Reflections on the University's Mission & Distinctive Elements

Faculty & Staff Reflect on their Roles

Lynda Valerie (Reading & Language Arts) describes the Central Connecticut Writing Project (CCWP) as a fine example of community engagement in that it creates a professional learning community to develop teacher leaders as writers and teachers of writers. Participants are encouraged and mentored to extend their CCWP Invitational Summer Institute experience and have done so in various ways.  For example, we presented an institute at New England Reading Conference this fall; I have worked with two other fellows to submit a proposal to IRA Annual Conference which has been accepted; I have worked with another CCWP fellow in her classroom twice a week developing young writers.  Last year, she was named teacher of the year for her school, based in part, on her CCWP work. CCWP is also sponsoring another teacher to lead a study group on teaching writing in her school.  We have initiated a teacher inquiry project.  This list goes on. Teachers from many districts are coming together at CCSU, their schools and cafes to write and discuss the teaching of writing.  On December 13, we have planned a writing marathon in NYC.  Developing educational leaders directly speaks to CCSU’s mission statement.

Michael Park (Anthropology) describes the Anthropology Department as a quintessential example of the distinctive elements of CCSU’s Mission Statement.  By definition, anthropology is international and cross-cultural in focus and paradigm; interdisciplinary and cross-curricular in input and output; and values community engagement as both a source of data and an application of our work. Many of our graduates have remained in or returned to the state and its workforce, from the current Connecticut State Archaeologist to several attorneys, social service professionals, and teachers.  We also pride ourselves in our rigorous standards of scholarship and in our emphasis on the application of knowledge to outreach and citizenship in general. Our members are each well-known and respected in the field, in many diverse ways, and often beyond the field, both nationally and internationally.  And each published work, public lecture, TV appearance, conference paper, and international visit (many of these latter by specific invitation) brings attention to the university.

David Spector (Biology) provides a creative example of Interdisciplinary Studies and Cross-Curricular Initiatives from a linked course taught by him and Chris Doyle (English).  The courses were Biology 101  Search in Biology with Lab:  Biology of Birds and English 214 SIL:  Birds of a Feather.  Students were required to be enrolled in both courses, and the two faculty members participated in each other's courses. The involvement of the two faculty members in both courses allowed close integration of the content of the two courses.  Both faculty members found this experience to be one the highlights of their teaching careers, and several students made comments illustrating the value of such linkage:  “I thought that they were two completely different subjects.  Now I am able to see connections between the two.”  “We got to see more than one interpretation of the facts given, one more scientific, one more artistic.”

Karen Ritzenhoff (Communication) describes a unique example of community engagement:  NatureScape: Connecting Children with Nature and Culture. The NatureScape project is a collaboration between the New Britain community and Central Connecticut State University to transform an existing elementary school playground at Jefferson Elementary School in New Britain into a multi-sensory outdoor natural play environment. A pilot project, and model of integrated learning, the NatureScape will enable children to experience diverse interactions with nature as well differing cultural relationships to the landscape. This project, planned as one of the interdisciplinary events in April 2009, is just one of the examples of how the newly founded University-Museum-Community (UMC)  New Britain Collaborative combines the resources at CCSU with benefiting the community. Our engagement reaches beyond the classroom and draws students from various intellectual and cultural backgrounds to work closely with members of the New Britain community.

Ralph S. Cohen, (Counseling & Family Therapy). The Master’s program in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) has formed a community partnership with Klingberg Family Centers to provide outpatient mental health services to families in need in the New Britain metropolitan area.  The outpatient clinic, christened “The Klingberg/CCSU Family Therapy Institute” in November 2007, is a CCSU student-run center under the umbrella of the Klingberg parent organization.  During their internship year, teams of six MFT students provide the clinical services to children and families under the supervision of both Klingberg staff and CCSU faculty supervisors.  Students receive “live” supervision through a one-way mirror, receiving direct, real-time feedback and mentorship of their development as therapists. Clients receive the benefit of a “team” approach to resolving their problems, which is a hallmark of family therapy. This endeavor has put the “face” of our MFT program squarely in the community, which enhances the Klingberg Family Centers’ mission as well as our own mission to engage community constituents in educational and service-related activities.

Candace Barrington (English) provides an example of our identity of International Education from a summer course abroad that she and Richard Benfield (Geography) led to London and throughout England. The course examined the intersections of literature and geography.  It let students see and understand the locations in Great Britain associated with the vast canon of British Literature from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, both as inspirations for the creation of literature and as tourist destinations that have been significantly reshaped by their associations with canonical literature.  As a result, students (and professors) were able to explore both the ways English geography influenced the production of literature and the ways literature and the resulting tourism have reshaped British geography.

Candace Barrington (English). For the past three years, CCSU’s English Department has sponsored the CSU Undergraduate English Conference (CUEC), which exemplifies the overall mission of CCSU. Held during the first half of the fall term, the conference provides a venue for students to present their work to peers and faculty.  Presentations include literary analyses as well as creative verse, fiction, and non-fiction.  In addition to giving students a sense of what professional conferences entail, CUEC allows students to see their written work as part of a larger conversation. 

