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February 2014 Archives

Eastern to Present Kye Allums

Written by Danielle Couture

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    Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will present "Shooting History's First Free Throw: Kye Allums," as part of Eastern's University Hour Series, at 3 p.m. on March 5 in the Student Center Theatre.

    Allums is the first openly transgender Division I athlete in sports history. He will discuss the challenges and triumphs that come along with coming out to teammates, family and the world.

University Hour is free and open to the public.


Eastern Honors Winners of MLK Distinguished Service Award

Written by Danielle Couture


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From left to right: MLK Winners Alycia Bright-Holland, Rose Marie Hernández and Yollaine Kaja with Eastern President Elsa Nunez.

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University presented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards on Feb. 19th to Biology major Yollaine Kaja; Alycia Bright-Holland, lecturer of performing arts; and Rose Marie Hernández, family liaison at Windham Middle School and coordinator of the Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program. 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.
Eastern alumnus Ryan J. Davis '03 delivered the keynote address at the awards ceremony, held in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library. Davis is the senior program manager for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which is designed to increase the number of students of color who earn postsecondary degrees. Davis also has experience as a teacher, higher education administrator and education policy researcher.

Davis described Eastern as a community that cares about students and provides "wraparound" support. "Eastern was the birthplace of my service-focused leadership.  It is where I began to give," he said, mentioning the Covenant Soup Kitchen, tutoring in local schools and Habitat for Humanity. Davis talked about Dr. King's accomplishments during his short life. "King graduated from college at 19, received the Nobel Prize at age 34 and died at 39.  Yet all the stress he was under (his house was burned, he was stabbed, constant written and verbal abuse) impacted his health. His autopsy revealed he had the heart health of a 60-year-old man. Yet he is one of the few non-Presidents with a monument on the Washington Mall." At the end of his speech, Davis left the audience with questions to ask themselves: "Am I impacting lives in the most robust way possible?" "What path am I willing to commit to?" "What will my legacy be?" "What gift will I leave this world?"

Kaja '16, a biology major with a double minor in Peace and Human Rights and French, comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and speaks five languages. She is involved with various groups on campus including the Center for Community Engagement, the Peace and Human Rights Club and UNICEF, for which she opened a chapter on campus. Kaja plans to be a doctor and spent six weeks this past summer at Yale in a program for students considering medical/dental careers. She is currently shadowing a doctor at Windham Hospital.
"I am a simple girl from the Congo," she said. "Like Dr. King, I have a dream of service, education and justice for all. I have been blessed with so many opportunities.  We are here as members of the same human race, and so I will treat this award as a symbol of peace."

Bright-Holland, lecturer of performing arts, teaches classes for the First-Year Experience, the Theatre Program and the dance curriculum. She directed and choreographed "Once on This Island," a Caribbean musical play inspired by Haiti's history and spirituality. She has also contributed to several programs for the University Hours.

At the reception, it was announced that Bright-Holland will be starting as a full-time professor in the fall. "Being a leader means taking on responsibility," she said. "I will continue to work hard to deserve this award."
Hernández is the director of Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future, a tutoring and youth mentoring program at Windham Middle School (WMS) and at the Windham High School (WHS). She has worked in collaboration with the Center for Community Engagement and Windham Public Schools for three years to make the program a great success. Hernández's most recent work is being a part of the Windham Task Force on Abuse and Neglect of Children.

"MLK took his message and beliefs far beyond the walls of his church," Hernández said, and talked about how she could better impact the local community and model King's compassion for people in the future.

Eastern to Present "Prelude to a Kiss"

Written by Danielle Couture


 Lucy Shea and Michael Siddell, Eastern University Theatre majors, in "Prelude To A Kiss."

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Theatre Program and Drama Society will present "Prelude to a Kiss" written by Craig Lucas, in the Harry Hope Theatre in Shafer Hall. The play, directed by Lecturer of Performing Arts Gloria Trombley, will run from Feb. 27-March 2 and March 4-5 (Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m.; Tuesday-Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.).
"This magical story of lustful, youthful, romantic love requires the audience to take an imaginary leap into a bewitching fantasy," says Trombley. "The audience, along with the characters, takes an extraordinary journey of wild twists and turns that carries us along an emotional roller coaster and challenges and transforms our sensibility about the power of love."

