Polisci student Morgane Russell receives the prestigious MLK Distinguished Service Award

By Dwight Bachman

Political Science major Morgane Russell ’19; Isabel Logan, assistant professor of social work; and Leah Ralls, president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch, received Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards at Eastern Connecticut State University’s annual award reception on Feb. 27.

In her sophomore and junior years, Russell was president of the Black Student Union, a role in which she saw that she needed to gain more knowledge of policies affecting minority populations. As a result, she changed her major from Business Administration to Political Science. Russell is currently the president of the campus NAACP chapter and an intern in the Connecticut General Assembly. As she gains first-hand experience in the legislative process, she is learning more about public policy. She aspires to serve as a legislative representative while gaining insight into issues affecting marginalized communities around her.

“Morgane is a team player who carries out all of her duties professionally and with high quality and distinction,” said Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity. “She took the lead on organizing numerous major diversity programs within our office and off campus . . . Morgane is the embodiment of a peaceful agape warrior for justice!”

Logan’s passion for issues of social justice and equality began in 1996, when she was a social worker for the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services in the New Haven Superior Court and Superior Court for Juvenile Matters at Hartford. In 2001, American University selected her to assist with the development of the cultural competency curricula for drug court professionals.

Logan’s research has led to policy implementation and a continued cultural competence movement within the Connecticut Judicial System. She also assisted the Connecticut Court Support Service Division with the development of its cultural competence curriculum.

Polisci student Morgane Russell ’19 (right) proudly receives the MLK award with her fellow honorees, Isabel Logan (middle, front) Assistant Professor of Social Work and Leah Ralls (left), President of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch. In the back, the keynote speaker, documentary producer Keith Beauchamp, shares the happy moment.

“Dr. Logan’s support of restorative justice mirrors the message of Dr. King,” said Eunice Matthews-Armstead, professor of social work and program coordinator of Eastern’s Social Work Program. “She is an organizer, teacher, leader and consummate fighter for justice, freedom and equality.”

Ralls is a social worker for the State of Connecticut, Public Defender Division. She started her career working in a local substance abuse agency helping people deal with homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and other chronic medical conditions. She now works with the same population but in a legal environment, where the consequences are greater for clients because they are facing incarceration.

Ralls has a passion for advocating for those less fortunate in the community. As president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch, she brings that same compassion and energy in fighting for civil rights. In her remarks, Ralls thanked members of the local NAACP branch for their activism, and said Dr. King had the “tenacity to help those who were voiceless.”

Three years ago, the branch was in reactivation status and needed 50 active members to reestablish operations. Under Rall’s leadership, the branch has grown to more than 120 members. She and branch members have worked hard to start a conversation and increase awareness and appreciation of Black History and civil rights in the local community. “In the past two years, under the leadership of Mrs. Ralls, our NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch has run community conversations on race and addressed individual and institutional examples of racism in our area with a combination of education and legal action,” said Cassandra Martineau, university assistant in Eastern’s Pride Center. “She has worked with community leaders, schools and other institutions to raise awareness of racial disparity, helping ex-inmates find employment, and brought African American History to schools and libraries in the area.”

Keith Beauchamp, producer of the documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” delivered the keynote address. He is the executive producer and host of Investigation Discovery’s crime reality series, “The Injustice Files” and the producer of the upcoming feature film “Till.” Till was a 14-year-old African American teenager from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi in 1955 when he was brutally murdered by two white men for allegedly flirting with one of the men’s wife. The two men were acquitted of the murder, yet the truth behind Till’s death was largely left untold. Based in part on Beauchamp’s powerful film, the U.S. Department of Justice re-opened the 50-year-old murder case on May 10, 2004. While a Mississippi grand jury ultimately decided not to indict other suspects in the case, Beauchamp’s film reestablished Emmett Till’s story as a potent reminder of the need to fight racism and injustice at every turn.

