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August 2013 Archives

Eastern Named Among 2013-14 Public Colleges of Distinction

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, Conn: Eastern Connecticut State University has been included in the latest edition of the "Public Colleges of Distinction" guidebook.  Eastern is the only public college from Connecticut listed in the guidebook.  The guide says the colleges and universities listed excel in four distinctions --Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Communities and Successful Outcomes.

"Engaged students" learn the skills they need to succeed in life -- the ability to think flexibly and address problems hands-on -- not just being able to memorize facts and follow orders. Instead, Eastern students learn to communicate, think critically, and solve problems as they explore the world through study abroad, internships, community service projects and undergraduate research.

"Great teaching" occurs in an atmosphere where feedback and encouragement are the norm. Faculty interaction is crucial to learning. "Colleges of distinction" encourage an atmosphere of exciting thought and action, led by professors who care about helping students learn to think for themselves. Academic innovation goes hand-in-hand with personalized learning.

"Vibrant communities" are campus communities that offer activities and events that help students learn even after the books are closed, creating social opportunities for students to develop friendships, and providing students a wide range of intellectually, thought-provoking speakers, seminars, unique films and artistic events.

"Successful outcomes" describes schools that produce students who can think, write, speak and reason, get a job, and most importantly, are also good citizens who can work together with diverse groups of people.
Colleges of Distinction are considered "hidden gems" of higher education, according to the panel of academicians, guidance counselors and parents that made the selection, officials said.  

The guidebook describes a College of Distinction as being:
• nationally recognized by education professionals and honored for the excellence of its programs;
• strongly focused on teaching undergraduates, where students are taught by real professors, not by graduate students or teaching assistants, in vibrant classrooms where the faculty keep their students challenged and interested;
• home to a wide variety of innovative learning experiences, from study abroad and scientific research to service learning and internships;
• an active campus with many opportunities for personal development. Whatever their passion, students find plenty of encouragement to help them pursue it; and
• highly valued by graduate schools and employers for its outstanding preparation.

The Public Colleges of Distinction are currently featured on the newly redesigned Colleges of Distinction website and will be featured in the Public Colleges of Distinction eGuidebook available this fall.

Eastern to Promote Civic Learning Democratic Engagement

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, Conn: -- Eastern Connecticut State University has been selected to participate in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrator's (NASPA) "Lead Initiative," a national effort centered on civic learning and democratic engagement (CLDE).  Eastern is one of 73 institutions nationwide, and the only 4-year public institution in Connecticut that wasaccepted into this program.
 The announcement was made by Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA, and Laura Sponsler, NASPA'S content director for civic learning and democratic engagemenT. "NASPA has long been committed to ensuring that a college education includes developing students as leaders and as citizens through a commitment to civic engagement," said Kruger. "Through the Lead Initiative, NASPA is shining light on the unique contributions that student affairs professionals are making to democratic engagement. In a time of concern and worry about our civic society, it is critical that college administrators are doing all that they can to present students with opportunities to help them develop as productive and engaged citizens."

In a congratulatory letter to Kim Silcox, director of Eastern's Center for Community Engagement, Sponsler wrote, "Over the coming year, you will participate in programmatic and scholarly activities to share information and resources, reflect on lessons learning through CLDE work on your campus, and collaborate with partners through webinars, special events and the Lead Initiative blog. We are so pleased that you are a part of the initiative and I am sincerely looking forward to our work together." 

"We are pleased to have been selected to participate in this program," said Silcox. "Eastern's new Strategic Plan reaffirms the University's commitment to supporting Windham's efforts to address the academic achievement gap of  local students, and we look forward to using the tools and strategies developed through this program to further our partnerships with the Windham community."
Participating members of the "Lead Initiative" have exclusive access to opportunities for collaboration, networking and professional development, all designed to enhance the positive impact the "Lead Initiative" has on students.
Selected institutions, representing public and private four-year and two-year colleges and universities, have committed to a series of strategies to make civic learning and democratic engagement an integrated and core component of the Division of Student Affairs through planning, partnerships, and assessment. Other institutions from Connecticut include the University of New Haven, Middlesex Community College and Capital Community College.
The goals of the program are:
• Building clear and tangible civic learning and democratic engagement activities into Student Affairs Division strategic goals and learning outcomes;
• Creating strategies in collaboration with students, faculty and community partners that increase civic learning and help solve community problems through collective action; and
• Collecting and reporting data on the efficacy of campus efforts using tools that measure gains in civic learning and democratic engagement.

To learn more about NASPA's Lead Initiative, please visit the NASPA website at:

Eastern's Arroyo Publishes Book on Yoruba Pantheon

Written by Dwight Bachman

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Willimantic, Conn: -- Imna Arroyo, professor of art at Eastern Connecticut State University, has published the book, "La Sagrada Familia" (The Sacred Family). The book was introduced at the Museo Casa Africa in Havana, Cuba, in July. Arroyo is an artist whose work incorporate mixed media and installation art to explore her Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions.