Gilbert L. Gigliotti (English) presents WFCS, the student-run radio station, as a fine example of community engagement because it broadcasts 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, to the central Connecticut region and, through on-line broadcasting, around the world.  In addition to an eclectic playlist that includes everything from the many sub-genres of heavy metal, rap, and alternative music to the more traditional categories of rock, jazz, blues, folk, and the “Great American Songbook,” the station also regularly airs campus sporting events and live performances by locally, regionally, and nationally known bands.  It also is one of the very few student clubs at CCSU that regularly collaborate with community volunteers and alumni.

Another excellent example of community engagement is Central Authors, the CCSU-produced cable program featuring authors from the CCSU family (faculty, staff, and alumni/ae).  The program, which airs on more than 20 cable outlets throughout Connecticut, aims at sharing the research interests and creative activity of CCSU with the public.  I believe, it is the only regular speaker series at CCSU that regularly draws from all four schools – highlighting the work of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Professional Studies, and Engineering and Technology.  On top of that, it is a collaboration of the CCSU Bookstore, Institutional Advancement, and the Media Center.   

Wayne 'Otis' Mamed, (CCSU Student Center Operations). The Student Center supports the CCSU Mission by providing services and facilities, and supporting programs which enhance and inspire the growth of the campus community with intellectual integrity and with open discourse.  We provide students with opportunities to develop socially and personally and continue their education and growth as successful professionals by being active participants in all we do at the Student Center.  Since 1988, our stated outcomes for all students on campus have been: 

-          Have a sense of belonging to the University Community;

-     Develop a sense of wellness in their personal lifestyle;

-          Develop a sense of service to others, and a sense of Career;

-          Develop a sense of pluralism, and a commitment to life- long learning and

-          Develop a global awareness in regard to being a part of a world community living on a planet that is all of our concern.
(From our Mission Statement ‘91 and our Student Outcomes Statement ‘88)

 Jim Conway (Psychology). Research shows that students involved in service-learning become more engaged in their communities, and reduce their stereotypes of people from marginalized groups.  When the service is integrated into a course, it is also an opportunity for learning and developing skills.  Students in psychology courses have served in a variety of ways such as working in afterschool programs in New Britain (the YMCA) and Hartford's north end; working with disabled children and adults, and with older adults.  Students develop critical thinking skills through structured reflection on their service, and practical skills by developing activities to address the needs and strengths of the people they work with.  Service-learning provides opportunities to do meaningful work as well as to deepen students’ understanding of psychology and their community. 

Carrie Andreoletti, (Psychology) reflects on her strong sense of participation in CCSU’s mission through her work with the Gerontology Minor and the Adult Development and Gerontology Laboratory. The Gerontology Minor is an interdisciplinary minor involving faculty from Psychology, Nursing, Physical Education and Human Performance, Biomolecular Sciences, and Biology with one if its requirement to complete a 3 credit internship working in public or private agencies and institutions that serve older adults.  This ensures that all of our students gain experience working with seniors in our local communities. A related endeavor is the recently inaugurated Adult Development and Gerontology Laboratory, co-directed with my colleague Marianne Fallon.  Our mission is to conduct research that contributes to the promotion of healthy aging.  Our research brings seniors from the surrounding community to campus and gives them an opportunity to get to know us (which includes our student research assistants) and gives us the opportunity to learn from and get to know them.  The success of both the Gerontology Minor and the Gerontology Lab depends on developing and sustaining collaborative relationships with local organizations serving older adults. An exciting and recent development is that several members of the Gerontology Minor Committee have begun meeting with the Glastonbury Senior Center to help them assess their current programs as well as to collaborate with them to develop a new program to promote healthy aging. This opportunity involves both interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement.  This work in gerontology has led to collaboration with members of the community as well as colleagues in other disciplines, which helps make Carrie Andreoletti a better teacher and scholar while at the same time fulfills the CCSU mission and contributes to our distinctive elements of community engagement and interdisciplinary studies and cross-curricular initiatives.

Heather Prescott (History). Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) at Central Connecticut State University exemplifies the University’s distinctive mission in interdisciplinary studies as well as its commitment to diversity and equality of opportunity. Developed in 1989, the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program is an eighteen credit, interdisciplinary concentration that allows B.A. and B. S. students to study issues related to gender from perspectives in the humanities and the natural, behavioral, and social sciences.  With the establishment of this concentration, CCSU joined more than 250 other colleges and universities in the United States that have initiated Women’s Studies programs during the past twenty years. The concentration may be a supplement to any major and provides a strong foundation for a variety of careers  such as social work, criminal justice, law, government, journalism, industrial and labor relations, the social sciences, the health care professions, the arts, and other exciting fields. Every year we bring noted gender studies scholars to campus and hold the June Baker Higgins Gender Studies Conference, which presents current scholarship in the field by faculty and students in the CSU System and from around the country. The WGSS program sends the message to the campus and wider community that CCSU is a welcoming and a safe environment for gender and multicultural research.

