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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
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.
Written by Akaya McElveen
Willimantic, Conn. - Michèle Bošković, French professor in the World Languages and Cultures Department at Eastern Connecticut State University has authored her fourth book titled "Paroles d'auteurs jeunesse: Autour du multiculturalisme et des minorites visibles en France" (In Youth Authors' Words: Multiculturalism and Visible Minorities in France) published by Rodopi Publishers, based in the United States and the Netherlands. The book is a collection of interviews with 12 children's literature writers and one illustrator. It explores multiculturalism in France through the work of children's literature.
Bošković wrote the book with the intent to show a realistic reflection of what French society really is, to change the way society looks at diversity and to bridge together different communities. Bošković purposefully chose writers of diverse backgrounds to include in her book. She began the process in 2007, and began her interviews while on sabbatical in 2008. "In the field of literature, children's literature is not generally recognized as literature," says Bošković.
She cites racism as a problem in French society. Bošković explains that by combating the problem through exposing children to diversity in children's literature, there is a likelihood that the new generation will be more informed than children who were in school 30 years ago. "For there to be less racism," said Bošković, "you have to start with children."
Written by Danielle Couture
Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Foreign Languages and Cultures Department will present the 2013 Foreign Film Series in Science 201, at 7 p.m. starting Oct. 23. The films will air every Wednesday until Dec. 4.
The schedule is as follows:
• 10/23 The Devil's Backbone/El espinazo del diablo (Spain/Mexico)
• 10/30 A Tale of Two Sisters/Janghwa, Hongryeon (South Korea)
• 11/6 The Women on the 6th Floor/Les femmes du sixième étage (France)
• 11/13 Once Upon a Time in Anatolia/Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da (Turkey)
• 11/20 There May or May Not Be a Tomorrow/Kal Ho Naa Ho (India)
• 11/27 NO SCREENING (Thanksgiving)
• 12/4 Paprika (Japan)
All films are free and open to the public. For more information contact Fontaine Lien at Lienf@easternct.edu.
Willimantic, Conn. - The Eastern Connecticut State University World Languages and Cultures Department will present their foreign language conversation tables series starting Oct. 9 in the Student Center Café. The language tables will include both the Chinese and French languages. The foreign language tables are designed to provide an informal environment to students and faculty members where they can practice the Chinese and French languages.
Starting Oct. 9, the Chinese Corner language table series will take place every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon in the Café. All levels of Mandarin Chinese speakers ranging from beginner to fluent as well as all members of the Eastern community will have the chance to come together and practice their Mandarin Chinese.
Starting Oct. 11, the French language table series will take place every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. in the Café. All levels of French speakers ranging from beginner to fluent as well as all members of the Eastern community will have a chance to come together and practice their French.
The conversation tables will be set up every Wednesday and Thursday in the Student Center Café throughout the fall 2013 semester.
Written by Christoper J. Herman
Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University recently presented "Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys," a multi-day cultural exhibition showcasing Islamic artwork, architecture and history. The Muslim Journeys Bookshelf collection consists of 25 books, three films and a database called Oxford Islamic Studies Online. This is a collection of resources carefully curated to present new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, practices, and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the world.
Former Eastern Librarian Tracy Sutherland originally planned the event last year. Eastern librarians Carol Reichardt and Janice Wilson, and other library staff organized and presented the events and coordinated with guest lecturers.
Yahya Michot, professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary
Michele Boskovic, professor of French in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, started off the series of presentations on Sept. 16 by introducing the literary editions of the grant collection. Yahya Michot, professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary, gave an informative lecture about Islam. On Sept. 19, a film about Islamic art, architecture and history was presented to students in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Conferernce Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.
"It was very informative," said one Eastern student. "I know so little about Islamic art and architecture. So many of buildings and gardens that were shown looked so beautiful. It was great getting the chance to see it." Additional activities included sampling Mediterranean Cuisine and the option of getting free henna designs, a type of tattoo known for its floral patterns.
Muslim Journeys was funded through a grant award from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. Additional support for the program was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Eastern was one of several hundred libraries and state humanities councils across the country that were chosen to receive the grant contributions.
The books and videos are available to borrow in J Eugene Smith Library. They are located near the library circulation desk.