"The Sacred Family" is a limited edition that features 32 hand-crafted linoleum prints by Arroyo, dedicated to the Orishas and Deities of the Yoruba Pantheon. The print edition was printed by Ramon Vargas Artiz at the El Templo Studio in Santiago de la Vegas, Cuba, and by Arroyo at her studio in Willimantic. The images are accompanied by descriptions and praises written by Isis Mattei, Arroyo's daughter. James Nicholas Winner-Arroyo, the artist's son, designed the book. Arroyo's son and daughter are both Eastern alumni.

"Orisha are divinities who embody aspects of the Supreme Being, Olodumare," writes Mattei. "Acting as agents of the Deity, Orisha carry out specific functions in the creation and maintenance of the natural world. They personify elemental energies, natural phenomena and transcendental metaphysical principles. Orisha are also understood as universal symbols or signifying archetypes of collective ancestral consciousness."

Arroyo, a Black Puerto Rican and the descendant of enslaved indigenous and African peoples, said the seeds for "La Sagrada Familia" were sown in 1997, when she traveled to Ghana, West Africa and stepped into the dungeons of the Elmina Castle, a primary port in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  "I was standing at the "door of no return," the last portal through which enslaved Africans passed before their shipment to the Americas," she said.

"A shiver ran through my core. I realized that my spirit had returned to the scene of untold atrocities and I felt, without a doubt, a spiritual connection to my ancestors. It is my intent to create art that is a kind of medicine used to heal the deep-seated collective wounds of history, and to celebrate the vibrancy and relevance of the legacy of those who came before me."

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Arroyo has devoted her artistic development to exploring the connections between the African continent and the Diaspora, traveling throughout the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa. "La Sagrada Familia" draws upon the symbolism and language of the Yoruba people whose oral and aesthetic traditions use poetry, proverbs, legends, myths and imagery to express a majestic, complex and sophisticated worldview.

The book, translated into Spanish by art critic Yuneikys Villalonga, is in the permanent collection of the Museum Casa Africa of the Office of the Historian of Habana, Cuba. Arroyo will present the Sacred Family at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, Cuba, in April 2014 during Antonio Martorell's retrospective exhibition, where she will also be presenting a children's book and printmaking workshop. In addition, Arroyo will present the book at Casa de las Americas, which has the most important collection of Caribbean art in Latin America. 

In November, 2013, Arroyo will travel to Cartagenas and Barranquillas, Colombia, to make a presentation at the III Congresso Iberroamericano y V Nacional por una Educacion de Calidad y IV Encuentro de Docentes conference. Jaime Gómez, interim dean of Eastern's School of Education and Professional Studies, will moderate a panel titled, "Comprehensive Education, Art and Cultural Perspectives: A Transdisciplinary Path for Quality Education." Eastern alumna Migdalia Salas will also participate in the panel discussion.

In December, Arroyo will travel to Brazil to conduct research on the Yoruba legacy of Bahia with Brazilian filmmaker, sculptor and printmaker Chiro Fonceca, whose work also focuses on the African Diaspora experience.


Harry Hope Theatre 2013-14 Season of Shows

Written by Christopher J. Herman

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Willimantic, Conn. - The Theatre program at Eastern Connecticut State University is pleased to announce its fall 2013-spring 2014 Harry Hope Theatre performance schedule. The first production of the season, "Dancing At Lughnasa," written by Brian Friel and directed by J. J. Cobb, will run Oct. 10-13 and Oct. 15-16, 2013. Showings are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m. and Tuesday-Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. All shows are in the Harry Hope Theatre.

The play "is set in County Donegal in 1936, and explores five sisters at a crossroads in their lives," said Performing Arts Department Chair David Pellegrini. "Through humor, colorful dialogue and beautifully-drawn characterizations, this Tony Award-winning play delves into the bonds of sisterhood, faith and social change in Ireland between the two world wars."

Frank Rich, New York Times theater critic, in his 1991 review of the play's Broadway production after successful runs in Ireland and London reported that "... this play does exactly what theater was born to do, carrying both its characters and audience aloft on those waves of distant music and ecstatic release that, in defiance of all language and logic, let us dance and dream just before night must fall." It is no wonder that Director Cobb calls this "one of my favorite plays of all time!"

"The Skin of Our Teeth," written by Thornton Wilder and directed by Jerry Winters, will run Nov. 19-24, 2013. Showings are Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Harry Hope Theatre.  "'The Skin of Our Teeth' is an American classic by Thornton Wilder, who also penned 'Our Town' and won Pulitzer Prizes for both," said Pellegrini.
As envisioned by guest director and long-time Eastern faculty member Jerry Winters, this social and political satire on the indomitable American spirit, which Wilder wrote immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, is updated to consider more recent historical contexts.    

