ECE Student Research Lends Insight into Dual Language Learning

Eastern student Stefanie Dominguez ’18 of Glastonbury (right) presents her research

Written by Anne Pappalardo

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/05/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University student Stefanie Dominguez ’18, an Early Childhood Education and Communication major, recently had her research thesis published in the Early Childhood Education Journal. The highly-ranked, refereed journal analyzes trends, policies and practices in early childhood education for children ranging from birth to age eight. The publication serves the needs of early childhood practitioners including classroom teachers, child care providers and teacher educators.

A Glastonbury resident, Dominguez is a research assistant at Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) and an Honors Program student. Her thesis, titled “A Qualitative Study of the Play and Dual Language Learners in Preschool,” is one of the first to document social interactions of low English-proficient preschoolers, referred to as Dual Language Learners (DLLs), in classrooms. The paper addresses distinct verbal and nonverbal social behaviors utilized by DLLs with low English proficiency when playing with peers in English-speaking preschool classrooms. Dominguez’s research investigated how DLL social behaviors differ from those of English-speaking children during play interaction. She also observed social interactions among DLLs compared to formal assessments of their involvement with peers and teachers during play.

“As an Eastern Honors Program student I was required to write a thesis,” said Dominguez. “I’d always wanted to write an education-based thesis. I worked with Early Childhood Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith on my project. I feel it is a very important field and that my work could be helpful to teachers and students.”

Last year Dominguez was asked to work on research projects with Trawick-Smith and Professor Sudha Swaminathan, as well as CECE Director Julia DeLapp.

“Part of the research required assessing the math knowledge of preschool students. Because I speak Spanish, I was assigned to test the children who spoke Spanish at home so that we could accurately test their math knowledge – not the understanding of the English questions. Through that research, and after talking with the professors, I devised my thesis topic – the social and emotional development of children who speak languages other than English at home,” said Dominguez.

“I found it interesting to see just how different the experiences were for DLLs and their English-speaking peers. I was surprised to see how often DLLs experienced ‘teacher-assisted interactions’ compared to their peers. Seeing how seldom DLLs were able to successfully interact with peers without a teacher’s help was surprising and made me really want to educate teachers. The DLLs were perfectly capable of playing with each other and having sustained play behaviors, but they often needed a teacher to help them get the interaction started. Knowing this can change how teachers interact with our classes and our students on individual levels.”

According to Professor Trawick-Smith, “There are not many undergraduate students who can say they have produced a work that will have an international impact on the thinking in a whole field of study. Yet Stefanie has done just that by addressing a research question which has simply not been asked or answered in previous work. Hers is the only investigation I know of that describes and analyzes the naturalistic interactions of DLLs in preschool. Perhaps Stefanie’s most important finding is that DLLs can interact with peers in positive ways in preschool classrooms if they receive a certain kind of support from their teachers. Her work indicates yet another way in which the preschool teachers play a vital role in promoting the well-being of young children.”

In November Dominguez also presented her thesis research at the National Association for the Educators of Young Children (NAEYC) conference in Atlanta. NAEYC is a professional membership organization that promotes high quality early learning for young children through age eight by connecting early childhood practice, policy and research. She also presented her research to the staff at Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center as part of professional development. Professor Trawick-Smith is using her research in his Families and Cultures course.

“I think undergraduate research is beneficial for students because they have the opportunity to explore a field that most undergraduates are not usually able to access while still pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” said Dominguez. “The ability for students to perform undergraduate research tasks at Eastern also helps them to form stronger relationships with professors outside of a typical classroom setting and provides them with opportunities to travel and share their knowledge with others in their field,” added Dominguez.

Dominguez has presented previous research projects at Eastern’s annual Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern conference held each April and plans to present research there again this year. “Stefanie is already receiving national attention from this project – an invitation to present at a national research forum on children’s play in Atlanta and requests and inquiries from around the country for information about her work,” added Trawick-Smith.

Dominguez is interested in pursuing a master’s degree in special education, and possibly a second master’s degree in deaf education. She wants to become a teacher in a hospital for children who are unable to attend traditional school due to medical problems that keep them in a hospital setting.

