Category: Featured News

COVID-19 News, Featured News, News

COVID-19: Public Health Education Graduate & Professor Dispatches

A picture of Ashley Trommelen

Ashley Trommelen is an adjunct faculty member in the public health education program. She is responding to COVID19 as an employee for the Atlantic Health System.

These days Ashley Trommelen dresses for work a little differently. She stands outside in personal protective equipment at the coronavirus drive-thru testing site for the Atlantic Health System in Morristown, New Jersey.  A health educator for AHS, she is situated adjacent to a security guard and holds up two signs – one requesting all car windows remain up until instructed by a nurse and the other with a phone number for the registration tent.  It is a testing site for patients who have a prescription from an Atlantic Medical Group provider. Trommelen, an adjunct faculty member in Caldwell’s bachelor’s of public health education program, confirms each patient’s identification via his or her license held up to the window and writes each person’s initials with soap on the window before the car may advance to the next step. Often she will say, “Feel better” through the window and patients will respond, “Thank you.” Trommelen is grateful to be one of the many health care workers who are addressing the COVID-19 needs. “I’m proud to work for the system, to be able to make a little positive impact.” In the fall, Trommelen will be teaching Epidemiology and plans to incorporate the COVID-19 pandemic as much as possible. “I never thought I would witness a pandemic so early in my career but plan to teach my students about the crucial roles public health workers played in this situation.”

A picture of Samantha Areson

Samantha Areson ’19 is working in telemedicine at Overlook Medical Center in Summit.

Samantha Areson ’19 feels she was prepared for the possibility of a pandemic and that she would play a role in it as a health care worker.  Her professors in the bachelor’s in public health education at Caldwell readied the students to be “at the forefront” of a pandemic or epidemic, says Areson, who is working in telemedicine at Overlook Medical Center in Summit. Normally a health educator in community health in Union County, in response to COVID-19, Areson was recently redeployed to create the structure for virtual visits with doctors and the follow-up app.  “We are playing a big part in easing patients’ minds that they can see a doctor and not come to the office. And we are keeping the office staff and the other patients healthy.” Even though this is her first job out of college, Areson says she was not nervous about adjusting to her new duties so rapidly. “A lot of people are coming together…my bosses prepared me well for the reassignment…and I also have support from Caldwell because I know I can email my past professors at any time for guidance!”

A picture of Beatrice Turenne

Beatrice Turenne is an adjunct faculty member in the public health education program and a mental health professional. In response to the pandemic, she has been working on the Disaster Mental Health Line for the NJ Mental Cares Call Center through the Mental Health Association of New Jersey,

Public health education adjunct faculty member Beatrice Turenne is seeing “the hunger” build in her students to learn more about their profession’s vital work during the coronavirus pandemic. “Everything we talk about is real and in your face,” says Turenne, who teaches Intro to Public Health, Theories of Health Behavior and Epidemiology. Long before the coronavirus outbreak, Turenne asked students in her Theories of Health Behavior class to create a public service announcement “Handwashing Campaign” aimed at different populations including kindergartners, elderly nurses, commuters and college athletes. They were instructed to think of ways to communicate with people on their terms respecting diverse cultures and environments. Now Turenne is pleased to see her students understand more clearly how their careers will play a vital role in public health. Since the outbreak, Turenne, a mental health professional who works at the NJ Mental Cares Call Center through the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, has also been working on its Disaster Mental Health Line which was activated as a response to the pandemic. They provide essential services to help people navigate through fear and anxiety. Turenne knows these are real-life experiences that are relatable for her students. “They are seeing how beneficial this field is at this moment. They are gaining information that will save lives.”

A picture of Emily Stabile, school health aide for the Fairfax County Health Department in Virginia.

Emily Stabile ’18 is a school health aide for the Fairfax County Health Department in Virginia. During the pandemic, she is taking calls from the public concerning the coronavirus for the county health department.

Emily Stabile ’18 is taking calls from the public these days concerning the coronavirus for the Fairfax County Health Department in Virginia.  She says her team plays “a huge role” in providing guidance and getting information out to the community. That information includes everything from testing sites, to discussing symptoms to easing their worries.  Stabile, a Caldwell University public health education graduate,  is normally employed as a school health aide for the Fairfax County Health Department where she responds to emergencies, administers medications, conducts vision and hearing screenings, and handles other health-related tasks in an elementary school.  The county follows a public health model and does not have nurses in school health rooms except for once a week to oversee everything. “It is a really great experience working with school-age children and giving them the care that they need,” says Stabile. She credits Caldwell’s Public Health Education faculty with giving her a strong foundation in areas such as research and group projects that apply to her job responsibilities today. Even though it is a challenging time, she is grateful to be able to work with her team and the Health Department and answer questions and help people feel a little safer.
“I’m thankful to be able to have that impact on the community.”

To learn more about Caldwell University’s Bachelor of Science in Public Health Education, go to

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Nursing Students See Practical Application in Managing COVID-19

Graduate nursing student Rachel Capote has been watching the White House press conferences on COVID-19 and hearing the speakers use terms and data analysis concepts that she has been learning about in her Advanced Pathophysiology class for the Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health. “It is fascinating.  This area of study interests me because nurses are afforded the opportunity to work with a team of experts to affect change across populations to improve health outcomes,” said Capote, an experienced pediatric nurse and lab assistant for the undergraduate nursing program.

