CCSU Courier – February 2013
The CCSU Courier presents a variety of news stories of interest to faculty, staff, and friends of the University, leaders of Connecticut higher education, state school districts, and the University's other diverse constituencies.
Because Craig Pappas earned decent grades in high school, he didn’t expect to have any trouble in college. But during his first semester at CCSU, he struggled with coursework, and landed on academic probation.
“Not meeting my own standards made me feel like kind of a failure,” Pappas said. “I felt disappointed in myself, knowing that I should have done better.”
But during his second semester, in fall 2012, his grades climbed dramatically, thanks to his hard work and help from academic coach Elizabeth DeGrandpre. Every Monday, he attended a one-hour, non-credit class through The Learning Center called “Making the Dean’s List.” The course offers techniques and advice for getting better grades.
“I used to be a procrastinator, but now I keep a schedule of what’s due,” said Pappas, a psychology major. “Elizabeth helped me sharpen my study skills and manage my time better. “I had my doubts if I was going to make it after the first semester. But I picked myself up, and now I definitely see myself graduating—and graduating on time,” Pappas said.
Improving the University’s graduation and retention rate is the biggest priority at CCSU, said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Carl Lovitt and Vice President of Student Affairs Laura Tordenti. The Retention and Graduation Council—formed five years ago and composed of representatives from virtually every department on campus—is looking at barriers to graduation. They are willing to tackle almost any issue, from academic concerns to housing and night life.
“CCSU derives immense pride from the accomplishments inherent in our motto, ‘Start with a Dream. Finish with a Future,’” said Lovitt. “Unlike more selective institutions, CCSU enrolls many students who want what a college degree promises, but who may not initially understand what it takes to succeed in college. “One of our highest priorities is to help all students acquire the skills, values, and attitudes that will enable them to succeed in their chosen careers, and to become contributing members of society. Our goal is to take students who may not be ready for ‘prime time’ and help them become students we are proud to call CCSU graduates.”
A subcommittee of the Council, the Student Success Team, formed about a year ago. When it started investigating the University’s graduation rate, co-chairs Jim Mulrooney and Yvonne Kirby first contacted students who hadn’t returned to campus, to find out why. Currently about 52 percent of those who enter as freshmen graduate from CCSU within six years, up from 40 percent in 2007. Still, the current numbers are considered too low. Students are most likely to leave CCSU between their first and second semesters, or at the beginning of sophomore year, said Kirby, the University’s Director of Institutional Research and Assessment. Students left for a vast variety of reasons, citing everything from financial problems to being homesick. Others changed career aspirations or cited disappointment in failing to get into their preferred program of study.
Among the students who didn’t complete their degrees, there was one common thread: a lack of engagement with the University, both academically and socially. In fact, national research has shown that students who form a bond with a professor and are active in campus activities become more invested in their education and ultimately are more likely to complete their degrees.
“I think we’re looking at a two-pronged approach to improving graduation rates,” said Mulrooney, who is chairman of the Biomolecular Sciences Department. “We have some things we can do quickly, and some that will take a longer time.”
One of the first initiatives is the development of “academic maps,” unveiled in January, which present a recommended semester-by-semester schedule of courses to keep students on track toward completing their degrees. Other universities that have used this system report a four- to six-percent increase in college completion rates. “It is a tool that could be very helpful,” said Mulrooney. “This empowers students to be active participants in their education. It includes key milestones. For instance, if you’re an education major, you need to know when to take the Praxis test. This gets students thinking beyond the current semester.”
Lovitt believes a well-articulated path makes it easier for students to graduate on time.
Two additional factors to succeeding in college include attending all classes and studying at least 20 hours a week, Lovitt said. He would like to see more department open houses, research sessions, and activities so students can share intellectual and social connections. But academics aren’t the only focus.
Campus engagement is a unique challenge at a university like CCSU, which has a large number of commuting students. But with more than 125 clubs and organizations, there is a program for almost any interest, and an opportunity for students to be involved on their own terms. Technology can play a big role in introducing students with similar interests, Lovitt said. A network of friendships and support can be built around common interests—whether it is a love of volleyball, writing, or foreign policy. The University is also looking at increasing weekend programs. Since few courses are offered on Fridays, many students pack up and leave for three days, diminishing their ties to the campus.
Kirby said while there is no “silver bullet” to improve retention and graduation rates, she is encouraged by the work that the Retention and Graduation Council has done. The scope of ideas being discussed, Kirby said, will make the college experience even more rewarding for all CCSU students. Some of the current initiatives include:
• Instituting a more sophisticated early academic-warning system that would allow faculty and students to address academic deficiencies while there is still time to correct them. Although a system is now in place, it needs to be refined, Mulrooney said.
• The demand for academic support is well documented. In November 2012 alone, nearly 4,000 students took advantage of various academic coaching services offered by The Learning Center, up 25 percent from two years ago.
• Creating a Special Studies major for students who have successfully completed enough courses to graduate, but haven’t matriculated into a specific program. Approval for this program would have to come from the Board of Regents. “This would be a safety net for some students,” said Kirby. The team hopes to discuss the plan with faculty this spring,
and have a final program in place by fall 2013.
• The Office of Residence Life has created Living-Learning Communities (LLCs) designed for students with common majors and academic interests. Currently Engineering, Elementary Education, and Athletic Training/Exercise Science students can choose to live with their peers and take a First-Year Experience class together. Those students also receive extra support and mentoring by faculty, as well as programs and events that enhance their interests, Tordenti said. Studies show that students in LLCs have higher GPAs and lower levels of disciplinary infractions. The University is adding a first-year living community in North Hall in the fall, which includes special activities and support for new student success.
• More consistent and “robust” advising will become a mainstay of the University, which may even employ “advising fellows” to train and mentor others, Lovitt said. The goal would be to get more students to graduate in four years.
• The University is publishing public-service announcements in the student newspaper, The Recorder, telling students such things as those who study 20 hours a week or more typically have high GPAs and reminding them to try to complete their degree in four years. Meanwhile, some 100 students are now participating in a peer-mentoring pilot program called the Blue Devils Advocates.
