Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Viking Voices Podcast: Salem State Global Day of Service

In this edition of the Salem State University Viking Voices podcast we have a conversation about Salem State University Global Day of Service that celebrates and mobilizes the thousands of Salem State alumni, students, parents, employees and friends of Salem State who improve their community through service. 
Mikki Wilson

Mikki Wilson and Sean Morrow join us to discuss the annual event, its history, and the plans for this year.  We talk about specific events planned for the 2016 Global Day of Service which takes place on June 4. A number of opportunities for alumni to join together and give back to our communities are planned. 

Those interested to learn more are encouraged to visit:

Listen to the conversation online or download an MP3 copy at the links below. 

         Sean Morrow   
Play Now

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I am looking forward to our next conversation.You can join in the conversation by following this blog and checking out the many social media outlets available to our Salem State community. A short list of some of these venues are below.

Go Vikings!

Here are some of the places you may find me on social media:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Viking Voices: Salem State Students Help Veterans Podcast

In our continuing conversations about the great things that are going on at Salem State University we've been meeting a number of individuals who are making a real difference for the campus community and beyond. A few weeks back I reminded us that President Meservey set out as one of the priorities for the University at her inauguration that, "It is our duty to ensure that students understand the importance of community involvement, and that they are well versed in the privileges and responsibilities that come with citizenship in a democratic republic." 

In the audio podcast that you may listen to using the links below, we hear from a group of students and their faculty advocate who are an exemplar of the ideals that President Meservey is championing. What started as a class project has morphed into a campaign with multiple effective strategies that are helping to change people's perceptions of veterans. 

Robert E. Brown, Ph.D.
Robert E. Brown, Ph.D. who is a professor in the Communications Department at Salem State University, and the project's mentor put the challenge succinctly when he said, "The conversation about veterans has been almost entirely negative, it has been about Veterans Affairs, suicide, PTSD, addiction, all these things that veterans have been challenged with." Although intended to bring light to injustice, Dr. Brown continues, "It has had the unintended consequence of distancing veterans and making them seem less employable, less valuable to the community, in fact worrisome, dangerous even ... This is the last thing that we want."

The student group accepted Professor Brown's encouragement and have entered the Bateman Case Study Competition which is sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America. With the intent of achieving a positive social goal, the Bateman Challenge is the, "premier national case study competition for public relations students," that gives students, "an opportunity to apply classroom education and internship experiences ... to research, plan, implement and evaluate a comprehensive public relations campaign."  

For these Salem State University students the results are a set of activities that are changing perspectives, educating the students and their peers, helping veterans, and has caught the attention of media professionalsProfessor Brown said that these students are changing the conversation. "As far as I know," Brown remarks, "these students are involved in the only campaign to  raise awareness of veterans accomplishment." 

The students have gained local notoriety from their efforts. They will attend a gala during the Public Relations Society of America Northeast District Conclave in June. Please set aside a few minutes of your time to listen to their story.

The group includes students:   

Mark Casella
Gerald Fallon Jr.
Shannon Gallagher
Kristen Pustizzi


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Thanks for checking out this week's Viking Voices. I hope you'll listen to the full audio podcast

I am looking forward to our next conversation.You can join in the conversation by following this blog and checking out the many social media outlets available to our Salem State community. A short list of some of these venues are below.

Go Vikings!

Here are some of the places you may find me on social media:

Monday, February 29, 2016

Viking Voices - Podcast: Student Advocacy - Chris Sullivan, director

This edition of our Viking Voices conversations features an audio podcast interview with Chris Sullivan, director, student advocacy. According to the Salem State University website, "The student advocacy office is committed to providing information, support and advocacy to empower students to resolve concerns that may act as a barrier to retention, progression and graduation. In addition, the office, when needed, acts as a liaison between students and university personnel in a fair and impartial manner regarding students rights and university policies/regulations."

Chris Sullivan, director,
student advocacy
I first met Chris one Saturday afternoon during the intermission of a basketball game.  She was at the O'Keefe Center, on her own time, catching up with a number of the students who have used student advocacy services. Chris is also always on the lookout for people who may need services of her office, but who for many reasons may hesitate  to seek help. 

