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The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our fifth 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 Noelle Brideau, Trever (Charles) Brolliar, Derek Faulkner, Lisa Kortfelt, and Jackie Scott 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!

Noelle Brideau
Noelle Brideau, a student, was nominated by a faculty member. Brideau was enrolled in this professor’s HON 300 course, Introduction to Service Learning, this semester, a course that focuses on food insecurity in the community. Because of COVID-19, the class’s planned community service projects fell through, and students had to develop new projects that could be accomplished while most students were living off campus and social distancing. “Not even a week into quarantine,” Brideau’s nominator wrote, “Noelle reached out to me to see if we could organize donations to send to a fellow SCSU student who spoke to our class earlier in the semester about her struggles with food insecurity. Noelle’s leadership helped us raise money to send to this student.” Her nominator continued, “A few weeks later, while our class was meeting over video chat to discuss service options, Noelle announced that she had already been serving the food insecure during the pandemic, volunteering to grocery shop for individual elderly members of her community. She asked if this work could count for her service requirement in our class. I said: of course!! We all then gave her a round of applause, as she is obviously a leader in more ways than one. I’m very impressed with Noelle’s quick action-minded thinking that has benefitted a number of people during this difficult time.”
Noelle Brideau
Trever (Charles) Brolliar
Trever Brolliar, director of academic technology, was nominated by a faculty member. His nominator wrote that this semester she was chairing a faculty search committee for Curriculum and Learning in the College of Education, and when the university closed, she was charged with conducting virtual campus visits (multiple interviews and presentations) for candidates but had very little idea of where to start. She wrote that she was referred to Brolliar, who “got in touch with me immediately and walked me through setting up WebEx meetings (approximately 15 meetings in all). I was so concerned about getting this right,” she wrote, “especially because it involved so many people — candidates from the outside, SCSU faculty and students, and our Dean and Dept. Chair. At one point, a candidate was having a lot of trouble with her audio and Trever worked with her to fix the issue so she could do her teaching and research presentations. His patient, generous support were key to a successful week of virtual campus visits that presented SCSU and the College of Education in a positive light. We can’t thank him enough!”
Trever Brolliar
Derek Faulkner

Student Derek Faulkner was nominated by a member of the staff, who described him as “an outstanding student leader who goes above and beyond when it comes to the Southern community.” When the University needed to close due to the pandemic, Faulkner worked with Chartwells to recover food off the line and at all of the retail locations across campus. The day after the University closed, he returned to campus to work with Chef Ernie Arroyo to clean out the refrigerators and deliver the food to St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.

At the end of March when the residential students moved out of the residence halls, Faulkner returned to assist with the nonperishable food donated during move out. With the help of the Facilities Operations Grounds Crew, he managed to get the food boxed up and stored in the warehouse. Faulkner coordinated with the nonprofit organization Haven’s Harvest to pick it up and deliver it to area food pantries in New Haven, his nominator wrote.

Lisa Kortfelt
Lisa Kortfelt is director of environmental health and safety for the entire SCSU campus. Her nominator, a colleague, wrote that “whenever you have a question or issue she is there ready to help you and will help you. She has bi-weekly safety meetings for us trade guys and training on equipment and other things.” When COVID-19 happened, Kortfelt’s nominator wrote, “she sent out a training booklet about the procedures we should be following on campus while we are still here working. She also handmade about 30 mask for us and dropped them off (she lives over an hour away). I haven’t talked to her about what she has been doing at home for her community and family. But if she is doing stuff for us workers I’m sure she is doing stuff at home too. Great lady, glad to have her on my team!!”
Lisa Kortfelt
Jackie Scott
Jackie Scott, an SCSU alumna who will begin her PhD program at Southern next month, was nominated by a fellow student. Scott happens to supervise her nominator at Recovery Network of Programs, a non-profit substance use treatment agency in the greater Bridgeport area. “Jackie has taken on so many new roles since this pandemic hit,” her nominator wrote. “She has been on the front lines, every day, working with the most vulnerable populations. She has been assisting clients in applying for basic needs, getting them phones to engage in telehealth, volunteering at local food banks, gathering food for the homeless, and helping our clients resolve their anxieties and traumas on a daily basis. All the while, Jackie has remained not only my boss, but my mentor. She calls me every single day just to ‘check in.’ If I start talking about work, she quickly diverts my attention back to “whats really important”, and that is my own personal struggles and progress during this trying time. Jackie has helped me to make important decisions about my college career, and she was one of the biggest reasons I chose Southern! Jackie is a perfect example of #SouthernStrong.”
Jackie Scott

Jean Breny, chairwoman of the Public Health Department, was interviewed recently by two radio stations about the racial health disparities associated with the coronavirus pandemic. She discussed a seeming spike in coronavirus cases in communities of color and places/areas of need.