• The University may revamp curriculum to include mid-term exams, class attendance policies, and other structural changes that will keep students in class and give them frequent assessment of how they are doing.
• Using academic-planning technology to schedule courses and determine how many sessions of a course are needed, Lovitt said. By making sure courses aren’t scheduled at conflicting times, students won’t have to choose between two courses they really want, Lovitt said. New software will also help predict how much demand exists for a course, and the University can be better prepared for enrollment trends.
– Claire LaFleur Hall
If you have suggestions for the Retention and Graduation Council, please contact one of these members:
German Bermudez – Institutional Research & Assessment
Mary Pat Bigley – School of Education
Larry Hall – Recruitment & Admissions
Scott Hazan – Student Activities/Leadership Development
Ramon Hernandez – Student Affairs
Nancy Hoffman – Educational Leadership
Yvonne Kochera Kirby – Institutional Research & Assessment
Margaret Leake – The Learning Center
Alexander Lee – Student
Carl Lovitt – Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs
Cory Manento – Student
Mark McLaughlin – Institutional Advancement
James Mulrooney – Biomolecular Sciences
Kevin Oliva – Center for Student Athletes
Ken Poppe – Center for Advising & Career Exploration
Christopher Pudlinski – Communication
Laura Tordenti – Vice President, Student Affairs
Patrick Tucker – Registrar
Carrie Andreoletti’s sabbatical pilot study yielded a surprise—one that was a bit disconcerting at first.
During the 2011–12 academic year, the associate professor of psychology wanted to develop and assess a program/intervention that would reduce levels of stress felt by residents living at Arbor Rose, a senior community in New Britain.
Drawing from research literature on successful aging and positive psychology, Andreoletti says, “I set out to determine whether simple activities, such as keeping a gratitude journal, could reduce stress levels in assisted living residents—many of whom may feel the stress of transition to an assisted living community or nursing home.”
Andreoletti, a faculty member of Psychological Science since 2004, and currently co-chair of the Gerontology Minor Committee, has a proven track record of scholarship. She holds a PhD in Social and Developmental Psychology from Brandeis University. For the past eight years, she has studied age stereotypes and how peoples’ beliefs about aging and memory can influence their cognitive functioning or memory performance in later life. Seasoned in controlled experimentation, she has actively published and presented her work.
A well-known model in the field of gerontology maintains that successful aging includes three components: absence of disease and disability, maintaining high cognitive and physical function, and remaining actively involved with others and engaged in life.
Andreoletti says research links stress to negative health outcomes, and cognitive aging researchers have more recently turned their attention to the relationship between stress and cognitive health.
“My past work led me to want to integrate my research interests with community engagement,” she explains. “Thus, I turned to more applied research by developing relationships with local senior centers and senior living communities, in order to create internships and other learning experiences for students.”
Andreoletti teaches Adult Development and Aging every semester and approaches the class from a positive aging perspective, targeting what it means to age successfully and how to differentiate normal aging from disease. In spring 2010 she taught Positive Psychology, a relatively new area within the field of psychology, which focuses on the scientific study of human strengths (as opposed to weakness or illness) and of increasing feelings of well-being, which are related to a wide range of positive outcomes.
“It was the experience of teaching and thinking about these two intersecting areas of psychology—successful aging and positive psychology—combined with my interactions with the staff at Arbor Rose, that sparked the sabbatical pilot study,” she states.
A Surprise Finding from Pilot
She reflects, “What I discovered was that a simple-sounding activity, such as keeping a gratitude journal, isn’t very practical and didn’t really meet the needs of this particular population. Many residents found it tedious and after a few weeks they rebelled!”
After spending the sabbatical year getting to know residents at Arbor Rose, she says, “I learned that what they most desire is social interaction and intellectual stimulation that goes beyond small talk. What residents seemed to most value and enjoy about my ‘successful aging’ intervention was our weekly group meetings and discussions—and getting to know me, as well as each other, on a deeper level. My hunch is that the topic was less important than the interaction itself.”
Armed with this knowledge, Andreoletti is now in a better position to develop a study that can more directly test this hypothesis. The sabbatical inspired Andreoletti to combine her research interests with creating more community engagement opportunities for her students. This desire led to WISE—Working Together: Intergenerational Student/Senior Exchange, where she brought residents of the senior community at The Orchards in Southington together with psychology students.
The WISE series began this past September with a get-acquainted lunch. “During that first meeting that involved six students from my Adult Development and Aging class and eight residents of The Orchards, something magical happened!” declares Andreoletti. “They really connected. My students were amazed at how ‘normal’ and ‘with it’ the seniors were, while the seniors seemed equally impressed with the students. The level of rapport they were able to develop in only a few short meetings was amazing.”
The WISE series included a role-playing exercise in which the students wore items that simulated vision, hearing, and dexterity loss to experience the aging process. Lively discussions between the seniors and students occurred at one session on “The Impact of Technology—Facebook and Beyond!” and another on what dating and relationships were like in the 1940s and ’50s versus today.
“WISE has great promise as a successful aging intervention and can easily be implemented in senior living communities,” concluded Andreoletti. “What I ultimately hope to contribute to the field of gerontology is research that demonstrates how intergenerational relationships can foster successful aging, well-being, and a sense of community engagement in young and old alike. Plus, such programs help to break down some of the negative stereotypes that both young and old people hold about one another. Further, younger people may consider careers in aging and gerontology after they have had the opportunity to work with older adults in programs like WISE.”
– Geri Radacsi
A lyrical litany spills from Associate Professor of Teacher Education Barbara Clark: “A teacher must be a researcher, a thinker, a writer, an artist, a scientist, an environmentalist, a pacifist, a caregiver, and an empathic mentor. A teacher creates ideas and learning environments with endless possibilities. A teacher works within a multiverse of imaginative ideas and realities.”
With the élan she’s displayed since joining the faculty at CCSU in 2005, Clark brings her education classes to surrounding community schools to experience diverse thinking first-hand. She balances her artistic passion with an administrator’s practicality in her current role as Elementary Education Division Coordinator. She instructs pre-service students to teach with energy and respect their learners’ cultural heritage. She encourages them to use an aesthetic lens such as dance, masks, visual art, or theatre to focus on various social and ecological issues the children face in their community.
