Update: Civil Rights Icon Dr. Bob Zellner to Speak at Goodwin Commencement

ZellnerMarfuggi (2)On Saturday, June 6, Goodwin College will hold its 16th Commencement exercises on the grounds of its main campus at One Riverside Drive in East Hartford. The ceremony will celebrate the accomplishments of the students who worked hard to earn their certificates, associates degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. An estimated 440 graduates are expected to walk in the June 6 ceremony.

This year’s guest speakers include noted Civil Rights activist and Freedom Right Dr. Bob Zellner, as well as longtime leader of Riverfront Recapture, Inc., Joseph R. Marfuggi. Zellner was mentored by Dr. Martin Luther King, helped call attention to Civil Rights issues in the deep south, and is currently walking from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. to help draw attention to healthcare needs of rural communities. Marfuggi worked for the Riverfront Recapture organization for more than 27 years, advocating tirelessly to increase public access to the CT River. Marfuggi received an honorary doctorate from Goodwin College prior to its relocation to the River Campus location, which gives the East Hartford side of the river unprecedented access to the riverfront.

The Commencement ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m., and will also include remarks from Goodwin President Mark Scheinberg and valedictorian Lee Housely. This year’s selected student speaker is James Tillman, who is receiving his associate degree in Human Services. Tillman enrolled at Goodwin after being exonerated of a wrongful conviction for which he spent over 18 years in prison. Tillman recently published his book The Power of Conviction: My Wrongful Conviction, 18 Years in Prison, and the Freedom Earned Through Forgiveness and Faith.

Members of the media are invited to attend Commencement and are encouraged to contact Rob Muirhead, Media Relations Coordinator, at 860-913-2033 or rmuirhead@goodwin.edu. Early arrival is suggested; parking is expected to be at full capacity. In addition to the lots at One Riverside Drive, additional parking is available at the Connecticut River Academy (9 Riverside Drive), the Early Childhood Magnet School (29 Willowbrook Road) and the Goodwin College Dental Hygiene and Ophthalmic Science Building (403 Main Street). Shuttle service will be available.

Elliott Reed: Challenges, Blessing, and “Showing the Way”

Elliott ReedGoodwin College had a job opening for a custodian in its Facilities Department. Elliott Reed was in need of full-time employment. The match was perfect, and he is now a familiar community member at the River Campus.

And as Reed, 58, ponders his plans for the future, he is keenly aware of the challenges that have brought him to Riverside Drive.

Reed had been previously employed as a school bus driver. “I was living with my girlfriend, who developed breast cancer,” he said. “She was in remission, but when the cancer came back, she thought it was best if I didn’t watch.” He moved out, but when his rent was raised to a level he couldn’t afford and he was displaced, he became a resident of Mercy Housing in Hartford, part of a national nonprofit organization working to build a more humane world where poverty is alleviated.

Once he moved into Mercy Housing, he found part-time employment at Easter Seals, which provides support services to children and adults with disabilities and special needs. He also worked as an information specialist for a juvenile detention center for a period of time. “I enjoy every job I have,” he explained. “I like people. I like life. I embrace it.”

Mercy Housing, where Reed is still currently a resident in the Transitional Living Program, had collaborated with Goodwin on a number of social initiatives. “Goodwin’s Human Resource team is in touch with the employment specialist at Mercy Housing and I’m a product of that partnership,” Reed stated.

He was hired as a full-time employee and was preparing to join the Facilities Department.

“I needed a full-time position to begin making the transition out of Mercy.” Reed noted. “Being at Goodwin would put me on the right path. The steady income and benefits would enable me to transition.”

Sadly, another challenge was still to come.

Only days before he was set to start his new position, Reed’s mother passed away. “My supervisors came to the funeral, and they gave me time off to grieve.” He was appreciative of the empathy and compassion he was shown by the Goodwin community before he even started.

Reed intends to take advantage of the educational opportunities for which he is eligible as an employee of the College. Previously, he took courses to become a drug/alcohol rehabilitation counselor and hopes to enroll in the Human Services program at Goodwin.

“I want to help get people on the right path. I know the way, I go the way, I show the way.”

Despite his difficult journey, Reed remains positive and hopeful for his future.

“I’m fortunate. I’ve just been blessed.”

CT River Academy Founding Director Linda Dadona Retiring in June

Dadona looks back on the amazing story of the school she helped establish with Goodwin College and LEARN.