For this conversation, Chris and I sat down in her austere office at the Ellison Campus Center that also serves as a food pantry. I hope that you will take a few minutes to listen to this compelling interview.  


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 Listen on Apple Podcasts


I greeted Chris and asked her to describe the purpose of the Student Advocacy office.

It became apparent through the dean of students and the president's office that we were seeing more students who were struggling and who needed more than just a moment of conversation. They needed to have someone that they could follow up with, that that person could follow up with them. Our students were dealing with some pretty significant issues that were impacting their ability to be successful at the institution. 

I asked about who is served by the office.


It's really a mix. It can be students entering school as a traditional aged freshman where perhaps something is happening in the family. Perhaps they are coming out of foster care. This is a big transition when you don't have someone in your life you can count on. 

We are also 50 percent transfer and we have number of students perhaps who were at a community college and now they at a four year school, a bigger school. We have non-traditional students who are older and coming back to school after having been out in the workforce. There's a wide range of challenges.

Our students are really remarkable. They are a very diverse group with all kinds of life experiences. Unfortunately, for some there is a challenge that can perhaps get in their way of moving forward.  

I asked Chris to describe some of the resources that are available.

The office ranges from perhaps a student who doesn't know where to go to solve a problem, or perhaps they have tried to solve a problem on their own. On the far end, we have students who are struggling with homelessness, they may not be quite sure where they will be sleeping that night.  

There are students who are hungry and making choices between food, lodging and books. It's a real mix. 

It could be a life experience that happens in the family. Perhaps for the student there is a major accident or illness. 

I work with students to see, can this situation be salvageable or do we need to think about a leave? What are the students options and help them so that they can make an informed decision. 

I know that our alumni community has helped.


 A year after staring this positon it became apparent to me that students were hungry. That wasn't why they came to the office initially, but it came up in the conversation. As a result I started a food pantry. It's all donation based and alumni have been incredibly generous both with food raising and this past holiday season there was an initiative related to gift cards. 

It was so wonderful to be able to have a student come to the pantry and get something that was non-perishable and to get a gift card that they could use to buy something that they wanted. 

Perhaps it was a treat during a time when they might be feeling a little down. Perhaps they didn't have a home to go to or things were really tight. It was greatly appreciated by the students who I was able to distribute those to. 

For so many of us who have been through our schooling and moved on to our careers, to think that there are people coming to Salem State today that can't afford food, who don't have a place to stay, it's shocking. It's so wonderful that you are here to help. 


This is just an amazing community, alumni, faculty, staff students themselves. When students became aware that there are their peers, folks sitting in classes with them who are struggling with hunger, everybody has really stepped up.

There is no budget for the pantry, yet it thrives. All I have to do is periodically put out the word that we need these things and all of the sudden they are here. It really echoes for me: what this campus is all about.

This is a special place that has always cared about its students and still continues. I know it is a surprise to folks to lean about the need.

In my era, I could go to school, work, and I could pay my own way. I'm one of six kids, I did pay my own way. That's really not feasible now. 

Unfortunately the University doesn't receive as much support from the state as we used to.  Salem is a great bargain when you look at the costs of other alternatives, but the reality is for many students, it is still quite a reach. 

It's so difficult for students today.


It's absolutely true. All it takes is one event. It could be an illness, someone looses a job, there could be a divorce or something that is unexpected that completely changes the financial situation for a family or an individual. 

There are many families that despite wanting to support a student coming to school, they are having a tough time themselves. 

You've said how much the campus responds, we want peole to know though that the need never goes way.


That's absolutely true. Whether related to the pantry and the food. 

We are also in the process of starting an emergency fund. My hope with that is that for students who run into a situation we can help. For example, we had a freshman who two weeks before school started had a fire in their home. They had bought their linens, they were set to move in, they had bought some of their books. It was all lost. 

With an emergency fund we could help. If a student, for whatever reason, all of the sudden finds themselves without a home, an emergency fund might buy a couple of nights lodging while they sort things out. 

We've had situations where a student has had a death in the family and didn't have the money to get home. Perhaps we could buy them a bus or train ticket.

I have found that young alums, in addition to the older who typically give, can really identify with this. They themselves or someone they know may have been in such a situation not so long ago.

Those folks are giving, even in small amounts, and it is making a huge difference.  

