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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.


Annual Athletic Awards Banquet Honors Student-Athletes

Written by Akaya McElveen


DeVito and Jen Tamindzija (2).JPGWomen's Head Soccer Coach Chris D'Amboriso and Jen Tamindzija
Willimantic, Conn. -More than 100 student athletes, coaching staff and administrators gathered in the Betty R. Tipton Room on May 3 for Eastern Connecticut State University's annual athletic awards banquet. Greg DeVito, head coach for the men's soccer team, was the master of ceremonies with Interim Director of Athletics Cynthia Washburne and Vice President of Student Affairs Ken Bedini giving the welcoming remarks. The event was sponsored by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Intramurals and Recreation.

Bedini presented the senior awards to 55 graduating student athletes, recognizing the end of their athletic eligibility to compete in Division III competition in their given sport at Eastern. Next were the Scholar Athletes and Outstanding Scholar Athletes Awards, presented by Provost Rhona Free, as well as the Team Faculty Athletic Representative Award for Academic Achievement given to the women's volleyball team. "The women's volleyball team has been very successful in the classroom with a cumulative GPA average of 3.47 after the fall 2013 semester," said DeVito.
            The Morrell Service Award, named after the Morrell brothers who attended Eastern and served as members of the Athletic department staff, was awarded to JenTamindzija. Tamindzija has been employed by the Athletic Department for three years and as an Event Staff Supervisor for two years. "Throughout her career, Jen has proven to be a conscious leader in every sense of the word," said DeVito.
Next were the Rookie of the Year Awards given to a male and female student-athlete in their first year of eligibility and based primarily on the individual's athletic performance.          

The men's award went to Greg Walton of the men's soccer team. Walton became the only third freshman goalkeeper in the 25-year history of the Little East Conference (LEC) to gain first-team honors at that position. In seven LEC regular season matches, Walton led the conference in goals against average and was third in save percentage.

DeVito speaking (2).JPG                                Head Men's Soccer coach Gregory DeVito

The female Rookie of the Year Award went to Adrianna Mihalek of the women's 

volleyball team. "Last fall, Adrianna became the volleyball program's first Little East

Conference Rookie-of-the-Year and first "First-Team" freshman in 10 years," said

DeVito. "In seven Little East regular season matches, she was second in the conference in

kills and tied for seventh in points per match."

Track and Field athlete Natalie Bowens was awarded the Individual Sport Rookie of the Year Award. "Natalie needed only five meets to merit this award," said DeVito. A competitor during the outdoor track and field season in the sprints and jumps, Bowens broke the program triple jump record in only her third collegiate meet.
Male Athlete of the Year Awards was given to lacrosse player Mike Devine and basketball player Mike Garrow. In his career, Devine has scored at least one goal in all but five games, and had 23 straight games with a goal during his sophomore and junior seasons still an Eastern record. Garrow was named the first NABC Division III men's basketball All-American in Eastern history, and was also the program's first LEC Player-of-the-Year.

The Female Athlete of the Year Award was given to softball player Mattie Brett. "During the regular season, her 14-game hitting streak was the longest by a player this season," said DeVito. "Mattie has never missed a game in her three-year Eastern Career." The Individual Sport Athlete of the Year Award was given to Katie King of the women's swim team. King went undefeated in dual-meet competition in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events.

The Bonnie J. Edmondson Sportswoman of the Year Award, named after Bonnie Edmondson, a four-year member of Eastern's track program who was an Olympic qualifier as an alternate in the hammer, was awarded to volleyball player Erynn Miller. Miller was the first person named team captain by Head Coach Peter Maneggia in his 15 years of coaching. Maneggia describes Miller as "a leader on and off the court who was vested in the 'team first' mentality."

Lastly, the Francis E. Geissler Sportsman of the Year Award, named after former athletic director and men's basketball and baseball coach, Francis Geisler, was awarded to Carl Stensland of the men's soccer team. During Stensland's three seasons as a student-athlete, DeVito characterized him as "one of the most reliable and responsible student-athletes that I have ever coached."
            Closing remarks were made by DeVito, with a special thanks to Janice Patry, assistant director of athletics, for her role in organizing the evening's event.

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."

"Eastern in 4," Eastern's Revamped Academic Plan

Written by Michael Rouleau

Willimantic, Conn. - As part of Eastern Connecticut State University's 2013-18 Strategic Plan, "Eastern in 4" is now a requirement for current students and incoming freshmen. The goal of "Eastern in 4" is to lay out a tight and comprehensive plan--including academic and career goals--that will lead students to their bachelor's degrees in four years.

"Eastern in 4" has existed as an informal objective for several years now, but recent data supporting the need for college-career planning has caused the University to revamp and mandate the program. "There are so many options and requirements in a college setting," said Alison Garewski, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students unknowingly taking courses they don't need--costing them more money and prolonging their time in college--is an issue nationwide."

