October 16, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on October 16th, 2014

Last week, I was honored to be the recipient of the 2014 Athena Leadership Award, presented annually by the Greater New Haven and Quinnipiac chambers of commerce. The Athena award recognizes women who “strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, who excel in their chosen field, devote time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and forge paths of leadership for other women to follow.”  

While such individual recognition is welcome, I view this award as a public acknowledgement of the collective efforts we are making to enhance our students’ educational experience here at Southern and expand our image in the wider community. Clearly, our work is not going unnoticed, and so once again, I thank you all for your dedication, creativity and innovative thinking as we work to raise our profile and ensure student success.


 As I announced during my State of the University address, Christine Broadbridge has been named as the university’s new Director of STEM Initiatives.

Christine will be responsible for developing and leading new STEM collaborations both on campus and externally. She also will build strategic partnerships with statewide academic, legislative and corporate stakeholders to identify potential areas for program development and growth in the sciences and technology.

As you know, Christine has an exemplary background as Education Director for the National Science Foundation-funded CRISP Center, director of the CSCU Center for Nanotechnology and Chair of our Department of Physics. Her work has justifiably received widespread recognition.

Christine’s new role will help elevate our STEM disciplines both on and off-campus. And these are exciting times for the sciences at Southern, with our new Academic and Laboratory Science Building on track for completion next spring and new academic programs being developed. Meanwhile, our state continues to show growth as a center for research, promising future job prospects for our science graduates and new possibilities for partnerships. For example, last week I attended the opening of the new Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington  – the latest symbol of an industry that is growing internationally at more than 11 percent a year.


 Marianne Kennedy, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, notes that the initial draft of our new Strategic Plan is now available for viewing at:  http://www.southernct.edu/files/emailblast/20141014/goals-objectives-oct-13.pdf

A Town Hall meeting will be held on Friday, October 24, from 1 to 3 p.m. in Engleman C 112 for initial discussion and feedback.

During November, members of the steering committee will meet with various groups, committees, and constituencies to solicit feedback. This information will be incorporated into the final goals and objectives, which should be ready by January.

The spring semester will be spent developing the action/work steps for each objective, including metrics, timelines and resources needed. Then another round of vetting and feedback will take place before the plan is finalized by semester’s end.


 In the early months of my presidency, I mentioned how important it is for Southern to become a more visible, active and integral part of the wider community beyond our campus boundaries. Already, as you know, we have established Southern on the Green, a suite of offices and seminar rooms at 900 Chapel Street in downtown New Haven that will enable us to maximize networking, development and partnership opportunities with the city’s key players in politics, commerce, education and the non-profit sector.

Southern on the Green is now available to faculty and staff for the following usage opportunities.

  • Meetings/Guest Lectures/Public Lecture Series
  • Seminars/Workshops/Academic Classes
  • Retreats/Open Houses
  • New Haven Green Event Collaboration
  • Networking/Business Development/Community Engagement
  • Advising Admissions/Recruitment

For questions on how to reserve a room or host an event please contact Southern on the Green Coordinator Alice Selverian at selveriana1@southernct.edu or (203) 641-8437.


 As I mentioned in my State of the University address, I and members of my senior leadership team have recently been engaged in discussion with city officials in Bridgeport about avenues for collaboration with the Park City.

City leaders are eager to establish partnerships with a public university in areas such as education, business and environmental science. We have the expertise, and such partnerships will also help us establish a profile in Fairfield County as we seek to expand our presence there and enhance the recruitment of students from outside Greater New Haven.

In early September, Provost Bette Bergeron and Marianne Kennedy met with the interim President of Housatonic Community College, Elizabeth Roop, and the Department Chair of Humanities, Rebecca Adams. They examined existing articulation agreements and began to devise smoother pathways between Housatonic and Southern. Five programs were identified as areas of focus: business; interdisciplinary studies; psychology; pathways to teaching and early childhood education.

Drawing upon the experiences of recent senior leadership tours of Bridgeport, and following meetings with Mayor Bill Finch, we have formed three internal subcommittees on campus to focus on three key areas of potential collaboration:

  •  A “Business and Professional Connections” subcommittee, under the leadership of Dean Ellen Durnin, will be working on strengthening business relationships with the Bridgeport Regional Business Council; formalizing internship models with area businesses and identifying sources of funding.
  •  The “Connections with Educational Institutions” subcommittee will work with Bette, Marianne, and all the Deans to strengthen educational pathways with Housatonic Community College and build stronger connections with Fairchild-Wheeler Magnet High School and the Aquaculture Science & Technology Education Center, providing students with avenues to Southern in various STEM disciplines. 
  •  A third subcommittee will focus on partnerships centered on sustainability, which is a key area of interest for Bridgeport. We are working with Mayor Finch and his staff to identify space for the university within a city building that could be used as a Center for Applied Sustainability, and he has asked that Southern serve as the lead educational institution on various sustainability projects across the city.  With primary areas of focus being coastal resilience and carbon reduction, this could be a natural extension of the work of our Center for Sustainability and the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies. 

 Ian Canning, Director of Special Academic Programs & Sessions, is developing a visual depiction of the various Bridgeport projects and a list of short-term priorities that the university will focus on this academic year.  This will be shared with the campus community, and additional participants from our faculty and staff will be invited to join the existing subcommittees.

 We anticipate that our work in Bridgeport will help shape future research projects, special topics, and directed work experiences in the classrooms here at Southern. And while not all students and faculty may travel to Bridgeport, they will still be able to participate by supporting individual projects through their efforts here on campus.


 A key part of our mission is “preparing our local students for global lives.” We can achieve this by increasing opportunities for study abroad programs and by attracting more international  and out-of-state students to attend Southern and further enrich the diverse tapestry of our campus.

Each year, a significant number of Southern students study abroad – in places like Guatemala, Iceland, Germany, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Australia, and Ghana – and we have a growing contingent of international students.

With Erin Heidkamp installed as our director of international education, we are exploring new opportunities for engagement. In fact, this week, Erin and Provost Bergeron will be leaving for China to visit five institutions, with a view to establishing new collaborations there, and several visiting scholars from China will be on campus during the semester.

Southern has also joined 240 institutions nationwide in the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point in their academic careers.

And with 2.6 million students graduating with associate’s or baccalaureate degrees each year, it is clear that major segments of America’s young people are not getting the international experience they will need to advance their careers and to participate in the global economy, or to work together across borders to address global issues.

Here at Southern, we intend to do our part to ensure that students from all backgrounds and in all fields of study have the opportunity to gain this important experience.


 Michael Ben-Avie, director of assessment, reports that, once again, Southern students have exceeded expectations on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) in terms of educational gains on competencies that are in high demand among employers.

CLA is a performance-based assessment measuring skills such as critical thinking; problem solving; scientific and quantitative reasoning; and writing effectiveness. In fall 2013, 145 freshmen were tested on this rigorous national assessment and 115 seniors completed it in the spring. The seniors exceeded expectations in how well they performed on the test compared with projections, which were based on the CLA test scores of the freshmen and their SAT scores.

 By exceeding expectations, our seniors have demonstrated the value-added impact of a Southern education on their career preparedness – a testament to the quality of our faculty and the strong work ethic of our students. Michael notes that by this time next year, we will be able to compare the results of the seniors who studied in the previous general education program (AUR) to those of the students who studied in the new Liberal Education Program (LEP).


 Good news from the School of Education, which will partner with the state Department of Education in the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) grant announced at the University of Florida’s CEEDAR Center Oct. 6. Southern joins our sister school, Central Connecticut State University, and the University of St. Joseph in Hartford, with technical support from the lead team at the University of Florida.

Dean Stephen Hegedus reports that the core goal of the grant is to design and implement pre-service curricula for all teacher candidates that will improve core and specialized instruction of students with learning disabilities and other special needs. The ultimate aim is to ensure that these students reach college- and career-ready standards in reading, writing and comprehension skills.