Clark opens her Elementary Teaching course by giving each student a mustard seed. “‘That’s the potential inside you and your students,’ I tell them,” says Clark. It’s critically important, she feels, that pre-service teachers perceive themselves as creative, compassionate teachers and leaders of change in education.
Senior elementary education major Jessica Volpe reflects, “This mustard seed became symbolic of our faith, hopes, beliefs, and dreams as teacher candidates. I’ve discovered that I care about the voices and dreams of children, as well as believe that every child deserves to be loved.”
Clark holds a doctorate from the University of Hartford in educational leadership and has had a wealth of experience during many years as an art educator in various public schools. A working artist, she has exhibited her work at many galleries and museums, including the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and Slater Museum in Norwalk.
She has researched aesthetic education as a learning tool to engage youngsters. Clark smiles, “I remember one seven-year-old looking straight up at me and exclaiming, ‘Those storybook characters you brought us—that was very interesting.’ The child was thrilled to express her thoughts verbally and in writing.”
The “very interesting” project was created to promote the joy of reading. Storybook characters—such as Cinderella, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Cat in the Hat—came to life at Smith School in New Britain and Linden School in Plainville. Then, children wrote letters to the “characters.” Kevin Devery, enrolled in the elementary education methods class, said, “Letters written to me made my day. They were about the many details from my made-up story line, meaning that the students were impacted by my specific character. Dr. Clark knew that this would happen and it is a testament to her style, knowledge, and conviction that she continues to offer an unorthodox lesson that has real results.”
Devery led the writing of a CCSU diversity grant proposal with fellow students and received $1,000 to
support costuming, journals, and snacks for the Storybook Character event. Assistant Professor James French’s and Wangari Gichiru’s classes also participated.
An ecological issue was addressed in the performance, “Make a Wave: Be the Change.” Urban children from the surrounding public school community came to campus and learned about the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, through puppets, dance, and poetry. Portraying their own desires and hopes as instructors, pre-service teachers danced the dance of the dolphin, enacted an acknowledgement of human short-sighted cruelty, and offered a song to take compassionate action.
Clark described a mask project geared toward children of incarcerated parents (CIP) and funded by the Institute of Regional and Municipal Policy. Fifth graders in two elementary schools with a significant population of CIP students took part in the twelve-week program, which promoted the transformative power of releasing children’s feelings and voices through the arts and symbolic aesthetic messages. Four courses of pre-service teacher candidates and their respective professors, French and Assistant Professor of Art Jerry Butler, and professional mask artist Larry Hunt, facilitated the project.
Elementary education major Yvette Mirando recalls how “closed” students became “more trusting of us as teachers and started expressing their emotions appropriately. I learned more from them than they learned from me, I think.”
Clark’s work in the New Britain Public Schools has been recognized by the New Britain Board of Education, and over the past three years, she has received awards for Contribution to the Fine Arts Programs, Service to Youth and Friends of the Schools. Clark has been nominated for the Excellence in Teaching Honor Roll and was a finalist in 2009.
She has published her research in scholarly publications and given conference presentations, both nationally and internationally. She and Associate Geography Professor Charles E. Button won the Emerald Literati Network 2012 Award for Excellence (Outstanding Paper). Their article is titled, “Sustainability transdisciplinary education model: Interface of arts, science, and community.” In addition, Clark is coauthoring a forthcoming book with French titled, Hearts and Minds Without Fear: Unmasking the Sacred in Teacher Preparation.
– Geri Radacsi
Because a university curriculum is an ever-evolving entity, CCSU professors from different disciplines are able to bring their unique perspectives to the creation of new courses. New course topics invigorate the CCSU academic landscape with rigorous and relevant subject matter and feature a range of activities that stimulate the mind and spirit of students.
The future is now in this course that emphasizes mobile computing and robotics. Students learn to develop apps for Android devices and use them to control Sphero, a small robot that can move around, change its light colors, and send sensor readouts back to the mobile device.
Computer Science Professor Stanislav Kurkovsky explains what prompted the idea for this course: “Mobile application development and robotics are two skills most demanded by employers. As far as I know, nobody ever tried combining these two subjects in the same course, but it turned out to be a rather symbiotic combination.”
Kurkovsky brings considerable expertise to teaching this course since he has been active in mobile computing research for the last decade. He’s hoping students gain a high degree of satisfaction—and fun—by working with cutting edge technologies that implement many research advances and inventions unheard of just a few years ago. For example, students will create a mobile drawing app in which the robot is used as a 3D joystick that controls a pen on the screen of an Android tablet or mobile phone. For their final project, students use Android devices to program their Sphero robots to follow a challenging course.
Internship in Gerontology
There’s a growing workforce demand for dedicated professionals ready to address the needs of an aging population. Associate Professor of Psychological Science Carrie Andreoletti, a researcher who has been supervising gerontology interns using an independent study model for many years, explains how this new course, offered in spring 2013, came about.
“One of my goals as co-chair of the Gerontology Minor, and as someone passionate about adult development and aging, is to get more students to consider a career in aging and become mindful of the issues facing older adults today,” she says. “Another goal is to challenge students’ negative stereotypes about aging and get them to develop a more balanced view of the positives and negatives associated with old age.”
Students in this internship participate in a classroom seminar on careers in aging and also work 120–140 hours in an agency or organization that serves older adults. Recently, Andreoletti has been pilot testing intergenerational programs that bring college students and older adults together to discuss topics relevant to both and to learn from one another. Her hope is that such programs will decrease negative stereotypes and anxiety about aging.
She encourages students to reflect analytically on issues relevant to working with the elderly. “As the number of students interested in doing gerontology internships has increased over the years, I felt this course would provide them more structure for reflecting on their field experiences,” she says.
Saints and Sinners: Roles of Women in Romantic Opera
Intriguingly titled, this course was developed last summer by Professor of Music Linda Laurent after she received a curriculum development grant. The focus of the course is the examination of such leading roles in La Traviata (Verdi), Carmen (Bizet), and Salome (Strauss) from societal, historical, and literary perspectives.
