WCSU News

WCSU film screening, discussion looks at mental health care in United States

Image from 'Dorothea's Tears'DANBURY, Conn. — The Western Connecticut State University Alumni Nursing Society and Alumni Association will host a screening of the documentary by Keith Maciog and Geer Teng, “Dorothea’s Tears: The State of Mental Health Care in America,” at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in the Student Center Theater on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. A question-and-answer session will follow with Maciog, Gene Rosen and Chris Beaudoin APRN, a WCSU Nursing alumna who formerly worked at Fairfield Hills State Hospital.  WCSU Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Bozena Padykula will moderate. The screening, discussion and reception that follow are free and open to the public; please RSVP at alumni@wcsu.edu or by calling (203) 837-8298.

The film focuses on the ever-growing trend to shut down state mental hospitals. It was conceived and produced by Vision Project, an organization dedicated to the development of documentary photography, investigative journalism and education. Vision Project is housed at the Sacred Heart University School of Communication & Media Arts.

According to the film’s promotional materials, “the movement to shut down state mental hospitals is known as ‘deinstitutionalization.’ It was intended to normalize the mentally ill and integrate them into the community. However, while once they were cared for by the states, the severely mentally ill are ending up in our nation’s prisons, on city streets and in county morgues. Few small towns in our nation better symbolize the problems with the mental health system than Newtown, site of the former Fairfield Hills State Hospital and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Completed in August 2017, the film documents those who work or have worked in the trenches of the mental health system, feeling the impact of a system that many have dubbed a ‘failure.’ Those interviewed include former Fairfield Hills employees, state officials, Sandy Hook parents and therapy professionals.”

The film’s title, “Dorothea’s Tears,” refers to Dorothea Lynde Dix, who lived from 1802-1887. Dix was an American author, teacher and mental health care reformer. Her crusade to create new institutions across the U.S. and Europe changed people’s perceptions about the mentally ill.

“Dorothea’s Tears” was an official selection of the 2018 New Haven International Film Festival and the 2018 Connecticut Film Fest 52.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way. 

 

Macricostas Experience features speakers, events at WCSU

DANBURY, Conn. — Western Connecticut State University will celebrate the Greek culture for a week in October 2019 with the observance of The Macricostas Experience.

Several related events will bring students and community members together to celebrate architecture and poetry, as well as to debate the state of U.S. prisons and the best way to enjoy fresh apple cider.

The Macricostas Experience also acknowledges Deno Macricostas and his family, who over nearly two decades have endowed scholarships and created other learning opportunities for countless WCSU students.

“We realized we had been celebrating the Macricostas family generosity in a haphazard way, here and there throughout the academic year,” said Dr. Michelle Brown, dean of the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences. “We decided it would be more memorable to focus our activities and thanks over a solid week.”

The Macricostas Family is the university’s largest donor. Deno Macricostas founded Photronics Inc. in Brookfield to serve the computer chip industry, and has supervised its growth into an international company.

Unless otherwise noted, the Macricostas Experience events will all take place on the WCSU Midtown campus, 181 White St., Danbury.

  • The events will begin on the quad at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, with students participating in the creation of tie-dye T-shirts as well as fresh apple cider using a hand-cranked cider press. An open house for the newly refurbished Higgins Hall will commence at 5 p.m., with tours of the building lasting until 8 p.m.
  • “Weather Report: A Symposium on Art and Weather,” hosted by the university and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, in Ives Concert Hall. The symposium will feature a wide range of speakers on topics relating to art and weather, including WCBS 880 Chief Radio Meteorologist Craig Allen, who will discuss his experience reporting on weather and emcee the event. This event is free, but pre-registration is required at wcsu.edu/artweather. The symposium is in conjunction with the exhibition “Weather Report,” which will be on view from Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, to Sunday, March 29, 2020, at The Aldrich, 258 Main St. in Ridgefield.
  • On Tuesday, Oct. 22, Greek scholar Jenifer Neils will present a lecture on “The Parthenon, Then and Now.” Her talk will begin at 2 p.m. in room 125 of the Science Building. Neils is the director of The American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Her talk will be followed at 5 p.m. with “A Greek Celebration” on the Higgins Hall patio, featuring food, wine and traditional Greek folk music.
  • image of Reginald Dwayne Betts

    Reginald Dwayne Betts (Credit: Mamadi Doumbouya)

    The Macricostas Speaker for the week will be Reginald Dwayne Betts, a convicted carjacker who is now an acclaimed poet and a lawyer with a Yale degree. He was convicted of carjacking as a teenager and began his academic education in a Virginia prisons. The lecture will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, in the conference center of the Searle A. Pinney Residence Hall on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension, Danbury.

