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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 Alumnus Ryan Davis Keynote Speaker at MLK Awards

Written by Danielle Couture

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University Alumnus Ryan J. Davis will serve as keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards at 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.
Davis graduated from Eastern in 2003 with a B.S. in Business Administration. He is now the senior program manager for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which was designed to increase the number of students of color who earn postsecondary degrees.

Prior to joining the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, Davis accumulated almost a decade of experience as a teacher, higher education administrator, and education policy researcher. Davis has authored or co-authored more than 25 publications, including reports featured in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" and "Inside Higher Ed." Davis' research on student success among males of color earned him and his colleagues the "Outstanding Research Award" by the American College Personnel Association's Standing Committee for Men.

Davis also has been the recipient of such accolades as 93.9 WKYS' "Top 30 Under 30" in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. He was named a "TRIO Achiever" by the Connecticut Association for Educational Opportunity Programs, a Graduate Fellow at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a Fellow at the Association for the Study of Higher Education's Institute for Critical Policy Research and is a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Davis was presented with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award in 2003.

Recipients of the awards for 2014 are Alycia Bright Holland, lecturer of performing arts; Biology major Yollaine Kaja; and Rose Marie Hernández, family liaison at Windham Middle School and coordinator of the Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program.

The awards are open free and open to the public. For any information, please call Kemesha Wilmot at (860) 465-4421 or email

Eastern Presents "Half of Me"

Written by Danielle Couture

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Intercultural Center will present "Half of Me" as part of the University Hour Series at 3 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the Student Center Theatre.
The purpose of the event is to open the eyes and minds of students by discussing diversity issues on campus. A panel that includes members of the LGBTQ community will be asked a series of questions pertaining to issues that are relevant to each of their identifying communities.

The event is free and open to the public.

Eastern Seeks Nominations for MLK Award

Written by Danielle Couture

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University is accepting nominations for the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award. Nominees may be a part of the university campus community or from the greater community. Nominations will be accepted through Dec. 17.

The award recognizes members of the campus as well as the community-at-large whose actions demonstrate distinguished service in promoting King's ideals to further the goals of diversity and social equality. Three awards will be given: to a member of the community; a member of the Eastern faculty/staff; and to a member of the Eastern student body.

The awards recognize distinguished service in one or more of three categories: activities that represent a commitment to the goals of an integrated society, including activities beyond one's work obligations; leadership in a program serving the needs of a diverse community, with efforts reflecting an attempt to unify groups and or to increase sensitivity; and planning and implementation of programs to broaden representation of underrepresented groups as students and employees.
 The awards will be presented at 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.  For more information regarding the ceremony or to request a nomination form, please call Kemesha Wilmot at (860) 465-4421 or email

Eastern Presents "Hair Matters: Unresolved Issues"

Written by Danielle Couture

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Intercultural Center will present "Hair Matters: Unresolved Issues" as part of the University Hour Series in the Student Center Theatre from 3-4 p.m. on Nov. 20.
The program consists of a panel including staff members Kemesha Wilmot, coordinator of the Intercultural Center, and Julisa De Los Santos, hall director of Laurel Hall, as well as students Kaitlyn Jolley and Erica Byrd.
"Hair Matters" will discuss political, social and other aspects surrounding women of color and their hair. Attendees will learn about taking care of their own hair as well as learning about other people's hair in order to build bridges across ethnicities.
University Hour is free and open to the public.


Bernard Lafayette Says "Use Your Rights, or Lose Them!"

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. - Bernard Lafayette Jr., a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement, spoke on "Reaching Beyond Your Grasp" on Oct. 9 in the Student Center Theatre at Eastern Connecticut State University. His presentation was part of Eastern's University Hour Series.

More than 200 Eastern students, faculty and staff  heard Lafayette say he was "glad" and "shocked" that he is still alive today, in response to a question asked by a student. Lafayette's life has been threatened on many occasions, including a night when white men came to his house to kill him.


       More than 200 Eastern students, faculty and staff heard Lafayette describe how resolute the Freedom Riders were while facing terrifying mobs.

Being the target of many death threats, Lafayette had expected his life to have ended already. In fact, he said he that he and his peers, realizing the dangerous journey they were about to begin, created a will before taking part in the Freedom Riders, who were African American and white college students. "No one can take your life if you've already given it," said Lafayette.  He said the Freedom Rides of the 1960s provided the momentum for the Civil Rights Movement, and provided an in-depth, personal look at what life was like for the Freedom Riders.

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Left to right, Stacey Close, Eastern's associate vice president for equity and diversity; Prudence Allen, former administrative assistant to the late Coretta Scott King; Lafayette, Sociology Professors Dennis Canterbury and James Russell pose for a photograph.

Lafayette played a riveting clip from a documentary on the Freedom Rides, which showed scenes of white mobs as they burned and bombed the Freedom Riders' buses and beat them with crow bars, baseball bats and any other weapon they could pick up. Law enforcement and city officials had made a deal; the mob of people was given 15 minutes to do whatever it wanted to the Freedom Riders and they would not get punished for it. Once the 15 minutes were up, Lafayette said the officers announced, "Alright, you've had your fun," and told the mob, "Not one soul will ever be arrested." 

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        Lafayette shakes hands with Akaya McElveen'14, an English major from Waterbury.

There was a moment in the film when a black woman went to a police officer to explain that her husband was being attacked, only to be knocked to the ground by that same officer.

