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Coming Together While Living Apart

Start Date:6/30/2020

Start Time:12:00 PM EDT

Duration:225 minutes


Join us on June 30 for an inspiring and FREE virtual conference, Coming Together While Living Apart, to expand your mind, nourish your heart and provide practical tools that you can use right away. We’ve pulled together a community of speakers to offer you connections and hope as we bridgewalk together during these turbulent times. 

Reserve your seat today! 

This conference is taking place from 12 PM to 3:45 PM ET as a live virtual experience. We intentionally designed this offering as a caring and safe space that allows you to join the whole time or to attend the sessions that speak directly to you. We have built a break in the middle of our time together. 

Pull up a chair and join us! Remember to invite your circles by sharing the registration link -- we are mapping the journey together and there’s always room for another seat at the table. Let’s feast on a day to remember! 

Scroll down to check out the menu at our community table for the day.

This virtual experience is powered by AARP Connecticut, University of Hartford and Masonicare.

We look forward to connecting!




12:00 PM: Welcome 
Audrey Grove, Director of Community Services & Social Accountability, Masonicare 

Resilience Mapping: Transforming Trauma into Joy  
Rebecca Villarreal, Advisor, AARP Office of Community Engagement  

Connecting Mind, Heart, Body and Soul through the Expressive Arts  
Moderator: Gary Ware, Breakthrough Play
Jennifer Fijal-Brevik, Instructor for the Adult Chamber Choir at the University of Hartford’s Community Division 
Juan Brito, Artist, Composer, Musician, Editor and Social Worker
Susan Holmes, Expressive Arts Facilitator at Masonicare Home Health & Hospice 
Marissa McInerney, Expressive Arts Therapist at Center for Discovery 

Creating a Path for Zero Isolation  
Nicholas R. Nicholson Jr., PhD, MPH, RN, PHCNS-BC, Associate Professor at Quinnipiac University School of Nursing 

1:45 PM: 10-Minute Break

1:55 PM: Reconvene 

Thriving in Troubled Times: How We Can Normalize Acute Stress 
Dr. Richard Kamin MD, FACEP University of CT Health Center 
Unlocking Creativity: Your Path to Joy and Mastery  
Gary Ware, Breakthrough Play 

The Presence of Absence: An Intergenerational Response to Grief 
Moderator:  Claudia E. Oakes, PhD, Department of Health Sciences, University of Hartford
Mala Matacin, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Hartford
Samaria Williams, Licensed Psychotherapist/Adjunct Professor, Co-Founder, Hey Girl, Thrive podcast

Beverly Bryda, MSW, ACSW – Director of Social Work, Masonicare Healthcare Center 

How to Be Together Apart: A Virtual Fireside Chat
Priya Parker, Author, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters
Rebecca Villarreal, Community Organizer, AARP

Wrap Up and Gratitude 

Rebecca Villarreal, AARP 

If you're already registered for the Coming Together While Living Apart webcast, click below:



Priya Parker

Priya Parker is helping us take a deeper look at how anyone can create collective meaning in modern life, one gathering at a time. She is a master facilitator, strategic advisor, acclaimed author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters and the host of the New York Times podcast, Together Apart. Parker has spent 15 years helping leaders and communities have complicated conversations about community and identity and vision at moments of transition. Trained in the field of conflict resolution, Parker has worked on race relations on American college campuses and on peace processes in the Arab world, southern Africa, and India. Parker is a founding member of the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network, a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Values Council and the New Models of Leadership, and a Senior Expert at Mobius Executive Leadership. She studied organizational design at M.I.T., public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and political and social thought at the University of Virginia. Parker’s The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (Riverhead, 2018) has been named a Best Business Book of the year by Amazon, Esquire Magazine, NPR, the Financial Times, 1-800-CEO-READS and Bloomberg. She has spoken on the TED Main Stage, and her TEDx talk on purpose has been viewed over 1 million times. Parker’s work has been featured in numerous outlets including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR,,, Real Simple Magazine,, Bloomberg, Glamour, the Today Show and Morning Joe. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, Anand Giridharadas, and their two children.