The School has also been invited to share a report with the New Haven Board of Education regarding the success of the second Gear Up Summer Academy, which was held on campus last July. Gear Up New Haven is a cooperative initiative between Southern and the New Haven Public Schools designed to support the academic and social/emotional success of students drawn from nine New Haven schools who this year are all freshmen in high school.

 Our goal at Southern is to continue to support and mentor this group of students for achievement through high school and prepare them for college admission and success. We will be following them consistently until they graduate from high school. When they reach the stage where they are ready to apply for college, there are federal funds available for Gear Up participants to attend a post-secondary experience of their choosing.

Our yearly Summer Academy strengthens academics for the students with a theme-based curriculum designed by Southern faculty coordinators in partnership with corresponding New Haven schools faculty. The program emphasizes cultural arts, language arts, mathematics, science, college preparation, and the strengthening of social skills and team building. Each week a different professional resident artist exposes all the students to a unique art medium such as digital photography and African drumming, and there are weekly cultural field trips.

This is a successful effort promoting achievement and real-world success. Stephen writes: “Our strength is in our team, in our belief in our goal of education for all, and in the contract to partner with the NHPS cohort as they move toward attaining their dream to succeed in college and beyond.”


 In my previous blog, I mentioned the range of Student Success initiatives that we are now introducing to help enhance our retention rate and smooth our students’ path to graduation.  Two key leaders in this effort will be our new Assistant Vice Presidents in the Division of Student Affairs: Christopher Catching and Jules Tetreault, who both joined us last month.

Chris will focus on leading broad-based retention programs and services that will provide academic and transitional support to enhance student learning and promote student success. He will work with key stakeholders to collaboratively develop and evaluate strategic efforts designed to enhance our students’ intellectual and vocational development. Chris will also work with his team to provide a blend of support programs, opportunities and services designed to maximize students’ personal development and long-term success. The Disability Resource Center, University Access Programs, Academic Success Center and New Student and Sophomore Programs all report to him. Chris comes to us from Hofstra University where he served as Assistant Provost and Executive Director of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program. Prior to this role, he worked at Rutgers University as Director of Multicultural Education, Assistant Dean of Students and Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Programs.

Jules replaces Peter Troiano as Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students, with a portfolio of providing strategic leadership and oversight for the engagement and wellness of our students. Working with teams in Student Life, Multicultural Affairs and Judicial Programs, Jules will  develop programs, services and initiatives that also foster diversity and inclusion; accountability, civility and respect; and service learning, civic engagement and volunteerism. Working with teams in Student Health Services, Counseling Services, Drug and Alcohol Resource Center, Wellness Center and the Women’s Center, he will provide oversight for a comprehensive and integrated approach to the health and wellness of Southern students.

Jules comes to Southern from Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, where he served as Dean of Student Affairs. At that institution, he also served as Associate Dean, Assistant Dean and Director of Residential Life and Judicial Affairs

Please make Chris and Jules welcome and lend them your support as they develop and implement these important student success initiatives.


As you know, the Health and Safety Committee, chaired by University Police Chief Joseph Dooley has been working on a Tobacco-Free Campus proposal since February 2014. A subcommittee, chaired by Dr. Diane Morgenthaler, Director of Health Services, was formed to ensure that this initiative had representation from all groups of students, faculty and staff.

Part of our mission to foster a safe, healthy and respectful environment on campus, this effort was the result of a letter from U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy last February encouraging Southern to join campuses nationwide in maintaining smoke- or tobacco-free campuses.

As of July 3, at least 1372 institutions had adopted policies that eliminate smoking in indoor and outdoor areas across the entire campus, including residences.  Of those, 938 were completely tobacco-free, and 176 prohibited the use of e-cigarettes anywhere on campus.   

Along with cigarettes, Southern’s proposed policy would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes and tobacco products on university property, including smokeless tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah and any other device using smoke or vapor, Chief Dooley reports.

The policy would be designed to help reduce health risks and related employee healthcare costs; increase productivity; reduce campus litter and prepare our students for careers in increasingly tobacco-free work environments. The proposal will continue to be refined this semester and presented to Cabinet for final review after community input and discussion.


Pamela Lassiter, Director of Diversity and Equity, will be leaving the university Oct. 31 to take up a new position as the New York City Fire Department’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Pamela will serve as a member of Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro’s executive leadership team and will hold the in-house title of Deputy Commissioner. Her responsibilities will include creating, implementing, assessing and gaining support for diversity and inclusion efforts agency-wide. She will also oversee the agency’s recruitment efforts and equal employment opportunity compliance.

At Southern, Pamela has played a key leadership role in several campus initiatives, including the President’s Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion and our inaugural Social Justice Week (see item below). I thank her for her efforts to ensure that our campus remains an inclusive, welcoming environment for all members of our community.

While we prepare to undertake a search for Pamela’s permanent replacement, Dean of Students Jules Tetreault, will serve as interim Title IX coordinator and Chief of Staff Jaye Bailey will oversee the Office of Diversity and Equity, effective Oct. 31.

In the meantime, please congratulate Pamela on her new appointment.


Our inaugural Social Justice Week will be held during the week of October 22 to 29. The full schedule is available at:  https://southernct.edu/files/emailblast/20141013/social-justice-week-2014.pdf

This weeklong series of films, workshops and forums will be bookended by two keynote speakers: Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and a public intellectual and best-selling author on civil rights and popular culture; and Jane Elliott, internationally known teacher, lecturer and diversity trainer famed for her controversial “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise exploring the roots of prejudice.

Please take the opportunity to support this event and play an active role in enhancing inclusivity and civility at Southern.


Tuesday night saw an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,500 people light up Moore Field House for our first Midnight Madness event. Fans had the opportunity to catch their first glimpse of the Owls’ men’s and women’s basketball programs, which are coming off excellent seasons in 2013-14.  An array of contests and giveaways took place during the evening, including a slam dunk contest by the men’s basketball team, a “Hotshot” contest for spectators and a combined skills challenge involving student-athletes from both the men’s and women’s programs, along with lucky fans. Both teams will also held a brief intra-squad scrimmage.

Our women’s team returns nine players and four starters from last year’s squad that won 12 games and qualified for the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament.

The men’s team is coming off its finest season in school history (30-3) and reached the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for just the second time, while winning their first-ever NE-10 Conference regular season and tournament titles. The Owls are ranked No. 2 nationally in two preseason polls – and return 12 student-athletes from last year. In an exciting match-up to open the season, they will play the reigning NCAA Division I Champions, the University of Connecticut, in an exhibition game on Nov. 4.

Midnight Madness kicked off a full week of Homecoming activities under the theme #OwlNation!: http://www.southernct.edu/student-life/activities/officeofstudentlife/activities/homecoming.html

Homecoming has been a campus tradition for more than 30 years and is a wonderful way to celebrate our Southern community. I hope you will join me in welcoming our alums back to campus for our parade, pep rally, football game and more!

The weekend concludes with our Undergraduate Open House on Sunday. Our enrollment management team has done a wonderful job preparing for and spreading the word about this event, where we will showcase all that is best about a Southern education to almost 3,000 prospective students and parents. Our Graduate Open House will be held the following Saturday.

Sept. 11, 2014

Posted in Letters on September 11th, 2014

As we begin the new academic year, the return of our students inspires us to renew our commitment to their well-being and education.  They are the reason for our existence as an institution, and how successful we are in dealing with them is a measure of our dedication and effectiveness. 

 Our colleagues in Student Life have done a wonderful job instilling the Southern spirit into our new freshman class — the class of 2018!  Their energy and optimism was on full display at the New Student Convocation and throughout the wonderful array of Welcome Week activities. I thank all of the many individuals involved in preparing and implementing this program, which gave our campus a true vibrancy that we hope will extend throughout the semester.