Capote had just finished her paper on “Novel Coronavirus COVID-19” when the outbreak started to peak.

We asked Capote, a graduate of  Caldwell’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, and Dr. Donna Naturale, Capote’s professor and the associate dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health, what the coronavirus is teaching us about health care and nursing and how Caldwell’s MSN in population health is preparing nurses to meet this type of health care crisis.

How is the Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program relevant to what we are seeing in the coronavirus outbreak? 

Picture of Dr. Donna Naturale, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health.

Dr. Donna Naturale is an Associate Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health.

Dr. Naturale– Caldwell’s MSN in Population Health is directly related to improving the health of vulnerable populations.  Today, more than ever, our nation is undergoing a public health crisis.  We will need more nurses who are prepared to understand, care for and evaluate populations at risk for complications of the disease.  The MSN in Population Health curriculum focuses on epidemiology, assessing disease and identifying trends in data.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing us with epidemiological data daily with this pandemic.

What role is technology playing in health care for this pandemic?

Dr. Naturale Technology is helping to keep people connected.  Telemedicine is being implemented in medical practices and healthcare facilities to increase patient engagement and improve the patient experience while reducing the risk of the spread of disease.  The use of electronic medical records in healthcare will help to improve communications among healthcare providers, patient safety and sharing of information such as electronic prescribing.  These types of tools will reduce the need for patients to be seen in the office.  By using advanced technology such as telehealth services, health coaching and various types of digital advanced technology like home blood sugar monitoring and home blood pressure monitoring, access to healthcare will become easier.  Utilizing technology, the nurses graduating with a MSN in Population Health will be prepared to lead interdisciplinary teams and coordinate patient care in order to promote best patient outcomes.

Ms. Capote – As devastating as the pandemic of COVID-19 is, there is much to be learned.  Technology has vastly improved the speed and opportunity for which scientists can collaborate to share information.  The experience will help us to become stronger as a nation and improve and strengthen relationships with our global neighbors.  Emergency preparedness plans will be improved to help us be better prepared in the future.

Ms. Capote, you said you started practicing social distancing earlier this year while you were working on your paper? I’m in New York several times a week and I stopped going to theatres and museums before they called it social distancing. It made sense.

 As devastating as this COVID-19 outbreak is, what do you both think are the takeaways that will benefit healthcare and society?

Dr. Naturale –Having been a nurse for over 30 years I have had the opportunity to run through many disaster drills.  Unfortunately, none of them prepared us for this type of virus that spreads so readily.  As we have already learned, our nation was not fully prepared for the pandemic of COVID-19.  We recognize the need for more personal protective equipment for healthcare staff. We were happy that we could donate equipment from our nursing school to Morristown Medical Center. Society has learned the importance of meticulous hand hygiene in order to prevent the spread of the infection.    Each day we continue to learn that this virus spreads very easily and can live on objects for an extended period of time placing the community at risk.   We are learning the importance of infection prevention and infection control measures.  Social distancing–remaining six feet away from others–is being practiced. It is new and takes some adjustment.   This all requires support and communication with others in a different manner than what we are used to.   Telemedicine will become a more commonly used tool for healthcare.

 Ms. Capote, what have you seen as the benefits of the MSN in Population Health program? The online program has been an incredible opportunity for me to advance my education while maintaining full-time employment.  It’s affordable and relevant to today’s health care crisis.  In the courses, faculty members use the newest technology and provide full academic support and guidance.  I plan to graduate in 2021 using my new degree in an advanced role of population health nursing within a major New York City hospital system.

To learn more about the Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program, click here.

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School of Nursing donates personal protective equipment for COVID-19 response

Caldwell, N.J., March 24, 2020 – Caldwell University’s School of Nursing and Public Health has donated personal protective equipment to Morristown Picture of Hand Sanitizer donated by Caldwell University School of NursingMedical Center for the dedicated health care professionals who are working during the coronavirus outbreak.

Headshot of Jennifer Rhodes

Nursing Professor Jennifer Rhodes spearheaded a collection of personal protective equipment from Caldwell University’s School of Nursing and Public Health for Morristown Medical Center

When Nursing faculty member Jennifer Rhodes, DNP heard that The American Association of Colleges of Nursing was calling on member schools to donate the much-needed equipment to their community healthcare facilities, she jumped into gear. She spearheaded a collection from the university for Morristown since Caldwell partners with the Center for its nursing students’ clinical work and several alumni work there. The university donated masks, gloves, isolation gowns, Clorox wipes, Purell hand sanitizer, germicidal wipes, sterile dressing kits, and goggles. “As a former emergency room nurse, I cannot imagine what they are experiencing on the front lines right now.” Rhodes has been thinking of her colleagues and nurses who have graduated from Caldwell University who are working in response to COVID-19. “The least I could do was find a way to help.” She is continuing to secure donations from her friends and colleagues who want to help.