Nicholas R. Nicholson Jr., PhD, MPH, RN, PHCNS-BC

Associate Professor

Quinnipiac University School of Nursing

Nicholas R. Nicholson Jr. PhD, MPH, RN, PHCNS-BC is an Associate Professor of Nursing at Quinnipiac University in the School of Nursing. After receiving his PhD in Nursing from Yale University in 2010, Dr. Nicholson completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in Geriatric Clinical Epidemiology and Aging-Related Research from the Yale School of Medicine. He previously earned both a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master in Public Health from the University of Connecticut. Dr. Nicholson is also a board-certified clinical nurse specialist in Public/ Community Health. Dr. Nicholson’s program of research is aimed at understanding factors that lead to social isolation in older persons and developing interventions to mitigate social isolation. His clinical work includes nursing experience in cardiac telemetry, cardiac post-access, medical/ surgical and public/ community health nursing. Dr. Nicholson has published research articles pertaining to the social isolation related topics: concept analysis, state of the science, predictors, psychometric evaluation, and interventions. Most Recently, Dr. Nicholson led a team of interdisciplinary researchers to create & test the psychometric properties of the Social Isolation Scale for use in older adults. Dr. Nicholson’s current research is focused on the development and testing of an intervention to reduce social isolation in older adults. Additional research interests include: psychosocial & chronic disease epidemiology, social support, and social networks.

Gary Ware


Breakthrough Play

Gary Ware, the Founder of Breakthrough Play is a sought-after Corporate Facilitator and Keynote Speaker with nearly a decade of experience as a performer in improv theatre. He assists teams with unlocking creativity, confidence, and sparks collaboration with experiential methods proven to drive peak performance. Gary spent over a decade in the corporate world and originally pursued improv to master public speaking. He quickly discovered that combining improv and play could be a powerful solution to achieve various business challenges. Naturally, he created workshops for his team and other executives in his network to deepen relationships and improve creativity. Gary became obsessed on learning how to use play as a transformational tool and as a result, happily transitioned from marketing to pursue facilitation full time. When Gary isn't leading workshops and keynote speaking, you can find him learning magic or off an adventure with his wife Courtney and son Garrett.

Tia Murphy

State President


Tia Murphy is a recovering corporate executive with over 30 years of business experience in the Telecommunications and Cable industries. Tia earned her MBA in marketing and finance from Loyola University of Chicago. Following the death of her husband and mother, Tia stepped out of her business career to consolidate households with her father and start life anew. Less than a year later, her dad became grievously ill. Tia now found herself in the new role of primary caregiver and guardian, for which she was unschooled and unskilled. Luckily, her previous work life experience helped her navigate this steep learning curve to obtain the best care and services available to this World War II veteran until his death. Currently living in Bethel, CT, Tia is an active volunteer with AARP focusing on causes near and dear to her heart.

Richard Kamin, MD, FACEP

Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine

University of Connecticut Health Center

Dr. Kamin is an actively practicing emergency physician and an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center where he is the EMS Program Director. Rich also serves as the Medical Director for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Office of EMS.  He received both his bachelor of science and medical degree from the University of Washington and subsequently completed a residency in Emergency Medicine and EMS Fellowship at the University of Connecticut.  Dr. Kamin is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine and is proud to be a part of the second group of U.S. physicians board certified in EMS. Dr. Kamin is the Co-Chair of the Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care after having served as a Guidelines Committee and Board of Directors member. He is an active member of the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) Medical Directors Council and a Co-Principle Investigator on the NASEMSO National Model EMS Clinical Guidelines Project.  Rich is the Past-Chair for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Tactical EMS Section, a member of the ACEP High Threat Task Force and a participant with the National Tactical EMS Competency Domains Project.  Rich is actively involved in teaching medical students, residents, pre-hospital providers, law enforcement officers and other physicians.  He has the privilege of providing medical support for multiple law enforcement teams in Connecticut.

Audrey Grove

Director of Community Services & Social Accountability


Audrey Grove has dedicated her career to working with older Americans, as they transition through retirement and senior living. Currently, she is the Director of Community Services and Social Accountability at Masonicare, the Wallingford based not-for-profit provider of senior living and healthcare. She facilitates support groups that focus on caregiver support and family support for Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care and Long Term Care Residents and their families. Through Masonicare, Audrey also coordinates a state-wide educational program for seniors and works with community partners to help craft better resources and opportunities for older Americans. Audrey graduated from Albany University in New York with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and from The College of New Rochelle with a Master’s degree in Counseling. She has facilitated support groups at New Rochelle Hospital, Yale New Haven Hospital, Fordham University, and Masonicare. She is a certified CHOICES counselor and a yoga instructor. Through her work with the CT Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Audrey serves on the Executive Committee for the New Haven Walk to End Alzheimer’s and serves in various other positions in that Association. Audrey has appeared on WTNH and Fox 61 news as a guest speaker on caregiving, support for caregivers and guiding adult children as they help their parents make important decisions as they age.

