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Eastern English Professor Wins Statewide Teaching Award

Written by Dwight Bachman

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Willimantic, Conn: - Barbara Little Liu, associate professor of English, has been named the recipient of the 2014 Board of Regents/Connecticut State Universities Teaching Award. Liu was recognized for her work in curriculum development in the English Department and for how well she teaches students to write. The award was presented to Liu, of South Windsor, at the April 17 meeting of the Board of Regents for Higher Education of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System.
 Liu's peers and students consider her to be exemplary in the classroom. Alumnus Andrew Minikowski '12 said that while working on his Honors Thesis with Liu, she constantly encouraged him to push his writing and research further, and as a result, he produced a far better final paper. "Though her job is to teach writing, what she taught me was strength, confidence, and academic and professional integrity. Her influence has remained with me as a law student and is responsible for my success."

 Writing from Malaysia, former student Yi Qian Lee agreed: "Never in my life as a student who has lived in different countries for the past 15 years, have I met a teacher like her. I am an international student and English as a Second Language Learner who always has troubles with writing. After a mere four months with Dr. Liu, today I am a writing tutor. I am no longer insecure with my own writing, and have even developed my own style of writing under her guidance. Dr. Liu is a teacher who every student deserves to have."

 Lisa Fraustino, chair of the English Department, said "Dr. Liu has always made teaching her top priority, and I cannot think of a single instructor at Eastern who has had a greater impact on student learning. Her students are lucky." 

Maureen McDonnell, associate professor of English and director of Eastern's Women and Gender Studies program, concurred. "I am impressed with Dr. Liu's knowledge, her familiarity with her students as thinkers and people, and her adeptness in facilitation the discussion. The student's consistent focus and the respect with which their ideas were received was a pleasure to see."

Rita Malenczyk, professor of English and director of the University Writing Program and Writing Center, also gives Liu high marks. "The impact that her College Writing Plus class has had on student learning has been huge. Dr. Liu's work extends beyond the individual classroom in a way unparalleled at Eastern, and will certainly have a lasting impact on writing instruction in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System as a whole."

The BOR/CSU Teaching Award is granted to faculty members who have "distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers for at least five years and have a minimum of a two-year track record of promoting instructional improvements for their programs or departments."

History Majors Win Library Research Awards

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - The winners of the 2014 Library Research Awards at Eastern Connecticut State University have been announced. Emily Komornik, a sophomore from Shelton double-majoring in history and English, won the underclassman award for her research paper titled "Jonathan Edwards: Conversion through Fear." The upperclassman award was given to Shannon Williamson, a senior from Baltic majoring in history, for her research paper titled "Choosing an Ethnic Group to Target: The Case of the Jewish Minority in Interwar Poland."

Entries were judged by a panel of librarians and faculty. Evidence of research strategy, process, use of library resources and personal learning were taken into consideration. "If there are no deserving research projects in a given year, the awards may not be given," warned the panel prior to judging. In the end, the panel was impressed.

Komornik's paper, titled "Jonathan Edwards: Conversion through Fear," is about "The Great Awakening," a radical Christian movement of the 1700s. Led by Rev. Jonathan Edwards, The Great Awakening emerged to counter "The Enlightenment," a mindset focused on reason and logic rather than devotion to god.
The Great Awakening presented a radical change in preaching styles among New England ministers. In an effort to scare people into compliance or conversion, "Sermons became threatening and involved horrifying messages of eternal damnation for those who did not believe in the Christian God," Komornik wrote.

Williamson's paper, titled "Choosing an Ethnic Group to Target: The Case of the Jewish Minority in Interwar Poland," addresses why the Jews of Interwar Poland (early 1900s), a country full of ethnic minorities, were the most persecuted. "I was intrigued about why certain groups were targeted over other ethnic groups," Williamson said.

The 26-page paper delves into the numerous reasons why Jews were at odds with the Poles and other minority groups of Interwar Poland--Belarusians, Ukrainians and Germans. Among the reasons, Williamson suggests, were the Jews' lack of support from an established "mother country," their economic tendency to work in urban areas rather than live a peasant lifestyle, and their following of Judaism instead of Christianity.
Students were also judged on a reflection essay that went behind the scenes of their research. "Before this project, I had never utilized the J. Eugene Smith Library in such an extensive way," said Komornik. "Of course I've taken out books before, but never had I used the library's online databases, which enabled me to easily find enough resources for my research."

Williamson also spoke highly of the library. "The library was incredibly beneficial in my quest to create my research paper," she said. "In addition to using the databases, a trick I learned is to browse the bibliographies of effective books to find more related books."

