Kindness can begin with small steps.

Together, Southern students, faculty, staff, administrators, and friends are forging new paths, making discoveries, and addressing challenges.  We are committed to advancing core values of Dignity, Respect, Civility, Kindness, and Compassion.  The Reflection Garden is one way that we project these values and invite dialogue and community connectedness.

Creating the social justice public garden

The SCSU Reflection Garden Project strives to promote our communities’ shared experiences of joy and sorrow through the creation of a public garden highlighting access, social justice and service to others. This garden would connect our Southern and greater New Haven communities with each other, and with the natural world.

The Reflection Garden Project will yield a unique public garden space that celebrates community-university partnerships through the lens of social justice.

Remembrance Garden An SCSU Reflection Garden area of compassion

This unique outdoor space is part of the larger vision of the SCSU Reflection Garden — a first-of-its-kind physical expression of a university’s social justice principles, created through intentional design. 

While the Reflection Garden vision embodies the five core values identified by SCSU President Joe Bertolino and embraced by the university community, the Remembrance Garden shall be known as an Area of Compassion.

The focal point of the Remembrance Garden is the SCSU Alumnae Sandy Hook Memorial. 

This wooden sculpture honors four educators and graduates of Southern.

  • Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, M.S. ’97, 6th Yr. ’98,
  • Anne Marie Murphy, M.S. ’08,
  • Mary J. Sherlach, M.S. ’90, 6th Yr. ’92,
  • Victoria Leigh Soto, ’13,

They were exemplars for the children they taught and supported, and for the SCSU family of faculty, staff, students, graduates, and neighbors. These four alumnae were killed during the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

The Remembrance Garden and the memorial were designed and created during a 14-month process that included open dialogues with students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community.  The memorial is the result of the conceptual design developed by Carlene Barnes, ’13, while she was an SCSU student, and was selected in a juried competition.

Dedicated in May 2018, the Remembrance Garden stands as an expression of philanthropic and community participation. Dr. Rita A. Landino, ’64, Emeritus of Counseling Services, provided significant philanthropic support for this garden area to make the SCSU Alumnae Sandy Hook Memorial a reality. Many others helped make this project possible through pro bono service, contribution of materials, philanthropic support, and participation in planning activities.

Step inside the space, sit, ponder, pay tribute to Southern’s four alumnae, think and talk about making the world a better place, starting here — or just let your mind wander. As Ms. Barnes intended through her design, physical spaces and art can inspire us and help bring us together. As you pass over the delta shaped stones, remember that positive change and support for others can begin with small steps.

Remembrence Garden Creation & Dedication Gallery

Dedication Program

Donor List


2017 Visioning Sessions

On March 1, 2017, Southern hosted three visioning sessions led by internationally known landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy and two of her team members. Over 100 people participated in the visioning process before, during and after this important day. Separate sessions allowed various constituents to provide their perspective and influence on the design process.

Through Julie’s helpful guidance, the three core visioning sessions explored ideas about expressing core values of social justice through a physical space, the ways our campus and neighbors could connect to the garden spaces, as well as the overall flow and experiences that might someday be available within the RG.

Visioning Session Sponsors

Additional support provided by

Community Gardens as Appleseeds - through their Seeds of Encouragement Grant

Bishop's Orchards


Garden Components

The following list reflects the current elements of a new public garden dedicated to social justice.

Public Art: Realizing the symbolic intent of the 2013-2014 student-based sculpture design competition

The Remembrance Garden features a sculpture by SCSU Alumna Carlene Barnes, winner of the 2014 design competition for the original memorial garden sculpture. Carlene’s sculpture presents a unique and beautiful perspective on the tension between inner peace and violent chaos. It seeks to provide a soothing, spiritually-centered focal point that evokes contemplation on the intrinsic beauty of life and a hope for healing and unity in our fractured world.

Creating access and promoting health and wellness.

The SCSU Reflection Garden will include paths suitable and safe for walking/exercise to promote health equity. Everyone has a right to beautiful public spaces where they can walk, jog, relax, and breathe.

Artfully utilizing plants for human and environmental wellness.

Plants provide essential components to energize the senses. Utilizing plants to create aesthetically inspiring designs creates a sense of place and support the experiences that people have with this public garden. Plant selection will be taken seriously and will be pursued responsibly in order to avoid invasive species. Accessioning the plant collection and utilizing an IPM management strategy will be strongly encouraged. The resulting space will help support human and environmental wellness. Southern’s community and neighbors deserve a beautiful public garden space that invites contemplation, conversation, and creativity.

Defined opportunities to pause.

