

Erin Heidkamp

Erin Heidkamp, the director of the Office of International Education, was nominated by a colleague, who wrote, “The pandemic has disrupted our campus community in dramatic and difficult ways including the loss of our sense of international community. Our international students have suffered a great deal as a result of the pandemic and the Presidential proclamation in recent weeks, they have faced great uncertainty about their futures and Erin has been a fierce advocate and compassionate source of stability as we navigated this situation. Additionally, our Southern students have lost the opportunity to study abroad but through Erin’s vision for a virtual ‘Owls in Flight’ international exchange, students have had the opportunity to connect with students at our partner institutions all over the world from the safety of their homes. In the face of uncertainty, disappointment, and disruption, Erin has remained committed to fostering international community and connection. At a time when International Education as a sector is being challenged like never before, Erin has found innovative ways to continue to provide our international and domestic students not only with the support they need, but with new and exciting opportunities to develop global connections and cultural exchange. It is through her guidance and leadership that the Office of International Education has remained a steadfast resource for our international and domestic students.”

Erin Heidkamp

Lisa Kortfelt

Nominated by a university administrator, Lisa Kortfelt, the director of environmental health and safety for the University, has played the lead role in developing all safety measures in compliance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC). According to her nominator, she has worked tirelessly with faculty, staff and facilities personnel to prepare the campus for opening and has gone so far as to meet with vendors at 4 a.m. to review facilities and necessary campus installations.

Lisa Kortfelt

Cassi Meyerhoffer

Nominated by a faculty colleague, Cassi Meyerhoffer, associate professor of sociology, has “completely immersed herself in racial justice work over the past few months.” Her nominator wrote that Meyerhoffer has worked to support antiracist organizing in Hamden and New Haven, particularly around ending police brutality, and has also “helped organize white accountability and learning spaces to further help challenge fellow white people to deeply understand and then undo racism.” Meyerhoffer’s research and teaching interests are in the areas of systemic racism, racial residential segregation, and the role of race in American policing.

Cassi Meyerhoffer

Chelsea Ortiz

Chelsea Ortiz, the Department of Nursing‘s information and admissions coordinator, was nominated by a faculty colleague. However, wrote Ortiz’s nominator, “she is more than her title. Chelsea is one of the most invaluable members of our department. Chelsea takes on projects, and streamlines processes without being asked. She is helpful to all of us in whatever role we hold in the department. She has an open door policy with the students. Always ready to help them. They know they can contact her and she will be there. During the pandemic she has continued to not only do her job but continued to look for new ways to support the students during these very uncertain times. She’s not only supportive of our current students, but also all the incoming students who have a multitude of concerns as they start their education in nursing and reach out to her to get answers.”

Chelsea Ortiz

Barbara Paris

Nominated by a student, Rabbi Barbara Paris is the advisor to Southern’s Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus. Throughout COVID-19, her nominator wrote, “Rabbi Barbara has continued to be a mentor, educator, and ally. She has not let this global pandemic dim her spirit or her passion for connecting with students. She adapted without hesitation to our new online format and not only continued to be involved in campus life but spread her impact even further.”

As the Hillel advisor, Paris has been offering opportunities for students to learn about Judaism and take part in Jewish customs virtually. Beginning in April, and still occurring every Friday afternoon, Paris hosts Hebrew classes over Zoom, and later in the evening, she hosts a Shabbat candle lighting service. “Because of her,” Paris’ nominator wrote, “I (and several other students) can now read Hebrew and am learning about my culture.”

Every week for Shabbat, her nominator wrote, Paris has one student take the weekly Parsha (a weekly portion of the Torah) and deliver a commentary. “I have found this to be tremendously interesting and also inspiring,” her nominator wrote. “She is challenging me to delve into the Torah, offer my own interpretations, and engage in conversation with others. She has been such a light in the exceptionally trying times and has given me an outlet to not only learn but to express myself.”

Paris also hosted a virtual Passover Seder in April. Hillel club members joined her and her family as they learned about and celebrated Passover. Paris also assembled and delivered Passover baskets filled with traditional foods for senior citizens and those in need in her community.

Paris’ nominator wrote that “Rabbi Barbara has responded to this pandemic with such kindness, compassion, and perseverance. I am so grateful that I have had her throughout all of this. She has truly been an ally and I know I can reach out to her whenever I need to. She is not letting this pandemic deter her from helping others, whether that be through Zoom calls or by delivering a challah from 6 feet away. She truly epitomizes ‘SouthernStrong’ and is keeping her spirit high while raising the spirits of those around her.”

Barbara Paris

Robin Peters

Nominated by a staff member, Purchasing Assistant Robin Peters “has helped to keep purchasing moving smoothly during this chaotic time in our lives. She has been patient in explaining what docs are needed for each specific process while at the same time getting everything handled in a timely manner,” her nominator wrote, adding, “Things would be a mess if [Peters] wasn’t there to help keep things organized and moving along with all the vendors and contracts that come across her desk.”