Breny was interviewed on WICC (600 AM) and for the WSHU.org website. Read and listen to the WSHU story, “Son’s Death Highlights Testing Barriers For Black Residents” (By Cassandra Basler, April 21, 2020). Listen to the WICC interview.

Jean Breny

Maria Krol, associate professor of nursing and BSN director

The new BSN program director at Southern Connecticut State University, Maria Krol, has witnessed life at its most fragile. But Associate Professor of Nursing Krol, who has been a nurse for almost 30 years in the field of maternal child health — and in the neonatal intensive care unit — has seen some of those dire cases grow into the most healthful, and she plans to bring the knowledge, strength, and humanness needed to navigate those situations to her new role.

“I’ve been a nurse since 1990,” Krol said. “In the NICU, I always feel that parents are so courageous and that babies have such a battle. Sometimes we think it’s going to be the worst outcome, but they end up having the best life. Being able to help and give parents the ability to take home their babies is an honor.”

At the same time, she acknowledged that it isn’t always easy.

“When you think your life is bad,” she said, “you see these babies who have to undergo so much.” The parents, doctors, and nurses who care for those babies in critical condition undergo their own trauma as well and Krol is frank when people tell her, “I couldn’t do that.”

“It’s true, not everyone could do it,” she said. “There’s a lot to being a nurse. I’m current in my nursing practice. It makes me a better educator.”

Maria Krol

Krol was born in Peru and has lived in the United States for more than 30 years. She began her nursing career at Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing in the 1990s, and then her teaching career at BHSN in 2006. She knew from the beginning that the field of maternal child health was where she wanted to be, in a most-encompassing way: She didn’t just want to care for babies but rather, she wanted to help families learn the best way to care for those babies.

“When the nurse lets a family participate in care, you help parents gain confidence and trust themselves,” she said. “They touch and care differently. The babies grow and heal differently.”

She started teaching at Southern in 2012 and now works as a nurse at Stamford Hospital, where she has been for 17 years. It was there, in Stamford, that Krol’s work in the NICU took on extra urgency. The city recorded more than 2,300 cases of COVID-19 — the highest in Connecticut — and some of those cases were new mothers.

“For any pregnant woman who was positive, the baby went to NICU right away,” Krol said. “Was it scary? Yes. But does it stop us from going to work? No. These babies are separated from their parents, and no one else can visit. It was up to us, the nurses, to provide loving care to our tiny patients being affected by this virus.”

To Krol, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed society not just to the sad realities of the illness, but to troubling inequalities in the healthcare system.

“More and more, you see the disparity in healthcare with minorities,” Krol said. “One of things people don’t understand is that some people have to choose between feeding their families and possibly infecting their families because they can’t work from home. COVID has brought a light that there are health disparities. We need to address that. We can’t go on thinking that we’re a nation that provides equity when we don’t even provide health equity.”

More specifically, Krol feels that the field of nursing, too, suffers from imbalances.

“While I’m grateful for the free lunches and gratitude, nursing has a lot of problems and COVID has shown the light on how nurses are treated in hospitals and how important it is for us to advocate for nurses,” Krol said. “And Latinos are less than 10 percent of the nurses in the workforce. I want to bring them to Southern, where they can see themselves in this role.”

As a teacher and nurse and now, as BSN director in the nursing program, she has been and will continue to advocate for just that.

“Ten years ago, I started a National Association of Hispanic Nurses chapter at Bridgeport [Hospital School of Nursing], while working there, encouraging students to join,” she said. “When I came to Southern, I started a student chapter, but this year I encouraged students to select a title that was much more diverse. We needed to be more inclusive. This year we are the Multicultural Healthcare Leaders. I want there to be representation.”

An incident that stands out to Krol is particularly telling of her capabilities both within the hospital and the classroom. In the early 2000s, she was able to visit a NICU baby who had been in her care months earlier. In the NICU, the newborn hadn’t been able to breathe independently; he was inflated by high calories and steroids so he would have the protein needed to breathe. It was a difficult sight to see, but within six months of being home, he was sitting up on his own.

