President’s Initiatives Fund Recipients

“Project Bumpspark,” submitted by Associate Professor of English and Master of Fine Arts in Writing Coordinator Dr. Brian Clements, is the pilot episode of a nonprofit, educational and primetime Connecticut Public Television & Radio series that focuses on the “learning opportunities that differences can create.” CPTV has agreed to air the pilot as well as develop it as a national PBS and NPR series. By reimagining an old format — the talk show — Bumpspark brings together two leading minds, always from completely different backgrounds, such as an astronaut and an anthropologist or a gene splicer and a jazz musician, to converse in stimulating, on-location settings.

“The WestConn Capoeira Project with DanceBrazil,” submitted by Assistant Professor of History and Non-Western Cultures Dr. Joshua Rosenthal, will bring DanceBrazil and Alex Filadelfo of Grupo Capoeira Brazil to campus in April for a performance, workshops and a series of conversations between the visiting artists, members of the university and the community. Jelon Vieira, the artistic director of DanceBrazil and first instructor of capoeira — an Afro-Brazilian cultural movement form — to settle in the United States, will lecture on campus and share his experiences with the community. It is the hope that this will begin a long-term collaboration between WestConn and DanceBrazil that fosters working relationships between the campus and surrounding community centering on various activities involving capoeira such as Brazilian culture camps and annual performances by DanceBrazil.

Three-Day WCSU Annual Jazz Festival,” submitted by Assistant Professor of Music Jamie Begian, has been presented by the music department each spring since 1996. The event provides middle school through university level groups a chance to perform and be heard by outstanding clinicians drawn from both WCSU jazz faculty and outside professionals in a noncompetitive environment. The festival has earned an outstanding reputation among students and band directors alike as a pivotal experience in the development of young musicians and is attended by middle-school to college-aged students from across Connecticut and New York. The festival provides a forum for young musicians to hone their musicianship while offering band directors new insights on how to problem-solve the day-to-day musical issues that challenge their students.

“Opening the World of Danbury to WCSU Students,” proposed by Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Walter Cramer, seeks to expose WestConn students, particularly freshmen, to the vast diversity within the Danbury area. The project also will provide an opportunity for students to make important connections with other students as well as faculty/staff with whom they will share the experience. The project will begin with new student orientation in the fall of 2008 and continue throughout the academic year. Small groups of students with a faculty/staff member will explore sites that may include the Danbury Historical Society, Tarrywile Park in Danbury, Molten Java Café in Bethel, Bethel Cinema, the Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market in New Milford, and locally unique ethnic restaurants, bakeries and specialty stores.

“WestConn Math Enrichment Mentoring Program,” submitted by Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Robin Flanagan, Education Department Chair and Associate Professor of Education and Educational Psychology Dr. Theresa Canada, Assistant Professor of Education and Educational Psychology Dr. Michael Wilson and Associate Professor of Computer Science Rona Gurkewitz brings WestConn undergraduate women and local elementary and middle school girls together in a one-hour weekly mentoring session. During the session, students work together in a safe, nonjudgmental, nonpressured atmosphere to work on math enrichment projects. This program piloted in spring 2007 at Broadview Middle School and Roberts Avenue Elementary School, where it will continue as a more focused version. The program is a chance for WCSU students to contribute to the lives of local students and for local public school students to see WCSU students in action. It also gives students from third grade through college an opportunity to engage in math-based enrichment activities without the added pressure of tests and grades. Instead, they learn from the differences they encounter in building, programming, designing and creating mathematically. 

“Step into the World in Geneva,” submitted by Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Social Work Field Education Dr. Kathleen Hinga and Friar Michael Lasky, will give students the opportunity to participate in a human rights course of studies held in conjunction with the United Nation’s 60th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The program will expose students to human conditions and experiences through the rich and diverse lens of the U.N.  Students will participate in formal classes, attend daily open sessions of the Human Rights Council, dialogue with various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and meet with U.S. representatives and delegates to the U.N.  Students will reflect daily with WCSU professors and faculty from the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations as well as staff from various NGOs.  These learning opportunities will feature exposure to human, political, economic, cultural, religious and geographic differences in our world.

“Bridges of Peace Program,” submitted by Professor of Education and Educational Psychology Dr. Darla Shaw, will for the second time link the university’s education department with the Danbury public school system and various other community groups. This program will enable WCSU students and Danbury school teachers to receive staff development training in musical literacy in order to further enhance Danbury’s Peace Curriculum. The final product of the training will be a Musical Bridges of Peace Program, free and open to the public that will focus on Danbury as a diverse community. Well-known children’s folk singer John Farrell will help with the project in which more than 200 Danbury students will perform original songs and dances.

“Summer Study in Madrid in 2008 and 2009,” submitted by Assistant Professor of World Languages and Literature Dr. Galina Bakhtiarova and Assistant Professor of Art David Skora, is a study program from May 29 - June 28 that will focus on Spain’s arts and architecture. A total of four classes will be offered so that students can choose and earn six credits in Spanish and art. Classes will take place at Juan Bravo Conference Center in Madrid from Monday through Thursday in blocks of two hours. Students can have a Spanish and an art class every day with a total four hours of instruction a day. The program includes mandatory visits to museums, art exhibits and architectural sights in Madrid and the surrounding area. Two weekend trips to Cuenca/Valencia and Guernica/Bilbao/San Sebastian (June 13-15) and (June 19-22) are part of the program. Visits to art museums and architectural sites will enhance and enrich students’ experience. Students will live with families in Madrid, receive full room and board, and practice language skills in informal home settings.

“Joint theatre production with the Ives Authority,” submitted by Professor of Theatre Arts Frank Herbert and Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Pam McDaniel, is a project that is envisioned as a springboard for annual summer offerings at the Ives Center and for WCSU’s departments of theatre and music to develop programming that offers internship and apprenticeship opportunities for WestConn students. It will be family entertainment featuring a cross-generational and culturally diverse cast using about 10 students from the WCSU theatre arts/arts/music departments with participants from the community and children from culturally diverse organizations. Shows considered for the project are Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Benjamin Britten’s “Noah’s Flood,” and Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”

“A Diversity Lecture Series at WCSU,” submitted by Director of Multicultural Affairs and Affirmative Action Programs Dr. Bryan Samuel, Education Department Chair and Associate Professor of Education and Educational Psychology Dr. Theresa Canada, Assistant Professor of History and Non-Western Cultures Dr. Joshua Rosenthal and Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences Dr. Robert Whittemore, will bring one speaker a month to campus in February, March and April 2008. Each lecture will be free and open to the public. Speakers will be from a broad spectrum of scholars, activists, performers, historical figures and professionals and will focus on prevalent issues along the diversity continuum. The lectures will offer the opportunity for questions and will conclude with a reception. The topics chosen will be shared in advance with faculty in the relevant academic areas so they can encourage attendance and participation of students. Topics may include, but are not limited to, immigration, race relations, campus violence, social justice and equity, civil responsibility, disabilities and culture.

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