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Warriors Against Violence Rally

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - On April 1, a crowd of Eastern Connecticut State University students gathered on the Student Center patio for "Warriors Against Violence," a rally to raise awareness of dating violence. The event started with a march around campus and concluded with a speech by author and advocate Susan Omilian.

During the march, students shouted empowering statements of courage and antiviolence, led by a speaker with a megaphone. "Wherever we go, however we dress, no means no and yes means yes!" shouted the crowd of female and male students.

At 2 p.m. on the Student Center patio, Omilian took the podium and told the story of her niece, Maggie Wardle, who was a 19-year-old sophomore in college when she was shot and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1999. At the time of this tragedy, there were no on-campus organizations dedicated to awareness, intervention or victim support of dating violence and related issues.

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Since her niece's death, Omilian has spoken across the country on the topic of dating violence. Colleges across the nation, including Eastern, have established on-campus resources to handle these issues, such as Eastern's Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).

"Warriors Against Violence," an event within an ongoing awareness-raising campaign, was organized and sponsored by the Womens' Center, SART and a number of social work students.
According to Omilian and other authorities on the topic, warning signs of an unhealthy, abusive relationship can be emotional, physical, psychological, sexual and economic. If they have any concern whatsoever, students are urged to utilize Eastern's support resources.

Eastern Presents Ella T. Grasso Awards

Written by Ed Osborn

McGrory Kwakye Nunez and Boylan.jpgleft to right, Kathlee McGrory, Belinda Kwakye, President Nunez and Betsy Wade

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University presented its Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards on March 26, 2014. The program, now in its sixth year, recognizes members of the campus and local community whose actions demonstrate distinguished service in promoting Grasso's ideals to advance women's rights and gender equality.
Awards were given to Betsy Wade, the first woman to be a copy editor at The New York Times and a former resident of Willimantic; Kathleen McGrory, a distinguished member of the Eastern faculty and former academic vice president in the 1980s; and Eastern student Belinda Kwakye.
The keynote speaker of the event was Connecticut Superior Court Justice Maria Araujo Kahn. "I benefitted from the women who came before me like Ella T. Grasso," said Kahn. "They paved the way to success for girls and women like me and for students like you."

Wade enjoyed an extraordinary career as a dedicated wordsmith and self-described "troublemaker:" She was the first woman copy reader ever hired by The New York Times, the first woman chief copy editor on the foreign desk and the writer of the Practical Traveler column for 14 years. She was also the first woman to serve as president of the New York local of the Newspaper Guild, the largest in the nation and a named plaintiff in the landmark sex discrimination lawsuit against The Times.

Stacey Close, associate vice president for equity and diversity praised Wade and her distinguished career.  "Betsy Wade was a true fighter for gender equality and women's rights." Wade's granddaughter Jennifer Boylan, Eastern's interim coordinator of AccessAbility Services, added, "My grandmother was a longtime fighter for the Equal Rights Amendment and supported a woman's right to sue for better conditions and treatment in the workplace."

Provost Rhona Free spoke next in honoring McGrory, who returned to Eastern after administrative and teaching positions at Hartford College for Women, Stanford University, the University of Virginia and Georgetown.
"At Eastern, Kathy took action; when she was an academic vice president, she singlehandedly raised Eastern's percentage of female workers on campus from 13 percent to 25 percent and she was also instrumental in founding the first women's center on campus."
Belinda Kwakye, a senior who helped found the Black Student Union on campus, is an advocate for both the LGBT community as well as for clients of the Department of Children and Families. Kwakye was recognized by Vice President for Student Affairs Ken Bedini who called her, "A tireless worker for her fellow students and for the wider community. Belinda is an active leader and a great student who realizes what it takes to be a student leader and role model on campus."

President Elsa Nuñez closed the event with remarks that extolled the virtues of the women who have gone before her, the women who stood with her during the event, and the women who will walk in the halls of Eastern and make a difference in the future.


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 Ella T. Grasso Awards

Written by Jordan Sakal

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will present its Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards on March 26, 2014. This program, now in its sixth year, recognizes members of the campus and local community whose actions demonstrate distinguished service in promoting Grasso's ideals to advance women's rights and gender equality. Three awards will be given: to a member of the community; a member of the Eastern faculty/staff; and an Eastern student.

Recipients of the award work to serve the needs of women by organizing or empowering women, advocating on behalf of women's rights, and/or providing outreach to women in need of supportive services. While promoting justice and peace, recipients of the Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Award also take the initiative in planning and implementing programs to broaden the representation of women at various levels of society including socioeconomic, political, medical/health sectors, the fine arts and the social sciences.

Eastern Presents "Social Issues and Steampunk"

Written by Danielle Couture

Willimantic, Conn. - Diana Pho, a Vietnamese-American activist also known as "Ay-leen the Peacemaker", will present "Social Issues and Steampunk" as part of Eastern Connecticut State University's University Hour series in the Student Center Theatre from 3-4 p.m. on Nov. 13.

Pho will discuss race, gender and other social issues as they relate to the evolving subculture of Steampunk. Pho strives to broaden people's understanding of Steampunk. Her talk will go beyond a traditional mindset to educate people on the many happenings elsewhere in the globe (i.e. China, Vietnam and India) that occurred during the 19th century, and to discuss issues of racism and cultural appropriation as people create their costumes and characters.
Students are encouraged to attend in Steampunk attire.

University Hour is open to the public and admission is free.

Sex, Love and Other Stuff

Written by Christopher J. Herman

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Women's Center is presenting "Sex, Love and Other Stuff," a presentation on understanding men, healthy relationships and confidence from 7-8 p.m. on Oct. 23 in the Student Center Theatre. Author and professional speaker Aaron Boe will host the event and discuss topics relevant to interpersonal relationships. This is a female only event.
Boe is the author of "The Dating Strengths Handbook," and "Letter to Kegan" and is the founder of Strength Culture, a curriculum development and consulting firm for the fraternity community. Each program he hosts is grounded in the latest research, but designed to connect with young people using humor, stories, and realistic and relevant scenarios. Boe also applies his experience as a stand-up comedian so that he can address important issues in an engaging and entertaining way.
           For more information on the presentation, contact the Women's Center at (860) 465-4314 or

Cosplay and Nerd Culture

Written by Chistopher J. Herman

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University will present "Cosplay and Nerd Culture" from 5-6:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 in the Student Center Theatre. The presentation is hosted by Allison Wilhelm and will cover topics on sexism, racism and body shaming in nerd culture. Eastern students are invited to attend in cosplay and share their personal stories.  Wilhelm is a professional speaker and convention panelist. After finding inspiration from, The Mary Sue and Jezebel, websites dedicated to women in geek culture, Wilhelm decided to start bringing sexism in nerd culture to light by presenting panels and hosting discussions. Wilhelm has hosted panels such as the "Social Politics of Cosplay" at ConnectiCon and "Gender and Nerd Culture" at Anime Boston and NerdNite Boston.   

For more information on the event, contact Starsheemar Byrum at (860) 465-4314 or

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 "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

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