After 39 Years of Devotion to FSU’s Learning Community, Dr. Maureen Connelly Retires

(FSU website)
Dr. Maureen Connelly (FSU website)

It is amazing how an individual can be so devoted to teaching and encouraging students to learn and take that extra step in their education. Because Frostburg State University (FSU) is a student-centered learning institution, it is always sad when someone who carries its mission with pride leaves the school.

At the end of the Spring 2014 semester, Honors Program director and sociology professor Dr. Maureen Connelly will retire after devoting 39 years to FSU and its Honors Program.

Connelly was born in Bronx, New York on December 16, 1947.  When she was 16 years old, she moved to Astoria Queens, New York, a city she fell in love with. She said, “I lived so close I could walk to the Yankees Stadium.”

Connelly is a woman of great accomplishments with a B.A. from Saint John’s University, Ph. D. from Ohio State University, and M.S.W. from the University.  She is married to Dr. Anthony Lo Giudiece, who retired from FSU’s Psychology Department 15 years ago. She also has four step-daughters aged 45, 47, 49, and 51.

While she attended Saint John’s University as an undergraduate, Connelly was a part of their Honors Program. Because of this experience, she was a great individual to take on the role as program director at FSU.

In the fall of 1975, FSU offered her a position and she decided to take it. Connelly said, “At that time, I was living in a bad job market [and being unemployed] was not an option so I took the job.” When reflecting on this decision, she said, “[Teaching at FSU] turned out to be a good job.”

During her career at FSU, Connelly taught courses covering sociology, gender problems, equality, deviance and human behavior sequences. She refers to her deviance course as her “favorite.”

Here at FSU, the Honors Program aims to minimize boundaries between students, faculty and staff by encouraging collaborative and interactive learning. This also encourages students and professors to work alongside each other inside and outside of the classroom.

Connelly described the program as an “incubator for new ideas,” referring to both teaching and learning. Connelly was able to obtain priority registration for honors students, a benefit of the honors program that many students have grown to treasure.

Students in the Honors Program have specific educational requirements that must be met. These requirements include 15-17 Honors GEP courses, English 111 or 312, six credits of interdisciplinary courses, and maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA.

Once the student completes their GEP requirements, usually met by their junior or senior year, they can then enroll in Honors seminars offered.

These seminars include objectives to engage and challenge the students. A few seminars that have been a part of the Honors’ curriculum include “The African American Way,” “Belief in God and Mainstream Science,” “Classical Political Rhetoric and American Politics,” “Emerging Religions,” “Gender in Science,” “Mental Health and Mental Illness,” and “Representations of Gender, Sex, Love, Marriage, and the State.”

Because interactive learning is important in helping students understand course materials, the Honors program offers travel study, which has includes “International Politics” in Ireland, “Mythology as Sacred Geography” in Greece, “Art and the Social World” in New York City, and “Environmental Issues” in Ecuador and New Mexico during summer 2012.

Connelly has been a part of such travel studies and said it was one of her best experiences. “I like traveling with the students and you get to know them on a personal level,” she said.

You can only imagine how wonderful it is for students to be offered these extraordinary opportunities that will help them excel in their academics and experiential learning.

FSU’s Honors Program also offers students an opportunity to conduct research with a professor, and the possibility of a stipend. All students have to do is apply for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Stipends (UROS), which started in 1997, by the end of their first year.

If chosen, the student will be awarded a yearly $1,000 stipend to assist the professor they are collaborating with to do research. The students selected, along with their professor will also receive a yearly stipend to travel to several professional meetings. The research conducted should be developed to be included into a senior thesis.

The Honors Program has many opportunities for students to get involved, including in the National Collegiate Honors Council Meeting, Honors Student Association and various collaborative FSU events such as Relay for Life and Frostburg’s Day of Caring and Sharing.

This year, three students presented research papers with Dr. Gregory Wood and Dr. Amy Branam Armiento for the National Collegiate Honors Council Meeting.

All students enrolled in the Honors Program are automatically members of the Honors Student Association (HAS), which offers feedback to better the Honors Program as a whole. The HSA organizes experiential development activities for the Honors students.