Linda_PressPhoto (2)EAST HARTFORD — For Linda Dadona, Director of the Connecticut River Academy (CTRA) at Goodwin College, the past five years have been the most challenging of her 38-year career in education, but the resulting benefits to her scholars have made it all worthwhile. And now Dadona’s career is coming to a bittersweet conclusion as she looks toward retirement.

“This has been a very special experience — the hardest job I’ve ever had, but the most rewarding,” she said of the partnership between Goodwin College and LEARN, the regional service educational center under which the Academy operates. The CTRA population comprises students from 43 towns, including 45-50% from Hartford and 12-14% from East Hartford. The school boasts a remarkable balance between African-American, Hispanic, and Reduced Isolation (White, Asian, etc.) students.

Sitting in her office in the beautiful, 105,000-square-foot building at 9 Riverside Drive in East Hartford, Dadona recently indulged in a few moments of misty remembrance of her tenure as the head of CTRA. The building itself is less than two years old; Dadona herself was there for the ribbon cutting on January 7, 2014, following three years in modular classrooms on the Goodwin campus.

“It’s certainly going to be hard to say goodbye,” Dadona said. “This is the best staff I’ve ever worked with. We had a common purpose.”

That purpose, she explained, was to create a unique experience within Connecticut’s magnet schools: an environmentally-themed, college-oriented high school. Growing from small classes at 195 Riverside Drive to a $57 million building serving hundreds of students in just five years, Dadona was at the helm of developing the school’s academic programs and setting the tone for its ongoing culture of cooperation and learning values.

“I was a high school principal working with a college, doing something unheard of,” she said.

Dadona was just two years from retirement when the opportunity to begin development of CTRA arose. Undertaking such a massive project meant postponing that retirement, a prospect that initially left her conflicted. But her husband, she said, knew right away that this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. “He knew I was invested even before I did,” she said.

Goodwin president Mark Scheinberg reflected on Dadona’s impact: “All we asked Linda to do was to create a school where none existed, build a culture integrating students from highly diverse backgrounds, set high standards of academic excellence preparing mostly first-generation students for college success, move the school three times from temporary facilities into a new building, and do it with intelligence and grace. All of this she did, and we will be forever amazed and grateful.”

Now, five years later, Dadona has been able to see the fruits of that labor. “To see the success our kids are having is validating to the whole model that Goodwin created with LEARN,” she said. “There’s been a number of moments that have taken my breath away.”

Alan Kramer, Dean of Magnet Schools at Goodwin College, spoke specifically about the students who are benefitting from Dadona’s work. “Linda has created a unique culture of academic achievement, with 97% of CTRA seniors graduating and 84% going on to higher education — including 15% to Goodwin. She helped develop an early college program that has resulting in 67% of CTRA graduates finishing their high school careers with Goodwin College transcripts in hand.

And though her retirement will see her spending time with family at a much slower pace than her years with CTRA, Dadona said a part of her will always remain tied to education.

“We’re part of something bigger than ourselves,” she said. “I think it suited me well.”

Assistant Director Tara Amatrudo, who has worked closely with Dadona, will assume the role of Director of CTRA on July 1. Of her successor, Dadona had nothing but praise: “I can’t think of anyone better for the school,” she said.

Tara Amatrudo Appointed New Director of Connecticut River Academy at Goodwin College

Former Assistant Director will replace retiring Director Linda Dadona after the end of the current school year.

TaraAmatrudo_Hallway_UseEAST HARTFORD — Goodwin College and the LEARN Regional Educational Service Center have announced the appointment of Tara Amatrudo as the new Director of the Connecticut River Academy. Amatrudo will assume the position on July 1, following the retirement of current Director Linda Dadona.

Amatrudo will be the second individual to hold the position at the environmentally-themed high school, after Dadona helped to launch the school five years ago.

“I’m so excited to continue working with such a unique, amazing environment,” Amatrudo said.

Amatrudo has worked as Assistant Director of CTRA for the past two years, after serving as the school’s Special Education/SRBI Coordinator. She was previously a Special Education teacher, team leader, and program coordinator for the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program at Coginchaug High School in Durham. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Special Education from Southern Connecticut State University and her sixth year professional diploma from the University of Connecticut’s Administrator Preparation Program.

“Tara will continue to integrate the values and vision of LEARN while fostering and deepening our continued partnership with Goodwin College,” LEARN Executive Director Dr. Eileen S. Howley said. “She is committed to providing all of our students with exceptional education experiences.”

The Connecticut River Academy is an early college magnet high school on Goodwin College’s river campus in East Hartford, operated in cooperation with LEARN. Located beside the historic Connecticut River, the Academy’s environmental studies focus includes river studies; land, water and air quality; plant and animal growth; human ecology; and renewable energy.