This public garden will intentionally invite people to sit, relax, pause, gather, talk and meet within an outdoor sanctuary space. Public gardens are not just beautiful spaces. They are places for people to visit, enjoy, and meet other people. Generous paths and numerous seating is an important design component.

Event Space.

A larger gathering space will be included in the overall design plan to facilitate class meetings, group discussions, and other activities such as music performances, poetry readings, etc.

A garden with a view.

The site selection will be conscious of and sensitive to the views. Much of the Reflection Garden will highlight the city vista, pond, and wetlands.

Meditation space.

The Reflection Garden will be a place that invites meditation, self-reflection, mindfulness and the pursuit of inner peace. A model organization focusing on mindfulness for individuals and communities is the Holistic Life Foundation – a nonprofit based in Baltimore nurturing the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities.

Universal space of peace and humanity.

We envision a circle of sand that invites people to leave their footprints. This garden element “Footprints from our family” shall include a peace pole, connecting the SCSU Reflection Garden to the many worldwide communities seeking peace, tolerance and kindness.

Water Element.

Water is the essential molecule shared and required by all life on earth. Access to clean water is a basic human right – yet it is beyond the reach of many underserved populations across the world. Including a water element in the SCSU Reflection Garden is an essential component to represent this critical need. Possible concepts to incorporate a water element include a reflection pool, a water “thread” or integration with the natural pond at the edge of campus

Food plants

Similar to the importance of clean water in the pursuit of social justice, food equity and eliminating food deserts is an essential component of the SCSU Reflection Garden. Incorporating food plants in an artful, meaningful, and productive way will both symbolize the importance of this aspect of plants in our human experience and will also help educate people in ways that gardens can be both beautiful and productive.

Meditation space.

The Reflection Garden will be a place that invites meditation, self-reflection, mindfulness and the pursuit of inner peace. A model organization focusing on mindfulness for individuals and communities is the Holistic Life Foundation – a nonprofit based in Baltimore nurturing the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities.

A digital playground supporting and reflecting experiences in Southern’s public gardens.

Storytelling is one of our greatest shared experiences and is an essential ingredient in our common humanity. The SCSU Reflection Garden will be a physical public garden experience, but in addition, an online tour, plant database, and storyboard will be created where people can share experiences, comments, thoughts, pain, and joy. Stories, comments, thoughts, and expressions can help connect us and break down stereotypes. A number of tools can be leveraged here, including the official Southern public garden webpage, social media, and location-based services. All of these tools can complement the physical space to facilitate storytelling.

Your Support Matters

With the installation of the Remembrance Garden in 2018, your continued support will help ensure longevity of the space through appropriate maintenance and will assist with other projects to help strengthen the campus environment.  Your contribution serves as a strong vote of confidence in this bold vision. Donations will be used for expenses associated with maintaining, designing, sharing, and implementation of the SCSU Reflection Garden.

As part of the SCSU Reflection Garden community, you are involved in supporting students, faculty, staff, and neighbors by advancing opportunities for reflection in an intellectually, emotionally, and socially supportive space.

Please note that contributions to this project are provided to the SCSU Foundation.

Share Your Interest

We invite you to share your thoughts and experiences with garden spaces at Southern. Please feel free to share your story about the ways that gardens at SCSU have made (or could make!) a positive difference in your life.

Membership of the Council and Committees

Barbara Shiller (Faculty Emeritus)
Benson Chan (Student)
Bill Faraclas (co-chair)
Charlie Matassa (Community)
Cindy Simoneau (Faculty)
Cliff Chieffo (Alumnus)
Craig Hlavac (Associate Dean)
Denise Zack (Staff)
Dian Brown-Albert (Staff)
Ellen Cohen (Alumna)
Gwen Wood Emery (Community)

Jim Barber (Staff)
Josephine Ankrah (Student)
Julio Badillo (Student)
Kari Swanson (Librarian Faculty)
Liz Marsh (Student)
Louise Shaw (Faculty)
Louise Spear-Swerling (Faculty)
Margaret Generali (Faculty)
Maria Diamantis (Faculty)
Melissa Talhelm (Faculty)
Mike Shea (Faculty)
Patrick Dilger (Staff)


Peter Madonia (Faculty)
Rebecca Silady (Faculty)
Richard Glasson (Staff)
Rita Landino (Faculty Emeritus)
Rosalyn Amenta (Staff / Adjunct Faculty)
Scott Graves (Faculty)
Stephen Amerman (Faculty)
Suzie Huminski (Staff / Adjunct Faculty)
Tracy Tyree (Administration)