“It was so rewarding,” Krol said. “Every time I take care of a baby, I feel like I’m helping a family get there. So they can achieve on their own. So they don’t need my help anymore.”

In Krol’s new role, that same philosophy — of helping one grow and achieve — will continue to inspire nursing students for years to come.

Dr. Maria Krol is president and founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses; a member of the National Engagement Committee; President of the MuBeta Chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing; a member of the President’s Commission on Social Justice-Recognition Committee; and Advisor to the Multicultural Healthcare Leaders.


The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our third 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 Siobhan Carter-David, Zara DeLuca, Tess Marchant-Shapiro, Lisa Siedlarz, and Sabrina St. Juste 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!

Siobhan Carter-David

History Professor Siobhan Carter-David was nominated not once, but two times, once by a colleague and once by a former student. Carter-David’s colleague nominated her for the free film discussion series for young people that she has been conducting on Zoom for at least the last six weeks. Her nominator writes that the series addresses “how films ‘reflect various aspects of United States history and how we can use a critical eye to glean more from films outside of their entertainment value.'” Each week, Carter-David covers at least two films, and is including a variety of films that would be accessible to different age groups from An American Tail: Fievel Goes West to Malcolm X to The Great Gatsby.

Carter-David’s colleague wrote that, “In this time when many children and young adults might find themselves having more screen time this discussion series provides them with an educational opportunity in which to learn more about history and engage critically with films.

“Dr. Carter-David could easily have done this for her own children alone, but instead she is using her expertise, skills and talents to provide educational opportunities to members the broader community.”

Carter-David’s second nominator, a former student, praised her for being “a pillar of academic excellence and community builder even in the face of extreme uncertainty.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, her nominator wrote, Carter-David “has continued to build community by offering online film discussions, connecting people through her passion for history, cultivating a intellectually space for people to learn, during troubling times.”

In short, Carter-David’s former student wrote, she “represents all that is wonderful about Southern. Community, inclusion, equity and lifelong support. She is the epitome of Southern excellence.”

Siobhan Carter-David

Zara DeLuca

Assistant Professor of Communication Disorders Zara DeLuca was nominated by a student “for going above and beyond her teaching duties. When we first transitioned to online learning,” her nominator wrote, “and when our semester got turned upside down, she was the first professor to reach out telling me to not worry about her class right now, but to just focus on myself and emotional well-being. She then gave helpful information for meditation and mindfulness during these crazy times. Additionally, she reached out to us students, saying we could express our concerns, worries and feelings to her. I took her up on this offer. Being able to express my feelings to someone who understands and who provided encouraging words of wisdom, was uplifting. Once classes resumed, she continued to check in on all of us, staying after class times for us to talk to her about how we are doing. It is clear she truly cares about the well-being of each of her students. Her supportive and encouraging efforts proved to help immensely. She is a compassionate and caring professor, and her passion for not only teaching, but her students, is unparalleled.”

Zara DeLuca


Tess Marchant-Shapiro

Associate Professor of Political Science and Pre-Law Advisor Tess Marchant-Shapiro is “one of the kindest professors Southern has to offer,” wrote her nominator, a student. During this challenging time, her nominator wrote, Marchant-Shapiro “has gone above and beyond for her students, reaching out constantly to check in one-by-one on how we’re doing, and how she can make our experience easier (in her classroom and overall at the university).” Her nominator adds that Marchant-Shapiro schedules weekly Webex meetings to allow students to have classroom interaction with each other, but also as an opportunity for students to feel heard. “She ends every class meeting on a positive note, stressing how proud she is of all her students and how much she loves us!” In addition to what she does in the classroom and at the university, she also makes an impact in the Hamden community, volunteering at her local church and assisting members of the community by helping them apply for unemployment to regain a source of income lost due to the coronavirus pandemic. “To know her is to be truly blessed!” her nominator wrote.