“Racial issues are deeply embedded in the American lifestyle,” said Beauchamp. He called Martin Luther King Jr. a “gentle warrior,” and said Dr. King “left us with a vision of what this country can become. Regardless of our skill set, we are obligated to use it to uphold the legacy of Dr. King.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez opened the ceremonies, noting current racial tensions in the nation and encouraging the audience to “stand tall as Dr. King did, confronting every instance when a person or a group people acts out their prejudice and bigotry.”

“Human beings are inevitably connected, no matter how hard someone may try to separate us. That is why the truth and power found in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can touch each of us and lift our hearts up together. Let us never forget Dr. King’s message – that each person in this world deserves to live in a just, caring society, and that we can never let violence, bigotry, and inhumanity prevail.”

She concluded, “Let me end with this passage from Dr. King: ‘I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.’”

PhD life at The Ohio State

By Erin Drouin (Class of ’16)

There’s a chance if you’re reading this, you’re considering graduate school. Congratulations! Attending graduate school is sincerely the best decision I’ve ever made. If you love research, being pushed to your limits, and trying to answer questions about the world, you should really be thinking about it.

At Eastern I majored in political science, but I’m currently getting my PhD in Communication at The Ohio State University. I just completed my masters at the University of Delaware back in May. I knew in my time at Eastern that most of the questions I was trying to answer were communication questions about politics than questions that were strictly in the realm of political science. My field is super interdisciplinary (both my masters and doctoral advisors are political scientists with jobs in communication departments) so my experiences should still be applicable in any social science context.

Erin and her new “Go The Ohio State!”

There’s plenty of advice about how to get into graduate schools (do research, present at conferences, figure out what you’re passionate about, etc.) but I didn’t hear a lot about what it was like once you got here. So here’s what I’ve gathered in my two years of my masters’ and the past six months of my PhD:

1.       It’s pretty much just like a job. If you’re in a PhD program, you’re probably getting paid. Your department pays your tuition and you receive a stipend in exchange for some sort of service (teaching assistantships, research assistantships, being the instructor of record, etc.). While it’s reminiscent of undergrad because you’re still attending classes – there’s higher expectations that you complete your work and manage your responsibilities – and it takes up a lot of time. Most people in my doctoral program work between 40 and 60 hours a week.

2.       Research is everything. In my graduate program, a doctoral student has anywhere from one to ten projects going on at a time. Between revising journal articles, presenting at conferences, developing projects, writing IRBs, and data collection: there’s a lot going on. Yes, we teach classes, but the main expectation is that we produce quality research – and a good amount of it. I currently have 6 projects going on – a paper waiting to go out to journals, one in the middle of data collection, another that’s being analyzed, and three projects in the preparation stage for summer and fall.

3.       You’re going to be pushed to your limits. Everyone told me a doctoral program was hard – but I didn’t know it would be this hard. I’m questioned on all my decisions; my advisor is known for making you go sentence by sentence in a piece of writing and making you explain your logic and your word choices. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting coming here – I’ve always been confident in my writing and reasoning skills but now I’m recognizing the places where I can – and need to – improve.

4.       Your research interests are 100% going to change. When I was at Eastern I did a lot of qualitative work around how politics and gender are constructed on social media. I conducted narrative analyses and at one point, a focus group to study the questions I had. In my masters’ I examined constructions and reactions to political humor. And now, in my doctoral program, I’m studying how stereotypes impede political participation and affect political behavior. I’m doing a lot of statistical analyses and the laboratory I’m in utilizes eye tracking as a physiological measure. This is all to say: you don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to be studying now. While broadly my interests are the same as they were in undergrad, the kinds of questions I ask and the way I answer them have changed the more I learn and based on who I’m working with. If you’re asking the same questions as you did in undergrad, you’re not evolving as a researcher.

5.       Imposter syndrome is real. I had heard about imposter syndrome before grad school – this idea that once you got here, you’d be questioning if you belonged and whether you were smart enough. I didn’t really have that in my masters program, but once I got into my doctoral program, it really impacted me. Luckily, I have a great support system and a fantastic (although challenging) advisor.  It’s easy to think that you don’t belong here when everyone else is just as smart and works just as hard as you, but that’s what makes you become a better researcher and student.