Claudia Oakes, PhD

Director of Health Science Program

University of Hartford

Claudia Oakes is the Director of the Health Science Program at the University of Hartford. She earned her Bachelors Degree in occupational therapy from Western Michigan University and her Doctoral Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, with a concentration in Gerontology from University of Connecticut . She developed an interdisciplinary Gerontology Minor for students at the University of Hartford, and was instrumental in the University earning Age-Friendly University status.

Mala Matacin

Mala Matacin has a PhD in Social Psychology with postdoctoral training in Behavioral and Preventive Medicine. Her research focuses on women’s health (primarily issues of body image and stress) and women’s leadership. With her interest in gender issues, Dr. Matacin designed and teaches a popular University honors course called Women, Weight, and Worry and a first year seminar entitled, Beauty, Body Image, and Feminism. She is the founder and faculty advisor for Women for Change whose mission is to provide a space for education and support for women in regard to feminism and body image issues. In 1999, she was given an Outstanding Teacher Award. In 2010, she was awarded with the Excellence in Service to Students for going above and beyond work with students. This award was given by Sigma Alpha Pi, the National Society for Leadership and Success. In a 2009 post-graduation survey done by the Career Center, Dr. Matacin was named one of the three top faculty members in the entire University of Hartford community as a faculty member who had a major / positive impact on students’ University of Hartford experience.

Samaria Williams

Samaria Williams, is a Licensed Psychotherapist, Certified Advanced Addiction Disorder Counselor, Adjunct Professor, Trauma Recovery coach, writer, Co-Founder of the podcast, Hey Girl, Thrive, and Mama of a brilliant, beautiful 9-year-old princess. Through a trauma-trained, integrative approach Samaria supports women of all ages in healing the past, cultivating empowerment through healing / releasing the past, and embracing thriving as a lifestyle through self-leadership in all areas of life.

Beverly Bryda

Director of Social Work

Masonicare Health Center

Beverly Bryda has more than 35 years in the field of geriatrics with a special interest in dementia and memory care.  She started her career working in expressive arts and recreation therapy before earning her Masters of Social Work degree. She is a LMSW (licensed Masters Level Social Worker).  Beverly is the Director of Social Work at Masonicare Health Center.  She has always maintained a caseload because she feels resident interactions are the best part of her day.  Beverly understands the challenges that caregivers and family members face.  She oversees care for her 95 year old mother and knows firsthand the demands of balancing work, home and care giving responsibilities.

Juan Brito

Cultural Editor

La Voz Hispana de Connecticut

Juan Brito, was born in Santiago, Chile where he earned his undergraduate degree in social work, advocated for human rights, and performed and composed music in the New Song Movement, which transformed traditional folk music to a call for social justice and change. He came to the U.S. in 1975. He obtained his MSW at UCONN, and co-founded a Spanish literary magazine and published two books about Chile. He is the cultural editor of La Voz Hispana de Connecticut, a state-wide newspaper for Spanish-speaking communities. He has collaborated on musical projects with Michael Uthoff and the Judy Dworin Ballet Ensemble. For Donde Estas, he and Angela Grano Luna, composed music to poems written by Chilean poet Marjorie Agosín that describe the uncertain fate of thousands of Chileans and Argentinians, who disappeared under Pinochet and Videla. A retired Hartford Schools social worker and clinician at the Institute for the Hispanic Family, he still sings in a duo with his wife, Rebecca, and performs with local groups promoting music from Latin America.