Laurent says, “I regularly teach music history survey courses and have always appreciated the special richness of opera—the music, original text, staging, and the intense experience that this combination delivers. I hoped one day to delve more deeply into these areas.”
Then along came “The Met: Live in HD,” a series of live opera performances transmitted via satellite from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City primarily to movie theaters. “Anyone is able to go to a local movie theater and watch the opera from the best seats in the house, visit the orchestra in the pit, go behind stage during set changes, and enjoy getting to know the singers via interviews,” says Laurent.
Inspired by the increased accessibility of opera and surge of interest in the genre, Laurent shaped a new course in her imagination, choosing the 19th century because both the plots and the leading female roles are so powerful.
Laurent reflects, “I want my students to gain a greater understanding of opera, leading to an appreciation of the genre that will continue for a lifetime. Hopefully, the assignment to attend a ‘Met at the Movies’ performance will spark that flame.”
Human Rights in Modern World History
“Many of our graduate students are current educators and find themselves in schools with increasing emphasis on world history,” explains Assistant Professor of History Matthew Specter. “To meet the needs of students with a concentration in world history and to give master’s students background in world history approaches to their regions, the History Department is offering this new course.”
Since 2008, Specter has been working in a new subfield of history known as the history of human rights and humanitarianism, reviewing books, and presenting at numerous conferences. His first book on Jurgen Habermas examined the German social philosopher’s contributions to a robust liberal, democratic political culture. Germany is party to the European Convention on Human Rights which makes rejection of the death penalty a condition of membership in the European Union.
Specter says historians have only recently begun to grapple with the contemporary prominence of human rights: “Since the 1960s, but especially since 1989, human rights has become a globally recognized lingua franca for pressing claims to social justice. And historians want to know why.”
Specter has two goals for this course. He says, “I want to model for students a politically engaged scholarship, which is sensitive to cultural difference and historical contingency but which is also not afraid to make value judgments.” Second, he says, “The questions raised by the new history of human rights lie at the intersection of global history and intellectual history. Therefore, we’re interested in how the language of human rights originated, how it diffused cross-culturally and temporally around the globe, and why social actors did or did not use the language to describe their lives and political goals.”
Mathematics and Art: A Study of Shape, Pattern, and Perspective in the Cathedrals of France
In this newly developed Course Abroad offering, students will absorb mathematics and art principles while studying cathedrals in the medieval French towns of Chartres, Rouen, Reims, and Beauvais. Cathedrals there as well as the breathtaking Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris will provide an historic overview of Gothic architecture and its importance to Western culture.
Led by Mathematical Sciences Assistant Professor Rachel Schwell and Art Professor Mark Strathy, this study abroad course appeals to both the artist and mathematician touching their aesthetic, architectural, and geometric sensibilities.
Since the 1990s Strathy has regularly brought students abroad to study art, and he has created large canvases in his New York City studio based on locations visited. “Students select their own subject matter, but we talk about ways to paint while traveling,” he explains. “We will also talk about the way that plein air studies fit into art history. I will paint along side of the students which is not common in a regular studio course.”
The Math component of the course explores the mathematics behind basic architectural principals of cathedrals, the geometry behind using correct techniques of perspective, and the mathematical patterns found in stained glass windows. Special site visits include the Palais de la Decoverte (Palace of Discovery) in Paris and its unique Salles Mathemathiques (Mathematical Rooms, including a room devoted just to pi!).
“I hope my students will learn that mathematics is all around us and that it isn’t just memorizing algorithms and pushing symbols around on paper,” says Schwell. “It shows up in even the most surprising and beautiful settings and is something to be admired and respected.”
Economics of Religion
“I hope students will be very excited to learn how interconnected economics is with other subjects,” says Associate Professor of Economics Brian J. Osoba. “In this interdisciplinary course, we research, analyze, and discuss the impact that religion has on economic, social, and public policy issues and how economics may affect religious beliefs, activities, and institutions.”
Students also have the opportunity to explore such topics as risk preferences, labor market choices, development issues, and competition.
The course found its origins in a syllabus Osoba drafted on the economics of religion during his last year in graduate school while he was preparing for the job market. “Since this topic was still pretty obscure back in 2003, I wanted to show potential employers that I could teach a semester-long, upper-level course in this area,” he observes. At that time, there were no such syllabi to be found on this topic.
“I posted the syllabus to my website and was eventually contacted by the most prolific economics of religion researcher requesting permission to use the syllabus as a guide for his own new course,” he says.
Osoba hopes students will learn to think more critically. He states that conducting interdisciplinary research on the economics of religion is so challenging, because there are many potential interacting variables, like language, culture, social norms, and demographic attributes.
– Geri Radacsi
This year’s Quo Vadis Polish Conference will be held in New Britain thanks in part to the work of graduate student Lisa Wisniewski.
Wisniewski attended the 2012 conference in Chicago and after three days of events that included meeting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, she returned to New Britain an inspired woman. She connected with New Britain businessman Maciej (Matt) Dabrowski, who aided her in proposing New Britain as this year’s conference location. Though competing cities included New York City, New Britain was announced the winner in early October.
Wisniewski and Dabrowski are serving as co-chairs of the conference and will oversee a 15 person team of Central students and New Britain community members. Undergraduate students Rafal Wolanowski and Alexandra Lis, president and treasurer respectively of the Polish Club, have also been vital in the conference planning process.
The conference is to be held August 2–4 at a variety of locations in New Britain, with one full day’s events at CCSU. Wisniewski says that she hopes to promote the city’s Polonia, or Polish community, especially on Broad Street. Though the conference is still in its early planning stages, Wisniewski is confident that it will go well and that it will be beneficial to the community as a whole.
“I think it will be an amazing experience because, in my lifetime, I don’t remember something of this scale coming to our city. People from all over the country and all over the world will be coming to New Britain. They’ll not only get to see our Polish community, they’ll get to see New Britain, they’ll get to see CCSU. We’re going to have people who might not otherwise come to New Britain, coming here and seeing our school, our community, seeing who we are.”
