Meet the Alumni Association Board of Directors

Adwoa Ansah Rey

Adwoa Ansah Rey ‘05

Adwoa Ansah Rey has over a decade of government, corporate, and non-profit experience. She is the President and CEO of Women of Praize, an organization that provides spiritual support for women in politics. As a student, Adwoa was an active member of the SCSU campus community. She served as President of Programs Council, Charter Member and President of the SCSU NAACP Chapter, Student Government Association Senator, Student Representative to the Connecticut State University System Board of Trustees, Resident Advisor, Secretary of the Pre-Law Society, Help Is On The Way (H.O.P.E.) Peer Educator, and President of the Pi Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. (New Haven City-wide). While a student at SCSU, she co-founded H.O.N.E.Y. Afterschool Program for Girls at James Hillhouse High School. Adwoa received many awards for her leadership including the SCSU Service Award, U.S. Postal Service Women's Award, Who's Who Among American Colleges and Universities, and the BSU Barbara Matthews Scholarship. In her professional capacity, Adwoa served as President and CEO at Faith Link Inc. and finance director at The Faith & Politics Institute. She also served as Special Assistant to Congressman John Larson (CT-01) in the House Democratic Caucus, and manager of federal affairs at the New England Council. Adwoa is a member of the Northern Virginia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and the Junior League of Washington. She serves on the Good Shepherd Housing Community Leadership Council and the Fairfax County Community Action Advisory Board. Adwoa earned a B.A. in Political Science from Southern Connecticut State University and a M.A. in Religious Studies from Howard University School of Divinity. She holds a management certificate from Harvard Business School.


Renee Barnett-Terry ’76

Renee is excited about the opportunity to continue her service as an Alumni Association Board Member by working to build a strong Alumni Association which supports University efforts, the SCSU Office of Alumni Relations and current Owls on campus. As a proud Owl, she wishes to see the development of SCSU alumni networks across the country to further connect alumni locally, regionally and nationally.  As a former Resident Advisor in Wilkinson Hall and undergraduate student leader alongside my fellow students, we created many bonds and relationships with faculty, staff, and other students which we will never forget. With over 30 years of experience in higher education leadership as a former Dean of Students from the University of San Diego and interim Provost at San Jose State University, Renee wishes to contribute her expertise, experience and energy in making our SCSU alumni family grow even stronger, reconnect with one another and making us all more proud to be Owls!

Madison (Madi) Csejaka

Madison (Madi) Csejka '19

Madison is excited to serve on the Alumni Association Board to further leverage existing resources to better the lives of current and future Owls, as well as the city of New Haven. Prior to graduating in 2019, she worked in the Academic Success Center, for the Educational Opportunity Program, as a teaching assistant, and as a Peer Mentor. She also studied abroad in Liverpool!

After graduating, she worked in college consulting and tutoring and now works for the Connecticut State Department of Education.

Beyond giving back to New Haven, Madison is interested in helping to facilitate alumni-led workshops that can give current students valuable experience.

Madison feels that our professors are a valuable resource that can be leveraged to better the experiences of current and former Owls, and hopes her creativity and vision for the future will be an asset to the Alumni Association.


Shermaine Edmonds ’04, MBA ’06

Shermaine A. Cooke-Edmonds, B.S. ‘04, MBA ’06, immigrated to Hamden, CT USA, in 1989 from the Nature Isle of the Caribbean – Dominica (not Dominican Republic). She is the Owner of S.A.C. Events Planning Services for over 15 years, Realtor and teacher. Shermaine enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University as an adult learner and began employment at SCSU in 2001. After serving SCSU for over 20 years, she is currently the Executive Administrative Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer at Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT.

Affectionately known across SCSU as “Mama Sherms” for her role as the Caribbean Students Association advisor - the strict but understandable advisor is also Mom away from home and life coach all in one.