 If there are people listening to this podcast who'd like to help, how can they get in touch?


I ask that they contact institutional advancement [details below]. Tell them that you'd like to give to the Student Advocacy Fund. 

Chris, all that you do is phenomenal. You also work with outside agencies. Please tell us a little about that.


I'm a one person office. It's not possible for me to fix all of these different situations. One of the things I do is to research, what are the resources on this campus and off.

We work closely with different agencies in the North Shore area to connect students with appropriate resources. If a student has work study or a job and they work at least 20 hours a week, they may be eligible for food assistance. 

Perhaps you live in an off campus apartment and are having difficulty paying for heat. There are resources that may help. We look at what we can do well on campus, what are things done well off of campus and help to make those connections. It is an important part of what I do. 

Sometimes there are just smaller bumps in the road. I often refer students to on campus counseling services or the health services office. I work with the navigation center, which is a new service on campus that is kind of a one-stop shop for folks dealing with financial aid, the registrar, or accounts.   

This has been very educational for me and a pleasure. Chris, on behalf of the alumni association I thank you for the great job you do.


 Thank you. Thank you to the many people who have already helped out. 


Thanks for checking out this week's Viking Voices. I hope you'll listen to the full audio podcast

I am looking forward to our next conversation.You can join in the conversation by following this blog and checking out the many social media outlets available to our Salem State community. A short list of some of these venues are below.

Go Vikings!

Here are some of the places you may find me on social media:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Salem State Viking Voices: Vikings Roll into March 2016

The month of March is often said to, "come in like a lion." For Salem State the University will soon leave February behind and roar into the month of March like true Vikings. Across the campus from our sports teams, to our performing artists, to our cultural contributions, to new vibrant staff additions, positive stories abound as the University continues as a beacon of progress.

The month February began with several Salem State performing arts students taking home honors at the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Regional Festival. Isabel Samuel, Morgan Flynn, and Matt Lundergan took home awards; Ms. Samuel for Lighting Design, and Flynn and Lundergan for categories in directing. With equal notoriety, student Mat Stanley, "received a musical theatre scholarship for the Open Jar Institute where he will workshop with for a week in New York City, and then to continue to Washington, D.C. for a week to compete for their national award at the Kennedy Center National Festival in April."

On February 3, Salem State’s 2016 Martin Luther King Leadership Awards were presented to Rev. Laura Biddle, English professor Keja Valens, and psychology major Molly Cavanagh ’15. For the first time in the annual award's history a fellow alumnus Emmuel Asonganyi ’11, was also honored. The award is given to a "faculty member, [alumnus] and staff or administrator for their outstanding and significant contributions to the cause of freedom, justice, peace, and equality." 

At mid month a new Dean of Students was appointed. Carla Tharp PhD was chosen to fill the void left by James Stoll, who retired from the position in December. Dean Tharp comes to Salem after, "most recently serving as associate vice president for student life & development at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey."

In winter sports the O'Keefe Complex is about to become an epicenter of Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) playoff action. After leading the conference all season the Salem State Men's Basketball Team has earned a first round bye and home court advantage for the conference tournament which begins for the Vikings on Thursday February 25. 

Heading into the final game of the regular season facing Worcester State Tuesday February 23, the Salem State Men's Hockey Team is riding a ten game win streak and is holding on to first place in the conference. In the month of February the Men's Ice Hockey Team has outscored opponents by a margin of 24 to 11. 

On February 11, the Vikings took over first place in the conference by defeating rival Plymouth State in an exciting 3 to 1 victory. With just a one point conference lead heading into Tuesday night's action at the Rockett Ice Arena, the Vikings stand on the verge of securing the top cede and home ice advantage for the MASCAC tournament which begins Saturday February 27. 

Among the many accolades received by student athletes in February, the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston announced ice hockey players, "senior Cam Moniz (Seekonk, MA), junior defenseman Brad Jones (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) and junior goaltender Marcus Zelzer (Green Bay, WI) as finalists," for the sixteenth Joe Concannon Award. Established in 2001 the award is named for journalist Joe Concannon and recognizes, "New England's Best American-born Division II-III hockey player." 