Though she is a US native, Wisniewski’s Polish heritage is a huge part of her life. She spoke Polish before she could speak English and attended, and loved, Polish Saturday School as a child. It is this deep connection with her heritage that gives Wisniewski such drive to keep the Polish culture alive.
After visiting the campus, Wisniewski was so confident that Central was the right school for her, it was the only graduate school to which she applied. When she began her studies, her decision was immediately validated. Upon enrollment, Wisniewski was still grieving over the loss of her grandmother, who was a strong guiding force in her life. She found that the faculty from her program and her fellow students became a major source of support that helped her to cope and grow as a person. Education is important to Wisniewski and she is thankful for the opportunities she has had at CCSU.
During her time at Central, Wisniewski has developed a close relationship with Assistant Professor of Counseling and Family Therapy Vernon Percy. Percy speaks highly of Wisniewski: “Over the past two years, Lisa has taken a larger and larger role in bringing the Polish Conference to New Britain. I have heard her say several times, ‘Two years ago I would never have envisioned myself doing these things.’ This revelation is more reflective of her humility than it is of any lack of confidence. Lisa’s passion and motivation to make a difference is clearly driven by her deep family values, pride in her Polish heritage, and membership in the larger New Britain community.”
Wisniewski will graduate in May with a Master’s degree in Counselor Education with a specialization in Student Development in Higher Education. After graduation, she would like to teach and is considering getting her PhD in sociology, but also hopes to find career opportunities through her involvement with the Quo Vadis conference.
– Alayna James
Fraternal twins Rebecca (left) and Destiny Davis (right) have much more in common than just their age—they were born two minutes apart. They are both incredibly hard-working and goal-oriented students who are determined to graduate in four years and make every minute count at CCSU.
After graduating from Capital Community College in 2010 with associate degrees in liberal arts, Destiny and Rebecca Davis were in complete agreement when deciding where to continue their education. “CCSU was the closest to where we live, the most affordable, and we heard a lot of good things from other students at Capital,” Rebecca said.
When asked about the transition from a smaller community college to a campus of over 12,000 students, the sisters agree that although there was some trepidation about coming to a much larger school, the transfer process was seamless. According to Destiny, “The professors here are really welcoming and nice, which made the transfer process even easier.”
The twins will graduate in May, after only three semesters at Central. They attribute this achievement to taking as many classes as possible per semester, not taking any semesters off, and completing assignments well ahead of their due dates. “We have always had the goal in the back of our minds to graduate on time,” Destiny said.
Since they are both pursuing bachelor’s degrees in psychological science with minors in biology, they coordinate their schedules to have all of their classes together; this allows them to keep each other motivated and productive. Destiny and Rebecca have 3.9 and 4.0 GPAs respectively, and they playfully acknowledge that Rebecca usually scores a few points higher on exams.
After graduation, Destiny and Rebecca plan to study radiation therapy in an allied health program. Rebecca notes that everything they have been studying at CCSU can be applied to their future education. “A psychology degree will help us with radiation therapy, especially with helping people and understanding them better.” Following this, Rebecca will consider working in marine biology and Destiny in elderly psychology. “We’re only 21 and we will soon have our bachelor’s, so we plan on continuing from here and getting as much education as possible while we’re still young.”
Their strong commitment to education has earned the sisters an excellent reputation among faculty members. “Rebecca and Destiny are the type of students that every professor hopes to have in class. Both are front-row students who are very attentive in lectures and who really apply themselves. They have great attitudes and you can tell that they really want to learn. I am proud to have played some small role in the education of two such promising individuals,” said Professor of Biology Douglas Carter.
Rebecca and Destiny also have eclectic interests outside of the classroom. While they both enjoy going to rock concerts and local plays at the Hartford Stage, Destiny likes to draw and paint nature and animal portraits. Finding time for these other interests can be difficult when taking the maximum amount of classes and working multiple jobs, but the sisters’ organizational skills and well-ordered priorities make it possible. They also understand the importance of having one another for support and friendship.
Both sisters have big plans for the future, and it’s clear that they will find success in whatever they do.
– Adam Saucier
Locked inside their workplace, unable to escape the inferno around them, more than 100 Bangladeshi sweatshop workers perished in November 2012.
For CCSU alum Matthew Friedman ’84, one of the world’s foremost experts on human trafficking and “modern-day slavery,” the deaths are sadly predictable.
“These fires happen often. In such factories, the people and the equipment are packed together. There are a lot of flammable materials there,” Friedman said. “To keep the employees inside, they lock the doors from the outside.”
The Bangladesh factory was subcontracting work for American clothing companies.
“In a country like Bangladesh, there are many large and small factories that exploit their workers, some to the extent of being slavery. Many of these people burned to death. There are few things more awful than this,” Friedman said.
For a short time, public outcry will improve conditions, he predicts. But these tragedies have been happening for years, and it seems the safety of the workers, many who earn only $43 a month, is of little importance to their employers.
Friedman’s first introduction to the horrors of inhumane treatment came in 1995. He was working as a health inspector, checking a brothel in Mumbai, India, to see if it was complying with health mandates.
“An 11-year-old girl ran up to me, wrapped herself around me, and said, ‘Save me! Save me! They’re doing awful things to me!’” he recalled.
He wanted to immediately remove her from the brothel, but the police officer accompanying Friedman refused, warning that the brothel owners would kill them both rather than let her go.
When Friedman returned later with more authorities, the child was gone. For months he had nightmares.
“Even after all of these years, I still can’t get my mind around how people can be so cruel to others—how they can enslave and steal a person’s life away. At a time when a child should be living out her dreams, all she is faced with is a living nightmare. I can’t understand how those who exploit can’t see that these victims are someone’s son, daughter, brother, or sister.”
Friedman is now chief advisor to three organizations that address human trafficking in Southeast Asia. His resume includes working as the regional project manager for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, where he supervised agency offices in six countries in Southeast Asia. He is currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.
“We call it ‘modern-day slavery’ and there are, conservatively, 21 million people, maybe twice that, in this situation,” said Friedman.
But human trafficking isn’t limited to sweat shops or women in the sex trade, he said. Some of the most flagrant violators include fishing-boat owners who routinely beat and exploit their fishermen. If the men become ill or injured, they are thrown overboard. Elsewhere, children are commonly exploited for agricultural purposes.