6.       It’s the most fun I’ve ever had. Despite how serious and stressful all of the above is: I earnestly love what I’m doing. I love that I get to wake up every day and ask questions I want to ask. I’m constantly challenged because I’m surrounded by the smartest people in my field. I’ve made close friends who are also young people in a new city and care about the things I care about. I’m having an absolute blast. It’s hard, but it’s completely worth it. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about switching from political science to another social science, evolving as a researcher, grad school applications, or something of that ilk, feel free to contact me at drouine@my.easternct.edu.

 

 

Life at the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

By Jonas Bjørnes (Class of 2018)

London is a city worth exploring.

This month it is exactly one year since I started applying to grad schools. At the time, I had no idea what to do, nor did I know where I potentially could end up. It was a stressful period, but luckily, I received a great amount of support from this department’s faculty, which helped me to have some sort of a red line in my application process. In April, I was accepted to a MSc program in International Social and Public Policy (1-year master’s program) at the London School of Economics & Political Science. The irony is that I missed the application deadline for my first-choice program, and in a stressful anticlimax, I decided to apply for this one. The truth is, I’m glad I missed that deadline because I’m happy I ended up in this program.

I’m studying social policy which is a field of study that focuses on examining how policy affects individuals in society. I’m narrowing down my degree towards welfare. My dissertation will examine the relationship between the welfare state (Norway) and minorities (including the indigenous population) and it will attempt to understand the underlying reasons for why certain citizens are at greater risk of dropping out of secondary education, as well as considering the effectiveness of the current policies.

Social policy is a huge field of study, with everything from focus on non-governmental organizations to migration. For example, last semester I had a course in social security policies, and this semester I have one course in behavioral public policy, and another course in social movements and activism. It is plenty of courses to choose between! Social policy is not a significantly recognized field within American academics. Usually it is a field that is blended into the political science or the sociology program at certain institutions. Nevertheless, it is an important field to study, especially in a reality with increasing inequality, and potential social paradigm shifts, or maybe a critical juncture? By the way, a background with political science from Eastern is extremely helpful, because the core classes covers theories and methods that will be examined to a greater extent in social policy related courses. If you have any questions about studying social policy or about how it is to be a student at the LSE, I am more than happy to talk to you! Email me at: j.b.bjornes@lse.ac.uk.

One of the old buildings that host LSE in the center of London.

Professor Martín Mendoza-Botelho interviewed by World Politics Review

Morales Moves Ahead With His Divisive Re-Election Bid in Bolivia
The Editors Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 – World Politics Review

Bolivian President Evo Morales arrives at the Legislative Assembly accompanied by lawmakers, La Paz, Bolivia, Jan. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

Bolivian President Evo Morales marked the 13th anniversary of his presidency this week as he prepares a controversial run for a fourth consecutive term in office. Bolivia’s top electoral court has upheld his right to run in October, even though Morales is term-limited by the constitution and his attempt to amend the constitution was rejected in a 2016 referendum. In an email interview with WPR, Martín Mendoza-Botelho, a professor of political science, philosophy and geography at Eastern Connecticut State University, discusses the implications of Morales’ attempt to cling to power and explains why he is still favored to win despite the unpopularity of his re-election bid.

For the full interview follow the link (subscription required) https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/27267/morales-moves-ahead-with-his-divisive-re-election-bid-in-bolivia 

Governor-Elect’s Policy Summit Hosted at Eastern

Governor-elect Ned Lamont

By Michael Rouleau

Nearly 500 people convened on Eastern’s campus on Nov. 27 for Governor-elect Ned Lamont’s public policy summit. The gathering consisted of the incoming administration’s transition team as well as concerned citizens from a range of economic sectors and political affiliations. Fifteen policy committees met across campus with the goal of establishing a roadmap for the incoming governor.

President Elsa Núñez welcomed Lamont and gave the opening remarks. “’Public’ is the most important aspect of our mission,” she said to the Betty R. Tipton Room audience in the Student Center. “We at Eastern build a middle class for Connecticut; that’s really the business we’re in.”          

