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social justice

The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our thirteenth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are 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 Shawneen Buckley, Resha Cardone, Katie DeOliveira, Afia Opoku, and Jose Zapata Cabrera for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Shawneen Buckley

Nominated by a colleague, Shawneen Buckley is the Clinical Field Placement Coordinator for the graduate program in Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Communication Disorders. She is charged with ensuring that graduate students in the program are placed in and successfully complete a series of clinical externships they need to graduate and subsequently enter the workforce. Her nominator wrote that “This is a daunting task under typical circumstances, and became a seemingly impossible task in March when all medical and educational externship sites shut down and/or excluded student interns due to the pandemic. This left a cohort of 45 CMD graduate students potentially unable to complete their program, graduate, and enter the workforce. To say it simply, Shawneen worked miracles to explore and eventually establish clinical placement experiences that has allowed virtually every student in this group to complete their program. She invested endless hours tirelessly reaching out to professional colleagues across the state and the country, helping them to explore and establish mechanisms to accept and support our students. No one initially thought this could be done, and across the nation similar programs have failed to do so, but due to Shawneen’s creativity, commitment and tireless work, our students thrived and successfully completed their graduate program!”

Shawneen Buckley

Resha Cardone

Nominated by a colleague, Resha Cardone is chair of the World Languages and Literatures Department. Her nominator wrote that “Chair Cardone has acted proactively and timely to assist the WLL department to transform our course online smoothly. She initiated an online teaching committee and asked the language lab director, Elu Tu, to lead the committee. Her leadership creates transparent communication allowing faculty members to express challenges in pedagogy and technology. She has worked with the lab director closely to provide devices and technological resources to support the whole department. She also checks in on a regular basis to assure the colleagues’ health. I strongly recommend the Chair Cardone deserves the award.”

Resha Cardone

Katie DeOliveira

Nominated by a student, Katie DeOliveira is director of the Academic Success Center. Her nominator wrote that DeOliveira “has had her hands full ever since the transition to online classes in the Spring. Katie, along with the rest of the ASC staff, seamlessly facilitated the transition to online academic services including online PAL sessions, online tutoring, and online academic coaching sessions.”

This summer, DeOliveira has been working with the ASC staff and the coordinators to provide online training for new PALs, tutors, navigators, and coaches. She has even been planning to offer a new CRLA certification program for PALs and coaches, in addition to the existing tutor CRLA certification program.

Currently, she is hard at work preparing for the ASC to safely operate in the fall. She has facilitated the installation of Plexiglas to keep the students and success navigators safe, along with many other safety protocols. She is also planning to host as many in-person academic services as possible in accordance with social distancing and safety guidelines.

As DeOliveira’ nominator wrote, “With SCSU’s students’ success and safety as her highest priorities, Southern is lucky to have an ASC Director as competent and as caring as Katie!”

Katie De Oliveira

Afia Opoku

Afia Opoku, ’13, (B.S. in Sociology) is currently an M.A candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies and was nominated by a faculty member. Her nominator wrote, “As a mental health and social justice advocate, Afia centers her academic work and life purpose around Black feminism and the healing of historically oppressed and marginalized communities through art, storytelling and activism. In the last few weeks of combatting twin pandemics, COVID-19 and racial injustices, we have gotten to witness the power of Afia’s activist passion and dedication for #BlackLivesMatter and racial justice. During these intense and unprecedented times, she has stepped up and exercised her activism by giving back to her community.”

Currently she, along with two of her sister friends (Southern alums), has created safety kits for protestors on the front line in the New Haven and Hartford area. In addition, she is also fundraising for bail-out funds, grassroots organizations, and local therapists to provide free sessions for individuals who do not have access to therapy. Her nominator wrote, “No doubt, in our mind, Afia exemplifies the best of SouthernStrong spirit!”

