University Meeting

President Elsa Núñez welcomed everyone back to campus, and outlined new challenges and opportunities to address “Generation Z,” a cohort of students strongly influenced by technology. She asked,“What strategies can we use to be ready for these new students?”

Nunez said Generation Z is “wired” like no generation before them; are socially more diverse; are more global in their perspectives; are pragmatic, entrepreneurial; learn best by doing and like to study together—often using Face Time, Skype and other applications that allow for face-to-face encounters in cyberspace. She said to connect with them, universities must build trust.

“They juggle as many as five electronic devices at a time—desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones and smart TVs—to manage their personal, social, work and academic lives. To remain competitive in today’s educational marketplace, a small public university such as Eastern must reinvent itself constantly.  We need to continually demonstrate to prospective students and their families that we are committed to adapting to change.”

Nunez said, however, that some things will not change, like treating others with respect, the value of honesty, the role that ethics and morality in maintaining social order—personal values and social norms have formed the foundation of human relationships and civilized societies forever. “The core abilities that we teach at Eastern — critical thinking, problem solving, communication, gaining historical and cultural perspective, information literacy and ethics — will be as critical to the success of our newest crop of students as they have been for previous generations of students.”

After President Nunez finished, Psychology Professor Margaret Letterman, chair of the Liberal Arts Program Committee, and Psychology Professor Madeline Fugére, shared some insights that helped faculty begin to consider new teaching strategies that can be effective in reaching this new generation.

During the meeting, the Office of Academic Affairs announced several new hires, including Maria Martinez as program assistant in the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC); Janette Rivera, Ashley Anderson and Kaitlin Thibodeau as teaching associates (CFDRC); and Heather Oski, Leisha Flynn and Amy Theriault as lead teachers (CFDRC); Zully Rodriguez (Office of Financial Aid), and Angela Walker as reference and instructional librarian and Kellie O’Donnell-Bobadilla as access services librarian in the J. Eugene Smith Library. Stacey Close, associate vice president for equity and diversity, also introduced Maria Weinberger, the new equity and diversity associate.

Also, 10-year service awards were presented to Patricia Chaves, administrative assistant; Jose Llanes, general trades worker; Kathleen Martel, unit supervisor; Santa Pastor, custodian; Ryan Rose, associate director of alumni affairs; and Brenda Schiavetti, Secretary 2. Mathematics and Computer Science Professor Jianhua Lin received a service award for 25 years of service.

Dimitrios Pachis and Ken DeLisa wish Library Serivces Director well in her retirement

Dimitrios Pachis and Ken DeLisa wish Library Serivces Director well in her retirement.

Retiring from distinguished service was Library Services Director Patricia Banach.

Pat Metheny Soars on Guitar

pat methany 1The “Jazzin’ it Up at Eastern” series of jazz concerts to raise funds for student scholarships continued on Jan. 13 with a sold-out performance by legendary jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Over a two-hour set covering 16 songs, Metheny and his band — pianist Gwilym Simcock , bassist Linda Oh and percussionist Antonio Sanchez — covered a full range of compositions.

Metheny opened the show by himself, playing “Into the Dream” on thepat methany 2 42-string, double necked Pikasso guitar he invented with luthier Linda Manzer in 1984.  Other songs ranged from “Farmers Trust” to “How Insensitive,” a tune written by João Gilberto.  Audience members agreed that they had been treated to a virtuoso performance by one of the world’s greatest musicians.


The concert at Eastern, which was the first in Metheny’s winter tour of East Coast venues, was the third in the series sponsored by Eastern benefactor David Foster.

