Trauma and Learning Conference Header

Interdisciplinary Conference on Trauma & Learning in Post-Secondary Education

Session Presenters & Abstracts

Best Practices in Supporting LGBTQ Students to be Successful

Colby Swettberg Ed.M, LCSW, Executive Director, AFC Mentoring

Due to homophobia, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and those who are questioning (Q) their sexuality or gender identity face disproportionate rates of harassment and mistreatment in their schools and communities. This workshop will explore best practices in evaluating the risks LGBTQ young people are faced with in educational environments, and will explore effective interventions as well as strategies through which providers may foster resilience and improve service delivery from a strengths-based perspective.

Body Language & Trauma in the Classroom: How to anticipate, identify and manage triggered behavior.

Mary R. Garrison, MS, Adjunct Professor of Communications, MassBay   

This presentation will aim to marry theory with practice by looking at practical ways for an instructor to understand and manage classroom situations that arise when students with a traumatic past are or become 'triggered'.  

Fostering Resilience and Excellence in Post-Secondary Academics and Athletics

Bill Raynor, Director of Athletics, Recreaton & Wellness Center, MassBay  

Khari Roulhac, Associate Director of Athletics, Recreation & Wellness Center, MassBay  


This workshop will examine the strategies utilized to assist and engage reluctant learners. The results of Young Men of Color (YMOC)--a pilot program conducted by MassBay Community College-- will be shared and discussed.

I Am My History: Expressing Trauma Through Sound Collages

Abby Nance, Instructor, Gardner-Webb University   

Barbara Anne Kearney, Professor of English, MassBay  

Marjorie Saunders, Professor of English, MassBay  


The goal of this presentation is to share pedagogical use of sound collages and other practices associated with a new pedagogy of digital voice in the college writing classroom.  Audio allows  students the freedom of anonymity as well as the validity of owning experience. We as teachers negotiate the boundary of encouragement - write the truth as you see it but try not to create a culture of disclosure. Presenters will showcase several audio collages, discuss the process of creating them, and explore the pedagogical implications of bringing a microphone into a classroom with students whose voices are often not given credence in academic settings.

The Impact and Implications of Trauma on Adult Learning

Lynn S. Moore, Ph.D., Postsecondary & Adult Education Crisis Counselor at Boston Medical Center, Co-Director, Psychological Resilience Training, STEM Adjunct Instructor, MassBay  

Shamaila Khan, Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Instructor for Psychology Doctoral Training Progam, Outpatient Behavorial Health Clinician, Center for Multicultural Mental Health, Boston Medical Center, Co-Director of Psychological Resilience Training  


This presentation discusses the impact that traumatic events have on the psyche and academic performance. The presentation will provide a basic overview of the nature of traumatic events, and highlight the features of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including diagnostic history, criteria and symptoms, prevalence, and treatment options. It will demonstrate how cognitive, emotional and behavioral functioning is impacted, and will additionally provide an overview of adult learning theory. It will demonstrate practical approaches and techniques for teaching adults who have experienced traumatic episodes. The presenters will provide case studies to illustrate a holistic approach focused on informing adult learning processes by understanding the impact of traumatic events. 

The Impact of Psychological Trauma on Learning & Functioning in Adults in Higher Education

Jane Utley Adelizzi, PhD, Assistant Dean of Students at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in Boston  

Claudia M. Gallagher, PsyD candidate at Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology  


This 90 minute presentation will consist of a description of the specialized field of disabilities in higher education, highlighting the impact of complex trauma on learning and functioning in adults in that educational setting.

Impacts of Trauma on the Developing Brain:  Neurological and Behavioral Correlates

Stephen C. Boos, MD, FAAP, Medical Director, Family Advocacy Center, Baystate Children's Hospital  

Craig Kramer, Psychology Intern  


Evidence indicates that early childhood trauma affects normal developmental processes in ways that affect, thought, emotion, and behavior throughout life.  These impacts are seen in retrospective and prospective studies of traumatized individuals, and in anatomic studies of their brains.  Clinical applications of a developmentally informed understanding of trauma may present superior ways of serving the population of traumatized students. 

