File #4523: "su-1884.pdf"




See what happens when an
entire university steps up

Samia and Miller scholars excel

Investment in Athletics yields big wins

How COVID-19 is challenging our political norms


Boston developer builds community first

Fall 2020

In this Issue





Marasi, Class
of 2021, is an
Systems and
major. Engaging in her Suffolk
experience, she serves as a RAM
Supporter, 2020 Orientation
Leader, and the Vice President
of Programming for the Program
Council, of which she says:
“We have started our first
event this year, Build-a-Ram,
which has been great so far in
providing first-year students with
something to do on campus as
well as lift up the Suffolk spirit.”
See what happens when an
entire university steps up

Samia and Miller Scholars excel

Investment in Athletics yields big wins

How COVID-19 is challenging our political norms

Boston developer builds community first

Fall 2020

Suffolk experts reflect
on the crisis’ impact and
what the future holds for
our political process

Developer Tom O’Brien is changing the
face of Boston with a rare compassion
and a community-minded approach

Fall 2020


2 Welcome



The life-changing gifts
of Samia and Miller


20 Mapping inequality:
Student researcher
collaborates with
faculty to map
risk factors for

4 A look at how Suffolk
responds to the

6 E. Macey Russell

leads a campaign for
teaching Black history


7 Suffolk Law housing

Students, faculty, and
alumni take their art into
the public realm

22 Shawn Newton

23 Justice code: App

gives defendants
access to community

study sparks calls for



8 Happenings and Ram

pride from around the


14 Dedicated alumnus

27 Testing testing,

COVID-19: Alumnus
Thomas O’Connor joins
Broad Institute in wake
of pandemic

28 Conscious couture:

Alumna Lauren Nouchi
takes risks to build
fashion brand

creates a tour of the
banking and wealth
management industry


16 New Sawyer Business

An ongoing investment
in athletics results in
big wins for studentathletes

Suffolk’s newest
residence hall

Photographs clockwise from top left:
REUTERS / Joshua Roberts - stock.adobe.
com, Michael J. Clarke (2), Faith Ninivaggi

18 Imagination at work:


30 Breaking news: Alumna

Breana Pitts leads the
anchor desk in a critical

School Dean Amy
Zeng brings a passion
for experience-based

17 One Court Street:

First-year creativity
courses give students a
competitive edge

sows seeds of change


55 Celebrating

Dean Bill O’Neill

56 Alumni send graduated
Class of 2020 warm
wishes and greetings


PRESIDENT—Marisa Kelly
DESIGN—Jenni Leiste

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS—Kara Baskin, Jennifer Becker, Michael Fisch,
Alyssa Giacobbe, Andrea Grant, Ben Hall, Nancy Kelleher, Kimberly Stern,
Nat Panek
COPY EDITORS— Karen DeCilio, Susie Fagan, Nancy Kelleher
CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS—Michael J. Clarke, Faith Ninivaggi

Suffolk University Magazine is published once a year by
Suffolk University. The magazine is printed by Lane Press
in Burlington, VT. We welcome readers’ comments.
Contact us at, or at Editor,
Suffolk University Office of Public Affairs, 73 Tremont St.,
Boston, MA 02108-2770. © 2020 by Suffolk University. All
publication rights reserved.


Fall 2020


One of the things I love most about my job is
talking with our alumni across the nation and
around the globe. It’s surprising how many of those
wonderful conversations end in what has become a
familiar refrain: We miss Suffolk’s magazine.
I’ve missed it too. The magazine went on an
extended hiatus several years ago, and I have felt we
needed to bring it back. It helps to better connect us
to one another and to share stories of our collective
positive impact on the world. Somehow, that seems
more important now than ever before.
Suffolk University is a powerful force for good.
That has been true since our founding, and it
continues today. At no time has that fundamental
truth been more essential than at this moment in
our nation’s history. In the face of a coronavirus
pandemic that has caused untold human suffering
and tragedy, our students, faculty, staff, and alumni
are addressing the implications of the pandemic


Suffolk University Magazine |

directly. Masks on, socially distanced, at
times in person, and often virtually, they are
leaning in and stepping up to serve others
and the broader community.
The pages of the new Suffolk University
Magazine are filled with stories of Suffolk
Rams rising to the challenge of serving the
public good. Faculty have used the pandemic
as a teachable moment and inspired
students to reflect on their own experience
and that of others. Students responded
by creating innovative course projects
and service-learning opportunities. They
developed new ways to tutor, mentor, and
read with young children in neighborhood
schools, delivered groceries and essential
items to families in need, and created online
solutions for people who could no longer
access critical legal services.
We also are grappling with a simultaneous
crisis exacerbated by the pandemic—the
awful and relentless plague of racial injustice
and inequity in this country. Like the nation,
this University has work to do to combat
racism and to foster equity and create a more
just environment for members of our Black
community. This transformative moment
requires all of us to act, and our community is
doing just that. Suffolk students are leading
the conversation within this University, and
beyond, to raise awareness of injustices and
to create meaningful change.
Working alongside faculty members,

Suffolk junior Brianna Franklin is
researching inequities in Connecticut
through the use of incarceration data and
computer mapping systems. Associate Dean
of Students Shawn Newton is leading a task
force to improve racial equity in his own
community of Salem, Massachusetts. Law
School alumna Nicole Siino has developed
an app to help juvenile defendants gain
access to life-altering community-based
resources, and alumnus and Trustee
Macey Russell is advocating for a national
movement to make Black history a part of
the K-12 curriculum.
If there is one common theme that runs
through the pages of this magazine, it is the
relentless desire among Suffolk students,
employees, and alumni to serve their
communities. We are inspired by the story
of real estate developer Tom O’Brien, who
believes building community bridges is
more important than building structures.
And through a journey into the world of
politics in the time of a pandemic, we find
hope for what could emerge in the future.
It is my pleasure to present to you the new
and revived Suffolk University Magazine.




Housing the homeless in
Miller Hall was one of many
ways Suffolk responded to
the public health crisis

Stepping Up

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke


fter Boston’s first COVID-19 case surfaced among
the city’s homeless population in March, Mayor
Martin J. Walsh announced that the city had begun
converting privately owned buildings into shelters,
including Suffolk University’s Nathan R. Miller Hall
(pictured here).
Walsh had reached out to Suffolk, and University
President Marisa Kelly readily agreed to make the
residence hall’s 172 rooms available to the city to
house members of the homeless population. “Boston
is our home,” Kelly said at the time. “We stand ready
to help in any way.”
It was a compassionate step in an uncertain time,
speaking volumes about the University’s values.
It also was one of just many examples, as revealed
on the following pages, of Suffolk stepping up to serve
its communities in support of the common good. | Suffolk University Magazine


The Common Good

Fall 2020

Pandemic Pivot

“Suffolk students were
extremely resilient in
their efforts to benefit
so many needy people
in our community.
I’m so proud to be
an alumna of this
amazing school.”
—Amanda Ricko, BS ’19. Ricko is the assistant executive
director of CEEDS4Change, a nonprofit that creates
partnerships to reduce food insecurities in underserved
communities. She and her family made 400 masks for
the homeless in response to the pandemic.

Students Serving
Beyond Suffolk

hen classes moved online in the spring, students found creative ways to help
those in need through remote service-learning:

In partnership with nonprofit CEEDS4Change, Suffolk students created the
Head, Health, and Heart initiative to provide care packages of food, books, and
mental health information to 200 families from four Boston public schools.
Students in Suffolk’s Cancer Care class continued to support families at
Christopher’s Haven, an organization that provides temporary homes for
families while their children receive cancer care at Boston hospitals, through
fundraising, grocery runs, and morale-boosting deliveries of handmade cards
and balloons.
Davis Altimonte, Class of 2022, read and uploaded short stories to the 826
Boston website, where students he had tutored in person could hear his voice as
they read along with him.
Julia Leone, BA ’20, developed ongoing lesson plans for the Future Leaders
after-school program at the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House in Cambridge.
Through the Girls Who Code program, Anas Sabir, Class of 2022, taught students
at Umana Academy how to program a Q&A computer game.


Suffolk University Magazine |

Global Call
to Creatives


purred by the United Nations “Global Call to Creatives”
campaign seeking translation of public health
messages for all people, graphic design students enrolled
in the Advanced Computer Applications course created
animations that promoted personal hygiene, physical
distancing, symptoms, and myth-busting. Their theme:
Spread the word not the virus.

The Common Good

Fall 2020

Pandemic Pivot

Calm in the Time of




sychology Professors David Langer, who helps children manage anxiety,
and Susan Orsillo, an expert in mindfulness, shared practical tips for
self- and family care.



“Two key things that have enormous
benefits for mental and physical health
and well-being are physical activity
and spending time outside. … These
are behaviors parents can model and
encourage that will benefit everyone. In
addition to physical activity and outside
time, take time to do enjoyable things like
playing games and pursuing hobbies.”

“People assume that we practice mindfulness
to draw our attention away from something
unpleasant—like worry. But the spirit of
mindfulness involves drawing your attention
toward something truly meaningful and
precious—the present moment. Then we fully
experience whatever it is: the scent of our
favorite candle, the taste of a delicious food, or
the sensation of our pet’s fur.”

—David Langer

—Susan Orsillo


tudents in Suffolk Law’s 12 legal
clinics continued their efforts to
close the ”justice gap” during the period
when Massachusetts courts were closed for
all but emergency cases. Their efforts ranged from
virtual lawyering via mobile phone, email, and video
to working on cutting-edge digital court forms to help
those representing themselves access the justice system.
Under state law, supervised student attorneys are
permitted to represent clients who otherwise would
not be able to afford a lawyer. Coronavirus-related
challenges, from unemployment to health crises, make
their work that much more critical.
During the court closures, to help avoid a stalled
justice system, judges asked family law practitioners
to work toward settling cases when that made sense.
Toward that end, students negotiated with opposing
counsel on issues like child custody, parenting time, and
child support. “In the U.S., a majority of people face their
civil legal emergencies without a lawyer,” says Suffolk
Law Dean Andrew Perlman. “The need for solutions to
help address the justice gap, including virtual lawyering
and simple digital court forms is acute.”

Studies in
Photographs clockwise from left: Courtesy of Amanda Ricko, Michael J. Clarke (3),
Courtesy of Colleen Doonan



s faculty across the University adapted to the challenges of
teaching amid the coronavirus, many shifted their syllabi to
help students unpack the pandemic from their virtual classrooms.
Professor Amy Monticello was teaching a course called Narrative
and Medicine when the pandemic hit. Her students happened to be
reading On Immunity, Eula Biss’ reflection on vaccinating children.
Suddenly students found new and immediate significance. They
began capturing their own pandemic experiences through writing.
“We turn to books, historical studies, philosophical frameworks,
and artistic expressions to locate our own and others’ experiences
and find insights that help us make sense of what’s happening,”
Monticello says.
Professor Wes Savick witnessed a new empathy emerge as theater
students shared their interpretation of the moment. He inspired
students to write about their own experiences amid the pandemic,
telling them: “It is up to you, the playwrights, to chronicle the feelings,
the hopes, the spirit, the poetry.” Theatre students also had one-onone digital coaching and mentoring sessions, including with awardwinning actor and director Maurice Parent, and witnessed Stephanie
Coyle, BA ’20, direct current students in Harold Pinter’s play The Lover
via Zoom.

Junayed Islam,
Class of 2021,

Read more online at | Suffolk University Magazine


The Common Good

Fall 2020

Rewriting History

The Case for Teaching

Black History
Alumnus aims to create understanding
of how America arrived at the Black
Lives Matter moment
Story by Nancy Kelleher


t’s time to bring Black history into the mainstream of American education,
says Suffolk University Trustee E. Macey Russell, who is advocating for a
national movement that would transform a tame February curriculum
addendum to a strong examination of the Black experience in America since 1619.
History lessons that address America’s fraught relationship with race tend to
focus on slavery in the context of the Civil War and the civil rights movement.
But American schools neglect to address signal events such as the postReconstruction massacres of Black citizens in Tulsa. Students don’t hear about
the African American lives lost in 1927 when Mississippi River levees were
dynamited to spare New Orleans from flooding, spurring the Great Migration.
Nor do the history books address how discrimination in housing, employment,
and education led to a society where an average white family’s net worth is nearly
10 times that of a Black family.
Russell, JD ’83, seeks federal legislation—the George Floyd Education Act—
establishing a commission to determine an appropriate K through 12 Black history
curriculum. Schools would make courses on racism and Black history part of the
core curriculum, and colleges and universities would follow suit.
In an era when the call has gone out to “do something,” Russell invites Suffolk
alumni to join him in advocating for Black history education.

A need for context

Following the 2020 police killings of George Floyd and others, protesters across
the nation are standing up for the rights of Black Americans. Yet many people don’t
understand how America came to this juncture, says Russell.
The myth of a post-racial society ushered in with the election of President
Barack Obama has died, and “the kids out marching are confounded about what’s
happened,” says Russell.
Because young Black and Brown students are not taught their history, they
often feel isolated in U.S. society, according to Russell.
“Learning this history helps Black Americans understand their heritage and
how they are connected to this country,” he says. “We have been here for 400
years, and there is something wrong when folks who arrived 120 years ago feel
more connected than Black Americans. Rarely do we stop and ask: Why is there
a Negro National Anthem in this country, and why was the civil rights movement


Suffolk University Magazine |

Empathy based on facts

Russell, a partner at Choate Hall & Stewart LLP, is deeply
involved with encouraging diversity in the legal profession.
“I’ve learned from these experiences that you have to find
trigger points that generate empathy in people, and that usually
has to come from a baseline of facts and what can reasonably be
inferred from those facts,” he says.
“Until people begin to understand our history, it may be hard
for them to understand why African Americans are where they
are today. It’s not because we all checked a box before we were
born that said: I want to be poor. I want to have the worst possible
public education. I want to be fearful of police, and I want to
be discriminated against in housing and education. Nobody
checks those boxes. Yet there’s always been an undercurrent
that we don’t work hard enough.”
Russell’s commitment to Black history education stems in
part from his learning about the historical mistreatment of
indigenous people and others.
“There are a lot of things that we don’t understand partly
because of a lack of exposure,” says Russell, citing Germany’s
requirement that high school students study Nazism and the
Holocaust. “We should follow Germany’s lead as a way to heal.”

The Common Good

Fall 2020

Housing Discrimination

Study sparks calls for change as it reveals
bias against Black and low-income renters
Story by Michael Fisch

Trustee E.
Macey Russell

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke (2)

Says Russell: “If learning
about Black history and racism
in the U.S. becomes part of our
daily dialogue in the schools,
that will trickle into the minds
of parents, into neighborhoods,
and into communities. And
I think that would be a good
thing. We owe it to our kids and
grandkids, so they can grow up
in a very different America.”

Read more about the
proposed George
Floyd Education Act at


fter the unsettling results of a Suffolk
discrimination among Greater Boston
real estate agents and landlords toward
prospective tenants who were Black or used
federal housing vouchers, the impact has
been both sizable and swift.
The study, led by Suffolk Law’s Housing
Discrimination Testing Program (HDTP),
found that white people posing as
prospective tenants were shown roughly
twice as many apartments as Black people
and were offered more incentives to rent.
Agents often cut off communication with
renters using “race-associated” names like
Jermaine and Ebony as opposed to renters
with names like Brad and Anne.
The testing, conducted from August 2018
to July 2019, also showed that people using
federal Section 8 vouchers, regardless of
race, faced huge hurdles—having to contact
nine rental agents before getting the
opportunity to tour one apartment.
The Suffolk Law study, co-led by the
Analysis Group and funded by the Boston
Foundation, was released July 1. A week
later, a group of Boston city councilors came
together to decry the racism it uncovered

and, according to the Boston Globe,
proposed a new “secret shopper program,”
similar to Suffolk’s research, to assess the
treatment of Black people and voucher
holders seeking apartment rentals. Hearings
on their proposal are expected in the fall.
A few days after the study was released,
Banker & Tradesman, an influential realty
trade publication, laid out the study’s key
findings and published an editorial, “Racism
in Real Estate Cannot Stand.” The editorial
argued that, given the study’s rigorous
design, “no serious person” could argue that
the findings were biased.
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
to convene a task force of industry
legislators, regulators, and fair housing
experts to create a plan to address housing
discrimination by Labor Day.
Results of the study were picked up
by media outlets across the region and
beyond. On NBC 10 Boston, City Councilor
Matt O’Malley referenced the study,
saying “housing discrimination is real” and
“abhorrent.” He called on city leaders to
partner with local housing advocates and
universities to set up additional testing and
to report back any unfair treatment.
Seventy-three Suffolk students served
among the 200 testers posing as interested
renters. They contacted the advertisers of
50 randomly selected rental properties in
nine cities and 11 Boston neighborhoods and
meticulously recorded their experiences in
reports after the interactions.
“We expected the numbers to be high
based on what we see in our work every day,
but this is much more pervasive evidence of
discrimination than any of us thought we
would find,” said Jamie Langowski, assistant
director of the HDTP. | Suffolk University Magazine


the Horn

Fall 2020


Story by Kara Baskin


uffolk’s commitment to community
and service was recognized with the
Carnegie Community Engagement
Reclassification, a distinction that honors
noteworthy cocurricular
and builds upon the University’s initial
classification honor in 2010.
“Creating opportunity has been
ingrained in the Suffolk story right
from the start,” says Suffolk University
President Marisa Kelly, a champion of
community engagement. “We strive to
create experiences that benefit students
and communities alike. This spirit of
service is something our graduates carry
with them throughout their lives.”
Suffolk is one of 75 higher education
institutions to receive the reclassification
designation. Faculty, staff, students, and
a community partner collaborated on the
yearlong reapplication process to evaluate
the many ways the University impacts
society and learning.
“The classification reinforces our
identity as an institution dedicated to the
common good,” says Adam Westbrook,
director of Suffolk’s Center for Community

Teaching social skills to
schoolchildren is among
Suffolk’s annual Service
Day activities.


