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Eastern Takes Two "Alternative Breaks" During Spring Recess

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Eastern students Lisa Forcellina (left) and Kim DePaolis (right) with Eastern's AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Max Goto (center) working in raised garden beds at the Generous Gardens Project in Greenville, SC, for their week-long spring break in March.

Willimantic, Conn. - This past spring recess, Eastern Connecticut State University students participated in two "alternative break" trips. Both trips lasted a week in March; one group volunteered with the Generous Gardens Project in Greenville, SC, and the other volunteered in the Natchaug State Forest in Eastford, CT.

 Seven students worked with the Generous Gardens Project, a nonprofit organization that grows and distributes fresh produce to anti-hunger efforts in South Carolina. "Generous Gardens taught us so much about gardening, how to be 'green' and the importance of giving back," said Cassandra Marion, a senior majoring in visual arts. "The amount of work we were able to achieve made coming back every night exhausted totally worth it."

The group learned about sustainability and urban gardening while planting seeds, harvesting vegetables, composting, working on raised garden beds and other agricultural tasks.
 
"Generous Gardens helped to reignite my passion for helping people by expanding my repertoire of skills and offering me a novel vehicle for service," said Kimberly DePaolis, a junior double majoring in early childhood education and psychology. "Being completely submerged in a self-sustaining farm for the purpose of helping those in need of food was incredible."

"On Wednesday we had the day off and went for a hike on Paris Mountain, and later got to explore the town," said Lily Egan, a junior majoring in communication. "I wouldn't have traded our trip for anything. I needed an escape from regular life in Connecticut. The work was hard but also relaxing; a real stress reliever."


Another group of seven students took day trips from Eastern to Natchaug State Forest throughout the week, where they built bridges and did trail work with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. "The labor was tough, but not as difficult as I was expecting. I especially liked working with the power tools when we were building the bridge," said Anastasia Matos, a sophomore majoring in business administration. "I was out of my element, but everyone was so kind and helpful; I felt a real connection with everyone."

The Natchaug State Forest group enjoyed a hike through the forest and an education on forestry and conservation. "This trip was fun and rewarding, and, like all alternative break trips, a great way to learn new things, meet people and lend a helping hand," said Kurt Stefanscyk, a junior majoring in environmental earth science. "It feels good to give back."

The purpose of "alternative breaks" is to provide the opportunity for students to serve outside of their own communities in a drug-and-alcohol free environment. For information about Eastern's upcoming alternative break trips, contact the Center for Community Engagement.

 

University's 14th Annual Excellence Expo

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. -Eastern Connecticut State University held its 14th Annual Excellence Expo sponsored by The School of Education/Professional Studies and Graduate Division on April 15 in the Student Center.

The expo featured more than 100 students presenting their research presentations, business marketing plans, communication advertising campaigns, photography exhibits and poster displays. Provost Rhona Free said that the expo reflected Eastern's model of "integrative learning," where students apply the knowledge learned in class by conducting experiments, research and other creative activity, and then sharing that through presentations and publications, eventually applying their learning in the workplace after graduation. Others like Jaime Gómez, interim dean of education and professional studies/graduate division, believes that the Excellent Expo is a great way to prevent academic excellence in students from becoming "invisible." 

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As part of the opening ceremonies to the expo, Psychology Professor Carlos Escoto, coordinator of undergraduate research and creative activity, presented an Undergraduate Research Mentor Award to Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of the Center for Early Childhood Education.
 
Trawick-Smith received the award for involving students in his research of children's play activities. "Students provide interesting fresh insights into our work, and ask questions I would never think to ask," he said. "It has been great fun working with students on this research." Trawick-Smith's student researchers have joined him in presenting their findings at national conferences and publishing their work in national early childhood education journals.

Student research was on display throughout the Student Center. While special research presentations from the Business Administration and Education Departments were conducted in rooms located on the first level of the Student Center, business marketing plans, communication advertising campaigns and photography exhibits were held in rooms located directly across from the Betty R. Tipton Room, where poster boards were on display.
 
Jordan LaRusso, who presented a poster on "Freedom of Speech in Schools," discussed the topic of verbal and written speech in our school systems in terms of the First Amendment. It was a project she started in her Ethics and Law class for Communication, and she felt that "conducting research and choosing my own topic is really what had drawn me to present here."

Similarly, Amanda Eckert, who presented a poster on the effects of social media on society titled "Do it for the Vine: and Other Excuses Social Media Gives Us," chose to present at the expo because she had the opportunity to present on a topic that she was genuinely interested in.
 