Both research papers and reflection essays can be viewed at:

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.

commencement 2014-Lawson-IMG_7905.JPG                                       Commencement Speaker Nicholas Lawson
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.


English Department Hosted Annual "English Night"

Written by Akaya Mcelveen

English Night  Major Award Recipients (2).JPGLeft to right, Associate English Department Chair Barbara Liu, Angela Dilella, Brooke Baldwin, Meaghan Eales, Akaya McElveen, English Department Chair Lisa Fraustino.
Willimantic, Conn. -Eastern Connecticut State University's English Department hosted its spring 2014 English Night in the Betty R. Tipton Room on April 28.
The event began with a warm welcome from Lisa Fraustino, chair of the English Department. The English major awards ceremony followed. Brooke Baldwin and Akaya McElveen were the recipients of Service to the Department Awards which are awarded to students who have helped with departmental projects, coordinated events or organized student clubs that have connections to literature or writing.

The Award for Lifetime Learning was awarded to Meaghan Eales. This award is usually granted to a returning or continuing education student who has shown a steady love of literature, writing and the pursuit of knowledge. Eales was also awarded the Commitment to Teaching award for her demonstration of commitment in teaching.

Angelia Dilella also was awarded in two areas: the first being the Contributions to the Cultural Life of the Campus Award, which is awarded to students who have been actively involved as a writer or editor in literary publications. Secondly, Dilella was awarded the Award for Academic Excellence for her demonstration of superior ability and dedication to reading literature and interpreting it well in class discussions and in written work.
 Enlish Night-Fraustino Akaya and Barbara Liu (2).JPGLeft to right, English Department Chair Lisa Fraustino, Akaya McElveen and  Associate English Department Chair Barbara Liu

Next were the first-year writing awards which were presented to Danielle Campitelli and Emilio Estrella. The first-year writing awards are given to students in College Writing and College Writing Plus whose writing is innovative, creative, well researched or uniquely articulated. Campitelli's research paper, "Faking it Until I Make It," written for Professor Mika Taylor's first-year writing class, exemplified those qualities. Estrella's innovative and creative writing paper titled "Music and Society: Cause and Effect," also showed those qualities.

Lastly were the senior seminar presentations from Professor Reginald Flood's "Writing Poems/ Reading Culture" seminar, Fraustino's "Adaptation and Ideology" seminar and Maureen McDonnell's "Monstrous Women" seminar. Presenting for Flood's seminar were Kaitlyn Kennedy on "Pledging Allegiance to Progressiveness: An Examination of an Expatriate's Experience Abroad," and Sarah DeConti on "Narrowing the Definition of Cultural Studies."
From Fraustino's seminar were Ashley Parker on "The Icon and the Ideologist: Dr. Seuss and the (Mis)Uses of Political Messages by Audiences of Horton Hears a Who and the Lorax," Dilella on "There was a hole here, But it's Gone Now: The Adaptations and Ideology of 'Silent Hill'" and Michelle Wnuk on "Quarter Quell: Haymich's Hunger Games."

Lastly, from McDonnell's seminar, Carolyn Knowles presented on "Sara Baartman and Human Zoos: Society's Exploitation and Creation of Designer Monsters." Allen Browning presented on "The Young Vampire and Freudian Sexuality" and Emily Story presented on "Monsters: Validating Women Characters within Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea."

An Evening Reading with Aisha Sabatini Sloan

Written by Akaya MckElveen


Willimantic, Conn. -Eastern Connecticut State University's English Department and the Visiting Writers Series presented an evening reading with Aisha Sabatini Sloan in Webb 110 on April 24.

 Sloan read an essay titled "D is for the Dance of Operas," which centered on crime and violence in Detroit. Inspired by riding around with an officer on duty in Detroit, Sloan incorporated the idea of opera into the essay, which creates a contrast between dark and light. When asked why she had chosen to write about Detroit and use opera terms throughout the essay, she explained, "I've been there [to Detroit] intermittingly throughout my life," and also had been listening to classical music while riding in the police car. It acted as a backdrop or a soundtrack to her experience.

 During the reading, Sloan shared with the audience issues she faces during the writing process and asked members of the audience about their own writing experiences as well.