Suffolk University Magazine |

Around the Horn

Fall 2020

CRISPR in Undergrad Labs

A Sequence of
Fortunate Events
Students unlock cutting-edge
CRISPR gene-editing lab curriculum
Story by Andrea Grant

Photographs clockwise from left: Michael J. Clarke (2)


fter a disappointing day in the
lab, roommates Thomas Tran
and Domenic Abbondanza sank
into their couch and switched on the
TV. They used its big screen to scan for
new approaches to try in the molecular
genetics project consuming all their
waking hours.
Tran, BS ’18, and Abbondanza, BS
’19, were trying to help their biology
professors Eric De Waal and Celeste
Peterson distill the essence of the
groundbreaking CRISPR-Cas9 genomeediting technique into a laboratory
curriculum simple enough for students
to complete in a single semester.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a technique that
allows scientists to edit a cell’s DNA at
precise locations by cutting the DNA and
modifying it through inserting, deleting,
or repairing its sequence. Researchers are
just starting to explore the procedure’s

potential therapeutic applications for
genetic disorders and conditions like
cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, for which
cures remain elusive.

“As is the nature of
research, failures
were frequent.”
–Domenic Abbondanza, BS ’19

Building on a seminal paper from
Harvard geneticist George Church, the
pair experimented with new organisms
and methods in trying to find the
right sequence for the undergraduate
lab setting. “As is the nature of
research, failures were frequent,” says
They had been working on the
project for over a year, even after Tran

graduated. Now they were racing against the clock,
trying to finish before Abbondanza completed the
biology program and Tran headed off to graduate
Just one week before the 2019 commencement
ceremony, an email from De Waal came with the subject
line: “Early graduation present for you.” It confirmed
that all of the CRISPR experiments were working.
A few months later their work was published in
the journal Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
in a Peterson-De Waal article outlining how to create
a laboratory curriculum following their students’
method for using CRISPR-Cas9 with a simple
model organism. That fall students filled Peterson’s
Molecular Genetics course, breaking into pairs to get
hands-on experience editing genes.
Giving undergraduates early access to “the next
wave” of cutting-edge science like CRISPR will put
them ahead of the curve and help them in their
scientific careers, says Peterson.
Her recent alumni are living proof. Gaining
experience in the lab and publishing in a peer-reviewed
journal helped Tran earn a spot in the UMass-Amherst
molecular and cellular biology PhD program, while
Abbondanza landed his “dream job” as a researcher at
the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. This spring
Abbondanza and his colleagues shifted their focus to
aid in the worldwide study of the coronavirus. Using
a technique called spatial transcriptomics on tissue
samples from patients with COVID-19, they hope to learn
more about how the virus behaves and impacts different
cells in the human body.
“We’re in uncharted territory here, and we have to do
on-the-fly troubleshooting. My science training at Suffolk
prepared me to be able to adapt,” says Abbondanza. “I
definitely didn’t think my first year out of undergrad
would look like this, but Suffolk does a great job of
preparing students for real-life situations.” | Suffolk University Magazine


Around the Horn

Fall 2020

Uniquely Suffolk


Story by Kara Baskin


Story by Kara Baskin


n 1970, a group of Bostonarea
“Women and Their Bodies,”
a groundbreaking booklet that
addressed previously verboten topics,
from reproductive health to sexuality.
Soon known as Our Bodies, Ourselves, the
book was a touchstone for generations
of women. It was in print through 2011
and continues to live online today.
Thanks to Suffolk’s Center for
Women’s Health & Human Rights,
the pivotal text will come alive
again as Our Bodies, Ourselves Today,
updated online for modern readers at
“There are so many reasons to get
excited about this online platform.
Women are still in dire need of
information of the kind that Our
Bodies, Ourselves provides—evidenceand reality-based information that
treats women as whole beings,” says


center director Amy Agigian, who
oversees the initiative.
The site initially will spotlight
key topics including contraception,
abortion, mental health, and heart
Suffolk has deep connections with
Our Bodies, Ourselves cofounder Paula
Doress-Worters, a Class of 1962 Suffolk
alumna, and cofounder and Board
Chair Judy Norsigian, who taught a
Suffolk course called Women’s Health
Advocacy for several years.
The online information—articles,
videos, podcasts, first-person stories,
and more—will be curated and vetted
by expert panels. Panelists will include
specialists ranging from policymakers
to physicians to everyday women from
all walks of life.
“This is extremely ambitious; we want
to be the go-to for all sorts of women’s
health issues,” Agigian says.

Suffolk University Magazine |

udding entrepreneurs in the Sawyer Business
School’s Crowdfunding the Venture class
learn creative fundraising firsthand, discovering
innovative ways to generate buzz—sometimes
literally—for their ideas.
Of the more than 25 business ventures
launched in the course via Kickstarter or
Indiegogo, one success story is GrubTerra, where
founder Michael Servais, Class of 2021, makes
bugs seem appealing.
His start-up repurposes restaurant waste into
chicken feed using black soldier fly grubs. The
insects feast, grow, and self-harvest before being
washed, killed, and dehydrated into a proteinpacked poultry food product. Servais estimates
a pound of dried grub is equivalent to 20 pounds
of food waste.
Students in the course learn how to create
impactful videos that build affinity with potential
investors. In his fundraising video, Servais
endearingly pleaded with potential funders to
help him move up and out of his Mission Hill
basement greenhouse—all while sporting a yellow
chicken suit. He met his $10,000 funding goal.
“It’s the jockey, not the horse. You need a
founder like Servais who’s willing to dive in
and work,” says Chaim Letwin, professor of
management and entrepreneurship at Suffolk.
“Crowdfunding is hard. You need credibility to
back your idea, influencers to support it, friends
and family to get behind it. The class was so
helpful,” Servais says.

Around the Horn

Professional Development

“One of my biggest
jobs is to teach my
players that they can
be fierce competitors
while also showing
respect for
their opponents,
coaches, officials,
and fans.”
—Jeff Juron, Men’s Basketball Head
Coach, who alongside his team,
received the 2019-20 Sam Schoenfeld
Sportsmanship Award from the Collegiate
Basketball Officials Association.

For the third


in a row Suffolk

Photographs clockwise from top left: Adobe, Michael J. Clarke

University physics
students received the
Society of Physics
Students Chapter Research Award for
their work studying neutron shielding
at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The award is a $2,000 cash prize to
further their research.

Suffolk is recognized as a 20202021 Military Friendly School, with
systems in place to support student
veterans financially, emotionally, and

A Leader in Career

College-to-career innovator Dave Merry
takes the helm at Suffolk’s Center for Career
Education and Professional Development
Story by Magazine Staff


ave Merry wants all Suffolk
students and graduates to have
the tools and confidence to control
their own lifelong career trajectories.
“People can go through careers passively,”
says Merry, an innovator in career education
who recently joined the University to
lead its reimagined and expanded career
development efforts. “I want students to
know that they have the support, resources,
and skills that they need to make the next
steps in their career paths and to be in
control of that journey.”
That is true for Suffolk alumni as well.
Building a career today is a lifelong process
that requires adaptability and flexibility as
well as continuous reinvestment in skills.
Alumni, Merry says, may need training
in a certain technology or opportunities
to improve public speaking, leadership
techniques, or other skills. Suffolk’s Center
for Career Education and Professional
Development will increasingly focus on
offering opportunities for certificates,
credentials, badges, and skills development.
“When our current students are alumni, we
want them to come back,” Merry says. “We
want them to come upskill with us as well.”

Merry joined Suffolk in July as associate
provost and executive director of the Center
for Career Education and Professional
Development. He brings experience on the
cutting edge of the college-to-career arena
and a vision that aligns with the career and
experiential learning goals set out in the
Suffolk 2025 strategic plan, including an
objective to become a national leader in
career education.
The University’s emphasis on integrating
career education throughout the student
experience is what drew Merry to Suffolk.
He sees Suffolk as becoming an institution
that others will look to for best practices in
building career readiness into every aspect
of a university education, from the classroom
to leadership involvement, service,
internships, and more.
Merry’s past experience includes
serving as founding director of cooperative
education for Northeastern’s College of
Science and a co-op education faculty
member. At Suffolk, Merry sees a faculty
and staff with remarkable enthusiasm for
making every experience meaningful and
a University community that is unified in
promoting student success. | Suffolk University Magazine


Around the Horn
Black Studies

A Milestone for

Black Studies
at Suffolk
25 years of fostering
understanding among all students
Story by Andrea Grant


hen Suffolk’s Black Alumni
Network gathered graduates,
students, faculty, and friends
last fall for the annual Celebration of Black
Excellence dinner, the members also
commemorated a special milestone in the
University’s history: the 25th anniversary
of the Black Studies program.
“The field focuses on the perspectives
and ways of knowing of Black
people—thinking, acting, creating,
building, and problem solving. We
wanted to encourage students from
any background to gain a fuller
understanding of themselves and the
world around them,” says founder and
program director Professor Robert

The program has enriched academic
and cultural life on campus through
a diverse array of courses and
programming, bringing renowned
poets, storytellers, musicians, writers,
educators, and performers to share their
viewpoints and talents. Partnerships with
historical sites—including a research and
internship collaboration into the history
of enslaved people at the Middleton Place
plantation in South Carolina—have given
students hands-on opportunities to
apply Black Studies perspectives to the
telling of American stories.
And to inspire the next generation,
Bellinger has welcomed Boston Public
Schools students into the classroom
to earn college credit as part of the

S A M FA I S A L , J D ’ 2 0 ,
is named a

2020 Law
School Student
of the Year
by National Jurist magazine for his service
and support for underrepresented students.


Suffolk University Magazine |

University’s dual-enrollment program.
“One of the ideas that is central to
Black Studies is that of the ‘activist
scholar,’ which is based on the idea
that knowledge is for the sake of your
community,” says Bellinger. “It’s not
just learning for the sake of learning, it’s
learning so you can use that knowledge
to shape the communities that you’re a
part of locally, nationally, and globally.”
The Suffolk University Black Alumni
Network was launched in 2018 thanks
to the vision of students and alumni,
including double Ram and trustee Ernst
Guerrier, BS ’91, JD ’94. The network
celebrates and serves current and future
Black alumni through events, mentoring,
philanthropy, and volunteerism.

with other
of the 2019
of Black
dinner, which
the 25th
anniversary of
Black Studies
at Suffolk.

“I am so pleased to help
deserving students follow
their dreams … Their stories
overwhelmed me.”
—Ed McDonnell, BSBA ’59, HDCS, ’84, whose gifts over 23 years have provided
students the opportunity to travel and understand the businesses and cultures of
other countries, preparing students to be global citizens.

Around the Horn

Fall 2020


Suffolk Polling
earns an


One of a handful of
polling centers to get that
grade from Nate Silver’s
FiveThirtyEight news blog,
acknowledging accuracy
and methodology for

Out of
This World
Madrid professors adapt a coveted
astronomy course to distance learning
Story by Kimberly Winter Stern

Photographs clockwise from top left: Fena Fenelon; NASA/SOFIA/E. Lopez-Rodriguez; NASA/Spitzer/J.
Moustakas et al., Image processing by AliAbbasiPov; courtesy of Silvia Salazar and Hristo Stoev (2)


Suffolk Law School is
recognized with the
Outstanding Law School
Diversity Outreach Award
by the Annual National
Black Pre-Law Conference
& Law Fair for the
increasing diversity of the
school’s student body.

of Suffolk student-athletes
achieve a spot on the
athletics director’s spring
2020 Honor Roll, with
232 Rams achieving a
3.0 or higher grade-point

he problem may have seemed
like the stuff of a feverish science
fiction writer’s imagination: Star
Trek meets Contagion, but two Suffolk
Madrid professors rose to the challenge.
To accommodate the constraints of a
global pandemic, Professors Maria Cruz
Gálvez and Hristo Stoev virtually recreated an astronomy learning adventure
that usually takes place at Mount Teide in
the Canary Islands, where an observatory
is perched atop the world’s third-tallest
volcanic structure.

Embracing the challenge to
reinvent the sought-after fournight lab that includes eye-popping
fieldwork and island exploration,
Gálvez and Stoev choreographed
rendezvous that afforded students
an unusual glimpse into the starry
Many students had dispersed from
the Madrid campus to quarantine
with their families. Instead of
boarding a plane to Tenerife, they
logged in from time zones around
the world, connecting to a robotic
telescope on the Canary Island of La
Palma. Stellarium, a planetarium
software that creates breathtaking 3D
simulations of the night sky, enabled
Gálvez and Stoev’s intrepid virtual
pioneers to travel where no Suffolk
University student had before, planetand moon-hopping from home.
The tool provided each student an
opportunity to pursue research.
“The access to this online program
allowed me to look at a black hole
thousands of light years away,” said
Mikayla Hopkins, Class of 2022.
“Whether it was the weather in the
Southern Hemisphere on the day
they were born or the path of an
asteroid going over Poland last week,
students got to use the tool to satisfy
their own interests,” she adds.

From top:
image of
the galaxy.
during a
2019 visit
to the Izaña
Mount Teide
on the island
of Tenerife. | Suffolk University Magazine


Point Suffolk

Keeping Up With the

Dow Joneses
Financial services alumni host finance undergraduates on a
two-day tour of the banking and wealth management industry
Story by Ben Hall


Suffolk University Magazine |

Launch Point Suffolk

Fall 2020

Finance Trip for Undergrads

Opposite page: Students capture a candid group selfie in Times Square. Above: Students and University President Marisa Kelly at the New York Stock Exchange.
Fearless Girl. Sydney Watson, Class of 2021. Alumnus Bob Panessiti, MSF ’98, who planned and funded the trip, joins students for the experience.

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke


ucked in a corner of the gilded Board
Room at the New York Stock Exchange is
a giant Fabergé urn emblazoned with the
crest of Tsar Nicholas II. The urn and its pedestal
stand 6 feet tall—about the size of a well-fed
Cossack. The urn was a thank-you gift from the
Tsar to the NYSE for $1 billion in bonds (which
the Russian government later defaulted on).
For nine Suffolk undergraduates in the
finance program, the story of the urn was
just one of many ways their major came alive
during a trip to New York City. Over two days in
early March, the students met with numerous
industry leaders, many of whom are Suffolk
The trip was conceived and funded by Bob
Panessiti, MSF ’98, senior vice president of
wealth management at UBS, one of the largest
investment banks in the world. A dedicated
Suffolk alumnus, Panessiti understands
there are some things you just can’t learn in a
“I wanted to show the students the various
opportunities available in this industry and help
them decide how they want to move forward as
they begin their professional lives,” he says.
At Morgan Stanley, Marek Herchel, BSBA ’98,
MSF ’00, and Pat Langone, BSBA ’99, advised
the students to take early risks while building
their careers.
At UBS, Panessiti and Global Head of Due
Diligence Desi Narasimhan, MSF ’98, introduced
four younger UBS colleagues who showed just
how attainable a career in finance can be.

