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Written by Michael Rouleau
Willimantic, Conn. - From May 27-July 3, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a six-week research experience called the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). SURP is a component of the Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative, a three-year program of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education focused on preparing Connecticut's workforce for the growing health and life sciences sector.
The initiative involves Eastern and six other Connecticut state colleges. Norwalk, Gateway, Middlesex, Capital and Manchester community colleges are developing and revising programs that prepare students to meet the workforce needs of the health and life sciences field. Charter Oak State College is providing prior learning assessments to ensure students get credit for military service and other learning, and Eastern is the host of SURP, the hands-on summer research component.
"This is the first exposure to health and life sciences for many of the students involved," said Lesley Mara, project director of the initiative. "Prior to the program, many of them weren't aware of the study or career opportunities in this field."
The Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative is funded by a $12.1 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Under the grant, being administered by Norwalk Community College, Eastern will host SURP again next summer.
"SURP has given students hands-on research experience and many opportunities for personal, career and academic development," said Board of Regents President Gregory Gray. "The program will help our students be competitively positioned for health and life science careers in Connecticut."
The initiative enrolls both traditional and nontraditional students, but focuses on veterans and un/underemployed workers. This summer, 20 students ages 18-50, mostly from community colleges, participated in SURP. "This is a once in a lifetime experience. I'm so happy I took advantage of it," said Ze Bayati, a student from Gateway Community College. "By the end of the program, I found my passion for science. Now I know that biology is the right career path for me."
Participants took one of two tracks -- biosciences or physical health and epidemiology -- and conducted research alongside Eastern faculty from various health and science departments. "SURP has been designed to allow students to explore a variety of research areas within their track," said Polly Silva, Eastern's curriculum and program coordinator for the initiative. "In addition to being introduced to the topic, they learn how to formulate research questions and what the practical applications are for that field."
Research topics for biosciences included extraction of antimicrobial agents from plants; analyses of molecular stem and progenitor cells; and laser-scanning confocal microscopy. Topics for physical health and epidemiology included exercise testing protocols; the study and impact of nutrition and physical health on chronic disease; and the use of geographic information systems (GIS) to study the health of the community.
Research was conducted in Eastern's state-of-the-art Science Building. "I chose to participate in SURP because I wanted to learn how to use various types of lab equipment," said Precilia Dianzenza, a nursing student from Capital Community College, whose research focused on the antibacterial properties of the Black Iris flower.
SURP participants also took field trips to Connecticut Public Health Labs and the Hartford Hospital Simulation Lab. "My favorite experience was visiting the Simulation Center," said Tim Ziembiec, health and exercise science major from Manchester Community College. "We got to see and test out the same technology that doctors and nurses use -- I don't think I would have ever had an opportunity like that if it wasn't for SURP."
Many students chose to live on Eastern's campus during the program. "In addition to benefiting from the research experience, community college students had the opportunity to experience what it is like to live in a dorm," said Mary Ann Affleck, dean of academic affairs at Capital Community College.
"Our hope is that this program will inspire students to pursue studies and careers in the health and life sciences field, and judging by their reactions, I think it has!" said Mara. "The access to equipment the students had and the quality and care of the faculty helped make SURP a great success."
The Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative also aligns with Eastern's brand new Health Sciences major. Both of these programs are meant to address the rapid growth of the health and life sciences field over the coming years.
Written by Michael Rouleau
Eastern Connecticut State University EES students with Professor Dickson Cunningham on a cinder cone volcano amongst the San Francisco peaks of northern Arizona. Photo taken by Professor Drew Hyatt.Back row: Chelsea Roston, Kevin McCormick, Samantha Boyle, Kurt Stefancyk, Carly Burgess, Haley Celotti, Sean Kellarson, Professor Dickson Cunningham. Front Row: Michael Doyle, Olivia Spiller, Rachael Dern, Stephanie Rogers, Lindsey Belliveau, Mackenzie Fannon, Michael Manzi, Daniel Grondin, Matt Gonsalves
Willimantic, Conn. - In May 2014, 16 environmental earth science (EES) students of Eastern Connecticut State University took a 12-day field excursion throughout Arizona. The excursion, a three-credit summer course, brought the students to a number of national parks and geological wonders for an up-close look at the region's geology, geomorphology, natural resources, environmental science and Native American heritage.
"The trip was a great experience in which we were able to apply our knowledge from the classroom to further understand and learn about the beautiful geology of Arizona," said Stephanie Rogers, a senior EES major from East Hartford.
Some of the destinations included the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Salt River Canyon, Saguaro National Park, the Santa Catalina Mountains, Montezuma Castle National Monument and more.
"Despite climbing into the Grand Canyon, no one actually fell in," remarked EES Professor Dickson Cunningham, one of the trip's faculty advisors. "The dormant volcanoes that we scrambled up also remained asleep!"
The trip's workload involved hands-on learning, student projects, presentations and educational hikes throughout the Grand Canyon State, not to mention the preliminary classroom sessions that occurred on Eastern's campus prior to the trip.
"It was an amazing experience that entailed many fields of study including geology, sustainable energy, desert ecology and anthropology," said Daniel Grondin, a senior from East Hartford. "We learned to approach and understand the topic at hand and to hone our field skills."
Cunningham concluded with, "Our field excursion was action-packed, great fun and an excellent educational experience for all of us!"
Written by Ed Osborn
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 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."
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.
Written by Danielle Couture
Willimantic, Conn. - On April 28, eight students at Eastern Connecticut State University were honored at the Environmental Earth Science Department's annual awards. Students were selected for their research or academic excellence in 10 different categories.
Sean Kellarson of Stafford Springs was chosen as the Outstanding Environmental Earth Scientist, and also received the Hard Rock Geology and Academic Excellence Senior Class Awards; Jacqueline Lorange of Plainfield and Brian Wicks of Coventry were chosen for the Geomorphology Research Recognition Award; Timothy Bugden of Mansfield Center was chosen for the Geographic Information Systems and Academic Excellence Senior Class Awards; Christopher Lorentson of East Haddam was chosen for the Sustainable Energy Science and Environmental Service Awards; Laura Markley of Preston was chosen for the Academic Excellence Junior Class Award; Brandan Sumeersarnauth of Stafford Springs was chosen for the Academic Excellence Sophomore Class Award; and Samantha Walter of Wethersfield was chosen for the Academic Excellence Freshman Class Award.
Written by Michael Rouleau
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.
Written by Michael Rouleau
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."
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.