  • Also on Oct. 24, the “World Origami Days Kickoff,” will begin at 10 a.m. on in the Higgins Hall lobby. Years ago, the Mathematics and Computer Science departments were a single department. Now back together under the same roof in Higgins Hall, both departments are co-hosting the event, where students can learn to fold a single pixel and enjoy light refreshments. All pixels will be installed as part of a collaborative art project that will be displayed in the vestibule adjacent to the Higgins Hall lobby. The art installation will grow until the end of World Origami Days on Nov. 11. The first 50 students to participate on Oct. 24 will receive a free Macricostas Experience T-shirt.

“The Macricostas Week events are numerous and multi-faceted,” Brown said. “We designed them so that there is something for everyone who wants to celebrate with us.”

 For more information, call the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals, and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University celebrates a new Higgins Hall

image of the newly renovated Higgins Hall on the Western Connecticut State University Midtown campus.

The newly renovated Higgins Hall on the Western Connecticut State University Midtown campus.

DANBURY — After more than a year of renovation, Higgins Hall at Western Connecticut State University is again open to students, and the campus will celebrate with an open house hosted by the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.

New labs, classrooms, a state-of-the-art television production facility, as well as a lobby and new entrance patio will all be on view with tours throughout the building continuing until 8 p.m. Visitors will meet at the Higgins entrance on the Midtown campus quadrangle, 181 White St. in Danbury.

Higgins Hall, named after Lathrop Higgins, who was the first science teacher and the second principal of the Danbury Normal School (the predecessor to WCSU), opened in 1951. Two additions were added over the years and the entire structure was taken down to bare bones and rebuilt in time to reopen for the Fall 2019 semester.

Dr. Michelle Brown, the dean of the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences, will work from her office on the first floor and the building will house World Languages, Writing (including the Master of Fine Arts in Writing), Math, Computer Science and Communication.

“I am excited about moving into Higgins because it brings together so many different people, ideas and historical technologies — all under one roof in the center of Midtown,” Brown said. “I am so pleased that my office is located right in the center of it all! In our new central location, with the building housing all Macricostas departments, Higgins is literally and symbolically the home of the diverse ideas and liberal arts curriculum that exemplify WCSU.”

Learning spaces in the building are designed to be flexible so that students can study individually or in groups, with the proper technology within easy reach to nurture cooperation and support.

“There’s a sense of lightness, vitality and vibrancy in the building,” said Luigi Marcone, the associate vice president for campus planning who supervised the work that turned the old building into a showcase. “No matter what hallway or office you’re in, I think it’s something students will love.”

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, call the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals, and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

 

The Parthenon comes to life in WCSU lecture by Greek scholar

image of Dr. Jenifer Neils

Dr. Jenifer Neils

DANBURY, Conn. — An archeologist and art historian who has devoted her professional life to the culture of ancient Greece will visit Western Connecticut State University to discuss the work that earned her a reputation as an internationally recognized authority on the Parthenon.

Dr. Jenifer Neils, director of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, will present a lecture on “The Parthenon: Then and Now,” at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Room 125 of the Science Building on the WCSU Midtown campus, 181 White St., Danbury.

Neils will speak as part of “Macricostas Experience Week” at the university in honor of local industrialist and philanthropist Deno Macricostas who, with his family, donated more than $4 million over several years to support student scholarship.

Before moving to Athens in 2017, Neils was a professor at Case Western Reserve University and a curator of ancient art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. As a field archaeologist, she excavated in northern Greece and in Italy. She has written extensively on the Parthenon sculptures, Athenian vase painting and iconography.

Neils earned a bachelor’s degree at Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. from Princeton University.