Judges included Gómez; George Hernandez, Windham Regional/ Small Business Specialist; Robert Jeannette, director of health services; Stephen Nelson, interim chief information officer; Edward Osborn, director of university relations; Michael Palumbo, technical support analysis; Peter Polomski, owner of The Lily Pad and Chase Rozelle III, associate professor in the Performing Arts Department. Members of the local community have been invited to judge the expo since 2004.
The 2014 Excellence Expo committee included Theresa Bouley, associate professor in the Education Department; Maryanne Clifford, economics professor; Doncho Petkov, business administration professor; Terri Toles-Patkin, communication professor and Nanette Tummers, health and physical education professor.

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.

The Workforce of the Future Panel Discussion

Akaya McElveen


Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Business Administration Department will host a networking and panel discussion event titled "The Workforce of the Future" from 5-8 p.m. on March 31 in the Betty R. Tipton Room as part of the University's 125th Anniversary celebration.

Business Administration students will display their creative work, and panel discussions will start at 7:15 p.m. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to attend.
 
Panelists include Judith Resnick (Executive Director, CBIA Education Foundation); Marty Levine (SPHR; 25+ years of experience in Hospital Management/HRM); Michael Christina (Eastern graduate, BS in I‐O Psychology; Aetna - HR Analytics function) and Peter Bachiochi (Eastern Professor of Industrial‐Organizational Psychology).

Eastern Offers New Finance Major

Written by Akaya McElveen


Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will be offering a new Finance major this coming fall in the Business Administration Department. Students will be able to register for classes for the 2014 fall semester.
 
The Bachelor of Science degree in Finance will provide students with preparation to enter the financial services sector, work in a corporate setting and/or enroll in graduate school. With a broad foundation in the liberal arts, the Finance major includes related courses in business, economics, and core and elective courses in finance and economics. Courses include Business Finance, Financial Institutions and Markets, Money and Banking, Investment Analysis, Real Estate Finance, Bank Management, Financial Management, Personal Financial Planning, International Financial Management, Financial Derivatives, Management of Business Information and Business Law, and Business Ethics.

The Finance major is designed to develop students' intellectual skills for problem solving, communication, critical thinking, technical and quantitative analysis, understanding of ethical issues and knowledge of principles, and theories and regulations in finance. Requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in Finance include completion of all University Liberal Arts Core requirements as well the required related business, finance and economic course requirements and electives.

Eastern Inducts New Class of Alumni Fellows

Written by Danielle Couture

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           left to right: William Kelly, Eastern President Elsa Nunez and Robert Hacker

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University inducted its sixth class of Alumni Fellows on March 26 in the Paul E. Johnson Community Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.  Inductees included Robert Hacker '86, a dentist who runs a successful practice, and William Kelly '82, deputy director of securities lending for Bank New York Mellon.

 Hacker '86 earned his degree in biology at Eastern and went on to Tufts School of Dental Medicine where he earned his Doctor of Medical Dentistry Degree. Hacker practiced with other dentists for three years before buying a Branford practice from a retiring dentist. While running his own practice, he advanced his dental education at Americus Cosmetic Institute in New York City, which led to be one of the first practices in the area doing cosmetic dentistry.
  
 Hacker travels to Ecuador annually with his family to provide free dental work for poor children. He is also a member of the American Dental Association, the Connecticut State Dental Association and the Branford Chamber of Commerce. Kelly '82 double majored in Economics and Public Policy and Government at Eastern. Today he serves as deputy director of securities lending for Bank New York Mellon, a role in which he is responsible for more than $300 billion of business activity, and Global Head of Client Management, where he makes sure the bank's list of clients are satisfied with the services provided by the investment professionals he supervises. As part of his job, Kelly has traveled throughout the United States and to nearly 30 countries.

 Both Hacker and Kelly give credit to Eastern for getting them to where they are today. When Hacker went to graduate school at Tufts, he couldn't believe he was chosen to be in the same class as people from schools like Yale, Cornell and Harvard. "Seeing all these Ivy League schools and competitive universities made me nervous about who I was up against," he said, "but I quickly realized that Eastern had prepared me well. I had a solid knowledge of basic sciences and the team of teachers I had not only got me into one of the top dental schools, but allowed me to compete with other students from universities around the country and the world."

 Hacker talked about how having a liberal arts education contributed to the success of his career. He had to take a psychology class as part of the core curriculum, which helped him relate to his patients later on. "I would recommend taking the opportunity to get a well-rounded education and be creative when picking your classes, because you never know where skills from those classes will be needed later in your life," said Hacker.
 