 "I think what she's done is brave," says English Professor Reginald Flood. "She took a town that she loved, and even though she talked about horrible things, the bottom line of the essay is love."
Sloan's essays have been named to the "The Best American Non-Required Reading" and "Best American Essays" anthologies of 2011, nominated for a "Pushcart Prize" and been published in "Ninth Letter," "Identity Theory," "Michigan Quarterly Review," "Terrain," "Callaloo," "The Southern Review" and "Guernica." Her first book of essays, "The Fluency of Light: Coming of Age in a Theater of Black and White," was published by the University of Iowa Press in 2013. She has taught writing at the University of Arizona for six years, and is currently a contributing editor for Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics.

Inscriptions for Air: A Celebration of Jake Adam York's Abide

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. -The Division of Student Affairs at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted "Inscriptions of Air," an event commemorating the release of Jake Adam York's final book of poetry titled "Abide" on April 22. The event was part of "The Power of One: Engage. Enlighten. Empower" Spring 2014 Cultural Celebrations Calendar.
The poetry reading was organized by English Professor Daniel Donaghy, who knew York personally. "I've been a fan of his poems, a fan of his character, and a friend of Jake for about 20 years," said Donaghy. "We are celebrating the existence of his poems that will never die."

The event was a compilation of poetry readings of York's work by faculty and students, and ended with Donaghy's reading of York's "Inscriptions for Air."

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York's collection of poems sought to elegize each of the martyrs of the civil rights movement. In "Abide," York was able to took known facts from different court cases and infused them into his poetry creatively to divert attention away from the death of these martyrs, and more on the lives of these people. In his book of poetry, York takes on issues of race and social justice.

Current United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey said, "We find a profound intervention into our ongoing conversations about race and social justice, a bold and necessary challenge to our historical amnesia in his body of work."

 "I feel there's definitely a need for York's poetry," said Jonah Craggett, a student who read "Postscript to Silence." "York's a perfect example of someone successfully using their privilege to talk about issues on race and inequality."
York's work can be found in the Eastern bookstore located in the Student Center. 

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."

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

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."

Mama Chosen as Faculty Row's Super Professor

Written by Akaya McElveenMama.JPG

Willimantic, Conn. - Distinguished Professor of African Literature and Storytelling at Eastern Connecticut State University Raouf Mama has been invited to join Faculty Row's network of Super Professors. Faculty Row is a private network originally developed for educators and researchers to connect, collaborate and share ideas nationally. It is now the leading network of experts for more than 100,000 academics globally.

Faculty Row has Fulbright Scholars, TED Speakers and countless accomplished academics. These include invited international scholars and faculty from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Stanford universities.

Super Professors are a peer-reviewed group of expert academics that consistently demonstrate excellence, passion and clarity. Super Professors are recognized by traditional academic institutions as well as emerging technology entities looking to change the landscape of academia. Many individuals have begun acknowledging Super Professors as independent thought leaders.

"Faculty Row is pleased to welcome Professor Raouf Mama to this elite group of accomplished academics," said Amy Hunter, director of the Faculty Row Network.
Besides being recognized as one of Faculty Row's Super Professors, Mama is the recipient of two Connecticut State University Excellence Awards, two Greater Hartford Arts Council Individual Artist Awards and two artist fellowships from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, which has also awarded him the title of Master Teaching Artist. In December 2004 Mama was awarded a Distinguished Immigrant Award. In January 2005, the office of the English Language Program in the U.S. State Department awarded him the title of Senior U.S. English Language Specialist.
A graduate of the University of Michigan with an M.A. and  Ph.D in English and Education, Mama is fluent in English, French, Fon and Yoruba, and proficient in Spanish and German.

Mama performs African and multicultural stories, blending storytelling with poetry, song, music and dance. An orator from the African oral tradition, he has been a keynote speaker at literary award ceremonies and fundraisers as well as a plenary speaker at international and regional conferences in the United States, Benin, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Venezuela. He also lectures on African literature and African folklore and conducts workshops on storytelling and creative writing. He is an expert on the power of folktales as multicultural teaching and learning tools, especially as tools for teaching literacy skills, creative writing and public speaking.

Mama regularly travels to Benin to work with English teachers, Peace Corps Volunteers, education professionals and children, using storytelling as a multicultural teaching and motivational tool. Participants' evaluations and comments often point to Mama deepening their appreciation of the power and magic of storytelling.

Over the past 10 years, Mama has worked in partnership with UNICEF and the School of African Heritage in promoting education and cultural awareness through storytelling.  In 2005 and 2006 he travelled to Benin as a Senior U.S. English Language Specialist and provided training for English teachers in all 12 provinces. In December 2008, he participated in the first International Festival of Storytelling and the Spoken Word in Benin.

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