Núñez applauded Lamont’s emphasis on jobs, workforce and economic development, and cited Eastern’s partnership with Cigna — in which students work a paid on-campus internship that often leads to full-time employment — as a prime example of how higher education and industry can work together.    

Lt. Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz

Speaking of the transition team, Lt. Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz said, “We’ve brought together smart, competent, experienced people. You’re here to help us develop a roadmap to move our state forward.”

“This is a fresh start for Connecticut,” said Lamont. “I hope the outcome of today’s work is not just a nice report that gathers dust on a bookshelf.”

The policy committees concerned a range of issues, including transportation, energy, education, health care, human services, criminal justice, jobs/economy, women, environment, digital strategy, agriculture, shared services, arts/culture/tourism, housing and public safety.

The policy summit recommendations and transition memos from various commissioners in the current administration will be used by Lamont and his team to craft a plan of action in the coming weeks. “I’m looking like a laser beam at ways we can impact economic development in Connecticut,” Lamont said.

Eastern Professor Patrick Vitale Wins Ashby Prize

By Raven Dillon

Patrick Vitale, a geography professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, recently won the Ashby Prize for the most innovative paper of 2017 in the journal “Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.” Vitale’s article is titled “Making Science Suburban: The Suburbanization of Industrial Research and the Invention of ‘Research Man.’”

The article traces the invention of the modern “tech worker” to an unlikely location: the suburbs of Pittsburgh. In the early 1900s, Pittsburgh’s industrial firms began to move research laboratories away from plants in crowded urban areas and into suburbs.

Vitale explains that workers, scientists and engineers had once worked alongside each other in factories. However, starting in the early 1900s, they increasingly worked in different places, lived in different communities, and began to see themselves and their labor as different. These new “labs” created a geographic and social division between mental and manual work.

“The class, race and gender relations of the suburbs were essential and invisible components of science and engineering,” Vitale writes. “In capitalist economies now and in the past, science and engineering are rooted in injustice, misery and inequality; the very problems they are supposed to solve.”

Industrial firms even created a new title for scientists and engineers – “research men” – and argued that they needed to be isolated from the factory to do their work. “Many of the most prominent industrial scientists in the United States embraced their identity as ‘research men’ to cement their own place within industry and society,” writes Vitale. “Scientists and engineers actively adopted a class position that industry was producing for them.”

Vitale notes: “In the present, when local and state governments are offering billions of dollars to attract technology firms, it is important to realize that these companies are built on inequality and injustice.”

Vitale’s article is a part of a larger research project: a book manuscript titled “The Atomic Capital of the World,” which explores the role of science and engineering in the remaking of Pittsburgh during the Cold War.

Westinghouse Research Laboratories (depicted here in the 1940s) is a research firm that fled the urban areas of Greater Pittsburgh for the suburbs.

Vitale is an urban, economic and historical geographer whose research broadly examines the effects of suburbanization, science and technology, and war on North American cities. He has published his work in academic journals including “The Annals of the Association of American Geographers”; “Journal of Urban History”; and the “International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.”

“Environment and Planning A” is an interdisciplinary journal of economic research. Articles focus on regional restructuring, globalization, inequality and uneven development. The Ashby Prize was established in 1990 and is awarded to the most innovative paper published in the calendar year.

Trump at the G-20 Summit in Argentina

By Will Toomey

The G-20, Group of Twenty, is an international forum in which governments, central banks governors, heads of state, and finance and foreign ministers meet annually to discuss key issues and elements of the global economy. The G-20 was established in 1999, and has since expanded in order for more economic leaders to discuss the international stability of the developed wealthy countries. Nineteen countries along with the European Union make up the body of the G-20, and its current Secretary is President Mauricio Macri of Argentina. Due to his current position of power, the G-20 summit was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, making it the first ever meeting of the nations in South America.

Source: Nationalpost.com. Steffen Kugler/German Government via AP. Accessed on 12/10/2018.