Tess Marchant-Shapiro

Lisa Siedlarz

Lisa Siedlarz, student loan coordinator in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, was nominated by a member of the faculty for starting an online fundraiser to collect money to feed the health care workers on Yale New Haven Hospital’s floor EP9-7, which is a COVID-19 unit. As of April 20, the site had raised $6500, and the funds collected provided meals from New Haven’s Katalina’s Bakery and Christopher Martin’s at a cost of $210 per day to feed 18 front-line workers. “This not only helps New Haven establishments stay in business,” wrote Siedlarz’s nominator, “but provides much needed food for the health care workers who are daily risking their lives for others.” Siedlarz began providing these meals on March 30 and hopes to get enough donations to feed the COVID unit until the crisis is over. The funds she raised as of April 20 paid for meals through April 29, and she plans to make another call for donations so that the fund can feed the workers for a longer period.

Lisa Siedlarz

Sabrina St. Juste

Sabrina St. Juste, graduate intern in the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy & Support Center, has used all her social platforms to reach out to people in the community and students of SCSU, wrote her nominator, adding that she “has opened up her home to students who don’t have WiFi to get school work done. She does daily positive messages on Instagram, she goes on live Instagram to connect with people, talk to them about their mental state, and be that support for them during this pandemic.”

Sabrina St. Juste





The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our second 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 Maria Diamantis, David Martin, Laura McKay, Amanda Valentin, and Nicole Van Etten 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!

Maria Diamantis

Maria Diamantis, professor of curriculum and learning, was nominated by a student who wrote that she “has been amazing at not only transitioning our classes to online but providing support to students in this time of need! She keeps an open line of communication and continues to make sure her students are doing well and have everything they need during this time. She emails us frequently even if it is just to check up on us! She even has offered to make her students and their families cloth protective masks and mail them to us if we need them. She has gone above and beyond and cares not only about her students but everyone around her as well!”

Maria Diamantis

David Martin

Graduate student David Martin ran four miles, every four hours, for 48 hours so he could feed people in the state of Connecticut who could not feed themselves. According to Martin’s nominator, a fellow student, Martin saw that the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport was having a tough time running its food kitchen. Their donations were down 80 percent and the number of people coming in for meals increased fourfold during the COVID crisis. Martin decided to take part in a charity run and spent a week working with Catholic Charities, designing a donation page, reaching out to members of his community for donations, and then started running at 6 p.m. on April 3. He ran at 6 p.m., 10 p.m., 2 a.m., 6 a.m., 10 a.m., and so forth until his final run on April 5 at 2 p.m. He raised almost $4,000, which paid for the food center to operate for four months. It’s also enough money to feed 160 people for 2 weeks. As Martin’s nominator wrote, “He used his athletic abilities to bring together the community and he inspired others to run for for the poor that same weekend. David ended up running just over 50 miles, he ran for 7 hours and 35 min over the weekend, and ran a total elevation of 2,265 feet.”

David Martin

Laura McKay

Laura McKay, secretary in University Access Programs, has been going above and beyond her schedule for the outreach to prospective SEOP students and families, according to her nominator. McKay makes “available on weekends and after her shift if we have Webex events going on,” her nominator wrote, adding, “She has also cared for our staff by giving new face masks she was able to procure in limited supply, a sign of her generosity and concern for the well-being of our team and not solely looking out for oneself.”

Laura McKay

Amanda Valentin

Senior Amanda Valentin “is a fantastic human being that has done a ton for her friends, peers, and he community! wrote her nominator. Valentin is peer mentor, works with VPAS, and helps her friends while balancing classes and an internship. Her nominator, a fellow student, wrote that “I met her during the overnight stay starting our freshman year and she has made such an impact on me and so many others. I am amazed on how much she cares and advocates for those that are pushed down and hurt in some way. She is not afraid to stand up for those that need someone in their corner. She will constantly post things on social media about staying connected with one another, letting people know they still have assistance and services available to them, and that she is there if someone needs it. She’s always laughing and smiling and is just all around a perfect example of what our university stands for and what others should strive to be.”