“Dr. Neils is the type of scholar we work hard to bring to WCSU,” said Dr. Michelle Brown, dean of the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences. “Our students will learn much from her extensive experience and scholarship, and we are happy to be able to open her lecture to the public, as well.”

Later that day, at 5 p.m., Dr. Chris Paone, the WCSU Macricostas Scholar, will preside over a presentation of traditional Greek food and wine that will be served during a concert of folk music at the patio and lobby of Higgins Hall, also on the Midtown campus.

Both events are free and open to the public. Registration is requested by Thursday, Oct. 17, at wcsu.edu/giving events. Parking is available at the WCSU garages on White Street and on Fifth Avenue.

For more information, call the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals, and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

 

WCSU hosts second event in Regional Lake Communities Symposium series

Public invited to learn about how to help manage lake water quality on Oct. 21

Image of poster for Regional Lake Communities Symposium at Western Connecticut State UniversityDANBURY, CONN. — The Western Connecticut State University Integrative Biological Diversity graduate program, WCSU NOAA BWet Finding Our Way Office of Science Education Outreach and Praxair will host the second of three Regional Lake Communities Symposia, “What Can We Do to Help Manage the Water Quality of Connecticut’s Lakes?” at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019,  in Room 125 of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury.

The symposium will include presentations by Chris Bellucci, Supervising Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Water Protection & Land Reuse, CT DEEP, on “CT DEEP’s Lake Monitoring and Assessment Program” and Tracy Lizotte, Environmental Analyst 3, Bureau of Water Protection & Land Reuse, CT DEEP, on “Cyanobacteria in CT’s Lakes: What Can We Do to Help Manage the Water Quality of Our Lakes?”

WCSU Associate Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Ed Wong also will discuss his research findings in “Lake Cyanobacteria: A Research Perspective.”

In October, 2013, Candlewood Lake, Lake Lillinonah and Lake Zoar saw an unexpected sight: large blooms of cyanobacteria (aka “blue-green algae”) late in the season. This caught Wong’s attention because he specializes in using DNA techniques to study organisms of environmental importance. His previous work had been to use DNA technology to monitor local waterways for the presence of the invasive bivalve, the zebra mussel. With the news of cyanobacterial blooms now appearing more frequently in these same waterways, Wong worked with the Candlewood Lake Authority to set up a summer monitoring and water testing program for cyanobacteria and their toxins.

Cyanotoxins can cause symptoms ranging from skin irritation to brain and liver damage, and even death. Some research even suggests a correlation between long-term low-level cyanotoxin exposure and neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Alzheimer’s disease. Not all cyanobacteria carry the genes for producing toxin, and even those that do might only synthesize toxin under certain conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to, climate and nutrient availability.

Supported by funding from municipal health departments, Wong’s lab has been operating the cyanobacteria monitoring program since 2015. The program involves sampling water at public town beaches and testing the water for concentrations of microcystin, one of the most common cyanotoxins. Cyanobacterial cells are identified by microscopy, and DNA is isolated from cells to determine if they contain cyanotoxin genes. Over the last three years, bloom events and toxin levels have steadily increased in local waterways.

Wong and his lab — which includes research associate Dr. Ghada Hafez and a long line of research students — hope these data will provide a better understanding of the conditions that foster cyanobacterial blooms and toxin production.

WCSU Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Theodora Pinou will introduce the panelists, the topic and facilitate the conversation.

The symposium is free and the public is invited. Lake community panelists and other attendees will have the opportunity to pose questions to the speakers.

Future Regional Lake Communities Symposia will include:

  • “The Value of the Lake, Monetizing the Social Benefits of Lakes” at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25. Economist  Matthew Bingham of Veritas Economic Consulting and Chris Sanders from the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and president of the West Side Pond Association will discuss community strategies for non-market valuation of water resources.

For more information, send an email to pinout@wcsu.edu.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

 

‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ at WCSU

Image from Western Connecticut State University production of "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui"

Western Connecticut State University Department of Theatre Arts production of “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” cast members (l-r): Will Stewich, Mark Sumner, Ryan Henry and Brandon Richardi.