Marissa McInerney

Expressive Arts Therapist

Center for Discovery

Marissa McInerney is wild, passionate, daring and big hearted. The arts were always a source of refuge for her; art was and still is a beautiful container for expression.  Marissa discovered in her adolescence that the arts had a remarkable ability to hold what could only be expressed through a process of creation. In high school, Marissa witnessed a horrific, abusive act that frightened her and ignited a real fire within her of advocacy. She went mute for days as she processed the event. During that time of silence, she wondered how she could show up and do something to raise awareness while also express her pain for having witnessed something so tragic. Marissa poured her time and effort into creating a full-length play, co-written with a peer for the sole purpose of regenerating the scene witnessed and illuminating the psychology of abuse that trickles down through families and outward into the world. Art became the container, the expression, the tool to awaken an audience, and the tool used to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. The play received a lot of recognition, and through the experience of writing and directing that play, Marissa knew arts for change was the direction she wanted to take.   She studied Literature, Drama and Performance Theatre at Central Connecticut State University. While she was there, she became involved in high impact theatre, a group focused on theatre for change. Marissa and her peer's political piece was chosen to perform at the state capital in 2009. She graduated with a desire to pursue drama therapy, as the art modality that moved her most was drama and embodiment. She applied to a drama therapy graduate program and when she was denied, she continued to follow the thread of her passion. Through much researching, she found Expressive Arts Therapy, a degree that would include drama AND the other modalities that she loved so much (music, creative writing, visual art and dance). She applied and was accepted, at the age of 24, she left Connecticut and set out for California.  She studied a dual masters degree in two locations. Expressive Arts Therapy, Coaching & Education at the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland (for 3 consecutive summers) and the Expressive Arts Institute of San Diego. This education completely changed her world and offered her perspective on creativity that not only made sense to her logic but also to her soul. The information she learned in this education influences every aspect of her life and certainly informs how she works, loves and plays.  A majority of her career experience was focused in child development. She has worked with children of all ages in child development centers, in-home settings, autism agencies, public school systems (special education) and youth services. While working with children, she also interned at the Veteran’s Village of San Diego bringing Expressive Arts Therapy to wonderful groups of veterans who were challenged with homelessness and addiction.  Marissa earned her Reiki Masters in 2015. She opened a private practice in 2016 at the Global Heart Sanctuary in Solana Beach, CA.  She saw clients for metaphysical energy work and Expressive Arts Therapy. In 2017, she landed a full-time teaching gig as a Drama and Expressive Arts teacher at SOUL Charter School in Solana Beach, CA. This school was aligned with Marissa’s education values, It weaved mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health into their curriculum. Marissa slowly came to acknowledge that her real passion was seeing clients in her private practice, and having the time to really dig in with people therapeutically. She felt that clinical training would be appropriate for her next venture. She packed her bags and headed East in 2018 to study Marriage & Family Therapy (Relational Therapy) at Southern Connecticut State University.  She reopened her private practice, Human Evolvement, in Prospect, CT at the beginning of 2019, and will be graduating in May 2020.  Currently, Marissa holds the Expressive Arts Therapist position for Center for Discovery, a residential eating disorder facility in Fairfield, CT. She has also been a Counselor III there for the past year, guiding clients through their residential treatment experience.  Marissa's mission is to assure the people she works with feel seen, heard and valued as the wonderful unique human they are! And, any chance she gets an opportunity to toss some easy, fun or inspiring and awakening art making into the mix, you can count her in! 

John Whitworth

Network Artist

The Sketch Effect

A Nashville, Tennessee resident by way of the great state of Texas, John brings his cartooning background to create graphic recordings that are as equally whimsical and fun as they are informative and actionable. In addition to live sketching, John is an accomplished book illustrator, public speaker, and teacher. John’s specialty is using humor to engage and inspire his audiences.

Susan Holmes

Expressive Arts Facilitator

Masonicare Home Health and Hospice

Susan Holmes is an artist inspired by the natural world around her. Originally from New York, Susan began her career in the healthcare field, has worked as a Recreation therapist and most recently as an Expressive Arts Facilitator for Masonicare Home Health and Hospice in Wallingford, CT. In addition, she is a certified Reiki master and Therapeutic art life coach. Her work has been shown at the Lyme Art association and Six Summit gallery. She was also the focus of a 2018 article that appeared in the Connecticut Freemasons magazine. She holds a BA degree in Psychology and a BS degree in Allied Health Sciences from SUNY at Stony Brook, NY.

Jennifer Fijal-Brevik

Instructor for the Adult Chamber Choir

University of Hartford's Community Division

Jennifer Fijal-Brevik hails from Massachusetts and graduated from Plymouth State University with a BA in voice performance and pedagogy and her Master of Music in vocal performance from New England Conservatory. Jennifer teaches private voice and instructs the Adult Chamber Choir at the University of Hartford's Community Division, where she is privileged to work with people of all ages. She directs choirs at Senior Centers through the Community Division's Sing Your Hartt Out program; these senior citizens sign up for multi-week programming for singing, community, and the occasional shenanigans under Jennifer's direction!

Rebecca Villarreal

Field Support Advisor

AARP, Office of Community Engagement

Rebecca provides strategic counsel to help states increase impact at the community level. She also offers remote virtual and in-person training in leadership and volunteer team-building while finding ways to create, replicate and scale innovative projects in order to expand livable communities for people of all ages. Prior to AARP, she traveled to Africa gathering wildlife conservation stories in collaboration with local communities and later worked with education and corporate clients in public relations. Outside of AARP, she is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón, and a published poet and blogger, who has performed on stage, radio and television.

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