Her favorite thing about Eastern? “The size – I was walking in the Student Center one day and the assistant dean came up to me and congratulated me on my publication. He knew me, my name and my accomplishments. That doesn’t happen at large schools. I have formed amazing relationships here at Eastern that I will keep with me once I leave this May.”

Dr. Mark Fabrizi Edits “Horror Literature and Dark Fantasy”

Dr. Mark Fabrizi, Assistant Professor of Education, talks about his work editing the Critical Literacy Series book titledHorror Literature and Dark Fantasy: Challenging Genres“. He says, “I enjoyed reading all the high quality submissions for this book from scholars across the country, and even a few from across the Atlantic! ”Horror Literature and Dark Fantasy: Challenging Genres” is a collection of scholarly essays intended to address, (a) the parent whose unreasoning opposition to horror entails its removal from a school curriculum, (b) the school administrator who sees little or no redeeming literary value in horror, and (c) the teacher who wants to use horror to teach critical literacy skills but does not know how to do so effectively.

The essays herein are intended to offer opportunities for teachers in secondary schools and higher education to enrich their classes through a non-canonical approach to literary study. This book is a deliberate attempt to enlarge the conversation surrounding works of horror and argue for their inclusion into school curricula to teach students critical literacy skills. The chapters cover a broad range of texts, including film, cartoons, and video games as well as traditional print novels and short stories.

For more information, click here:

Olivia Roman (’18g, MSOM) Serves as Eastern’s First Legislative Fellow

I am honored to serve as Eastern’s first Legislative Fellow during the spring 2018 legislative session. The Office of Legislative Research (“OLR”), where I work, is the Connecticut General Assembly’s nonpartisan research arm located in Hartford’s Legislative Office Building. They staff all nonfiscal Legislative committees; write reports annually for legislators and committees; analyze bills; summarize public acts; prepare reports summarizing acts affecting particular occupations, industries, and segments of the population; and perform other services for the Legislature (for more information visit the OLR website:

My duties as a Legislative Fellow include legal and policy research and writing in response to various legislative requests. These projects may be distributed to legislators and/or published to the OLR web site. I also have the opportunity to attend related meetings, such as public hearings and Senate or House of Representative debates. Each day I use knowledge and skills acquired through MSOM program coursework to complete my tasks. These include collaborating with individuals and teams to publish high quality work, thinking critically and creatively, conducting unbiased and thorough research; writing in a concise and well organized way; communicating with tact and professionalism; and, understanding the responsibilities and values of each person’s contributions in multiple organizational contexts.  

I expect to complete my Masters of Science in Organizational Management (MSOM) degree this May. Dr. Elizabeth Scott, MSOM Program Coordinator and Professor, has been an invaluable mentor to me throughout my graduate journey.  I’d like to thank Dr. Scott, the MSOM program faculty, as well my entire supportive “village” of family and friends, who have encouraged me to never give up on my dreams.  Many thanks to the OLR Director, Stephanie D’Ambrose for supporting my selection, and all of the OLR staff who warmly welcomed me, especially my direct supervisors Janet Kaminski-Leduc and Michelle Kirby. This is a very special learning opportunity, which I strongly recommend.   

Dr. Scott says, “We’re proud that Ms. Roman was selected for this opportunity and know that her performance as a Legislative Fellow reflects well on the MSOM program.”

I believe each of us can make a difference.  Find your way to get involved and bring light to an issue, person, or group in need of your attention and talents. “When one of us shines, we all shine.”   

Record Number of Eastern Students accepted to Present at National Conference

A record-breaking 41 Eastern Connecticut State University students from a variety of disciplines have been selected to represent Eastern at the 2018 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a competitive undergraduate research conference that draws students from across the United States. The conference will be held at the University of Central Oklahoma from April 4-7.

Chosen from more than 4,000 submissions, students whose work was accepted to NCUR are required to demonstrate a unique contribution to their field of study. NCUR offers students the opportunity to present their research findings to peers, faculty, and staff from colleges and universities across the nation, providing a unique networking and learning opportunity.