Afia Opoku

Jose Zapata Cabrera

Recent graduate Jose Zapata Cabrera, ’20, is a former intern in the state Department of Children and Families. He has volunteered in countless nonprofit organizations, ranging from after-school programs to churches. Last year, he ended his volunteer service at Yale New Haven Bridgeport Hospital, where he was awarded a brief internship. He continues to advocate for oppressed and vulnerable populations, as he has done for more than 10 years. Since he is also a Youth Ministry Leader at a local Christian church in Bridgeport, he has made hundred of calls, has referred families in need to local community resources and has been in frequent talks with local politicians to enhance social justice. All in all, his nominator wrote, Zapata Cabrera “will continue to do everything that is in his power to lift his community now more than ever, that he has been awarded his BSW from Southern through his emblem of ‘good prayers translated to good actions.'”

Jose Zapata Cabrera



The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our twelfth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are 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 the Registrar’s Office staff for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Nominated by a faculty member who wrote that everything the Registrar’s Office staff does is a team effort, this individual added that this team “has kept the school afloat in many ways. In addition to handling probably hundreds of late withdrawals and pass/fail requests, there has been a strong effort to ensure that students graduate or progress across the board.” He wrote that, “Individuals such as Bob Drobish and those who work with him have applied Herculean efforts to redo the entire fall schedule to help make students aware of what is happening in a couple of months. Alicia [Carroll] has been incredible in redoing the catalog with all that is going on so that the newly approved programs will be in place before the students arrive on campus in a couple of months. I know the Registrar’s Office doesn’t normally get recognition as the more high profile areas on a campus get, but I think in this situation they should.”

The Registrar’s Office staff include:

  • Linda Friess-Mordente, Assistant Registrar
  • Kelly Weiler, Office Assistant
  • Ebonee Brown, Assistant Registrar
  • Jen Ruggiero, Assistant Registrar
  • Evalisa Alvarez, Secretary
  • Kaitlin Kiely, Graduate Assistant
  • Bob Drobish, Associate Registrar
  • Rondell Butler, Office Assistant
  • Cynthia Patterson, Office Assistant
  • Jaime Alexander, Assistant Registrar
  • Alicia Carroll, Registrar
  • Monica Raffone, Associate Registrar
  • Nuncia Moniello, Assistant Registrar
  • Andre Scott, Assistant Registrar
  • Elizabeth Lopez, Office Assistant
  • Kathie Cervone, Office Assistant
  • Cynthia Hicks, Office Assistant

Jonathan Wharton

Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, recently published an op-ed on CT News Junkie: “The Sudden Interest In Race In America…And Our Backyards” (July 3, 2020). In the op-ed, Wharton expresses his curiosity “as a Black American . . . why it took so long for many white Americans to understand race in our country.” He discusses racism in New England in particular, and questions how long the deepened interest in race and racism will last.

Read Wharton’s op-ed



owls stand together

Southern’s Director of Athletics Jay Moran has announced that the Department of Athletics will host an anti-racism virtual panel discussion on Thursday, July 9, 2020 at 6 p.m. “Owls Stand Together Against Racism” is open to all SCSU student-athletes and will be the first of several in a series of programs to discuss and address racism.

Read more about the panel discussion

The panel will be moderated by Dr. Steven Hoffler, Ph.D., L.C.S.W, associate professor and member of SCSU’s Social Work Department and will feature a panel consisting of Southern Connecticut Hall of Fame members James Barber and Dawn Stanton, Men’s Basketball Head Coach Scott Burrell and Volleyball Assistant Coach Marshay Greenlee, who designed the concept of the forum. In addition, a Southern Connecticut student-athlete will be chosen to participate on the panel. The five individuals will also serve as group leaders during break-out sessions, with Dian Brown-Albert, SCSU’s Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs, serving as a co-facilitator for the session led by the student-athlete.

An article in the Connecticut Post, “SCSU coach knows uncomfortable conversations key to discussion of race” (by Jeff Jacobs, July 2, 2020), highlights Greenlee’s inspiration to bring such a discussion to Southern’s Athletics Department and her efforts at bringing it to fruition.