The public is invited. Admission is $5 for students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for Eastern faculty, staff, alumni and senior citizens; and $12 for the general public. For more information on "Prelude to a Kiss," call the University Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email Ellen Brodie at


Theatre Students Shine at Festival in Hyannis, MA

Written by Dwight Bachman

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Three Eastern students returned to campus with top awards from this year's Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (Region I), a yearly event where more than 1,000 students and faculty from colleges across the Northeast participate. Twenty-one students and five faculty members attended the festival, held this year in Hyannis, MA.

Joseph Staffa's projection design work for "Once on this Island," directed and choreographed by theatre lecturer Alycia Bright-Holland, won first place for Scenic Design Excellence at the conference and a one-week trip to the KCACTF national conference in Washington D.C. This is the second year in a row that one of Performing Arts Assistant Professor Kristen Morgan's students has won a first-place national KCACTF award for their projection design.

Keri Smart, mentored and supervised by Anya Sokolovskaya, won a one-week scholarship at the prestigious Stage Craft Institute of Las Vegas for her costume design of Eastern's production of "The Birds." Smart may be remembered for her highly creative use of feathers in her costume design for last February's production, directed by Professor Ellen Faith Brodie. Her award includes an experience with Las Vegas' famous Jubilee costume design and run crew. The cast of last year's production of "Once on this Island," directed and choreographed by Bright-Holland, won a regional Merit Award for Excellent use of African and Caribbean dance and performance.

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As in year's past, Eastern students have been very active in the conference's events, workshops and competitions. Due to their excellent performances in theatre productions during spring and fall 2013, four student actors -- Stephanie Madden, Kinde Queenan, Dan Fernandez and Kelsey Guggenheim -- were nominated to participate in the event's Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition. Emily Rieser, Mya Ta, Chad Dominique and Alexis Kurtz were their scene partners in the competition.

Due to their high quality work at Eastern, four Design/Tech/Management students -- Amanda Conkey, Joe Staffa, Matt Pryke and Keri Smart -- were nominated to participate in the conference's Design/Tech/and Management Exhibition. Three of these students -- Staffa, Pryke and Smart --were selected as three of 15 finalists in this competitive event.

For her performance in Eastern's musical "Once on this Island," Conkey was selected to compete in the final night's Malty Musical Theatre performance. Zach LaSala auditioned for, and received a part in, the conference's One Act Play competition.

Abby Weston was one of four students from throughout the Northeast to be selected to be an administrative intern for this event. Maggie Casto, Megan Velasquez, Stephanie Madden, Alexis Kurtz, Emily Rieser and Liz Pelletier made up of more than half of the participants in the festival's Play Slam performances. Guggenheim and Fernandez participated in the festival's New Play Project initiative.


Eastern Presents Maurice Clarett

Written by Danielle Couture

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Office of Equity and Diversity will present "A Conversation with Maurice Clarett" as part of the University Hour Series at 3 p.m. on Feb. 26 in the Student Center Theatre.

Clarett's life has been very public as football took him places he never could have imagined.  In his freshman year at Ohio State University, Clarett rushed for 1,247 yards and helped lead his team to the national championship. Clarett has been referred to as one of the greatest impact freshman collegiate football players to ever play the game by many sports enthusiasts.  His life choices in the years following that stellar freshman year lead to his dismissal from college and a four-year prison sentence.  In this University Hour event, Clarett will share his life story with the hope of imparting wisdom he has learned the hard way. 

University Hour is free and open to the public.

Design Students to Exhibit at Kerri Art Studio and Gallery

Written by Akaya McElveenKeri Art-Kristin Palka.jpgWillimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's graphic design program will be collaborating with Thread City Development, Inc., the Willimantic Screen Project, the Willimantic Brewing Company and the Kerri Art Studio & Gallery to illuminate the Kerri Gallery on Main Street as part of the Green Valley's fourth annual Green Lights initiative.