Spring Student Activities Fair

student activities fair wide shotMore than 450 students attended the Student Activities Office second annual Spring Student Activities Fair, held on Jan. 18. in the Student Center’s Betty R. Tipton Room. Student representatives from dozens of Eastern clubs and organizations staffed tables to recruit prospective members. “The Spring Student Activities Fair provides a valuable opportunity to students who have just joined the Eastern community as well as returning students who have further explored their interests the previous semester and might now be ready to try a new student organization,” said Chris Morris, president of the Writers Guild. “The Eastern Writers Guild is looking forward to meeting potential new members at our first meeting next week and we hope these activity fairs will continue to pull more and more interest each term.”
Caribbean ClubFreshman Kaila Robinson was one of the students who attended the event. “I thought the club fair was very informative and entertaining,” said Robinson. “I think the bingo card system that was used definitely gave people an incentive to visit club tables that they might not have thought about visiting before. I joined the Pre-Health Society and the Black Student Union.”
student activities fair now
Leah Slawinowski, Psychology Club public relations representative, also praised the event. “This event is an excellent opportunity to communicate with fellow students about all of the opportunities they have to explore their interests outside of the classroom. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk to psychology majors or students who are just interested in psychology about what we do. I’m sure all students were able to find something of interest and get involved in a program that will enrich their educational experience.”   For the first time, student organizations participated in a banner competition to win funds towards their club budgets. Congratulations to the winners: ETV, Economics Club and Pride Alliance!

Cowles Named President-Elect of National Association of Biology Teachers

Photography for Clark University Business Graduate programs.

Photography for Clark University Business Graduate programs.

Biology Professor Elizabeth Cowles is the new president-elect of the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) as of Jan. 1, 2017. The NABT is the nation’s premier organization that supports life-science teacher development. She will transition to president after one year, and conclude her three-year term on Dec. 31, 2019.

Whereas most scientific organizations are discipline-specific and focused on research. “The NABT is all about teaching,” says Cowles, an organization where the craft of teaching is really celebrated. The NABT bridges gaps” — the gap in organizations dedicated to the teaching of science; the gap in funding for teacher development; and the gap between raw scientific information and the methods of teaching it.

“Keeping up with biology is extremely hard; every day there’s new research and discovery being made, so the curriculum we teach and the way we teach it is constantly changing,” said Cowles. “The most critical years of any teacher’s career are those first five. A lot of teachers quit because of all the demands placed upon them.”

Cowles has been involved in the association for 20 years, from serving most recently as director-at-large on the executive board; to her eight-year tenure as book review editor for the association’s magazine, American Biology Teacher; to being an original member of the NABT’s local branch in Connecticut. Cowles is also the chair of the Biology Department at Eastern. “For us at Eastern, teaching is the number one criteria used to evaluate a professor,” she said, whereas at other universities, research may be a professor’s primary focus. “Teaching is a craft. It should be celebrated.”

There are approximately 3,500 NABT current members, according to Cowles. About half of the teachers come from high schools, followed by community college and four-year university settings, with the remainder coming from middle schools. As for what Cowles hopes to achieve during her presidency: “We’re going through a growth phase. We’re a very strong group. I’m focused on making sure teachers know who we are, and understand the value of being a member.”

Brad Davis Authors Book on Banditry and Borderlands

cover Imperial BanditsAfter more than a decade of research and travel throughout China and Southeast Asia, Bradley Camp Davis, assistant professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University, has authored “Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands.” The book describes banditry and the culture of violence in the mountainous borderlands between China and Vietnam.

Brad DavisIn the mid-19th century, bandits from southern China made their way into northern Vietnam, seeking control of commerce, specifically opium. Using violence and coercion, as well as crucial drug-trading networks, they were able to establish positions of political power in the borderlands of the two countries.
“When Vietnam fell under the authority of the French Empire,” explained Davis, “some of these bandits were woven into the colonial administration—providing security, collecting taxes and doing other services for the French—while others joined the anti-colonial resistance.

“In contemporary Vietnam and China, there’s a clear division in how people remember these groups. You have heroes and villains; those who collaborated with the French and those who supported the anti-French resistance.”

China highlands

China highlands

What is a bandit?  “For me, a bandit is someone who’s able to negotiate with formal political power, but is not necessarily beholden to formal political power,” said Davis, relating the imperial bandits to powerful criminal organizations such as the Mafia. “Even though they may have cooperated with formal political authority, they may have had no real allegiance to the state.”