Eastern’s high rate of acceptance puts it among the top 20 schools nationwide – a group that includes major research universities and land grant institutions. Eastern students will present on a variety of academic disciplines. Among them are 10 students from the School of Education and Professional Studies (SEPS), including: • Tess Candler (‘18/ECO), Poster Presentation: Determining the Distributional Effects of Regional Greenhouse Gas
• Alex Gabriele (’20, COM), Poster Presentation: The Effects of Campus Alcohol Policies and Stress on College Binge Drinking
• Phillip Hoeps (’18, ECO), Oral Presentation: Childhood Poverty and Educational Outcomes: Case Studies of India, Ethiopia, Peru, and Vietnam
• Hayley Mangan (’20, COM), Poster Presentation: Swipe Right! Online Dating and College Students
• Noah Pinho (’18, COM), Poster Presentation: The Effects of Affection Exchange and Relationships
• Kimberly Tallard (’18, COM), Poster Presentation: Communication in Cross-Sex Friendship: Can Men and Women Be “Just Friends?”
• Koren Thomas (’20, BUS), Oral Presentation: Women, Strikes, and the Early Labor Movement: An Exploration Union Strategy 1870-1910
• Mackenzie Walker (’18, SLM), Oral Presentation: Opening Worlds: A Historical Overview of the Special Olympics of Connecticut
• Kyle Wilson (’18, SLM), Oral Presentation: Oculus Rift Virtual Reality-Comparison of Pre-Test vs. Post-Test Psychological Responses.

The SEPS faculty continually encourage student researchers to present their work on a national scale, resulting in this impressive number of presentations accepted by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). Jehoon Jeon, Ph.D., advisor and assistant professor of communication explains, “These are diligent, hard-working, highly motivated, and goal-oriented students. They take communication classes, work very hard during the whole semester, and develop their in-class research projects for future opportunities. They distinguish themselves as undergraduate researchers while the selection process of the NCUR is getting more and more competitive every year.” Dr. Jeon continues, “Although it is challenging, many professors in the department of Communication guide students to set up clear goals for research. In response, their research studies clearly show evidence of wonderful academic writing and statistical/analytical skills.” He concludes, “I am very proud of our students.”

Last year, CUR identified Eastern as a campus that was “Leading the Way” with the number of students selected to present, a distinction applicable once again at this year’s conference. In the past four years, Eastern has sent more student researchers to NCUR than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined.

Good luck to our SEPS, and all the Eastern Connecticut State University, student presenters! @EasternSEPS @NCUR #UndergraduateResearch

Eastern Education Students Present at New Mexico Conference

Written by Michael Rouleau

Caroline Perry (bottom left) and Morgan Winship (bottom right) and their research mentors Niloufar Rezai and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith attend the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers conference in Albuquerque, NM.

Eastern Connecticut State University students Caroline Perry and Morgan Winship presented research at the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers conference in Albuquerque, NM, this March 15–17. Their presentation was titled “Authentic Experiences with Families: Impact on Pre-service Teachers’ Knowledge and Dispositions.”

“The essence of this research was to find out how positive family-teacher communication can strengthen a classroom’s interpersonal environment,” said Perry, who hails from Wilton and majors in early childhood education and English. “Family communication is such a large and integral part of a classroom teacher’s role, however there is minimal preparation for this component in education certification programs.”

Under the mentorship of Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, professor of early childhood education, and Niloufar Rezai, director of Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC), the students were tasked with developing strong relationships with families of children enrolled at Eastern’s CFDRC preschool. They did this by maintaining communication with children’s families, going on a home visit, planning a family event at the CFDRC, and more.

“This pushed us to go outside of our comfort zone and be in constant communication with families from the classroom that we were interning in,” said Winship, who hails from Monroe and majors in early childhood education and psychology. “Until this course, I never realized how important it is for teachers to develop relationships with parents. Home life and school life affect each other; teachers and parents need to know how a child is doing in both environments.”

To assist with day-to-day communication, the students experimented with a mobile app called “Remind,” which enabled them to capture moments throughout the day and share them directly with parents.

“This app became my main resource for communicating with my focus child’s family,” said Perry. “It’s really important to keep families updated and involved with their child’s school day. It also offers families a way to get in touch with you (the teacher) beyond an email address.”
Conducting home visits was another major component of the project. “When you visit families in their home you see so much more,” said Winship. “This helps you better understand the child and better connect your curriculum in order to make learning more meaningful to them.”

Reflecting on their experience, Perry said, “We found that family communication is such a valuable resource for creating meaningful learning experiences for children. If you support your students’ families, they will support you. Together, you become a strong team with a shared interest: their child’s success.”

Having successfully presented at the conference in New Mexico, the students and their mentors now aim to publish their results in the “Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education.”

Posted on March 23, 2018 by rouleaum

Holmes Program Develops Minority Teachers

In partnership with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Eastern is continuing its participation in the Holmes Program.

Left to right: Lucero Garza, Laina Rivers and Alexis Sanchez

This year, three elementary education graduate students–Alexis Sanchez (Uncasville), Lucero Garza (Willimantic) and Laina Rivers (Bloomfield)–are participating in the Holmes Master’s program, which supports students from underrepresented backgrounds who are pursuing careers in education.

While the National Center for Educational Statistics projects that 55 percent of all K-12 students in public schools will be students of color by 2023, more than 80% of all K-12 teachers are white. Unless teacher preparation programs recruit more students from minority populations, this underrepresented trend will continue into the future.

“Having the opportunity to be involved in a program that advocates for minority teacher recruitment is eye opening and rewarding,” said Rivers. “There are so many people of color interested in the education field but do not know where to begin or do not believe that they can be successful in the field. I am humbled and honored to be a part of such a program.”

“The Holmes Master’s Program has given me the opportunity to inspire and encourage underrepresented students to join the teaching force,” said Sanchez. “I have only had a handful of minority teachers in my life and would have liked to have had more teachers of color. There is a dire need for minority teachers nationwide to fill the diversity gap in schools. Being part of that movement has been an honor.”

Morgan Cunningham, (COMM ’18) is a true example of how hard work, perseverance, and the desire to learn are the keys to success!

Morgan was 8-years-old when he fell in love with radio. As he was half-heartedly doing yardwork, his dad, knowing how much he loved music, suggested he call the radio station they were listening to and request a song. “There was just something magical about talking to a DJ off the air and behind the scenes . . .,” remembers Morgan, adding, “Little did I know that this would become such a big part of my life – my hobby and my career!”
Morgan’s dad was a continuing education student here at Eastern and aware of our radio station, WECS. He encouraged 14-year-old Morgan to present a concept for a show – to play 1950’s and 1960’s pop and rock n’ roll. When told the only spot open was midnight, he eagerly committed. In their excitement, Morgan’s mom and dad supported him fully, driving him to and from his late night shifts. While Morgan was delivering his one-man, on-air show, he received supportive mentoring from Associate Professor John Zatowski, who listened to his shows and provided feedback.
As a high school student applying to college, Morgan picked Eastern because he felt a match with the University after being a part of WECS for a few years. He submitted only one application. He was accepted and while initially, he sought only to concentrate on broadcasting and production, he took advantage of classes in public relations, advertising, and television production.
Morgan was recently hired at Lite 100.5 WRCH / WTIC Newstalk 1080 as a part-time on–air talent, practicing both DJ and board operator skills, as well as covering national news and programming. He also syndicates his own national radio show, “The Morgan Cunningham Show,” hosts for on-line podcasts, and works at Eastern as an assistant to President Nuñez.
Morgan will graduate in May 2018. He credits his communication professors who, “. . . push critical and analytical thinking and are fully devoted to the success of their students.” He adds, “If students are willing to put in the work, our professors will work hard to help them succeed beyond college.” Looking ahead, Morgan is thinking about Eastern’s Graduate program. For now, he will continue working at WECS and maintain his other radio engagements – gaining experience and continuing to grow as a seasoned radio professional.

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Fabrizi, Assistant Professor of Education!