 We will need that energy and enthusiasm as we work together to tackle the biggest issue facing us this year: enrollment. As you are well aware, there were unwelcome fiscal challenges during this past year, caused in part by a continuing decline in our student population. Tuition income goes a long way towards meeting our budgetary needs, and it is the students who pay the tuition.

 When tuition falls as a consequence of declining enrollment, our budget plans can go awry. So it is clear that all of us must do what we can to reverse declining enrollments and ensure student success. This will be one of our major challenges in the coming year. Enrollment is the responsibility of the entire university, not just the enrollment management team. We will be calling on many of you to join with us in developing new strategies for attracting students to Southern and for ensuring the success of those who enroll. Creativity and innovation will be our themes for this year!


 Aligned with our enrollment drive is our effort to ensure that students receive the best possible educational experience when they arrive on campus. Following the recommendations of our Student Success Taskforce, several initiatives designed to improve the university’s graduation and retention rates are being implemented this fall.

 An Academic Success Center will be established, and located in Buley Library after the renovation project is completed. It will provide support for students seeking help in meeting the university’s academic standards, as well as for those who are already good students but want to excel. New Center Director Katie De Oliveira will start Oct. 17 and will develop initiatives such as increased support for success in math and writing, academic skills building and other learning enhancements.

 Sal Rizza is now the director of new student and sophomore programs, creating co-curricular activities for freshmen, sophomores and transfer students. Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree reports that research shows that students who have social and co-curricular connections to the university are more likely to succeed and are less likely to drop out of college before attaining their degree. Sal will be working closely with Nicole Henderson, director of our excellent First-Year Experience program, as we seek to improve the campus experience for second-year and transfer students, as well.

 A Commuter Student Lounge has also been established in the Michael J. Adanti Student Center, giving them a place to go between classes (our student affairs staff have observed that many commuters have been spending the downtime in their cars).

 Enhanced student engagement is also the impetus behind a change in late-night dining options this year. The food court in the student center will remain open longer at night, while Connecticut Hall will close earlier, exposing more students to the full range of student center programming.  Similarly, a section of Buley Library will remain open 24 hours a day when renovations are complete, again building the sense of community for our students.


 Another student success initiative has been the creation of several new advisement positions to support specific populations, including transfer students, commuters, second-year returnees and business and nursing students. An additional position – and one that we believe is unique in Connecticut – is devoted specifically to provide financial literacy and planning information for current and prospective students, as well as their families.

 As you know, managing finances has always been a challenge for college students, who are often on a tight budget and on their own for the first time. But these days, students are borrowing more than ever to pay their way through college. This has resulted in an explosion in student loan debt, which exceeded $1 trillion nationwide in 2014.

 Lew DeLuca, who served in our Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships for 10 years, has been named coordinator of student financial literacy and advising. Lew will work closely with students and parents to raise awareness about financial literacy, student aid programs and scholarships, as well as the advantages of the timely completion of a degree. More information about this new initiative can be found at: https://www.southernct.edu/financial-advising/index.html


 I am very happy to report that 33, tenure-track faculty have joined our ranks this year. They are an eclectic group – drawn from countries as diverse as South Africa, Argentina, China and South Korea – and from states all over the United States.

 They are drawn from a range of disciplines, with a wide variety of scholarly expertise, including research in gender identities, reducing violence towards children, treasury management, urban sustainability, cyber-security, environmental ethics, stroke rehabilitation and social enterprise.

 Their talents will add to the rich palette of teaching, research and scholarship expertise in our academic community. We look forward to their contributions in our classrooms and programs across the university.


 During the past year, we have been focusing on our graduate programs, devising ways to calibrate them more acutely to meet larger workforce needs. As part of this process, we have examined our curricular offerings, our instruction methods and our delivery and also reviewed whether the support for each program is what it needs to be successful.

 The public draft of the Graduate Program Prioritization Report is now available at: http://southernct.edu/academics/graduate/gradprioritizationreport_82714.pdf

 A Town Hall Meeting to discuss the report will be held on Friday, Sept. 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. If you have comments on the report or questions that you would like addressed at the meeting, please email committee Co-Chair Greg Paveza at:  paveza@southernct.edu

 Thanks to Dean Paveza, his Co-Chair Dr. Christine Petto, and the committee members for conducting an informed and thorough review of our graduate programs.


 We are already working hard on making improvements to the areas highlighted by the state Board of Education when our School of Education received probationary approval last week.

 While on the surface the news appeared worrisome, the board’s action concentrated on a limited number of issues, primarily involving  assessment of students’ knowledge, skills and disposition to teaching in our advanced, graduate-level programs and the collection of data that tracks our graduates’ progress in the teaching profession.

 Collecting and analyzing data is a time-consuming process. But fortunately, much of this work is already underway. Though we have three years to finish it, we firmly believe that everything will be completed, and the matter resolved, within the next 12 months.

 As I stated in my letter to the community last week – http://www.southernct.edu/about/administration/president/school-of-education.html – the reality is that our national accreditation remains in place and our ability to grant degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels is unaffected. The quality of our faculty in the School of Education remains excellent, and the quality of our curriculum remains outstanding. Our students’ programs of study and their path to certification will not be affected, and Southern graduates will continue to teach and lead in Connecticut’s schools.

 Working with our faculty, Dean Stephen Hegedus has implemented a comprehensive plan to address the highlighted areas of improvement in a timely and efficient manner. He is also spearheading an effort to improve the school’s systems and processes and reach out to its many constituencies through varied forms of communication. I firmly believe that this commitment to continuous improvement will only serve to enhance our historical position as Connecticut’s leading source of qualified teachers and school administrators.


This fall, we will continue the development of our 10-year Strategic Plan, a process that will give us the opportunity collectively — faculty, administration, staff, students and community partners — to chart the future of our university.  Our planning draws upon four themes:

 - Delivering exemplary, accessible, transformative education in a student-centered environment.

- Creating and sustaining an environment that results in exemplary scholarship and innovative entrepreneurship.

- Providing exemplary, ethical stewardship of human, financial, technological and physical capital.

- Engaging with local and global communities through exemplary leadership and service to promote economic vitality and social justice for the public good.

 A Town Hall meeting to discuss draft goals and objectives for the strategic plan will be held in mid-October and we expect to receive all feedback by the end of the fall semester. As we move forward, the innovative ideas, vision, and energy of the campus community will be critical in our successful adoption of a strategic plan that is aspirational and visionary.


While we map the future of our own institution, Transform CSCU 2020 continues apace at the system level. As many of you know, this is a multi-year year effort to increase the accessibility and affordability of higher education in Connecticut and to position the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system as a major economic engine for the state.  Transform is currently in the planning stage, and it is vital that the System administration receives your input during this process.  

 As such, you are invited to attend a Transform CSCU 2020 Town Hall meeting, to be held Monday, Sept. 29 from 1-2:30 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom.  You will be able to meet with members of the Board of Regents, BOR executive staff and Executive Sponsors for Transform initiatives. The will listen to your ideas and perspectives on the project; and answer whatever questions you may have about Transform.  At the close of the meeting, you will also be asked to join the Transform Team moving forward, and help this important program reach its goals.  

 In preparation for the meeting, here is some information you may find useful:  http://www.southernct.edu/transform2020/. The first document introduces the Transform 2020 process while the second is an update list of the 36 Transform initiatives and their executive sponsors.  Southern is already well represented as work commences on the various initiatives and I hope that you will take the opportunity to become involved in this important process for our System and our University.


 Led by Pamela Lassiter, our director of diversity and equity, the President’s Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion has compiled a 378-page report that is now available online at: http://southernct.edu/go/climate-report With subcommittee reports on gender identity, race and ethnicity, religion and spirituality, veterans and non-traditional students, sexual harassment and disability rights, the report covers a broad spectrum of issues that are critical to maintaining a welcoming campus environment for all.

 Please take the opportunity to review the report and commit to playing an active role in enhancing inclusivity at Southern.