 Kelly says he gained crucial skills from Eastern that helped land him his first job in the field. "I was chosen for a leadership position because of my ability to communicate effectively and my ability to demonstrate leadership experience that I learned from my foundation at Eastern," said Kelly.  He also explained how one opportunity in his work led to many more opportunities and experiences. He advised students to keep in touch with their networks whether it be through Eastern or through professional ranks. "Become associated, become active within your particular field and have that desire to reach out beyond your comfort zone," said Kelly. "It's easy to get settled in, but the opportunities that are afforded to us as young professionals are limitless."

The Eastern Fellows program was established in the 2008-09 academic year 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 in realistic terms. The program is an exciting and stimulating way for our students and faculty to benefit from the knowledge of accomplished professionals.

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."

"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.

Eastern Students Research Project Published Nationally

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Eastern Connecticut State University students Jacob Rusconi '14 of Manchester and Dylan Ross '14 of Hampton, recently had their research findings published in the journal on the proceedings of the 2013 conference of the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Rusconi and Ross both are majoring in Business Information Systems (BIS). They originally conducted their research in fall 2011; their findings were presented at the NCUR Conference in La Crosse, WI, in April 2013.

Ross and Rusconi's research was a systems analysis of a certified commercial environmental and water monitoring laboratory, Premier Laboratory, Inc., based in eastern Connecticut. The goal of the research was to identify opportunities for improvement in the lab's existing water monitoring systems and procedures. 
In conducting their research, Rusconi and Ross treated the laboratory as a socio-technical system, in which the technical aspects of the operations were seen as being interdependent with cultural and political factors found in the laboratory, its client's organizations and communities.

To capture the many dimensions of the problem, Rusconi and Ross applied the Work System Method (WSM) developed by Steven Alter, professor of information systems at the University of San Francisco. The WSM approach allows analysts to better formulate the problem at hand; analyze multi-dimensional possibilities for improvement; provide recommendations for change; and justify them. Eastern was among the pioneering universities to introduce this methodology in its BIS program.

"Using this method, we gathered data from the laboratory through interviews with key stakeholders at the organization," said Rusconi. "We also observed the work system being utilized. We then proceeded to extract additional data from the existing Laboratory Information Management System, analyzed it and summarized it, following the WSM template."

As a starting point, Rusconi and Ross documented the essential characteristics of the system such as customers, products, work processes, stakeholders, information flows and technology. They were able to identify the important parameters of the system and current critical problems and issues; evaluate the diverse needs of the organization; and discern opportunities for improvement.

"As a result of our findings, we produced recommendations on how to better the laboratory's systems and procedures for water monitoring," said Ross. "We found that the laboratory needed to automate and streamline manual tasks and repetitive procedures; create preconditions for better system performance; and eliminate possibilities for monitoring and reporting violations. Following these recommendations, the lab can anticipate reductions in the penalties received by the public water systems served by the laboratory."

Rusconi and Ross first teamed up in the BIS program's Systems Analysis and Design course where their project initiated.   They presented the project at the 2012 Eastern Annual Student Excellence Expo, where it placed second in its category.   Later, with Professor Doncho Petkov's guidance, they prepared their research paper for submission to the 2013 conference. 

The paper was accepted and Rusconi presented it at the national NCUR conference this past April.  Ross was unable to attend the conference, as he was presenting Eastern's Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Student Chapter's database-driven website project at the AITP National Conference in St. Louis, MO. Ross was the project manager of the Eastern team, whose project was selected as one of the top 10 in North America.  

"The Systems Analysis and Design course taught by Dr. Petkov has been an excellent learning experience," said Ross. "Working with Jacob and learning from his work experiences has taught me a lot about teamwork and about what is required in a real-world system analysis. I have taken my experience from this research project and will apply what I have learned into my education and my future employment."

While working full time as the informatics and operations manager at Premier Laboratory Rusconi returned to school in fall 2010 to pursue a Bachelor of General Studies (BGS), with a concentration in Business Management.  He switched to the Business Information Systems (BIS) major, finding it was more in line with his career goals, and became a member of the Eastern Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Student Chapter. 

"The classes Dr. Petkov and Dr. Citurs teach are current, practical and relevant," said Rusconi. "They develop and enhance the use of strong analytical skills and critical thinking, as well as teach students strong methodology and knowledge within the BIS discipline and industry." 

Rusconi has been inducted into the Upsilon Pi Epsilon International Honor Society for Computer and Information Disciplines. "This was an especially great day because my 9-year-old twin sons attended the ceremony and told me they were proud of me, and couldn't wait to go to college. My education at Eastern has confirmed my abilities and skills by providing me a framework and structure to practically apply them effectively."

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