Donna Naturale, DNP, associate dean in the School of Nursing and Public Picture of Protective equipment donated by Caldwell University School of NursingHealth, says they are proud of all those who are dedicating their skills to the crisis including Rhodes, and Roxanne Sabatini, an adjunct in the Master in Science in Nursing in Population Health program. Sabatini is a nurse educator who was unable to teach this spring due to her work with COVID-19 response at the hospital. “We need nurses and public health educators more than ever at this challenging time,” said Naturale. 

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Psychology professor, mom gives advice for parents on managing the day during the coronavirus

Photo of Stephanie Sitnick

Stephanie Sitnick, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Psychology and Counseling

The coronavirus has turned the tables upside down in terms of how parents are organizing their families’ daily lives.  Caldwell University School of Counseling and Psychology Professor Stephanie Sitnick, a developmentalist with a focus on children and parenting.  A mother of two boys, ages 3 and 8, Dr. Sitnick provides valuable advice to parents for navigating through the day during this health crisis.

What is there to think about from the child’s perspective?  

Dr. Sitnick: Consider the age of the child.  – Depending on the age of the child the degree of understanding about what is going on will vary. Older children might be anxious or scared.  Sometimes anxiety (and even depression) comes out in children as irritability (so your kiddos are not purposefully being difficult but struggling to figure out what is happening). Let your children know that they can ask questions and do not discourage them from doing so. School age children will likely want to know, “Will I get sick? What will happen if I do? What will happen if mommy and daddy get sick? How long will this last?” Answer them as best as you can.  This is difficult because as adults we do not have a lot of the answers, but do your best to be honest but reassuring with them.

Routines – All children do best with routine and this is a major disruption to their typical routine, so trying to set up a loose schedule can be helpful. It gives children a sense of control and structure if they know what to expect.

If your child is doing school work from home, try to break up the day with time for movement and snacks. Remember even if it if just walking through the halls of school, children get movement and social interaction while at school and they need something to supplement that now.

The little ones – For younger children it is difficult to understand the importance of why we are all stuck inside and why all the grownups keep yelling about hand washing more than normal.  This is helpful to frame in the context of telling them that there are germs out there that are making some people sick, that there are some people in particular we really don’t want to get sick (i.e. grandma, you can insert examples here of people in your life), so our job is to be the protectors of others right now. And you can be a protector by washing your hands a lot and staying inside for a little bit.

Get everyone moving – Physical movement is really important for everyone but especially for children.  We might not be able to use playground equipment right now but you can still play in the backyard, walk around, go to an athletic field, go to the woods and look for bugs, or kick a ball. This will help with mental and physical health, concentration and general boredom.

What’s your advice for parents?

Dr. Sitnick: Admit it is difficult. – Let’s just all take a minute to acknowledge that this is really, really difficult.  For parents working full time, it is overwhelming to try to take care of children, and oversee their schooling and still do your job.  You might keep seeing things on social media that make it look like your friends have got this all under control. They do not. No one is supposed to be good at pandemic-ing.  Do the best that you can.

Be flexible. – Try to come up with a flexible schedule that allows you time to work if possible, but do not be rigid about the schedule.  We all see these colorful social media schedules going around, and they feel unattainable.  Do what works for your family and be willing to change it around a bit if need be.

You might have to relax the screen time “rules”.–  It is time to change our thoughts on screen time for a bit.  If you are a working parent, your children are probably about to be getting a bit more screen time than they typically do.  Whether this is television or video games it is OK.  Yes, there are physician recommendations on screen time limits. No, the doctors planning this were not thinking of a pandemic when they made those recommendations. Do not feel guilty about this. Just make sure that your children are doing SOMETHING else that doesn’t involve screens during the day and try to break it up if possible.  If you notice that your child is becoming more irritable or grumpy, it might be worth it to pull back the screen time a bit and see if that helps since some children do respond with irritability if they spend too much time with screens. These children might need more breaks throughout the day.

Be kind to yourself.  It is ok to take a break.  It is OK if your work is not up to its normal quality.  It is OK if your parenting is not up to its normal quality.  Just get through this.

You – No really, take a break and take care of yourself. This break might mean a break from reading or watching the news. It might just mean a quiet 10 minutes for your cup of coffee in the morning or going for a walk (you need exercise too).

Cherish the time with your children.

Take some time to just enjoy being with your children if you can. Even if it is just a few minutes where you can stop thinking about all that work that you still have to do or the deadline you have coming up.  Give them a block of time of your undivided attention.

Enough already. You don’t need to find the “perfect” resource for your kids. If you are anything like me you are being constantly told to check out some great (free) resource that is perfect for kids (and somehow always involves more screen time).  Just combing through all these resources feels like a full-time job in itself much less figuring out which one is right for your child and how is the best way to use it.  It can make you feel like you are not doing enough because you are not exposing your child to all of the amazing things that are out there.  Stop thinking this way.  Your children will feel just as overwhelmed with all of those choices.  It is great that those opportunities are there.  If you want, pick one of them to check out or even one every few days, but do not feel like you have to check them all out or use them all.