The Kerri Gallery will host an opening reception for Green Lights from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 27. The reception is free and open to the public. The gallery will glow each night from February 27 to March 5 with a series of publicly visible, inventively imagined, green light images created by Eastern design students with the assistance of Eastern Professor of Art June Bisantz.

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Eastern students involved in the project are Kara Berglund, Melissa Blazejak, Christina Broccoli, Laura Cardeno, Joshua Cranmer, Braden Herrick, Lauren Hodkinson, Cynthia Kapp, Solinda Keth, Colleen King, Hannah Lewis, Cassandra Marion, Chris McMenamey, Seth Myers, Kristin Palka, Joseph Perez, Robert Picone, Mark Raleigh, Alyssa Reilly, Alexa Senia, Chelsea Taylor, Tyler Scott and Julie Vega.

"The Last Green Valley" is a 35-town National Heritage Corridor in eastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts. The organization works locally to celebrate heritage, preserve natural resources and respect working lands. Each year, Green Lights encourages residents of the  region to show support for the National Heritage Corridor by displaying green lights in any way they can imagine between Feb. 15 and March 17. More information can be found at

Eastern to Host Forum on CPTV Documentary on State's Prisons

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, Conn. -- The Center for Community Engagement at Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting a forum to view and discuss the Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) documentary, "The Color of Justice." The forum will be held on Feb. 26 from 6-8 p.m. in Room 110 of Webb Hall on the Eastern campus. The event, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, School-Based Arrest Reduction Collaborative; Windham Willimantic Local Interagency Services Team (LIST), and Eastern's Division of Student Affairs, is free and open to the public.

"Color of Justice" examines the role race plays in Connecticut's juvenile justice system. The state's own studies show that minority children enter the juvenile justice system at a higher rate than their white peers, and are treated more harshly there. Research shows that adult decisions, not the behavior of the children, accounts for these differences.

After producing the documentary, CPTV partnered with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance to organize forums around the state to help communities more thoroughly examine the issue. The Alliance has spearheaded major juvenile justice reforms that have improved public safety, while reducing the number of youths sent to the state's most expensive juvenile justice programs.

The forum will focus on understanding the issue and on finding concrete ways that citizens can act to promote equality for all Connecticut youth. For more information about the forum, contact: Kimberly Silcox, Center for Community Engagement, Eastern Connecticut State University (860) 465-4426.

Eastern's Delaney Wins Highest Student Activities Honor

Written by Michael Rouleau

Willimantic, Conn. - Michelle Delaney, director of Student Activities at Eastern Connecticut State University, received the National Association for Campus Activities' (NACA) "Founders Award" recently at the association's national convention in Boston.

The Founders Award -- NACA's highest honor -- is presented to individuals who have contributed significantly to the association's mission to provide NACA member institutions with innovative practices that support campus engagement. Delaney was this year's sole recipient.

"Eastern is fortunate to have Michelle Delaney amongst its community," said Vice President for Student Affairs Kenneth Bedini. "A national leader in campus activities, she has brought to our campus a vision and experiences that have advanced our program in many ways."

One of Delaney's most notable accomplishments is the founding of the Ross/Fahey Golf Tournament, which is NACA's premier fundraising event in the Northeast. Over the past 15 years, the tournament has raised more than $100,000 for scholarships that are awarded to students and new professionals in the Northeast.

"I was so surprised and thrilled to be selected by NACA for the Founders Award," said Delaney. "It's an honor to now be in the company of colleagues that I have admired for many years."

The Founders Award is presented to individuals who have given continued and outstanding service to NACA, have exemplified standards of professional integrity, have achieved stature in their professional or academic pursuits, hold the esteem of colleagues and peers, and have worked to further programming in the field of campus activities.

"Michelle Delaney has volunteered with NACA over many years and in many roles," said NACA Board Chair Matt Morrin. "She is a strong leader and a well-respected student affairs professional. Many in her field and on her campus have cited examples of her work at Eastern, which has enriched student life, supported staff in their professional development and made a difference in students' lives."

Kirchmann Documents Polish-American Life


History Professor Anna Kirchmann's latest book, "Letters from Readers in the Polish American Press, 1902-1969: A Corner for Everybody," has just been published by Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield. The book is a unique collection of close to 500 letters from Polish American readers that were published in Ameryka-Echo between 1902 and 1969. In these letters, Polish immigrants speak in their own words about their American experience, and vigorously debate religion, organization of their community, ethnic identity, American politics and society, and ties to the homeland. The translated letters are annotated and divided into thematic chapters with informative introductions. The Ameryka-Echo letters are a rich source of information on the history of Polish Americans, which can serve as primary sources for students and scholars. 

According to the book's abstract, "Polish Americans formed one of the largest European immigrant groups in the United States and their community developed a vibrant Polish-language press, which tied together networks of readers in the entire Polish immigrant Diaspora.

"Newspaper editors encouraged their readers to write to the press and provided them with public space to exchange their views and opinions. Ameryka-Echo, a weekly published from Toledo, OH, was one of the most popular and long-lasting newspapers with international circulation. For seven decades, Ameryka-Echo sustained a number of sections based on readers' correspondence, but the most popular of them was a 'Corner for Everybody,' which featured thousands of letters on a variety of topics."

Written by Danielle Couture


       Lucy Shea and Michael Siddell, Eastern Theatre majors, in "Prelude To A Kiss,"

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Theatre Program and Drama Society will present "Prelude to a Kiss" written by Craig Lucas, in the Harry Hope Theatre in Shafer Hall. The play, directed by Lecturer of Performing Arts Gloria Trombley, will run from Feb. 27-March 2 and March 4-5 (Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m.; Tuesday-Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.).
"This magical story of lustful, youthful, romantic love requires the audience to take an imaginary leap into a bewitching fantasy," says Trombley. "The audience, along with the characters, takes an extraordinary journey of wild twists and turns that carries us along an emotional roller coaster and challenges and transforms our sensibility about the power of love."

The public is invited. Admission is $5 for students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for Eastern faculty, staff, alumni and senior citizens; and $12 for the general public. For more information on "Prelude to a Kiss," call the University Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email Ellen Brodie at


Smart Painting

Written by Akaya McElveen

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John O'Donnell, lecturer of studio and digital art, is curating and organizing, "Smart Painting," a show of paintings by artists who respond to the institution of contemporary abstraction. The show runs Feb. 7- March 22 in New Haven's Artspace Gallery.  An opening reception was held on Feb. 7.

"These painting are sharp, quick, bright, amusing, elegant and are aware of their own limitations and forge on, in the familiar but ambiguous territory of abstraction," said O'Donnell. "Confidently defining space through the use of line and structure these paintings challenge traditional notions of abstraction through rational constructions that examine concepts of composition and depth."

Featured artists include Blake Shirley, Sharon Butler, Deborah Dancy, Zachary Keeting, Ben Piwowar, Jenn Dierdorf, Rob D. Campbell, Derek Leka, Clare Grill, Tatiana Berg.

O'Donnell is a multidisciplinary artist and has created performance pieces for the Museum of New Art in Detroit, Proof Gallery in Boston, Flux Space in Philadelphia, and SOHO20 Gallery in New York.  His videos have been exhibited at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York and at film festivals in Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia.

In addition to teaching at Eastern, O'Donnell serves as an adjunct professor of studio and digital arts at the University of Connecticut and Gateway Community College.

Eastern Celebrates 125th Anniversary



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Eastern Connecticut State University is celebrating its 125h Anniversary this year with a series of special events, displays, multi-media production, and other activities to highlight Eastern's 125-year journey since its beginnings in 1889 as the Willimantic State Normal School.

"We have come a long way from our humble beginnings in September 1889 as the Willimantic State Normal School," said Eastern President Núñez. "At that time our faculty occupied the fourth floor of the Savings Institute building on Main Street, preparing their 13 students to become primary grade schoolteachers. Today we are Connecticut's public liberal arts university, providing more than 5,500 students with intellectual skills and applied learning opportunities that prepare them for dozens of professional careers.  At the same time, we are committed to ensuring educational access for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, with most of our students staying in Connecticut to become vital members of our state economy.  Even as we have grown, we have remained faithful to Eastern's tradition of establishing personal, lifelong relationships between our students and the faculty."