When initially conceptualizing the play with Set Designer Kristen Morgan, Winters offered the following observation, "The audience will experience the stage performance, as well as live 'framed moments,' which will create a subtle through line about how the media both frames and manipulates our perception of disasters."  

"'The Skin of Our Teeth' stands head and shoulders above the monotonous plane of our moribund theater -- an original, gay-hearted play that is now and again profoundly moving, as a genuine comedy should be," said New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson. Ellen Brodie, professor and director of theatre, agreed: "Decades later, it (The Skin of Our Teeth) has continued to tickle our funny bones as it incites our intellect."

"Prelude to a Kiss," written by Craig Lucas and directed by Gloria Trombley, guest director and part-time faculty member, will open the spring 2014 season and will run Feb. 27-March 2 and March 4-5. Showings are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m. and Tuesday-Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., all in the Harry Hope Theatre.
Charles Isherwood, New York Times Theater critic, in his 2007 review of a recent revival stated, "So while it ends as fairy tales tend to, "Prelude to a Kiss" is steeped in the ache of loss and a sorrowful awareness that life's joys can be as fleeting as its hardships are unavoidable. It is a romantic comedy of an oddly brokenhearted kind."

Director Trombley says "This magical story of lustful, youthful, romantic love requires the audience to take an imaginary leap into a bewitching fantasy. The audience along with the characters takes an extraordinary journey of wild twists and turns that carries us along an emotional roller coaster that challenges and transforms our sensibility about the power of love."

The Harry Hope Theatre season concludes with the bi-annual "Directors' Showcase of International One-Acts," written by globally acclaimed playwrights and directed by the Theatre program's' most advanced directing students, which will run April 24-27 (Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m.). Please stay tuned for more details regarding this production.

Tickets for Harry Hope Theatre shows are $5 for students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for Eastern faculty, staff and senior citizens; and $12 for the general public. For reservations, please call the Box Office at (860) 465-5123.

Eastern Presents "PULSE" - mixed media wall sculptures by Carol Brookes

Written by Christopher J. Herman


Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting "PULSE: mixed media with sculpture by Carol Brookes," an exhibition by artist Carol Brookes in the Akus Gallery running from Aug. 29-Oct 10. A gallery discussion with Brookes will take place on Sept. 5 from 3-4 p.m. followed by a reception from 4-7 p.m.

"PULSE" examines the hemisphere as a structure, the ordinary forms seen every day in their many incarnations, such as an egg, a pod, an eye, the earth, planets and domes. The various concepts that these forms evoke are explored in the series, including thoughts and insights into life, birth and the mystical and mysterious. Nails, washers, rope, tubing, wire, rubber mats, dowels, leather buckles, industrial honeycomb insulation and tacks are just some of the materials that Brookes incorporates into her wall and box-like structures.

"My work is material driven and constantly evolving," said Brookes. "I consider the world my art supply store. With each new idea comes a new learning process. I am constantly learning 'how to make my art'; how do I use the new materials or tools that I have discovered to express a particular concept, how do I combine certain materials, how can I attach or assemble these new materials. I find this aspect of my work extremely challenging and exciting."

Brookes' artwork has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and cultural centers throughout the United States, including the McLarry Modern Gallery in Santa Fe, Illinois Central College in East Peoria, the Maryland Federation of Art in Annapolis, B. J. Spoke Gallery in Huntington, New York, the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, the Women's Center in Los Angeles, and the Miami Metropolitan Museum and Art Center.

The Akus Gallery is located in the lower level of Shafer Hall at the corner of Windham and Valley Streets in Willimantic.  Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 1-7 p.m. on Thursday and 2-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call (860) 465-4659 or visit

Professor Gregory Kane Donates Stem Cells

Written by Christopher J. Herman

Willimantic, Conn. -Gregory Kane, assistant professor of health and physical education at Eastern Connecticut State University, recently donated his own stem cells, inspired by Eastern Soccer Coach Gregory DeVito's bone marrow drive for student Jon DeCasanova.

The stem cell donation process starts with a simple swap of the inside of one's cheek. After a few weeks, the donor is contacted and begins a series of blood tests. For four days prior to his donation, Kane underwent 10 Filgrastim injections, a medicine that enhances an individual's stem cell count. On the last day, Kane spent seven hours hooked up to a special device that extracts blood from one arm; centrifuges the blood to reveal the stem cells; collects the stems cells; and returns the remaining blood back into the person's other arm.

"The Massachusetts General Hospital transplant team was fantastic and supportive throughout the process," said Kane. "While the process was certainly not painless, the possibility of saving a life was motivation enough for me."
When asked why he decided to donate stem cells, Kane said that the reasons were very personal. "I try to support student and faculty initiatives as best I can," said Kane. "In this particular case, Gregory DeVito's bone marrow drive was important to me. In addition, this sort of process is near and dear to my heart, as my mother had gone through a similar process about eight years ago. Her autologous stem cell transplant was very successful. In some respect, I felt like I was paying back for the technology that helped save my mother's life."

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