“It was
for myself
as a Black
woman to see
a powerful
female figure
on Wall
—Sydney Watson,
Class of 2021

“As a senior, I found it incredibly useful to
understand the different roles I might have in
a long-term career path,” said Jai Patel, BSBA
’20, who made the networking score of the trip:
When the UBS human resources person invited
the students to apply for a rotational program, he
handed her his resume on the spot.
The students also visited the capital markets
division of RBC to meet Michelle Neal, BSBA ’98,
who has twice been recognized as one of American
Banker’s 25 most powerful women in finance.
She and her colleagues expounded on topics as
varied as how Washington should respond to the
coronavirus crisis, then in its early stages in the
United States, to how to approach a job interview.
With the help of David Mazza, MBA ’15, the
students witnessed the closing bell from the floor
of the Exchange. They also visited Fearless Girl,
the iconic sculpture that depicts a young female
aiming a confident, almost “I dare you” expression
at the New York Stock Exchange building.
“For me, Fearless Girl is a representation of
women occupying a highly concentrated male
space. It was particularly empowering for myself as
a Black woman to see a powerful female figure on
Wall Street,” said Sydney Watson, Class of 2021, one
of four women on the trip.
For Watson and others, another big takeaway
was networking with so many Suffolk alumni who
have such important and varied roles in finance.
“Hearing from people in different parts of
the industry was very beneficial to all of us,”
says Watson. “It made me want to go figure out
what else I could do with my finance degree.” | Suffolk University Magazine


Launch Point Suffolk
Sawyer Business School New Dean


on the Move
New Sawyer
Business School
Dean Amy Zeng
brings a penchant
for partnerships and
project-based learning
Story by Ben Hall


Suffolk University Magazine |


here’s getting out into the
community and there’s getting out into
the community.
As the new dean of the Sawyer Business
School, Amy Zeng wants to do both, starting
on the Boston Common and extending into
the business community.
“I grew up in Beijing. I love big cities, and
I enjoy walking,” Zeng says. “I plan to have
meetings with people while walking on the
Boston Common, especially for one-on-one
That focus on building connections was
a key component of Zeng’s tenure at the
University of Hartford, where she was dean
of the Barney School of Business before
joining Suffolk in July. She succeeded
William J. O’Neill, Jr., who stepped down
after elevating the Business School to new
levels of excellence over almost two decades
of leadership.
Zeng brings to Suffolk a passion for
experience-based learning, which is
central to the Sawyer educational approach.
“Experiential learning is really a way to
bridge the classroom with the real world. The
Sawyer Business School creates that bridge,
and great partners create meaningful

opportunities and long-lasting impacts for
students,” Zeng says.
Zeng has a history of developing industry
and community ties that create learning and
career opportunities for students. At Hartford,
she helped establish dozens of partnerships
with companies, professional organizations,
and educational institutions. She says Suffolk’s
location creates abundant opportunities
to collaborate with the business and other
communities. “It’s a huge advantage.”
Zeng is an accomplished educator and
a recognized scholar in the fields of supply
chain management and global logistics. She
loves working across disciplines with people
from all kinds of technical and academic
backgrounds and cultures. Her own
educational background combines business
and engineering.
Zeng also hopes to expand the Business
School’s focus on service-learning and
social entrepreneurship. That’s particularly
important, she says, with the challenges small
businesses, nonprofits, and others are facing
because of the pandemic. “I think this is a great
opportunity for the Business School to be a part
of that effort to help those organizations recover
and deal with challenges.”

Launch Point Suffolk

Fall 2020

One Court Street

An Investment In the

Historic Ames Building becomes
newest residence hall

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke

Story by Greg Gatlin


he Ames Building at One
Court Street is one of the
more historic buildings
in all of Boston. It’s also Suffolk
University’s newest residence hall,
where students can experience
all that Boston has to offer in the
heart of one of the city’s most vital
Talk about the hub of the
universe. Place a pin on a map of
Boston’s most-central downtown
location and there is One Court
Street, an architectural gem at
the nexus of State, Court, and
Washington streets. The iconic
building most recently operated
as a boutique hotel before Suffolk
bought it in September 2019.
Suffolk President Marisa Kelly
calls the new residence hall “an
investment in the future of our
students and the University
and a signal of our enduring
commitment to this city.”
One Court Street looks out at the
Old State House and is steps from
City Hall, Faneuil Hall, the Financial
District, all of the city’s subway lines,
and key University buildings. It has
instantly become a centerpiece of
Suffolk’s urban campus.
Completed in 1893, the Ames
Building lays claim to being
Boston’s first skyscraper. The
14-story Romanesque structure
was at the time the tallest masonry
building constructed in the United
States. To walk into One Court
Street is to walk into history.
“You instantly feel the historic
character,” says Shigeo Iwamiya,
Suffolk’s director of Residence
Life and Housing. “It feels like
you are walking into something
very significant—a historical
landmark, quite literally. Even the
staircases feel like they are full of
Boston history.”
That historic character blends
with the modern flair of a former
boutique hotel, renovated in 2017.

Exterior and interior views of One
Court Street, a former hotel turned
Suffolk’s newest residence hall.

Lending itself to coronavirus
planning, each of the 112 residential
rooms, which in time will
accommodate up to 300 students,
has its own bathroom. They
also have high ceilings and jawdropping views through cathedral
windows that look out onto the
city. A new, publicly accessible
restaurant and café with outdoor
patio will enliven the streetscape,
and the building provides a
multipurpose student lounge and
conference room space.
The building, which started as
the headquarters for the Ames
family agricultural tool business,
has long been a part of the city’s
commercial history. State Street
was once the only road that
connected the Shawmut Peninsula
with the mainland and the only
route to move goods to and from
Boston Harbor. As today’s students
walk out of One Court Street’s front
door they will walk into all that
history and commercial vibrancy,
in the center of one of the world’s
greatest learning capitals. | Suffolk University Magazine


Launch Point Suffolk
Creativity & Innovation

at Work
First-year creativity courses give
students a competitive edge
Story by Nancy Kelleher


rtificial intelligence and
automation have been
injecting uncertainty into
employment projections for years.
But Suffolk students are building
the skills that will continue to be in
demand as the job market evolves.
Innovation course, required of all
Suffolk undergraduates, helps lay the
foundation by challenging students
to take intellectual risks and seize
intriguing learning experiences.
Suffolk offers Creativity & Innovation
classes in 20 disciplines, all aimed at
instilling flexibility in thinking so
that students will explore new ideas
without the fear of failure.
These courses allow students
to take a deep dive into areas
closely aligned with their personal


interests. Students in the highly
immersive, hands-on courses
“solve problems on their feet,”
says Marilyn Plotkins, chair of the
Theatre Department and cochair
of the Creativity & Innovation
Steering Committee. “What’s so
great about their not being lecturebased is that they require solving
problems in teams.”
Indira Ortiz Santana was enthused
about her Creative Writing and
Literacy class right from the start: “I
thought: I can be creative and have
fun and just be myself.”
writing course with Professor Wyatt
Bonikowski incorporated servicelearning through a tutoring program
with 826 Boston, a nonprofit that
helps youths write and publish work.

Suffolk University Magazine |

With the advent of remote learning
during the spring semester, the
Suffolk students replaced a planned
in-person project with the 826 Boston
youngsters, instead meeting through
Zoom for a storytelling session with
the prompt: What would it be like
to bring home an animal from the
nearby Franklin Park Zoo?
Immersion in creative projects
gave Ortiz Santana confidence.
“Professor Bonikowski really
helped us be better writers and
thinkers,” she says. “Coming up
with something to write in a journal
was hard for me. Now I’m more
expressive. I’m writing poems and
drawing. I actually kept going with
my journal this summer. I open the
window and write about what I see

The Creativity
& Innovation
Chemistry is
games such
as Pollution
Gaming taps
into the part of
the brain where
students retain
Opposite page:
Thieringer visits
with a student.

Fall 2020

Launch Point Suffolk

Creativity & Innovation

Preparing for jobs of the future
Business owners know that unpredictable events in the
environment, medicine, society, politics, and the economy will
occur with greater frequency in the coming decade, according to
Dave Merry, associate provost and executive director of Suffolk’s
Center for Career Education and Professional Development.
“They are looking to bring people into their organizations
who can develop and implement creative solutions that will
help companies to survive, and perhaps to thrive, through those
unexpected challenges,” he says. “In fact, LinkedIn has listed
‘creativity’ as its top soft skill in both 2019 and 2020.”
In the Entrepreneur’s Cocktail course, Shirley Dang, Class
of 2023, and her team created a virtual company and launched
products, discovering in the process “that it’s OK to ask for
help and that nobody needs to be perfect and do everything
Stephan Thieringer, a Sawyer Business School professor
and creator of the course, taps into principles inherent to
entrepreneurism through his lessons. “My course is really an
invitation to think about who
you are and what’s aligned
between your gut, your heart,
and your brain,” he says.
The Creativity & Innovation
courses provide inspiration
for students and instructors,
says George Moker, the
Carol Sawyer Parks Chair
in Entrepreneurial Studies
and cochair of the Creativity
—Dave Merry, Associate Provost
“Faculty love it because
and Executive Director of
Suffolk’s Center for Career
they can present challenges
Education and Professional
to their students and serve
as coaches,” Moker says.
“Students love it because
they choose a topic that interests them, and they’re aware that
there’s something different about the course—a playfulness about
it, but with high expectations.”
As the coronavirus has battered the world economy, leading to
dire unemployment reports, organizations that have navigated
the pandemic successfully were able to quickly adapt to this
novel situation with innovative solutions, says Merry. So while
machines could sort coronavirus data, and AI could be used to run
assembly lines producing protective clothing, human intelligence
was required to adapt automobile plants for manufacture of
respirator parts and convert fashion house couture lines for
surgical mask production.
“We are differentiating the human from the machine,” Moker
says. “AI is based on probability, while the human brain is based
on survival. We become most creative and innovative when we
are trying to survive.”

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke (2)

has listed
‘creativity’ as
its top soft skill
in both 2019
and 2020.”

Creative Course Catalog
Creativity & Innovation
courses teach skills
including adaptability,
resilience, thinking
outside the box, problemsolving, and the ability to
communicate effectively in
a team.
A sample of these skillbuilding courses are:
The Open-Hearted
Students put themselves in
the shoes of earlier peoples
to understand their lives
from their perspectives.
Think Small:
Change the World
Students design
nanostructures and
nanomachines using inhouse computational and
experimental tools.

The Design of
By exploring a selection
of genius personalities—
from Newton to
discover the process
of design and follow
through with hands-on
group creative projects.
Creating the
Dream Team
Students learn the
value of collaboration
for meeting business
Sustainability, Energy,
and Technology at
Suffolk University
Students in the projectand team-based course
spend the semester
developing proposals to
address a sustainability
issue on campus. | Suffolk University Magazine




A promising young researcher collaborates
with faculty to map risk factors for incarceration
Story by Andrea Grant


o what degree does where you’re
from determine who you’ll become?
Suffolk University junior Brianna
Franklin is collaborating with faculty on an
ambitious research project that will combine
incarceration data, potential risk factors,
and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
mapping to try to determine any relationship.
“In my family a lot of people have been in
trouble with the law,” says Franklin, Class
of 2022, a sociology and psychology double
major from Leominster, Massachusetts.
“My father was so smart and had so much
potential, but housing was a challenge, and
he was in and out of shelters. I feel like that
kind of lack of opportunity is one of the main
things that drives people to crime.”
As a first-year student, she wrote about her
developing interest in research and her desire
to make a difference. Her professor read it
and recommended Franklin to Sociology
Department Chair Erika Gebo, who saw a
perfect opportunity to connect a promising
student with an incoming faculty member.
Mentor in the making
Lucius Couloute was an undergraduate
studying economics when the killing of
Trayvon Martin shook the nation and
catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Trying to make sense of that, I read The
Autobiography of Malcolm X and learned more
about society’s inequalities. I could see
those disparities at work in the Hartford,
Connecticut, area where I grew up,” says
Couloute, assistant professor of sociology.


Suffolk University Magazine |

He turned to sociology as a way to
understand—and, he hoped, help lessen—
racism and economic inequality. His
research on the complex relationships
among race, poverty, and incarceration
is yielding data that he hopes will help
change the way society looks at crime,
focusing less on punishment and more on
prevention through social interventions.
When Couloute joined the Suffolk faculty
in 2019, Gebo recommended Franklin as
his research assistant. Franklin read up on
Couloute’s work.
“He has written papers for the Prison
Policy Initiative,” she says, referring to
the Massachusetts-based criminal justice
policy think tank. “I thought that was really
cool because I didn’t even know there was
an organization that tries to promote
preventive policies.”
Franklin began by compiling and
summarizing articles for Couloute. Now
she’s helping him sift through dozens
of qualitative interviews conducted
with formerly incarcerated men. She
is fascinated by some of the responses,
particularly when subjects talk about what
they believe led them into trouble.
“Some people think the flawed system
is the main reason they ended up in
prison, but others believe they are solely
responsible for their own bad decisions,”
she says.
Couloute and Franklin’s next project
will use quantitative data to explore which
camp is (more) correct.

Brianna Franklin, Class
of 2022, serves as a
research assistant on
a project that shows
the relationships
among race, poverty,
and incarceration in

Mapping a complex problem
Franklin is helping parse data from the
Connecticut Department of Correction, the
U.S. Census Bureau, and other government
repositories to break down incarceration rates and
potential correlated factors—such as education
level and poverty rate—by municipality.
Combining the data with GIS mapping will
help show “which factors are actually the most
critical to crime in Connecticut,” says Michael
Acheampong, a professor in Suffolk’s Center for
Urban Ecology and Sustainability, who is applying
his expertise in data and mapping to the research.
“We have an overlap in our goal to ultimately
inform policy,” says Couloute. “We are excited to
see where the data takes us.”
Franklin says that the way Couloute and
Acheampong are presenting their data will help
visual learners grasp the correlations immediately.
“Even though I don’t really know any areas of
Connecticut, I can look at the map and understand
right away where the problem areas are. I don’t
need to sort through the numbers to understand
really what’s going on,” she says.
Acheampong agrees.

Creating Access

Revealing Research

Meeting of the Minds

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke, Courtesy of Lucius Couloute (2)

“By the end of this project, we will have a visual that
tells the story.”
Making her way
Working with Couloute and Acheampong has given
Franklin a new plan for her future, one where she can
envision continuing the meaningful research she loves.
“I knew that lab scientists get grants to do projects.
But before I worked with Professor Couloute I didn’t
know there was a viable path for sociologists, too. This
project has opened my mind to new possibilities for
me,” she says.
For Couloute, mentoring Franklin is an opportunity
to pay forward all the advice and encouragement he
received during his own academic career.
“Our students are smart; they’re dynamic, curious,
and they’re excited to learn. Brianna is a brilliant young
scholar who has helped us move forward with our
project while she gains hands-on experience working
with data and building a research project from the
ground up.
“Michael, Brianna, and myself were strangers before
the fall of 2019. Today we are a small but awesome team
working on important social research with direct policy
implications,” says Couloute.

When Lucius Couloute and Michael Acheampong met last
summer at a new-faculty mixer, they realized they could build a
bridge between their disciplines and decided to combine their
While Couloute’s upbringing near Hartford sparked his
interest in the sociology of crime and incarceration, Acheampong
embraced technology as a way to help his fellow Ghanaians
protect their natural resources.
Acheampong was a collegian when oil was discovered in
Ghana in 2007, bringing great wealth to parts of the country.
Now his research examines the true cost of that development to
traditional livelihoods and lifestyles—and to the environment.
Using GIS mapping, Acheampong tracks land use changes to
show how oil drilling competes with existing agricultural activity
and affects water resources that support rural Ghanaians. His
work also shines a light on the environmental impacts of turning
forests and farmlands into concrete jungles, such as increased
flooding and groundwater contamination. He overlays data onto
detailed digital maps, then digs deeper through a process called
“ground truthing” by venturing into remote areas to speak with
rural farmers and chiefs. The end result is a compelling datadriven narrative that helps give average citizens a voice as the
country considers further development.
This map below, which combines Couloute’s data using
Acheampong’s GIS mapping approach, illustrates differing levels
of incarceration rates across Connecticut; cities with higher
incarceration rates
are in orange and red,
those with average
incarceration rates are
in yellow, and those
with below-average
incarceration rates are
in green. | Suffolk University Magazine


Creating Access

Fall 2020

Racial Equity

Shawn Newton
Sows Seeds of Change
Associate dean of students addresses inequality in his own community
Interview conducted by Andrea Grant


he killing of George
Floyd by Minneapolis
spring ignited protests across
the country and spurred many
Americans to acknowledge and
confront the structural racism
and inequality embedded within
their communities.
Associate Dean of Students
Shawn Newton discusses how he
is helping people in his own city—
Salem, Massachusetts—address
this complex issue.


Q: You’ve recently been
appointed chair of the Race
Equity Task Force in Salem,
with the goal of improving
racial equity in all aspects of
Salem life, from policies to
services to the police force. How
do you begin to address such
complex issues?
A: If race equity was something
that was easy to achieve, it would
have been done a long time ago. It
took real leadership for our mayor
to call this group together to
acknowledge there are problems
and commit to addressing them.
My job is to harness the
expertise of the community
and not necessarily to give all
the answers. I believe I have
some. But the task belongs to
all of us, so my responsibility
is to make sure everyone has
a voice and that people who
are in a position to make change
can exercise their voices to do
just that. Then we can jump into
the weeds and really try to make
Salem a better community for
everyone living, visiting, or
going to school here.