To provide the campus community and visitors with a better sense of Eastern's past, a 30-foot timeline of the University's 125-year history will be displayed on the wall next to the Student Center Theatre, with a 25-year span being installed each month between January-May, 2014. The display will include what was going on in Willimantic; Connecticut; and the United States during each time segment, in addition to what was happening on campus.  In addition, a special anniversary edition of EASTERN Magazine will be published in early June to share the celebration with alumni and friends.

In late September, the University will dedicate a time capsule that will eventually be installed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center, to be opened in 2039 during Eastern's 150th Anniversary.  Displays are also being installed in the J. Eugene Smith Library to coincide with the major events mentioned earlier; Education is the theme for January 2014; The Arts is the focus for February; Athletics will be featured in March; The Sciences are the topic for April; and Community Engagement is theme for May.

A number of community-based projects are also planned, including a poster contest in local schools; the linking of planned CCE activities to the 125th Anniversary; and other activities under consideration.

Students are also getting involved in the celebration: the Student Government Association is looking into reenacting one or more Eastern tradition from bygone years; Visual Arts students are planning a Public Arts project in the community; and a video contest is also in the works.

The Eastern website will feature an historical photograph slide show on the home page; a dedicated webpage for the anniversary and its many activities that will feature the event schedule, contests, videos, and photos of special events; as well as a number of social media contests for students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors.

Academic and other departments are working on a variety of programs during the spring semester aimed principally at faculty, staff and student audiences. "Education Day," sponsored by the Education Department, was held on Jan. 28, 2014, and featured faculty and alumni discussion panels. During "Focus on the Arts" on Feb. 20, theatre, music and visual arts faculty and students will offer performances, visual exhibits and other entertaining and informative information.

"Athletics at Eastern" will be featured on March 10, 2014, with a visual presentation, alumni and student testimonials, and a display of athletic apparel and equipment. On April 10, 2014, "Science Day" will showcase scientific demonstrations and experiments.  May 1, 2014 is "Community Engagement Day," with a series of activities on campus, including the annual Service Expo, the Puentes al Futuro event and Eastern's annual Community Service Awards.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (860) 465-5735 or


Professor Russell's New Book Named Top 10 Book in Business/Economics

Written by Michael Rouleau

russell book cover.jpgWillimantic, Conn: -- On April 29, Beacon Press will publish "Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis," a new book by CSU Professor of Sociology James Russell. The book has been named by "Publishers Weekly" as a top 10 book in Business and Economics for Spring 2014.
The book is already receiving critical acclaim. "James Russell is a formidable crusader with a gift for rendering an obtuse topic accessible," said Nomi Prins, author of "All the Presidents' Bankers" and "It Takes a Pillage." In "Social Insecurity," he has penned a book that will enrage citizens of all ages and political persuasions, illuminate them about the organized robbery of their economic futures by the financial services industry, and inspire them to action. More than a description of a retirement system coopted by predatory bankers and fund managers, Social Insecurity is also a passionate account of the complicity of the global political elite and their ideological zealots, complete with a Hollywood moment of Russell's victory in achieving reform measures that can benefit everybody.

Charles R. Morris, author of "The Trillion Dollar Meltdown" and "The Tycoons," writes, "Forget the TV ads of gray-haired retired couples on bicycle trips. If you're an average American, you won't have enough to retire on. The shift from old-fashioned pensions to 401(k)s has enriched Wall Street and jeopardized your future. Essential reading for anyone who works for a living--from millennials to boomers--James Russell's Social Insecurity explains what you lost and who benefited from it."

  Helaine Olen, author of "Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry," agrees, calling the book "an absolutely necessary read! James Russell has written the book explaining how we all got sold on the ridiculous notion of do-it-yourself retirement savings, and why it was never, ever going to work for anyone but the financial services sector. A devastating indictment that nevertheless concludes with ideas for reversing a dangerous trend we can no longer afford to ignore."


russell head shot.jpgThe mass transition from pensions to 401(k)-type plans started in 1981 due to the implementation of regulations of the Revenue Act of 1978. The idea was that "defined contribution" programs like the 401(k) coincide with American capitalist values better than "defined benefit" programs like the pension.