Lafayette said media exposure of the mob violence and city officials' sanction of it played a leading role raising public awareness. News of the mob and police brutality was heard around the world, with America's European allies making it clear to President Kennedy that they were embarrassed by the violence. 

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       Lafayette, left, with former vice president for equity and diversity at  Eastern,and administrative assistants Carmen Diaz and Kathy Escobar.

The speaker also said there is a misconception that the Freedom Rides were about integrating the buses: "The demonstrations were really about bus stations and the right to be treated equally in them." Lafayette also talked about the importance of community engagement, saying that all colleges and universities should be involved in the community. "You've got to bring young people together and organize them. If you don't use your rights, you will lose your rights." As an example, he said students could initiate a voter registration drive by hosting a public birthday party for eighteen-year-olds, where the cost of admission would be showing their voter registration cards.

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          Lafayette with Hope Fitz, professor of philosophy and a scholar on nonviolence.

Lafayette said that he is genuinely interested in what the next generation will contribute to the Civil Rights Movement. "Maybe the movement never really stopped; it's continuous." He said young people should never surrender to violence and injustice. "If you do, the psychological wounds will run deep and may never end."  He encouraged the audience to keep the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream alive, quoting the late Civil Rights leader, "We must live together as sisters and brothers or die separately as fools."

Lafayette ended his presentation by entertaining the audience with a country song about the struggle of poor white Americans.

Eastern Presents GivingBackLife

Written by Christopher J. Herman

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will host GivingBackLife from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 16 in the Student Center Theatre.   

Giving Back Life is an organization that works with and assists the underprivileged and orphaned children of China. Founder of the organization, Daniel Lui, will share his experiences working with the children of China and talk about the history and mission of GivingBackLife. The event will culminate with an activity that captures the essence and difficulties of being an orphan in rural China.
"GivingBackLife may be young, but we are going to carry with us a fresh outlook on making a difference in the world in which we live," said Liu, when describing the mission statement of his organization. "We are ambitious, we are passionate, we care dearly about people, and we realize that big things cannot be accomplished alone; however, if we can collectively do small things with great love, as Mother Teresa once said, there is no reason why we can't change the world."

For more information on the event, contact the Intercultural Center at (860) 465-5749 or

Eastern Presents "We Are Blended"

Written by Christopher J. Herman

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Campus Activity Board (CAB), the Intercultural Center, the Office of Housing and Residential Life and the Women's Center recently co-sponsored "We Are Blended," a social change initiative that encourages immigrants and U.S.-born residents to reach out to each other. The Eastern departments worked with the Chinese and American Cultural and Assistance Corporation and Adam Bowles, the owner of Not With Ink, a Connecticut-based multimedia company that raises awareness of select topics on a project-by-project basis. The two organizations have sponsored and showcased the program across Connecticut.

 "My vision and passion is to spread the message of 'speak kindly' and 'take notice' to as many communities and schools as possible," said Bowles. "This message is found in the book of Ruth in the Bible. I want to challenge people to "speak kindly" to one another in order to put immigrants at ease and to "take notice" of immigrant students by recognizing them as more than just another face in the crowd. It's a small part to play in the spectrum of all things immigration. But it's the part I feel called to play."
The keynote speaker, Carlos Castro, founder of Todos Supermarket, talked to Eastern students about pursuing the dream of having a life of freedom and success. Today, Castro is a self-made immigrant millionaire who has been featured nationally, including in the Washington Post, for his amazing rise from cleaning toilets to owning a supermarket chain in Virginia. Castro talked about the importance of staying focused and determined. He lectured Eastern students on the importance of being kind and taking notice of each other as a community.

 Eastern has more than 50 international students from various countries including Senegal, Norway, Denmark, Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Pakistan. These students speak more than 40 languages, including French, Spanish, Swedish, Wolof, Urdu, Pidgin, Portuguese, Creole, Dutch, German, Italian, Hindi, Turkish, Japanese, Akan, Norwegian, Arabic and Farsi.

 For more information on upcoming events in the Intercultural and Women's Center, visit Cultural Celebrations or contact Starsheemar Byrum at

Eastern to Present "Dancing At Lughnasa"

Written by Danielle Couture


Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Theatre Program and Drama Society will present "Dancing At Lughnasa" written by Ireland's renowned playwright Brian Friel, in the Harry Hope Theatre in Shafer Hall.

The play, directed by assistant professor of theatre J.J. Cobb, will run Oct. 10-13 and Oct. 15-16 (Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.) with a 4 p.m. matinee on Oct. 13. The public is invited. Admission is $5 for students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for Eastern faculty, staff, alumni and senior citizens; and $12 for the general public.

The play is "set in County Donegal in 1936, and explores five sisters at a crossroads in their lives," says Performing Arts Department chair David Pellegrini. "Through humor, colorful dialogue and beautifully-drawn characterizations, this Tony Award-winning play delves into the bonds of sisterhood, faith, social change in Ireland between the two world wars."

Reflecting upon the script, Cobb says, "This is one of my favorite plays of all time. I've had a true affection for this story since seeing the original production more than 20 years ago. I've waited to direct it until the moment when I could gather the right ensemble, to be led primarily by a core of strong, open and passionate women. Now is that moment."

An opening night gala for ticket holders will be held at 6 p.m. in the Akus Gallery in Shafer Hall. Featuring Irish music, the event is being co-sponsored by the Performing Arts Department, the Women's Center and the Intercultural Center.
For more information on "Dancing At Lughnasa," call the University Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email Ellen Brodie at

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