Suffolk University Magazine |

Q: Salem is infamous in
history for the intolerance of
its witch trials in 1692. Can
you talk about the challenges
of addressing centuries of
exclusionary systems?
A: I think Salem is probably no
different from anywhere else.
We’re known for the witch trials,
but a lot of other cities and towns
have been equally involved in
creating systems that may not
have been equitable to everyone.
The challenge is really trying to
reimagine the institutions that
impact people.
Q: Can you give an example of
the kinds of structural inequity
that need to be addressed?
A: There’s an old story about
a young child fishing with his
parent. The child notices a dead
fish in the water. A couple of
hours go by, and they start to see
another one, and another one,
and another one. The parent says,
“I wonder what’s wrong with all
the fish?” But in the child’s infinite
wisdom, he says, “I wonder what’s
wrong with the water?”
Trying to address an issue like
racism, often we’re looking at the
individual rather than looking at
a much larger system.
For example, the educational
system was not created for the
rich diversity of learners that we
have in higher education today.

When you have a system that
hasn’t been tweaked and fully
adjusted to meet the needs of the
new students that are coming in,
you’re going to have problems.
If you look at data and see that a
particular group hasn’t had the
same graduation rate as their
peers for 30 years, at that point
it’s clear that the issue isn’t an
individual student or a handful
of students. There’s a structural
and institutional problem that we
need to fix.
Q: Why is it so important
to get involved in your own
community? What are some
ways others can contribute to
this work?
A: We’re all interconnected.
We don’t have real boundaries
around our communities. Suffolk
students, for example, build
bonds in Boston and then stretch
them out across the world. We
want to live in places where we’re
respectful to one another and can
have healthy conversations about
making our cities and towns
better. There is no overnight
quick fix for institutional
racism. You really have to plant
seeds to make cultural change,
then nurture them and do the
weeding. Addressing issues like
this is going to be messy, but if we
stick with it we can make lasting
positive changes.

Creating Access

Legal Application

Juvenile defenders access sentencing alternatives
through app alumna developed as a student

In her third year, Siino was taking classes
in the Law School’s Legal Innovation and
Technology, or LIT, concentration and
serving as an innovation fellow in the
Juvenile Defender Clinic. That meant she
needed to marry her interest in juvenile
defense with some kind of practical tech,
data, or process improvement to help the
clinic work better.
She turned to David Colarusso, clinical
fellow and director of the LIT Lab. With
Colarusso’s guidance, she built a rough
version of the app that she shared with
students, attorneys, and social workers.
They offered tweaks and applause.
Siino’s experience is one shared by many
other tech and innovation students at the
Law School. Like her, they faced their fear
of coding and turned to Suffolk faculty and
staff for guidance. They, too, built apps to
walk people step-by-step through practical
needs such as writing and printing a
consumer protection letter or creating a
parenting plan for divorcing couples.

Story By Michael Fisch

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke


efense attorneys, especially when
they’re handling low-level offenses
like small-quantity drug possession
and petty theft, often ask judges to divert
their clients into social programs—from
treatment for drug use disorders to group
therapy—so they avoid the scarlet letter of a
criminal record.
They do that in part because the effects
of a criminal record can be so far-reaching:
ineligibility for college scholarships
or financial aid, lost opportunities for
employment, and denials for private and
public housing.
While working in Suffolk’s Juvenile
Defender Clinic, Nicole Siino, JD ’18, saw
how difficult it was to quickly find her
clients a spot in treatment or job programs
before they were arraigned—and her student
colleagues and public defenders shared the
same concern.
“I sat in court and listened to judges,
attorneys, and probation officers talk
about dozens of programs designed to
help juveniles succeed and discovered that

there was no master list of communitybased resources. No place to go to do a
comprehensive search where you could
learn about programs and determine if they
had openings,” she says.
The idea that young people would lose
an opportunity for professional help and a
shot at redemption largely because lawyers
and social workers didn’t have a basic web
resource seemed wrong.
So she built one.
Today, Massachusetts attorneys (and
anyone else, for that matter) can check the
app on their phones from a courtroom.
A thousand excuses
There could have been a thousand excuses
why Siino might never have undertaken
such an effort: the academic grind of law
school, potential bureaucratic hurdles
among service providers, lack of money and
technical resources to maintain a web app
after her graduation, and—one small hiccup—
she didn’t know how to build a web app.
So, how did she pull it off?

Asking the state to help
“One of the biggest challenges for law
students’ tech projects is how you keep the
project running after you finish school,”
Siino says. As an American Bar Association
Center for Innovation NextGen Fellow, Siino
was able to attend many conferences at
Suffolk following graduation, allowing her
to continue to work on and upgrade her app.
In 2019, Siino presented her app at
Suffolk’s LITCon—a gathering for socially
minded techies, government employees,
academics, and legal tech entrepreneurs
who want to increase access to justice. After
hearing Siino’s talk, a leader at the state’s
public defender office showed interest
in joining forces and increasing the app’s
reach beyond Boston. The public defenders
office is working with the Law School on a
formal agreement. Meanwhile, Project
Tubman, an organization working on an
artificial intelligence public defender tool,
is providing ongoing technical support.
“If you think about the impact of avoiding
a criminal record, it’s monumental,” says
Colarusso. “Nicole was willing to take a
creative approach, learn a new skill, and
never gave up along the way.” | Suffolk University Magazine


Creating Access

Fall 2020

Samia + Miller Scholars

Scholarships Open Doors
Samia and Miller scholars share how donor
generosity makes college journey possible
Interviews conducted by Jennifer Becker


wo scholarship programs established
through remarkable acts of generosity
have transformed the lives of
hundreds of Suffolk University students. The
Bert J. Samia and Nathan R. Miller scholars
programs support and empower motivated
students showing academic promise and
financial need who might not otherwise be
able to attend Suffolk.
Leonard J. Samia, BSBA ’69, established
the Bert J. Samia Memorial Centennial
Scholarship Fund in his father’s honor. This
scholarship for students is funded by his
historic $10 million gift to the University.
Samia Scholars enjoy the opportunity to meet
with their benefactor each semester.
Suffolk University Magazine spoke with a few of
the students whose educations and lives have
been indelibly changed by these scholarships.


Suffolk University Magazine |

“Being a Samia
Scholar has pushed me
to commit to a whole
new level of academic
success, which has,
in turn, helped me to
better all other aspects
of my life.”
—Cheryl Aikins, Class of 2023 and a Bert J.
Samia Memorial Scholarship recipient

Above and at left, Suffolk University
celebrates Leonard J. Samia and
family at the naming celebration and
dedication ceremony for the Leonard
J. Samia Academic Center.

Creating Access

Fall 2020

Samia + Miller Scholars

Jocelyn De Paz

Biology Major, Health Careers Concentration/Women’s & Gender Studies Minor,
Class of 2022
I honestly cried when I found out I was a Samia Scholar. During my junior year in
high school, my younger brother was diagnosed with cancer. He was in treatment
for about a year, so my parents no longer had the funds for my schooling. The entire
financial burden fell into my hands ... Mr. Samia helped me step foot onto campus as a
first-generation student.
I want to get as much education as possible to be a women’s health advocate. [She
wants to become an obstetrician/gynecologist or practice family medicine.] It would
be amazing if I could utilize my knowledge to help women in my community and all
around the world. This is the reason I declared my minor in women and gender studies.
I find it important to not just focus on being a doctor but also becoming a voice for
social justice. For me, it is truly about helping as many people as possible.


Photographs clockwise: Michael J Clarke, courtesy of students, Michael J Clarke (2)

David Fernandez

Trevor Rafferty

Cheryl Aikins

Global Business Major,
Class of 2023

Politics, Philosophy and Economics
Major, Class of 2022

Finance Major/Business Law Minor,
Class of 2023

I am from Leon, Nicaragua. I finished
my last semester of high school
online after I moved to Woburn
due to social-political problems in
Nicaragua. Since I was a kid, one of
my dreams has been to study in the
United States. ... I am very interested
in learning how business works
around the world, and I would like
to work at Walmart headquarters.
After all, it’s the biggest international
company, and I could have the
opportunity to work in different

I have always dreamed of being in
a career where I could help people.
… I thought that being a public
defender, or another type of lawyer,
would be a really great career for
me, and Suffolk has such a great
history of developing politically
conscious students.

I wanted to attend Suffolk but was
worried about how my family and
I would cover the costs. The Samia
Scholarship eased my troubles and
financial restrictions. I cannot thank
the Samia family enough for that.

Living in the center of Boston is the
most incredible thing that has ever
happened to me ... with my Samia
Scholarship, I was able to live in
Smith Hall—where I met most of my
close friends—and live the college life.

Mr. Samia’s continued generosity
has made it possible for me to
come here in the first place, and to
stay enrolled.
It has been a rewarding experience
for me to be an RA here; I have met
a lot of people and refined my skill
as a leader, and I learned how to
interact with people better. Also
being here for the Red Sox World
Series parade was unbelievable!

In my eyes, I was blessed with an
incredible opportunity to attend
Suffolk. I love Suffolk because it
is an institution that promotes
diversity and inclusion at all levels.
I would like to become a civil rights
attorney in the near future. I believe
my degree in finance will also aid
me greatly if I ever decide to open
up my own law firm or business.
The only way to pay it forward is to
do my best academically.
Continued on page 26 | Suffolk University Magazine


Creating Access

Fall 2020

Samia + Miller Scholars


he Miller Scholars program,
philanthropist Nathan R. Miller,
HDCS ’03, is focused on graduates of
Boston Public and public charter high
schools. Recipients attend monthly
seminars in their first year that increase
their awareness of University resources
promoting student success and commit
to a semester of community service.
support of educational values at Suffolk
University continues today through his
daughter and son-in-law, Barbara
and Peter Sidel.

Dahlia Elamin

Biology Major, Class of 2022
My Miller scholarship was the best news of my
life! I am the oldest sibling and the first to go
through the American college process in my
family, so it was very exciting.
The Miller Scholarship program helped me
connect with other Boston Public Schools
students [at Suffolk], which helped me fit in
better. That is one thing I was worried about. I
want to become a pediatrician. I even completed
my community service at MGH in the radiation
therapy center.


Nicole Oliveira

Diana Pena

Andrea Taylor

Psychology Major/Law Minor,
Class of 2021

Management Major/Public
Relations Minor, Class of 2022

Public Relations Major,
Class of 2021

The fact that I received the Nathan
R. Miller Scholarship allowed me to
further my education at Suffolk.

The Miller Scholars Program made
me feel more welcome.

I was born and raised in Pordenone,
a small town in Italy. As an
international student whose first
language isn’t English, it’s hard
sometimes to share your opinion
because you’re a little afraid others
will judge you. Being with my fellow
scholars has made me feel much
more confident. The Nathan R.
Miller Scholarship has helped me
find my voice at Suffolk and shown
me that my opinions and thoughts
do matter.

I have been very interested in law
since about sixth grade. There
are so many paths and so many
different types of careers you can
have within it—so many different
opportunities to help people. I
had planned to go to law school
immediately after graduating from
Suffolk. I have now decided that I
would like to take at least a year off
and work as a paralegal. In fact, I
am currently taking courses to earn
Suffolk’s paralegal certificate and
am on track to complete it at the
same time as my degree.


Suffolk University Magazine |

I bonded really well with one of
the advising coaches, Lani Varga.
She helped me plan out the rest of
my years and helped me choose a
At first, I was super nervous,
and didn’t want to participate in
anything right away.
But I pushed myself and joined
four clubs—the Commuter Student
Council, Caribbean Students
Network, Black Student Union, and
Pasión Latina. I even ended up on
the e-board for Pasión Latina, which
made me feel super accomplished.

Being part of the Nathan R. Miller
Scholars program has made me
believe more in myself and made
me feel that other people believe
in me. Because of that, I don’t want
to let them down. So, I push myself
every day as hard as I can.


Photographs from left: Courtesy of students, Courtesy of Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Courtesy of Thomas O’Connor

Recent alumnus using lab
skills to detect coronavirus
Story by Andrea Grant

A lab at the Broad
Institute, similar
to the one where
Thomas O’Connor,
below, BS ’20, is
currently working
on test samples of


very four days a clinician carefully observes Thomas
O’Connor as he tests himself for the coronavirus.
Then O’Connor changes gloves. He puts on a disposable
gown, slips booties over his shoes. Next comes a mask, protective
eyewear, and one final layer of gloves. Even his phone gets a special
covering. He’ll wear this PPE for up to 12 hours a shift as he tests
hundreds, sometimes thousands, of samples for COVID-19—
painstaking and critical work in the fight against the pandemic.
Just a few months ago O’Connor, BS ’20, was finishing up his
biology program at Suffolk and preparing to move to Dublin for a
graduate program in molecular medicine. The global health crisis
put those plans on hold.
Now he is part of a growing team using a technique called reverse
transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to test samples for
COVID-19 at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. It’s a process
he first learned in Suffolk Professor Celeste Peterson’s Molecular
Genetics course and then honed over two years while working in her
research lab.
“This is so gratifying,” he says. “I can use the skills I learned at
Suffolk and contribute to the pandemic efforts in a positive way.”
As O’Connor copes with the uncertainty of pandemic life, his
work in the lab gives him both purpose and perspective.
“Every day when I come in there may be new automated
machines, a new room replacing a room that was torn down the
week before, or even new people joining the team to help us expand
and reach our full potential,” says O’Connor.
“Seeing all these changes makes me excited to come into work
the next day and makes me think, ‘All right, I’m ready for the next
thing that’s going to be thrown at me.’” | Suffolk University Magazine


Suffolk Impact

Fall 2020

Entrepreneur In Style

Lauren Nouchi builds an international
brand through fashion risk-taking
Story by Kara Baskin and Greg Gatlin


auren Nouchi was
selling her faux fur
coats with a Parisian
flair out of a Brooklyn, New
York, pop-up shop in early
2018 when a Bloomingdale’s
fashion director got word of
the brand.
Nouchi, BSBA ’13, and her
business partner tried to play
it cool. “We didn’t want to look


like we were fans,” says the
French-born designer and
fashion entrepreneur.
The Bloomingdale’s exec
bought two pieces of Nouchi’s
Apparis brand of vegan
affordable outerwear. And then
she decided she might like to
buy more—as in 5,000 pieces.
Nouchi recalls the fashion
director’s reaching out via

Suffolk University Magazine |

Instagram and writing: “Oh,
I love your coats. Where can I
find them? And are we going to
be able to see your collections
for next fall?”
The only problem, says
Nouchi: “We didn’t have a full
line. We just had two styles in
a few different colors.”
Nouchi quickly jumped into
design mode. Meanwhile, the

Bloomingdale’s inquiry brought a boost
of confidence at just the right time and
served as a turning point for Apparis.
Nouchi and business partner Amelie
Brick launched a covert operation to
reach every fashion buyer they could
think of from their tiny office.
“It was really a snowball effect,”
Nouchi says. Buyers began to call, and
never-ending lines formed at Apparis’
tiny, pink-wallpapered booth at
COTERIE, an industry-driving fashion
trade show in New York.
Today, Apparis is an international
brand sold in more than 500 stores.
If you’ve browsed Bloomingdale’s in
the past year, bright faux fur coats
or jaunty faux leather trenches from
Apparis might have caught your eye. At
29, Lauren Nouchi, a Suffolk alumni 10
Under 10 honoree for 2020-2021, has
collaborated with fashion icons such as
Diane von Furstenberg. Harper’s Bazaar
has called Apparis “the brand to watch.”
And Forbes magazine this year named
Nouchi to its 30 Under 30: Art & Style
list, noting that “she’s challenging the
fur industry with her vegan label.”
Apparis’ mission is to change the
way people consume fashion. The
company’s clothing exchanges what
Nouchi describes as toxic, unethical
animal farming for more conscious and
sustainable practices. From its design
process to the factories where materials
are sourced to the dyeing of fabrics,
Apparis is 100% vegan and cruelty free.
“When we really thought of the business,
we felt that we needed to do something
that would align with society and the way
we are evolving,” Nouchi says. “I just felt
this would be more meaningful than just
launching another fashion brand.”
Apparis is experimenting with fabrics
that feel like cashmere and wool but are
plant-based. She hopes to innovate with
alternative materials, such as mushroom
and pineapple leather, as well.
Apparis’ target consumers—young, welleducated, trend-conscious—generally try
to shop ethically. Nouchi says the brand’s

Suffolk Impact

Entrepreneur In Style

Photographs: Hot Thunderstorm Studio

Apparis, a vegan fashion line
created by alumna Lauren
Nouchi, includes colorful faux
fur coats, seen in the Fall/
Winter 2020 collection.