DANBURY, Conn. — The Western Connecticut State University Department of Theatre Arts will present Bertolt Brecht’s “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” from Oct. 16-27, 2019, in the Studio Theatre of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. A preview performance will be at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 (high school night). Public showings will be at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18; Saturday, Oct. 19; Sunday, Oct. 20; Friday, Oct. 25, Saturday, Oct. 26; and Sunday, Oct. 27; with 2 p.m. matinees on both Saturday and Sunday performance dates.

According to WCSU Professor of Theatre Arts Pam McDaniel, the show’s director and producer, ‘“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ is a parable about the rise of authoritarianism. Originally written in 1941, the play used the Capone mobsters of 1930s Chicago as depicted in the gangster films of that era to parallel the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany. Brecht’s intent was for the play to serve as a warning to the United States, which was maintaining a neutral position on Hitler’s aggressions at that time.

“In preparing the performance, we have examined historical film footage and materials from the 1930s, including American gangster movies and footage of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and Mussolini’s rise in Italy,” McDaniel said. “For contemporary sources, we have examined the Brexit debates in the British Parliament, speeches of Marine Le Pen in France, the U.S. presidential debates and recent political rallies.”

Brecht’s original play was not produced until a new version was published in 1956.

“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” ran twice on Broadway. The first production was in 1963, with Christopher Plummer in the lead role and Michael Constantine, Elisha Cook, Lionel Stander, Sandy Baron, Oliver Clark and James Coco in the cast. It was directed by Tony Richardson. The second Broadway production was in 1968–69 by the Guthrie Theater Company. It starred Robin Gammell as Ui, and was directed by Edward Payson Call.

It has been presented three times Off-Broadway. In 1991, it was produced by the Classic Stage Company, with John Turturro as Arturo Ui, directed by Carey Perloff. In 2002, it played at the National Actors Theatre, with Ui played by Al Pacino, and Steve Buscemi, Billy Crudup, Charles Durning, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Chazz Palminteri, Sterling K. Brown and Tony Randall (who also produced) in the cast. It was directed by Simon McBurney. The Classic Stage Company tackled it again in 2018, directed by John Doyle with Raúl Esparza in the title role and Eddie Cooper and Elizabeth A. Davis in the supporting cast.

In 2017, Bruce Norris’ adapted version of the play was performed at the Donmar Warehouse in London, with Lenny Henry starring as Arturo Ui.

WCSU Theatre Arts students will perform Norris’ translation. The resulting production, McDaniel said, is “a good old-fashioned gangster musical hall.”

The performance will include double casting of the lead role, with Kat Karl, of Redding, and Mark Sumner, of Middletown, as Auturo Ui. Additional cast members are Bella Bosco, of Delaware, Ohio, as Clark; Colleen Callahan, of Easton, as Betty Dullfeet; Heather Conti-Clark, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, as Dockdaisy; Ryan Henry, of Cortland Manor, New York, as Givola; Anthony Laszlo, of Stamford, as Dogsborough; Brandon Richardi, of Boston, Massachusetts, as Giri; and William Stewich, of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, as Roma.

The crew includes Director/Producer Pam McDaniel, Scenic Designer Maureen Freedman, Lighting Designer Scott Cally, Costume Designer Joni Johns-Lerner, Sound Designer Silvio Sweet, Technical Director Thomas Swetz, Production Stage Manager Katie Giradot, Assistant Director Jonah Sydie, Assistant Lighting Designer Stef Carr, Assistant Costume Designer Victoria Wall and Assistant Production Manager Owen Smith.

The production contains profanity and language suitable for mature teens. For tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/the-resistible-rise-of-arturo-ui-tickets-70816047705.

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

Census expert scheduled to speak at WCSU

DANBURY — The 2020 U.S. Census is coming, and you will have the opportunity to learn all about your rights and responsibilities from a Census Bureau official on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019.

Western Connecticut State University, the League of Women Voters of Northern Fairfield County and the American Association of University Women, Danbury Branch, will sponsor the information session by Yvette Trujilo Rose, a partnership specialist in the Field Division of the Census Bureau’s New York Region.

Rose will speak at 7 p.m. in Room 127 of White Hall on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested at www.facebook.com/events/241515170113626/.

“It’s critically important for everyone in the Greater Danbury Area including the WCSU family to make sure they are counted in the upcoming 2020 census,” said Judith Griemsmann, the president of the League of Women Voters of Northern Fairfield County. “One of the League’s missions is to ensure the proper representation of all citizens. An accurate count in the census achieves that.”

