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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 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 Michael Rouleau
Recipients of the Diversity Scholars and Inclusive Excellence Awards. Back row, left to right, are Shaleah Richards, Gregory Riley, Njeri Dodson, Destiny Hartmann, Amilcah Gomes, Briana Tucker, Tyler Hernandez, Kayla Enwerem. Front row, left to right, are Jonathan Correa, James Chadic.
Willimantic, Conn. - The 2014 Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony was held May 2 at Eastern Connecticut State University. The event, sponsored by the Advising Center, celebrated the academic achievements of Eastern's "ALANA" students--African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American students. A total of 143 students were recognized.
"Across the country, minority students are underrepresented on college campuses and graduate at lower rates," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "Here at Eastern we are committed to reversing that trend by fostering a community of inclusion, diversity awareness and academic excellence."
The event's keynote speaker, Carmen Cid, a Latina from Cuba with nearly 30 years' experience as a college professor and administrator, and a distinguished scientist in the field of ecology, spoke on the topic of "finding your inner voice."
"You have diverse backgrounds and broad educations; you can do more than one thing," said Cid, currently the interim president of Quinebaug Valley Community College and long-time dean of Eastern's School of Arts and Sciences. "Finding your inner voice takes time and practice." She also spoke of the benefits of diversity: "In ecology, the more diverse an ecosystem, the healthier it is. This is true for a college campus, too, and for society."
Among the 143 students recognized were the Diversity Scholars Award recipients: Jonathan Correa, a sophomore biology major from Trumbull; Njeri Dodson, a freshman biology major from Bridgeport; Destiny Hartmann, a freshman accounting major from Stonington; Tyler Hernandez, a sophomore education major from Waterbury; Kayla Enwerem, a freshman from Waterbury; and Briana Tucker, a freshman social work major from Glastonbury.
Also notable were the recipients of the Inclusive Excellence Awards: James Chadic, a senior mathematics major from Norwich; Vanessa Cioe, a senior sports and leisure management major from Fall River, MA; Shaleah Richards, a senior psychology major from Hartford; and Gregory Riley, a junior biology major from West Haven.
Written by Michael Rouleau
Willimantic, Conn. - "Do something about it." Those are the words that Eastern Connecticut State University student James Chadic lives by. Born and raised in Haiti, enduring levels of violence and poverty unseen in the United States, Chadic has overcome adversity and now has his eyes set on a PhD program in mathematics. "Math saved my life," asserts Chadic. "It showed me how to think."
As much as Chadic loved school, growing up in Haiti he could seldom attend. "I had to stay home and take care of my sister," he said. "My mother worked throughout the day to feed us and my father was in the United States trying to establish a better life for my family. They needed me home."
When Chadic was 14 years old, he was often depressed. "I didn't want live that way. I didn't want to live at all," he said. Upon reflecting on the violence and poverty of his country, he grew teary-eyed. "I know what it's like to be hungry; to have to share a piece of bread among your family. I know what it's like to have to stay on the floor because of bullets coming into the window. I know what it's like to fear for your life."
When he was 16 years old, Chadic was able to move to Norwich, CT, after his father got his permanent resident status settled. To his dismay, his depression worsened as he suffered ridicule by peers for not being able to speak English.
"Everyone laughed at me. I couldn't make friends, not even with my own people"--referring to other immigrants in the area that were further assimilated into U.S. culture. "Quickly I decided to do something about it," said Chadic.
From then on he studied diligently, reading English books and listening to audio lessons for hours on end after school in the library--Chadic also speaks Creole, Spanish and French. "I learned English in three months, and the school moved me to higher level classes with the regular students," said Chadic. "But then I realized that every time you move up the ladder, things become harder."
After his time at the Norwich Free Academy, Chadic moved on to Three Rivers Community College, where his appreciation for education grew and he met one of his greatest mentors, Eastern faculty member June Dunn, whom he affectionately refers to as "mom."
"When James transferred to Eastern, against the advice of his family who questioned the value of college, he was terrified," said Dunn, "but because of his outgoing nature he quickly made friends and came under the tutelage of two professors of the Mathematics Department, Mizan Khan and Anthony Aidoo."
"Dr. Khan taught me that I should not focus on solving 'the problem,' but on the process that gets you there," said Chadic. "Knowing the process gives you insight. I apply this thinking to life. My life is like math."
When Chadic began studying math at the college level he could only do basic algebra, but now is taking some of the most challenging math courses at Eastern, including "complex analysis." "I was not good at first. I got all the problems wrong." Four years later, Chadic is now receiving invites--and awaiting more--from a number of PhD math programs.
"I'm not afraid to try new things anymore. I'm not afraid to take risks," said Chadic. "I've seen the worst of the worst. Why should I be afraid to fail? The more you fail and then accomplish, the stronger you are."
"I'm happy to be graduating this May and moving on to new challenges, but I don't want to leave; Eastern is family," said Chadic. "I have many people I will continue to visit."
Written by Akaya McElveen
Willimantic, Conn. -Eastern Connecticut State University's chapter of Kappa Mu Episilon, the national mathematics honor society, held its 54th induction ceremony in Science 301 on April 25. In attendance were Eastern President Elsa Nunez and Provost Rhona Free.
Inductees included Samantha Camolli, James Chadic, Elizabeth Gregory, Nicole Gugliotti, Rebecca Keenan, Amelia Miceli, Jennifer Mouland, Kelly Provo, Jacqueline Slorach, Jordan Somes, Nicholas Squier, Zoraida Villalobos, Stephen White, Schuylar Whiting, Bailey Wilber, Melissa Williams and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Mehdi Khorami.
