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Campus virtual groups boost body, mind and spirit

COVID19 is driving home the importance of striving to keep our bodies, minds, and spirits in good condition. Caldwell University is reaching out to provide digital ways for faculty, staff, students and alumni to stay connected and healthy.  

CAMPUS MINISTRY AND PRAYERCampus ministry Hangouts

Staff members Colleen O’Brien and Dana McStowe in Campus Ministry have launched an online rosary.  The Campus Ministry Weekly Virtual Prayer Service meets every Wednesday at 11 a.m. through Google Hangouts Meet. The service includes the Mass readings of the day and the recitation of the rosary as a group.  O’Brien says sprayer intentions are welcome.   Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are invited to join the prayer service by emailing or  

Campus ministry is also holding its student community gatherings virtually on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Senior Brooke Pherson has been joining the rosary and campus ministry group remotely. “I’m really grateful that despite being off-campus we’re still able to come together in prayer, especially because my parish is closed.  It’s obviously not the same but I’m so thankful for Colleen and Dana for putting the rosary call together, as well as the other campus ministry gatherings.”   

The Grotto Rosary Ministry is continuing monthly where anyone can submit their prayer petitions online at   The next rosary group will meet Tuesday, April 14 at 4:30 p.m. through Google Hangouts Meet.  Reach out to staff member Colette Liddy at if you would like to pray the rosary on the 14th and she will send you a Google Hangouts Meet invite to connect.  



Counseling Services is providing students with remote online and telephone counseling.  Additionally, students can take part in different virtual groups. 

“Baby How You Feelin’? Anxiety, isolation and remote living in the COVID crisis” meets every Friday from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Google Hangouts Meet via Caldwell Gmail.   Robin Davenport, executive director of counseling services, recognizes that students are dealing with rapid changes as a result of the COVID-19 virus, including adapting to online coursework, being away from classmates, friends, and loved ones and missing their normal routines.  This group provides a safe virtual space where students can connect with each other and find ways to practice self-care as a group. “We want to help students be mindful about the media they consume, prioritize their emotional and physical wellbeingand find ways to make connections during an isolating time, said Davenport. For students to participate, all that is needed is a Gmail account, internet connection, and a microphoneDavenport says students do not need to use their video cameras if they do not feel comfortable. They can join and drop-in, even for just five minutes. 

A virtual Weekly Meditation is held every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Google Hangouts Meet via Caldwell Gmail.  Meditation can help create a sense of calm, improve sleep, foster relaxation and strengthen concentration, said Davenport.  “This group is perfect for maintaining social distance and finding a sense of peace during these turbulent times.”   A discussion period is held after the meditation. “Participants can talk about the impact of COVID19 on our sense of wellbeing and how the practice of meditation can help us regain our stability, said Davenport. 

The Wellness Center is hosting a Women’s Empowerment Group every Thursday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Google Hangouts Meet via Caldwell Gmail This is a place for college women to connect with other women regarding shared concerns such as learning how to be more assertivedealing with difficult people, enhancing self-esteem, and respecting personal values and cultures.  Davenport says women of all backgrounds are encouraged to participate in this growth-enhancing group. Students can join any of these virtual groups by emailing Counseling Services at


Executive Director of Health Services Cindy Striano says it is vital for everyone to strive to boost their immune systems through exercising, getting adequate sleep and clean eating.  “Even the little things matter as we all work to fight the spread of the virus and keep ourselves healthy and safe.”  

Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise every day can go a long way in improving health.  “This can be as simple as a walk in the fresh air while practicing social distancing of at least six feet,” says Striano.   Eating cleanly, she says, includes reducing unhealthy snacking and drinking adequate water each day.   She advises doing your best to get at least seven to nine hours sleep per night during stressful times when sleep is often interrupted, use deep breathing or meditation to help encourage sleep.” 

 Striano is also reminding everyone of the imperatives of “washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water multiple times throughout the day and after you have touched surfaces, before and after going to the bathroom and before touching your face or eating.”   

Students can speak with a nurse by sending an email to to schedule a time to ask general health questions or questions about COVID-19.  They can use the same email to schedule an appointment with the school physician during the hours of Monday 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. or at other specific times as scheduling allows. 

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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.




Table manners were on the menu at Caldwell’s spring etiquette dinner

Use the fork on the outside first and work your way in with your utensils. Use the bread plate to your left. Do not ask for more food.  And definitely don’t pick up your phone. 

Perhaps that does not sound like your typVirginia Rich with a group of Caldwell students in the etiquette dinner?eventical college business class, but at Caldwell University, students learned about table manners at the annual Spring Etiquette Dinner, Feb.27. For the second year in a row, the popular event had a waiting list. 