Dr. Fabrizi has recently been appointed Editor for The Leaflet, the journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE), the regional affiliate for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). The goal of The Leaflet is to provide English teachers at all levels with an opportunity to share ideas, research, and classroom experiences with other professionals. The journal is published at least twice per year, spring and fall. The Leaflet has served the members of NEATE for more than 100 years and continues to be a valuable resource for English teachers. “I am excited and honored to be selected as editor of such a well-established and important professional journal that serves so many English teachers in New England”, says Dr. Fabrizi.

Dr. Fabrizi has completed his first issue: Volume 114, Number 2, Winter 2018. He was appointed this job because he had many great ideas on how to improve the professional look and quality of The Leaflet. He started by redesigning the cover with a new and improved logo, creating a new template for the contents, and reaching out to as many English Teachers in New England he could, to assemble an ever growing resource pool for contributions to the journal. English Teachers of Secondary School, College Professors and even soon to be teachers of English are encouraged to submit poetry, stories, editorials, book reviews, cartoons, comics and more.

In Dr. Fabrizi’s latest issue, a very moving article titled “I am a Teacher” was written by Eastern’s own Michelle Wnuk (ENG, ’14), who is certified to teach grades 7-12. Following her program completion from Eastern, Michelle was immediately hired to teach English at RHAM High School and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree. Dr. Fabrizi says, “I encourage all our English Education students, both current and graduated, to share their creativity and have their voices heard.”

To become a member, sign up at and share your professional contributions!
NEW ENGLAND ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF ENGLISH – Networking English language arts teachers at all grade levels since 1901

Posted on February 20, 2018 by Jill Skowreski, SEPS

Operations Management Students Demonstrate Liberal Arts Practically Applied, Gain Real life Experience and Support Local Businesses!

Business students at CREATE Conference on April 21, 2017.

Led by Faculty Mentor Fatma Pakdil, BUS 260 undergraduate project groups worked with local businesses and analyzed several operations management related topics. “We collaborated with companies located in our community by focusing on their problems, issues, and projects so students could see the real life applications and practices of topics covered in the course” quotes Dr. Pakdil. Teams comprised of up to three students worked with the help of company and academic mentors. In addition to the examples and practice questions analyzed in class, having a real case with various topics to work on was more challenging and showed students what they can expect after graduation. These community based projects underscore Eastern’s commitment to “Liberal Arts Practically Applied”. The following summarizes the students’ projects:

Improving Customer Satisfaction based on SERVQUAL and DINESERV at the Willimantic Brewing Co., was the focus for Majesta Brouillette, ’19/BUS and Cayla Ruiz,’19/BUS. Increasing customer satisfaction is a main goal in the service industry. These students measured customer satisfaction based on the DINESERV scale. Previous studies on DINESERV were analyzed in order to create a questionnaire. During the data collection stage, 115 customer responses were collected over a two week period. Then, data analysis using SPSS 22.0 helped determine what areas should be improved in order to increase customer satisfaction.

Also at the Willimantic Brewing Co., students led by Alexandra Bowker,’19/BUS with Ruchi Patel,’19/BUS and Justin Stannard,’19/BUS analyzed one-year sales numbers in order to identify what menu items are preferred more favorably by customers. Based on sales, the team identified what items should be kept in the menu improvement process.

Additionally students led by Jimmy Yuen,’19/ACCT, with contributions from Trevor Ross,’19/SLM,’20/FIN and Katie Burke,’19/BUS, ’20/BIS observed and measured serving time (the time between receiving an order and order delivery) at the Willimantic Brewing Co., during lunch and dinner services. Using statistical process control, the team analyzed if there was any statistical abnormalities in the service delivery process. After performing normality tests, process capability was analyzed and several control charts such as Run chart, I-MR and Xbar-S charts, were drawn to analyze the service delivery process.

 At General Cable, students Arthur Gifford,’19/BUS Kyle Bulmer,’19/BUS and Ryan Vaillancourt,’20/Explor. Prof. Studies worked on Lead Time Reduction through Raw Material Planning. They analyzed a comprehensive data set including historical data collected by the firm. ABC analysis (an inventory categorization technique) was simply implemented to categorize the raw material. The results of the project were implemented in decision making processes.