Before Dr. Connelly was director, there were about 30 students a part of the Honors Program. Now, the program has grown to over 400 students. The program creates a plethora of opportunities for the students, faculty and staff involved, including Honors housing.

Cambridge Hall and Frost Hall house honors students, giving them the opportunity to live in a learning community that accommodates their interests. The fifth and sixth floors of Cambridge Hall are filled with the upper-level honors and international students in single rooms. Cambridge also offers air-conditioning and cluster-style living to make the students more comfortable.

Frost Hall, on the other hand, is used to accommodate first-year Honors students. Frost offers study sessions for certain honors courses.  Frost residents also get priority for upper-classmen housing in Cambridge. If an honors student wished to have honors housing, they must be registered for and consistently complete honors courses, while maintaining a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Although this is an awesome perk of being an honors student, it is not required to live in honors housing, which allows the students to choose their living environments.

Although grades are important, Connelly said, “It is not about grades…It is about developing an interest in learning.”

As Connelly described the honors learning classrooms, she said, “[I] really enjoys the students [because they do the work assigned, come to class for discussions about the assignments, and are excellent writers].”

Because the students are excellent writers, she said, “Reading their papers is exciting.” She encouraged any student who has an interest in interactive learning to get involved with the program.

Students can be a part of the program by applying as a prospective student or taking on honors courses.  The application for the Honors Program is similar to a typical job application, so the student applying must include their demographic information, either high school or transfer information, the semester they are applying for, potential major/minor, questions they may have about the program, extra-curricular activities they are involved in, and their desired housing request.

In order for a student to be eligible for the program, they must meet a specific set of requirements. Freshman are invited to the Honors Program if they have a high school cumulative GPA of 3.5, and either a SAT score that totals at least 1750 or an ACT test score of at least 26.

Once Connelly retires, she plans to spend time with her husband and travel to New Mexico. She said she is traveling to New Mexico to volunteer with an animal rescue organization called, “Desert Paws,” where she will be picking up and dropping off animals that are wounded, sick, and abandoned. The volunteers at “Desert Paws” also help find these animals homes at their adoption fairs, which is done by advertisements and fundraisers.

Although she said she is “sad to go,” even after she retires, she will still devote her time and efforts to support a great cause.

To keep the ball rolling, her successor Dr. Gregory J. Wood will take charge.  Chuckling, she said, “I am a big Greg Wood fan.”

The Detroit native received his undergraduate degree in history at the prestigious Northern Michigan University. He then received his M.A. in history at Wayne State University in 1999. Then in 2006, Wood received a Ph. D. in US labor and working-class history at the University of Pittsburgh. To compliment his educational accomplishments, Wood is the author of “Retiring Men: Manhood Labor, and Growing Old in America, 1900-1960.” Wood also has written many articles and reviews that have appeared in a handful of scholarly journals, and is now working on publishing a new book that delves into the history of smoking in United States’ workplaces during the 20th Century.

Wood, who has been teaching history for seven years, specializes in 20th Century United States history, as well as social, labor and cultural history. The other courses he teaches cover the history of methods, historiography and theory.

Wood said he is “excited “to take on the position as director of the Honors Program. He said, “Maureen is a wonderful person to learn from and she sets the standards for all of us.” He added, “She is one of the friendliest, coolest, intelligent and personable people I have met, and I am going to miss her.”

He also described Connelly as one of his “best friends” since he has been teaching at FSU.

Although he will be the new director of the Honors Program, Wood said he still “has a lot to learn” and he is working with Connelly to learn the basics in order to become more “familiar” with the program. He plans to develop ways to “explore forward thinking approaches in the classrooms.”

Wood said, “[I will strive to] expand the experiential component [in the Honors Program].”

In terms of recruitment, Wood wishes to personally meet with prospective students to inform them of the program.

Although Connelly is retiring, Wood will keep the Honors Program running smoothly and strive to make every learning experience a great one. Connelly will forever leave her mark on FSU and will be greatly missed.

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