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Eastern Graduates 1,227 at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

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Willimantic, Conn. - More than 12,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 13, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,162 undergraduates and 65 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University's 124th Commencement exercises.

Nicholas Lawson, director of field human resources for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of his honorary degree.

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Lawson has worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for the past 17 years, a group he proudly describes as the "preeminent emergency medical humanitarian organization in the world." As Director of Field Human Resources for MSF since 2007, Lawson is responsible for the oversight of 35,000 staff across the globe, and leads the development and implementation of MSF's vision as a member of the MSF Executive Management team. Over the years, he has traveled to and coordinated humanitarian and medical relief efforts in Uganda, Pakistan, Burundi, East Timor, South Sudan and Afghanistan.

Lawson spoke of the organization's core principles of service, independence, impartiality, neutrality, ethics and engagement, and described his early years with MSF, when he faced the challenge of bringing medical supplies to civilians in Afghanistan caught in the crossfire of that nation's civil war.  In the end, he said MSF's focus was simple: to "alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people in crisis."

His charge to Eastern's 2014 graduating class was equally simple:  "What place does service and engagement in the public realm have in the careers we dream for ourselves? Is that activism? Is it volunteerism? Is it civics? Will it be a lifelong professional choice? . . . You will be richer than you can possibly imagine if you do actually make that choice."

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                                             Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Zachary Yeager; and Brittany Lane '14, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Gregory Gray, president of the Board of Regents; Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; and other Eastern officials.

Nunez gave her traditional charge to the graduates, telling them, "I hope you look forward to the next chapter in your lives with optimism and expectation, knowing that the faculty and staff on our campus have done their utmost to prepare you for this day."
 
Nunez cited examples of applied learning experiences ranging from internships at ESPN and Cigna to study abroad trips to Costa Rica and Switzerland, to undergraduate research into genetics and emotional health among senior citizens, to working in South Carolina on anti-hunger efforts, as examples of the hands-on experiences that Eastern students receive in applying their liberal arts education.

 "Never be satisfied with a half-hearted effort, never assume that the way things have been done is the way we should do things in the future. Intellectual curiosity and a moral commitment to a better life for all people are hallmarks of a liberal arts university in our democracy. The best way to honor Eastern and our faculty is to remain true to what you have learned here."

 Nunez closed her remarks with a quote from the 19th-century Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda:  "Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life -- think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success."

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor's degree. As Connecticut's only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 164 of the state's 169 towns. Approximately 90 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Zachary Yeager presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez--an annual Class of 2014 scholarship--and said, "College has been the time to make mistakes and learn from them, a time to challenge ourselves, and a time to step out of our comfort zone . . . We will carry the memories that we have made in the past few years at Eastern with us for a lifetime."

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, offered remarks on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  "I want you to know how deeply moved and excited we are about the great work you have done to earn your degree tonight," said Smith. "This is a significant milestone, and you should be very proud. The journey isn't easy, and there are no shortcuts to earning an undergraduate degree, but the benefits are enormous. Eastern has prepared you well for all the challenges you will face as the 21st century-economy continues to change. Pursue your career with the same dedication that has brought you to this fabulous day."
 
In her Senior Class Address, Brittany Lane urged the graduates to "pack your bags" and get ready for a new journey. She listed five items to include on the trip. First on the list: a belief that "every day is a great day to be alive," something she learned from one of her professors, Dan Switchenko. Second on her list was a commitment to helping others. "Volunteer; give back to your community; give back to your school. It is far more rewarding than a paycheck." 

  The third item on her list was to live life with kindness. "You never know the impact that your kind words could have on someone's day or even their life. Make your mark." Lane told her peers to also "remember to take the memories you have made at Eastern with you . . .  These are the moments that stand the test of time."

 Finally, Lane reminded her classmates that "there is no place like home. For your duration of time spent here at Eastern, it has become a second home . . . a close community of students from different walks of life coming together to live and learn in harmony . . . No matter where your journey takes you after today, no matter how many bumps in the road you may hit, always remember that we all have a place here at Eastern. You are all important. You will all accomplish incredible things; and our journey starts today." 
 
From the Governor's Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick's Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year's graduation ceremonies again reflected the University's Commencement traditions of dignity and grace. University Senate President Gregory Kane presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Emily Chuber, Rachel Jung and Emma Kuehnle sang "America the Beautiful"; Senior Mame Fatou Diop gave the invocation; and History Professor Anna Kirchmann was recognized as the 2014 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

 

Arts and Sciences Research Conference and Exhibition

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University held its 14th Annual Arts and Sciences Research Conference and Exhibition (ASRCE) on April 12. The event featured oral and visual presentations of student-led scientific research and artwork. More than 50 presentations were delivered by students from a range of academic departments. 

