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Eastern Hires New Dean of Education and Professional Studies

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, CT -- Jacob Easley II will join Eastern Connecticut State University on June 27 when he assumes his new job as the Dean of Education and Professional Studies. Easley will be leaving the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, where he served as chair of the Education Division since 2011.

What does the new dean like about Eastern?  "What stood out was the campus commitment to the University's values, including a commitment to the local community.  I was also impressed with your commitment to sustainability."

Easley received his PhD in Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Supervision from Pennsylvania State University, his MA in Applied Linguistics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and his BA in Spanish from Morehouse College.

"I see the School of Education and Professional Studies as being the University's finger on the pulse of the academic needs of the state and the workforce needs of the business community," said Easley during a phone interview prior to his arrival on campus.

Over the course of the past 20 years, Easley has served in a variety of positions in higher education, holding such positions as professor, teacher and supervisor. Easley has also served on various boards and committees, conducted research, published writings and presented extensively across the United States and abroad.

 Some of Easley's research interests include education policy and politics; contextualized leadership; schools as organizations; understanding the factors that affect urban schools and shape the formal processes of schooling; and 21st Century intercultural and international perspectives in educational leadership.

 When discussing projects he has in mind for his new role at Eastern, Easley said, "In collaboration with the Center for Community Engagement, something we might consider is creating summer institutes for students at the K-12 level that teach kids how the higher education system works. I am also interested in strengthening partnerships with business and industry, as well as enhancing quality internships and providing opportunities for gaining international business perspectives."

 Easley is the author of "The Audacity to Teach!: The Impact of Leadership, School Reform, and the Urban Context on Educational Innovations." His research has also been published in the Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research; The Educational Forum; Race Ethnicity and Education; The Professional Educator; and Educational Studies.

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.

 

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.

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.

Dimitrios Pachis Receives Economics Grant

Writtend by Jordan Sakal

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Willimantic, Conn. - Economics Professor Dimitrios Pachis of Eastern Connecticut State University has been awarded a $1,500 grant from the international economics honor society, Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE), to augment the experience received by Eastern students studying economics. Pachis sought grant support from Omicron Delta Epsilon to bring in an outside speaker to enrich the minds of Eastern's economics students; to increase activities that encourage scholarly interaction between students and faculty; and to provide students the opportunity for funding to go to conferences and present papers.

Coplac Students Shine at COPLAC Conference

Written by Anne Pappalardo

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                             Chris Lorentson with Professor Steve Nathan


Ten Eastern students presented at the Fourth Annual) Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in October. The conference was sponsored by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC), a national advocacy group that supports liberal arts education at public institutions. Participating campuses included Eastern, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Keene State College, the University of Maine-Farmington, SUNY-Geneseo and MCLA.

The two-day conference gave students the opportunity to showcase the results of their individual undergraduate research projects and artistic creativity, and to discuss their work with peers and faculty members. Eastern students displayed their artwork, gave talks and presented posters in disciplines ranging from the arts and humanities to the social and natural sciences. Outstanding projects are featured in COPLACs online research journal, "Metamorphosis."

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                              Professor Barbara Murdoch and Manan Bhatt 

Students who presented posters included Sean Duggan and Christina Browning, Visual Arts majors who presented "Sentimental Journey," a poster for an annual hospital gala; Environmental Earth Science major Lindsey Beliveau, who presented "An Examination of Water-Produced Erosion Forms in Bedrock using Terrestrial Laser Scanning"; Biology major Manan Bhatt, who presented "Identifying Cells Capable of Neurogenesis in the Olfactory Epithelium"; David Klein, a Business Information System major who presented "Systems Analysis for Improvement at the Sales Department at Hayward Turnstiles"; and Christopher Lorentson, majoring in Environmental Earth Science, who presented "Geospatial and Physical Assessment of Glacial Deposits in Connecticut to Better Site Ground-Source Heat Pumps."