It is OK for children to be bored.  Research shows that boredom is good for creativity.

You are doing a great job.  Yes, you. The one whose house has yelling and tears and whining (sometimes from both the adults and children).  Do not compare yourself to other families. Ignore all of my advice if you want. You know what your family needs better than anyone. You are doing a great job.

Faculty members weigh in on making “double duty” work at home

Photo of Ellina Chenobilsky

Ellina Chernobilsky, Ph.D., Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs

Ellina Chernobilsky, Ph.D., associate vice president for academic affairs, has been on the front lines in preparing Caldwell University faculty members to teach their classes remotely. A wife and mother of three teenagers she knows that even though kids in that age group can generally take care of themselves there is a natural inclination to be tempted to focus on “fun,” like YouTube videos and not their studies. Chernobilsky decided that the best way to help everyone in the home stay focused was to have them create schedules of what their day will look like. “I modeled that by creating my own schedule and shared it with the kids. Then, everyone, including my husband, created their lists.” To make it work she knew she would have to adhere to her own list to “shepherd” everyone to stay on task with theirs. Until it all settles into the routine, Chernobilsky says she will have to remind everyone to switch from task to task as their schedules indicate, even setting alarms. It was tough at the beginning “because I had meetings back to back from 10 a.m. until 5pm and I had to skip lunch,” said Chernobilsky. Is there a silver lining? Oh yes. They have one common time that everyone shares with their daily walk. “I have not done it with the kids in a really long time and the other day we had a blast walking together from 5 to 6 p.m. If nothing else, we can have some really nice quality time together.”

Photo of Aneesa Jeena

Aneesha Jean, DNP, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing and Public Health

Nursing Professor Aneesha Jean, DNP has two boys—a 4th grader and a 6th grader—“First I want to commend the teachers,” says Jean of the quick transition to going online.   Once they found out the kids were going to be learning remotely, she sat down with her boys and they created a schedule for the day, together.  Both of her sons contributed to how the school day was going to unfold, “even scheduling lunch and recreation time based on what they do in school,” said Jean. The routine is important and the boys have “been doing it” and mom has able to participate and see the school work. “It has been rough but I have found the more involved they are, the more they are likely to be accountable for their assignments,” said Jean.



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Faculty Feature: Tina Sidener: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work


Before we start our interview, Professor Tina Sidener wants me to know something. She apologizes with a smile as she explains that we may be interrupted occasionally during our time together. This is because the children attending the Caldwell University Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis will often stop by her office to say hi or to celebrate a hard-earned accomplishment from their visit to the center. The offices for professors are not meant to separate faculty from university students and the children at the center. In fact, they are the complete opposite.

Sidener, the chair of the Department of Applied Behavior Analysis, works hard to create an atmosphere that encourages interaction and care for everyone. She is passionate about creating a balance between the work to be done and the kindness that should accompany it. The ideas of integrity, excellence and compassion come up again and again during our discussion. After all, those
are the qualities that attracted Sidener to Caldwell University in the first place.

In 2006, Sidener had just completed a predoctoral internship at Kennedy Krieger Institute, a part of Johns Hopkins University, when she saw an advertisement for a position with the Caldwell University applied behavior analysis team.

“I had been thinking I wanted to be a professor, but I knew I was going to be really picky about where,” Sidener says. “I wanted to work somewhere where people were genuinely interested in helping students learn how to be excellent teachers and behavior analysts. I knew that was going to have to be a really special place.”

Sidener credits Professors Sharon Reeve and Ken Reeve with creating an atmosphere that she was excited to enter. As she met them and worked her way through the interview process, she became more and more certain that she wanted to be a part of what they were doing. At the time, she was joining a department, not a full-fledged center, but the passion of the staff was the same.

“These are people who have a good heart,” Sidener says. “They’re committed to science and they’re committed to excellence in what they do, but they’re also committed to things like teaching our students to be compassionate: to have relationships with the families they work with and to have integrity.”

In fact, the more Sidener looked around, the more she saw that this was an overarching theme at Caldwell. She realized that integrity and an attitude of service were woven into the fabric of the school. She joined the team and now spends her time in the ABA department ensuring that those core values are carried forward. Her influence is evident the minute you speak with one of her students.

“Professor Sidener is a kind and positive person,” says Dr. Heather Pane, a recent doctoral program alum. Those qualities “helped me navigate the challenges of being a doctoral student,” she says.

This approach has been a great success. Caldwell University students have found careers as professors while others work in hospitals. Some have started their own businesses, and others work in public and private schools or nonprofits with children with autism spectrum disorder.

“I hear that people are looking for Caldwell students,” Sidener says with a proud smile. “You’re from Caldwell? You’re hired.”

Creating an atmosphere that fostered compassion as well as that kind of success for graduate students was at the forefront of Sidener and Professor Sharon Reeve’s minds when they set out to create the center in 2010. The two visited well-known autism centers around the country. They asked themselves what they wanted the Caldwell center to be like and carefully designed it to ensure they could provide high-quality research at the same time they offered excellent clinical services.