The census provides vital information for every community. It determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress and is used to redraw district boundaries. Local officials rely on census statistics to plan for services like road paving and schools. And the federal government distributes more than $675 billion annually to states and communities based on Census Bureau data.

The League of Women Voters has been active with WCSU over the past several years. In September, league members and the university Student Government Association collaborated on National Voter Registration Day to register students on campus.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals, and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

 

WCSU presents art faculty works in exhibition at VPAC Gallery

Opening reception Oct. 24, show continues through Dec. 8

image of WCSU art faculty exhibition posterDANBURY, CONN. — Faculty members of the Western Connecticut State University Department of Art will showcase their creative works in a diverse range of artistic media during an exhibition running from Thursday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in the Gallery at the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury.

An opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 24 will afford an opportunity to meet faculty artists and discuss their works in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, assemblage and other media. Viewing of the exhibition will be offered during Gallery hours from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, except during the Thanksgiving week closure from Nov. 27 through Dec. 1.

Admission will be free to the reception and the exhibition, and the public is invited. Reservations to attend the reception should be made online on the VPAC events web page at www.wcsuvpac.eventbrite.com. The exhibition program is sponsored by the WCSU Department of Art with support from patrons of the Gallery; donations to sustain the program will be accepted.

The show marks the second exhibition to be presented by WCSU Department of Art full-time and adjunct faculty members since the VPAC opened in 2014. The department this year became the only art program in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system and the fifth among all Connecticut institutions to earn accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. WCSU currently offers a Bachelor of Arts in Art with concentrations in graphic design, photography, painting and illustration, as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art. NASAD accreditation affirmed that present WCSU bachelor’s and master’s programs meet the organization’s rigorous national standards, and cleared the way for WCSU faculty to initiate development of a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree curriculum.

Faculty participants in the exhibtion will include David Boyajian, Riley Brewster, Leslie Cober-Gentry, Bruce Dunbar, Stacey Kolbig, Jurg Lanzrein, Ed Little, Sabrina Marques, Colleen McGuire, Francis Patnaude, Lori Robeau, Ken Scaglia, Elyse Shapiro, David Skora, Clintel Steed, Jack Tom, Catherine Vanaria, Chad Wallace and Erin Walrath.

“This exhibition is an opportunity for students and the community to learn from the artwork of the faculty who teach in the Department of Art,” Gallery Curator Melissa Ralston-Jones observed. “The talent and breadth of work presented in this exhibition provide a reminder of the creativity and diversity represented within the department.”

Works by several WCSU art faculty members also are being featured Monday through Saturday in a free public exhibition continuing through Oct. 31 at the Silas Bronson Library, 267 Grand St. in Waterbury.

For more information, contact the Department of Art at (203) 837-8403, Ralston-Jones at (203) 837-3982, or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

 

WCSU panel to share perspectives on re-entering society after incarceration

Oct. 30 forum to feature founders of services mentoring former inmates

DANBURY, CONN. — Rev. Jeff Grant and Jacqueline Polverari, whose own experiences in federal prison inspired them to found societal re-entry services for other former inmates, will participate in a panel discussion about “Finding Hope and Purpose  After Incarceration” at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at Western Connecticut State University.

Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend the forum in the Campus Center Ballroom on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. Dr. George Kain, chair of the WCSU Division of Justice and Law Administration, will moderate the discussion sponsored by the university’s Justice and Law Society.

image of Rev. Jeff Grant

Rev. Jeff Grant

Grant, a former practicing lawyer who served more than a year in federal prison for a white-collar crime committed after falling prey to opioid addiction, embarked on a new career as an ordained minister with completion of a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. With his wife Lynn Springer, he co-founded Progressive Prison Ministries of Greenwich in 2012, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing confidential pastoral support to individuals and families facing challenges ranging from inmate re-entry into society and substance use disorders to personal crisis management and mental health issues. He also has served as executive director of the Bridgeport-based criminal justice organization Family Re-entry Inc., as a minister at churches in Connecticut and New Jersey, and as a member of municipal and nonprofit organization boards dealing with criminal justice and post-incarceration re-entry issues.