I hope you are able join other alumni as we travel to Salem to root for our Vikings as they pursue championship victories. If you can't make it to cheer in person, there are ways to follow online. Live game video and stats will be streamed on MASCAC TV and the individual Vikings' sports web pages. You can also follow our Vikings teams on Twitter @SsuVikings.

As February rolls into the month of March, many great things are taking place in which our alumni community may benefit. Highlights include: 

  • the premier production of A Small Death in a Big Country an original play written and directed by Salem State professor William Cunningham debuts February 25, 2016 at the Callan Studio Theatre (tickets: $15 general admission/ $10 student & seniors/ free with Salem State student ID, may be purchased at;
  • the Bertolon School of Business Marketing and Decision Sciences department is hosting the Entrepreneurship Guest Speaker Lecture, Monday, February 29; 
  • the Enterprise Center at Salem State University has a packed calendar of programs from the business applications of Social Media, to seminars on sustainability, to CEO group meetings, to the Business Plan Competition, to other events that can help in our alumni careers and businesses;
  • the Annual Career Fair, is taking place March 3 from 4:00 to 7:00 at the Gassett Fitness and Recreation Center;
  • jazz trumpet player Terell Stafford, who piano legend McCoy Tyner has described as, “one of the great players of our time," will perform in the new campus recital hall on March 11 (visit here for tickets and information);  and
  • many more events and happenings both in Salem as well as away from campus including the Naples Florida St. Patrick's Day Parade and Luncheon.

For a complete schedule of events, please click here for the University calendar. 

I hope to see you on campus or online as we Vikings charge into the month of March. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What I've Learned after a Semester Serving on the Salem State University Alumni Association Board of Directors

I have learned a lot in the few months since joining the Salem State University Alumni Association board of directors in September 2015. In this post I will share some of what I have learned. 

Many things are familiar around campus since my student days. The dome of the Collins Observatory on top of Meier Hall is still there. The detailed craftsmanship of the Sullivan Building remains impressive. The George H. Ellison Campus Center seems as if frozen in time. Even though is has gone digital, the WMWM studio is still crammed with stacks of vinyl and cheers still echo off the solid walls of O'Keefe Complex. There have also been many changes. 

The physical campus has undergone metamorphosis. What was once a hulking almost completely abandoned industrial area just south of what was then the main campus is now a vibrant new center of campus life. Here today adjacent to the re-purposed former factory that houses the Bertolon School of Business is a series of LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Efficiency Design) green dormitories.

Where hazardous waste once threatened the tributaries of the Forest River, today there is a detoxed landscape that features walking trails, picturesque natural vistas and athletic fields. 

Once twilight brought to this area little more than the ghostly memories of an industrial Salem's past. Today a civic hub buzzes with daytime and evening activities. 

Elsewhere on campus from, the gleaming new Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons, to the state of the art Harold E. and Marilyn J. Gassett Fitness and Recreation Center, and to the soon renovated Sophia Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts; students, alumni and the local community are enriched. Unfortunately, some realities of change are not as positive. Some are sobering. 

The costs of attending is one such change. According to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, tuition and mandatory fees have risen an average of seven percent per year since 2007. In 2007 it had cost an in-state commuter student $6,030 to attend Salem State. By 2014 the cost has risen to $9,246. Living on campus roughly doubles the price tag. 

One might look at the numbers in comparison to the costs of other possible choices and think, "Salem State remains a bargain."  There is little question that this is true. Looking at the raw numbers, however, betrays what Salem State has meant to many of our alumni and what it means to many of those seeking their start in today's challenging economy. 

For me and many I know, Salem State represents a chance where other options were closed. So too today, Salem State should remain an opportunity for the many with the motivation and work ethic to follow in our alumni footsteps.

My first reaction on learning about the rising costs was to assume that this is the price of the many positive changes on campus. Progress can be expensive.  I figured that the rise in tuition costs are a result of the building and other improvements that have taken place on campus. I have learned that my assumption was wrong. 

The buildings and the physical plant on campus are owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Building and improvements are funded by the state capital budget. The costs associated with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts investments in the physical campus do not affect Tuition and fees. 

What does affect tuition and fees is how much of the state budget comes to Salem State to subsidize student costs. I know that this may seem like digging into two separate pockets of the same pair of trousers, but there are a key differences in the fiscal processes. The numbers are stark. 