Although Friedman deals with slavery that occurs across the globe, he said Americans should recognize that it impacts them as well.
“Maybe the shoes you wear have been stitched by a 10-year-old Bangladeshi who has been cheated from having his childhood,” he said. “Or the electronic device you are using to listen to your music has been put together by a woman who will never get paid for her 19-hours a day of effort. Or the fish that is on your plate was caught by a man who is beaten and tortured every day.
“Do we not have a responsibility to care about these people if we benefit from the products they are forced to make or the food they catch?” he asked.
Central and a Car Accident Launched His Career
Friedman, a Newington native, attended Central while simultaneously working a full-time job in a restaurant. He toyed with an idea of becoming a doctor, but an internship in a hospital oncology department confirmed that it “wasn’t right for him.” He graduated from CCSU with a dual major in biology and psychology in 1984.
One of the pivotal experiences Friedman had at CCSU was campaigning for a term as a student representative on the Connecticut State University Board of Trustees. In that role, he organized a political awareness day that brought 35 groups to campus, giving him a taste of politics in action.
He remains fond of CCSU, and when he returns to Connecticut to visit family each summer, he tries to bring his two teenage sons to campus.
“In my work, I’m surrounded by Ivy League graduates and I walked away from Central with the skills and tools that I needed,” he said. “The size, the atmosphere, and the hands-on teaching really made a difference. It is a humble place, but a university where the professors really care about the students.”
After graduation, Friedman went on to New York University, where he earned a master’s degree in health education. Friedman was pursuing a doctorate there when he was seriously injured riding in a taxi that crashed on the Brooklyn Bridge.
While he was recovering, a friend who worked at the UN asked him to write a paper on Zambia, a country in South Africa. Follow-up research sent Friedman to the country and started him on his current career path.
“Life is funny,” he said. “You think you have it all figured out, and things change. Now I think, ‘Wow, that’s how it was supposed to be.’”
Ending Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is defined as any kind of exploitation, from sexual to forced labor, servitude, forced military service, or even removal of organs. North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are considered some of the most egregious offenders.
Although the US is considered one of the most proactive countries in preventing human trafficking, problems still exist. The State Department estimates that 14,500 people annually are trafficked here. Houston, Texas, for instance, has more than 200 active brothels and is considered a major US hub of human and sex trafficking.
Friedman—who is routinely interviewed by CNN, the BBC, and the New York Times—has managed offices in China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand. His staff has not only handled complaints of human trafficking but collected data, conducted research, and identified gaps in the prevention efforts. They’ve worked closely with government and law-enforcement agencies to prevent and disrupt human trafficking.
“After 10 or 12 years, we have information about how these slave-trades work. We have laws and tools at our disposal, and we have help available for the victims,” he said. “We are primed to address it.”
On the Brink of Change
Up against a $32 billion enterprise, Friedman estimates his UN regional offices typically helped 2,000 people a year.
A recently adopted California law, which requires transparency in the supply chain for large manufacturing and retail businesses, may be an ally in this struggle, Friedman believes.
“Now the game has changed,” he said. Manufacturers and suppliers risk the “name and shame” game if they are producing goods in an unscrupulous manner. Consumers won’t tolerate it and the change will be dramatic, he predicts.
“We need to share the responsibility with everybody,” Friedman said. “It isn’t someone else’s problem.”
“I met one woman who had been raped, beaten and tortured as a sex slave. She was so angry, absolutely furious, and I assumed it was anger at her captives. But she finally told me her rage wasn’t directed at them at all. ‘Where were you when I was in the brothel?’ she said. ‘Where is society? Why did they let this happen?’”
– Claire LaFleur Hall
In January, alumnus Paul Gianaris ’70, a tireless volunteer, benefactor, and advocate for the University, was honored by CCSU and the School of Business with the dedication of the Paul Gianaris Technology Room in Vance Hall. Gianaris was born in New Britain and has maintained lifelong ties to the city and to the University, giving back generously, not only financially, but by his involvement and volunteerism with both local organizations and his alma mater.
His contributions include work with the New Britain Symphony Orchestra, the New Britain
Museum of American Art, and the Trinity-on-Main arts and education center, among other endeavors. At the University, he is a supporter of the football and basketball teams and a member of the committee that created a scholarship fund to support CCSU student-
veterans, particularly those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2008, Gianaris was instrumental in facilitating what, at the time, was the largest gift ever received from an individual donor when he encouraged family friend Tony Bichum to create the Anthony and Helen G. Bichum Scholarship Fund at the School of Engineering & Technology. In addition, Gianaris made a major gift to CCSU to establish the Gianaris Family Scholarship and Endowment at the School of Business, with the purpose of supporting students pursuing entrepreneurial careers. He received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2009.
Gianaris sums up his reasons for staying involved with the University quite succinctly. He says, “I believe in giving back. You go to school, you get your education, you give back.”
Central Park Five Author and Filmmaker Speaks at CCSU
In December, students, faculty and staff, and the public gathered in record numbers to hear author and first-time documentarian Sarah Burns speak about her book and film, Central Park Five. Her work exposes the injustice surrounding the arrest and conviction of five innocent African American and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully charged with brutally attacking a white woman in Central Park in 1989. Burns, daughter of award-winning documentarian Ken Burns, was introduced by Associate Professor of English Vivian Martin, who taught Burns’ book in a journalism class. Burns worked with this story for nine years after she wrote her undergraduate thesis on it at Yale University. Her film—which she co-directed with her father and her husband, David McMahon—will be aired on public television in spring 2013.
Star Gazing and More in December
A series of “Welcoming Winter” free public events were featured at the Copernican Planetarium and Observatory in December. The events were presented by both faculty and students, and included lectures, observations, and planetarium shows. Left to right, Amanda DeLisle uses binoculars to see the stars, as fellow students Hayden Brown, David Rodriguez, and Alyssa Wasley look on. Attendees observed the skies through the eyes of the ancient Greeks, discussed the possibility of the existence of alien life, looked at astronomical references in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and explored the history of the universe. In addition to these events, Professor of Anthropology Kenneth Feder and Professor of Physics and Earth Science Kristine Larsen debunked pseudoscientific 12-21-12 Mayan apocalypse rumors and myths.