Grant is the editor of the popular blog, prisonist.org, and co-host of the Criminal Justice Insider podcast airing from New Haven. His confidential weekly online “White Collar/Economy Exiled Support Group” has held more than 170 meetings and attracted more than 150 participants. “Sometimes referred to in the press as the ‘Minister to Hedge Funders,’” Grant’s priosonist.org biography said, “he regularly uses his experience and background to guide people faithfully forward in their lives, relationships, careers and business opportunities, and to help them from making the kinds of decisions that previously resulted in loss, suffering and shame.”

image of Jacqueline Polverari

Jacqueline Polverari

Polverari, a former title company owner who served seven months in the Danbury Federal Prison for Women during 2015 for conviction in a mortgage fraud case, has drawn from her own incarceration and re-entry experiences as motivation to research women who commit white-collar crime and correlations to underlying trauma and mental health issues. After working with several criminal justice organizations, she founded Branford-based Evolution Re-entry Services in 2018 with the goal of providing a comprehensive platform of integrated transition services for nonviolent women felons during and after their incarcerations. ERS has pursued collaborative partnerships with state and community service agencies to encourage networking and promote coordination of programs designed to support reintegration of former inmates into the community. Specific priorities include support in securing employment, housing, transportation, financial stability, proper nutrition and sound health.

In an interview with Forbes.com correspondent Walt Pavlo, Polverari said the organization’s objective is “to help women returning from prison put their broken lives back together.” She observed that the public has “little empathy or sympathy for this group of women, typically seeing them as privileged women who were greedy or taking advantage of others, but in reality that is rarely the case. Women are currently being incarcerated at a higher rate than ever before, yet there are few resources dedicated to guiding these women to a productive life beyond prison.”

Polverari, a graduate of Fordham University with a master’s degree in social work, has extensive mentoring and therapeutic experience and is currently pursuing a doctorate in social work with a concentration in criminal justice. She is a frequent speaker regionally and nationally on women’s incarceration and re-entry topics. Earlier this month, ERS hosted the nation’s first retreat for women convicted of white-collar crimes.

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

 

WCSU introduces new master’s degree program in Addiction Studies

Counselor training and internships supported by Opioid Workforce Expansion grant

image of Members of the first cohort in the Western Connecticut State University M.S. in Addiction Studies program.

Members of the first cohort in the Western Connecticut State University M.S. in Addiction Studies program.

DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University is responding to the regional and national opioid crisis with the launch this fall of a new Master of Science in Addiction Studies program designed to prepare counselors specializing in the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.

The 37-credit M.S. program offered in the WCSU Department of Psychology will include course work with faculty specialists in addiction studies as well as extensive internship opportunities for students to work at area agencies on the front line in treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Graduates will complete the program fully prepared to seek Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) certification, the licensure recognized by Connecticut statute for professionals who provide specialized prevention and early intervention services in collaboration with mental health and medical providers for individuals diagnosed with opioid and other substance use disorders.

“We began developing this new M.S. in Addiction Studies more than five years ago in response to the alarming growth in substance use disorders in New England and nationwide,” graduate program coordinator and Professor of Psychology Dr. Shane Murphy observed. While the department already provides undergraduate courses to prepare for basic certification as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), Murphy said, “our graduates were giving us feedback that to provide the type of impact they felt necessary to combat the drug epidemic, they needed more advanced training and more responsibility in their licensure.” The central role of LADC professionals in ensuring continuity and coordination of treatment for substance use disorder patients exemplifies “the benefits of an integrated primary medical service system, and our graduates will look forward to providing these important behavioral health services.”

The new M.S. in Addiction Studies received a major boost with the award this summer of a $1.087 million Opioid Workforce Expansion Program (OWEP) grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, designed to improve training in evidence-based prevention, assessment and treatment of opioid and other substance use disorders.

The grant will enable WCSU to expand internship and training assignments for students to work with high-risk populations, promote multi-disciplinary collaborations in addiction studies, and introduce new partnerships and outreach efforts in the community. WCSU is the only Connecticut institution to receive an OWEP grant and one of only six New England recipients.