Stacey Fields

Stacey Fields '15

Stacey was very active in clubs and organizations during her time at Southern.  She served on the executive board of Programs Council as both the Vice President (2003) and President (2004).  She also co-founded a collegiate chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as the Vice President (2004), Treasurer (2004) and President (2005).  Her passion for serving continued as she chose the career of nursing.  She currently works as an emergency room Registered Nurse and has tirelessly worked through the COVID pandemic that changed the world.  Her dedication to the NAACP did not end when she graduated.  She joined the Greater New Haven branch and nearly seventeen years later she is still serving on the executive board as the health committee chairperson.  As the health chair, she has hosted several health fairs for the community and even organized one at SCSU!  She has also worked with a program co-sponsored with SCSU and Yale to provide a variety of mobile health care services to the community on the Yale C.A.R.E.S. van.  In sum, Stacey is the right person to serve on the alumni board because she took pride in being a Southern Owl and worked hard to make the campus experience enjoyable for all students.  That same attitude will be applied serving alumni and current students in this capacity.

Eduardo Foster

Eduardo Foster '02

Eduardo “Eddie” graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. While at SCSU, he served as a Resident Advisor. He was born in Panama City, Panama, raised in New York, and later relocated to Connecticut.

He is a proud serving member of the United States Army with 25 years of federal service. He held various assignments in various roles at the strategic planning and operational levels. He deployed supporting two operational campaign tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) and one campaign during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (2012-2013). His most recent deployment was to the Kingdom of Jordan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (Spartan Shield) (2020-2021). He has also provided support during state emergencies and disasters, rendering relief to various towns throughout Connecticut. Eduardo is also an active member of The National Guard Association of Connecticut and the American Legion. In addition, he has received several awards and distinctions throughout his military career.

Additionally, he volunteers his time at various soup kitchens in the New Haven area and helped build a community playground at a school in West Haven. With the backing of his church, he served as a missionary providing aid and support to the community of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He currently works as Senior Human Resources Manager for the Connecticut Army National Guard. Eduardo enjoyed his experience at Southern and made lifelong friends. He attributes his accomplishments to the opportunities SCSU provided.

He is a father of two girls and enjoys hiking with his wife during his leisure time.


Valencia (McLeain) Goodridge MBA ’08

Valencia is a native of Bridgeport, CT who relocated to the Greater New Haven area over 25 years ago. she is committed to advocacy for gender equity in >areas of healthcare, education and economic empowerment. She is the president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. (NCBW), New Haven Metropolitan Chapter in addition to serving on several non-profit boards throughout the Greater New Haven Area.  Valencia is also an adjunct professor at Gateway Community College and a Real Estate professional at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

Some awards/accolades include a 2018 NAACP 100 Most Influential Blacks in Connecticut, 2019 Community Service Award from the Elm City Club of NANBPWC, 2017 Connecticut 100 Women of Color award, among several others. Valencia is a member of the Bethel AME Church of New Haven.


Jodi Hill-Lilly ’88, MS '94

Jodi graduated with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work, and is proud of the foundational learning obtained from both of her degrees from Southern and she particularly appreciated the experience of writing a thesis.  That experience advanced her perspectives, skills and critical thinking in a significant way.  She has a rich amount of experience in the field of social work (32 years), largely in child protective services and currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner of Administration at the Department of Children and Families.  Along the way, she gained significant national experience as a consultant, trainer and coach, recently receiving the “Distinguished Career Achievement Award” from the National Staff Development and Training Association, and was nominated for a “100 Woman of Color” award in CT.


Kelly Hope ’03, MS ‘10

Dr. Kelly Hope is a true owl at heart! While at Southern, she served the community as a member of the Black Student Union, joined the historical Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., was a tremendous student leader as a Resident Advisor, and eventually became an administrator on campus in the capacity of a Residence Hall Director. She then went on to obtain her doctorate degree and was an administrator at Housatonic Community College before accepting a role as an ELA High School teacher in New Haven.

Laeticia Iboki

Laeticia Iboki '16

Laeticia is a Scientist at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry and Psychology. She also completed her Master of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology at Quinnipiac University.