Associate Dean of the School of Business and Computer Science, Virginia Rich, J.D., and Executive Chef and Director of Dining for Gourmet Dining, Tom Duggan educated the students about professional etiquette featuring a delicious five-course dinner, prepared by Gourmet Dining, the university’s food service provider. 

Learning the protocols, “makes life easy,” Professor Rich told the students. A group of Caldwell students in the etiquette dinner?event“Once you know what to do, you know what to do.”   There are two concepts to keep in mind all through the dinner, said Rich–“hygiene, and respect for the people who invited you.” 

The dinner is a valuable learning experience from a career development perspective, said Geraldine Perret, director of Caldwell’s Office of Career Planning and Development, the office that sponsors the event. “Students may find themselves at a meal with their internship supervisor, as part of an interview, or at a professional conference.”

Senior Roshana Hassan agrees. I’m an accounting major so it’s not uncommon to be in a situation, where you’re taking a client out for dinner. Knowing proper dining etiquette will help me present myself and my firm very well for our clients.” 

Among the rules, Duggan told the students that their water glasses are always to their right. “I’ve been at plenty of weddings where someone takes the wrong glass and then everyone has to take the wrong drink.” And of course, there is the A group of Caldwell students in the etiquette dinner?eventever-beckoning cell phone which must be off-limits at a business meeting or interview that takes place over a meal. “The worst thing to do is to pay any attention to the phone,” said Duggan.

For Sonia Godoy Tejada ’20, a business administration major, with a double minor in marketing, the main takeaway was “that there won’t be much eating going on. You’ll be chit-chatting and answering so many questions during an interview or company dinner, that you won’t really be sitting there and enjoying the food.” Eating is not the main reason that you are there.  She appreciated learning pointers like the importance of breaking bread into small pieces, spreading a little bit of butter as one goes along and that “you don’t cut all your food right away–you cut your food as you eat. And [you] never ask for a to-go box.” 

Other faculty members joined the students at the tables to help them navigate the formalities of a business dinner and to provide a networking opportunity.



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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



Caldwell joins “Learn More, Earn More, Be More in New Jersey” Campaign

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Caldwell University is joining the New Jersey President’s Council and other colleges and universities in the Garden State to promote the “Learn More, Earn More, Be More in New Jersey” campaign.  The project is highlighting the many opportunities New Jersey provides at vibrant universities and colleges and in industries post-graduation.

New Jersey college and university presidents are working in partnership with the business community to invest in New Jersey’s future.  The  website provides resources on New Jersey’s assets, key industries, business assistance and living information.  It highlights education and training, explores diversity and provides information on affordability and jobs.


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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 



Postgraduate art therapy student’s study focused on Hurricane Sandy shelter experience

Alyssa Basile

Alyssa Basile remembers how Superstorm Sandy barreled through New Jersey in 2012. Her good friend lost her house and other people close to her were affected by the destructive hurricane. “It was such a period of distress,” said Basile, who is pursuing postgraduate art therapy studies at Caldwell University.

When Basile was choosing a research project for her graduate work, she decided to focus on what the shelter experience was like for those who had to live in temporary housing after the storm. She learned there was little research on what happens psychologically to people when they live in disaster relief shelter, especially after Hurricane Sandy.

Now Basile’s work has come to fruition; her study, “Disaster relief shelter experience during Hurricane Sandy: A preliminary phenomenological inquiry,” has been published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Two Caldwell University professors—Dr. Thomson Ling, associate dean of the School of Psychology and Counseling, and Traci Bitondo, an adjunct lecturer in the school—provided feedback for the study. “It is very exciting,” says Basile, who spent four years on the work.

She interviewed three former shelter staff members and concentrated on their perspectives on shelter residents, the psychological challenges, the beneficial aspects and their recommendations for the future. “I hope it spreads awareness of the needs of the community. We need to accommodate these needs in future shelters,” said Basile.

Basile, a therapist, became interested in incorporating art therapy into her counseling practice when she found that art making can be “cathartic, foster clients’ creativity and provide a lens for nonverbal communication.” She already had a master’s in clinical mental health counseling, so she decided to pursue the postgraduate art therapy program at Caldwell. “The art therapy classes have prompted me to reflect on my current counseling practice and provided me with valuable knowledge on the art therapy.”

Basile found positive aspects of the shelter experience such as a sense of community that formed among those living in the housing. However, as the study states, “participants highlighted the importance of future shelters having a wider range of medical resources, more therapeutic services for adolescents, enhanced procedures to transition occupants out of shelters, and stronger psychological support for staff.”

Basile hopes her research will help other practitioners who work with people facing natural disasters and will encourage further discussion on the topic.

To read the study go to: