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March 2013 Archives

In Memory of Victoria Leigh Soto '08

   chamber singers.jpg     trumpet trio.jpg

jillian.jpgOn March 9, more than 400 students, faculty and staff, family and friends, along with Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, joined Eastern Connecticut State University President Elsa Nunez in the Betty R. Tipton Room for a moving memorial service for Eastern alumna Victoria Leigh Soto '08. Victoria lost her life on Dec. 14, 2012, protecting the children in her first-grade classroom during the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez thanked those in attendance for coming and said, "The greatest tribute we can give Vicki is to live as she did -- with a passion for life and a bounty of love for those we hold dear."

Malloy compared Soto, a double major in early elementary education and history, to legendary Connecticut educator Prudence Crandall and American patriot Nathan Hale. "You could not find a finer person to want to emulate than the one whose life we celebrate today," said Malloy.

Victoria's younger sister Jillian recalled fond, fun-filled memories of Victoria, Thumbnail image for wally lamb.jpgsaying she was "always silly and spontaneous, and she made us so happy." Rachel Schiavone, Soto's college roommate and best friend, said Soto's "friendship was genuine and true, and if you were with her, you were going to have a good time."

Other speakers included author Wally Lamb; Hari Koirala, professor and chair of the Education Department; Ann Higginbotham, professor and chair of the Department of History; and English Professor Daniel Donaghy. The Eastern Chamber Singers, directed by Performing Arts Professor David Belles; Performing Arts Professor Emily Riggs; Guitarist Coley O'Toole; Eric Ouelette; and other Eastern faculty, students and friends performed moving musical selections during the ceremony.

Victoria was a dean's list student while she attended Eastern and graduated with high honors. In her memory, the University has created the Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund to support Eastern students studying to be teachers who have unmet financial need. Checks should be made payable to the ECSU Foundation, Inc. and mailed to the Victoria Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship, Eastern Connecticut State University, 83 Windham Street, Willimantic, CT 06226, Attn: Kenneth J. DeLisa.

Woodward-Secrecy in Government Jeopardizes Democracy

woodward speaking.jpgOn March 12, nearly 900 students, faculty, staff and other guests heard award-winning journalist and author Bob Woodward warn that a government shrouded in secrecy has the potential to undo democracy. Woodward's lecture took place in the Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium, and concluded Eastern's 2012-13 Arts and Lecture Series' 12th season.     
"We overlook reality if the truth comes from people we don't like," said Woodward, who along with Carl Bernstein won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for their book, "All the President's Men." The book helped Thumbnail image for woodward signing books.jpgexpose the Watergate scandal and the subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Woodward, who CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer of CBS News called "the best reporter of our time; maybe the best reporter of all time," reflected back on the Nixon era. "Nixon had microphones everywhere in the Oval Office. The tapes were chilling. Here you had a man who was using the President's Office as a method of personal revenge. His attitude was 'let's screw somebody or remove somebody who was not a supporter. Break into that office! Crack that safe!' All this from a man who called himself the 'law and order' president."

Woodward, who has worked for The Washington Post since 1971, said, "The truth is being drowned out. Unnecessary secrecy by our government, not knowing what's going on, is bad for the country. Business is done in darkness is frightening. Democracies die in darkness. We'll lose our democracy if it's not stopped."

Woodward's most recent book, "The Price of Politics" is an examination of how President Obama and Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress tried to restore the American economy and improve the federal government's fiscal condition. Woodward noted that President Obama says the current sequestration, which will result in an automatic $1.2 trillion dollar cuts, was not his idea, even though evidence shows otherwise.

"Washington, DC is dysfunctional today. It's astonishing that Congressman Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, has never even met Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. No wonder there is no communication, and we are having a breakdown in government of untold magnitude," Woodward said.

Woodward said journalists must answer their calling and have the courage to hold people accountable. He said journalists face many challenges. "What's going on in the world -- North Korea, Egypt, North Africa, and Pakistan with 200 nuclear weapons -- is truly dangerous."

Eastern Inducts New Class of Alumni Fellows

alumni fellows best gentilozzi and kennedy.jpgEastern inducted its fifth class of Alumni Fellows on March 6 in the Paul E. Johnson Community Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.  Inductees included Kathleen Kennedy '74, executive director, America's Head-Recruiting Delivery with UBS Financial Services, and Kathy Gentilozzi '81, senior vice president of human resources for Aeropostale, a specialty clothing retailer.

Kennedy '74 earned a bachelor's degree in Sociology and Applied Social Relations at Eastern, and master's degrees in counseling psychology and education from Columbia University's Teachers College. She is also a graduate of the Executive Program in Strategic Human Resources at the University of Michigan's School of Business. Today she supervises more than 50 recruiting and human resource professionals at three locations to support UBS Financial Services' investment bank, wealth management, asset management, and corporate center businesses in the United States.

Gentilozzi '81 earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education. When she graduated during the recession in 1981, there were virtually no jobs for teachers, so she took a part-time job in retail at The Limited, where she quickly moved into management, and later, human resources management.

Kennedy and Gentilozzi gave students tips on making it in the real world. "When you go on interview, make sure you do your homework on the companies that you are going to be speaking to, because that's a sign of respect, and you should be able to ask questions about their business," said Gentilozzi. "Don't be caught off guard by that."

Both women discussed how they switched jobs often, starting over from scratch, learning something new each time. "When windows of opportunities open, jump on them," said Kennedy. "Trust your instinct. Gather courage. Go forward. Take the risk and use the resources within that company to leverage and support you in being successful in the next step."

Both alumnae gave insight on their experiences with Eastern's liberal arts education. "When I think back to the impact that Eastern had on my life, I wouldn't be here without two individuals believing in me." Kennedy said. She owes her college career to Betty Tipton, dean of students, and Sociology Professor Jean Thoresen. "Jean was a person who really inspired me and made my brain hurt." Because of Thoresen, she decided to become a Sociology major, realizing she was really good at working with people.

Gentilozzi, who also wanted to be a teacher, said, "even though I didn't get to do what I thought I was going to do, I wouldn't trade my experience at Eastern for anything. You will have fabulous experiences and you will have experiences that aren't so pleasant, and put them in your tool kit and move on from there."

The Eastern Fellows program was established in 2008 to recognize and engage distinguished Eastern alumni in the life of the University.  This program is a means of enriching the educational experience of current Eastern undergraduates by exposing them to alumni who are able to share their work experiences with students.

Eastern Honors Winners of MLK Distinguished Service Award

mlk winners.jpgEastern Connecticut State University's 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award participants (left to right): author and poet Billie Jean Young; Eastern student Soely Barros; Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper Jr.; Indira Petoskey, assistant dean of the School Continuing Education; and Eastern President Elsa Núñez.

Eastern presented the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award to senior Soely Barros; Indira Petoskey, assistant dean of the School Continuing Education; and Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper Jr., at a reception on Feb. 27 in the J. Eugene Smith Library. The awards recognize members of the campus community and community-at-large whose actions demonstrate distinguished service in promoting the ideals of King, and to further the goals of diversity and social equality. 

Actor and poet Billie Jean Young delivered the keynote address. She encouraged the audience to love and demonstrate love through unselfish commitment. "Love has the capacity to transform humanity," she said. Some of the greatest accomplishments in the world have been performed by people who demonstrated "love with its working clothes on."

"Tonight's award recipients help us highlight Dr. King's legacy, one that is an enduring message of love, justice and unity; a dream not yet fully realized," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez, as she acknowledged the recipients for their work in relation to King's legacy.
Barros '13, a double major in Spanish and social work carrying a 4.0 GPA in Spanish and a 3.4 GPA in Social Work, serves as the president of the African Club of Eastern and is also a bilingual tutor for Eastern's Dual College Enrollment Program. Barros also works in the Study Abroad Office in the School of Continuing Education, and volunteers as an intern at the North Windham Elementary School, where she mentors 12 elementary schoolchildren.

Petoskey, affectionately known as "Dr. P," oversees international students, global field courses, non-credit professional programs, and the national student exchange and study abroad programs. She also participates in the Hartford Immigrant Advisory Group, and conducts English and English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring sessions.

Harper was nominated to the position of Superior Court Judge in 1997. In 2011, he joined the Connecticut Supreme Court.  "As I reflect on the significance of this award, I am reminded of Dr. King's dream and admiration for our nation. I am reminded that we are still chasing the dream."

Alumna Fannie Brayboy Speaks at Black and White Ball

IMG_0038.jpgFannie Brayboy '08, a 2011 graduate of Yale Divinity School, delivered an inspiring keynote address at the Intercultural Center's Second Annual Black and White Ball on Feb. 28. The celebration in the Betty R. Tipton Room was held to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement of the1960s.

Brayboy spoke eloquently on "The Power of an Idea."  She said King's vibrancy, determination and oratories, especially his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, DC in IMG_0126.jpg1963, fueled the nationwide struggle for change. Citing King's point that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation African Americans were still at the bottom of the economic spectrum, Brayboy said that not much has changed since King gave that speech 50 years ago. "With the election of Barack Obama in 2008 many would have us believe that we magically and instantaneously entered into a post-racial, post-stereotype, post-bias society.  Nothing could be further from the truth."