Laeticia is very passionate in serving on the Alumni Association Board to give back by supporting current and future Owls. As a student at Southern, Laeticia was given the opportunity to expand her knowledge in the scientific field by conducting research and presenting at large and prestigious conferences such as the American Society for Microbiology and Posters on the Hill (Capitol Hill).

She received many scientific awards during her time at Southern including the Noble Procter award for excellence in Undergraduate Research, American Society for Microbiology Student Postdoctoral Award, American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Capstone fellowship, and Southern Connecticut State University Travel Award.

Over the years, Laeticia held scientific positions at Unilever, BioMedica Diagnostics, and Pfizer where she had the opportunity to support the development of the COVID-19 Vaccine. She has also been active in mentoring high school and college students in career development.


LaShante Kelley-James ’04, MS ’14

LaShante' James is a native of New Haven and was educated in the New Haven Public School System. She earned a Bachelor of Science in English Education and Master of Science in Political Science with a concentration in Urban Education at SCSU. LaShante' was extremely active on campus as a Resident Advisor, President of the Black Student Union, Miss SCSU, and chartering the NAACP chapter. In 2015, she obtained an 092 certificate and Sixth year degree from Sacred Heart University. LaShante' worked 11 years as a High School English Teacher in grades 9-12 at Riverside Education Academy. Currently, she is an Assistant Principal for Norwalk Public School. 

She has been awarded the Teacher of the Year award for Riverside Academy 8 out of 11 years. Also, she placed First Runner up for the NHPS Teacher of the Year Award in 2010. In 2016, she was a nominated second time for the NHPS’s Teacher of the Year Award, and recently accepted the opportunity to become an Assistant Principal at her alma mater, Brien McMahon High School. 

Currently, she serves as the President of the Bridgeport/Fairfield County Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 

Dr. Aaron Johnson

Dr. Aaron Johnson '04

As a tireless advocate for children, education, and community building, High School Educator and Civic Leader Dr. Aaron D. Johnson’s mandate is inspiring youth to dare to dream, while helping make their aspirations come to fruition through diligence in higher scholastic heights.

Aaron taught Global Studies, African American Studies, and Criminal Justice at Bay Shore Senior High School on the south shore of Long Island for over 15 years, and was recently appointed Assistant Principal at Freeport High School. Aaron is an award-winning educator and speaker who has been recognized for his dedication to equity, social justice, activism, child advocacy, and of course - education. During his esteemed career, Aaron has also served as the keynote speaker for several commencement ceremonies, as Master of Ceremonies and co-organizer for the annual Black History Month program at Bay Shore High School, and as Assistance Coach of the school’s basketball team and volunteer coach and mentor with the United North Amityville Youth Organization – just to name a few of his accolades.

For his civic involvement, Johnson has received a New York State Proclamation for education and activism from the New York State Assembly, Citations from New York Assemblyman Philip Ramos for his “dedication as an advocate for children,” from Suffolk County Legislator Ricardo Montano for “outstanding achievements and contributions to the betterment of our community” during Islip Town’s celebration of Black History; and from Congressman Steve Israel as an Honoree during Islip Black History Month for “continuous commitment to serving our community.”

Johnson earned a Doctor of Education from St. John's University and a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies (History concentration) from SUNY Stony Brook University. He holds two BA degrees: in Adolescence Education (7–12) & Social Studies from SUNY College at Old Westbury, N.Y., and in History from, of course, our very own SCSU. For the latter, he received a full athletic scholarship for basketball. Upon graduation, he played basketball in Mexico and had multiple offers to play overseas before deciding to remain home and continue his education.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller ’69, MS ’75, SY ’81 (Emeritus)

Pat has been an active member of the SCSUAA for over thirty years. Having retired from the Fairfield Public Schools where she served as a curriculum specialist, she was also an adjunct professor in  the Health Sciences Department at Southern and ran a education consulting business. Happily retired she continues to serve the Cheshire community through her work at the Cheshire Community Food Pantry and as a member of the Cheshire Juvenile Review Board.

