Marisa Chiorello, The College of New Jersey, Class of 2015
Five-year-old Ella is too young to enroll in The College of New Jersey, but she has a special relationship with the school. One might say she owes her existence to TCNJ’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.
Children’s author Marisa Chiorello, a TCNJ alumna, class of 2015, now living in Hamilton Township, said that TCNJ gave her the knowledge, skills and courage to write her first book titled Ella, and subtitled How a sad girl learns she’s perfect just the way she is. With a BA in English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, she benefitted from the support and mentorship of the English and Gender Studies faculty, plus the “instructive and thought-provoking” coursework.
The character of Ella, the book’s heroine, however, is the product of Marisa’s life experiences and creativity. As described in the book, “Ella looked much different than her friends. She had curly hair, green eyes, tan skin, and a big tummy. Can she be perfect just the way she is? The lesson of the story is that, Ella – a sad girl – learns how to be joyful just the way she is, without reinventing herself into someone she is not.” Ella’s journey reflects what Marisa experienced as a young woman, who flirted with eating disorders and an obsession to look like a Barbie Doll in order to conform to the fashion magazine representation of healthy.
In her quest to be “beautiful,” said Marisa, “I lost something quite valuable – myself. In college, I decided to major in Women’s and Gender Studies …. (In one of the classes), I learned all about girls’ body image. I read Future Girl: Young Women in the Twenty-First Century by Anita Harris. Ms. Harris writes about the ‘can-do’ girl, the fashion magazine model to whom girls are exposed.
“We are ‘taught’ that we must have this specific appearance to be the ‘can-do’ girl. She is beauty. She is success. If we don’t look exactly like her, we are failures. Or so I thought.”
“I also read Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done, by Susan J. Douglass. Here I discovered the correlation between eating disorders and magazines …. Here’s the scary truth: girls today as young as five and six years old are developing eating disorders and reporting body dissatisfaction. Through the story young Ella, my message to girls is simple: they don’t need to look like anyone else. They are beautiful just the way they are.”
Marisa began working on the book right after she graduated from college. The writing, she said, was the easiest part of the process. It flowed “naturally,” because she had the message all worked out in her mind before she put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Finding a small publisher – Showtime Books – and then an illustrator – Michelle Colli – was tough, and she ultimately succeeded because of help provided by her father, who knew people in the publishing business.
But the most challenging part for her was getting the illustrations just right. “It was difficult to take the Ella I created in my mind and transform her so she was visible on paper. It took a lot to finally get Ella to look like how I pictured her in my head.”
The young author has hopes to take the Ella character to even greater heights as the heroine of a series of books, each having a message for little girls. In addition, Marisa is working on a step-into-reading chapter book based on her youngest sister, nine-year-old Olivia. Another sister, Madison Cascardo, is currently attending TCNJ (class of 2021) and majoring in art education. Marisa hopes that Madison can illustrate future books – thus making Ella truly a member of Marisa’s immediate family – and the extended family of The College of New Jersey.
Alumni News Nuggets
December 9, 2018
Kean University adjunct professor Irisa Leverette with two Kean degrees to her credit (BS, 1996, management science and marketing, and MPA, 2000, public administration), helps her students learn algebra, encourages them to do homework, and reduces “math anxiety” by rapping in the classroom. One might say it is her own special version of a love song – representing a labor she loves, for students she loves, at an institution she loves.
“She’ll be in the middle of a lesson, start free styling, drop the marker as if it’s a mic, and then go right back to the lesson as if nothing happened,” said Elijah Sherin, a freshman finance major. “She comes to every class excited to teach, so it makes us excited to come too.”
Professor Leverette, a resident of North Brunswick, has been teaching to her own special beat at the university since 2005. “Teaching at Kean is personal for me. When I stepped on campus in the Spring of 1992 for a tour, the first thing I noticed was a cherry blossom tree. I had never seen one in “real life.” To me it was a sign. Kean was already opening my mind to new things. No doubt, this was the school for me. Also, I loved that Kean was small, diverse and just beautiful. Everywhere I walked, flowers and trees surrounded me. It was different from other campuses she visited. But, the real cherries on top were affordability and location,” she said.
“I rip classrooms like Drake RIP stages,” Ms. Leverette says in one of her lyrics. “I’mma make algebra and trig contagious.”
While Professor Leverette has done “a little rap here, a little rap there” since she was a teenager, this semester her rapping caught on in her MATH 1000 class, which is college algebra. Read more.
Chief Operating Officer and Kean Alumna Named at Hackensack Meridian Health Southern Ocean Medical Center - May 24, 2018 (TheSandpaper.villagesoup.com)
Regina M. Foley, with a master of science in Nursing and PhD from Kean University .... has been appointed chief operating officer of Hackensack Meridian Health Southern Ocean Medical Center. She brings an extensive and successful record of excellence in various nursing and leadership roles within Meridian Health and Hackensack Meridian Health to the medical center.
"Regina is an outstanding leader. Having worked with her in various roles over the years, I am enthusiastic about the new leadership direction she brings to Southern Ocean Medical Center," said Dean Q. Lin, regional president of Hackensack Meridian Health.
Prior to being named COO at SOMC, Dr. Foley was the chief operating officer at Bayshore Medical Center. During her time there, the team achieved Magnet designation, the highest credential that can be achieved within the nursing profession.
Previously, while serving in the role of chief nurse executive and vice president of hospital operations at Ocean Medical Center, Dr. Foley was instrumental in the development of Ocean Care Center, New Jersey's first satellite emergency department, located in Point Pleasant. In addition, she led an $82 million expansion effort that included a new, state-of-the-art emergency department.
Ada Morell '97, Chair of Kean University Board of Trustees
Ada Morell '97, chair of the Kean University Board of Trustees, will be honored at the 21st Annual Kean University Gala on Thursday, June 14 at the Stone House at Stirling Ridge in Warren.
Patricia Barksdale '95
Patricia Barksdale '95, vice president and wealth management advisor in the Jersey City office of Merrill Lynch, will be honored at the 21st Annual Kean University Gala on Thursday, June 14 at the Stone House at Stirling Ridge in Warren.
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