With nearly 1,000 freshman at Eastern this year, approximately 650 have completed their academic plans. Though the plans are designed in group sessions of five to 20 students, each four-year plan is individualized according to a student's degree requirements and preferences--taking into consideration which liberal arts courses to take, internships and study abroad opportunities.

"Every semester when registering for classes I use my four-year plan to aid in my selection," said Christina Harmon, a sophomore majoring in psychology. "'Eastern in 4' was a great way for me to learn what classes I need to take and how to stay on track in order to graduate on time."

While "Eastern in 4" is available to all students and majors, it is especially useful to transfer students, continuing education students and those switching majors. "This program is ideal at Eastern because we're a liberal arts school," said Chris Drewry, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students are required and encouraged to take courses outside of their major, so having this direction is really helpful."

"Before making my 'Eastern in 4' plan, I had no idea if I could fit a double major's worth of classes into my schedule," said Thomas Hacker, a freshman with a double major. "Now I have a roadmap to double major in music and communication in four years."

Eastern to Present Kye Allums

Written by Danielle Couture

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    Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will present "Shooting History's First Free Throw: Kye Allums," as part of Eastern's University Hour Series, at 3 p.m. on March 5 in the Student Center Theatre.

    Allums is the first openly transgender Division I athlete in sports history. He will discuss the challenges and triumphs that come along with coming out to teammates, family and the world.

University Hour is free and open to the public.


"Mr. Eastern"

Written by Christopher J. Herman

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Competitive Cheerleading Team hosted the first ever "Mr. Eastern" on Nov. 5 in the Betty R. Tipton Room and crowned Shane Daniotti as the winner. The event was held not only to raise funds for Eastern's cheerleaders, but also to encourage students to participate in school functions. The program was a multi-part event which included a presentation of the male contestants, an informative questionnaire and a talent show. 

Each male contestant was asked a series of questions discussing various topics. They were tested on their ability to spell, and their knowledge of Eastern's cheerleading cheers, and also answered a random question asked by the audience. The questionnaire was followed by a talent show where the future Mr. Eastern performed a talent of his choice.
Missy Dupont, Eastern's cheerleading coach and event moderator, was grateful for the attendance of Eastern students and faculty. "I just wanted to thank Eastern's cheerleaders for supporting us and all Eastern students and staff that attended tonight," said Dupont.  

Mr. Eastern contestants included Dan Eisemann, Brendan Germano, Brendan Gilloti, Ryan Houmiller, Jake Hynds, Tyler Matusek, Steven Nixon, Andre Reynolds and Shane Scavello. They were accompanied by Eastern cheerleaders Brittany Bronner, Taylor Gaparino, Emily Wigglesworth, Carissa Riccio, Lauren Clapp, Bridjette Neals, Danni Meskill, Angela Beaupre, Jennifer Pepin and Jillian Soucie.  

For more information on Eastern's competitive cheerleading team and their upcoming events, email


Jason Edwards Joins E-Club Hall of Fame

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. - After holding Eastern Connecticut State University men's outdoor track and field school record in the long jump for nearly 14 years and counting, Jason Edwards, Eastern's second-year assistant track and field coach, will be inducted into the E-Club Hall of Fame on Oct. 19. Edwards is the first track athlete to earn All-American honors as many as four times, and only one of three individuals to get inducted based solely on track and field accomplishments.
The E-Club Hall of Fame induction ceremony and social will take place starting at 5 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room in Eastern's Student Center. Tickets are $50. 
Jason Edwards Broad Jumping.jpg

On May 21, 1999, Edwards jumped 25 feet and 2½ inches at the NCAA Division III national meet at Baldwin-Wallace, breaking the men's record at Eastern. He also holds the Eastern's men's 200-meter record of 21.74 seconds which he set on April 21, 200, at Springfield College. To this day, Edwards' records have not been broken.

During Edwards' freshman year at Eastern, he won the New England Alliance championships in the long jump with a mark of 23 feet and four inches. Later he won the Division III New England championships and finished fourth at the New England Open championships. Unfortunately, his marks fell short of qualifying for the Division III national championships. Edwards returned for the outdoor season of his sophomore year and qualified for nationals throughout the remainder of his track career.

"Jason is one of those athletes that I was lucky to have coached and will remember for my entire life," said Edwards' former coach and current head track and field coach Kathy Manizza. "As an athlete, he had it all: incredible talent, positive attitude, great work ethic and focus. He knew how to work hard, but he also knew how to keep it fun and enjoy the sport."

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Board of Regents President Gray Visits Eastern's Campus

Written by Dwight Bachman

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Willimantic, Conn -- Eastern President Elsa Núñez, along with more than 100 students, faculty and staff, greeted Connecticut State Universities and Colleges (ConnSCU) Board of Regents President  Gregory Gray to campus on Sept. 18. The new president of Connecticut's Board of Regents for Higher Educatonis in the midst of touring the 17 schools that make up the state's public higher education system. Gray took over as president on July . He oversees the Board of Regents, which governs 12 community colleges, four state universities, and Charter Oak College,  the state's on-line institution.