Just as Dr. King had a dream and call of hope for equality, Brayboy, saying the world needs new ideas about the value of life, told the audience, "Here's an idea: You control your own path. You are responsible for your actions and you alone.  You can be whoever and whatever you say you are . . . Once you realize what an amazing gift you have in your ability to dream, to have hopeful ideas, your capacity for change and success can be endless. You are the master of your own destiny."

During the event, the Intercultural Center also accepted donations for the No Freeze Shelter and the First Baptist Church. Leigh Duffy, director of the No Freeze Shelter, and Fred Shapiro, pastor of the First Baptist Church, attended the ball.

Eastern Hosts Immigration Forum

IMG_9407.JPGMore than 200 people packed the Betty R. Tipton Room on Feb. 24 to attend an Immigration Forum sponsored by the Foundation for Campus Ministry; the Center for Community Engagement; United Action Connecticut (UACT); the Office for Hispanic Ministry; and the Diocese of Norwich.

Special guest U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal began the event with an encouraging message: "Now is our time for accountable, comprehensive reform of our immigration system." IMG_9417.JPG  Sen. Blumenthal declared that the strength of our nation is our diversity and said he enjoyed seeing the "joy and pride" of new citizens at naturalization ceremonies. "We are a nation of immigrants," he continued.  "People come here for freedom, for democracy, for economic opportunities, and to make their own contributions to our society."

The audience represented Willimantic's diverse Latino community, which constitutes almost 50 percent of the town's population, with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Dominicans and other Latino families in attendance.

With such a large local Latino population, "Immigration is not a Texas issue; it's not a California issue; it's a Willimantic issue," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "It's about real people, seeking a better life for their families and a chance to realize the American Dream."
Other speakers include Sister Mary Jude of the Office for Hispanic Ministry and Tim Eakins of United Action Connecticut.  The Eastern forum was the second of five forums that the UACT is planning around the state.

The event enabled immigrants to share their stories on the number of problems and hardships immigrants face when coming to America. Some stories left audience members in tears. "When my older son graduated from high school, his teacher helped him apply for a scholarship, but he couldn't accept it because he didn't have a social security number. My younger son had the same problem," said Rosie from Willimantic. "My husband, always working very hard trying to keep his job, lost it after 10 years because something was not right with his papers."

"Let us all remember that we have one, two or three generations of families that came to this country the same way, without papers," said María Lizbeth Hernández, a graduate of Eastern. "Many crossed an entire ocean and are enjoying the American Dream. How beautiful would it be to give faces to all these people who live honestly in this country, who live in the shadows of fear and stress. They deserve to have a face. They deserve to embrace the same dream."

Lt. Madera Wins Scholarship

madera.jpgLt. Thomas Madera has been awarded a full scholarship to the master's degree program at the University of Phoenix through the FBI National Academy. Each year, the university picks four candidates who have graduated from the FBI National Academy. Madera is pursuing a Master of Science in Administration of Justice and Security with a concentration in Law Enforcement organizations.

In 2010, Eastern hired Madera at the rank of Lieutenant. That same year, he was selected to represent Connecticut Law Enforcement in USA National Law Enforcement Torch Run in Lincoln, NE, where officers from 50 states ran the torch from Ames, Iowa, to opening ceremonies in Nebraska.

In 2010, Madera earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from Albertus Magnus College. "This new degree will prepare me for my future goal of becoming a deputy chief or chief. My interests include charity work with Special Olympics Connecticut, softball, cycling and collecting baseball cards."

Madera began his law enforcement career in 1992. In 1998, he began serving as an officer at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).

Students Volunteer at Special Olympics

IMG_0030.jpgMore than 100 Eastern students volunteered for the 34th Annual Windham Invitational Special Olympics Swim Meet, held on March 9 at Windham High School. According to Eastern Chemistry Professor Charles Wynn, who has been the meet director for 18 years, 180 athletes with disabilities from Connecticut and Massachusetts competed in the meet.

"Volunteers are the backbone of this event," said Wynn, "and continue to make this event the largest and most successful Special Olympics Swim Meet in Connecticut. Volunteers are paired with their own special partner for the day, making sure athletes get to their registered events, cheer them on, and get them involved in activities when they are not swimming."