However, Russell argues that the reality of the 401(k) is far different--and more detrimental--than the intention. "401(k)s do a better job of supporting Wall Street than they do retirement," said Russell. "The enormously powerful financial services industry benefits from the current growth of defined contribution plans [like the 401(k)] from which it draws commissions, interest payments and management fees."

"James Russell has penned a book that will enrage citizens of all ages and political persuasions, illuminate them about the organized robbery of their economic futures by the financial services industry, and inspire them to action," wrote Nomi Prins, author of "All the Presidents' Bankers" and "It Takes a Pillage."

In "Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis," Russell delves into the history of retirement in the United States, case studies of other 401(k)-type plans in other countries, myths and realities of "defined contribution" and "defined benefit plans", suggestions for reform and more. "I wanted to write a book not just for academics, but for the general public," said Russell when describing his intention for the book. "Awareness of the 'swindle' needs to be raised."

Russell is considered an international authority on retirement policy. He is the author of several books dealing with economic and social policy, as well articles featured in a number of publications. In addition to "Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis," Russell has authored numerous books over the past two decades. They include: "Escape from Texas: A Novel of Slavery and the Texas War of Independence" (Sloan Publishing, 2012); "Double Standard: Social Policy in Europe and the United States" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006, 2009, 2015--3 editions); "Class and Race Formation in North America" (Prentice Hall, University of Toronto Press, 1994, 2008--2 editions) "Societies and Social Life" (Prentice Hall, Sloan Publishing, 1992, 1996, 2006, 2009--4 editions); "Clase y Sociedad en Estados Unidos," with Silvia Núñez García (Ed. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1997); "Modes of Production in World History" (Routledge, 1989) and "Marx-Engels Dictionary" (Greenwood Press, 1981)

Russell has taught in universities across the United States and as a Fulbright senior researcher professor in Mexico and the Czech Republic.



Eastern Alumnus Ryan Davis Keynote Speaker at MLK Awards

Written by Danielle Couture

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University Alumnus Ryan J. Davis will serve as keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards at 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.
Davis graduated from Eastern in 2003 with a B.S. in Business Administration. He is now the senior program manager for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which was designed to increase the number of students of color who earn postsecondary degrees.

Prior to joining the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, Davis accumulated almost a decade of experience as a teacher, higher education administrator, and education policy researcher. Davis has authored or co-authored more than 25 publications, including reports featured in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" and "Inside Higher Ed." Davis' research on student success among males of color earned him and his colleagues the "Outstanding Research Award" by the American College Personnel Association's Standing Committee for Men.

Davis also has been the recipient of such accolades as 93.9 WKYS' "Top 30 Under 30" in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. He was named a "TRIO Achiever" by the Connecticut Association for Educational Opportunity Programs, a Graduate Fellow at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a Fellow at the Association for the Study of Higher Education's Institute for Critical Policy Research and is a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Davis was presented with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award in 2003.

Recipients of the awards for 2014 are Alycia Bright Holland, lecturer of performing arts; Biology major Yollaine Kaja; and Rose Marie Hernández, family liaison at Windham Middle School and coordinator of the Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program.

The awards are open free and open to the public. For any information, please call Kemesha Wilmot at (860) 465-4421 or email

"Let There Be Light," Akus Gallery First Exhibit of the Year

Written by Micheal Rouleau

let there be light.jpgWillimantic, Conn. - The first exhibit of the spring semester, "Let There Be Light: The Black Swans of Ellen Carey," will conclude Feb. 20 at Eastern Connecticut State University's Akus Gallery. The exhibit features a variety of unexpected and experimental work by renowned photographer Ellen Carey. Her work has been labeled abstract and surreal, as well as a "black swan phenomenon"--a term used to describe exceptional achievements that occurred unintentionally or by surprise.
 "In my work the process becomes the subject," wrote Carey. "My work represents the absence of a picture found in landscapes, portraits and still life." In her art, the means is the end; the process itself is on display.
"Let There Be Light" features a series of like-themed photographic pieces, each using color, light and darkness in different, experimental ways. Carey's series currently on display include "Photogenic Drawings" from 1999, "Ray Bands" from 2003, "Dings and Shadows" from 2012 and 2013, "Pulls with mixed and Off-Set Pods" from 2010, "Light Tight" from 2006 and "Multichrome Monochromes" from 2008.