Middletown Plays in CCSU’s Black Box Theatre
A smash hit around the country, Will Eno’s play Middletown ran in the Black Box Theatre in
Maloney Hall in January, under the direction of Professor of Theatre Josh Perlstein. The play pays homage to human life, death, and all that happens in between the two.
Master’s Degrees Awarded at CCSU Partner School in Jamaica
Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in St. James, Jamaica, in collaboration with CCSU, awarded 68 teachers with Master’s degrees in Educational Leadership and Reading in November. The graduation ceremony was held in Montego Bay, where CCSU Dean of the School of Education Mitchell Sakofs and Jamaica’s Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites congratulated the graduates and spoke about the importance of education.
Student Business Plan Program Kick-Off
The 2012–13 CCSU Student Business Plan and Incubation Program initiated on January 30. The “Kick-Off Event” featured an innovation workshop with inventor, entrepreneur, author, and investor Eric Knight. Knight created one of the first successful e-commerce sites and the first successful private space flight company. He has twice been the recipient of the Edison Award for excellence in communication and technology.
This year’s program is open to graduate and undergraduate students registered for the spring 2013 semester at any institution of higher education in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. One team, made up of at least three students, will be awarded the grand prize of one year in the ITBD Incubator, seed funding, and formal mentoring and coaching. Last year’s seed funding totaled $11,000. Additional awards to be presented: $1,000 for the “crowd favorite,” $1,500 for the best technology-based concept, and $500 for the best plan incorporating social good. The program is organized by the School of Business and the Institute for Technology and Business Development.
Sports Day for Girls a Huge Success
CCSU held its second annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day in January. The program, organized by the National Girls and Women in Sport Coalition, introduces young girls to sports through community-based clinics across the country. The program was created in honor of US Volleyball player Flo Hyman, who advocated for women’s equality in sports.
This year’s event allowed more than 60 young athletes to improve their skills in activities such as soccer, golf, volleyball, lacrosse, softball, dance, and cheerleading, with CCSU student-athletes as their coaches. A pilates session was offered for parents and older girls looking for a low-impact activity. The day concluded with participants attending the women’s basketball game that afternoon.
CCSU’s clinic, organized by Central’s coordinator of the athletics educational partnership Kacey Light and Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Kathleen Bantley, was a huge success for the girls who attended as well as the athletes and coaches who participated. Pictured above with three of the participants are, left to right, soccer players Michal Been, Nikola Deiter, and Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach Jen Prozzo.
Third Annual Literary Competition Rewards Young Readers
In February, 108 Connecticut students, ages ten to thirteen, competed in the third annual Kids’ Lit Quiz US Finals on campus. Connecticut is currently the only state in the US with schools that compete in the quiz. The event was hosted by the Department of Reading and Language Arts, with Professor Catherine Kurkjian serving as the US coordinator. The Kids’ Lit Quiz, founded by Wayne Mills (right), a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, tests the knowledge students have about books they have read. The purpose of the Quiz, which started in 1991, is to get children excited about, and to reward their love of reading. Competitions are held in Canada, the US, China, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. The winning teams advance to the International Finals in Durban, South Africa in July.
Prism Concert Spotlights Many Musical Talents
The Department of Music presented its first Prism Concert in January. The concert, which was held in Alumni Hall, showcased the musical talents of the University Singers, Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Brass and String Quartet, and the University Sinfonietta. Each ensemble performed short selections throughout the evening, while the “in-the-round” seating arrangements and refreshments made for a warm and intimate atmosphere.
CCSU hosted the annual Chinese New Year Gala on January 26. The event featured acrobatics, magic, comedy, martial arts, song, and dance. Internationally regarded forensics expert Henry Lee gave the keynote address.
The Music Department presented its Composers’ Artsong Symposium in January, which premiered performances of new works by both CCSU faculty and student composers as well as poetry from the English Dpartment faculty. Participants included David Cappella, Brian Kershner, Keith Kramer, Leslie McGrath, Charles Menoche, Jon Northrop, Stephen Ostrowski, and Thomas Schuttenhelm. Students Sonya Alexander, Jeff Boratko, Geof Haller, and Matthew Weisher also participated.
A new exhibit, Cooking by the Book: Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart, opened at the Connecticut Historical Society in January. Students in Professor of History Briann Greenfield’s graduate museum course produced the exhibit in conjunction with University of Hartford visual design students. The exhibit explores cooking’s impact on society through American cookbooks and includes one of four surviving editions of America’s first cookbook, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery, published in Hartford in 1796. The exhibit ends on April 13th.
In recognition of World AIDS Day on December 3, the LGBT Center, the Committee for the Concerns of Women, the Social Work Department, and the Social Work Club sponsored a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. The screening was free and open to the public and was followed by a live web discussion with AIDS activists and director David France.
The One Book One Community program continues this year with the book Almost Home, Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope by Kevin Ryan and Tina Kelley. As part of the program, Professor of Geography Richard Benfield’s class watched two documentaries that explore homelessness in Russia and the US. The program, sponsored by the Burritt Library, promotes literacy through reading and discussions of one book within a community.
In January and February, CCSU’s Art Galleries presented Paintings by American Illustrators, a selection of paintings on loan from the Sanford Low Collection of Illustration at the New Britain Museum of American Art.
The School of Business hosted the Social Enterprise Trust (SET) Social Enterprise Education Conference in January. Professor of Management and Organization David Fearon took part in a panel discussion about approaches to helping students and emerging entrepreneurs understand and develop concepts for launching and operating successful social enterprises. The conference also included breakout discussions dealing with similar topics.
The Connecticut Mirror quoted Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Steven Block in an article about proposed new Connecticut legislation to reduce gun violence.
In January, Professor of Management and Organization David Fearon, Adjunct Lecturer and EDGE Advisor Kate Wall, and student Chia-Kang Wang were quoted in a New Britain Herald article about CCSU’s Travelers EDGE (Empowering Dreams of Graduation and Employment) program. In its sixth year, Travelers EDGE provides scholarships, internships, and possible employment to under-represented students.