Marshay Greenlee


The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our eleventh group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are 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 Evalisa Alvarez, Taylor Bird, Oscar Clark, Ludmyr Merlain, and Karen Musmanno for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Evalisa Alvarez

Nominated by a colleague, Evalisa Alvarez is a secretary in the Registrar’s Office. Her nominator wrote that Alvarez took on a project to digitize the department’s academic record archives during this pandemic, and that it was no small task. “She understands how important this was to help our office continue to work from a safe remote location,” her nominator wrote, “while still striving to provide the same level of excellent service for our students and alumni needing access to their records. Evalisa prepared, indexed, and boxed 250,000 records last week, that’s huge! These are now shipped off to our vendor to become digitized, this was a great service to the University, and our entire office is truly grateful to her for taking this on!”

Evalisa Alvarez

Taylor Bird

Nominated by a faculty member, Taylor Bird is a graduate student in the Department of Communication Disorders. Her nominator wrote that she has been a positive force for change within the department by providing open and honest communication with faculty and leadership about her experience and perspective as one of the few Black female students within the department. She organized and produced a powerful video in support of the Black Lives Matter movement featuring a message from every graduate student in her cohort. “Her open letter, along with the video, has deeply affected all of us,” her nominator wrote. In her letter, Bird said that she hoped her actions might “spark some positive change within the department.” “However,” her nominator wrote, “her actions have gone beyond a spark and have provided the fuel to ignite significant change. Her bravery, honesty, and leadership have inspired our department to take direct action that will result in diversification and inclusion, today, tomorrow and in the months and years ahead.”

During these past four months, Bird has skillfully navigated her school practicum placement which transitioned to remote learning during her final semester. She has been working effectively as a graduate clinician providing speech and language treatment services for children with communication disorders via remote learning. The transition to remote education has been a daunting task for experienced clinicians, and yet Bird navigated this uncharted territory with skill and grace. She will graduate in August 2020 and enter the profession as a speech-language pathology clinical fellow.

Taylor Bird

Oscar Clark

Music Department Secretary Oscar Clark was nominated by a member of the community. Clark not only works full time at Southern and serves as a religious resource for his community, but is also the agent of  VetFuel, Inc., a (501-C3) nonprofit agency based in New Haven. The directive of VetFuel, according to its website, is to “Offer all of Connecticut’s Veterans seamless assistance with mobility, health access, & means tested advocacy for the purpose of reintegration into civilian life.” Clark, as VetFuel’s agent, is responsible for all risks associated with the agency, the direction of the agency to some degree, and calculated growth within its mission. According to his nominator, Clark “came up with this great idea to market VetFuel as a brand and we are working toward that goal right now with very powerful attorneys who are working pro-bono. Under Oscar, we have had three successful presidents assist the organization, we have grown exponentially in our mission, and our grant awards, and have always had a keen eye on social justice.”

Clark’s nominator added that it was Clark who suggested “we run a neighbor to neighbor program in the Connecticut Valley Area to ensure people of Muslim faiths, affected by the war, and former soldiers could sit down in a space of peace and talk about how war has affected them. And it was Oscar Clark, that helped an ailing veteran in his final hours of hospice care, holding his hand, singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ as the man passed.” Clark is much more than just an SCSU employee, his nominator wrote, adding, “He is a community anchor and a recognizable figure of social justice at the local, state, and federal level, since we are now working with federal agencies as potential grantors.”

Oscar Clark

Ludmyr Merlain

A graduate student in Marriage and Family Therapy, Ludmyr Merlain was nominated by a member of the community, who wrote that she “has been lending a helping hand by helping youths in her community get through these difficult times. She been having Zoom meeting with children from her church where they talk about any issues they maybe having in these difficult times. I know she’s been a great help to . . . families in the church.”

Merlain’s nominator wrote that her weekly Zoom meetings with the teenagers’ class at church helps to “uplift them through all the unforeseen circumstances happening in this world right now. In these unfortunate times parents are trying to find ways to keep things as normal as possible for their children and Ludmyr is doing what she can to help the teenagers process and understand what’s going on. I wanted to highlight her efforts because sometimes i feel like they go unnoticed and i want to appreciate her for all that she does.”