 "Carey realized that the medium of photography, generally presumed to represent what is real, also could show how things are not always what they seem," wrote poet and author Donna Fleisher when remarking on Carey's pioneering techniques. "Her work is unprecedented in photography--a black swan phenomenon."

 Carey lives and works in Hartford and New York, where she is an educator, scholar, guest curator, photographer and artist, whose primary tool is a large Polaroid camera. Her work has been the subject of 50 one-person exhibits and is in the permanent collections of more than 20 major photography and art museums. Carey is the associate professor of photography at the University of Hartford.

 "Let There Be Light: The Black Swans of Ellen Carey" is showing from January 9 to 20 at the Akus Gallery from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Esmé Codell Visits Eastern

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Noted children's literature specialist and schoolteacher Esmé Raji Codell will be visiting Eastern Connecticut State University on Wednesday, Feb. 12. The event takes place at 1 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room, which is located in the Student Center.


The event is free and is being supported by the ECSU Foundation, Inc. The lecture is part of Eastern's spring 2014 Cultural Celebration Series, and is sponsored by Eastern's History and Political Science, Philosophy and Geography Departments.


Codell is best known for her book "Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year." The book deals with how children and teachers dealt with racism and economic difficulties and problems with funding in inner-city schools. It documents her attempts as a young, white female teacher to bring about changes despite the obstacles in the school system. While writing the book, Codell drew from experiences that took place during her first year as an elementary school teacher in Chicago.  People Magazine has called Codell " of the nation's most sought-after voices for empowering teachers." 


Codell has also written about teaching children to love reading and is the author of a number of children's books.  Two of her other works include "How to Get Your Child to Love Reading" and "Fairly Fairy Tales." For more information about Codell and her books, visit


"Beneath the Raw Skin"

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Afarin Rahmanifar, assistant professor of painting and drawing, is curating "Beneath the Raw Skin," an exhibition at the Art Space Gallery located at 480 Main St. in Willimantic. The exhibition runs through Feb. 28.

An opening reception took place on Feb. 6, featuring "Ancestral Cornea," a video produced by Alycia Bright Holland, lecturer of acting and movement, and a dance performance by WUMALA, a group of Eastern student dancers.

The exhibition features the work of artists Richard Cutrona, Robert Gerhardt, Sunil Gupta, Leeah Joo, Ben Ni Neal Parks, Thuan Vu and Rahmanifar. "The exhibit showcases these New York-based, transnational and local artists who question cultural identity and establish their own unique vocabulary through a variety of mediums," said Rahmanifar.

Art Space Gallery hours are 2-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call Rahmanifar at (860) 465-0197 or email her at

English at Work: A Panel Discussion

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's English Department will host a panel discussion of Eastern alumni titled "English at Work" from 3-4 p.m. in Science 301 on Feb. 26. The discussion will be a part of the English Department's ongoing visiting alumni series to help build support networks between alumni and current students. The panelists are Starsheemar Byrum, Jessica Fontaine, Kileen Gilroy and Matthew Ryan.

Byrum received her Bachelor of Arts in English, minoring in women's studies. Following graduation, she completed her master's degree in Women's Studies at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). While attending graduate school she served as a university assistant to the director of the Women's Center at SCSU. In her position at Eastern, Byrum creatively engages students in causes that provoke their growth and empower their futures. She previously oversaw the Intercultural Center, and today coordinates all operations of the Women's Center as well as the Sexual Assault Response Team.

Fontaine graduated from Eastern in December 2008 with her bachelor's degree in English. Assisting in Lisa Fraustino's Deconstructing Disney Freshman Colloquium course in spring 2008 inspired her to pursue a master's degree in children's literature from Hollins University. She spent three years researching and writing her thesis, "The Francelia Butler Story," and worked with original manuscripts to prepare Francelia Butler's unpublished autobiography for publication (Mansfield Hollow Press, 2013). Fontaine is currently taking classes at SCSU to become a certified school library media specialist and is the librarian at Tolland High School.