The 2014 study by the State Higher Education Executive Officers, shows that educational appropriations per full time student in Massachusetts have decreased 23.1 percent since 2005. As state funding has decreased Salem State has needed to find ways to hold the line against costs while still maintaining the high academic standards that have so well benefited our alumni community.

One way that Salem State has defended against these cutback is with the help of the University's many friends. Although there are many stellar examples of Salem State alumni giving back in gratitude for the jump start provided to their success by the school, it is by a significant margin not alumni contributions that make the difference. The largest impact is the support of the friends of Salem State University who make the difference.

Among these friends Salem State benefits from the participation of business and community leaders in the Salem State University Assistance Corporation (SSUAC) and a rich ecosystem of local businesses who employ students and alumni and who benefit from the economic activity generated by the University. This is a wonderful thing, but the fiscal pressure never lets up. 

Cutbacks in departments and functions across the campus are an all too frequent reality. There is also no prospect any time soon of the Commonwealth restoring funding lost from past budgets. Quite the contrary, increased reductions are anticipated.

What this means for the individual student as tuition and fees rise is that the benefits of Salem State's once highly accessible education are becoming increasingly difficult to attain. When I attended, I had the benefit of a good paying job and tuition reimbursement from the company that employed me. Few today are as lucky. 

Along with rising tuition and fees comes the everyday pressures of the cost of living. Although Salem State does a great job in helping students to find employment both on campus in the neighboring communities, student jobs just aren't what they used to be. Although government agencies may claim that inflation in the economy is under control, we all know from our day-to-day lives that for those things most important to quality of life, costs rise endlessly.

Today students carrying a full course load and needing to find the economic resources to accomplish their educational goals are under extreme pressure. Serving on the alumni Civic Engagement Committee has taught me how hard it is for some current Salem State students. There are current students who at times have to choose between buying food and paying their educational costs. 

I know that many of us today also struggle to keep up with conflicting fiscal priorities. We may still be paying down loans that financed our own education. We may be looking to a future of paying tuition for our own children. We all share the need to save for future uncertainty. We may look at the extent to which some have contributed and feel as though our contribution might seem inconsequential in comparison. 

The reality is that Salem State needs the help of all of our alumni community in order to be able to continue to provide to others the benefit that we alumni share. Money is not the only way to help. Giving back in kind or giving a financial gift; no contribution is to small nor unappreciated. 

Not sure how you may help? May I suggest that you come to Salem and spend some time visiting on campus. Take in a game. Every week features a slate of great competitive events. 

Are you a more contemplative person?  Weekly there are talks, seminars and cultural events on the University calendar. The theater and arts department's calendar features a regular schedule of eventsParticipating in the great activities that are constantly going on on campus will inspire your ideas. 

Upcoming January 23, 2016 is the annual Winter Family Day featuring a jazz brunch from 11 am to 1 pm in Marsh Dining Commons followed by a choice of activities.  That day there are four athletic games during which you can participate as our Vikings take on their rivals. If you plan to attend the Winter Family Day please email to RSVP.

Another way to help is to participate in the alumni association gift card drive that runs through February 2.The gift card drive is specifically for food and toiletries for the students in financial need who get help through the University's Student Advocacy Program Do you have gift cards from the holidays that you know you will never use?  Please drop off or mail any cards that can be used for the purchase of for food and toiletries to the Alumni Affairs office.

Talent and time as well as treasure are all valued contributions. If you'd like to learn more ways that you might help please visit the 10,000 Reasons Campaign website. There you can learn about the Salem State Foundation and its work. You'll be surprised at the efforts underway and the opportunities for your participation. 

Giving back to Salem State is not a solitary act. When you participate you share in an ethic that is woven into the fabric of university life. Students themselves are constantly involved in activities that benefit their communities and those in need. The Salem State Center Civic Engagement is a cornerstone in campus life. 

President Meservey set this out as a priority for the University at her inauguration when she said, "It is our duty to ensure that students understand the importance of community involvement, and that they are well versed in the privileges and responsibilities that come with citizenship in a democratic republic." As alumni we share in those same “privileges and responsibilities” and we should actively support the University's worthy goals. 

Thank you to the many who do. Thank you for spending a few minutes of your time. I hope to see you at one of the many events taking place this winter and spring.