The Misunderstood Student: Trauma and its Impact on Student Behaviors in the Health Sciences Classroom

Erin Delaney, RN, MSN/ED, Assistant Professor, MassBay  

Judith Rolph, , RN, MSN/ED, Assistant Professor, LPN Program, MassBay  


When course content and clinical experiences trigger intense reactions from students in the health sciences field faculty may have difficulty managing. Common instructor responses such as over-involvement can exacerbate the problem. Additionally, because of their experience as professional caregivers, faculty may take on the burden of student trauma, leading to burn out. Without appropriate supports, maladaptive patterns of coping with stress in both adult and child learning populations may lead to academic failure, or the inability to function effectively in the clinical setting. This session will present simple strategies for addressing counter-productive classroom behaviors, based on recent literature and principles of cognitive behavioral and systems based theoretical frameworks. 

Origins of Trauma: Can Community College Offer Healing?

Ann Whelan, MA, LMHC, Personal Counselor/Clinical Supervisor, MassBay   

Jon Edwards, MA, LMHC, Director of Counseling, MassBay   


This presentation will focus on the experience of trauma and shame.  Of particular interest is the psychology of the working class and working poor - people who struggle to make a living and make their lives work within the culture of the American Dream.   We will focus on how the shame that accompanies the often complex and traumatic histories of our college students from low SES backgrounds interfere with thinking, self-concept, and the ability to learn.


The experience of shame is social in nature, acquired only after we are able to see ourselves relationally as both subject and object.  Moreover shame is often a stress response to interpersonal trauma.  Both interpersonal trauma in families and societal trauma such as racism and classism happen in a relational context which ironically may allow for healing from trauma.  People who have significant trauma and shame backgrounds need to experience themselves interpersonally in a new way, in a safe environment that upholds and breathes the values of empathy, mutual respect and positive regard. 


The discussion will address such questions as: How does a community help reduce individual shame and increase trust in each other?  Is there a way for us to heal together from our collective trauma?  What does it mean for a college community to become a holding environment for its students?   

Racial Trauma in the Educational Setting

Maryam M. Jernigan, PhD, Yale University  

Carlton E. Green, M.A., M.A., Doctoral Candidate, Boston College, Intern, University of Maryland, College Park Counseling Center

The presenters will provide a background and definition of Racial Trauma. A brief overview of scholarly conceptual work that has paved the way to expand the clinical definition of trauma to include experiences related to racism and discrimination will be discussed.  Additionally, the presenters will identify examples and consequences of racial trauma in college and university settings. Both clinical case material and students' organizational leadership experiences will be used to highlight negative academic, mental health, and interpersonal outcomes related to race-related trauma. Strategies for assessing racial trauma within and outside the academic setting will frame the discussion.

Trauma and Learning in Post-Secondary Education: Lessons from Trauma-Sensitive Schools

Joel Ristuccia, EdM, Certified School Psychologist, co-author of Helping Traumatized Children Learn, member of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a joint project of Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School  


Each year tens of thousands of students in Massachusetts are exposed to traumatic experiences in the home and in the community.  Educators and student support personnel confront daily the impact of trauma on children’s ability to learn, form relationships, and behave appropriately at school.  The impact of trauma on learning unfortunately does not end when a student enters college.  Educators in higher education are recognizing the need for a trauma-sensitive ecology where students feel safe to learn and explore their talents at the college level.  Addressing the needs of traumatized students requires a comprehensive whole school approach that creates an environment where all students feel safe and supported.  Mr. Ristuccia will outline the elements of a trauma-sensitive school and demonstrate how institutions of higher education can use the Flexible Framework, set forth in Helping Traumatized Children Learn, to create a school-wide infrastructure that provides safe and supportive environments in which all students can succeed.  The presentation and discussion will focus on what higher education professionals can learn from the experience of the Trauma and Learning Policy Institute (TLPI) in creating trauma sensitive environments.