Today, those goals have been realized. Ten years after the center opened, Sidener is in her second year of chairing the department. The center is such a collaborative effort that it is almost impossible to get Sidener to highlight her achievements within it. But the evidence of her passion is visible everywhere.

“What I enjoy the most about being the chair is trying to be creative and innovative and looking at how we can meet the needs of our prospective students as those needs are changing over time,” Sidener says.

Need is a huge theme in the applied behavior analysis field. The need for people equipped with ABA certification, especially in New Jersey, is staggering. One in 59 children in the United States has autism spectrum disorder, and in New Jersey that number is one in 34. Because of this, the demand for behavior analysts increased by 800% from 2010 to 2017. To be working in a field where the need has skyrocketed
in such a way presents unique challenges as well as opportunities.

“This is really unusual for a field to grow this quickly,” Sidener says. That explosive growth has come with changes in technology and with financial concerns for students. There is a constant effort to ensure the center is providing a high standard of training while making education affordable for students. That calls for flexibility and a vision for the future.

The challenge of innovation excites Sidener. She is waiting for confirmation that the master’s program has received reaccreditation. At the same time, members of the team are seeking first-time accreditation for the Ph.D. program. They are also working to establish a diversity and equity committee in the department. Increasing diversity in the department and in the field overall is a huge goal.

The department is planning to offer a certificate in business administration. This additional offering will provide valuable tools to applied behavior analyst graduates who want to run their own businesses.

Other goals include offering a minor in ABA. Students would take five classes plus four credits of practicum, qualifying to become assistant applied behavior analysts.

Encouraging progress is a big part of Sidener’s role. But that’s not all she is thinking about. All of the professors in the department, including Drs. Ruth DeBar, Meghan Deshais, Ken Reeve, Sharon Reeve and Jason Vladescu, have areas of research in which they specialize. Two of Sidener’s focuses are teaching kids with autism spectrum disorder to speak and to learn new skills through self-motivation. These personal goals spill over into the work of the center as children and students benefit from discoveries in real time.

“We’re all working individually, and yet we all have a common goal,” Sidener says.

Her drive and her goal-oriented attitude have had a clear effect on her students.

Her doctoral student Leslie Quiroz was awarded a $10,000 Sidney S. & Janet R. Bijou grant from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis. Another doctoral student, Priya Patil, won two awards for her thesis on teaching children with ASD to ask “why”—a Verbal Behavior Special Interest Group Award from the Association for Behavior Analysis International in its student paper competition and the B.F. Skinner Foundation Student Research Award from the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy.

“Professor Sidener is a true professional,” Pane says. “She is an excellent model for all the students in the ABA department. She challenges her students to think critically and to solve problems while providing guidance.”

The victories in the center are tangible, and Sidener doesn’t have to think long to come up with a recent favorite. She recounts how one of the children at the center had a severe problem behavior. Her parents wanted to throw her a big birthday party. Two graduate students set to work to prepare her for the big event and even attended the party. The night was a huge success. The child was happy and dancing, and her parents were thrilled.

“That’s why we do what we do—to make those kinds of changes and make those things happen, to support the families that we work with. That’s the huge reward for us,” Sidener says.

Back when Sidener was traveling with Professor Sharon Reeve to autism centers and dreaming up their own version for Caldwell, they had a simple question: “What do we want this to be?”

The answer was clear.

“We want this to be a place where kids are having fun, teachers are having fun and people are laughing. It’s a place where everybody wants to be.”

I walk by a child exchanging a secret handshake with a graduate student. They’re both beaming. On my tour of the facility, Sidener stops to ask one of the kids how his time at the center went today. She waits patiently while he navigates the intricacies of communicating the day’s success. Everywhere I turn, I see smiles and hear cheerful conversation. Excellence lives in these walls, and professors and students are working hard and innovatively. It is clear that Sidener’s earliest goals have been achieved. This is a place of compassion. Just as she envisioned, it is a place where everybody wants to be.  n

—Nicole M. Burrell ’09


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Caldwell University Recognized for Excellence in Student Opportunity and Success

Caldwell, N.J., Feb. 27, 2020 – Caldwell University has been recognized for excellence in Inclusion, Completion, and Outcomes for low-income and first-generation college students by the non-profit organization Strive for College. 

As stated by Strive for College,  students who are the first in their family to pursue higher education or come from a low-income household, continue to be severely underrepresented on college campuses, despite high educational aspirations.  While over 80 percent of such students have expectations of going to college in the tenth grade, only 20 percent will earn a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25. 

Stephen Quinn, Caldwell University’s vice president for enrollment management and communications, says the university is delighted to receive the Strive for College recognition.  “Caldwell University has many students who are the first in their families to attend a university. We are thrilled that we are able to help them pursue their dreams of completing their degrees and achieving successful outcomes as adults. Educating underserved populations has always been a part of Caldwell University’s mission.” Fifty-five percent of Caldwell University’s first-time freshman students are first generation. 

Strive for College’s “Strive Five” distinctions are a set of data-based measures of actual performance in key areas that demonstrate a tangible commitment to students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

The categories Caldwell was recognized for are described below:  

Inclusion – greater than 25% of undergraduates receive Pell Grants, meaning at least 1 in 4 students come from a low-income family. Nationally, 32% of undergraduates receive Pell Grants across all postsecondary institutions.