Nunez praised Gray for his vision; his goal of restoring integrity to the system and for finding opportunities for more collaboration between community colleges and the four-year universities.

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Gray, noting that Eastern students were already fortunate to have a beautiful, physical setting, said, "Pristine is all around you here. Knowing that you were so dedicated to having such a beautiful campus tells me this same dedication must be taking place in the classroom as well."  He said his primary goal is to improve the learning environment on campuses, "making it go from very good to great."

Gray said he believes that by working together with faculty members who have a deep-rooted passion for excellence, ConnSCU will become a world-class system of higher education. To achieve this long-range goal, Gray wants to (1) restore trust and integrity to the system; (2) make the system more efficient and productive; (3) develop a plan to benefit current and future students.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we have to get it right. I want to develop a plan that will positively impact student 25 years from now." He said online education courses; a unified calendar for all system colleges and universities; and seamless transfer of credits will better serve students. "Saving money is important, but that is not the primary goal. We want to provide access and focus on what we should focus on a student's purpose for being here, which is to learn.  We then, want tell the world about it."

Gray said he wants board meetings to focus on student presentations about their achievements, and to see more scholarship celebrated on campus through academic fairs showcasing faculty books and student-published articles. He believes his plan will identify areas of efficiency, producing a more clearly-defined niche for each university.

During a question and answer period, Gray told students who want to be assured their voices are heard to "speak up, but get your facts straight. I assure you I will do all I can to support the integration of teaching, learning and service to our students. I say let's improve the overall efficiency of the system; improve the learning environment; give the governor and the legislature a good plan; and get it funded."


Eastern Named Among 2013-14 Public Colleges of Distinction

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, Conn: Eastern Connecticut State University has been included in the latest edition of the "Public Colleges of Distinction" guidebook.  Eastern is the only public college from Connecticut listed in the guidebook.  The guide says the colleges and universities listed excel in four distinctions --Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Communities and Successful Outcomes.

"Engaged students" learn the skills they need to succeed in life -- the ability to think flexibly and address problems hands-on -- not just being able to memorize facts and follow orders. Instead, Eastern students learn to communicate, think critically, and solve problems as they explore the world through study abroad, internships, community service projects and undergraduate research.

"Great teaching" occurs in an atmosphere where feedback and encouragement are the norm. Faculty interaction is crucial to learning. "Colleges of distinction" encourage an atmosphere of exciting thought and action, led by professors who care about helping students learn to think for themselves. Academic innovation goes hand-in-hand with personalized learning.

"Vibrant communities" are campus communities that offer activities and events that help students learn even after the books are closed, creating social opportunities for students to develop friendships, and providing students a wide range of intellectually, thought-provoking speakers, seminars, unique films and artistic events.

"Successful outcomes" describes schools that produce students who can think, write, speak and reason, get a job, and most importantly, are also good citizens who can work together with diverse groups of people.
Colleges of Distinction are considered "hidden gems" of higher education, according to the panel of academicians, guidance counselors and parents that made the selection, officials said.  

The guidebook describes a College of Distinction as being:
• nationally recognized by education professionals and honored for the excellence of its programs;
• strongly focused on teaching undergraduates, where students are taught by real professors, not by graduate students or teaching assistants, in vibrant classrooms where the faculty keep their students challenged and interested;
• home to a wide variety of innovative learning experiences, from study abroad and scientific research to service learning and internships;
• an active campus with many opportunities for personal development. Whatever their passion, students find plenty of encouragement to help them pursue it; and
• highly valued by graduate schools and employers for its outstanding preparation.

The Public Colleges of Distinction are currently featured on the newly redesigned Colleges of Distinction website and will be featured in the Public Colleges of Distinction eGuidebook available this fall.

Eastern Named a "2013 Great College to Work For"

Written by Christopher J. Herman


Willimantic, Conn. - For the fifth year in a row, Eastern Connecticut State University has been named as one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The results, released yesterday in The Chronicle's sixth annual report on The Academic Workplace, are based on a survey of more than 45,000 employees at 300 colleges and universities.
        In all, only 97 institutions achieved "Great College to Work For" recognition for specific best practices and policies. Eastern won honors in three categories this year: "Collaborative Governance;" "Compensation and Benefits;" "Facilities, Workspaces and Security."
Eastern was one of only three Connecticut institutions to make the list and the only public university among the three; Quinnipiac University and Middlesex Community College were the other two.

"We are honored to be included in 'Great Colleges to Work For'," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "Receiving this national recognition once again from the Chronicle of Higher Education is very gratifying, especially given our high ranking in three important areas of campus operations. The spirit of collaboration that exists on our campus is a strength that helps us better serve our students and the state of Connecticut." 
     The Chronicle is one of the nation's most important sources of news about colleges and universities. The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies from each institution, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution receives recognition is employee feedback.    

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThinkLLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous "Best Places to Work" programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. Great Colleges to Work For is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country.

For more information and to view all the results of the survey, visit The Chronicle's web site at Meet 2013's Great Colleges to Work For.

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