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                     Professor Ari de Wilde, left, Andrew Burns and Joshua Tamosaitis

Students making oral presentations included Health and Physical Education majors Andrew Burns and Joshua Tamosaitis, who presented "Doping and Cycling in the Media: A Content Analysis of Sports Illustrated"; Psychology major Eric Cerino, who presented "Academic Motivation, Self-Efficacy and Academic Procrastination"; History major Zachary Marotte, who presented "The Struggle to Break with the Ancients: The English Army's Gradual Adoption of Modern Military Theory, 1660-1728"; Economics major Ted Straub, who presented "Can Behavioral Economics Help Consumers Save?"; and Nicholas Denegre, who presented "Validation of the Economics and Energy Savings for Advanced Commercial Rooftop Unit Control Strategies."

Eastern faculty serving as research mentors included James Hyatt, Barbara Murdoch, Don Petkov, Stephen Nathan, Ari de Wilde, Lyndsey Lanagan-Leitzel, June Bisantz, Jamel Ostwald, Dimitrios Pachis and Catherine Carlson.

(At right: Andrew Burns, Joshua Tamosaitis and Professor Ari de Wilde.)

 

Bernard Lafayette Says "Use Your Rights, or Lose Them!"

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. - Bernard Lafayette Jr., a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement, spoke on "Reaching Beyond Your Grasp" on Oct. 9 in the Student Center Theatre at Eastern Connecticut State University. His presentation was part of Eastern's University Hour Series.

More than 200 Eastern students, faculty and staff  heard Lafayette say he was "glad" and "shocked" that he is still alive today, in response to a question asked by a student. Lafayette's life has been threatened on many occasions, including a night when white men came to his house to kill him.

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       More than 200 Eastern students, faculty and staff heard Lafayette describe how resolute the Freedom Riders were while facing terrifying mobs.

Being the target of many death threats, Lafayette had expected his life to have ended already. In fact, he said he that he and his peers, realizing the dangerous journey they were about to begin, created a will before taking part in the Freedom Riders, who were African American and white college students. "No one can take your life if you've already given it," said Lafayette.  He said the Freedom Rides of the 1960s provided the momentum for the Civil Rights Movement, and provided an in-depth, personal look at what life was like for the Freedom Riders.

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Left to right, Stacey Close, Eastern's associate vice president for equity and diversity; Prudence Allen, former administrative assistant to the late Coretta Scott King; Lafayette, Sociology Professors Dennis Canterbury and James Russell pose for a photograph.

Lafayette played a riveting clip from a documentary on the Freedom Rides, which showed scenes of white mobs as they burned and bombed the Freedom Riders' buses and beat them with crow bars, baseball bats and any other weapon they could pick up. Law enforcement and city officials had made a deal; the mob of people was given 15 minutes to do whatever it wanted to the Freedom Riders and they would not get punished for it. Once the 15 minutes were up, Lafayette said the officers announced, "Alright, you've had your fun," and told the mob, "Not one soul will ever be arrested." 

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        Lafayette shakes hands with Akaya McElveen'14, an English major from Waterbury.

There was a moment in the film when a black woman went to a police officer to explain that her husband was being attacked, only to be knocked to the ground by that same officer.

Lafayette said media exposure of the mob violence and city officials' sanction of it played a leading role raising public awareness. News of the mob and police brutality was heard around the world, with America's European allies making it clear to President Kennedy that they were embarrassed by the violence. 

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       Lafayette, left, with former vice president for equity and diversity at  Eastern,and administrative assistants Carmen Diaz and Kathy Escobar.

The speaker also said there is a misconception that the Freedom Rides were about integrating the buses: "The demonstrations were really about bus stations and the right to be treated equally in them." Lafayette also talked about the importance of community engagement, saying that all colleges and universities should be involved in the community. "You've got to bring young people together and organize them. If you don't use your rights, you will lose your rights." As an example, he said students could initiate a voter registration drive by hosting a public birthday party for eighteen-year-olds, where the cost of admission would be showing their voter registration cards.

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          Lafayette with Hope Fitz, professor of philosophy and a scholar on nonviolence.

Lafayette said that he is genuinely interested in what the next generation will contribute to the Civil Rights Movement. "Maybe the movement never really stopped; it's continuous." He said young people should never surrender to violence and injustice. "If you do, the psychological wounds will run deep and may never end."  He encouraged the audience to keep the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream alive, quoting the late Civil Rights leader, "We must live together as sisters and brothers or die separately as fools."

Lafayette ended his presentation by entertaining the audience with a country song about the struggle of poor white Americans.

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