Completion – Colleges that meet or exceed the national averages for Retention (greater than 81% first-year to second-year retention rate)  AND Graduation (greater than 51% six-year graduation rate for Pell Grant recipients.)


Outcomes – greater than 25% of graduates who were from the bottom fifth of incomes as students and moved to the top fifth as adults, meaning they have among the highest percentage of students who both came from a lower-income family and ended up a higher-income adult.

Colleges that partner with Strive for College and meet the criteria for at least one “Strive Five” distinction are awarded a customized badge to highlight their exceptional achievements.



About Strive for College

Strive for College was founded in 2007 by Michael J. Carter, then a student at Washington University in St. Louis, to help acutely underserved area high school students apply to college and navigate financial aid.  College students volunteered as in-person mentors for high school students, and mentored students achieved substantially better college go-on rates than their non-mentored peers. Strive for College grew to become a respected college access organization doing in-person mentoring across the country.  Delivering its mentoring service at sufficient scale to make a meaningful impact on the national college access problem soon became Strive’s biggest challenge, which led to the development and launch of UStrive in 2014 to connect aspiring college students with free one-on-one online mentoring through the entire college admissions and financial aid application process.


After merging with the Center for Student Opportunity in 2016, Strive for College now runs and publishes the I’m First! Guide to College in support of first-generation college students, and partners with colleges and universities to promote and strengthen their efforts on behalf of these students.


Strive for College counts Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, American Express, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, UPS, and The Common Application among its major funders and partners. Strive and their founder Michael J. Carter have been featured by CNN Heroes and Forbes 30 Under 30 and received major national media attention from outlets including Time, National Journal, and Fast Company.  Learn more at



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Faculty Feature: Darryl Aucoin: A Science Professor’s Formula for Success: Teamwork, Humor and the Great Outdoors


Professor Darryl Aucoin was describing the odd shape of a molecule to his chemistry students. “Did you ever have your umbrella flip inside out?” he asked. “It kind of looks like that.” 

To explain how atoms and electrons relate, he showed his students a cartoon with a “great Snidley-Whiplash-looking chlorine atom” (referring to an old TV A picture of Darryl Aucoinvillain) that was “practically stealing an electron from a poor hydrogen, who is very distressed looking,” said Aucoin, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Sciences. 

Aucoin uses analogies to insert humor into the classroom when he is teaching a complicated subject. Most times his creative gymnastics come on the spur of the moment. “I often find that I come up with them in the middle of the lecture and I can’t remember them later when I try to write them down,” he said. The comparisons relieve tension in the classroom—“slow me down a bit so the students can catch up.” He might have to explain the concept two or three different ways, but when he finds an analogy that “clicks,” it makes teaching “really fun.” Then students start to understand the more abstract ideas, which makes all the mental exercises worthwhile. 

Prithy Adhikary, a senior, has had Aucoin all four years at Caldwell, in classes and labs and as a freshman advisor. She appreciates his humor. “He reminds me of Walter White,” said Adhikary, referring to a chemistry teacher in the TV series “Breaking Bad.” More important, she said, he is the type of professor students can see about day-to-day academic problems, and “there will always be a solution.”  

For Aucoin, connecting with students is a benefit of teaching at a smaller university like Caldwell. In his “Principles of Chemistry” course for nursing students or in his labs for the general chemistry course or the biochemistry class for junior- and senior-level science students, the atmosphere at Caldwell opens up a world of science that is focused not only on knowledge but also on “wisdom”—hence Caldwell’s motto of Sapientia et Scientia, Wisdom and Knowledge. “Knowledge is what you know, and wisdom is how you use it, or your application of the knowledge. And they are both important,” said Aucoin. That is why “you teach classes, but you also show students the practical in the labs.” 

Biology major Sudeep Khadka has two labs with Aucoin and appreciates that he is open to students’ ideas. “He always says ‘yes’” to trying projects, said Khadka. 

Aucoin and his colleagues in the Department of Natural Sciences encourage student-led research. They have been integrally involved in planning the university’s annual Research and Creative Arts Day and in helping students prepare for the Independent College Fund of New Jersey’s annual Research Symposium at which their work is showcased for statewide business and community leaders. 

Aucoin sees how research provides many benefits for students beyond the science; they learn professional skills like adaption, trouble-shooting, “coming up with new solutions, not getting too frustrated, problem-solving” and especially teamwork. “All of my lab courses have students working in pairs,” he said. Students learn how to collaborate. They divide responsibilities, assist each other with data collection and bond and get to know each other better. This “lets them make a friend in the department,” which he points out is especially good for his freshmen. 

Aucoin remembers what it was like when he was young and discovering the world of science research in Greenville and Smithfield, Rhode Island. His chemistry and physics teachers at Smithfield High School challenged and encouraged him to pursue science studies in college. Then his freshman chemistry teacher at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, sparked his interest in becoming a university professor. “He also wore a suit every single day, which is where I got that from,” said Aucoin. 