 Pamela has also been instrumental in the planning of our inaugural Social Justice Week, which will be held Oct. 22-29. The weeklong series of films, workshops and forums will be bookended by two keynote speakers: Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and a public intellectual and best-selling author on civil rights and popular culture; and Jane Elliott, internationally known teacher, lecturer and diversity trainer famed for her controversial “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise exploring the roots of prejudice.


 As you know, we have had several additions to our senior leadership team in the past few months. The most recent was Jay Moran, our new Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. Jay brings with him a proven record of success from more than 23 years of administrative experience and leadership in the athletic programs of the University of Bridgeport, Albertus Magnus College, Saint Joseph College and the University of Connecticut.

 During the last decade, Jay has developed, managed and promoted competitive NCAA athletics at the Division II level as Director of Athletics at the University of Bridgeport. Before that, he led the athletics program at Albertus Magnus for two years. Under his direction, athletic and recreational facilities were updated and new sports established at both institutions. He was also a key player on several strategic planning committees at Saint Joseph, Albertus Magnus and Bridgeport.

 Jay’s experience is enhanced by a background in fundraising and working with community based boards as both a volunteer and an employee. For the town of Manchester, he has served as a member of the Board of Education and Board of Directors, Deputy Mayor and now Mayor. He is also President-Elect of the Eastern College Athletic Conference and former president of the East Coast Conference Athletic Directors’ Council.

 Jay has demonstrated a commitment to the success of student-athletes in the classroom, on the playing fields and in the community. I believe that this experience, coupled with his organizational capabilities and background in fiscal management and development, will serve our nationally recognized athletics program – and our university – well.


 As you can see, we have a busy agenda for the coming year and it will take all of us working together to ensure that we achieve our ambitious vision for our dynamic university and become a leader in the Connecticut State College and University System.

 I will discuss these and other goals for the new academic year during my State of the University address, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 1 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. I hope to see you there!

 As we showed in 2013-14, we can accomplish a great deal, guided by strategic planning and driven by the dedication, energy, and talents of our faculty, administrators, staff and students. I hope you all enjoyed a refreshing summer, and I look forward to working with you in this new academic year to meet the challenges and embrace the plentiful opportunities that lie ahead.

June 4, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on June 4th, 2014

Commencement season is behind us, and we look forward to a long summer of planning for the new academic year, welcoming our entering class to campus and hopefully finding the time for some well-earned rest and relaxation.

Our three graduation ceremonies were a joyous reminder of our commitment to student success. And the success stories of our students – who are drawn from a range of backgrounds and circumstances, and in many cases have overcome obstacles to earn their diplomas – are the best testimony we can provide for a continued investment in public higher education.

I thank all of you who contributed to our students’ achievements – our faculty for your mentorship and dedicated pedagogy, our staff for your support and guidance. Each of us has a crucial role to play in ensuring that a college degree is an attainable goal for all of our current and future students.


Indeed, despite the very real concerns about spiraling student debt, current studies show that a four-year degree has never been more valuable for personal and professional achievement. A recent analysis of federal Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., found that the pay disparity between those with college degrees and those without continues to grow.

Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree, the study found. This represents a continuing trend – up from 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s.

And tellingly, the wage premium for individuals who have attended college without earning a bachelor’s degree, including community college graduates, has not been rising. This underscores the importance of our efforts to improve our retention rate and build closer relationships with our community college partners in CSCU.

As the economy becomes more technology-based, the amount of education that people will need will inevitably rise as a result. And despite the fact that the recent recession saw a rise in the number of college attendees…“We have too few college graduates,” David Autor, an M.I.T. economist, told The New York Times. “We also have too few people who are prepared for college.”

Clearly, our emphasis on access, affordability and student success is not misplaced.


At Southern, at the System level and through Governor Malloy’s office, initiatives are underway to ease the debt burden for graduates and continuing students, smooth the path to registration and graduation, and encourage individuals who have earned college credit in the past to return and complete their degrees.

The statewide Go Back to Get Ahead initiative has been launched, offering a second chance for many people who, for one reason or another, started to get a college education but haven’t completed it.

The Go Back program lets returning students take one three-credit course per semester for free at Southern and any of our 16 partner institutions in the CSCU system. The program is open not only to Connecticut residents who started earning associate or bachelor’s degrees and did not finish, but also to those who completed associate degrees and now want to earn their bachelor’s.

 As long as the student enrolls in any college in the ConnSCU system and has not taken college courses in the past 18 months, he or she is eligible.


All of you are aware of the Transform CSCU 2020 program, which will move through the planning stages this summer. This multi-year initiative will provide an initial investment of more than $134 million across our 17 institutions, with an emphasis on access, affordability and retention – all themes with which we are intimately familiar here at Southern. Following the recent online survey, there will be additional opportunities to participate in the development of this initiative through town halls, community forums, and interviews.

This important planning process presents Southern with the opportunity to strengthen our university’s mission and identity. And we will contribute to, and benefit from, a stronger system as we work toward our collective goals of access, affordability and excellence.

Interim Provost Marianne Kennedy has been appointed as our campus liaison for Transform CSCU 2020. She will keep us informed of progress and work with our university community during the coming months as we identify new opportunities for innovation and transformation, both within CSCU and here at Southern.


This summer, we will continue our new marketing efforts in which we highlight several innovative programs that offer growth opportunities. These include our current master’s degrees in human performance and applied physics and a new, fully online graduate degree program in sport and entertainment management, offered by our Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

Last semester, we focused on our new accelerated MBA, a certificate in accounting, a master’s degree in computer science with tracks in software development and cybersecurity, and a B.S./B.A. in interdisciplinary offerings, geared for individuals who want to design a major that will fit with their individual career goals.

The common thread is that all have growth potential and all provide a path to in-demand career opportunities. And early indicators are that this new approach is helping to strengthen our graduate numbers for the coming year.

The graduate offerings reflect the time constraints of today’s working professionals. Our Accelerated MBA is a fast-track, hybrid-style option combining quality, convenience, and affordability. Through the AMBA, students will be able to complete their degree in just 17 months with combined Saturday and online courses.

As part of our efforts to tap more intentionally the Fairfield-Stamford student recruitment market, our targeted graduate programs will be highlighted at a Graduate Studies Open House in the Executive Lounge at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena on Monday, June 23, from 5-7:30 p.m.

Congratulations to the faculty who have devised and implemented these innovative programs. If this new marketing approach is successful, as we believe it will be, it will not only boost our enrollment, but provide a template for future academic programming by departments campus wide.


Thanks to careful planning by Executive Vice President Jim Blake and the Budget and Planning Committee, we are looking at a 2015 fiscal year with a balanced budget that does not tap into our reserves. Much depends on our enrollment returns as we move forward, and this budget is predicated on a 2-percent decline in both full-time undergraduate and graduate enrollments, with part-time enrollment projected to be unchanged from this current year.

Our bottom line will also be impacted by a decline in the number of new students living on campus and signing up for the meal plan, as a significant number have chosen to save money by commuting rather than paying for room and board. We are seeking to mitigate this with several incentives, including allowing freshmen to park their vehicles on campus, as there is now ample space in parking garages near the residence halls.

We are also seeing some positive early indicators, with an uptick in transfer students and both full- and part-time graduate students – reversing a declining trend in recent years. Orientations for new students have begun, and our enrollment management team is optimistic that we will meet our goal of 1,250 to 1,300 new freshmen. I will update you when our numbers are more concrete, toward the end of summer.


Last Wednesday, we hosted a vibrant Kick-Off Rally for the start of Orientation. Our blue-shirted team of Orientation Ambassadors (see their cover photo at: www.facebook.com/southernct) are an engaging and dedicated group, ready to welcome our new students to campus and make them feel at home. Thursday and Friday saw the first of five combined orientations for new and transfer students, as well as families.