Not all of the participants competed. "I wanted to help those very special Olympians enjoy the meet even if they were not in the water," said Chris Herman, a junior from Willimantic majoring in Communication. "For eight hours, my responsibilities and time were spent taking care of a group of severely mentally challenged people. They didn't compete, but they did participate in other activities, and I really enjoyed helping out wherever I could. It helped me as well, as I reflected afterwards on what a difference we all could make in someone's life if we just took the time to do so."

Marilyn Nelson Presents Her Work

Marilyn Nelson, poet and professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut, read from her work on March 12 in Room 301 of the Science Building.

Nelson is the author of several award-winning collections of poetry, including "The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems"; "Carver: A Life in Poems"; and "The Homeplace." Her books have garnered such honors as two Coretta Scott King Honor Books; the National Book Award; two Pushcart Prizes; the Boston Globe/Hornbook Award; and the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry.

Nelson also is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) creative writing fellowships and the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Nelson is also the founder and director of the Soul Mountain Retreat in East Haddam, and a former poet laureate for the State of Connecticut (2001-06).

Students Raise Gambling Awareness at Eastern

Gambling Experts.JPGThomas Broffman, assistant professor of social work, and five students in the Social Work program are coordinating a gambling awareness campaign during the spring semester to educate the Eastern Connecticut State University community on the warning signs and issues of problem gambling. The campaign is sponsored by the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.

The campaign consists of several events that run into April. The campaign's first event welcomed Joe Turbessi, author of "Into the Muck," to Eastern on Feb. 21. Turbessi discussed how his experiences with gambling led to problems in his social and financial life, and how he eventually recovered. 

Eastern residence halls have planned events for the month of March to spread awareness and inform students on the effects of gambling. According to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, the rate of gambling on college campuses is twice that of the general population. The campaign team wants to bring this message to where students live. They are concerned with the severity of the punishment and the lack of follow-up provided for those who are caught gambling in residence halls.

The next event will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 4 in the Paul E. Johnson Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library, where a panel of six recovering gamblers will speak to Eastern students about their experiences and inform the community of support programs being offered. For more information on Gambling Awareness Semester at Eastern, contact Thomas Broffman at (860) 465-0298 or broffmant@easternct.edu. Above, left to right, Leslie Bueno, MaryElizabeth Walker Bailey, Stacei Browne, Stacie Greeno, Eastern President Elsa Nunez, Christine Lillis and Sociology Professor Thomas Broffman

Eastern Hosts Post-Graduate Service Panel

public service panel-briana london.jpgEastern's Center for Community Engagement hosted a post-graduate service panel in the Student Center Theatre on March 7, where participants in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, FoodCorps and Teach for America discussed their personal experiences.

Panelists included Kate Callahan, FoodCorps member and registered dietitian; Liz Broussard, FoodCorps member; Chris Brechlin, AmeriCorps member and coordinator for the Nonprofit Alliance of Northeast public service panel- wide shot.jpgConnecticut; Kat Womboldt, a Teach for America teacher in the Windham Center School; Brianna London '10, who served in the Peace Corps as a community business development specialist in Burkina Faso, West Africa; Luke Walsh, AmeriCorps member and coordinator for the Nonprofit Alliance of Northeast CT; and Logan Place, Eastern Area Health Education Center AmeriCorps member.

Panelists provided information about their jobs, experiences and how they initially got involved in their organizations.

"This event provided students the opportunity to broaden their career options and apply a networking opportunity in vibrant public service organizations," said Janell Lewis, a senior from Hamden majoring in psychology who organized the event.

Eastern Men's Basketball Claims Its First ECAC Title

sports-ecacgroup300dpi_4304.jpgFollowing a slow start, the third-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team rode a 22-6 scoring run over the final nine minutes of the first half on the way to a 74-60 victory over top-seeded Westfield State University in the championship game of the 2013 ECAC New England Division III Tournament at the Woodward Center in Westfield, MA.
The ECAC title is the first in men's basketball for Eastern (22-8), which was making its seventh appearance since 1981. The Warriors had beaten Johnson & Wales University, 85-64, in a first-round home contest Wednesday and moved into the championship game for the third time in its last three tournament appearances with a 77-65 win over second-seeded Anna Maria College Saturday at the Woodward Center.

Junior forward Mike Garrow (Terryville) was named tournament MVP after scoring 25 points and pulling down a career-high 14 rebounds.

"It was definitely a battle," admitted Head Coach Bill Geitner. "It was 40 minutes of very, very intense basketball, but I think that our guys knew that that was going to be the case. We had the utmost respect for Westfield. We knew that it was going to be a very physical game, and our guys persevered."

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