Also at General Cable, students Deep Patel,’19/ACCT, Landon Kane,’18/BUS, and Joshua Oyoo,’19/ACCT concentrated on Tensile & Elongations out of Primary as a Predictor of Irradiation Results. The students statistically analyzed and compared elongation values of the cables to their respective tensile strength values using a linear regression model. Further statistical analysis tools were implemented to discover the factors effecting elongation levels of the material.

At the Generations Family Health Center (GFHC), Koren Thomas,’19/BUS, Rebekah Brancato,’20/BIS and Mike Baldassarre,’20/ACCT worked with a project team to implement a fixed asset tagging process. The GFHC staff took yearly inventories but the system was outdated and inefficient which led to many errors and misplacing of equipment and assets. This team helped implement an asset tracking software to simplify the inventory process allowing Generations to better track and take more efficient inventory of their grant purchased assets.

In the light of the Six Sigma Methodology, Maria Taylor, ’16/Gen STUD, aimed to (1) eliminate waste and create better efficiency to help support a growing market with the existing resources and (2) improve the customers experience by focusing on quality. Using the DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) process, the team came up with ideas to decrease waste by focusing on the root causes of the specific problem analyzed in the project.

Some of these accomplishments were shared at the CREATE (Celebrating Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern) Conference on April 21, 2017.

Congratulations to all the Spring 2017 Business 260 Operations Management Students for your hard work and accomplishments!

Experience-Rich Program Leads to a Bright Career

Adam Shepherd photo

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd exemplifies the level of success possible when a dedicated student commits to an excellent program. A spring 2017 graduate of Eastern with a degree in Communication, Adam recently accepted a coveted position at global sports network ESPN as an associate operator. His range of responsibilities will include video editing, studio operations, control room operation, and related duties on ESPN’s television productions. Reflecting on Adam’s success, Communication Associate Professor Andrew Utterback comments, “Adam Shepherd was not only an active student but also an involved student. Adam took full advantage of the co-curricular learning opportunities offered by the Department of Communication in Television Production—primarily within Eastern Television News (ETV NEWS).”

While his Communication professors may highlight Adam’s dedication and work ethic, Adam credits the Communication Department for much of his success. He explains, “Without my experience in the Communication Department, I would not be where I am today. When I first came to Eastern, my interest was working in television. After taking Dr. Utterback’s Television Production course, I knew where I wanted my career to go. I quickly joined the Eastern television group, ETV, where I got hands-on, real world experience in television production. This group was so beneficial to me because it gave me experience I could put on my resume.”

Continuing to expand his experience and build solid work credentials took a central role for Adam: “Another major part of my experience at Eastern was working in the Sports Broadcasting group. This group really took off my sophomore year, thanks to Nick Aconfora, [COM ҆15] a current ESPN employee. Nick opened the door for not only myself, but also for fellow ESPN employees Brian Dostaler [COM ҆17] and Damon Gray [COM ҆16] to use the broadcasting group as real experience to learn and grow in television and sports production.”

Meanwhile, the television club led by Dr. Utterback and media engineer Paul Melmer provided valuable real-world experience related to the demands of producing a weekly news show. Adam reveals, “This opportunity with the group gave me a way to grow and learn so that I could confidently apply to ESPN and be prepared to work there after school because the experience I got in the news group was so professional.” In fact, Adam developed an impressive resume in a relatively short amount of time. “On my resume, everything I listed when I applied to ESPN was Eastern experience—my job as the ETV Director, the TV studio lab assistant, and a video editor and production assistant for ETV Sports,” he explains.

Adam and fellow ҆17 COM graduate Brian Dostaler are among the increasing number of Eastern alumni hired by ESPN in recent years. “I believe the Communication Department, and specifically the TV field, gives students real world experience that we can take anywhere to a job and apply it right after school,” Adam asserts. Thanks to a special combination of quality programming and teaching, students across the School of Education and Professional Studies (SEPS) have demonstrated similar patterns of success. According to a 2017 SEPS survey of those students indicating employment as an immediate career goal, over 50% reported that they had been offered a degree-related position prior to commencement.