customers identify with the idea that vegan
fashion,” she says. She saw a missing
fashion, style, quality, and affordability can
niche: affordable, high-quality apparel
coexist. “The younger generation, they’re
like her parents mailed to her from
very opinionated,” she says. “They really
home (which she’d often resell for a
know what they want, and they want to be
fair price to friends who coveted her
more and more involved with brands.”
Nouchi grew up in Marseilles, France,
Following graduation she believed
the daughter of boutique owners who
she had landed her dream job as a
sold affordable women’s clothing. She
merchandiser at luxury brand Yves
loved attending buying meetings and
Saint Laurent in Paris. Yet, she longed
fashion shows, but she also was intrigued
for something more meaningful, where
by the logistical side of her parents’
she could express herself.
stores. Hoping to study business, she
She vented her frustration over wine
longed to perfect her English and go to
with Brick. A few glasses in, they decided
college in the United States. She moved
to launch Apparis.
across the Atlantic at 17 and eventually
“Most times, over wine, those ideas
made her way to Bunker Hill Community
don’t come to fruition,” she says,
College before transferring
laughing. “This one did.”
to Suffolk, where she
“We felt
majored in global business
risks are paying off.
that we
and marketing at the
The company recently
Sawyer Business School.
completed its first round
As an international
of seed funding, raising
to do
$3 million in an effort to
in a new city, her eyes
refocus strategy on directwere opened to new
that would to-consumer sales.
people, cultures, and
Nouchi says her Suffolk
align with
opportunities—all playing
a big part in personal
structure and a sense of
growth. “I learned a lot
deadlines, prioritization,
and the
about global business,
teamwork, and how to
but it’s really the human
best organize her work.
we are
experience that I feel
“All the team projects we
really made me more
had at Suffolk, especially
mature and independent
in the Business School, also
—Lauren Nouchi,
and fearless.”
helped me a lot with what
BSBA ’13
As it turns out, riskI’m doing in my career.
taking is in Nouchi’s DNA.
If I didn’t go to school as
She recalls Sawyer Business School
an international student at Suffolk, I
Executive-in-Residence David Hartstein,
honestly don’t think I would be able to
cofounder of KaBloom floral stores,
do what I am doing right now, which
asking students: “Who thinks they would
is leading a team of 15 people, running
be a good entrepreneur?”
my own [international] business, and
“I raised my hand, and he asked me
taking risks,” she says.
‘Why?’ And I told him, ‘I like to take
Taking those risks is what made
risks.’ And I do,” Nouchi says.
Apparis work.
While working at Boston’s Louis
“For anyone who’s really eager to
Vuitton store, Nouchi got a taste for
succeed or to actually build something,”
what clicked and what didn’t in U.S.
she says, “you have to go through things
fashion. “Clothing is either overpriced
that don’t work to make it work. And
for the quality or very affordable fast
that’s at least my story.” | Suffolk University Magazine


Suffolk Impact

Fall 2020

National News

Breana Pitts anchors national CBS
streaming news service during the
coronavirus crisis
Story by Ben Hall


At a moment’s notice, Breana
Pitts stepped onto the CBSN
anchor desk to cover national
news as the coronavirus was
breaking in March.


Suffolk University Magazine |

alf past 2 in the morning is a wretched time to wake up
for work.
But Breana Pitts, BA ’12, is used to starting her day
when other people her age—at least prior to the pandemic—are
just coming back from karaoke night at the Wild Rover.
That’s because for almost four years Pitts has been the traffic
and news reporter for the morning news broadcast on Boston’s
WBZ-TV. Getting into the office by 3:30 a.m. has become almost
routine. Drive to the studios from the South Shore. Do hair and
makeup. Keep an eye on how messed up the Expressway is getting.
Report 14 traffic updates throughout the morning until 7 a.m.
But on March 11, 2020, that whole routine changed.
Like an understudy on opening night when the star breaks a
leg, Pitts got the call … or in this case an email. It was from her
producer, saying that CBS headquarters in New York had been
shuttered overnight after two employees tested positive for the
coronavirus. That left the network unable to broadcast anything
from on site.
Pitts’ producer told her that, after finishing her local broadcast,
she’d start anchoring CBSN, the network’s 24-hour worldwide
streaming news service. Not just for Boston but for the whole country.
All morning long. Indefinitely.
Pitts was already familiar with CBSN. She’s been anchoring the 7-8
a.m. Boston feed since its launch in the fall of 2019. But like William
Hurt’s character Tom Grunick in Broadcast News, she was going national
during a major crisis.
Instead of anchoring stories about Tom Brady’s impending
free agency and breakdowns on the T, she would be on the
air interacting with White House correspondents, doing
talkbacks with financial experts on Wall Street, and juggling

Suffolk Impact

Fall 2020

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke, Courtesy of Breana Pitts.

National News

pressers from Governor Cuomo and
President Trump.
“My whole workflow completely
changed,” says Pitts of her time anchoring
the national desk. “It’s definitely been
a positive experience even though it
flipped my life upside down.”
Pitts didn’t come to Suffolk yearning
to be the next Christiane Amanpour. In
fact, the only reason she ended up in the
University’s TV studio in the first place was
because it had an open work-study position
and Pitts needed a job to maintain her
financial aid. But she quickly got interested
in what was happening in the studio and
started taking classes to learn how cameras
work and what journalists do.
“I fell in love with something I just
stumbled on,” recalls Pitts.
She started doing reports for “Suffolk
in the City,” a weekly segment on New
England Cable News. Broadcasting from
Suffolk’s Studio 73—the camera gets set
up right on Tremont Street—“Suffolk in
the City” has for 10 years given Suffolk
students on-air reporting experience.
Pitts still recalls getting “wicked nervous,
deer in the headlights” during her first
live segment for the show.
“I froze for a second, thinking, ‘I can’t
believe they’re letting me do this.’” says
Pitts. “I’m 21 and I have no idea what I’m
Despite the rocky first outing, Pitts
quickly caught the bug and ended up
majoring in broadcast journalism. After
graduation, she worked at a Boston TV
station and then landed a job at KTSMTV in El Paso, Texas, where she was a
multimedia journalist and on-air anchor.
Being in the “anything can happen”
environment of local TV newsrooms was
essential preparation for her new role
with CBSN.

“Once you do more and more live shots
and become more confident in yourself
as a journalist and how you write and
how you present, it becomes easier every
time,” says Pitts. “When they said I was
doing the national broadcast for CBSN,
it’s kind of like, ‘Let me throw on my hair
curlers and put in my eyelash extensions
and let’s do the damn thing.’ You don’t
have time to think about it too much. You
can’t be a planner,” Pitts laughs.
Pitts’ stepping up to handle the CBSN
national news was unexpected. But
it isn’t surprising, according to Jerry
Glendye, Suffolk TV Studio Manager,
who advised Pitts when she was a
student, helping her hone her skills and
develop her on-air talents.
“She’s made herself a jack-of-alltrades, and that’s why CBS trusts her,”
says Glendye. “She has the chops and
experience to do it.”
Back at the WBZ studios, Pitts has a few
minutes to check her email, grab a sip of
coffee, and chat with her producer. Then
it’s back on the air. Governor Cuomo has a
press conference in three minutes.

“Once you do more
and more live shots
and become
more confident
in yourself as a
journalist and how
you write and how
you present, it
becomes easier
every time,”
—Breana Pitts, BA ’12 | Suffolk University Magazine


t hits in waves without
As I go about my “new normal”
of Zoom check-ins with colleagues and
socially distanced rambles with my
toddler, out of nowhere come sudden
bursts of crippling anxiety for the future
of our country. And I know I’m not alone.
David Paleologos, director of the
Suffolk University Political Research
Center, has been conducting national


Suffolk University Magazine |

and state polls to measure fear
about voter safety, confidence in the
government response to the coronavirus
pandemic, and the overall direction of
the country. He says just looking at the
data gives him a “jolt.”
“You can almost feel the anxiety of the
respondents in the numbers because
people are so concerned about not only
their health but also the political future,”
says Paleologos.

When you see how the pandemic is
impacting politics as usual, it’s clear
that America has some preexisting
conditions. Hyper-polarization. Gridlock.
and distrust. These comorbidities seem to
have worsened over the years, weakening
our civic unity to a critical degree even
before the public health and economic
devastation of the coronavirus threatened
to wreak havoc on our body politic.

in a

Suffolk experts reflect on the crisis’ impact and
what the future holds for our political process.

Photograph: Jason Redmond/Getty Images

Story by Andrea Grant

Although there is a widespread perception
that American democracy is resilient, what
if everything changed in an instant? Could
almost 250 years of electoral and legislative
processes be upended by a global health
crisis and then rebuilt in a matter of months?
At Suffolk I regularly talk with faculty,
students, and alumni who study and work
in politics. I usually meet them during
moments of triumph and write about their
accomplishments. Now we discuss the sheer

weight and volume of the monumental
tasks they face as they adapt to, predict,
and shape our political future. Already,
politics in the pandemic have undergone
massive upheaval. The crisis is altering how
campaigns and elections are conducted, how
we engage in the political process, how we
share information, and even how we vote.
As the pandemic continues in the coming
months and as we emerge later, what will
our democracy look like?


As many people become accustomed to
conducting their lives from the confines of
their own homes, political campaign and
media strategist Roger Fisk, BA ’94, MSP
’00, wonders if they will return to the town
square when the pandemic is over.
Fisk is widely credited with campaign
strategies that led President Barack Obama
to electoral victories in 2008 and 2012. He
understands the power of social and digital | Suffolk University Magazine


“Virtual rallies are
like sporting events
without fans in the
seats—it’s better
than nothing, but
it’s not the same
—Ken Cosgrove, Suffolk Political Science
& Legal Studies Professor

City Council seat using grassroots tactics
they’d learned in Suffolk’s Campaign Lab
program and through a course called Ready,
Set, Run. They went door to door canvassing,


Suffolk University Magazine |

held meet-and-greets, and talked to voters
at countless community events. Those
personal interactions earned and energized
supporters and ultimately helped her
classmate win the race.
By late spring of this year Sandrin was
stationary in South Carolina, a campaign
manager for a congressional challenger
cut off from any face-to-face contact with
the public. She had a trunk full of printed
campaign literature but no in-person events
or battalion of volunteers to distribute it.
All candidates are contending with the
limitations of the pandemic, but they’re
hitting newcomers especially hard, says
Setti Warren JD ’07, the former mayor of
Newton, Massachusetts, who now serves as
the executive director of Harvard University’s
Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and
Public Policy.
“When I ran for mayor the first time, my
campaign and I knocked on 10,000 doors and
met people,” Warren said at a Ford Hall Forum
as part of a Suffolk University spring virtual
event. “People still come up to me today and
say, ‘I voted for you because you came to my
door.’ And I won my election by 469 votes. I
don’t know that I would have been able to win
that race if I couldn’t have gone physically
out to campaign at the local level.”
fundraising leverage, and access
to constituents—advantages in
any election year, but potentially
insurmountable for challengers
In response to the physical
traditional campaign events
and canvassing, candidates
have upped their use of digital
with their audiences through
platforms like Facebook Live or Zoom
town halls. But Sandrin points out
that those online communications and
conversations may exclude segments of the
population, including some people with low
incomes and others who may be less digitally
Before the pandemic, President Donald
Trump used large in-person rallies to
welcome all kinds of supporters and then
mined their information to build powerful
databases used in digital campaigning.

This year his campaign has struggled to hold
large-scale events, hampered by pandemic
fears, local public health regulations, and
fake registrations that make data collection
less useful. But the Trump campaign has
lost more than data that fed the campaign
machine, says Suffolk Political Science &
Legal Studies Professor Ken Cosgrove.
“Rallies provide ‘solidarity benefits’ by
energizing supporters. Attendees have a
positive experience; they feel like part of a
group; and they buy merchandise, which
increases viral marketing,” said Cosgrove, who
studies media use and marketing in politics.
“Virtual rallies are like sporting events without
fans in the seats—it’s better than nothing, but
it’s not the same experience.”
For candidates across the country this fall,
in-person interactions, or the lack thereof,
could make all the difference.


As comedian George Carlin wisely said,
“If you don’t vote, you lose your right to
If you’re not satisfied by the government
response to the pandemic—and a national
Suffolk poll released in May found that 50%
of people think the federal government is not
doing enough to help—or with the way your
state or local elected officials are representing
you on other issues, you have a chance to have
your say on Tuesday, November 3.
But will it be safe?
If the spring’s primaries were a dress
rehearsal for the nation’s pandemic
electoral process, a fiasco could be in store
for opening night.
Wisconsin was the first act.
The state’s chaotic primary in April took
place at the height of nationwide “safer at
home” initiatives and after an 11th-hour legal
battle and Supreme Court ruling overturned
the governor’s attempts to postpone the
election or extend absentee voting.
Crowds of voters in face masks waited
in long lines outside Wisconsin polling
stations. Warren of the Shorenstein Center
calls the Wisconsin precedent “really, really
troubling” for both voter participation
and safety, though studies are mixed as to
whether there was a meaningful increase in
COVID-19 cases.
“They didn’t have enough volunteers and
staff, so they had to eliminate locations for
voting, which meant they had huge numbers

Photographs clockwise from top left: Adobe, REUTERS/Andrew Kelly, REUTERS/Rachel Wisniewski, Adobe, REUTERS/POOL New,

media and used it masterfully to help Obama
connect with a wider, younger, and more
diverse audience. But even Fisk sees online
and mobile tools as mere enhancements
to a campaign—the core comes from
those “person-to-person, door-to-door
interactions” that provide opportunities to
share perspectives, change minds, and build
community bonds.
The pandemic, he says, is changing
our relationships with our neighbors and
with our communities. “There are fewer
opportunities for respectful disagreement
and possibly even persuasion,” he says.
“Maybe the person that you would have
bumped into on the way out of that town
meeting could have explained something to
you in a way that you wouldn’t have stumbled
on just online, and you could have walked
out of there significantly different than you
walked in.”
When I first met Clara Sandrin, BS/MS
’18, two years ago she had just helped a
classmate win a Brockton, Massachusetts,

Although there is a widespread
perception that American
democracy is resilient, what
if everything changed in an
instant? Could almost 250 years
of electoral and legislative
norms be upended by a global
health crisis and then rebuilt in
a matter of months? | Suffolk University Magazine


Silver Linings

Brendan Burke
Professor, Institute
for Public Service
“The pandemic got us to
slow down, and that gave
us time to think about the
value of family, community,
the environment. Since
then we’ve been immersed
in an urgent conversation
and deep soul-searching on
racism in America. Time
will tell if this moment of
reckoning on both issues
will lead to lasting change,
but I think there’s going to
be a shift.”

Sonia Alleyne, MPA ’01
Executive in Residence,
Institute for Public Service
“The pandemic has
uncovered that we have
a vast system of inequity
in this country. We were
able to mobilize quickly
to provide laptops to
kids, food to families, but
why couldn’t we do that
absent the pandemic? We
need to strengthen our
communities because you
never know when another
storm is approaching.”


Christina Kulich-Vamvakas
Instructor, Political Science
& Legal Studies
“The realization that many
jobs can be done remotely
should open paths to better
employment for people
with disabilities who need
accommodations. Remote,
project-based internship
programs could also be a
game changer for students
who don’t have the
ability to do a traditional
internship for a variety
of reasons: geographic
location, time/work
constraints, and the lack of
resources to take an unpaid

Jessica Finocchiaro,
MS/MPA ’13
City Councilor, Methuen,
“The best way to effect
change is to be a part of it.
That’s why I got involved
in government. I hope
people get involved, stay
involved, and assert their
opinions using the new
tools and platforms that
have been adopted during
the pandemic.”