Ludmyr Merlain

Karen Musmanno

Nominated by a faculty member, IT Systems Manager Karen Musmanno is, her nominator wrote, “truly one of those people the community relies upon to support individuals and University-wide initiatives, such as in May the Faculty Senate elections and most recently the Digital Evaluation project. She is consistently a thought partner in driving technological advances to enable greater learning outcomes as well as building enhanced efficiency and capability in faculty. There are a few who see the future and act on it. Karen has been on the forefront of providing support and driving innovation through generous sharing of her knowledge, time and unwavering belief that we can also always be better.”

Tim Parrish

English Professor Tim Parrish, coordinator of the creative writing program and author of the memoir Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, recently published an op-ed in the New York Daily News, “Our work cut out: What whites need to try to learn and change when it comes to race and racism” (July 1, 2020).

In the op-ed, Parrish looks at the antiracism protests that have been taking place across the country, and considers the work that white people must engage in for real systemic change to occur. He writes, “Will we justice-and-equity-leaning white people, especially middle-and-upper-class whites, continue to make a difference? Only if we do the hard work personally and politically. We have to listen to people of color and educate ourselves about black Americans’ reality through books, articles, documentaries and even movies by black people. We have to look into our own heads and hearts and root out racist indoctrination from privilege and institutions.”




The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our tenth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are 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 Ashley Burkell, Alyssa Maddern, Jay Moran, Sal Rizza, and Meredith Sinclair for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Ashley Burkell

Nominated by a faculty member, Ashley Burkell is a public health major, and her nominator wrote that “each year she strives to do more to promote equity.” Burkell recently emailed her nominator, who is also her advisor, to tell her that learning about privilege freshman year had led her to understand how she needs to help others with less privilege. While educating herself on social media and attending recent protests, she still didn’t feel it was enough. On a recent weekend, Burkell decided to use her week’s grocery money to make vegan pasta and garlic bread and sell it in her neighborhood (with contact-free pickup) to support Black Lives Matter Global Network. In fewer than three days, she had already raised $1100. Her nominator reports that Burkell intends to repeat this drive in July with a local social justice/equity group as the recipient. Burkell, her nominator wrote, even included instructions for safely warming the food, to avoid food-borne illness. Burkell, she wrote, “is using all she has learned in her public health and nutrition classes to help promote health equity.”

Ashley Burkell

Alyssa Maddern
Nominated by a faculty member, Alyssa Maddern is a full-time student who completed her undergraduate degree in recreation & leisure (concentration: therapeutic recreation) and is continuing her education for her master’s at Southern in recreation therapy. She was hired in February as a part time activities assistant at Maplewood Senior Living at Orange (MAO); however, amidst the pandemic, she has been working more and has been given more responsibilities and challenges to overcome. Due to this pandemic, her nominator wrote, Maddern “has been able to prove herself and her expansive abilities through creating innovative activities for her residents. Those activities include developing and distributing a daily BINGO newsletter to play together, but apart from others, a Workout From Your Apartment packet that shows her residents how many repetitions of an exercise they should do, a detailed explanation of how to do the specific exercise, and a hand drawn cartoon figure, properly doing the exercise, a Fun Brain Fitness Packet she creates for each and every Friday that includes themed sudoku, word searches, crosswords, anagrams, hidden pictures, etc. She has also provided Happiest of Hours to her residents’ apartments, facilitates 1:1 Hallway Exercises, developed and distributes a TV Guide for her residents to follow and tune in to entertaining movies and shows Thursday through Sunday, rolls around a cooler as the ice cream woman and distributes a variety of ice cream to her residents, developed and collaborated with her residents to create a ‘We Are All In This Together’ banner, and the list continues on.”

