Combining Skill Sets for Career Success

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Dr. Alex Citurs

In a recent discussion about achieving success in today’s job market, Dr. Alex Citurs, Assistant Professor of Business Information Systems (BIS), highlighted the increasing importance of an amalgam of skills for jobseekers. He explained that the Business Department provides its students with opportunities to develop marketable strengths in more than one area: “Employers are looking for combinations of skills. We try really hard to facilitate the combination of skill sets that employers are seeking for career success.”

Dr. Citurs pointed to Todd Anderson (’14, BUS) as an excellent example of a former student who is using a combination of skills from BIS and Finance to build a successful career. A senior financial reporter at Prudential Financial, Todd will speak and take questions about “Integrating BIS and Finance Skills in BIS Finance Careers” on Tuesday, February 21, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Science Building (301). All are welcome.

Automation and the U.S. Economy

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Dr. Brendan Cunningham

Jobs and the American economy are always relevant topics for discussion, yet today more than ever they dominate the national discussion, which increasingly revolves around international trade agreements. Recently, Dr. Brendan Cunningham, Assistant Professor of Economics at Eastern, shared some thoughts on automation of production, an economic concept studied in his macroeconomics courses that relates directly to the principles of this blog—innovation, design, entrepreneurism, and artistry.

Automation has been expanding for decades, affecting most industries and increasingly evoking the question, “To what extent will machines replace people in the workplace?” In a recent example, Otto, an American self-driving technology company, successfully tested the design of its self-driving semi-trailer truck system in the fall of 2016. Automated driving will clearly disrupt the workers who depend on driving careers, such as truckers and taxi drivers, and it will continue to transform the workplace over time. Jobs that involve routine, predictable tasks will experience effects more quickly than other, more complicated roles. Nevertheless, even white collar workers will be displaced in some cases, especially with the advancement of the most sophisticated form of automation—artificial intelligence. For example, computer-assisted diagnosis may increasingly present x-ray technicians and others with competition.

The last time society experienced this level of economic transformation was at the turn of the twentieth century and primarily involved agrarian industries. Our response was to require expanded universal education, and to develop more skills among workers, preparing them for different jobs. MIT Economist David Autor has used the banking industry as a modern example of this effect, pointing out that the introduction of automated teller machines (ATMs) did not eliminate the need for bank tellers. Despite the ubiquity of ATMS, employment opportunities for tellers are reasonably stable, but their tasks are different—more complicated than they once were. Automation does not eliminate the employment of humans; it changes what people do and what skills they need.

Within the current, spirited discussion of international trade agreements is an argument that we must bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States; however, the decline in manufacturing jobs can be attributed more to the effects of automation than to the effects of trade. If manufacturers return to the U.S., it’s not clear how many jobs would actually be created. It may be that factories operate in the U.S. using robots built overseas, in countries such as China, where robot design is advancing rapidly. In other words, tariffs may encourage companies to locate in the U.S., but fail to create more jobs, highlighting the need to update the education and training of American workers to ensure success in our changing world economy.

Dr. Cunningham’s primary field of research is applied industrial organization, including topics such as media economics, copyright economics, and the economics of higher education. He primarily teaches courses relating to these topics as well as macroeconomics. Dr. Cunningham will present his thoughts on automation of production and Universal Basic Income at UCONN’s Center for Learning in Retirement ( in the Fall of 2017.

A Few Words with SEPS Alum Bonnie Edmondson ’87 (Communication & English)

Inspiration. Innovation. Integrity. These concepts embody the faculty and students, as well as the work and mission, of the School of Education and Professional Studies (SEPS) at Eastern Connecticut State University. Recently, SEPS staff had the opportunity to talk to a distinguished alum of the Communication and English programs at Eastern, Dr. Bonnie Edmondson, about the relevance of these concepts.

Dr. Edmondson currently serves as an education consultant and program manager at the Connecticut State Department of Education. A highly accomplished athlete and coach, Dr. Edmondson is a member of the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame. She also had the great honor of serving as a U.S. Olympic Team coach for Women’s Track and Field in Rio this past summer. Ironically, her hammer throw performance was strong enough to send her to the Olympics in 1992; however, she was denied this significant opportunity because the event was not yet recognized for women.

edmondson-throwing72dpiAs someone who has faced numerous challenges, yet experienced tremendous success throughout her career, we asked Dr. Edmondson to shed light on how inspiration, innovation, and integrity have played a role in her life and her career.