Suffolk University Magazine |

of people waiting in line for hours,” says Warren. “Talk about
voter disenfranchisement. And the communities where there
were long lines are underserved communities.”
The Wisconsin primary debacle, like the pandemic itself,
exposed the underlying conditions that threaten to tear our
country apart, including partisan bickering, confusion, fear,
misinformation, and inequality. The latter is particularly
Voter disenfranchisement is as grave a threat to our country as
the pandemic. Every person deterred from casting a ballot is a
partner lost in our shared democracy and the rebuilding of our
damaged institutions.
The Wisconsin primary was not an isolated event. A similar
scene played out across Georgia in June, leaving election officials
there calling for investigations into long lines and delays.
To keep polling places open we need, among other things, a
new generation of well-trained helpers.
“What we’re up against right now is a poll worker base that
is dramatically older than the rest of the population, and those
people are not going to want to work on Election Day,” says
Suffolk Professor Rachael Cobb, Political Science and Legal
Studies chair, who is racing against the clock to make sure
polling places are ready.
Building on the efforts of the University Pollworkers Project
she started in 2006 to recruit and train students to serve at polls,
Cobb is designing an academic course to prepare student poll
workers and working with municipal election officials to design
new poll worker training materials that address social distancing
and disinfection practices.
Vote-by-mail seems like another obvious solution. It isn’t
a panacea—some voters need assistance or simply prefer to
vote in person, and there are costs for printing and postage to
consider—but Cobb believes it might be the best way to ensure a
free and fair 2020 election.
Red, blue, and purple states, including Colorado, Utah,
Washington, and Hawaii, conduct statewide elections by mail.
Others are looking to expand vote-by-mail capacity during the
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently signed into law
a voting reform package that expands vote-by-mail and lengthens

Photographs clockwise from top left: Michael J. Clarke (4), Courtesy of Jessica Finocchiaro, Michael J. Clarke

Left: Setti Warren JD ’07, former
mayor of Newton, Massachusetts,
serves as the executive director of
Harvard University’s Shorenstein
Center on Media, Politics and
Public Policy. Right: Rachael Cobb,
Suffolk professor and political
science and legal studies chair,
created the University Pollworkers

early in-person voting periods. The
new law reflects widespread support in
Massachusetts—74% of state residents
said they would favor conducting the
September primary and the November
general election by mail according to a
spring Suffolk poll.
While opponents raise the possibility
of voter fraud as a downside, evidence
from states that have conducted voteby-mail elections does not support
those fears, says Cobb. “There have been
a statistically insignificant number
of instances of fraud to date, and
safeguards in place mean when they do
happen, they are caught.”
The potential benefits, however, are
real, according to Cobb and others.
Instead of seeing an increase in
voter disenfranchisement due to the
pandemic, vote-by-mail could be an
opportunity to engage more voters. A
Suffolk University poll shows 65% of
Americans are in favor of this approach.
Mail-in voting supports access
to the democratic process for older
members of the population who may
be particularly vulnerable right now
because of the pandemic. And an
expansion of mail-in balloting could
help bring more “low-propensity”
voters like millennials into the process,
according to the National Conference of
State Legislatures. Voter turnout data
from states such as Utah show higher
rates of participation among younger
people and people of color in counties
with mail-in voting.
Warren adds that Americans need
to radically rethink the way we do

Politics Beyond
the Classroom

elections, noting that both parties have
won with vote-by-mail in states that
have used the method for years.
“As romantic as it is to get your cup of
coffee and go down to a polling place on
a cold Tuesday in November, it’s not the
best way to run elections, and we can do
better,” he says.


As Amercians grapple with the
logistics of the pandemic, state and
local politics never have seemed more
Governors have been the ones
coordinating closures, testing, and
tracing, and creating other pandemic
management programs. Public health
guidance and enforcement often are
delegated to individual municipalities.
Professor Brendan Burke says he’s
encouraged by the way many governors
have stepped up and in some cases
banded together across party lines
to negotiate contracts for essential
supplies and align reopening strategies
in the absence of a more-coordinated
federal response.
municipal leaders have maintained
a vitally important role—connecting
constituents to accurate scientific and
policy information as well as resources
to combat housing, food, and economic
Massachusetts State Senator Brendan
Crighton, MPA ’09, knows that some
view Lynn, Massachusetts, the largest
city in his district, as an “underdog”

This summer, more than 140 Suffolk University
students got a jumpstart on their academic
year by diving into the COVID-19 pandemic’s
enormous implications on democracy and
politics through an innovative and free online
course. The nine-week Politics in the Time
of Global Pandemic virtual series connected
students—many of them just starting their
Suffolk careers—not only with each other
but with experts, scholars, and public policy
leaders from around the country. They shared
explorations of the humanitarian crisis caused
by the pandemic, its impacts on social justice,
political partisanship, governing, elections,
information wars, and more.
The University’s Political Science and Legal
Studies Department teamed up with Suffolk’s
Ford Hall Forum and the WGBH Forum
Network to bring the online lecture series
to the outside world. WGBH produced the
moderated conversations, where students
posed questions to experts in immigration law,
national security, and voter protection. They
heard from legislative and political leaders,
scholars, and journalists, including Suffolk
County District Attorney Rachael Rollins;
political scientist Sarah Binder, a senior fellow
with the Brookings Institution; and Dara Lind,
who covers immigration policy for ProPublica.
Political Science Department Chair Rachael
Cobb describes the course as “super dynamic,”
in that it brought the discussion beyond the
classroom and to the broader public through
a shared experience. Hundreds logged in to
view the discussions.
“Because we were talking about things
happening right at that very moment with
people working on those things right at that
very moment, we were all feeling the urgency
of now,” Cobb says. New students immediately
got ideas about possible courses of study
or internships before their first semester
had officially even begun. “I think we have
proven that in an online setting you can build
community, engage ideas, and make people
feel something that is bigger than themselves,
even when we are all in our living and dining
rooms,” Cobb says. —Greg Gatlin | Suffolk University Magazine


contending with economic and social
challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.
Now more than ever, Lynn residents,
many of whom are essential workers,
need public servants who can work
together to protect their interests as the
country moves into post-pandemic life.
“In unprecedented times people
come together. We’ve been able to find
compromise on pretty complicated
issues so far,” he says. Crighton and
colleagues on both sides of the aisle
worked together alongside community
advocates to expand housing protections
and unemployment assistance during the
pandemic. They streamlined debates and
processes that normally take years into
targeted actions and reached consensus
in weeks.
When temperatures are running high,
it’s often local officials who have the
power to break the fever.
historically conservative pocket in a liberal
state, became a political battleground in
early May when Democratic Governor
Gavin Newsom singled out its beaches
for closure after images of crowds
seemingly disregarding social distancing
restrictions exploded in the media.
Megan Dutra, BS ’13, is a policy adviser
to Republican Orange County Supervisor
Lisa Bartlett. Dutra says that when the
beach closure threatened to turn a public
safety issue into a political one, Bartlett
worked with the governor’s office on
a compromise solution—lowering the
rhetorical temperature and opening the
beaches again for activities like surfing
and running that don’t encourage
stationary groups.
It’s up to our elected officials to have
these tough conversations and make
concessions, to risk their ideological
“purity” in pursuit of solutions. It’s a
concept Suffolk Public Administration
Professor Marc Holzer calls a “public
service orientation.”
At a time when some in power seem to
care more about protecting their careers
than serving their constituents, we can
still find examples of dedication to the
common good all around us. Holzer points
to a shift in attitudes toward and from
essential workers: “Health care workers,


Suffolk University Magazine |

but also people in the private sector like delivery
drivers and grocery store workers, are redefining
themselves in terms of a broader purpose.”
Perhaps this new sense of purpose is exactly what
we need to reignite interest in civic participation.


What if the pandemic is not an isolating force, but
an opportunity for increased civic engagement?
As rumors of an impending state shutdown
swirled mid-March, Jessica Finocchiaro, MS/MPA
’13, a Methuen, Massachusetts, city councilor,
drafted emergency resolutions to allow the council
to continue its work remotely and to provide more
opportunities for residents to be involved via
videoconferencing, email, and telephone as public
meetings moved online.
“We want to make sure we’re getting the public
feedback that we need during this difficult time
and being as transparent as possible,” she says,
noting that creating more options for remote
public participation actually has made local
government more accessible for some
In South Carolina, Sandrin and her
candidate paused fundraising and
campaigning in March and focused on
getting people the information they need
to be safe. Since volunteers cannot knock
on doors to raise awareness, they started a
phone bank to check in on seniors instead.
What might have been policy conversations a
few months ago are now personal as they make
sure residents have groceries, services, and in some
cases just simple human contact.
“Now when we talk to residents, the conversation
is less, ‘Hey, who are you voting for in November?’
and more, ‘This is a weird time. Are you doing OK?’”
says Sandrin.
The future, at least for a while, almost certainly
holds fewer chaotic in-person spectacles like the
Iowa caucuses. Maybe it looks more like small groups
of friends sipping cocktails on Zoom while watching
a town hall meeting or neighbors debating local
zoning ordinances on NextDoor. Perhaps in some
ways we’ll never go back.
Safeguarding the election and mending our civic
life will take bipartisan cooperation, but maybe
that’s not as impossible as it might seem to those of
us who have been spending more time on Twitter
than in the town square.
Fisk says that “ultimately, for all the noise that’s
made by the extremes, American civic life is largely
determined by folks between the 40-yard lines that
are either center left or center right.”

Right now, it is literally the folks between
the 40-yard lines who are giving us hope.
Public Administration Professor Burke
says his town once held a public forum on
its high school football field to accommodate
all the residents who wanted to weigh in on a
particularly important issue. Recently, we’ve
seen examples of cities and towns across the
country using the same strategy. The images
of neighbors in lawn chairs, waving to each
other from their 6-foot chalk circles as they
come together in common cause, show the
best of what a participatory democracy can
be, even in the most challenging times.

“In unprecedented
times people come
together. We’ve
been able to find
compromise on
pretty complicated
issues so far.”
—Brendan Crighton, MPA ’09,
Massachusetts State Senator

It’s comforting to remember that at its
most basic level our democracy is made up
of our neighbors. They deliver our mail,
teach our children, and care for our loved
ones in hospitals and nursing homes. They
give their time to serve on local committees
and volunteer at food pantries. Many are
struggling, and many more are stepping up
to help. Each one deserves to have their voice
heard and their vote cast—safely.
As I’ve talked with more than a dozen
Suffolk alumni, students, and faculty experts
one phrase has come up in every single
conversation: “We’re all in this together.”
I hope that resolve is what remains to drive
us forward after this moment of crisis (that
seems like decades) finally passes.

Suffolk University is driven to enable every one of our students
to harness their potential, seize meaningful opportunities, and
take actions that make a difference. It’s a purpose rooted in our
founding mission and one that doesn’t pause in times of crisis.
We also have a long tradition of innovation and adaptation to
meet the challenges of the moment. And the ability to adapt
has never been more crucial. We demand it of ourselves as
an institution as much as we cultivate it in our students.
While our day-to-day efforts evolve, our obligation to
shape a brighter future remains, unwavering. What
comes next is ours for the making.
Learn more at


Developer Tom O’Brien is changing the face of Boston
with a rare compassion and a community-minded approach
Story by Alyssa Giacobbe
Photographs by Faith Ninivaggi


Suffolk University Magazine |


Boston and stay for as long as it took to answer
every question. “I can’t say it’s always fun,
because there are tense moments,” he says.
“But getting to know people, listening to
them, it’s what I enjoy most about my career,
I suppose.”
O’Brien is one of Boston’s most prominent
developers, with a portfolio that includes
a hand in building, essentially from
scratch, some of the city’s most thriving
neighborhoods, including parts of East
Cambridge, Brighton, and the South
Boston waterfront. His development firm
is elevating Boston’s skyline with a major
redevelopment of the Government Center
Garage. And the upcoming redevelopment
of Suffolk Downs is set to transform 161 acres
of East Boston and Revere into a commercial
and residential complex that will include
5.2 million square feet of new office space
and hotels, two new retail squares, 10,000
apartments, including a significant amount
of affordable housing, and 40 acres of new
parkland. O’Brien’s team anticipates the
project will contribute to the creation of
some 14,000 new jobs. As of early September,

the project was moving toward a Boston
Planning & Development Agency board vote
at a planned Sept. 24 special hearing.
It is ambitious, complex, transformative
and represents everything O’Brien loves
about being a real estate developer.
“I would say if it’s big and complicated and
other people are shying away from it, then
it’s probably right for us,” he says of his HYM
Investment Group’s ideal endeavor, and
Suffolk Downs certainly qualifies.
Among urban developers, O’Brien is the
anti-bulldozer. He’s a bridge builder in a field
known for being competitive and cutthroat,
where victories are often earned by some
measure of force. He has earned a reputation
for his compassion and communitymindedness and has managed to succeed
without straying from the strong moral sense
instilled in him by his parents and reinforced
by his role as husband and father.
“Tom is a family-first person,” says Doug
Manz, HYM’s director of development.
“That’s funny to say when you’re talking about
a business perspective, but, fundamentally,
family informs everything he does.”

Photograph: Faith Ninivaggi

here are few things developer
Tom O’Brien loves more than a
community meeting, even the ones
where people disagree with him,
which are most of them.
O’Brien, JD ’93, attended almost
450 meetings, ranging from one-onone discussions in people’s kitchens to
large public presentations, in laying the
groundwork for the redevelopment of
Suffolk Downs. The former horse-racing
site where East Boston meets Revere is,
under O’Brien’s lead, one of the largest
redevelopment projects in Boston’s history.
“They stand up to ask a question. They’re
angry, they’re frustrated, sometimes they
have bad information, or they haven’t really
thought it through,” he says. Those are the
people he wants to talk with most of all.
O’Brien, has been a meetings enthusiast
ever since he served as director of the Boston
Redevelopment Authority (BRA)—the city’s
urban planning division since renamed the
Boston Planning & Development Agency—
where once or twice a week he’d meet with
residents in neighborhoods throughout | Suffolk University Magazine


Boston’s Government Center Garage was
built in the 1960s and is the largest parking
structure in the city. It is also, in O’Brien’s
view, the most unsightly—an alienating,
Brutalist-style concrete divider between the
city’s North and West ends and Downtown
Crossing that casts a figurative and literal
shadow on Boston. “The garage was a terrible
idea when it was built,” says O’Brien. “And it’s
been a burden to the downtown ever since.”
For decades, ever since he served as
director of the BRA, and perhaps even
before that, O’Brien has dreamed of making
better use of the space. As he walks through
the build site on the corner of Congress and
Sudbury streets, he reminisces about taking
the Orange Line to the Haymarket MBTA
station as a kid to watch hockey games at
the old Boston Garden. “As far back as I can
remember, nobody thought about wanting
to live here, go out to eat here, that sort
of thing,” he says. “It was come for work
or a game and get out.” Some 10 years ago,
O’Brien got his chance when his firm won
the bid to redevelop the garage as part of the
creation of Bulfinch Crossing, a mixed-use
development that will, in O’Brien’s words,
bring daylight to that part of the city for the
first time in half a century.
Like Suffolk Downs, it is a long, slow haul
with many moving parts and many problems
to be solved. O’Brien organized and attended
more than 50 meetings with community
leaders and neighborhood groups for
Bulfinch Crossing’s pre-build process,
leading to the winning bid 10 years ago.
When completed in 2022, the development
will include six new high- and mid-rise
buildings, with more than 1 million square
feet of office space, some 800 residential
units, a retail corridor, and a public square. A
planned 50-story glass office tower designed
by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects is slated to rise
about 600 feet with a stunningly graceful
facade that, together with the already built
Sudbury residence tower, will enhance the
city skyline.


Suffolk University Magazine |

Suffolk Downs will transform 161 acres of East Boston and Revere into a
commercial and residential destination, with office space, hotels, two new retail
squares, 10,000 apartments, affordable housing, and 40 acres of new parkland.

O’Brien grew up in Scituate, Massachusetts, the middle son of Anne and John
O’Brien, MBA ’81, who raised their children to value education, family, and faith.
There were two basic house rules growing up, says O’Brien: To love God, and to do
that by loving other people. “The basic idea, and it really is very basic, was to try to
listen and to be kind and to do what you can to positively affect people’s lives,” he says.
O’Brien and his brothers spent many weekend afternoons knocking on doors with
their father, a local political devotee who would canvass for one candidate or another.
“My parents were really inspired by people in the church who were active in trying
to create social change,” says O’Brien. “There was the sense that government, and
politics, can make a difference in people’s lives.”
After graduating from Brown University, where he played football (along with his
younger brother, Bill, who is now head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans), O’Brien
went to work for AIG in New York City. Finance, he quickly realized, was not the right
path. He returned home to work for the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign,
which set him in a different direction, eventually landing him at the Massachusetts
Industrial Finance Agency (MIFA), where he worked with manufacturers seeking to
expand their facilities and learned the ins and outs of government financing.
He felt at home working in government and politics—he liked people, and they liked
him, and he had a patience for navigating systems. Figuring a law degree would help
support a career either on the front lines or behind the scenes, he attended Suffolk
Law at night while working at MIFA during the day.

