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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

 

 

 

President Joe Bertolino in an interview with New 8's Ann Nyberg

Ahead of a Town Hall special, “Educating in a Pandemic,” on WTNH on July 30, 2020, News 8’s Ann Nyberg sat down for a one-on-one interview with President Joe Bertolino, to discuss the reopening of the university, among other related issues. As President Joe says in the interview, “There will be light at the end of the tunnel, it’s going to be okay. And while things may not get back to normal or be the same as it was before, I do think that we’re going to grow from the experience.”

Watch the interview:

One-on-one interview with SCSU President Joe Bertolino on COVID-19 impact on higher education

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

 

 

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

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.”

Self-quarantining and social distancing measures this spring because of COVID-19 led to widespread disruptions in people’s schedules. Adjusting to those changes took a toll on everyone — young and old — and particularly children on the autism spectrum, who can experience enormous anxiety when deviating from routine. To help parents navigate the new terrain, Southern’s Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders created Friday Friendly Forums, a series of five conversations with center staff on a variety of autism spectrum disorder topics. The forums are free and can be viewed online at any time.

“The idea was to support caregivers,” said Kari Sassu, a research scientist with the center.

That support is critical: It can mean the difference between optimism and despair, and between healthy growth and discouraging setbacks. It has everything to do with how the center serves and supports the region, from top to bottom — so that thousands of children and young adults with autism in the state get the chance they deserve to live happy, productive lives. And during the pandemic, the center didn’t stop its outreach efforts.

“For people with autism, the loss of routine has affected them so much,” Sassu said. “That causes anxiety and behavioral changes. The center may be physically closed right now, but its support isn’t.”

The first Friendly Forum, “Structure and Flexibility,” provides support for families and caregivers of children with ASD as they navigate the homeschooling experience. It was born of Sassu’s own experience as a full-time working parent of children on the spectrum who recognized “the importance of structure and predictability.”

“There are competing demands,” Sassu said, “for parents who have work and there may be other children, too. A lot of our kids on the spectrum need a schedule and guidance to execute extra tasks. That can be daunting, to spin all of those plates simultaneously.”

The second, “Virtual PPT Meetings,” is led by Sassu and Kimberly Bean, another research scientist with the center. Much like it sounds, it discusses considerations for planning and placement teams (PPT) to meet virtually, which Sassu said can be overwhelming.

“We heard parents were really struggling with that,” Sassu said.

Forum three, “Transitioning to Homeschooling,” is a discussion of the ups and downs associated with transitioning to homeschooling. Four is “Supporting Communication,” guidance offered by Barbara Cook, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at Southern, and five is “Self-Care for the Caregiver,” led by Sassu, who talks about the concept of self-care and its importance, especially as it relates to those caring for children with special needs right now.

In addition to the forums, the center has organized a free virtual program, SCSU CCD PEERS, a young adult social skills program based on the UCLA PEERS program, which is an evidence-based, caregiver-assisted social skills intervention for youth 18 – 21 years old with ASD. The program covers conversational skills, dating skills, peer pressure, electronic communication, and more. Sessions are held via Zoom on Mondays, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The final session is July 27.

The center also created a First Responders Autism Training program, an online course that began in January 2020 that’s especially relevant given the increased reliance on medical professionals during the pandemic.

“If an ENT shows up if someone is injured and there’s no training already, it’s important for them to have the background so they better know how to care for someone who is on the spectrum,” said Meaghan Reilly, a student worker at the center. The course includes a video presentation and a live discussion board via Zoom with one of the team members from the center.

Sassu said the center’s online offerings will continue to expand throughout the summer with webinars about Title IX and the International Disability Alliance, which improves awareness and rights for individuals with disabilities.

“We’re also in the process of putting together a series of talks for students with autism spectrum disorders on college campuses,” Sassu said. “There are some for students and some for faculty, and then some for peers. Also, a training series for school-based professionals. If students on the spectrum are going to transition back to school or continue online, they’re going to need help to address transitioning.”

Response to the online forums and offerings has been encouraging as the center continues its commitment to providing much-needed services.

“This is an unpredictable time,” Sassu said. “We all are going day-to-day, but for people with autism, it’s unsettling. The question is, how can we make it work so everyone — parents, teachers, providers, and students — are their best?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Way of Working:

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

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

Teaching Remotely:

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

SCSU Academic Success Center has Coach Team Meeting online

Academic Support:

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

Buley Library:

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

A Global Issue:

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

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

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

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

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

Celebration:

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

Helping Hands:

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

You helped, too:

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

SCSU Alumni collage during Covid-19 pandemic

Alumni Pride:

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

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

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

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