Student Affairs Vice President Tracy Tyree reports that a new feature this year is the requirement for transfer students to participate in Orientation as their source of registration. Several transfer student-specific sessions have been added throughout the summer, along with a monthly session for non-traditional students. I echo Tracy’s thoughts that: “This new requirement demonstrates the value we place on the way that Orientation creates a foundation for students’ success at Southern!”

Whether or not you have a formal role in the program, please take the opportunity to give our new students and their families a warm Southern greeting when they come to campus.

Thanks also to all of our volunteers who have prepared the campus for Connecticut Special Olympics this weekend and will help out in a variety of capacities during the event. Our university has had a long and fruitful association with this worthy organization, being a regular host of the Summer Games since the late 1980s and raising thousands of dollars for Connecticut Special Olympics through our annual Jail ‘N’ Bail run by University Police and student groups.


The members of my senior leadership team and I have been busy meeting with community leaders in recent weeks, spreading the word about the university and exploring possibilities for collaboration. Thursday, I and two members of Cabinet met with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch as part of a new effort to increase Southern’s profile in Fairfield County and on toward the New York line. Last week we conferred with New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Matthew Nemerson, the city’s new economic development administrator, discussing potential education-based partnerships, including establishing a pipeline for city high school graduates to study life sciences at Southern.

Last week, in Hartford, I joined other higher education leaders in a roundtable discussion on college affordability, led by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. We shared with the senator the difficulties we face in attempting to control costs while also providing the financial aid and support services that many students need to graduate.

I referred to a recent New York Times Magazine story, which detailed that while 90 percent of college freshmen in the top economic quartile earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24, only about a quarter of freshmen in the bottom half of the income distribution pool do so. If education is truly the pathway to the American dream, then it has to be the pathway for students from the lower quartile, as well as the upper.

Last month in New York City, I discussed technology and its intersections with higher education as a part of a group meeting with Dell Inc. CEO and founder Michael Dell and his senior leadership team. Dell, you may recall, has been a long-time supporter of our summer Southern Academy enrichment program for New Haven middle school students.

My husband, Dennis, and I also met with Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation, along with the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern and other officials. The topic was Armenia’s efforts to grow the country as a tourist destination, drawing on the richness of its ancient history. The country is looking to build its tourism infrastructure, which opens potential training opportunities for our travel and tourism program at Southern.

Closer to home, I have been named vice chair of the Greater New Haven Heart Walk for 2015, and will serve as chair the following year. The 3-mile Heart Walk is an annual event in which participants join more than a million people in 300 cities nationwide to raise funds supporting the research, education and advocacy efforts of the American Heart Association. This year’s local event raised almost $300,000 and there were about 50 participants from Southern.

Yesterday, I was also named vice chair of the Connecticut Campus Compact, which is part of a coalition of almost 1,200 college and university presidents nationwide. Through this compact, Connecticut’s leaders in higher education are working together to promote partnerships and action that connect economic prosperity and engaged citizenship. At the same meeting Jim Barber, director of community engagement, received the President’s Choice Award for his commitment to promoting civic engagement in higher education and creating pathways for disadvantaged youth to earn a college degree.


New York was also the venue for a wonderful gathering of more than 40 alumni at the world-famous Sardi’s on May 13. I presented an overview of the university, and Dr. Sheila Garvey gave an update on the Theatre Department.

This event was the kick-off for several new planned SCSU Alumni Networks nationwide, as we seek to reconnect with former students living beyond our home state.  Chris Adams, ’92 will lead the NYC Network, which will help alumni interact with each other socially and professionally.

Thanks to Vice President for Institutional Advancement Bob Stamp for leading this important initiative, and to Alumni Relations Director Michelle Johnston and her team for their excellent work in creating the NYC event.


For the sixth consecutive year, Southern’s Nursing Department has received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). This year’s award is for $50,000 – which will pay for five scholarships of $10,000 apiece among students commencing our Accelerated Career Entry (ACE) program.

ACE enables adults who already have a bachelor’s degree to pursue a career change into nursing. Individuals from underrepresented groups in nursing are given priority status for the scholarship allocation.

Southern was one of just three institutions in Connecticut to be awarded grant money this year, and we have received $480,000 from the foundation’s New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program since 2008. Congratulations to Nursing Chair Lisa Rebeschi and her faculty for their continued success in advancing  this exemplary program.


Finally, congratulations are in order for three individuals who have received significant community-based awards or appointments.

Chief of Police Joseph Dooley will be installed by state Attorney General George Jepson as the President of the Connecticut Police Chiefs’ Association on June 12. Joe is the first college head of campus security in the state to lead the 104-member association. He has 33 years’ experience in law enforcement, the last eight spent leading Southern’s efforts to ensure that our campus remains a safe and secure environment for all.

Steven Breese, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, was honored with an Outstanding Educator Award from his alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio, on April 27. Steven, Class of ’79, was recognized for his significant contributions to the field of education, both here at Southern and at his previous institutions, including Texas Christian University and Christopher Newport University, Va. In his most recent role as dean of CNU’s College of Arts and Humanities, he led major capital, faculty and curriculum development, accreditation and strategic planning efforts; and won CNU’s Oxford University Fellowship.

Bill Faraclas, Faculty Senate President and Professor of Public Health, received the C-EA Winslow Award from the Connecticut Public Health Association—the organization’s highest recognition. Bill founded Southern’s public health program and chaired the department for 33 years. As Director of our International Field Studies in Health Program, he has taken 26 groups of students to Guatemala and Mexico, and is director of the Environmental Health Training Program, a workforce development collaborative with the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

As I mentioned last month, these recognitions reveal a breadth of commitment and achievement that reflects well on the talents and volunteerism of our employees. Congratulations to all!

May 9, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on May 9th, 2014

We are almost at the end of another academic year, a celebratory period when our best efforts are rewarded by the success of our students, as evidenced at Honors Convocation and our forthcoming Commencement ceremonies. I thank all of you for your many contributions during this past year, which has not been an easy one, with continuing budgetary and enrollment challenges, and a lingering winter that would not let go!

Despite these obstacles, our Southern community is notably resilient and innovative, and during the last 12 months, we have built a strong foundation to move ahead. This is thanks in part to inclusive efforts such as the Student Success Taskforce and our Graduate Program Prioritization committee, which are identifying key areas for focus and enhancement in our academic programming and student services.

These recommendations will be incorporated into the planning process for our new Strategic Plan, which will continue into the next academic year. The Strategic Planning Committee, led by Interim Provost Marianne Kennedy, has done a wonderful job in recent months compiling information and analyzing existing data. By the fall, the committee will be ready to share this with the campus community and solicit your ideas as we chart our course through the next decade. As I noted earlier this week, our strategic planning will coincide with the development of the Transform CSCU 2020 initiative, helping us to align our own efforts within a broader ConnSCU vision as we work toward collective goals of access, affordability and excellence.

The new academic year also will bring the opening of our new science building and the renovated Buley Library – both in the spring of 2015. In addition, we will welcome new faces at the level of provost, vice president for finance and administration, chief information officer, dean of the School of Education and director of athletics, as our senior leadership team continues to evolve.

But that and more lies ahead. For now, let us all congratulate ourselves on a job well done, celebrate with our graduating students and wish them much success as they leave us to pursue their personal and career goals.


During recent years, we have been justifiably proud of our efforts to create a sustainable campus. Those efforts have now received national recognition with the naming of Southern as one of the 332 most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada, according to The Princeton Review (www.PrincetonReview.com). Known for its test prep programs and college rankings, ratings, and guidebooks profiles, the education services company includes Southern in the fifth annual edition of its free downloadable book, “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges.”

The Princeton Review chose the schools for this guide based on a survey it conducted in 2013 of administrators at hundreds of four-year colleges to measure those institutions’ commitment to the environment and to sustainability.  The institutional survey included questions on course offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. 