Renderings courtesy of: The HYM Investment Group, LLC

”Going to law school at night is definitely a badge
of honor,” says O’Brien, who fondly recalls the
impact of camaraderie with his law school peers
and the relationships he built with professors such
as the late Honorable John E. Fenton, Jr. and the late
Victoria Dodd.
The grueling schedule and challenging
coursework gave O’Brien a new sense of
professionalism. “It really helped me become a
different person,” he says. “It honed my skills to be
able to write well, it made me a person who could
formulate and make an argument.”
O’Brien wasted no time applying those skills when
in 1992, his third year in law school, he served as the
campaign manager to his older brother who was
seeking a seat in the Massachusetts State Senate;
John D. O’Brien, Jr., JD ’85, won that year and served
a total of four terms representing Merrimack Valley.
O’Brien credits his law degree with significant
career milestones. After passing the Massachusetts
bar in 1993, MIFA named him general counsel,
which O’Brien believes put him on the radar of Tom
Menino, then the city’s new mayor, who was looking
for a chief of staff at the BRA.
O’Brien was only 29 years old but quickly rose
through the ranks to become the agency’s director in
less than a year. He was a star from the start, which
worked both in his favor and against; he quickly
understood that the key to success in politics is
knowing how to toe the line, a job he, a consummate
middle child, did well. He learned how to be good
but not too good; to shine without outshining; to
build bridges.
“At the BRA we had the planning side and the
economic development side,” remembers Kanna
Kunchala, a senior vice president at City Year, who
served as O’Brien’s assistant at the BRA. “Sometimes,
the sides didn’t agree, but Tom was really good at
helping them find common ground. And getting
people to compromise. He just figured out a way to
get everybody to agree.”
He particularly excelled at sharing credit, often
an uncommon trait in government.
Kunchala remembers when O’Brien landed on
the cover of the Boston Globe magazine as part of a
story about his work with the BRA and its impact on
the city—the headline: Where is Tom O’Brien Taking
Boston? “I thought he wasn’t going to come to work
for a week, like, he just hated it,” Kunchala laughs.
Not much has changed since: Kunchala recalls his
former boss’ discomfort at a more recent United
Way ceremony honoring O’Brien’s professional
and philanthropic contributions toward racial and
income equality, including his work as cofounder

The soaring,
One Congress
glass office
by Pelli
Clarke Pelli
will enliven

Beyond the fact that COVID-19 has made Tom O’Brien’s job logistically
much more difficult—his construction sites are required to follow
safety protocols that limit the number of workers at one time and
include mandatory daily temperature testing—the pandemic also has
raised larger questions about the future viability of cities. The virus has
disrupted city and work life and left many wondering to what degree
those disruptions might become permanent. Those are big questions for
a developer of some of the biggest office and residential sites in Boston.
O’Brien isn’t worried. It’s something he’s thought about every day for
years—he’s spent his career making cities more livable for all sorts of
people under all sorts of conditions, and he doesn’t buy that cities are
doomed. O’Brien has just started selling luxury condominiums in the newly
constructed Sudbury residential tower in Bulfinch Crossing. He expects
the number of international buyers may drop but says there are still plenty
of people who want to live in a downtown Boston building with a pool
deck, sky lounge, fitness center, pet spa, and a 48th-floor private rooftop
garden. “Generally, we feel like the market has stabilized and people are
still out there looking to try to buy new homes,” O’Brien says.
He says the One Congress office tower project that will anchor the
Bulfinch project is in an early enough phase to make changes, such as
elevators being controlled by a phone app “so you don’t have to touch
“For pretty much all of humankind, people have wanted to work
together,” O’Brien says. “Just before COVID-19, what was really driving
the real estate business is the concept of people working collaboratively.
I think the idea that we would give all that up doesn’t seem like a natural
progression in terms of human history. So I have faith: We’ll get back on
that path.” —Greg Gatlin | Suffolk University Magazine


—Doug Manz, HYM’s
Director of Development


of the Massachusetts Business Immigration
Coalition. “Everyone was talking about how
great he is, and I said to him, ‘You just want to
crawl under the table right now, don’t you?’”
O’Brien spent seven years at the BRA. He
is perhaps best known for having overseen
the development of the Seaport, though he is
personally proudest of bringing grocery stores
to neighborhoods that had long gone without.
He would hold weekly community meetings
across Boston to find out what people wanted.
As Kunchala recalls, O’Brien was patient.
“He was able to win people over by sheer
perseverance. He just stood there and just
took every question,” he says. “It just meant a
lot to everybody in the neighborhood, because
they were like, ‘Whatever happens, this guy
definitely cares.’”

O’Brien describes his wife, Patricia, MBA
’87, as his mentor—the most professionally
influential person in his life. “She’s always
been the person pushing me to live up to the
ideals that we talk about,” he says.
“She’ll say, ‘if you care about creating more
affordable housing, what are you doing about
it? if you care about being an anti-racist, what
are you doing about it?’”
O’Brien was working at the BRA when he and
Patricia began to start a family, adopting their

Suffolk University Magazine |

first child, Lucas, from Colombia. Their second, Nina, was born
the following year in Guatemala, and after that Tomas, from
Ecuador. “Lucas was an amazing gift to us, and we realized that
no matter how this child came to earth, he was meant for us
and we were meant for him,” says O’Brien. “And we recognized
there are a lot of families who are built in ways that are perhaps
not as predictable. So we went through the process quickly.”
Around that time, rumors began to swirl that Menino felt
threatened by O’Brien, who was talented, driven, and perhaps
worst of all, universally well liked, and in 1999 O’Brien was
ousted from the BRA.
It proved to be less a setback than an opportunity. O’Brien
went to work for Tishman Speyer, a New York-based real estate
investment firm, where over six years he learned how to finance
real estate and raise capital. Then he worked two years at JPI
Companies, a national developer, where he met Manz and Paul
Crisalli. Eventually, the three began to discuss forming their
own company to create transformational, transit-oriented
urban projects.
“Tom’s focus has always been on building the community
around any given project,” says Manz. “He wants the company
to be more than just a business.”
In 2010 they launched HYM, an acronym inspired by
O’Brien’s fourth child, Marisol, who had come to O’Brien and
Patricia from Guatemala in 2000 and died in 2008 following a
long illness with a rare genetic disease called leukodystrophy.
“When Marisol was younger, before she lost her voice, she
would put her arms up and say, ‘Hold you me,’” says O’Brien.
“Her words would get mixed up. The best part about the name
is being in big presentations and seeing it up on a slideshow,
and I smile and think of her. As we’ve grown, people think HYM
is some big national real estate conglomerate or something
when, you know, it just stands for ‘hold you me.’”


Photographs from left: ©, courtesy of The HYM Investment Group LLC;
Courtesy of The HYM Investment Group LLC

Tom O’Brien and his wife, Patricia, MBA
’87, met on a blind date that got off to a
rough start.

O’Brien and Patricia had always been active in their parish, but when Marisol became
sick they began to wonder what, exactly, the purpose of her life had been. They joined a
group for grieving parents at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston and began to call on prayer
to help cope with the loss.
“The tragedy of losing a child brings you to a variety of different places, but we believe
that Marisol’s purpose in our life was for us to become closer as a family, hopefully
become closer to our faith, and to be kinder and better listeners to people,” he says. “We
feel her presence frequently. Typically, when I’m going into a big meeting or something
important, I’ll whisper her name and say, ‘Daddy needs your help a little bit.’ It just
brings me a sense of peace.”
The role O’Brien’s children play in his work can’t be underplayed; their fifth child,
Dureti, came to them from Ethiopia. O’Brien has received numerous awards recognizing
his efforts at improving relations among racial, religious, and ethnic groups, including
the Abraham Joshua Heschel Interfaith Relations Award by the Anti-Defamation
League, and he frequently testifies on behalf of the Massachusetts Immigrant and
Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).
“I’ve run out of words to thank Tom for the work he’s done,” says Eva Millona, MIRA’s
CEO. “The fact that he adopted five children and made a home and provided for people
who came from a most vulnerable place—that decision alone I think speaks volumes to
who Tom is.”
He serves on the boards of organizations committed to the development of
underprivileged youth, like the Ron Burton Training Village and the East Boston Social
Centers, and has been a strong proponent of workplace diversity since HYM’s start. The
company is comprised of 50% women and 30% minority team members, which in the
real estate development world is unusual. “I think he’s really trying to do work to lift up
the whole city as much as he can,” says Justin Pasquariello, East Boston Social Centers’
executive director.
Someone in O’Brien’s position and with his abilities could easily be caught up in his
ego, points out Father Tom Conway, the executive director of St. Anthony Shrine. “But
he’s just always looking out for other people,” he says.
O’Brien collaborated with Conway to propose an open-air plaza at Winthrop Square,
with a new St. Anthony Shrine church, a new friary and ministry center, and a new
downtown Boston school in addition to the requisite high-rise residential and office
tower. Another developer ultimately won the bid, but Conway was struck by O’Brien’s
care for the community in developing his bid.
“He uses his connections for the benefit of other people—and obviously for the benefit
of his own business, too—but, you know, other people aren’t left behind,” says Conway.
“I’m seen as a religious leader in Boston, and I’m taken aback by how good he is.”

O’Brien, in his penultimate year as a
Suffolk Law evening student at the time,
was literally running late because he
had to turn in a course paper. He made
a full sprint for the Donahue building on
Temple Street, where the Law School
was located at the time, dropped off
the paper, then ran to a Faneuil Hall bar
to meet his date, about 10 minutes late.
“She was not happy with me for being
late to a first date,” he recalls.
Things seem to have worked out. Within
a year and a half, as O’Brien was getting
ready to graduate in 1993, they were
married. Theirs is a family filled with
Suffolk connections.
Patricia earned a Suffolk MBA, prior to
meeting Tom in 1991, and went on to have
a successful career as an executive at
Verizon. His brother, John D. O’Brien, Jr.,
preceded him at Suffolk Law, earning his
juris doctorate in 1985, before going on
to serve four terms in the Massachusetts
State Senate. O’Brien’s father, John,
completed Suffolk’s Executive MBA
program, graduating in 1981.
Their shared Suffolk experience has
become a point of pride for the O’Brien
“Suffolk for us has really been a
wonderful place in which you can
pursue an advanced degree while
continuing to work or continuing to find
your way in the world,” says O’Brien,
now one of Boston’s leading real estate
developers. “Suffolk is a school that’s
both located in the heart of Boston, but
also, in many respects, it is the heart of
Boston. When you look around through
the ranks of business and the ranks of
government, the most senior positions,
and the most respected positions in the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts … they
are often held by Suffolk graduates.” | Suffolk University Magazine


is their


Suffolk University Magazine |


ublic art is hardly a new concept. Monuments to civic
leaders, athletes, and religious figures date back to
antiquity, with much surviving statuary now moved
from the public square into museum collections worldwide.
Yet more than statues survive.
While graffiti may seem like a modern approach to
public art, there is ancient gang tagging on Egyptian
pyramids, erotica in Greece, and political inscriptions in
China. And for centuries people have marveled at sites
like Stonehenge, which is fascinating to behold while
offering clues to the history of a place and time.
In a similar fashion Suffolk faculty, students, and
alumni are leaving their own imprints on the world
around them by creating and analyzing public art in
Boston and beyond.

Photograph: Michael J. Clarke

Suffolk professors and students collaborate
with the Downtown Boston Business
Improvement District to create Unique to
Boston Living Images along Washington
Street storefronts.

How to bring artwork out of the gallery and into the community
is something many artists think about, according to Art Professor
Linda Brown, who collaborated with the Downtown Boston Business
Improvement District to bring larger-than-life portraits to an empty
storefront near Suffolk’s downtown campus. “Suffolk students are
learning this concept from day one.”
Art Professors Susan Nichter and Ilona Anderson joined Brown’s
effort through a skills-based assignment that had students
photographing and interviewing owners and employees of the
small businesses lining Bromfield Street, where the photos later
“I love that the real-world experience is tied to thinking about
visual literacy,” says Nichter, who has another student public art
project on the drawing board based on the theme Unique to Boston,

Living Images. It will feature moving images in four bays of a
Washington Street storefront.
“To have something out in the world, to see it be accepted and
used—loved, even—provides some of the best joy available,” says Caio
Cassarino, Class of 2021, whose black-and-white portrait of Farid
Goljamali is part of the photo collage opposite the businessman’s
King Frame shop.
In addition to the thrill of having his work in the public realm,
Cassarino, a first-year student when he took part in the photo
project, says it was helpful for him to muster up the courage to
approach his subjects.
“Those interactions in a way helped me learn how to better be
part of my immediate world; a stepping-stone to improving my
social interaction,” says Cassarino, a graphic design major and arts
management minor. | Suffolk University Magazine


Randall Thurston and
rendering of his artwork to
appear at the Massachusetts
Bay Transportation Authority
Lechmere Green Line station.

An urban transit station might be the last place a commuter would expect to find reminders of
the natural world, but images of soaring birds and plant life will greet them when they enter the
new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Lechmere Green Line station opening in 2021.
Silhouettes of birds in flight are embedded in the glass housing the station’s elevators, and
wayfinding signs include images inspired by the grasses and other life that once thrived on a
site now given over to a railbed and trolley cars.
“Public art, when done well, can be uplifting,” says Art Professor Randal Thurston,
who took into account a commuter’s experience and the site’s natural history in
creating the station’s artwork. Thurston’s design is inspired by the greenery of a river
that once flowed through the area, the tides, and the birds that migrate through in
patterns as predictable as the daily commute.
“I know what it’s like to spend 20 minutes looking at the station surroundings, so I
wanted to create something that people can come back to over and over again,” says
Thurston, who often commutes to Suffolk University through Lechmere.
For Thurston, creating art for a public space involves comprehensive research and
observation, the consideration of how people will interact with the artwork, computer
models, drawings—and flexibility. After his concept was chosen from among 100 artists’
bids, reconsideration of the transit project’s budget threatened the public art, though
eventually it was restored on a smaller scale.
“I learned the importance of adaptability in creativity,” he says in light of the T’s decision to
scale back from an enclosed glass-and-metal station to the open-air platform approaches and
signage of today.


Suffolk University Magazine |

Photographs from left: Courtesy of Randall Thurston, Michael J. Clarke, Elle DioGuardi (2)

It was a slideshow of Thurston’s public artworks that
helped steer Elle DioGuardi, BFA ’15, to creating work in
public spaces.
“It was an ‘Aha, you can do that’ moment for me,” says
DioGuardi. “Public art is my favorite kind of art and the kind
I want to look at. Seeing his work and
listening to the thought process of a
person I know and trust and can ask
questions of provided inspiration.”
Having grown up in Chicago,
DioGuardi has seen the power of
public art and her preferred medium—
reflective material—through the
throngs that gather around Cloud
Gate by Anish Kapoor, nicknamed
“The Bean,” a monumental metallic
sculpture in busy Millennium Park.
“I love the way people are drawn to it,”
she says. “I always like to think of art in
terms of the viewer. That’s a huge part
of why I use a lot of reflective material.”
DioGuardi, who has furthered her
artistic vision through artist residencies in Iceland, Spain,
and Virginia, uses text and, often, reflections “to interrupt the
day-to-day and how we see a mirror, building, or landscape.”
Sometimes it takes subterfuge to put her work into the
public sphere.
“I like to do text on bathroom mirrors in public places,”
particularly in museums, which have well-designed
restrooms, says DioGuardi, who chuckles and adds: “Then I
can say I have work in a museum.”

“I’m not an artist but enjoy and appreciate art,” says Ruth Prakasam,
whose first-year writing courses in fall 2019 focused on identifying
Boston problems and finding solutions based in public art.
To get more children interested in visiting Boston’s Museum of Fine
Arts, a group of students in Prakasam’s Mass. Art for the Public writing
class created a graphic novel with artist
John Singer Sargent as a character.
Other students who had played youth
sports wrote a grant for a series of artworks
celebrating neighborhood sports teams to “be
made by artists, but designed and imagined
by the children on the team,” according to
their proposal. And yet another created a
website showing where to discover art in
Boston—from dance to sculpture and more.
The class visited the Suffolk art gallery and
discussed the purpose of the University’s
exhibition space; they agreed that colleges
and universities should show support for art
by maintaining an art gallery or museum.
Smaller writing assignments sent students
into Boston neighborhoods to view artwork,
and readings and discussions centered on aspects of public art.
When Prakasam posed the question “What is art?” her students
suggested the definition of art should be broad, without borders or
“Art doesn’t have to be a Monet painting,” she says. “It doesn’t have to
be what I or their individual classmates think is art; it’s what the group
thinks is art.”
And, increasingly, the artworks that are capturing the public imagination
in Greater Boston and beyond originated within the Suffolk community.

While in residency
at Fish Factory
Creative Center
in Stöðvarfjörður,
Iceland, a remote
fishing village on
the east side of the
island, Elle DioGuardi
collaborated with
another resident to
create this polished
aluminum display
with a familiar
Magic 8 Ball saying.
Above DioGuardi
is pictured with an
installation which
she later displayed
over a waterfall.


Suffolk University Magazine | | Suffolk University Magazine





Suffolk University Magazine |

Photographs from left: Courtesy of Suffolk Athletics, Michael J. Clarke


f one word can accurately sum up an indoor
track meet, it’s “distracting.” An announcer’s
voice booms from the public address system.
Athletes hurl heavy weights in the throwing
events—and themselves in the jumping events—
on the infield. The rising and falling cheers of
spectators echo throughout a cavernous arena.
All contribute to a sense of tumult, and all present
a challenge to an athlete attempting to focus on
This sort of commotion enveloped Emily Manfra,
BS ’20, during the 2019 NCAA Division III national
indoor track championships at the Reggie Lewis
Track and Athletic Center in Boston’s Roxbury
neighborhood. Manfra was competing in the mile
event against nine other runners. Her family was in
the stands, somewhere, urging her on.
But Manfra was focused. Her coach Will
Feldman, BS ’12, stood beside the track each time
she passed, calling out splits. And he was in her
head—she repeated his mantra to herself over and
over as she pounded down the track: Stay on the
outside. Don’t get boxed in.
“By the last lap, everyone was full-out sprinting,”
Manfra recalls. “I could see the girls in front, but
I didn’t know who was behind me, I really didn’t
think about it until I crossed. And then I was like,
‘Oh my god, I really did get fifth.’”
The significance of Manfra’s fifth-place finish
was that the first eight runners to cross the line
that day would be granted All-America status. The
further significance was that she would become
the first student-athlete named an All-American in
women’s indoor track and field at Suffolk University,
a program that was added in the 2016-17 season.

