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CCSU acquires $5 million grant, graduation updates, and more campus news

$5 million NSF award to fund STEM scholarships 

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $5 million grant to Central Connecticut State University for a program aimed at increasing the diversity of students who pursue careers in computer science, mathematics, and physics. 

Over the next five years, the Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics Scholarship Program of Central Connecticut will provide both financial and academic support to approximately 90 under-represented, low-income students enrolled at either CCSU, Manchester Community College, or Tunxis Community College.

 “We are extremely grateful for this very significant NSF award. A new generation of highly-skilled workers is critical to our state’s economic vitality, and we are pleased to be collaborating with two of our community colleges to address that need by creating a much-needed pipeline of diverse students,” says Zulma R. Toro, president of Central Connecticut State University.

 “I thank Dr. Stan Kurkovsky for his creativity and resourcefulness in bringing this grant to CCSU. It’s yet another example of our goal at Central to leverage alternative revenue sources in support of academic excellence,” she added. 

Scholarship recipients will be in line for financial aid of up to $10,000 a year, and a team of professors, led by Kurkovsky, professor of Computer Science at CCSU, will implement a strategy for supporting these students all along the way. 

“Our scholarship recipients will form a cohort and, together, they will receive intensive enrichment and interventions designed to help them succeed academically,” explains Kurkovsky. “It’s a distinguishing feature of our program and likely set our application apart from the nearly 500 NSF grant competitors,” he added.

Over the past decade, Kurkovsky’s work to increase the number of students preparing for STEM careers has earned him two previous NSF grants.

On this initiative, Kurkovsky is collaborating with Karen Birch, professor of Applied Science at Tunxis, and Sharale Golding, professor of Science at MCC. Support is also coming from Nimmi Sharma, professor of Physics at CCSU, and Ivan Gotchev, professor of Mathematical Sciences at CCSU. 

As part of the program, students will receive individual mentoring and advising by a dedicated faculty member, specialized tutoring, and peer mentoring. The program also will include field trips, participation in faculty-led research projects, internships, and guest lectures by industry and research leaders. Upon graduation, students will receive job placement assistance.   

Throughout the program’s rollout, Linda Clark, associate professor of Educational Leadership, Policy, & Instruction Technology at CCSU, will evaluate the enrichment and intervention activities to determine which ones were most effective. 

Applications for the Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics Scholarship Program of Central Connecticut are now being accepted. For more information, go to

Two graduation ceremonies this May

President Zulma R. Toro recently announced changes to this year’s commencement exercises due to space limitations on campus and other challenges. 

“One of the major impediments we face is that Kaiser Hall will not be available for graduate commencement because of construction,” Toro explained. “Our options are limited; we’ve outgrown Welte Auditorium; we want to avoid limiting our graduates to two guest tickets; and we’re facing major budgetary issues.” 

Working with the Commencement Committee, Toro identified improvements and adjustments necessary to ensure commencement remains a memorable celebration for graduates and their families. 

“Our plan is to hold two ceremonies, combining undergraduate and graduate candidates, on Saturday, May 19, at the XL Center in Hartford,” Toro said. “We are working with student leadership to incorporate new elements into the CCSU commencement experience that, in years to come, will be embraced as proud traditions that will lead to a heightened sense of connectedness between the University and our alumni.” 

The first ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. in which undergraduate and graduate candidates from the Ammon College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the School of Engineering, Science, & Technology will participate. 

The first ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. in which undergraduate and graduate candidates from the School of Business and the School of Education and Professional Studies will participate.

The committee also plans to host an annual Winter Commencement beginning in December 2019.

For more information, visit The website will be updated as the committee finalizes the plan.

Dr. Kimberly Kostelis named interim dean of SEPS

Dr. Kimberly Kostelis has been named interim dean of the School of Education & Professional Studies. Dr. Kostelis served as assistant to the dean of SEPS for eight years and most recently served as chair of the Department of Physical Education and Human Performance. In announcing her selection of interim dean, Dr. Zulma R. Toro cited Kostelis’ active scholarship on wellness, fitness, nutrition, and athletic training and her excellence in teaching, for which Kostelis has been honored many times, including her selection as the Connecticut Association of Health, PE, Recreation, and Dance’s University Teacher of the Year.

Leone selected as Endowed Chair in Banking

CCSU recently named Richard A. Leone '81 as the American Savings Foundation Endowed Chair in Banking and Finance. Leone is the CEO of COCC, a financial technology company based in Southington that serves companies and institutions throughout the northeastern United States.

Leone’s one-year term as the American Savings Foundation Endowed Chair will involve teaching an upper-level course in finance; encouraging research, curriculum development, and interaction between academia and outside institutions; bringing in special lecturers; and working with faculty and students on research projects.

“We’re extremely pleased that Rich Leone is willing to give back to his alma mater and share his incredible experience with our students,” says Ken Colwell, dean of CCSU’s School of Business. “As the American Savings Foundation Endowed Chair, Rich will provide a wealth of real-world knowledge — insights into the financial industry, rapidly evolving technology trends, and his success in creating a culture of strong customer service at COCC. They’re the kind of lessons not found in textbooks and will prove invaluable to our students.”

Leone is the fourth to hold the endowed chair since it was created in 2003 with grant from the American Savings Foundation, a permanent charitable endowment that provides grants to local nonprofit organizations and college scholarships to area students. Since its inception in 1995, the Foundation has contributed more than $54 million in total grants and scholarships in central Connecticut. 

Leone will teach FIN 305: Topics in Financial Institutions. 

Two new scholarships aim to address teacher shortage areas 

The University recently established two endowed scholarship funds that will provide support for students pursuing degrees in Secondary Education at the undergraduate or graduate level. The Donald Linner Scholarship Fund and the Irene M. Sarges Fund will provide scholarship support for students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Special Education, Foreign Languages, and Technology Education in an effort to address teacher shortages in those areas. 

The scholarships will become available in Fall 2018. Both funds will be administered by School of Education and Professional Studies in collaboration with the School of Graduate Studies and the CCSU Foundation. 

Donald Linner is a 1961 graduate of CCSU from Norwalk. After earning a B.S.-Ed. in Business Education from CCSU, Linner went on to earn a Master’s in Business Education and post-graduate certification in Supervision of Business Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University. Linner has remained affiliated with CCSU throughout his educational and professional careers, maintaining close ties with Dr. Anna Eckersley-Johnson, his former professor, and Dr. Richard L. Judd, to whom he credits his desire to “give back” to CCSU in the form of this scholarship. 

Irene M. Sarges (the former Irene M. Hackett) was born in New Britain, attended Washington Junior High School, and graduated from New Britain High School. She pursued a major in Sociology and minor in Social Work at Central Connecticut State College from the spring of 1969 through the spring of 1971. Sarges left CCSC prior to completing her degree and there was no known contact between her and the institution until the University received notice of her bequest earlier this year.

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