 Mike Manzi, a junior majoring in environmental earth science (EES), presented on shoreline erosion due to weathering along Block Island. "I have enjoyed being a part of every step of the scientific process," said Manzi. "The best part is knowing that the information from my project can be used in the future by others doing research in this field."

 "Students studying environmental earth science have the opportunity to carry out exciting field-based research," said EES Professor William Cunningham. "Last summer undergraduates carried out original and important research in Idaho, Spain and various localities around southern New England. Their findings were presented at Saturday's event."

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At the ASRCE, Mathematics Professor Mizan Khan won the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Mentor Award. He was nominated by one of his students, Richard Magner, who has conducted extensive "number theory" research with Khan. 
 "Students who are interested doing research should ask a faculty member about opportunities in their area of interest," said Psychology Professor Madeleine Fugere. "I am always impressed by the quality of the research presented at this event."

Laura Markley, a junior majoring in EES, presented on population, natural resources and sea level rising in Bangladesh. "My research experience at Eastern has provided me with invaluable hands-on field experience," said Markley. "I'm lucky to be able to present on topics that interest me and address real-world problems."

"This event gives students the chance to experience the 'next step' in the research process: presentation," said Peter Bachiochi, psychology professor and faculty mentor. "It is very motivating for them."

"As a faculty mentor it is very rewarding to see your students present. It represents the culmination of a lot of hard work," said Fugere. "The ASRCE is one of the best academic events all year."

Annual Eastern Excellence Expo Set for April 15

Written by Dwight Bachman


Willimantic, Conn: -- Eastern Connecticut State University's School of Education/Professional Studies and Graduate Division will hold its 14th Annual Excellence Expo on April 15, 2014, from 1-3p.m. in the Student Center.  The public is invited. Admission is free.

More than 110 students, supported by 10 faculty mentors, will present research projects and posters showcasing the five departments in the School of Education/Professional Studies and Graduate Division: Business Administration, Communication, Economics, Education, and Health and Physical Education.
Presentations include business marketing plans and communication advertising campaigns;  research presentations from business and education students; and a gallery photography exhibit of framed prints and color slides, just to name a few.  Poster research includes topics on communication law and ethics; health communication issues; and systems analysis.

For more information on the Excellence Expo, contact Pat Kucharski at (860) 465-5264 or email her at kucharski@easternct.edu.

Eastern Hosts 2014 Research and Exhibition Conference

Written by Jordan Sakal


Willimantic, Conn. -  Eastern Connecticut State University will host its annual Arts and Sciences Research Conference & Exhibition on April 12 from 8:30 to 1:30 p.m. This annual event highlights student creative activity undertaken within the 11 departments and 13 majors in the School of Arts and Sciences.

 The conference is a forum for Arts & Sciences students to give oral and poster presentations of research they have conducted while at Eastern.  Students will also be reading poetry, discussing interpretations of literature, and displaying artwork. This exhibition will be the first ever to feature an award presented to faculty mentors for services to their student researchers.
 
 The award is student-nominated, and draws attention to the fact that Eastern students and faculty contribute to scholarly fields of inquiry beyond the classroom. The opening ceremonies of the conference will begin at 9 a.m. in room 104 of the Science Building. There will brief introductory remarks by Professor Nick Parsons, Dean Martin Levin of the School of Arts and Sciences, President Elsa Núñez and Provost Rhona Free.

Chief Justice Rogers and Judge Kahn to Speak at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Two high-level Connecticut court officials will speak at Eastern Connecticut State University on March 26 for Eastern's University Hour series. At 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and Superior Court Judge Maria Kahn will speak with the Eastern community about justice and the judicial system in today's world. 

Born and raised in Angola, Africa, Kahn was appointed a Superior Court Judge in 2006 and currently is assigned to hear criminal matters in the Fairfield Judicial District Courthouse. She moved to the United States at 10 years of age, is fluent in three languages and serves on a number state and national Bars. 

Rogers, a Connecticut native, was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2007--the second woman ever to reach this designation in Connecticut. She was also appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the State Justice Institute's Board of Directors. In addition to serving on a number of prestigious Bars and committees, Rogers is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

"The event is open to the public and will be organized in a question-and-answer format," said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of the Women's Center. "Arrive early at the Student Center Theatre to ensure a good seat."