Amanda Valentin and Otus

Nicole Van Etten

Nicole Van Etten is a senior, majoring in social work, and is the president of the student-run Social Work Organization (SWO). Her nominator, a faculty member, wrote that Van Etten has exhibited kind and generous leadership throughout the year and during this time of crisis has continued to rise to the occasion. “On and off campus, she has shown herself to be ‘SouthernStrong,'” her nominator wrote. Van Etten is currently employed at Liberty Community Services, a community-based agency in New Haven that provides housing and supportive services to our neighbors. She continues to work remotely with clients providing critical support to the most vulnerable members of our community. “In addition,” her nominator wrote, “she has rallied to keep the spirits of our graduating seniors high as they move through this final semester of college. Nicole manages the SWO Instagram account, sharing news from school and positive messages with our undergraduates. She helped to organize the SWO participation in the SCSU Walking Challenge, and thanks to her steps, we are in the top 10! In addition, Nicole has been collecting ideas and feedback about how to best commemorate the accomplishments of our graduating class, now that we are facing remote year-end ceremonies. Finally, she has also done a wonderful job sharing student feedback with Social Work faculty about the transition to on-line learning. Now more than ever, this honest and clear ommunication is critical. Clearly, she has exhibited leadership and hope on many different levels over the last month. And always with a calm smile and grace that embodies her personality. We are lucky to have her leadership in our SCSU community!”

Nicole Van Etten



Diane Ariza

Dr. Diane Ariza has been named as Southern’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, following a national search for this new senior leadership position.

“When she assumes her new role in July, Diane will bring with her more than two decades’ experience of administrative leadership in social justice and a background of teaching and research in ethnic studies,’” said President Joe Bertolino. “Her strategic vision will be invaluable in advancing the important and meaningful work that is already happening on campus as we establish Southern as a social justice university for Connecticut.”

Having worked at several large- and medium-sized institutions, Ariza has in-depth knowledge of both academic and student affairs. She has worked with senior officers on campus-wide strategic plans focused on increasing and retaining the number of underrepresented students, faculty and staff through programming, mentorship, and the development of  institutional policies.

Additionally, her service with the National Association for Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) Conference, where she is now an at-large board member, has afforded her the privilege to work with leaders in higher education working toward inclusive excellence through institutional transformation, Bertolino said.

Most recently, Ariza served as Chief Diversity Officer at Quinnipiac University, and is currently Vice President for Community and Belonging at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. As an administrator and strategist at both institutions, she has worked with senior leadership teams to promote greater access and inclusion through systematic and structural change, ensuring that all students, faculty, and staff reach their fullest potential.

“At Nazareth, an important responsibility for Diane is to engage the campus and beyond to help define, enable, and foster a community of belonging with a social justice lens – a task that resonates fully with our initiatives here at Southern,” Bertolino said. “I am confident that her blend of experience and accomplishment will further our efforts to build an inclusive, welcoming environment on campus.”

Earlier in her higher education career, Ariza was an assistant professor of ethnic studies at Albion College, Mich. She has published about the Black and Latino student experience on a predominantly white campus and also on Florida’s Puerto Rican and second-generation Hispanic communities and the challenges they face in education, identity, and adaptation. In 2015, Ariza was part of a NADOHE delegation to Cuba and contributed to a compilation of perspectives about issues of race, gender, cultural identity, and the African experience in Cuba.

Her research interests have included: internationalization and multicultural competency efforts in higher education; comparative global studies in immigration; Caribbean migration identity; health disparities; and race and ethnic relations.

Ariza holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Sociology from Western Michigan University (WMU) with a concentration in ethnic and race relations, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology from WMU. Her bachelor’s degree is in history and Spanish from Stetson University in Florida.

The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly present our first 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 Suzie Huminski, Michelle Johnston, Joan Kreiger, Renee Villarreal, and Bo Zamfir 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!

Suzie Huminski

Suzie Huminski, the university’s sustainability coordinator, also teaches two Honors courses to freshmen. One of her students nominated her for a SouthernStrong Award, writing that Huminski “is constantly reaching out [to her students], and offering her help during this hard time. When Southern closed she was my first professor to reach out, and reassure us that she would do everything possible to make this a smooth transition, which she has of course delivered on. She has made all due dates flexible based on our personal needs, and made our first few Webex meetings optional so we could check in if we needed anything. However, her most important contribution has been sewing and creating masks in her free time (despite being the sustainability coordinator and moving her teaching of honors courses online during this crazy time!) She has been making these masks to help out local CT hospitals and to students continuing to work in them.”

Suzie Huminski

Michelle Johnston

Michelle Johnston, director of donor relations in the Division of Institutional Advancement, has made and donated over 300 non-medical face masks. She also made a how-to video, demonstrating how she makes a mask, and shared it with the Southern community on social media, so that others could sew masks quickly and easily. Johnston’s nominator wrote that, Johnston “is inventive, energetic, and adaptive — finding alternatives when she runs out of elastic, using her mother’s old drapes as fabric, figuring out ways to make masks more easily, faster, and contacting friends to sew too…the list goes on.”