Chemistry Professor Demonstrating an Experiment to a Group of Students

He majored in chemistry and biochemistry at Clark and had multiple opportunities to engage in research. “I want to make sure we give that opportunity to our students.” He went on to graduate school at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, earning a Ph.D. in structural biology; he did his postdoctoral work at Ohio State University where he focused on nuclear magnetic resonance research, examining the proteins associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Working with another professor, he learned the ropes of teaching by helping train students, setting up labs and working as a teaching assistant. 

Aucoin is aware that many of his 80-plus undergraduate students will enter professions that help others, becoming nurses, doctors, physician assistants or drug designers, and he hopes he can inspire them to ask questions like “How can we stop certain diseases from progressing as bad as they get? Can we understand those diseases so we can make better drugs to help people?” He believes these are important questions for students to ask themselves, especially at a Catholic Dominican school that is focused on how to serve the common good and to search for and discover the truth. 

For Aucoin, a whole world of discovery is waiting to be explored. He and his wife, Hilary, enjoy the great outdoors, hiking up mountains—everywhere from Colorado to New Jersey, where they can find less-traveled places, “nice little ponds or lakes” and ruins like the Van Slyke Castle in Ramapo. An avid photographer, he always packs a camera—“anywhere we go to pick something that has some kind of mountain view or a lake.” He and Hilary, along with Natural Sciences Professor Agnes Berki, have taken university students hiking to show them “the splendor of the fall foliage.” As international students, Khadka and Adhikary are grateful to discover the beauty of nature in New Jersey and to find that professors are generous with their time. “They are like family,” said Adhikary 

Aucoin gives back to the community, volunteering with the middle school and high school Boy Scout troop at St. Aloysius Church in Caldwell, New Jersey. He is happy to be a part of an experienced team that teaches young people how to camp outside in all types of environments, “giving them survival skills and confidence in their abilities,” he said. As a kid, Aucoin camped outside in all weather conditions, even “when it was only 20 degrees … and I still have my fingers and toes to prove it.” 

The skills he learned in scouting—like leadership, character development, citizen training, and teamwork—have proved to be a good foundation for many aspects of life including his schooling and professional work.

Aucoin especially appreciates the teamwork he sees modeled across campus, and this makes his job worthwhile. “Everyone pays so much attention to their students.” The members of his department have good camaraderie. “We all get along really well and we help develop ideas together … and share resources,” he said.  The team has the same primary goal in mind: It is laser-focused on the students— “That they know we really care, that we are there. All in it together.” —CL 


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Dr. Matthew Whelan is Named Next President of Caldwell University

Dr. Whelan is a native New Jerseyan, Caldwell’s first male lay president

Dr. Matthew WhelanCaldwell, N.J., Feb. 11, 2020 – The Board of Trustees of Caldwell University has chosen Dr. Matthew Whelan as the next president of the Catholic Dominican university.

A native of New Jersey, Whelan will become the ninth president of Caldwell and the first male lay president in the history of the institution, effective on July 1.

Dr. Whelan is currently Vice President for University Enrollment Strategy and Relationship Development at Stony Brook University which serves undergraduate, graduate and professional program students from across the U.S.  and around the world. Since 2006, he has held key leadership roles at Stony Brook in undergraduate and graduate admissions, financial aid, registrar, enrollment management, student services, fundraising, facilities and strategic planning for several campuses. He previously served as the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Stony Brook.

The Seal of Caldwell UniversityLaurita Warner, chair of Caldwell University’s Board of Trustees, said that following a national search, the board is pleased to welcome Dr. Whelan. “I speak for all the trustees who are excited and invigorated by the skills, experience and passion Matt will bring to Caldwell University. We value his commitment to our Catholic Dominican tradition and are confident in his ability to innovate and further our upward trajectory of success at Caldwell.” 

“I’m delighted to be joining the team at Caldwell University. As a first generation, Pell eligible college student who attended Catholic schools, early on I developed a love for small Catholic colleges and their commitment to reaching out to deserving students, especially the underrepresented in higher education, and teaching others to serve and give back,” said Dr. Whelan.  

He has expansive experience leading administrative and faculty teams at Catholic and public higher education institutions including St. John’s University,  Hofstra University, William Paterson University and Mercyhurst College. 

Dr. Whelan has held a number of positions on national higher education boards and associations, presented nationally and internationally on issues impacting higher education, coached a women’s soccer team to a NCAA Division II Final Four appearance, and taught graduate students in higher education administration. He holds a master’s from William Paterson University and a doctorate in educational leadership from Dowling College in Shirley, New York.

Michael A. Bernstein, Ph.D., interim president at Stony Brook University, congratulated Dr. Whelan and the entire Caldwell University community. “While at Stony Brook University, Matt has provided exceptional stewardship of strategic planning, institutional research and effectiveness, enrollment management and intercampus operations.  He has been a key part of efforts that have secured historic improvements in student retention and graduation rates, the socio-economic mobility of our alumni and the enhancement of the Stony Brook student experience. All of us in the “Seawolf Family” wish Matt every success in his new leadership role.”