Majors Fair Helps Undeclared Students Choose Course of Study

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Back by student demand, the Majors Fair occurred on March 13 in the Betty R. Tipton Room in Eastern Connecticut State University's Student Center. The Majors Fair, intended to help students with undeclared majors pinpoint a course of study, brought together faculty from all academic departments in one room for students to speak with.

 The Student Government Association (SGA), in collaboration with the Advising Services Center, organized and promoted the event, which hosted more than 20 informational tables staffed by faculty and served roughly 60 undeclared students.

"I'm leaning towards a major either in women's studies or social work," said undeclared freshman Kayla Enwerem. "I want to work with people, and the subject matter of these majors is real eye-opening to me."

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 Last semester the SGA conducted a survey that showed that undeclared students felt "ignored." This response encouraged SGA Student Issues Committee Chair Emily McDonald, a senior majoring in psychology, to reinstate the event--which had not taken place for several years due to lack of interest. "I switched majors earlier in my college career," said McDonald, "so I can relate to the struggle of an undeclared major not knowing what to study or where to go."

 "Business administration is my number one prospect," said undeclared freshman Alex Obernier. "I came to the Majors Fair to learn about different minors and concentrations. I'm considering minoring in marketing. Next semester I'll declare."

The Majors Fair was also promoted at local high schools for incoming Eastern freshmen. "I like the early childhood education major," said incoming freshman Amber Dupont, a senior at Windham High School. "In school I've done a couple of 'observations' and I find the work interesting, and I just really like working with little kids."

"I think I'll go with either education or business administration," said undeclared freshman Rebecca Pilney. "I came to a liberal arts school so I could test the waters and try a bit of everything."

"Eastern in 4," Eastern's Revamped Academic Plan

Written by Michael Rouleau


Willimantic, Conn. - As part of Eastern Connecticut State University's 2013-18 Strategic Plan, "Eastern in 4" is now a requirement for current students and incoming freshmen. The goal of "Eastern in 4" is to lay out a tight and comprehensive plan--including academic and career goals--that will lead students to their bachelor's degrees in four years.

"Eastern in 4" has existed as an informal objective for several years now, but recent data supporting the need for college-career planning has caused the University to revamp and mandate the program. "There are so many options and requirements in a college setting," said Alison Garewski, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students unknowingly taking courses they don't need--costing them more money and prolonging their time in college--is an issue nationwide."

With nearly 1,000 freshman at Eastern this year, approximately 650 have completed their academic plans. Though the plans are designed in group sessions of five to 20 students, each four-year plan is individualized according to a student's degree requirements and preferences--taking into consideration which liberal arts courses to take, internships and study abroad opportunities.

"Every semester when registering for classes I use my four-year plan to aid in my selection," said Christina Harmon, a sophomore majoring in psychology. "'Eastern in 4' was a great way for me to learn what classes I need to take and how to stay on track in order to graduate on time."

While "Eastern in 4" is available to all students and majors, it is especially useful to transfer students, continuing education students and those switching majors. "This program is ideal at Eastern because we're a liberal arts school," said Chris Drewry, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students are required and encouraged to take courses outside of their major, so having this direction is really helpful."

"Before making my 'Eastern in 4' plan, I had no idea if I could fit a double major's worth of classes into my schedule," said Thomas Hacker, a freshman with a double major. "Now I have a roadmap to double major in music and communication in four years."

EES Defeats Political Science in College Bowl Competition

Written by Dwight Bachman


On March 12, the Eastern College Bowl completed its 37th consecutive season.  Held in the Student Center Theatre, the College Bowl is a competition for undergraduates representing various majors.

The championship match saw the lead exchanged several times, a match that was not decided until the final question. The team representing the Environmental Earth Science (EES) Department defeated the team from the Political Science Department. EES had won matches against Economics and Mathematics to reach the finals, while Political Science had won its previous matches over Biochemistry and Biology. The winning EES team included students Dustin Munson, Cody Lorentson, Daniel Grondin, and Mackensie Fannon. 

College Bowl questions asked come from many different academic and non-academic areas, often involving audio or visual clues. Questions in this year's championship match included ones involving Dante's "Inferno," Julius Caesar and his crossing the Rubicon, phobias, songs from Disney movies and one titled, "The Doors of Eastern," in which contestants were asked to identify buildings on campus after seeing photographs of their front doors.  The question that decided the winner of the 2014 College Bowl  involved the naming of Transuranium elements. 