“When you see a studentathlete like Emily who has been
afforded the opportunity to
compete and excel in one of the
newly added programs, there is a
certain level of pride in knowing
all the people who helped make
this happen,” says Athletics
Director Cary McConnell. And
there are many.
The past five years have seen
some of the most momentous
changes in the history of Suffolk
University’s Athletics Department.
Chief among them is the addition
of six new varsity sports: men’s
and women’s track and field, both
indoor and outdoor; women’s
ice hockey; and women’s golf.
The University also has invested
heavily in its sports and fitness
facilities, both renovating old ones
and constructing or acquiring new

Suffolk secured home-field
advantage for its baseball, softball,
and soccer teams at East Boston
Memorial Stadium. Rams athletics
staffed up, hiring coaches for men’s
and women’s soccer and basketball,
as well as for the new track and field
teams and women’s ice hockey squad.
Two full-time assistant athletics
trainers joined the staff as well, to
help care for student-athletes, whose
numbers have jumped from 168 to
almost 300 in 2019.
That near-doubling of studentathletes points to another dividend
earned through investment in
athletics—students are being
drawn to attend Suffolk University
who might not have considered
it previously. And they’re coming
from farther afield than has been
the case in years past. “It’s really
increased our footprint in terms of
recruiting,” McConnell observes.

In the last five years, Suffolk’s Athletics Department has seen momentous changes, including the addition of six varsity sports,
such as women’s indoor track and field in which Emily Manfra, left, was named an All-American. Investments were also made in
new and renovated facilities, supported by brothers Larry, above, and Michael Smith. | Suffolk University Magazine


—President Marisa Kelly


Suffolk University Magazine |

His observation is illustrated by the experience of Taylor Wasylk, head coach of women’s
ice hockey. As she worked to put together her inaugural squad in 2017, she noted a geographic
draw from well beyond Suffolk’s traditional New England domain.
“Cary asked me, ‘How many kids do we have from Massachusetts?’” she recalls. “And I
told him, ‘Zero.’ He said, ‘Do we have a team?’ And I’m like, ‘Cary, yeah, we’ve got 24 kids!’”
Wasylk’s new team was enrolling from hometowns in Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, even
Canada. “His brain almost exploded,” Wasylk laughs.
There’s no doubt that a growing athletics program is broadening the University’s
recruitment reach, says Suffolk President Marisa Kelly. But Kelly says there’s something even
more fundamental at play. “This is one essential way that we are delivering on our mission,”
she says. “As a University we are committed to creating transformational opportunities for
our students. Yes, athletics is about competition. It’s about love of the game, but it is also
about the development of leadership skills and confidence, team building, and skills of
Student-athletes also gain a greater sense of community in the center of Suffolk’s urban
campus, Kelly says. “That’s important to the overall social experience we provide to our
The belief in the transformational and community-building power of athletics is shared
by two of the University’s most generous alumni, Michael Smith, BSBA ’61 and Larry Smith,
BSBA ’65, brothers who in their own words, “bleed blue and gold.” Along with supporting the
wider University, including through scholarships, they have become steadily more involved
in boosting Rams athletics, starting with basketball—Larry’s sport when he was a Suffolk
undergraduate. The brothers donated funds for travel costs as well as new uniforms—a
change that, while modest at first glance, helped to cultivate a sense of pride on the team.
Their support for Suffolk athletics only grew from there. In 2016,
the Michael and Larry Smith Fitness Center opened in the Ridgeway
Building. Serving the greater Suffolk community, the new center was

Photograph: Courtesy of Suffolk Athletics

an instant success, as it filled with students, staff,
and faculty eager to take advantage of top-of-theline spin bikes, elliptical machines, free weights,
and circuit training equipment.
In November 2017, the University announced
a $3 million gift from the Smith brothers, one of
the largest alumni gifts in the University’s history
and one that brought their total giving to more
than $5 million. That support funded an interior
renovation of the Ridgeway building that created a
new training room and offices, new locker rooms,
a varsity weight room, and a team film room. Giant
decals now cover the walls of the hallways, and
plush chairs in a lounge area are embroidered with
the Rams logo.
Blase Cormier, Class of 2021 has spent three
years as a Rams first baseman, long enough to
note a significant change brought about by the
renovations. “Now, you walk in on the (Ridgeway)
second floor and you see people from multiple
teams there just hanging out, doing homework,
talking to each other, eating lunch. It’s created more
community within the Athletics Department. That’s
been a huge contribution.”
When Emily Manfra enrolled at Suffolk, track and
field was not an offer—she initially ran on the crosscountry team. “I never thought I’d be running track
and field during my time here,” she says. By the time
she qualified for the NCAA indoor track and field
nationals in 2019 she was among the top runners in
the nation and had amassed a series of records and
honors that former coach Feldman calls “staggering.”
The team expansions enabled by the University’s
investment and the Smiths’ support opened new
opportunities for her to develop her individual
talent, she says, including a sub-5-minute mile.
Newly graduated, Manfra is now embarking on a PhD
program in nursing at Boston College.
As the Rams look ahead, events like the
coronavirus outbreak stand as vivid reminders
that some things can’t always be planned for. But
the community spirit rising from the University’s
investment in athletics makes a very real
difference in the resiliency of an institution when
that institution is tested by extraordinary events.
And they illustrate a compelling truth: The rise of
Ram Nation is the rise of the entire University.

Suffolk baseball players, from left, Zach
Aresty, Class of 2021; Rich Gilbride, Class of
2021; Bradley Logan Heckman, BS ’20; and
Tim Brigham, Class of 2021, after a March 13
matchup against Ursinus College.



he end of competition came swiftly for Suffolk’s women’s softball
team last spring.

The Rams were training and playing games in Florida in March when,
boom, the season was over in the face of a growing coronavirus pandemic.
“We got back to Boston, and everybody was already gone,” says Head
Coach Jaclyn Davis. “It was very quick. It was like, ‘Let’s clean this up and
then pack your dorms up.’”
But that was not the end of spring athletic engagement at Suffolk. After
giving players about two weeks to breathe, the coaches stepped back
in. Knowing players were craving structure, athletics staff began to put
programs together to engage them. They connected with student-athletes
on fitness and conditioning, but also on their personal transitions and
academics. “We did team meetings. We did individual meetings,” Davis
says. “We talked about school. We talked about life and what’s next.”
Coaches collaborated across sports. They got creative and tried to keep it
fun. They organized a virtual trivia night where teams of athletes and coaches
competed. They put training programs together with enough variety to
keep it interesting—conditioning and strength training athletes could do in
their driveways, their basements, their garages. They incorporated elements
of competition because, well, athletes are competitive. “I guess it’s just the
nature of the beast, right?” Davis says. “That’s what we ask of them—to be
competitive people.”
In the end, athletics at Suffolk did not stop with the coronavirus pandemic.
In some ways, they became more important than ever before. Earlier this
summer, the Rams’ new athletic conference, the Commonwealth Coast
Conference (CCC), joined many other leagues in suspending intercollegiate
athletic competition for the fall. Despite that, Suffolk’s coaches will still be
working with student-athletes. Low contact sports, as defined by the NCAA,
such as golf, tennis and cross country, still expect to compete. Training and
appropriately adjusted practices are still planned for students that choose
to participate. And the support will be there, as well.
“It will be a different experience for student-athletes, but it will still be a very
valuable experience,” says Suffolk President Marisa Kelly.
In unsettling times, Kelly says the pivot to engaging athletes in practice
pods and virtual trainings, and the efforts to help them stay fit, connected,
and supporting each other are as important as anything that could have
happened on the field of play. —Greg Gatlin and Katy Ibsen | Suffolk University Magazine



or Michael Smith, BSBA ’61, and
Larry Smith, BSBA ’65, brothers
who grew up without means in
Chelsea, Massachusetts, in the early
1960s, the opportunity to attend Suffolk
University changed their lives.
A basketball star at Chelsea High School,
Larry Smith met Charles Law, Suffolk’s
first athletics director, who saw potential
in the lanky, tenacious defender and
rebounder with a matching work ethic
off the court. Larry would get up at 5:30
a.m. and go to work as a window and
floor washer in Boston, then change into
his school clothes for classes at Chelsea
High, and then again for basketball
practice. Law was impressed and gave
Larry a full scholarship to attend the
University and play on the Suffolk team.
The cost of tuition back then: $600. “It
could have been $6 million,” Larry says.
“It wouldn’t have mattered. I just didn’t
have the money.”
For Larry, that scholarship was a lifechanging gesture of faith. Indeed, both
Larry and Michael say Suffolk gave
them an education and a grounding in
aspects of business that prepared them
for professional success. It helped them
grow. And most of all, they credit Suffolk
for taking a chance on two kids from
Chelsea, Massachusetts.


Suffolk University Magazine |

overwhelmed with emotion, said at a
2018 ceremony naming the Michael S.
Smith and Larry E. Smith Residence Hall
in the brothers’ honor.
The Smiths’ story is in every way the
Suffolk story. Gleason Archer, the
University’s founder, had someone take
a chance on him, too. As the story goes,
in 1903 a Boston businessman, George
Frost, took an interest in helping Archer,
who aspired to become a lawyer. Frost
loaned Archer money to complete his
legal education. When Archer later tried
to repay the loan, Frost wouldn’t allow it,
asking only that Archer do the same for
others if he ever had the chance. In 1906,
Archer started the Suffolk School of Law
to provide the opportunity of education
to all capable students—paying it forward
before the term was even coined.
Over the years, the Smith brothers have
paid back Frost’s largesse and then
some. They’ve endowed scholarships for
students, including one in memory of their
Chelsea friend, Pvt. Sheldon R. Cohen,
who was killed in action in Vietnam. The
brothers subsidized uniform and travel
costs for Ram Nation teams, funded
a dining hall in the Samia Academic
Building, a new basketball court, and the
flagship Smith Fitness Center.

They have made some of the largest
Suffolk alumni contributions ever, with
more than $5 million in total giving.
That philanthropy has supported major
renovations of Suffolk’s athletics facilities
and improvements in student life. Both
brothers have been inducted into the
Suffolk University Athletics Hall of Fame
and Larry serves as a University trustee.
Inspired by legendary Suffolk Men’s
Basketball Coach and Athletics Director
Emeritus Jim Nelson, the Smiths founded
the new Athletics giving society, the
Coach Nelson Club, which honors Nelson
by enhancing competitive opportunities
and ensuring an excellent experience for
current and future student-athletes. Their
generosity is serving to elevate Suffolk
athletics, and it is building community
among students. Even the Suffolk Ramsbranded team bus was inspired by
Michael’s vision.
“We were raised to believe that if you
made it, you had an obligation to give
back,” the brothers have said.
Giving back. Paying it forward. Larry and
Michael Smith are proudly keeping that
tradition going strong.
Gleason Archer would be proud.
-Ben Hall

Photographs: Michael J. Clarke, Suffolk Archives, Michael J. Clarke


Left: Brothers Michael Smith, BSBA ’61,
left, and Larry Smith, BSBA ’65, at the
reveal of the Ridgeway building that was
renovated with their support.
Above: A vintage photograph of Larry,
No. 21, with the Suffolk basketball team.






for a week of online events for alumni,
families, students, faculty, and staff.

Highlights include:
¼ evening with President Marisa Kelly
¼ special event honoring retired Sawyer Business
School Dean William O’Neill, Jr., JD ’74
The 3rd Annual Celebration of Black Excellence
Plus: Rammy’s Virtual 5K, a Boston-themed Trivia
Night, Coffee & Conversation with Suffolk leaders,
virtual tours, and more!

Details to follow via email and social media.
To ensure that you receive our updates, send your
preferred email address to
Follow the Suffolk Alumni Association

Dean Bill O’Neill


ver nearly two decades of leadership as dean,
William J. O’Neill, Jr. transformed the Sawyer
Business School by incorporating a global
perspective into its mission, giving students and graduates
a greater understanding of international business
practices, perspectives, and cultures. O’Neill came from
industry and knew firsthand the importance of preparing
graduates to compete in a global environment. Under his
leadership, the school focused on blending theory and
practice, so that academic insights could be used to solve
real business problems.
O’Neill stepped down as dean at the end of the 2019-20
academic year, leaving a legacy of excellence. Under his
leadership, the school established new majors and specialty
programs, including business analytics and business
economics programs, a Center for Entrepreneurship, an
undergraduate degree in Global Business Management,
global travel seminars, and international internships that
have broadened students’ horizons and enhanced their
career prospects. Today, the Sawyer Business School, under
the new leadership of Dean Amy Zeng, continues to deliver
relevant, experienced-based, and global business education
that is successfully preparing the leaders of tomorrow.
As dean, O’Neill loved engaging with students, faculty,
staff, and alumni, and in October they will get a chance
to return the favor. The University will honor O’Neill and
his many contributions in a virtual celebration on the
evening of Oct. 21. That event will include an “open mic”
opportunity for members of the Suffolk community,
including alumni, to share their appreciation. Please save
the date. | Suffolk University Magazine


Well Wishes

Fall 2020

To the Class of 2020

Welcoming the
Class of 2020
to the Alumni

Suffolk alumni reached out to
congratulate the Class of 2020, welcome
its members into their proud community,
and offer inspiration as they embark on
new journeys. Here is a sampling of their
messages of encouragement.

While facing one of the toughest global
crises of our times, you managed to
complete your degree. YOU. DID. THAT.
Congratulations! Here’s to you, cheers!

—Lina Canon, BA ’13


Your resiliency this past year should always be something you
remember and appreciate as you move forward. Never forget
to continue to keep your Suffolk connections strong! The
people you met during your time here will always continue to
support you no matter where you go or what you do.
—Sydney Fonseca, BSBA ’17, MBA ’19

—Brittany Sullivan, BSBA ’12

—Benjamin Linares, BSBA ’16

Throughout your time at Suffolk, you
have all shown a level of perseverance and
commitment to excellence required to
navigate a host of unexpected challenges,
both locally and globally, culturally and
economically. Keep pushing boundaries
and leading through change!
—Joe Krause, EMBA ’13,
President of the SBS Board

The world may seem in chaos, but you are equipped
with the tools you need to not only see through the
challenges, you will surpass them!

I look forward to the Class of 2020
fulfilling their purpose and potential!
—Jenny Joseph-Hayle, MPA ’13,
Chair, Suffolk University Black Alumni Network

As president of the Law Alumni Board, I would like to congratulate you and formally welcome you to
the Suffolk alumni community! We are a proud and tight-knit group of fellow graduates. I encourage
you to seek out Suffolk alumni and lean on them for mentorship, networking and employment
opportunities. Good luck and again congratulations to you!
—Tim Wilkerson, JD ’03, President of Law Board


Suffolk University Magazine |

Well Wishes

Fall 2020

To the Class of 2020

will take you
than you’d

You are the future leaders. You are graduating
during a time of uncertainty and uncharted,
very challenging circumstances. Yet you have
persevered and overcome the unexpected.
This experience has shaped you in ways
that most cannot fully appreciate.
You’ve graduated despite the odds,
and there is absolutely nothing
you are unable to achieve.
—Tamela Bailey, JD ’04

—Morgan Williams,
BSBA ’16, MBA ’18

You and your
classmates have
certainly been
through more than
your fair share
of frustration and
uncertainty this past
year. I congratulate you
on the completion of your
studies and encourage you
to be patient yet persistent
in the pursuit of your
career, whatever it may be.
Opportunities will arise.
Work hard, strive to learn
as much as you can, and you
will undoubtedly achieve
success. Best of luck!

—Sean Higgins, JD ’03

We need new leaders and better leaders, and I am so excited to see the work
your classmates continue to do outside of the Suffolk walls. The Class of
2020 will be remembered forever. Welcome to the alumni of Suffolk!

Photographs Michael J. Clarke

—Bob Pace, JD ’85

—Jim Dever, BSBA ’93

—Sorcha Rochford, MSPS ’14

Congratulations graduates.

You worked hard for the past few years, and you should be proud
of your accomplishments. Please know that you are well prepared
and ready to start your career. Be proud of your alma mater and be
sure to stay in touch with other alumni in your practice area and
students coming up behind you. Celebrate!
—Ken Gear, BSBA ’89, JD ’95 | Suffolk University Magazine



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Boston, MA 02108

To learn more about planned giving opportunities and benefits, please contact
Corian M. Branyan, BSBA ’11, Associate Director of Planned Giving, at 617-573-8456 or