By delving into official archives in France, China and Vietnam, as well as the oral traditions of the remote communities within the borderlands, Davis sought to understand the history of violence in this region.

“I like to think of archives as buildings where documents go to die,” admitted Davis. “They get housed in boxes, you read them and come up with your own stories about them, but I discovered early on that not all things that happened found their way into documents.” He added, “Documents can lie. Just because it’s written down doesn’t mean it’s accurate. There could be implicit bias; the accounts of things could be massaged or left out.”

Armed with research visas and training in Chinese, Vietnamese and French, Davis carried out research several times in those countries between 2004 and 2011. He did not limit himself to archival documents: “I got on a motor bike and went into the mountains to as many villages as I could and talked with as many people as possible.”

In total he coded approximately 200 conversations with distinct individuals—predominantly village elders with historical memories of the bandit groups. “The stories I included in the book were those I was able verify against other accounts.

“I saw a great deal of consistency, but sometimes the lies were more interesting,” he said, explaining that some stories were embellished or off topic altogether. “In a way I was learning parallel stories; I was learning about the 19th century, but even more about the 21st century.”

Among his findings, Davis discovered that in many ways borderlands are not divided; they follow their own order after the border is drawn. “Borders sometimes mean more to those who live in the political capitals than those who live in the mountains. To those at high altitudes, the border is negotiable.”

Imperial Bandits” was published in January 2017 by the University of Washington Press, and with support from the Office of the Provost and the Office for Equity and Diversity at Eastern Connecticut State University. It was on display at the American Historical Association 2017 annual meeting in Denver and will be on display at the coming Association for Asian Studies annual conference in Toronto.

Cunningham Wins NASA Grant

Brendan Cunningham

Brendan Cunningham

Professor Brendan Cunningham received a grant from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) for his research project “The Efficient Use of Space Orbit.” Senior biology major Kevin Connolly, senior pre-secondary education and biology major Christina Welch and senior biochemistry major Kailey Pisko also received undergraduate scholarships from the CTSGC, giving Eastern three of the 17 recipients.

“My general area of research is media economics, including the economics of telecommunications. Media industries employ satellites to distribute and gather information,” said Cunningham. “The grant money will enable us complete a literature review and create a mathematical model relating to the efficient use of orbits. The work will be done during the summer of 2017 in collaboration with three economists—Peter Alexander and Daniel Shiman of the FCC and Nodir Adilov of Indiana University-Purdue University, Ft. Wayne, as well as Eastern junior economics and music major Michael Beckstein.”

Connolly received a scholarship for his research on the increasing collagen production in skin cells. “I am actually in the midst of completing my research about cell signaling and collagen now. Once this project is completed, I think it would be very interesting to do further research for NASA,” said Connolly.

Welch received a scholarship for her research on the brain’s ability to self-repair. “It was once believed that if you damaged or injured your brain it could not self-repair. However, as the field of science advances this theory is being challenged,” said Welch. “Receiving this scholarship will provide me with opportunities for additional research experiences and growth in the field of science.”

“Elemental Light” Illuminates the Art Gallery until Feb. 23

Elemental Light New Wide 2WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — The transformational power of light is on display in the Art Gallery at Eastern Connecticut State University in an exhibition titled “Elemental Light.” Running from Jan. 12 to Feb. 23, the exhibition features the experimental work of Stephen Knapp, who uses dichroic glass to create “light paintings,” and Alex Harding, who makes universe-inspired photographs with vinyl records and television screens.

Elemental Light Purple“Both artists are interested in stripping art down to its most essential component,” said Emily Handlin, Eastern’s gallery coordinator. “Indeed, for both artists, light is the medium and the subject of their work, which encourages us to consider the elemental role light plays in our own perception of the world around us.”