Published April 17, a few days before the April 22 celebration of Earth Day, the 216-page guide is the only free comprehensive resource of its kind: it can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide. The 332 school profiles in the guide feature essential information for applicants – facts and stats on school demographics, admission, financial aid – plus write-ups on the schools’ sustainability initiatives.  A “Green Facts” sidebar reports on a wide range of topics from the school’s use of renewable energy sources, recycling and conservation programs to the availability of environmental studies and career guidance for green jobs.

In the guide’s profile on Southern, The Princeton Review highlights the fact that at Southern “Sustainability is integrated into everyday life on campus. SCSU’s Dining Services has become more environmentally friendly through trayless dining, cage-free eggs, and a commitment to buying locally-grown produce. What’s more, the campus bookstore has championed recent initiatives such as selling a large line of recyclable products—including notebooks, biodegradable plastic folders, sketchbooks created with recycled vinyl albums, and t-shirts made from recycled bottles — promoting the use of e-textbooks to save paper, and even providing graduation gowns made of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles!”

Our inclusion in this high-profile publication is wonderful news for the university and is a testament to the dedication of the many individuals who have worked to make our campus green, including the members of our Sustainability Committee and Sustainability Office. With many prospective students showing interest in colleges that promote environmentally-responsible choices and practices, our efforts in this regard stand to benefit both our enrollment and our campus.


 As you know, increasing enrollment and improving retention/graduation rates are key areas of focus for us. With this in mind, we have made two key appointments in the Division of Academic Affairs that I am confident will enhance our efforts to strengthen student success.

Ian M. Canning, currently the director of continuing education at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., has been named to the newly created position of Director of Special Academic Programs and Sessions. Reporting to the Provost, Ian will oversee the creation and development of special programs throughout the year, such as online and hybrid courses, certificates, seminars, workshops and institutes. These will include both credit and non-credit offerings. He also will be responsible for budgeting, growing, and implementing the university’s winter and summer session course offerings.

Ian brings a wealth of experience in the areas of continuing education, strategic planning and program development, as well as possessing impressive business and economic skills. At Johnson & Wales, he provided administrative oversight for 19 degree and three certificate programs, while managing a budget of $2.9 million.

At the same time, he has maintained a focus on improving student opportunities by working with academic counselors regarding student advising and spearheading the creation of a continuing education student advisory board.

I concur with interim Provost Marianne Kennedy in believing that Ian will be a tremendous asset to the university in providing us with both the administrative experience and innovation to expand our academic program offerings to students and the community. Please give him a warm, Southern welcome when he begins his duties here on Monday, May 19.

 In addition, Rick Riccardi, our longtime Director of the Office of Management Information and Research (OMIR), is being promoted to Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness. His promotion is part of a departmental restructuring to better take advantage of the synergies between OMIR and the Office of Assessment and Planning. Rick will oversee both areas.

Also reporting to the Provost, Rick will provide supervision and leadership in the development of procedures governing the planning, approval process and accreditation of academic programs. He will lead the university’s effort in the collection, analysis, interpretation and communication of data — both internal and external — which will be used to make key to improve student learning. He also will play a key role in linking planning, budget and assessment.

Rick has tremendous institutional knowledge of the university and has demonstrated the keen analytical skills that enable us to make important strategic decisions to move the university forward. Please congratulate him in his new role.


Last month, for the first time, we collectively recognized our faculty accomplishments in teaching, scholarship and service with a new event: the SCSU Celebration of Excellence. In past years, there have been multiple award ceremonies during the academic year. But we felt that one recognition event would give all the awardees the focus they richly deserve.

The following awards were presented to 11 faculty members:

Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship: Robert Gregory, Exercise Science; and J. Gregory McVerry, Elementary Education.

Technological Teacher of the Year Award: Robert McEachern, English.

Robert Jirsa Service Award: Elizabeth Keenan, Social Work.

Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award: C. Patrick Heidkamp, Geography.

Board of Regents Teaching Award for SCSU: Laura Bower-Phipps, Elementary Education; and Walter Stutzman, Music

Board of Regents Research Award for SCSU: Julia Irwin, Psychology

Faculty Scholar Award: Stephen Amerman, History

J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teacher: Allison Bass, English; Melissa Talhelm, English

Most of these awardees were chosen by their peers, which, as I noted at the luncheon, is sometimes the most valuable recognition you can earn.  Congratulations to all the recipients!


The end of the academic year has also seen a plethora of community-based awards for faculty and staff. As you will read below, these recognitions reveal a breadth of commitment and achievement that reflects well on the talents and volunteerism of our employees.

Deputy University Police Chief Philip Pessina, will receive the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Michael L. Green Award for outstanding community service on June 4.

A former councilman and deputy police chief in Middletown, Phil is a frequent volunteer at community events and is currently the chairman of the Recreation and Community Services Commission and vice chairman of the Mattabassett Regionalization Committee.

“Phil Pessina has dedicated a lifetime to public and community service in Middletown and in Middlesex County… and is a worthy recipient of the 2014 Michael L. Green Award, said chamber President (and Southern alum) Larry McHugh.

On June 27, Gary Morin, professor of exercise science, will receive the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Athletic Trainer Service Award at the association’s national conference in Indianapolis. This award recognizes NATA members who have demonstrated a strong commitment to their local and state associations and have established a track record of professional accomplishment in the athletic training profession.

Gary, program director of our athletic training education program, is in his 24th season as a member of Southern’s athletic training staff and was the Owls’ head athletic trainer for 12 seasons.

Physics Department Chair Christine Broadbridge was honored as the 11th Connecticut Materials and Manufacturing Professional of the Year for 2014 at a combined meeting of the New Haven Manufacturers Association (NHMA) and the Southern Connecticut Chapter of the American Society for Materials International on April 24.

Christine was recognized for her contributions to materials science, STEM education, her work with the NHMA workforce enhancement committee, and for partnering with the above organizations and Milford’s Platt Technical High School in implementing the successful Materials Manufacturing Summer Teachers’ Institute, which is held annually here at Southern.

Cathy Christy, director of our Women’s Center, is one of four women to receive the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS) Outstanding Ally award. This award, presented April 17, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence.

“For sixteen years, Cathy has been a valuable partner and a strong and consistent voice for victim centered sexual assault campus policies and practices,” said Laura Cordes, CONNSACS Executive Director. “She has held the stories and hands of countless survivors of rape and sexual abuse, offering compassion, support and information.”

James Barber, director of community engagement, recently received the Rev. Dr. Edwin R. Edmonds Humanitarian Award for his longtime service to the Greater New Haven community at the 28th annual West Haven Black Coalition Scholarship Awards Dinner.

Dr. Edmonds, who passed away in 2007, was a member of our sociology faculty for decades and was instrumental in gaining approval for the university’s bachelor of science in social work program.

Jim’s tremendous commitment to promoting civic engagement in higher education and creating pathways for disadvantaged youth to earn a college degree also will be recognized June 4, when he receives the President’s Choice Award from the Connecticut Campus Compact (CTCC).

Anna Rivera-Alfaro, accounts payable coordinator, received the National Society of Hispanic MBAs Connecticut Chapter Destino Award for Outstanding Service on May 1. Anna was praised for her passionate leadership as advisor to the SCSU Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) and for working to help create a campus climate that is inclusive and supportive of Latino student needs.

Her public service efforts include being a board member of the New Haven Scholarship Fund, and volunteering with the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry offering free tax preparation to low-income families. 

Kudos to all these worthy recipients!

I also want to mention another award notification that I have just received: Southern has won a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Power of Change Award in the Top Building Category for state buildings. This award is based on the energy performance of the School of Business for the 2013 calendar year and its LEED gold certification.

The university will receive either a runners-up or honorable mention award at the ceremony in Hartford on June 17. This will mark the second time that Southern has earned a Power of Change Award. We also won in the Innovation category in 2012 for our successful efforts in the Campus Conservation Nationals, when Southern placed fourth out of 98 college entrants in the country for reducing electricity consumption in our residence halls.