Ben Sevitch (Communication) In a response to a request from Central's Director of African American Studies program I started the course in the History of African American Speakers and edited a new textbook for it 10 years ago.  Many of our students are African American, and it is good for them to see that a white professor has published in the history of their people and can teach the subject.  Historically, in the 10 years or so that the course has been offered, about half of all the students have been white, demonstrating that they, like so many Americans, need to learn the contributions of Africans Americans, especially on the eve of the first minority member to be elected President of the United States.

Sally Drew (Teacher Education) As a teacher educator, I further the university’s mission through a blend of Community Engagement, Cross-Curricular Initiatives and Workforce Development. One aspect of my role as a faculty member in Teacher Education is to place teacher candidates in quality field experiences. In order to find quality placements, I continually work to foster the relationships among teacher candidates, classroom teachers, administrators, my department and the Office of Field Experiences in the School of Education and Professional Studies.  I have collaborated with numerous surrounding districts and schools to ultimately enhance educational opportunities for the children of Connecticut. By rigorously preparing future educators to develop in their students the requisite knowledge, skills and understanding to become critical readers, writers, thinkers and problem solvers, the university, my department and myself help to create a more “thoughtful, responsible, and successful [body of young] citizens” in Connecticut. This is the true purpose of community engagement, and the value of working with young children in outreach activities—your impact is powerfully rippled.

Currently, I am working with a budding Professional Development School (PDS) in Cromwell, Connecticut. A PDS is a unique and particularly intense school-university collaboration. Our department’s strongest and most long-standing PDS is the Naylor-CCSU Community School in Hartford. However, we have a few other PDS relationships in order to reach more of Connecticut’s children, and to provide our teacher candidates with diversity in their educational experiences. With this partnership, I divide my time between teaching on campus and service to the university, teaching on-site at the elementary school PDS, and providing professional development opportunities for the PDS faculty. I work with a team of educators at the PDS and CCSU teacher candidates to plan joint research projects, which ultimately promote student learning. This intense work with a real public school, provides our CCSU teacher candidates a window into their future career. They are able to see the broad scope of what it means to be a teacher in this current age. Because of this relationship, our CCSU teacher candidates are highly sought after for teaching positions in these PDSs after they graduate. The elementary schools value how highly-qualified our alumni are to do the difficult work of public school educators. The authentic, practical experiences that we provide our teacher candidates through our PDS partnerships, speak to the distinctive element of CCSU’s mission: workforce development.      

Through our PDS network of schools, we are able to connect various educators and administrators across Connecticut with each other. In fact, my colleague Dr. Marsha Bednarski (Physics and Earth Science) and I were awarded a Math and Science Partnership grant through the State of Connecticut for 2008-2009 to further support this initiative. Working with colleagues in Physics and Earth Science, Reading and Language Arts, Educational Leadership and Teacher Education, our grant project provides quality professional development in scientific content, inquiry and literacy to elementary teachers in Hartford, Cromwell, Wethersfield and Vernon. The teachers enjoy coming to campus and visiting each others’ schools, while learning science in a comprehensible, hands-on manner, so that they can more effectively teach their own students. This project speaks to the mission’s distinctive elements of community engagement AND interdisciplinary, cross-curricular initiatives. More PDS information: http://napds.org/; http://www.ncate.org/public/pdsWelcome.asp

The Academic Center for Student Athletes (ACSA) epitomizes CCSU’s core concepts of fostering leadership and nourishing the personal and social growth of Connecticut’s next generation of responsible citizens.  By nature, athletics at the collegiate level prepare students for the demands of citizenship and the workforce by requiring a careful balance of academic, physical, and social activities.  Through one-on-one weekly meetings, group workshops, supervised study hall, and course academic advising, the ACSA provides the day-to-day tools necessary to walk through this ‘trial by fire’ and achieve the level of thoughtfulness, responsibility, and integrity that we need in local, national and world leaders.

Bradley Kjell (Computer Science) The Computer Science Department contributes to Workforce and State Economic Development by preparing students for graduate study and for professional careers in computer-related professions, including systems analysis, web development, and software engineering. The curriculum conforms to the standards developed by leading professional organizations and major industries. The program of study encompasses the full range of computer sciences, including programming, networking, database design, and includes a foundation in mathematics and science. In addition to regular coursework, computer science majors often participate in the University’s Cooperative Education program to gain familiarity with industrial software development. Most graduates find employment with top Connecticut firms, or continue their studies in graduate school.

Kristine Larsen (Physics & Earth Sciences) Commonly called the oldest science, astronomy combines the very best of the scientific method with the quintessential human need to wonder about the universe. As an astronomy educator, I have almost daily opportunities to highlight the interconnections between astronomy and other human endeavors, such as literature, film, art, history, and philosophy, not only in my courses and interdisciplinary research projects, but through my various community outreach and engagement activities. By bringing astronomy “down to earth” to school children, community groups, and attendees to the various free public programs hosted by the Copernican Observatory and Planetarium, my students and I try to embody the ideal that the universe belongs to everyone, and is knowable by everyone. We look forward to 2009, the International year of Astronomy, for the opportunity to introduce our engagement activities to an even wider audience.


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Last Update: Friday October 17, 2008