Robin Peters

Angela Ruggiero

Angela Ruggiero was nominated by a university administrator, who called her “one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic academic advisors on our campus.” In her new role as associate director of Healthcare Studies, her nominator wrote, Ruggiero “works tirelessly to guide new and continuing students through this degree program or prepare to submit applications to our nursing program. She provides outstanding training and mentoring to her staff. She does her job quietly and with great humility. She encourages, inspires, and celebrates our students’ successes.”

Angela Ruggiero

Stanley Seligas

A member of the Facilities Operations staff, Stanley Seligas was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Seligas has helped to lead the preparation for classrooms for the return to campus. His nominator wrote that Seligas “has met with faculty and staff to determine location of plexiglass and other necessary preparations for the safety of students, faculty and staff. He has ordered PPE and supervised the installation of all safety measures related to the virus and a safe return to campus.”

Stanley Seligas

Cynthia Shea-Luzik

Manager of Procurement Services Cynthia Shea-Luzik was nominated by a colleague, who wrote, “I am strongly recommending Cynthia Shea-Luzik because since COVID19 hit she has been working tirelessly with facilities, residence life and other areas to secure PPE products to protect our students, faculty and staff. She has done extensive research to find quality products while paying close attention to the University’s bottom line all while continuing to do her job as the Manager of Procurement Services. During COVID she has become one of the ‘go to’ persons for all things related to dealing with preparations for COVID, answering phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night.”

Cynthia Shea-Luzik

Cindy Simoneau

Cindy Simoneau, chair of the Journalism Department, was nominated by a faculty member, who wrote that  Simoneau “always goes above and beyond — but especially so in response to COVID-19. In her many roles as a campus leader, she has worked tirelessly since campus transitioned to remote learning.”

As Journalism Department chair, Simoneau has been in constant communication with full-time faculty and adjuncts, keeping all up-to-date on the return to campus in the fall. Her nominator wrote that Simoneau has held countless meetings, both one-on-one and as groups, to help answer questions and hear faculty concerns. She helped organize a virtual retirement party for Journalism Professor Jerry Dunklee, incorporating more than 50 people, including Journalism alumni, faculty, and his family members. She also planned and led a graduation celebration for the department’s seniors.

As chair of UCF, Simoneau helped the large committee finish out the semester without complication, completing important university business while faculty were still navigating the new normal. She continues to work behind the scenes to get UCF ready for business in the fall.

As adviser to two campus media outlets (The Southern News and Crescent magazine), Simoneau guided students through coverage of important campus issues, and pushed them to think of new ways to complete their work.

Cindy Simoneau

Alisa St.Georges

Nominated by a colleague, Alisa St.Georges is an administrative assistant in the Office of the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Her nominator wrote that “as soon as the university shut down, Alisa swung into action…coordinating with the Health & Human Services department secretaries to make sure we had access to everything we needed to successfully work from home. She has organized weekly meetings so that the secretaries feel connected to each other and to the university, giving us a ‘safe place’ to air our concerns and anxieties as well as share successes and workarounds. Alisa is constantly sharing updates regarding policies and procedures, the fall reopening, and everything else that may be relevant. She is always available to answer questions and never hesitates to lend a helping hand. As a new SCSU employee, it would have been very easy for me to feel completely overwhelmed when the university suddenly switched to remote operations – but knowing Alisa was there to help really lowered my stress level and enabled me to focus on learning and performing my duties. In addition, she has provided unlimited training and insight, all while remaining upbeat and positive about everything. Alisa has so many of her own responsibilities, but she has unselfishly taken on so much more in order to ensure the continued success of HHS and every single person who works with her!!”

Alisa St.Georges

Jackie Toce

Nominated by a colleague, Jackie Toce is the Head of Technical Services in Buley Library. While a lot of the work done in the Technical Services division is “behind the scenes,” her nominator wrote, its impact is not — the library added over 70,000 electronic resources to its collection since March. As the division head, Toce has worked with library faculty and staff colleagues to ensure that everyone in the Technical Services division had what they needed to get that work done while telecommuting.

Toce coordinated with the other supervisor in the division to make sure that staff had what they needed to complete their projects and to provide opportunities for staff professional development, especially as staff shifted toward more electronic resources and online services. Toce also personally cataloged thousands of those newly added resources to make them accessible in Southern Search. Her nominator wrote that Toce “has also repeatedly considered the good of the the division and the library in making decisions about her own schedule, professional development opportunities, and work.”

At the system level, Toce participated in the CSCU libraries’ response to the pandemic as the Expert Team leader for Resource Management for which, among other things, she quickly reviewed records for hundreds of temporarily added resources to facilitate their prompt inclusion in the libraries’ catalogs.

Jackie Toce

Vu Trieu

Vu Trieu, director of User Services in IT, was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Trieu “has been instrumental in getting 20 Hy-Flex (Hybrid-Flexible) classrooms configured with new technology needs while under critical time constraints and with minimal resources. The rooms are designed to enable simultaneous teaching of students in the room as well as online.”

The first 12 classrooms were completed last week and the last eight will be done by August 14, according to Trieu’s nominator. Trieu, he wrote, was “very responsive and did a tremendous job coordinating efforts with Facilities, other IT Staff and multiple vendors including HB Communications (AudioVisual), Mercury Communications (network wiring), Purchasing, and Receiving” and did all this within an eight-week window, while still handling normal operations.

Vu Trieu