Her nominator, a colleague, added, “There’s more. I first met Michelle when she started the mobile food pantry at Southern. Yes, she is why that program is here. Michelle is incredibly generous, creative, and compassionate, and chock full of common sense. She is the kind of person who heads toward a problem in order to help, instead of getting caught flat-footed or avoiding involvement. You inspire me, Michelle!”

Michelle Johnston with just a few of the masks she has sewn

Joan Kreiger

In addition to her role as the respiratory care coordinator with the Department of Health and Movement Sciences, Joan Kreiger has been filling a need as a respiratory therapist at Greenwich Hospital, which is part of the Y-NH Health System. In this role she is serving in ICU dealing with some of the most critical COVID-19 patients. Her nominator, a colleague, wrote that Kreiger has reported “the patients in ICU are all in critical condition and require ventilation support as the patients’ lungs are ‘stiff’ and are unable to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide normally. In her role, she is working with a team of physicians and nurses doing their best to maintain the lives of their patients.”

Joan Kreiger

Renee Villarreal

Renee Villarreal, a student, is homeschooling her toddler and serves in the Army National Guard, while managing to take five online classes. She also works two part-time jobs and is independent. Her nominator wrote that Villarreal “helps herself her daughter and our Southern community by serving the country.”

Renee Villarreal and her child

Bogdan Zamfir

Bogdan Zamfir, director of the Center for Educational and Assistive Technology, has led the academic initiative supporting faculty in their immediate transition to teaching virtually as a result of COVID-19. His nominator wrote that he was quick to convene a response team of online teaching and technology experts who continue to collaborate on online teaching and learning strategies and trainings offered under the brand-new Office of Online Learning. She added, “Bo’s thoughtful and informed approach resulted in the development of several technology-driven mini-trainings, an in-house faculty support system, and a redesigned Teaching Academy focused on technology and pedagogy that will support Southern’s plans for online course delivery as our campus moves from response to recovery. Undoubtedly, Bo has invested considerable hours, working well-beyond the parameters of his position, consulting, researching and coordinating efforts to deliver a quality program to address the training and support needs of faculty and students for online teaching and learning during and after this crisis. Bo’s leadership, diligence and commitment during this pandemic are inspiring and a testament that he is SouthernStrong and worthy of this recognition.”

Bo Zamfir


Staff from Yale-New Haven Hospital who have received donations of meals through Lisa Siedlarz's fund

Have the latest headlines about COVID-19 made you want to run away? How about just run? How about at 2 a.m.? Probably not. Yet there David Martin, ‘20, was, dragging himself out of bed in the middle of the night to go for a 4-hour run.

“I was exhausted,” the SCSU graduate student said. “My legs were swollen. I was dehydrated.” Martin couldn’t stop running, though. After hearing news reports that local food banks were struggling to stock their pantries, he wanted to help. He was unsure of how to, exactly, when he learned that his fellow Full Throttle Endurance teammates from New York City were doing a charity run.

He contemplated joining but was still reeling from having to leave Southern’s campus suddenly, right before spring break, because of the coronavirus outbreak. As part of his thesis — he graduates this spring with a master’s in exercise science — he had been studying the effects of heat on athletes in a tent on Southern’s campus.

“We partnered with Nix [a company developing biosensing wearable technologies] and were using biosensors to test the sweat of elite athletes while they exercised,” Martin said. “We were some of the first to use this new technology. Shutting that down and leaving campus was devastating.”

The more Martin learned about his teammates’ fundraising success though, the more he experienced “FOMO, or fear of missing out,” he said. “So I picked a Connecticut charity because Connecticut is where I was born and raised, and I pledged to run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.” (The challenge was created by David Goggins, a retired United States Navy SEAL.)

David Martin, ’20 (photo courtesy of Connecticut Post)

Martin focused on Catholic Charities of Fairfield County to help Bridgeport’s Thomas Merton Center.

“The next day, after the website for online enrollment went up, we already had $800,” Martin said. To date, Martin has raised close to $3,500, enough to operate a soup kitchen and food pantry for more than 100 days. He shared his story on Facebook, Instagram, and Strava, a social-fitness network, garnering support with each mile.