Born and raised in Denville, New Jersey, in a family of eight children, Dr. Whelan attended St. Mary’s school and Morris Catholic High School in Denville and Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Whelan is familiar with the Caldwell area. When he and his wife Kathy were first married they had an apartment in Caldwell while  Kathy taught fourth grade at Washington Elementary School in West Caldwell. “We are looking forward to returning to Caldwell and immersing ourselves in the life of the university, the work of the Sisters of St. Dominic and the greater Caldwell community.”

President-designee Whelan was chosen following a formal search led by partners Hyatt-Fennell.   Linda Luciano, Ed.D. MBA, vice-chair of the Caldwell Board of Trustees, led the search committee. Dr. Whelan will succeed Dr. Nancy Blattner who has served at Caldwell University since July 2009. Dr. Blattner is returning to her home state of Missouri to assume the presidency at Fontbonne University.

Dr. Whelan and his wife have three daughters and a three-year-old border collie, Lucy. 

Caldwell was founded in 1939 by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell. Archbishop Thomas Joseph Walsh became the institution’s first president, followed by Mother Joseph Dunn, O.P., who first envisioned the college. Since that time women have held the presidency.

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Film Critic to Present on “Did We Even Watch the Same Thing?”

Alissa Wilkinson

Film Critic to Present on “Did We Even Watch the Same Thing?”

Film critic Alissa Wilkinson will present on “Did We Even Watch the Same Thing?” at Caldwell University 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Alumni Theatre. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Wilkinson is a staff film critic for and associate professor of English and humanities at the King’s College in New York City. Her talk will focus on how movies act on viewers, how viewers react back, what art does for audiences and how everyone reacts differently to art.

She has also written criticism and essays for publications such as Rolling Stone, Vulture,, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Christianity Today and more. She was a 2017-18 writing fellow with the Sundance Institute’s Art of Nonfiction Program.

The lecture is being presented by Caldwell University’s Department of Theology and Philosophy as part of its Sister Maura Campbell lecture series. Sister Maura was a Sister of St. Dominic of Caldwell, a theologian, philosopher, professor, researcher and national leader in education whose scholarship and teaching spanned 50 years. For further information, call 973-618-3931 .

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Discovering gratitude, joy and a beautiful culture on Belize mission trip

Picture of a house in Belizee
Picture of Students making a traditional Belize dish
Group Picture of Caldwell University Volunteers in Belize
Picture of Children Dancing in Belize
Group Picture of Caldwell University Students in Belize with their host

 Caldwell, N.J., Jan. 28, 2020 – Karine Duarte loves it when people ask her about the brown ring she wears from her mission trip to Belize. “I want people to ask about it, to become aware,” she says, of the culture of the Mayan people, how they live with very few material resources and how they have a peace of mind and joy not readily experienced in first world countries.

Duarte, a junior, and nine other Caldwell University students and two chaperones spent Jan. 5-13 in the village of San Marcos repainting a school and murals, playing with the children and learning about the community. Ambar Coto, a sophomore, was with Duarte when they visited a family in the village that had lost two children. Once the students learned that one of the murals they were repainting was dedicated to those children, the project meant so much more. It was like the family was saying, “This means something to us. Can you bring it back to life?” said Coto, of Woodbridge, New Jersey.

The Caldwell group enjoyed playing soccer with the children. Duarte, a nursing student who played soccer in high school in Newark, was excited when she received letters from the children; “… the two boys I played soccer with wrote to me specifically, considering we share [the] commonality with the sport, and it was quite emotional to have them show their gratitude by writing us letters.”

The trip was “therapeutic,” said Duarte, who was happy to be away from technology and was rarely on her phone.

The Caldwell group stayed in Punta Gorda at the Saint Peter Claver parish guesthouse, and members gathered every night to reflect on the day’s happenings. It was a chance to “grapple with the challenges of poverty in our world and how we are called to help and serve the common good,” said Colleen O’Brien, the director of Campus Ministry for Caldwell and the main chaperone. They also bonded. “As soon we got off the plane, everyone wanted to listen to each other,” said Coto, a nursing student.

A highlight came at the end of the workweek when the group met with the people of San Marcos for a meal prepared by the village women. It consisted of a traditional Mayan dish, caldo and corn tortillas; there was traditional Mayan music and dancing. “We were honored to be welcomed into this community like family,” said O’Brien.

During the mission trip members of the group had a chance to experience “the culture and gifts that Belize has to offer,” said O’Brien. They visited a Mayan ruin site,  swam in caves and drank coconut water straight from the source.

Since coming home, Coto and Duarte feel more gratitude in their daily lives. “I haven’t stopped smiling,” said Coto. She said family members expected to hear “vacation stories” but instead they heard about a very different experience, which has inspired them to reach out and do more. Coto’s older sisters, who have children, have given her books to send to Belize. The Caldwell group also plans to send clothes, said Duarte.

The experience made the nursing students realize there is a whole world out there where they might provide their skills as traveling nurses someday. They want others to venture out too. “Everyone has to do it,” whether through their school,  church or another group, said Coto. “Go somewhere else, disconnect and just do it.”