For all of her efforts, Maddern was recently awarded the H.E.A.R.T Award for the month of May at MAO; H.E.A.R.T. is the philosophy MAO associates embody in their work performance, going above and beyond with all their heart. H.E.A.R.T stands for Humor, Empathy, Anatomy, Respect and Reaching Out to Others, and Trust and Triumph. Her nominator wrote that “Each and everyday Alyssa brightens the lives of older adults who have been separated from family and friends during this epidemic! She is truly a hero!!”

Alyssa Maddern

Jay Moran

Nominated by a colleague, Southern’s Director of Athletics Jay Moran has led his staff, coaches, and teams — comprised of approximately 500 student-athletes — through, at his own admittance, his most challenging year as an athletic director. The department was faced with the EEE scare in the fall, which Moran addressed, and through coordination with his staff managed to avoid canceling any athletic competition or practice. Shortly thereafter, Moran’s nominator wrote, “the athletic department and gymnastics program, to say nothing of the entire SCSU community, was struck with the tragic loss of [student gymnast] Melanie Coleman. Jay has dealt with personal tragedy of his own, and never backed away from lending a helping hand and the needed patience to anyone that needed to talk.”

Moran then oversaw a midseason coaching change and was later confronted with the coronavirus pandemic. His nominator wrote that “he has been at the forefront of coordinating efforts for the entire Athletic Department in lending support to its student-athletes, and has worked tirelessly with the message being the same along the way: we have to get our student-athletes safely back on campus and get our fall student-athletes a season. Jay’s style of leadership ensures inspiration to his staff and coaches and presents himself as personable and approachable to student-athletes, as they are always first in line for his attention.”

Jay Moran

Sal Rizza

Nominated by a student, Sal Rizza, director of Orientation, Transition and Family Engagement, was described as having “contributed numerous outreaches and important knowledge to Southern students and people in general during this hard time for people fighting for a change in systemic racism. He has been a shoulder to cry on, person to reach out to, and an educator to fight for this change and make it possible for others to fight too.”

His nominator added that he recommended Rizza because students look up to him. Rizza has been on Instagram lives with students “to send positivity and distractions from being in quarantine,” wrote his nominator. “He has tried to give students a positive place to go, in order to feel like they are at home on Southern’s campus. There were many Instagram lives and event schedules that he and his orientation crew put together that truly helped me and other students during this time.” Rizza is also a part of the Orientation Ambassador Alumni group on Facebook, and his nominator wrote that he is “always available to reach out to and support those who are suffering through the tragedies in the black and brown communities.” Rizza, his nominator wrote, has always supported students and lifted them up through hard times, but “he has just truly shined through during this time. He was an amazing boss when I worked as an orientation ambassador during my time at Southern and he is an even more amazing person inside and out. Students are very lucky to have him on Southern’s campus.”

Sal Rizza

Meredith Sinclair

Nominated by a student, Meredith Sinclair, associate professor of English education, is described as having always been a supportive professor: “As soon as we went online” when the pandemic caused campus to close in the spring semester, her nominator wrote, “she assured us that our mental health was the first priority, and she adjusted our class to meet the needs of the students. Her biweekly TEAMS chats provided a place not only to discuss class content, but to express how we are feeling during these times.”

Sinclair taught an engaging class not just on the methods of teaching, but on unlearning racist biases in order to become better teachers, her nominator wrote. Sinclair is a member of the Educational Justice Collective at Southern as well and has reached out to the group to arrange discussions on teacher activism. Since the semester has ended, Professor Sinclair has continued to show her support for the Southern community by voicing her support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the end to racial injustice, especially within education, and attending protests.