Congratulations to Associate Vice President for Facilities Bob Sheeley, Sustainability Coordinator Suzanne Huminski and their teams, whose ongoing commitment to creating an environmentally friendly campus is reflected in this well-earned recognition.


On Sunday, June 29 at 2 p.m., Southern will host a discussion among four distinguished authors as part of the Narrative 4 summit that will take place in New Haven that week.

Narrative 4 is a global organization headed up by some of the world’s most renowned and influential authors, artists and community leaders who have come together to promote empathy through the exchange of stories.

Authors Colum McCann, Terry Tempest Williams, Ishmael Beah and Reza Aslan will come together on the Lyman Center stage to discuss their involvement in Narrative 4 and its goal of encouraging people to “walk in each other’s shoes and prove that not only does every story matter, every life matters.”

The June 29 program was initiated by Southern M.F.A. graduate Lee Keylock, a high school English teacher in Newtown who became involved with Narrative 4 following the December 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy. In searching for a book that might help his students cope in the wake of Newtown’s devastating losses, Lee came upon McCann’s novel “Let the Great World Spin.” The New York Times has said of this book, “Through their anguish, McCann’s characters manage to find comfort, even a kind of redemption.”

Lee was looking for a book with just such a message, so he acquired copies for his students to read. Colum McCann learned of Lee and his students and offered to travel to Newtown to meet with them.

Through this meeting, Lee became involved with Narrative 4, and he and 12 of his students have been exchanging stories with 12 students at a school in a struggling suburb of Chicago. As Colum McCann has said, “Story exchanges — where you tell my story and I tell yours — are a form of narrative medicine. Stories enter the bloodstream. Stories can wound us, yes, but they are more likely to heal.” You can learn more about Narrative 4 at www.narrative4.com


Finally, my special thanks to Jess Scibek and Mike Kobylanski for spearheading Southern’s team participation in the Greater New Haven Heart Walk on May 3. More than 50 faculty, staff, and students participated on an incredibly beautiful Saturday. The 3-mile event raised valuable funds to support the research, education and advocacy efforts of the American Heart Association.

April 4, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on April 4th, 2014

Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend the inaugural ball for New Haven’s new Mayor, Toni Harp. Ms. Harp has a long association with Southern from her many highly productive years as a State Senator and co-chair of the legislative Appropriations Committee. I believe that her knowledge of, and appreciation for, our mission will make for an even more fruitful partnership in the months and years ahead.

As you know, I have emphasized enhancing our involvement with the Elm City, and many of New Haven’s key players are excited about the fact that we have now established a presence downtown through Southern on the Green, at 900 Chapel Street. The suite of offices and seminar rooms look professional and polished, with new furniture and photography highlighting all that is good about the university.  You will be able to see for yourself during an internal open house to be held in May, along with a second event for corporate and community leaders. Southern on the Green will officially open April 7, with an open house for selected graduate programs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

You can read more about Southern on the Green and its role in our mission in a recent New Haven Register article: http://tinyurl.com/omyc4ys


I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Robert J. Rennie has been confirmed as our new Chief Information Officer, succeeding Dr. Pablo Molina. Pablo returns to Washington, D.C., on April 30 to become CIO of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS).

Since 1997, Rob has been the CIO and Vice President of Technology for Florida State College at Jacksonville, Fla., a multi-campus institution serving more than 60,000 students.

Rob’s CIO experience spans more than 20 years, and he is known for building the reputations of organizations on a foundation of innovation, value creation, excellence and technology leadership. Honored as one of Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT leaders in 2004, Rob serves on Software AG’s International Executive Committee, is a member of Apple’s University Executive Forum and was an advisory board member of Curriki, an online, nonprofit organization that provides free curricula and instructional resources primarily in support of K-12 education.

Under Rob’s leadership, Florida State College has won numerous awards for its highly innovative and successful technology environment. It was ranked first in the nation three out of four years by the Center for Digital Education, rated “Most Wired” by Yahoo; has been featured by several major technology firms for best practices and successful innovations and was named a Computerworld Gold Laureate in 2008.

Prior to his tenure at Florida State College, Rob was the CIO for Mt. San Antonio College in Los Angeles; was a principal of the technology strategy practice of Xentrek Systems, Inc. and held a visiting scholar appointment in Information Systems at the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA.

Rob’s first day at Southern will be July 15. Pablo will provide consultancy services during the interim period between his April 30 departure and Rob’s arrival. I am confident that the transition between these two talented CIOs will be smooth and that our OIT will continue to provide excellent and innovative service to our campus community.


We have had much to cheer about in athletics with the heroics of our men’s basketball team, and the dual national titles earned by swimmer Raymond Czwerko and heptathlete Nick Lebron (his career second).

Raymond completed the nationals as a three-time All-American, with a title in the 200 fly and a runner-up spot in the 400 individual medley. Nick captured the heptathlon title two years after his first triumph, earning All-America honors and setting a new NCAA Division II record score of 5,765 points.

On their path to the Elite 8 for just the second time in Southern history, the men’s basketball Owls captured the Northeast-10 regular season and conference tournament titles, and won a program-best 30 games, including a school-record 19 straight.

Not surprisingly, Coach Mike Donnelly has been named a finalist for the 2014 Clarence “Big House” Gaines award. The 2013-14 Northeast-10 Conference and Daktronics East Region Coach of the Year is one of 12 finalists for the award, which is presented annually to the top Division II men’s basketball coach.

In his four seasons on the bench for the Owls, Mike has turned around a struggling program in compiling a 73-41 overall record, which represents the most-ever wins by a Southern coach in his first four seasons. The winner of the 2014 Gaines award will be announced at the CollegeInsider.com Awards Banquet today (Friday, April 4) in Dallas, site of this weekend’s Division I Men’s Final Four.


As noted above, our national profile in athletics continues to grow. And in recent years that has owed much to the leadership of our Athletic Director, Patricia Nicol, who will be leaving Southern May 29 to take up the Director of Athletics position at Emerson College in Boston.

Pat has been a member of the Owls’ athletics administration for the last 15 years, and since her appointment as director in 2005, our student-athletes have excelled on the playing fields, in the classroom and in the community.

Pat emphasized that success for our student-athletes extends beyond the competitive arena. During her tenure, our athletes have engaged in thousands of hours of community service, creating a spirit of volunteerism that will endure after their playing days. Additionally, our teams’ collective academic performance is a justifiable point of pride, with their overall GPA recently reaching the highest level in our program’s history.

On behalf of our campus community, I thank her for her tireless commitment to student success, for her exceptional leadership of our athletics program and for her dedication to advancing the university in general. Please take the opportunity to congratulate Pat on her new appointment.

This week, I informed the campus community that James Blake, our Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, will be retiring in early January 2015.

On the one hand, I am very pleased for Jim. He has been an integral part of the growth and sound financial health of Southern Connecticut State University since 1996. And, with almost 30 years of dedicated state service behind him, his pending retirement has been well earned.

On the other hand, I am sure you will concur with me that we will be losing one of the true stalwarts of our university community. As you know, Jim has worked with and counseled five presidents of Southern. Certainly, one of the first items on my agenda when I assumed the presidency in early 2012 was requesting that Jim would be able to stay on for as long as possible. He committed to three years – and I am sure we are all glad that he did!

During Jim’s tenure as our chief financial officer, the state’s economy – and therefore Southern’s operating budget – has been subject to severe fiscal challenges. But thanks to Jim’s prudent spending and sound long-term planning, we have been able to maintain modest surpluses that have negated the need for the deep cuts that would have severely impacted student learning.

Jim has also been a key player in the ongoing transformation of our campus, guiding the university through the completion of two Master Facility Plans and ensuring that sufficient resources were in place to advance our construction program – often a challenging task! Signature projects during Jim’s tenure included the Engleman Hall expansion; the Adanti Student Center; the School of Business building and now, the Buley Library renovation, and the Academic and Laboratory Science Building. Before his departure, Jim will again be a key part of the planning process for our 2014–2024 facilities plan update.