Trauma, Dominance, & Social Justice in Higher Education

Rob Koegel, PhD., Northern Essex Community College  


Blending discussion of cutting edge research, powerful film clips, participants from varied experiences will use guided skill practice and small group dialogue to hone the ability to understand and address:

·          How “power-over” culture fuels an epidemic of trauma in intimate relationships, families, schools, communities, and workplaces;

·          The powerlessness, violation, fear, distrust, and denial unleashed by racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression;

·          How the trauma-related coping patterns that millions of students, educators, and administrators bring to the college experience undermine all campus members’ ability to learn, grow, and heal;

·          The toxic, disempowering impact of traditional school structures and power relations in K-12 and college classrooms; and

·          Learning activities and best practices to build the safety, empathy, reflection, dialogue, and “power-with” relations to heal trauma and nourish significant learning.

The Transitioning Veteran  

Kathy Clair-Hayes, MSW, MA, LICSW, Director of Family Outreach, Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program   

Roger A. Knight, Director of Veteran Outreach, Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital, Home Base Program   

Thomas Gingarella - Veterans Administration Rhode Island,Outreach Coordinator   

Chris Morse - GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) Readjustment Counseling Therapist with the Veteran Center Rhode Island  

Moderator: Dr. Gary Donato, LT, USN retired, Adjunct History Professor, MassBay  

This panel focuses on the transition of America's veterans from combat to civilian society.  The primary emphasis is the role of the academic setting in assisting that transition.  Moderated by Dr. Gary Donato, himself a veteran, the panel brings together combat veterans, counselors, practitioners, and professionals to discuss the difficulties, methods of transition, and the needs of the academic setting to assist veterans in making the shift from combat to civilian life.

When 911 Breaks    

Panel Chair and Moderator: Kimberly Altavesta, BS, NREMT-P, Assistant Professor, EMS Program, MassBay, M.Ed Candidate, Framingham State University

Derek Pope, EMT-P
• Trauma survivor, Paramedic, Community College student
Michael McCarthy, NREMT-P, EMD
• Trauma survivor, Paramedic
Linda Devereux, EMT
• Trauma survivor, EMT, Educator, MBEMSC EMT of the Year 2011
Ronald Quaranto, NREMT-P
• COO, Cataldo Ambulance Service, Malden, MA

Darron Smith
• Firefighter
Diane Moran, MSW, BCETS
• Cambridge Fire Department Critical Incident Stress Team

This panel discussion will explore the impact of trauma on entry, success, and retention in Emergency Medical Services. Prehospital professionals practice in a diverse and often chaotic environment that can predispose caregivers to unique stressors. EMTs and Paramedics enter patients’ homes and lives in times of crisis, and must professionally maintain calm and order, while providing emergency care and transport. The stress—and especially cumulative stress-- of these experiences contributes to a variety of problems including high rates of divorce, substance abuse, PTSD, and burnout.

This unique panel of professionals will describe how traumatic experiences in the professional as well as the personal affect choice of first-responder profession, with special attention to how these experiences affected choice of profession, job performance, advancement, and retention in the ranks of EMS. Current pre-hospital curriculum rarely addresses this dynamic. Educational programs, many of which are sited within community colleges, must address these concerns in order to support and prepare the next generation of caregivers and first responder professionals. Since there is a limited body of research on trauma in EMS, the panel will explore areas for further research.

Continuing Education credits: MassBay is an OEMS accredited training institution. This session qualifies for EMS CEUs at all certification levels.

Writing and Trauma in the College Composition Classroom

Matthew Bird, Adjunct Instructor, LaGuardia Community College  

Roseanne Gatto, Assistant Professor, Institute for Writing Studies, St. John’s University  

Tara Roeder, Assistant Professor, Institute for Writing Studies, St. John’s University  


The first year writing class is a unique moment in the university—composition theorists C. Mark Hurlbert, Michael Blitz, Thomas Newkirk, and Michelle Payne, among others, offer insight into the ways in which the structure of the course intrinsically invites students to explore “personal” territory.  Such territory is often linked to moments of trauma—sexual violence, domestic violence, bullying, self-mutilation.  While we as writing teachers must always be on-guard not to conflate the role of therapist with that of teacher, we also need to explore the ways in which we can meaningfully respond to these very real texts that sit before us, exploring questions of form, narrative, and response in the face of the traumatic.