Montrel Morrison

Montrel Morrison ’18

Montrel has served in the greater New Haven community since the age of 10 years old, working in faith-based, non-profit and government organizations. He is also an award-winning Mentor in New Haven County, and the Founder/CEO of Daniel’s Company Youth Leadership Mentoring Organization.

While an undergraduate student, he was active in several organizations which include the NAACP, a founding member of BROSE (Brotherhood, Scholarship and Excellence), and a member of the MulticulturalLeadership and Heritage Ball Councils. As a candidate for the Alumni Board of Directors I plan on utilizing my skill sets to advance, advise and advocate for our fellow Alumni and all students currently still enroll at Southern. One of my top priorities as an Alumni Board of Director is to continue to be a voice for the student body at SCSU and help create a mentoring alliance between alumni and students who are in their undergraduate studies.

Grace Mukupa

Grace Mukupa, ’02

Dr. Mukupa, a proud SCSU graduate, was born in Zambia, raised in Japan and Belgium, and is now a U.S. citizen who speaks nine languages. As an orphan, immigrant, and former international student, she seeks to amplify underserved and underrepresented groups' voices while supporting SCSU alumni initiatives. Mukupa earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Journalism from SCSU. She served as president of the African Student Association, held public relations position for the SCSU Student Government, wrote for the Southern News, and became a lady of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She also holds a Master in Business Administration from SUNY Oswego and a Doctorate in International Development from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Mukupa, currently a Senior Associate of Student Success Initiatives at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, supporting the 37 American Indian tribally controlled colleges. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to Tajikistan and a Peace Corps Volunteer in North Macedonia. She was elected president of the Iota Nu Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, Syracuse, NY. In July 2021, she will be inducted president of the Rotary International, Crystal City-Pentagon club, Virginia; she attributes her leadership to SCSU.

Julia Nelson

Julia Nelson '19

Julia Nelson ’19:  Julia graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, and is also a law school graduate from Western NEW England University School of Law. Julia currently works for a law firm in Connecticut. 

Julia is looking forward to serve on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, prioritizing academic excellence, access, and social justice within the SCSU community.


Teresa Sirico '70, MS '73

Teresa Sirico is a past President of the SCSU Alumni Association (2014-2016) and was recently re-elected as Board President for 2020-2021. She served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2005-2009, 2010-2016, 2017-2020, including one year as Vice President and several years as board Secretary. She makes it a point to attend as many events, committee meetings, and activities as possible. Teresa’s degrees are in political science. She is a local Realtor, Educator, author in the area of real estate, and an expert witness in real estate legal matters. She has been a Past President, Realtor of the Year, and Educator of the Year for the Greater New Haven Association of Realtors. She is also a member of the State Board of Directors. Teresa has demonstrated her commitment to Southern with a scholarship in gerontology in honor of her parents Louis and Joan Sirico, as well as helping establishing and supporting the AAA Fund, which was created to help students in need. Teresa has also established a fund at the New Haven Community Fund to assist the elderly.

Anthony Tamburri

Anthony Tamburri '71

Anthony is Dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (CUNY) and Distinguished Professor of European Languages and Literatures. He is co-founder of Bordighera Press, past president of the Italian American Studies Association and of the American Association of Teachers of Italian.

He won honors in student teaching in Italian at then SCSC for his B.S and began his teaching career in high school.

After earning his PhD in Italian from the University of California, he went on to hold various academic positions at the university level: department chair, associate dean, and dean.

He founded undergraduate and graduate programs in Italian and Italian-American studies, as well as programs of study abroad for both students and faculty development.

In addition, he has authored more than a dozen books, his latest, "Signing Italian/American Cinema: A More Focused Look" (2021).

He is executive producer and host of the TV program, "Italics," produced in collaboration with CUNY TV. He writes a column for "La Voce di New York," “The Italian Diaspora."

When not in Manhattan, he spends time in New Fairfield, CT.

