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Connecticut History Day’s Fairfield Regional Contest Comes to Sacred Heart

University faculty, students serve as judges

Judges talk with students about their projects in University Commons.

Sacred Heart University stepped up in a big way March 19, when it hosted Connecticut History Day’s Fairfield Regional Contest for the first time. The event took place in SHU’s Edgerton Center and University Commons area.

Middle- and high-school students from Fairfield County submitted their choice of projects in five media: a paper, exhibit, website, performance or documentary film. Approximately 450 students participated, pursuing the theme, “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.” The top two winning individuals or teams in each category went on to the state contest April 30, and the winner that day proceeded to the national competition. Connecticut’s event was sponsored by the Old State House in Hartford.

There were 75 volunteer students and faculty judges at the competition, including, from Sacred Heart, 20 student judges and hall monitors, nine faculty judges from various disciplines, several alumni and two administrators—Jim Carl, dean of the Farrington College of Education, and Keith Johnston, director of bands. The University’s participation was coordinated by Charlotte Gradie, professor of history; Sally Ross, communications professor; and Jennifer McLaughlin, who also teaches history.

Rebecca Taber-Conover, head of Public Programs & History Day at Connecticut’s Old State House, appreciated SHU’s support. “We are totally excited to have Sacred Heart host the program for the first time, though some of the professors have been involved for years,” she said. “We are especially glad to be in a collegiate atmosphere, so that students get to see a college campus.”

Gradie said SHU’s history and communications programs collaborated to support the event, along with many groups on campus: SHU’s Love Choir, which performed that day; the arts department, which readied a student art exhibit; alumni relations office; marketing & communications; the IT department; the dean’s office; the History Club, which solicited volunteers; and student ambassadors, who led tours.

“I’ve been here 26 years, and I see the same spirit now as I did when I joined,” Gradie said. “Sacred Heart really came through. We’ve been working on this for a year, and it’s been a great process.”

John Smith, ’17, a history minor, was excited to play his part as a judge. “I was introduced to the program through the History Club and am a huge fan of history,” Smith said. “I’m happy to judge and grade. I’d never done anything like this before. It was a nice experience, and cool to see at a later age what younger kids are doing.”

Michelle Scatamacchia, ’17, a history major in a five-year education program, said her role as a judge was a key experience toward her professional aspirations. “My career goal is to teach history at the middle-school level, so this was particularly insightful, as I was judging middle-school performances,” Scatamacchia said. “I love when students are interested in history—it makes me so happy. My aim when I’m teaching is getting them interested in these kinds of contest opportunities, especially in the kind of great environment Sacred Heart offers. This is a big stage for these kids to be making presentations. It definitely helps them grow educationally, as it has helped me in the same way.”

Faculty Judge John Sayour, professor in the Jack Welch School of Business, said the student exhibits he judged impressed him. “I think this is fabulous for the young people, to have them do this level of research at this age,” Sayour said. “Their work is outstanding, and the impact they are saying this has on them is great.

“I love doing this, and love this school,” he added. “I got my MBA at SHU, so I could teach here. This is who Sacred Heart is. The school does wonderful things for the community and state.”