Mulcahy: Chemistry department, students to prosper from 1st NSF grant

Dr. Seann Mulcahy, associate professor of chemistry, takes an outside view when analyzing the value of his initial National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. 

The first faculty member in the Providence College Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to earn an individual NSF grant, Mulcahy is thrilled by what the honor means to his department and the research students he mentors.

The $191,371 award from the NSF’s Chemical Synthesis Program will fund collaborative research on Mulcahy’s project, “RUI: Synthesis of Isomeric Carbolines by Tandem Palladium Catalysis.” The three-year grant, which runs through August 2019, is the most significant research award Mulcahy has received to date. It builds on previous awards from the National Institutes of Health’s Rhode Island IDeA Network for Excellence in Biomedical Research program, the American Chemical Society, and the Rhode Island Foundation.

“We are collaborative scientists in chemistry,” he said. “We necessarily involve undergraduates in our scholarship. It is important to provide funding for them to conduct research in our labs.” He emphasized that colleagues in his department “are passionate about what we do” and that awards like the NSF grant are integral to faculty research and undergraduate opportunities.

Mulcahy explained that the NSF’s focus is on “high-impact science” that carries broad applicability for other researchers, students, and for society. NSF grants provide “a training mechanism for students. Research fits into a larger set of goals. Liberal arts institutions like Providence College are positioned for that.”

Mulcahy’s project currently involves five students, who receive credit during the academic year. Funding also will cover research by two students each summer.

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Chislom ’17 turns fellowship experience into community project

A Providence College student who participated in the 2016 Humanity in Action Fellowship program is taking that experience to the next level.

Cassandra M. Chislom ’17 (Boston, Mass.) is collecting books for high school students as a component of Humanity in Action. The monthlong summer program brings together international groups of college students and recent college graduates to explore national histories of injustice and how those histories — along with current political and economic situations — impact minority groups today.

As part of the program, fellows are asked to design an action project that will impact the community. Chislom plans to provide books on role models to 360 High School in Providence, a secondary school dedicated to immersing students in real-world learning experiences and civic involvement. She hopes the books will “tell the stories of marginalized voices” — people of color and women.

Chislom noted that she read many books written by black scholars during her summer fellowship and wants others to share in this transformative experience.

“I realized how important it is, as a student of color, to learn about other people of color’s lives and personal experiences as a way to be informed about my own history, and to seek a better understanding of who I am as a person,” said Chislom, who is a double major in political science and in public and community service studies.

Chislom is currently in the book-collection stage of her project and is working toward finding space to store them in the school.

By giving students access to books about role models, Chislom wants teens of color to discover their potential by experiencing the same self-reflection and empowerment that she encountered during the fellowship.

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Alumni authors bring their literature to life at ‘Veritas and Values’ panel

In reading excerpts as diverse as the writers themselves, four alumni related the struggles and rewards of being an author and how — without realizing it — their literary work began as Providence College undergraduates.

The Veritas and Values panel discussion, “Published and Proud: Millennial Authors and Their Stories,” took place in the Ruane Center for the Humanities. Sponsored by the Department of English, the Student Alumni Association, and the National Alumni Association, Veritas and Values facilitates interaction between alumni and students.

Moderator Epaphras C. Osondu, a novelist and a PC associate professor of English, welcomed the College audience that filled the lecture hall and introduced the panelists: Emily Benfer ‘99, clinical professor of law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law; Alison Espach ’07, assistant professor of English at Providence College; Michael Hartigan ‘04, communications director for U.S. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts; and Matt Weber ‘06, director of digital communications strategy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Each began the program by reading from their books and essays and reflected on how deeply their College experience influenced their writing.

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Student identity, success at core of Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachery’s teaching


Helping students understand their cultural and racial identities is central to the teaching of Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachery, the recipient of the 2016 Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award, Providence College’s top teaching honor.

The award, administered by the Center for Teaching Excellence, is presented annually to the professor who best exhibits excellence in teaching, passion and enthusiasm for learning, and genuine concern for the academic and personal growth of students. Jordan-Zachery was hired to direct PC’s Black Studies Program in 2008. She was a professor of political science until July, when she became professor of public and community service studies.

Her own identity was shaped by her childhood in Barbados. Her father was a civil servant, and her mother was a mental health nurse who helped to establish the country’s first community mental health program.

“I would go with her to see patients in the district,” said Jordan-Zachery. “I got to see people in the range of their capabilities. When they’re well, they’re different than when they need treatment, but regardless, they are the same human being. I was raised to see people and their human potential, regardless, and to suspend judgment.”

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