SouthernLife Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 501 NEW HAVEN, CONN. a newspaper for the campus community Southern Connecticut State University April 2014 • Vol.17 No. 5 inside: 4 An Unconventional Spring Break 5 Keeping Tabs on Ukraine Heptathlon Comes Up Sevens for Track Star The National Champions Swimming Like a Butterfly Raymond Cswerko spot atop the podium was not new to Nick Lebron. Two years ago, in Mankato, Minn., he claimed the 2012 NCAA Division II championship in the heptathlon. But this year was different. Fueled by a third-place finish in the competition at last year’s NCAA championship, Lebron made sure the results would be even better. He knew it was the end of a four-year journey, the last time that he would compete for the Owls as a member of the indoor track and field squad. Bolstered by a year’s worth of training – both physically and mentally – Lebron crushed the field with a Division II record score of 5,765 points in the seven events to claim the 2014 NCAA title. Along the way, he also set a new high mark among New England programs in all three divisions. Lebron is also an All-American in the decathlon, which is made of 10 separate events. Both competitions are grueling and follow a multiple-day format. “There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it,” Lebron said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. This is a 5-year deal. You have to be the first had a feeling that he might win one into the gym and the last one out because there’s so much to do. “It has to be a passion of yours. It can’t just be something that you do on the side. There are either seven or 10 events that you have to be good in. That’s something that I Lebron continued on page 6. an individual title among his four swims at the NCAA Division II Championship in Geneva, Ohio, last month. The Owls’ junior collected All-America honors in the 400-yard individual medley at last year’s event and was one of the favorites to win this year’s title. Cswerko got his national championship, but had to settle for a national runner-up mark in the 400 IM. Instead, he touched the wall first in the 200-yard butterfly to claim the 19th individual title in the history of Southern’s men’s swimming and diving program and the first since 2003. A day after finishing second in the 400 IM, Cswerko led the field by nearly a full second (1:46.25) to capture his first NCAA individual title. In total, he finished this year’s competition as a three-time All-American for his performances in the 400 IM, 200 butterfly and a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley. A Torrington native, Cswerko was one of just two Americans to claim individual titles at this year’s NCAA Championships. The competition continues to feature a global mix on an annual basis. In fact, Marko Blazevski, who edged Cswerko for the 400 IM title, is a native of Macedonia and was a member of its 2012 Olympic team. “He’s swimming against an international, world-class field,” said Owls’ coach Tim Quill, who has now coached SCSU swimmers to Cswerko continued on page 6. Men’s basketball team progresses to Elite Eight. See Page 8. Charting a Course to Improve Student Graduation Rates advisors who would guide students through their first two years; and master advisors, who would take over advisement duties for students after they have declared a major. • Modify academic programs, policies and instruction. The task force report states: “Too often SCSU has created unintentional obstacles for students; these obstacles include but are not limited to, overly restrictive academic policies, unnecessary prerequisites, single-course bottlenecks, curricular sprawl and an ambitious Liberal Education Program.” It recommends examining all of the above to remove obstacles that make it unnecessarily difficult for students to graduate in four years. The Student Success Task Force – a committee that aims to significantly improve the university’s retention and graduation rates – has developed six major recommendations it believes will enable Southern to accomplish that goal. The task force was charged by President Mary A. Papazian more than a year ago in an effort to reverse what had been a steady decline for several years in the university’s 4- and 6-year graduation rates, as well as to improve retention rates (the percentage of full-time undergraduates who continue as such in subsequent years). “Nearly 100 people participated on the (task force), which shows a genuine interest on campus in making a real improvement,” Papazian says. “We will do all we can to implement the recommendations.” The task force was led by Tracy Tyree, vice president for student affairs, and Steven Breese, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. The six recommendations were: • Advance a culture of student-centeredness. This would include enhancing a sense of belonging; improving customer service; increasing employee training and development opportunities; creating a university ombudsman and expanding the university’s hours of operation to meet the needs of students who take classes at night and on weekends. • Create a student success center. Ideally, this would include a physical location, but initially it would be a virtual center. Initiatives would include additions to: student transition support (e.g. a second-year student program); learning support (e.g. more tutoring options); academic interventions and enhancement; disability support; and academic and career advisement. • Transform academic advising. This would involve the creation of a cadre of • Refresh university branding and marketing. Research indicates that most students do not come to Southern because it is Southern, according to the report. Nevertheless, many of them end up with an educational experience that exceeds expectations. A specific brand that applies to the university as a whole is recommended. Suggestions also include greater community engagement, forging better relationships with high school guidance counselors and administrators, and delivering on promises made by the university. • Improve student financing and affordability. This includes assistance in the areas of financial literacy, as well as linking some financial aid programs to a student’s likelihood of graduating in a timely manner. “We should designate a permanent body with broad representation to institutionalize student success,” Tyree says. That panel would monitor how well the university is meeting the goals outlined in the report by the Student Success task force. The findings of the task force were presented to the campus community during a town hall-style meeting last month. : An Evening of Laughter The Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture Series presents a “Tonight Show”-style monologue and an evening of stand-up comedy with acclaimed late-night talk show host Jay Leno on May 9, 7 p.m., at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. Leno’s “everyman” style has earned him millions of fans worldwide and established the doubleEmmy Award winner as a television icon. Reserved seating is available at www.tickets.southernct.edu A portion of the proceeds supports Southern’s Endowed Awards of Excellence, a merit-based scholarship program.