A primary goal of the federal OWEP initiative is to expand the available workforce of professionals trained in prevention and treatment of opioid and other substance use disorders, with particular focus on medically underserved communities. “The purpose of the grant is to improve the treatment of opioid use disorder in communities that are in highest need,” remarked Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Lindsay Oberleitner, principal investigator for the project. “The rate of opioid use disorder in Connecticut is higher than the national average, and the needs across the state are complex and diverse. Addiction treatment is improved in part by strengthening the knowledge and experience of treatment providers.”

Murphy noted that the grant will fund student stipends for internships with partner agencies that currently include the Western Connecticut Health Network in Danbury and Norwalk, the APT Foundation in New Haven, the Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, the Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism, and CHOICES at WCSU. “Our students will be working directly with clients, learning with experienced supervisors at excellent treatment agencies,” he said.

Citing a 2011 White House Office of Drug Policy report that estimated alcohol and drug addiction costs to the United States at $193 billion annually, Murphy observed addiction exacts a devastating economic and social price in terms of crime, domestic violence, lost workplace productivity, illness and death. “Individuals living with a substance use disorder often have physical health problems such as lung disease, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” he said.

“Connecticut’s opioid and heroin epidemic has seen deaths attributed to overdoses increase to more than 1,000 in 2017,” he added. “We desperately need a well-trained workforce who can provide treatment and prevention services with an evidence-based and harm-reduction approach, and our master’s program will help meet that need. We hope our M.S. in Addiction Studies program will become the gold standard for training licensed alcohol and drug counselors in Connecticut and southern New England, and this grant is a huge step in this direction.”

As a member of the first student cohort admitted in the fall semester to the M.S. in Addiction Studies program, Taylor Cassidy, of Brookfield, said the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through internships designed to meet her interests was a powerful draw for her. “The program takes into consideration the personal experiences that I look to gain and the specific populations that I am interested in working with,” she said.

A 2019 recipient of a B.A. in Psychology at WCSU, Cassidy is taking advantage of the option to enroll full time and complete her master’s degree in one year. After graduation, she plans to work for several years with a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor before earning her licensure and establishing her own treatment and counseling center.

“Compared with other fields in mental health, drug and alcohol addiction is still a relatively new and rapidly growing field, and ideas are constantly being introduced about how to treat those afflicted,” Cassidy said. “I am looking forward to being part of a new wave of thinking in addiction treatment, and I am ecstatic about starting my journey in a field that is expanding and evolving every day to help real people.”

Carole Allers, of Wilton, also earned her B.A. in Psychology this year at WCSU and begins the M.S. in Addiction Studies program as the latest chapter in her personal journey over the past 30 years as a stay-at-home mother, school volunteer, certified referee instructor and personal trainer. “I have always been interested in trying to help people understand their roadblocks and develop solutions to them,” she said.

Through her internship during undergraduate studies as a domestic abuse and sexual assault counselor at the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, she observed, “I realized addictions come in many forms. In order to help people with addictions, we need to understand how they got there. I need the tools to help and WCSU is providing that. Whatever field I end up in, I hope to help as many people as I can, one person at a time.”

Howie Senior, of New Milford, pursued an independent research project investigating the genetic predisposition to addiction within his own family during his undergraduate studies at Fordham University, where he earned a B.A. in English in 1996. “To say that I was astounded with the findings is an understatement,” he said. “Addiction has affected every generation that I studied within my own family, and I have spoken to others who have been candid in revealing the same within their families as well.”

Senior’s involvement in youth sports and high school athletics programs has given him a keen awareness of “how the disease of addiction affects our youth. It’s very hard to be a young person in our society today and it has become a breeding ground for addiction,” he said. “As a coach, I’ve had the opportunity to witness and in some cases to be part of situations involving drugs and alcohol. These interactions have fueled my excitement and redirection of my professional career.”

His goal in pursuing the M.S. in Addiction Studies at WCSU is to become a substance abuse counselor at the high school or college level and “turn the tide before the pain and suffering take their toll,” he said. In researching master’s degree programs in the field, he noted, “I found WCSU has the only substantive program that specializes in addiction studies in the area. Witnessing firsthand the prevalence and consequences of addiction, I am excited and honored to be part of the first cohort at one of the first universities to implement this much-needed program.”

For more information, contact Murphy at murphys@wcsu.edu or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.