“That last run on April 5 was the hardest,” he said. “But some of my fellow athletes showed up. Two ran in front to keep the wind off of me. It felt like a real race experience. People were beeping and shouting and honking their car horns. I collapsed on the ground when it was over, then I went home and slept for 13 hours.”

Similar to Martin, Southern Student Loan Coordinator and alumna Lisa Siedlarz (M.A. in English, ’07, with a concentration in poetry) found herself wondering how she could help after watching the news about the pandemic. She, too, belonged to a well-connected group who had the power to affect change — minus the nocturnal workouts.

“My East Rock neighborhood association is more than 600,” Siedlarz said. “After some of my friends who are nurses said we could help by providing nurses with food, I started wondering how much we could raise.”

Siedlarz kicked off her fundraiser to her neighborhood association on a Friday evening. She took her dogs for a walk. When she returned home 20 minutes later, she had almost $1,000. Five days later, she had $3,600.

The funds have gone to support Yale New Haven Hospital’s 9-7 COVID unit, which has 15 to 16 people working at any given time — often double shifts. Siedlarz has partnered with Christopher Martin’s Restaurant & Pub and Katalina’s Bakery, which deliver the food directly to the hospital.

“It costs $210 a day to feed 16 people breakfast and dinner,” Siedlarz said. “These people are working so hard and in a terrible situation. Providing food for them is not a big deal.”

Although this isn’t Siedlarz’s first experience fundraising, she is “always inspired” by the power of giving. And while the idea of helping may start out as a solitary one, both she and Martin were humbled by the outpouring of support.

“My neighborhood association started 12 years ago when we got a grant to plant trees,” Siedlarz said. “The next thing we knew, 20 people showed up. From there on out, we always had new people looking to join a community. Now, depending on how much more money we raise, we might be able to take on another hospital unit.”

Martin, who is taking a much-needed rest from running, said, “I never asked anyone to run with me, and I had company on every single run. Even at 2 a.m. That final run with the support was such a high. I felt so awful but so inspired. It was a huge team effort.”


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.

The Top Owl Social Justice Award is given to recognize contributions toward helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates, and advances student and campus diversity.

This award, selected by the President’s Commission on Social Justice, is being awarded this academic year during the months of November, December, January, February, and March to recognize the contributions, leadership, and service of a worthy faculty, staff, part-time student, and full-time student.

For the month of January 2020, the Top Owl Award winners are student Sara Buscetto and Kevin Colwell, professor of psychology.

Sara Buscetto has been a four-year member of the SCSU softball team. She is a two-year captain and will graduate in the spring. Her nominator praised her for working to bring social justice values to the softball program.

Buscetto’s nominator wrote that she “has made strides to leave the softball program better than she found it. She has taken the lead by starting tough conversations, and is working closely with our department as well as the student affairs team to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for our current students, and future Owls.”

Her nominator continued, “Though her goals will not be met during her time as an Owl, she has her eyes on helping the future generations that will call Southern home.”

Kevin Colwell serves as the director of the Office of Psychological Assessment (OPA), where he supervises student trainees in doing assessments that will allow university students to understand their own functioning and access resources such as the Disability Resource Center and accommodations with GRE, Praxis, LSAT, etc. The role of the OPA is to facilitate inclusion.

As a researcher, Colwell is creating an instrument to corroborate claims of adult ADHD, so that those with no previous history of diagnosis will be believed and can receive treatment.

As a practitioner, Colwell is currently working on criminal forensic cases where inappropriate and manipulative behavior occurred during police interrogations. For example, one case currently involves a 17-year-old who was interrogated in a deceptive/manipulative manner for five hours without access to parents or attorney. Another case involves a five-hour interrogation of an illegal immigrant, who was again deceived/manipulated to obtain a confession.

Thus, as Colwell’s nominator writes, he is “teaching assessment to help professionals understand how to help their clients access the resources provided by the American’s With Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehab Act. As a member of the SCSU community, he has created and directs the Office of Psychological Assessment to facilitate inclusion and access to the above by our students. As a researcher, he creates techniques to protect people from abuses of power and that helps people who need treatment receive it. As a practitioner of forensic clinical psychology, he works to protect those who are subjected to potentially manipulative and deceptive interrogation techniques. These activities all embody a commitment to social justice.”

Congratulations to January’s Top Owl Award winners!

To nominate someone for a Top Owl Award, visit the university’s Social Justice website.