“I’m trying to take painting in a different direction,” said Knapp at the exhibition’s opening reception on Jan. 19. “For millennia, people have painted to capture light, but I’m using light to paint with.”
Elemental Light News 1Knapp’s light paintings are constructed with pieces of dichroic glass, a dynamic material developed by NASA that transmits, reflects and filters light. The pieces are fastened ambiguously to a wall with stainless-steel brackets. A single 75-watt light bulb brings each piece to life as the dichroic glass casts a rainbow of colors upon the wall like an abstract painting.

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David Hancock: An Alumnus with a Japanese Spirit!

David Hancock with students and co-teacher

David Hancock with students and co-teacher

When David Hancock ’14, of Bloomfield, was growing up, Japanese literature, architecture, art and music, traditional clothing, gardens and cuisine, and more recently, sports and entertainment, fascinated him.  Hancock wanted to experience Japanese culture and history. And he began making plans.

After earning his degree in Sociology from Eastern Connecticut State University, Hancock worked at three different jobs in three months in Willimantic — the Intercultural Center at Eastern, The Arts at the Capitol Theatre and for, where he managed blueprints for houses and regulated food safety inspection.

David Hancock in Tokyo in front of the world's largest robot

David Hancock in Tokyo in front of the world’s largest robot

Hancock said all the positions paid well for a new graduate, but he wanted to take his curiosity and passion for Japan to another level. “Always having an interest in the Japanese culture, I figured that I could use my teaching experience to teach abroad. I’ve heard many success stories about teaching English in countries such as Japan and the high regard that Japanese have for teachers, especially, English teachers. I’ve always wanted to learn the Japanese language, and while I never had the opportunity to study abroad during college, I really wanted to teach those who were seriously interested in learning the English language, and vice versa, for me to learn the Japanese language.”

David Hancock with Japanese students in sumo wrestling stance

David Hancock with Japanese students in sumo wrestling stance

In November 2014, Hancock applied to the Kinder Kids International School, a school designed to cater to the needs of children growing up in Japan. The school specifically wants “to develop a broad international view and a high level of English proficiency,” and “to nurture our children’s Japanese spirit with an international future and support children to become active members of the world community.”

Hancock’s interview in February 2015 went well, and he arrived in Japan in 2015, one month before classes started. He was very nervous, not knowing how it would all work out, but KinderKids assured him he would have an apartment to stay in, a car to drive and a five-year visa. “That’s all I needed to make the big leap to living in another country.”

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Eastern Student Researchers Showcased at Psychology Night

Poster presenters at Psychology Night

Poster presenters at Psychology Night

Forty-nine exemplary psychology students from Eastern Connecticut State University presented their research on Dec. 9 at the department’s annual Psychological Science Night. “Research takes classroom experience and applies it to tangible, practical work,” said Coordinator of Undergraduate Research Carlos Escoto. “The opportunity to present research as an undergraduate opens so many doors,” he added.

Dominque Branch

Dominque Branch

Undergraduate research and creative activities at Eastern Connecticut State University provide opportunities for students to work closely with faculty mentors on research or creative work. Projects are aligned with the mentor’s expertise and designed to expose students to professional activities within a chosen field.

Alexandra Steel

Alexandra Steel

Senior Psychology major Alexandra Steel was one of the students who presented research at the event. With the help of faculty mentor and psychology professor Peter Bachiochi, Steel conducted a research project titled, “Animal Assisted Therapy, Mood and Social Facilitation.” “I cannot thank Dr. Bachiochi enough for his guidance in taking this project from an initial idea to a reality,” said Steel. “I am truly passionate about this research and honored to share it in front of my fellow students and all of our psychology professors.”

Olivia Grella

Olivia Grella

Olivia Grella was also an oral presenter of her research at the event. Grella’s study was titled, “The Relationship of Social Physique Anxiety, Exercise Dependence and Gender” and was completed under the guidance of faculty mentor and psychology professor Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault. “If continued I believe this research could have a profound impact on how we view the relationship between physique anxiety and exercise,” said Grella. “I want to thank Dr. Salters-Pedneault for being such a profound part of this project and for guiding me along the way.”