Meredith Sinclair

The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our ninth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are 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 Rondell Butler, Adam Cohen, Chelsea Harry, Debra Risisky, and Barbara Tinney for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Rondell Butler
Nominated by three staff colleagues, Rondell Butler is recognized as an exceptional member of the Registrar’s Office staff who goes above and beyond in demonstrating commitment to students and the community on a daily basis. His supervisor has many examples of Rondell responding to calls to speak to area high schools and student groups to share information about Southern, personally delivering transcripts to scholarship organizations on behalf of students, calming upset students and more. These activities are not part of Butler’s regular job description, but he does them because, in the words of his supervisor, “that’s just who he is.” Among his fellow administrative support employees, he is a leader they seek out for guidance and assistance with challenging student service situations because they trust him to bring grace, compassion, and respect to every interaction. “We’re grateful to have someone with Rondell’s integrity and service orientation on the Enrollment Management team,” wrote one nominator.

Another colleague noted in his nomination of Butler, “Rondell without question is an ambassador for the university. He does not hesitate to contribute above and beyond that which is required. His investment in the community on behalf of the university is remarkable. He not only volunteers as a presenter to youth and other community based groups, but also shares opportunities with other colleagues and coworkers encouraging their involvement. I recommend him without reservation.”

A third colleague wrote of Butler, “Mr. Butler is a major asset to SCSU. Knowledgeable, Hard working, fair, honest, loyal for starters. He solves problems, reviews all matters, Fantastic Human Being teammate.”

Rondell Butler

Adam Cohen
Adam Cohen, head women’s soccer coach, has been an outstanding source of leadership, guidance, and inspiration for the women’s soccer team and others during this pandemic, wrote his nominator, a fellow staff member. Cohen is in communication with the the student-athletes everyday on a variety of topics, including monitoring their academic involvement, checking on their families, sending motivational messages and COVID information, and keeping tabs on their overall well-being. Cohen’s nominator wrote that “He is providing the resources that show the student-athletes that they are cared for in a complete manner at SCSU. He has been accessible at all times for players to call or have video chats with so that they may discuss whatever is on their minds during this unprecedented time….and many have come to him and will continue to. Individually during this time he has continued to better himself by taking part in many webinars so that he may better serve the student-athletes of SCSU. The group is in a good place collectively as a result of Adam Cohen’s guidance.”

Adam Cohen

Chelsea Harry
Chelsea Harry, associate professor of philosophy, “has gone above and beyond in volunteering relative to food insecurity in the New Haven area during the pandemic,” wrote her nominator, a student. Her nominator explains that Harry has been on many food runs (picking up food from certain places and delivering them to people’s houses) and has worked with local soup kitchens many times to provide food for those in need. Most importantly, Harry’s nominator wrote, she “has extensively educated her students in her Honors 300 Service Learning course about what food insecurity is and how they can help in making a difference during this time of need by giving them the resources necessary to participate in food runs and volunteerism themselves, as well as discussions of the real effects that a lack of food has on society in such an unprecedented time.”

Chelsea Harry

Debra Risisky
Nominated by a student, Associate Professor of Public Health Debra Risisky is, the student wrote, “the person who opened my eyes to my white privilege as a white woman in America. Dr. Risisky taught me about equity, health disparities and social justice issues and how it is our responsibility to make change. Before I crossed paths with Dr. Risisky at Southern, I was blind to my privilege and had not put much thought into the struggles that BIPOC face every single day. Dr. Risisky encourages us to vote, march and demand justice. She’s an honorable woman and she has an incredible impact on students like me. During the outpour of Black Lives Matters and demanding justice for the lives lost due to racism and a broken system I decided to take direct action. This week I have sold vegan comfort meals out of my home to raise money for Black Lives Matter Global Network. As of today, I have raised $1,100 for the cause. I say this with my whole heart, if I did not cross paths with Dr. Risisky and open my eyes to the racial inequality and inequities, this money would not have been raised. Social justice is something I am very passionate about and will continue to speak out on for the rest my life and this is because of what Dr.Risisky taught me. Dr. Risisky has an incredible impact on her students and she is creating serious change for our generation.”