Despite all of these responsibilities, and in the midst of every challenging circumstance, Jim has been a constant: unflappable, good-humored, wise and honest. He is an individual of integrity, and a reassuring presence on our campus.

A national search for a new vice president for finance and administration will commence this summer, and we hope that a hire will be made by Thanksgiving. In this way, Jim will be on hand to assist with the transition, and also to provide his invaluable counsel for the new strategic planning process, the design for our planned Student Recreation Center and other key institutional initiatives.

Please take the opportunity to congratulate Jim on his retirement and thank him for his stellar service to Southern.


Southern was well represented at a March 25 roundtable discussion on “Higher Education and its impact on Connecticut Women and their Families,” hosted at New Haven City Hall by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Mayor Harp and Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. This was the fourth in a series of similar roundtables statewide addressing pay equity, workforce policies, and education issues facing women in Connecticut.

Southern’s attendees were: School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin, Interim School of Education Dean Deb Newton, Assistant Dean of Health and Human Services Esther Howe, Professor of English and Women’s Studies and Liberal Studies Program Director Ilene Crawford, and Professor of Sociology Shirley Jackson. They joined about 30 other women working in government, education and non-profit organizations in New Haven and Fairfield counties to improve Connecticut women’s and girls’ access to education.

Teresa Younger noted that while women now earn the majority of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, they remain clustered in traditional fields of employment and have yet to achieve pay equity, earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. This gender gap has a direct impact on the quality of life for the many Connecticut families where women are the primary wage earners.

Ilene reports that roundtable participants shared success stories from specific programs they operated and identified issues in need of further action, such as mentoring programs for girls that happen in the context of girls’ families and communities and support services for women allowing them to stay in school and follow more diverse career paths.

The roundtable concluded with a reminder from Mayor Harp that women need to make full use of their political strength to effect change for women and girls.


As usual, the academic year will begin winding down with a flurry of events that showcase the breadth of interests and activities on our campus. Here are just some of the notable ones:

This Monday, a forum on “Crisis in Ukraine: What Happened and What’s Next?” coordinated by the Office of Public Affairs will be held from noon to 1:45 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. Six faculty panelists will address key questions regarding a standoff between Russia, the United States and our NATO allies that has analysts harking back to the Cold War era: www.southernct.edu/ukraineforum

Also next week, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whom the New York Times has called “the most popular poet in America,” will give a campus reading on Wednesday, (April 9), at 7:15 p.m. The reading in the Charles Garner Recital Hall (Engleman C112) will be followed by an audience Q&A and a book signing of his most recent collection, “Aimless Love.” The event is co-sponsored by the university’s MFA Program in Creative Writing: www.southernct.edu/news/billy-collins.html

The Big Event is an annual campus-wide service initiative in which Southern comes together to support the New Haven and surrounding communities. This year, on April 12 hundreds of Southern students will volunteer for local organizations, agencies and other locations in need of assistance. To register, students – and employees who would like to help out – should go to https://southernct.collegiatelink.net/ and click on the Big Event icon.

On April 12 and 13, Southern will host our 21st annual Womens’ Studies conference: “Ecology, Spirituality, Sustainability,”offering 24 sessions and almost 80 presenters from across the country and abroad.  The impressive list of speakers is headed by keynotes Majora Carter (a visionary, urban revitalization strategist, and public radio host) and Dr. Hyun Kyung Chung (a Korean eco-feminist and theologian and Associate Professor of Ecumenical Studies at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York): www.southernct.edu/academics/schools/arts/departments/womensstudies/annualconference

On April 23, “Take Back the Night,” an annual event to stop violence against women, will take place in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom from 7-9 p.m. Since its inception in 1976, Take Back the Night has become internationally known as a way to take a stand against sexual violence and speak out against these crimes. Sponsored by our Women’s Center, it is one of a series of campus events being held to promote awareness during national “Sexual Assault Month”: www.tinyurl.com/mlcz5th

From 3 p.m. April 26 through 9 a.m. April 27, Southern’s annual Relay for Life will be held at Jess Dow Field. Relay For Life is a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society (ACS) hosted at Southern by Colleges Against Cancer, a student organization affiliated with ACS. Teams camp out overnight, and team members take turns walking or running around the track. Each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times, and team members have sponsors who have pledged to donate money to Relay for Life on their behalf. This year’s theme is “Superheroes”: www.relayforlife.org/scsu.

Southern will be participating in the Greater New Haven Heart Walk 3-mile Heart Walk, a fun, family event where participants join more than a million people in 300 cities nationwide to raise funds supporting the research, education and advocacy efforts of the American Heart Association.  The event will be held on Saturday, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Savin Rock Beach in West Haven. Fitness Center Coordinator Jess Scibek and Associate Athletics Director Mike Kobylanski are leading Southern’s effort, recruiting team captains and members. If you are interested in starting a team or joining team SCSUfit you can also CLICK HERE to visit Southern’s company page. I am a member of the Executive Leadership Team for the Heart Walk, and I encourage as many of you as possible to join this enjoyable and rewarding community event!

At the end of a long academic year, we can all do with a laugh, and good humor is guaranteed at the 16th installment of the Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture Series, featuring one of America’s best-loved comedians, Jay Leno. On May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Lyman Center, the two-time Emmy Award winner will deliver a classic “Tonight Show” monologue in his inimitable “everyman” style, which has earned him millions of fans worldwide:  www.southernct.edu/jay-leno.html


Last weekend, our Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders hosted a highly successfully conference – “Bridging Communities: Strategies for Success.” The 24th Annual Northeast Regional Conference on Autism offered presentations and panel discussions on topics such as assessment, parenting teens with autism, life after high school for young people with autism, living with Asperger’s, and strategies for success.

Keynote addresses were delivered by Jesse A. Saperstein, best-selling author of “Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1⁄3 Chapters,” and Temple Grandin, the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. In 2010, Time Magazine named Dr. Grandin one of its Most Important People of the Year and her life story was made into an HBO movie titled “Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes,” which won seven Emmy awards and a Golden Globe.

The annual conference brings cutting-edge thinking from top professionals in the field of autism, so that families and professionals may gain as much knowledge and understanding as possible to have maximum impact in working with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) individuals. It is a tribute to the standing of our Center that we were able to host such a significant event on our campus and Director Ruth Eren tells me she and her staff have received many positive congratulations and comments via e-mail in the days since.


As you know, Southern is taking part in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” program, a study designed to gather benchmarking data within higher education and to recognize institutions that have built great workplaces.

Part of the program involves an employee survey distributed to each institution’s full-time Faculty, Administrators, Exempt and Non-exempt Staff. An invitation to take this survey was distributed to all of our full-time employees on or about March 17.

The email was from “Great Colleges” with the subject line: The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For 2014 Faculty/Staff Survey. To ensure the confidentiality of your responses, your survey will be processed by ModernThink LLC, a research and consulting firm focusing on workplace excellence.  Southern will not receive any information that would enable us to trace survey data back to any one individual. The deadline to complete the survey is Monday, April 14, 2014.

 I thank those of you who have already completed the survey and I appreciate you taking the time to share your views and opinions.

If you have not yet completed the survey, please take a moment to do so. Your feedback is valued! The results will be factored into the overall scoring process that will ultimately determine the institutions recognized. The Chronicle will publish the findings this summer in a special Academic Workplace supplement, due to be released at the end of July.

I encourage everyone’s participation! A high response rate helps ensure accurate results and demonstrates the commitment of our workforce. Whether or not our institution is recognized, we will learn from the feedback and make improvements for our future. In fact, this information will be very useful to my Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion and also will inform the development of our new Strategic Plan.

 Thank you for your participation. Please contact Rick Riccardi, who is serving as our survey coordinator, or visit www.ChronicleGreatColleges.com, if you have any questions.