Eastern Joins Campuses Nationwide to Address Climate Change

The 400-kilowatt phosphoric acid fuel cell next to the Science Building was installed in 2012. Electricity generated by the fuel cell supplies a majority of the power needed to run this building.

The 400-kilowatt phosphoric acid fuel cell next to the Science Building was installed in 2012. Electricity generated by the fuel cell supplies a majority of the power needed to run this building.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez has joined two other Connecticut university presidents as well as those from colleges and universities in 35 other states, in urging President-Elect Donald Trump and incoming congressional representatives to accelerate progress toward a clean energy future. Nunez joins Michal Roth, president of Wesleyan University, and Susan Herbst, president of the University of Connecticut, as well as 170 others from across the country.

The 400-kilowatt phosphoric acid fuel cell next to the Science Building was installed in 2012. Electricity generated by the fuel cell supplies a majority of the power needed to run this building.

The 400-kilowatt phosphoric acid fuel cell next to the Science Building was installed in 2012. Electricity generated by the fuel cell supplies a majority of the power needed to run this building.

Through their open letter, organized by a diverse group of higher education institutions and the Boston-based nonprofit Second Nature, higher education leaders are calling on elected officials to support participation in the Paris Agreement, climate research and investment in a low-carbon economy.

“I am pleased to join other universities in America in calling for strong leadership in Washington, D.C., on climate change,” said Elsa Núñez, president of Eastern. “At Eastern, we intend to continue our commitment to climate action on our campus and in Connecticut communities.” The group of schools expressed their alignment with the business and investment communities in supporting the science-based targets outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Unity Wing Open House

Unity Wing Opeh house 1Committed student ambassadors working in the Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing of  Eastern’s Student Center  greeted the university community at an open house on Jan. 18 for the three centers housed in the wing: the Pride Center, Intercultural Center and Women’s Center. The Johnson Unity Wing is located on the ground floor of Eastern’s Student Center.

Unity Wing open house 2Each center offered refreshments and informational speakers, encouraging students to get involved and learn to embrace who they are. Students also learned about the different emphases of the centers. The Intercultural Center focuses on diversity and social justice. The Pride Center targets individuals in the LGBTQ community and the Women’s Center is geared toward female, as well as male and gender nonconforming students.

Unity Wing open house 3The Unity Wing is a space for students to develop and embrace their identities. Student ambassadors provide a safe and supportive environment for students of all identities. The centers sponsor events throughout the semester to spread awareness as well as get students involved.Unity wing 4

Eastern Coach Pepin is State Softball Hall of Fame Pick

Diana Pepin

Diana Pepin

Sixteenth-year Eastern head softball coach Diana Pepin  has been selected as the sixth individual from the program to earn induction into the Connecticut Scholastic and Collegiate Softball Hall of Fame. The 28th annual banquet and induction ceremony is scheduled for May 21 at 2 p.m. at the Aqua Turf  Club in Plantsville.

Pepin, a 1992 Eastern graduate and member of the 1990 NCAA Division III national championship team, is the winningest head coach in the 40-year history of the program. Heading into the 2017 season, the Willimantic native has coached (603) and won (383) more games than any of the previous six coaches in  program history.

“Diana is the longest-tenured softball coach in the program’s history, and under her guidance, the program has achieved high standards,” noted Eastern Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier. “Moreover, her softball legacy is larger than simply what she has done at Eastern. Her passion for the sport is well-known within the softball community. Eastern is very proud of her many achievements.”

Pepin has led the Warriors to six NCAA Division III and one ECAC New England tournaments, back-to-back regional titles (2010-11), seven Little East Conference regular-season and four LEC tournament titles. Her fourth win of 2017 will be the 1,000th in program history.

In 2013, Pepin was selected Little East Conference Coach-of-the-Year for the second straight season and for the fifth time in eight years after directing the Warriors to their fourth straight conference regular-season title (Eastern has finished with a share of the title seven times in the last nine years).