The Connecticut Latino News interviewed Assistant Professor and Chair of the Social Work Department Delia González-Sanders about the challenges faced by Latinos when caring for older family members, including cultural differences and language barriers. González-Sanders’ recent book, Dementia Care with Black and Latino Families studies these issues in depth.
Associate Professor of Economics Carlos Liard-Muriente was interviewed by the Bristol Press regarding the payroll tax increase which took effect at the beginning of 2013.
Professor of History Matthew Warshauer was referenced in a recent article by Ken Dixon for the Connecticut Post, regarding the Civil War and its effects on Connecticut.
CCSU student Amanda Webster, who is an intern at the Record-Journal, wrote an article for the paper about fellow students Skyler Magnoli, Acadia Otlowski, and Morgan Skovich and their attendance at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
CCSU was recently featured in an article in The New York Times that discussed several universities’ efforts to combat “suitcase culture,” the growing trend where many students leave campus each weekend. Vice President for Student Affairs Laura Tordenti was quoted about a fund that is used to award mini-grants to help students subsidize weekend events, while President of the Inter-Residence Council Ian Mangione mentioned that reversing “suitcase culture” would take more than a university initiative and depends upon individual students who are willing to stay and call the university their home. Additional Central students quoted in the article were Andrew Pegg, Margaret Gumowski, and Alexandra Shagoury.
Graduate and undergraduate art education majors exhibited their work in the S.T. Chen Fine Arts Center in November and December. Participating students included Megan Antosik, Josh Blumthenal, Alisa DellaBianca, Kelley Griffin, Avery Harner, Brittany Kearney, Krystyna Korwek, Staci Lenart, Laura Mazzarella, Alane Powell, Victor Preato, Terrance Regan, and Catherine Usewicz.
The dedication ceremony for the new New Britain Police headquarters paid homage to the department’s history while celebrating the new state-of-the-art facility. In the full spirit of the event, Luke Boyd portrayed Alva W. Spaulding, New Britain’s first police chief, while Amy Kirby ensured that the department’s history was well-represented in display cases throughout the new building. Both students are pursuing
Master’s degrees in Public History.
Junior Krisztina Dearborn recently broke her third record for the Blue Devils women’s track and field team. While at the Boston University Terrier Invitational in January, Dearborn finished the 5,000 meter run in just 17:29:59. Dearborn is a double major in mathematics and physics.
Professional artist and Professor of Art Vicente Garcia recently visited Canton High School to teach ceramics students techniques and helpful tips of the trade. Students also had the opportunity to visit Garcia’s studio in Simsbury and create pottery and sculpture under his direction.
Adjunct Lecturer of Music Laurent Gareau soloed for the Haydn “Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major” at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hartford in December. His performance was part of the concert “Music in the Cathedral.” Gareau has performed with The Irish Tenors, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Jr., The Temptations, and Lynryd Skynyrd. He has also been involved in shows and concerts at the Bushnell, Shubert, Goodspeed, and Oakdale theatres.
Assistant Professor of Engineering Khaled Hammad attended the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 2012 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in Houston in November. Hammad was awarded two honors from the society—for organizing an “Emerging Technologies” track and for chairing six technical sessions during the conference.
Assistant Professor of Music Lauren Heller served as assistant director to a group of almost 1,500 high school musicians, dancers, and color guard members from across the country who performed during halftime at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans in January.
Professor of History and co-chair of the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission Matt Warshauer welcomed attendees to the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation commemoration, held at the Wadsworth Atheneum on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Graduate student Luke Boyd also participated in the event, portraying New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley in a historical debate between Greeley and President Lincoln.
Graduate student and Berlin High School social studies teacher Jennifer Wilkosz won the James Madison Memorial Fellowship in January. Recipients must be committed to teaching American history, American government, and/or social studies full time in grades 7–12. Wilkosz will attend the foundation’s Summer Institute in Washington, DC, for the graduate course, “The Foundations of American Constitutionalism.”
Steve Addazio, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1981, was recently named head football coach of Boston College. During an accomplished 26-year coaching career, Addazio has guided famed quarterback Tim Tebow and led many college football teams to victory.
Expressionist painter Andria Alex ’93 was featured at an art exhibit at Art Works Gallery in Harford in January that supported “Movin’ With the Spirit,” a non-profit organization dedicated to helping poor citizens of Haiti. Alex is also a professional scenic artist and has painted sets for several Connecticut theaters.
Tony Award winner Bill Berloni ’89 gave a special presentation in the Black Box Theatre in February. Berloni, who has trained animals for over 30 years for Broadway shows, ballet, film, and television, was accompanied by one of the Chihuahuas he trained for the Broadway production, Legally Blonde.
Paintings by Daniel Bohman ’05 will be on exhibit at the 100 Pearl Street Gallery in Hartford until March 23. Bohman’s large oil paintings depict collages of images he finds through the internet and other media.
Erin Brady of East Hampton has been crowned Miss Connecticut USA 2013. Brady graduated with honors in 2010 and currently works as a senior accountant with Prudential Financial in Hartford. She was also voted Miss Congeniality.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection recently promoted Ryan Healy ’91 from Environmental Conservation police sergeant to captain of its Marine Division.
Tamika Knight ’00 won the 2012–13 Milken Educator Award in January; Connecticut’s only recipient this year. The fifth grade teacher at Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School in Hartford attended CCSU on a full basketball scholarship. She has taught in Hartford for 12 years and also coaches basketball.
Bryce Lafferty ’04 exhibited his paintings and presented an artist’s lecture at the Arnold Art Gallery at Shorter University in Rome, Georgia, in January.
The Department of Athletics inducted its 2013 class into the Alumni Athletics Hall of Fame on January 25. The 1961 cross country team, along with five alumni, Bruce Biel ’88, Christine Dadducci ’96, Dawn Hankey ’96, Joe Murphy ’69, and Ronald Thompson ’68, were inducted. Dan Siracusa ’79 was also recognized during the ceremony when he was honored with the Harrison J. Kaiser Alumni Service Award.