Debra Risisky

Barbara Tinney
Nominated by a student, Barbara Tinney, assistant professor of social work, was lauded for helping her students to stay on track after classes were moved online due to the pandemic. Her nominator wrote that Tinney “checked in with her each and every student at the beginning of each WebEx meeting. She also relaxed due dates at the beginning of the online transition, allowing us to plan ahead and lower the stress and anxiety that surfaced through this transition. She communicated consistently! For me, this was imperative to my academic success because I have an anxiety disorder and I felt my mind and body shutting down through this tough time. She made me feel that my learning was just as important to her as it was to myself! Thank you for providing a platform to recognize her efforts!”

Barbara Tinney

On June 16, English adjunct instructor Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy and her family will share their lives on a national stage when a documentary film about the family, Little Miss Westie, is screened on several TV channels. Stoehr-McCarthy, a graduate of Southern’s MFA in creative writing program who teaches composition at Southern, won the university’s prestigious J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teacher Award for 2017-18 and, more recently, the CSUS Board of Regents Adjunct Faculty System-Wide Teaching Award. She and her husband Chris McCarthy are the parents of two transgender teenagers, and the family’s journey over the past few years has been captured in Little Miss Westie. The film is named after an annual beauty pageant that takes place in West Haven, where the family lives. In the film, the McCarthys’ daughter, Ren, a trans girl, competes in the Little Miss Westie Pageant, and her older brother, Luca, a trans boy, coaches her on posing, make-up, and talent. Luca competed several years ago when he was living as a girl, so he’s an experienced adviser.

The film was made four years ago when son Luca (19 now) was 15 and daughter Ren (now 14) was 10.

“Little Miss Westie” premieres on WORLD Channel Tuesday, June 16, at 8 p.m. during his LGBTQ+ Pride Month and on worldchannel.org as part of its “America ReFramed” series. (It’s also on certain PBS stations Tuesday, namely WGBY in Springfield, Mass., and streaming platforms such as amdoc.org and PBS.org.)

The New Haven Register recently ran a feature about the McCarthy family and Little Miss Westie. Read “‘Little Miss Westie’ tells of West Haven family with 2 transgender kids,” by Joe Amarante, June 12, 2020

Download the PDF: ‘Little Miss Westie’ tells of West Haven family with 2 transgender kids

Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy



In recent days, the senseless, brutal killing of George Floyd and its ripple effects have placed the issues of racial inequality and injustice under an intense spotlight across the state, the nation, and around the world. To promote campus-wide dialogue, Southern is hosting a virtual panel discussion with Southern faculty, students and community members. Please join us.

Wednesday, June 17 (12 – 1:30 p.m.)

A community online forum streaming live on Southern’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SouthernCT/

A community online forum moderated by Jonathan L. Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, Southern Connecticut State University.

This event is open to the public, and a Facebook account is not required to attend.

Submit questions for the panelists here.


Shanté Hanks, ’97, M.S. ’99, 6th Yr. ’05, is the deputy commissioner of the State of Connecticut Department of Housing, with professional experience spanning government affairs, public policy, affordable housing development and education. She holds two Southern degrees and an advanced certificate.

Solomon James, ’22, a rising junior at Southern, is a community activist and the co-organizer of a recent racial justice march held in Danbury, Conn., in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Julian Madison is an associate professor of history at Southern with a scholarly focus on race and ethnicity, civil rights, culture and the Jazz Age. His books and manuscripts cover a wide range of topics, including desegregation of sports and the fight to end school segregation.

Cassi Meyerhoffer is an associate professor of sociology at Southern. Her research and teaching interests focus on systemic racism, racial residential segregation, and the role of race in American policing. She is working on a book proposal: From the Old Jim Crow to the New: Tracing the Roots of Reconstruction to Residential Segregation, Police Brutality, and the Mass Incarceration of Black Bodies.

Orisha Ala Nzambi Ochumare is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter New Haven. She is an anti-racism organizer and has done work with youth in local schools. She is currently the LGBTQ+ youth program officer at the New Haven Pride Center.

Timothy Parrish is a professor of English at Southern, an award-winning writer, and one of the architects of the university’s MFA program. He is the author of three books, including Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, a Memoir (U Press of Mississippi).