Gilroy received her bachelor's degree in Secondary Education English, as well as a minor concentration in writing. During her time spent at Eastern, Gilroy was the chief editor of the university's literary journal, "Eastern Exposure," as well as the vice president of the English Club. Gilroy is a mixed media artist and emerging poet who has published in a number of literary and online journals. She currently teaches English at Lincoln High School in Rhode Island while applying for graduate school and writing a full poetry manuscript.

Ryan graduated from Eastern in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in English, minoring in History. He is employed at Union Savings Bank in New Milford as a supervisor and branch operations specialist; while he is working with numbers and computers, he puts his degree to use in writing appraisals, business correspondence and assisting administration with revising job descriptions.

Eastern Presents 125th Anniversary Poster Contest

Written by Danielle Couture


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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will celebrate its 125th Anniversary with a poster contest for local schoolchildren. The contest is open to students from all grades, kindergarten and up.

Students can use their posters to illustrate the progress made at Eastern or in their town. Poster themes can take place within the past 125 years, going back to 1889 when Eastern opened as the "Willimantic State Normal School" or focus on the present.

First, second and third-place prizes will be awarded at three different grade levels. For official contest rules and guidelines go to .  Posters are due by 5 p.m. on May 2 in the Office of University Relations at Gelsi-Young Hall.

Any questions regarding the contest can be directed to or (860) 465-5735.

Music Society to Host Valentine's Day Concert

Written by Danielle Couture

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Music Society will host a Valentine's Day concert at 5 p.m. on Feb. 12 in the Student Center Theatre.
The event is a night of music and fun featuring performances by Eastern's acapella groups and various talented students. Tickets are on sale for $5 until Feb. 6. Each purchase of a ticket comes with a free singing telegram request, which a Music Society representative will perform for your recipient of choice. All proceeds will go toward Eastern's Concert Chorale and Chamber Singer's trip to Carnegie Hall.

For more information contact the Music Society at

Eastern Presents "Half of Me"

Written by Danielle Couture

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Intercultural Center will present "Half of Me" as part of the University Hour Series at 3 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the Student Center Theatre.
The purpose of the event is to open the eyes and minds of students by discussing diversity issues on campus. A panel that includes members of the LGBTQ community will be asked a series of questions pertaining to issues that are relevant to each of their identifying communities.

The event is free and open to the public.

Plunge for Hunger 2014

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - On Feb. 1, students of Eastern Connecticut State University along with members of the local community jumped into the frigid waters of Lauter Park to raise money for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Plunge for Hunger saw more than 200 participants and raised more than $5,000 for the soup kitchen, with donations are still being collected.

 More than 40 Eastern students attended the event, but only 15 or so took the plunge. "Luckily it was a nice day," said Max Goto, AmeriCorps VISTA with Eastern's Center for Community Engagement, remarking on the event's sunny, 40 degree weather. "I wasn't planning to plunge, but some friends convinced me, so I undressed and jumped in and immediately regretted it. But upon getting out, the crowd was warm spirited and welcoming."

 The Eastern crowd was chiefly represented by the baseball team, which raised more $900; the rugby team, which raised more than $2,200; and the Center for Community Engagement team, composed of Student Government Association (SGA) members and Resident Assistants. The ECSU Foundation also donated $1,500.
"Having helped promote the event, I would have felt like a hypocrite if I didn't jump in," said Meaghan McFall-Gorman, a freshman double majoring in English and political science. "It was a great experience, and rewarding to help the Covenant Soup Kitchen. I am dedicated to doing it again next year."

The Covenant Soup Kitchen in a fixture of the Willimantic community, providing invaluable food assistance to hundreds of individuals and families throughout the year.
"Usually when people tell you to jump in a lake, they are being rude," said Reuben Rivera, a freshman majoring in computer science. "Now, to me, 'go jump in a lake' means to do good. It means to try and make a difference. All in all, it was a good experience and I will be doing it next year."

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