The College Bowl is organized and run by Tim Swanson, associate professor of physical science, who originated the competition in 1978.  This year, he was assisted by Biology Professor Gloria Colurso and Marty Levin, interim dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Prolific Author to Teach Special Course at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Jeff Benedict, bestselling author, award-winning features writer for Sports Illustrated and Eastern Connecticut State University alumnus, will join Eastern's faculty this summer to teach an upper-level communication course. The prolific writer, teacher and public speaker--and 1991 Eastern graduate--will lead COM 460, "Non-Fiction Writing from Idea to Publication," a three-credit course being held on Saturdays from June 28 to Aug. 9.

 "We are proud of Jeff and his distinguished career in journalism, and happy to have him back on campus," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "His work is value-centered and focuses on critical issues of society. Jeff is a role model for young people aspiring to be writers."

COM 460 will cover the stages of non-fiction writing from idea conception to publication. Using Sports Illustrated stories and his own books, Benedict will teach students how to develop story ideas, conduct interviews, structure a story, develop sound writing habits and promote a story. Benedict will use his own story drafts and interview transcripts in his lesson plans; students will also engage in role playing and question-and-answer sessions.

"We are delighted that Jeff will be teaching on our campus this summer," said Eastern Provost Rhona Free. "The students in his course are in for a real treat.  They will be learning from a seasoned pro, one whose straight-forward, engaging writing style has gained critical acclaim and an expanding national readership." Jeff Benecict Jabari Coach K cover.pdf


 Benedict will use one of his latest projects, a Sports Illustrated cover story about the relationship between Duke's head basketball coach Mike Kryzyewski and freshman Jabari Parker.  The story has been featured on CBS News, Fox News Channel and ESPN radio.
 
"Sound writing is a key that has unlocked doors to a rich life of experiences and priceless relationships," Benedict said.  "As a student at Eastern I never imagined I'd make a career out of telling stories.  I am eager to share what I've learned with the students at my alma mater."
 
Students interested in signing up for Benedict's course should visit www1.easternct.edu/ce/jeffbenedict.

Benedict has authored 12 books, including his most recent book, the New York Times bestseller "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football." His writings have also appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and SI.com, and have been the basis of programming on 60 Minutes, 20/20, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Dateline and the Discovery Channel.
 
Benedict is a nationally recognized authority on athletes and crime, Indian gaming, eminent domain, and leadership and ethics in business. He is also a distinguished professor of English at Southern Virginia University.

Eastern's University Hour Series

Written by Jordan Sakal

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will be holding eight University Hour events during the spring 2014 semester. The University Hour series includes events held by campus offices or clubs to build awareness on campus of ongoing issues in society. The events are held from 3 to 4 p.m on Wednesdays. at various locations on campus.  

The first event is a seminar on women and wealth set to occur Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Hosted by the Women's Center, the event will help women plan for a healthy financial future.

The semester's second event will occur Feb. 19 at 3 p.m., also in the Student Center Theatre. Sponsored by the Intercultural Center, the event "Half of Me" discusses diversity issues on campus focused on the LGBTQ community.

The semester's third event is "A Conversation with Maurice Clarett." Hosted by the Office of Equity and Diversity in the Student Center Theatre, the former Ohio State University football star discusses his rise to stardom playing college football and the lifestyle he chose that resulted in four years in prison.

Eastern Connecticut State University's Pride Room, Women's Center, Intercultural Center and Office of Equity and Diversity will host Division 1 basketball player Kye Allums on March 5 in the Student Center Theatre. Allums, is the first transgender Division I NCAA athlete.  He will discuss the challenges and triumphs of coming out as a transgender individual with his coaches, teammates and family.

March 12 brings the Girl Rising Project to Eastern, as the Women's Center hosts a groundbreaking feature film in the Student Center Theatre that spotlights the stories of nine unforgettable girls born into unforgiving circumstances.  The film captures their dreams, their voices and their remarkable lives.

On March 26, Chief Justice Chase Rogers of the Connecticut Supreme Court visits Eastern to discuss women and access to justice. The event is hosted by the Women's Center in the Student Center Theatre and seeks to empower women and teach them about their legal rights and responsibilities. 

 Interpersonal violence affects everyone in society.  On April 9 in the Student Center Theatre, Eastern remembers those who survived, faced or lost their lives to intimate partner and sexual violence.  Join the Women's Center for a discussion on current issues relating to interpersonal violence and a community response that empowers all to use their voice, their influence and their actions to become a part of the solution to interpersonal violence.

April 23 is the semester's final University Hour and will cover "The Economic Argument for Ethnic Studies" with host Jim Estrada. The event seeks to enrich professionals so that they become culturally aware of the changing world around them as business becomes increasingly more diverse, multinational and multiethnic.

All University Hour events are free of charge and open to the public.

 

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