“Inspiration, innovation, and integrity are inextricably connected, with integrity serving as the foundational component; the other areas build on integrity,” she suggested. “If you stay true to your core values and beliefs with the integrity that you establish with other people, they’re more likely to follow and support you as a leader. Once you have that foundation, you can build with innovation and inspiration. Without integrity, how can you move on?”

Dr. Edmondson emphasized the fundamental role of integrity when it comes to achieving true success in sports and athletics. “Building character and having goals are what you need to get in place to accomplish the integrity of fair play, teamwork. It’s not just about you, it’s about cultivating opportunities,” she said.

Asked about how she dealt with the failure to recognize women’s throwing that prevented her from participating in the Olympics, she explained, “I had two choices—be bitter or cultivate the situation and decide how to make it right to move forward. I chose to see the much larger picture, the greater good.”

In fact, Dr. Edmondson worked hard to have women’s hammer throw recognized in the Olympics, and it was, as of 2000. This well-earned victory was further enhanced by her recent opportunity to serve as an Olympic coach.

edmondson-olympic_rotator“As an Olympic coach in Rio, I personally experienced that the ‘Olympic Spirit’ is far greater than any one person or one team. All these people are coming together for a common cause, building character, to make the world a more symbiotic, more synchronistic place.”

As the conversation came to a close, Dr. Edmondson reflected on the time she spent earning her bachelor’s degree at SEPS and Eastern. She explained, “One of the things I remember most [about Eastern] is the nurturing environment. Folks were there to help people succeed. They were always going the extra mile. I remember the ‘warm home feeling’ of the campus, which is a huge benefit for people. The environment is intimate; people truly care and are interested in you as a person. These qualities influence you; you’re surrounded by people who model integrity, and it becomes contagious.”

There can be little doubt that Dr. Edmondson models the very same integrity that once influenced her on the campus of Eastern.

2015 TIMPANI study gets national coverage

On December 7, Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education announced the results of its 2015 TIMPANI Toy study. The annual study, which is led by Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, is now in its seventh year of investigating how young children play with a variety of toys in natural settings.

CBS-affiliated WFSB broadcast a story on the findings, which has been picked up by other network affiliates across the country.

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Eastern Partners with National Organization to Diversify the Teaching Profession

Eastern Connecticut State University introduces national partnership program for growing the state’s teaching force. The new Holmes Masters program is designed to attract and prepare educational change agents from historically underrepresented populations. The initiative is the first of its kind within the region and reflects a partnership with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) Holmes Scholars program. The inaugural cohort of Holmes Masters is scheduled to enroll summer 2016.

The Eastern Holmes Masters program is poised to draw applicants from a national pool. Participants will have to meet rigorous admission standards set forth by both the Holmes network and the University. With a focus on equity and diversity, participants will also participate in university-school partnership programming that supports teacher preparation and PK-12 student learning. Holmes Masters will be supported with ongoing mentorship coordinated at the university and national levels.

To learn more about Eastern’s Holmes Masters program or to apply, visit the Graduate Division online or phone 860.465.5292.

Graduate Fair

Come learn more about the graduate degree offerings at Eastern. Faculty will be available to answer questions about our Master’s programs in Accounting, Organizational Management, and Education.

Launch of the Student Excellence and Persistence System

The School of Education and Professional Studies (SEPS) has launched the Student Excellence and Persistence System to support undergraduate students’ academic success and to ultimately enhance student retention and persistence within the School. The first stage of this student support system is to learn and understand the student needs and root causes that contribute to their academic performance. We know that Eastern’s graduate and retention rates are 52% and 78%, respectively; which are slightly higher than the national average (44% and 67%), from the recently released College Scorecard by the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, more than 50% of first time freshmen are retained in the majors within the school. Early results, as measured by multiple indicators, reveal common, self-reported root causes of low academic performances and a reinvestment among students toward their academic pursuits.

If you have any innovative ideas and strategies to help students perform better in classes and maintain our academic program quality simultaneously, please contact Dr. Anita N. Lee, Special Assistant to the Dean. Every small steps we do to enhance student success will help our students to be better liberally educated citizens!

Anita N. Lee, D.P.E.
Special Assistant to the Dean