Of her successor, Dadona had nothing but praise: “I can’t think of anyone better for the school,” she said.

Lincoln LeFebvre: “Goodwin made me a better manager and a better person”

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Lincoln LeFebvre has been working at Home Depot for nearly a decade. After taking courses at another college but not completing his degree — and being passed up twice for managerial position promotions — he decided to enroll in Goodwin College’s Management and Leadership program.

“I wanted to take the next step. I had all these credits and wanted to finish what I started,” LeFebvre stated. The transfer process was an easy one for him. “My advisors went out of their way to make sure I received the maximum amount of transfer credits and walked me through every step.”

Home Depot started out as “just a job” for LeFebvre, but that changed as he learned more about the values of the company and realized the potential to move up in the organization.

Although LeFebvre began as a part time sales associate for Home Depot, with his degree now in hand he is overseeing nine stores as the district operations manager. By August 2015, he will be overseeing all 115 New England stores as the new territory operations manager.

LeFebvre attributed his ability to relate to and better manage people to his Goodwin instructors. “The professors here are personable and authentic and have lived the experience.”

LeFebvre came to Goodwin with experience in retail, but knew he needed more to excel. “These classes pertained directly to what I wanted to do, but at the same time I wasn’t being pigeonholed,” LeFebvre commented. “Management and Leadership can be applied very broadly and can be used anywhere in the business world.” 

LeFebvre believes you can get out of Goodwin whatever you want: “My degree from Goodwin wasn’t just a piece of paper to bring to an interview. Goodwin made me a better manager and a better person. Because of Goodwin I’ve been able to move forward with my career.”

 By: Hannah Stacy

Vickie Southerland: “Nothing Was Going to Stop Me”

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Vickie Southerland, a Management and Leadership graduate, landed a promotion one week after earning her bachelor’s degree from Goodwin.

Southerland started out as a customer service representative for CTrides, part of the Department of Transportation, and now works as an outreach coordinator promoting sustainability, carpooling, and telecommuting.

After being laid off from two prior positions — one for 11 years in and another for four — Southerland appreciates the stability that Goodwin and her current job have afforded her. “I want to stay stable,” she noted.

Southerland started her journey at Goodwin when she was 40 years old. “I became a mom at 16. My life was all about supporting my family,” she stated. “I worked three jobs at one point. I made ends meet, but I knew there was something more.”

The road was not without its challenges. While in school, she was undergoing treatment for Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a disease in which the immune system attacks platelets. “My professors and advisors were wonderful,” Southerland commented. “I was going to the cancer center two or three times a week trying different therapies, but I was still able to keep up with school with their help.”

Southerland appreciated their patience and compassion. “I wouldn’t have received the same treatment anywhere else. Goodwin selects its faculty and staff wisely.”

Southerland also credited her fellow students for their support and drive. “I met people from all walks of life and we pulled each other up.”

Southerland is proving that despite the speed bumps along the way she doesn’t give up. “I have goals. Nothing was going to stop me.”

By: Hannah Stacy

Jeff Currey Named Family Legislator of the Year

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Congratulations to Jeff Currey on being named the 2015 Family Legislator of the Year by the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies. He was recognized in a ceremony at the state capitol on May 13. In his role at Goodwin, Jeff serves as supervisor for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) employment and training programs. Of the award, Jeff stated, “I’m truly honored to receive this recognition from the CT Council of Family Service Agencies. I firmly believe in their mission of strengthening Connecticut’s families and communities. Their innovative provider network helps to support children and families with an array of supports, helping them live happy, healthy and self-sufficient lives.”

Summer Adult Continuing Ed Classes Begin June 12

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Goodwin College has announced its summer 2015 Adult Continuing Education (ACE) offerings. The classes — free of charge to seniors 55 and older — are offered in conjunction with the East Hartford South End Senior Center. All courses are presented in two-part sessions at the Goodwin campus, One Riverside Drive, East Hartford and the Senior Center, 70 Canterbury Street, East Hartford. Writing Your Memoir: Part 1 on Friday, June 12, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Senior Center and Part 2 on Saturday, June 13, 9 to 11 a.m. at Goodwin College. Insects and Disease: Part 1 on Friday, July 10, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Senior Center and Part 2 on Saturday, July 11, 9 to 11 a.m. at Goodwin College. The Tech Savvy Senior: Part 1 on Friday, August 14, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Senior Center and Part 2 on Saturday, August 15, 9 to 11 a.m. at Goodwin College. Interested participants must register for classes by contacting ACE Program Coordinator Claude Mayo at 860-913-2051 or cmayo@goodwin.edu. Download flyer.