Tafari Turner

Tafari Turner '16, MBA '18

Tafari Turner is an entrepreneur, entertainer, and resident of Hamden, CT, who hails from Old Harbor, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Tafari is a two-time Southern grad, having received his bachelor's in Communication from SCSU in 2016, and his master’s in Business Administration two years later in 2018. Throughout his academic career, he served as a Resident Advisor, Officer of Public Relations for the Caribbean Students Association (CSA) from 2015 to 2017, and as CSA Graduate Advisor from 2017 to 2018; he has also worked in multiple youth counseling roles outside of and following his SCSU employments. Through his partner company, Fire’s Elite Entertainment & Lighting LLC, he is Southern’s go-to DJ for many events, exposing college communities to genres across Kompa, Zouk, Dancehall, Soca, Salsa, Samba, and African Beats. To the role of Board Of Director, Tafari brings his extensive background in marketing and outreach, his dedication to harboring cultural spaces and knowledge, and his longstanding care for SCSU students and the SCSU community.


Carolyn Vanacore ’52, MS ’68, SY ’73 (Emeritus)

Carolyn Vanacore, Mrs. ‘V’, as her students refer to her, is first and foremost, a mentor to young women. Her career path was greatly influenced by Louise Ives, a new, young, and energetic Physical Education teacher at Lyman Hall High School.
Competition at the time Vanacore was in high school was limited to round-robin playdays consisting of a few schools, and pick-up games with the boys. In college, she played club field hockey, basketball, and softball.

Vanacore attended New Haven State Teachers’ College (SCSC). After graduation, she obtained a job in the North Haven school system. She initiated sports programs at North Haven High School in field hockey, basketball, softball, and track & field.

Vanacore joined the faculty at SCSC in 1965 as an assistant professor of women’s physical education. She earned advanced degrees at Southern and in 1982 was named Director of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Safety. Vanacore continued in this position until her “retirement” in 1989. Although “retired,” she remains on staff at Southern as Professor Emeritus, supervising student teachers and spearheading development efforts for the alumni and athletic departments.

Carolyn has received numerous honors throughout her career. Among these acknowledgements are the: CAHPERD Professional Merit Award, YWCA Women in Leadership Award, Yale Visiting Faculty Fellowship, YMCA Outstanding Volunteer Service, CT Association of Athletic Directors Distinguished Service Award, Lyman Hall High School Hall of Fame, Eastern District (AAHPERD) Merit Award in Physical Education, and the National Girls and Women in Sports Pathfinder Award.

Vanacore has devoted nearly five decades to improving student opportunities and expanding women’s athletic involvement. She is the proud mentor of many high school and college basketball coaches throughout CT and beyond.

Brian West

Brian West, ’80

Brian West has served two previous terms on the Board of Directors and is seeking re-election.  He graduated from Southern in 1980 with degrees in history and political science. He worked for three years in the State Legislature in various positions, followed by two years with the Connecticut Public Expenditure Council (CPEC), a state government watchdog organization. For the next 23 years he worked for the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (OPM) as a Research Analyst and chief staff person to the Connecticut Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR). For the past     seven years, Brian has worked for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) as the Principal Research Analyst helping member cities and towns resolve local issues of concern.

He is very involved with his church, where he is a Lector and serves on the Parish Council. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and has been the coordinator of the Homefront program, an annual home rehabilitation program helping the elderly and less well-off members of our community.

A resident of West Hartford, Brian has been married to his wife, Marie, for 27 years and they have four children, Meredith, Amy, Stephanie and Eric. Eric will be starting his freshman year at Southern this Fall.


Karl “Stephen” Wilson ’02

Former Black Student Union President, Stephen is currently an 8th Grade History Teacher at Achievement First Hartford Summit. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Southern where he majored in Social Work, and is currently finishing up his Masters of Social Work degree at University of Saint Joseph. Serving his community well, Stephen was a recipient of the 100 Men of Color award in 2015, honoring positive minority males in the New England area who are bringing hope to their communities through service, and is actively engaged in his community through volunteer work with underprivileged young men of color. Stephen also is a certified Youth Life Coach and seeks to support the needs of youth and young adults by breaking down barriers and providing them with tools to be successful. His values are grounded in faith, service, education and community.