"I feel honored and privileged to have been invited here," said President Nunez, who extended congratulations to each of the inductees. She said majoring in mathematics "requires high intellect and significant curiosity. There's so much to be proud of in the math department."
Free also extended congratulations to the inductees and highlighted the accomplishments of the students and alumni of Eastern.
The national mathematics honor society Kappa Mu Epsilon (KME) was formed in 1931, and elected to membership in the Association of College Honor Societies in 1968. The Eastern chapter (Kappa Mu Epsilon-Connecticut Beta Chapter) was chartered in 1981. Members who have excelled in their mathematics studies are initiated into the society at the Annual Spring Initiation Ceremony. New members are nominated by Mathematics faculty under the following general guidelines: 3.0 GPA, B or better in each of Abstract Algebra and Real Analysis I, at least B+ average in higher level Mathematics courses, Junior or Senior Class standing. In exceptional cases, the Mathematics faculty may consider modification of these standards.
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 Anne Pappalardo
Willimantic, Conn. - Richard Magner '15, a mathematics major from Beacon Falls, CT, recently received an Honorable Mention from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The Goldwater Scholarship program was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The program recognizes undergraduate students who demonstrate the potential to make significant research contributions in their future careers.
Julia DeLapp, Eastern's coordinator for national scholarships and fellowships and program coordinator for the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE), said, "As far as I know, this is the first time an Eastern student has been recognized by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Richard has been conducting research under the mentorship of Professor Mizan Khan for two years and is also Eastern's first Undergraduate Research Fellow."
"By the time he graduates, he will have completed eight graduate-level courses at the University of Connecticut, served as a teaching assistant for an upper-division math course, and will have had at least one publication and multiple presentations related to his own research," added DeLapp.
Magner's professors have recognized his unique capacities and have provided him with challenging experiences to ensure that he continues to develop while at Eastern. In addition to earning the respect of members of the Department of Mathematics, he has also impressed Computer Science faculty by writing computer programs on his own to aid his research.
In order to qualify to be considered by the Goldwater Scholarship program, students must be nominated by their institutions. Each institution can only nominate up to four students and each student must show actual potential for promising careers in research.
Eastern mathematics Professors Mizan Khan, Peter Johnson and Christian Yankov submitted letters of recommendation for Magner. His career goals include pursuing a Ph.D. in Mathematics, conducting research in number theory and teaching at the university level.
"Ricky is arguably the strongest mathematics major we have had in the past 20 years. He has an excellent mind and has shown that he is capable of doing original work in mathematics. Most importantly, his level of motivation and study ethic is extraordinary," said Khan.
Magner presented his research at two research conferences during the summer of 2013. The first, "Combinatorial and Additive Number Theory 2013" at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY); the second, the 2013 Young Mathematicians Conference at Ohio State University (OSU), which was funded by the National Science Foundation. Only one-third of the abstracts submitted were accepted at the OSU event.
The research has culiminated in two manuscripts. "The Combinatorial Geometric Problems Involving Modular Hyperbola," authored by M. Khan, R. Magner, S. Senger and A. Winterhof, will appear in INTEGERS (www.integers-ejcnt.edu) this year. INTEGERS is a refereed electronic journal devoted to research in the area of combinatorial number theory. "An Application of Modular Hyperbolas to Quadratic Residues," authored by Khan and Magner, will also be published in American Math Monthly (www.maa.org) this year.
Written by Michael Rouleau
Richard Magner, left, and Professor Mizan Khan, right
Willimantic, Conn. - Two members of Eastern Connecticut State University's Mathematics Department have made a discovery in the field of mathematics known as "number theory." Eastern mathematics professor Mizan Khan and Richard "Ricky" Magner, a junior majoring in mathematics, will have their discovery published in Volume 14 of the electronic journal INTEGERS.
The research, titled "Two Combinatorial Geometric Problems Involving Modular Hyperbolas," was a collaborative effort among four scholars, including Khan and Magner, as well as Steven Senger of the University of Delaware and Arne Winterhof of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
"The research concerned two problems, and Ricky answered one of them," said Khan. "Ricky's discovery is quite pretty; he is very clever."
The questions leading their research were: "given a finite collection of points on a two-dimensional grid, how many distinct lines can you draw connecting two or more points in that collection?"; and "what conditions ensure that a line connecting two points in that collection do not meet a third point?"
The answers to these seemingly simple questions are indecipherable for those without some background in number theory--which deals with the properties and relationships of integers, or whole numbers.
"Questions in number theory are easy to state," said Magner, "but they are difficult to answer, and their implications are often unknown."
During Magner's freshman year, Khan approached him after class with an excerpt from a book dealing with "modular hyperbolas"--an area of number theory that Khan has been working on since 1999. "At first I didn't really know what we were looking for," said Magner, "but in the fall of my sophomore year, after spending much time with modular hyperbolas, things started to come together."
Both Khan and Magner agree that the discovery alone has no practical application. "While the solution is elegant, this is a minor discovery," said Khan. "In this case, it is the process that is important, not the solution. My hope is that Ricky will build on this experience to prove bigger theorems in the future when he is in graduate school."
"Through solving problems you develop skill and build an 'arsenal,' which can lead to new discoveries and expand the field of mathematics," said Magner. "At the time, you may not know if the discovery is useful. It may be years before its use is realized."
Magner is currently taking graduate mathematics courses at UConn, in addition to his full-time workload at Eastern. After obtaining his master's degree, he plans to apply for a PhD program in mathematics, while still investing time in his passion for writing and other intellectual pursuits.
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."