Overcoming Barriers to Peer Study: Local Entrepreneurs Launch “WeStudee” at Goodwin College

StartUp Weekend: Education, sponsored by UP Connecticut in Hartford in September 2014, presented a bold premise to its participants: transform your ideas related to education into action; find the right people with the skills and passion to build an education product in one weekend; receive coaching from education designers and industry professionals who will advise you on taking your idea to the next level.

And so it was that WeStudee was born. The brainchild of Pi Areepipatkul, Darcie Binder, John Clay, Jr., Alex Garcia, Derrick Karle, Yuya Jeremy Ong, Ye (April) Ji Park, Ashwin Raghavan, Adam Stankiewicz, Duong Vu, and Joel Whipple, WeStudee is an online tool that helps students find study partners among their classmates, matching them on criteria that includes current courses, available study times, and other preferences.

Physical, socio-economic, institutional, and psychological barriers that make it hard to find study partners can adversely impact effective peer-to-peer studying. One of WeStudee’s goals is to focus on common factors that bring students together into successful study groups.

Over the course of the StartUp Weekend, the WeStudee team members brainstormed and refined their ideas — and placed first in the competition. As luck would have it, Goodwin College president Mark Schienberg was one of the judges and saw a potential fit for WeStudee with Goodwin students.

“Many of our students juggle an incredible amount of commitments in addition to their studies — families, jobs, proximity to campus,” he explained. “WeStudee seemed like a great way they could benefit from peer-to-peer studying on their own terms and in ways that help alleviate obstacles. And, of course, Goodwin is always looking to encourage entrepreneurship, especially in education.”

Scheinberg offered the team the opportunity to implement WeStudee at Goodwin College. They solicited input from Goodwin faculty and staff, then worked with them to finalize WeStudee and make it available for students to use at the beginning of the 2015 summer session.

“We’re just now at the beginning of the implementation process,” offered Eric Emet, Goodwin’s Director of Student Retention, “but our faculty members are already excited about introducing this new opportunity to their students. The potential is great, and we’re looking forward to adding WeStudee to our wide range of student support services.”

“We worked with Goodwin students to develop the initial WeStudee product through feedback from focus groups, student surveys, and student product testing,” adds Joel Whipple of the WeStudee team. “The entire Goodwin community has embraced WeStudee, and we are looking to forward to the next step: helping students connect with their peers and engage with classmates to improve their grades.”

Goodwin College Hosts Key Issues Forum

On May 12, Goodwin College hosted the Hartford Courant’s Key Issues Forum, CONNECTICUT: Why We Live Here. Following a reception in Goodwin’s Community Room, the audience moved to the auditorium to hear a panel discussion featuring Wally Lamb, author of five New York Times bestselling novels; Rohan Freeman, president and CEO of Freeman Companies, a Hartford engineering firm; and Alissa DeJonge, vice president of research at the Connecticut Economic Research Center. All three panelists are Connecticut residents. Courant editor Andrew Julien moderated the discussion, which included a Q&A session.

The forum posed the question “Why do people settle in Connecticut — and stay?” The topics ranged from the state’s many assets — considerable amenities, natural beauty, access to the arts, and superior schools — to its challenges — obstacles to business, inequities in education from town to town, and the high cost of living. When the panelists were asked how they would introduce someone to Connecticut if they only had 24 hours, the replies were included showing them the beauty of the shoreline, visiting museums and cultural centers, and exploring some of the small towns tucked away throughout the state.

Lamb offered an example of how Connecticut sometimes misses the mark in capitalizing on business opportunities. His book I Know This Much Is True, which takes place in Connecticut, is slated to be filmed for a television adaptation with Mark Ruffalo. In researching financial encouragements from the state that might be applicable to the project, Lamb discovered that past advantages for film companies had been allowed to lapse; the project is now likely to be moved to another state.

Still, the panelists’ comments on life in Connecticut were positive overall, and they agreed that residents have a heritage and character all their own. When Julien applied the term “cranky” to Nutmeggers, Lamb countered with “feisty” — and perhaps “skeptical.” DeJonge offered that there is a duality among Connecticut’s citizens: while there is certainly a tendency towards “steady habits” in their DNA, there is at the same time a passion to strive for more and to explore new paths — a spirit, she said, that helped shape the rest of the country.

Goodwin is scheduled to host several upcoming Key Issues Forums later this year.

Read Hartford Courant article and watch brief video clip.

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