The policies and issues discussed during this summit on November 30th of 2018 told us a lot about the current relationships between the countries with the larger economies in the world, including the United States represented by President Donald Trump. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was called for reform, and this will be furthered discussed in June of 2019 at the next Summit. The final statement made regarding the WTO did not mention protectionism, though, due to Trump’s objection and constant criticism. However, the trade relations between China and the U.S. were altered as Trump agreed to hold off plans of tariffs and organize a 90 day truce in their trade battle. China is interested in buying a substantial amount of products from the U.S. such as agriculture, energy, and more to reduce the countries trade deficits.

Trump also objected the Paris Accords on climate change, in opposition to the other 19 participating and signatory nations that reaffirmed their environmental commitment to this agreement. The importance placed on the subject was evident, for all 19 other representatives fully supported the movement while the United States continued to hold out. This was concerning to others because according to many scientists the U.S. is among the larger contributors to climate change, and not respecting the Paris Accord will continue to be detrimental to a larger and unified global response. The lasts significant negotiation for Trump and the U.S. was with Canada and Mexico regarding the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) , as Trump has been discussing abolishing what he labeled as a “disaster” for some time. The revised treaty regarding trade seems to cause concern for many democrats in Congress, but Trump’s plan to terminate the original treaty puts lots of pressure on them. The summit produced interesting outcomes as expected, for President Trump has shown that he is still not afraid of standing as an outsider.

 

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor Monte Frank visits ECSU

By Alyssa Wessner

Three weeks before the election, ECSU welcomed the third party candidate for Lieutenant Governor: Monte Frank. Eastern students were excited to hear the platform of this third party candidate. While most of the Connecticut voters chose to cast their ballots for the either the Democratic or Republican Party, this was a historic moment for third party candidates. Monte Frank raised awareness of the benefits of having more options for party affiliation. Students at ECSU will continue to welcome candidates with different party alignments.

Candidate for Lieutenant Government Monte Frank discusses the political platform of his independent party with polisci students Samuel Esteva (Freshman) and Ariana Perez (Sophomore).

This election demonstrated a turning point in Connecticut politics. It showed that third party candidates have the ability to gather a strong base of voters. However, from the start it was clear that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor offices were going to be awarded to one of the two major political parties. Regardless, the emergence of Oz Griebel and Monte Frank suggests a shift away from the traditional two party system.

It is important to keep in mind that this one midterm election is not entirely indicative of future elections in Connecticut. But it certainly inspires hope of a new type of political system in which there are more party options. In my opinion, a more diverse group of parties would make the government function more efficiently. The extreme bipartisanship among elected officials discourages any compromise whatsoever. I believe that with more party options for people to align with, it ensures a more diverse representation of the American public.

Candidate Monte Frank sharing the perils of political campaigning. 

 

Polisci students represent Eastern at prestigious policy competition at Yale University

By Alyssa Wessner

Last October, Eastern Connecticut State University was proud to sponsor a group of six Political Science majors to attend and compete in the Yale undergraduate International Policy Competition (Yale/IPC). The students who attended were Leigh Generous, Megan Hull, Nour Kalbouneh, Zoe Marien, Jacqueline Pillo, and Joahanna Vega lbarra. There were over 300 undergraduate students from a variety of universities and colleges at the event, including Yale, Harvard, Rhode Island College, Bard College, Bryant University, and West Point. The designated topic for this conference was the maritime crisis in the South China Sea and its implication on regional and global security.

Eastern students saw this experience as truly a transformative.  According to Leigh Generous (2019’) “…this event exposed me to what it might be like to work with future colleagues in the field of foreign policy, as well as both the challenges and rewards to such teamwork”. Leigh hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in International Relations and Security Studies so this event was extremely beneficial in helping her to gain some experience and work with experts in this field. For Zoe Marien (2019’), the event was a unique opportunity of policy application. Zoe highlighted the generosity of nearby coffee shops and restaurants near Yale which offered discounts to the students working on their proposals, which was a necessity for the extensive policy discussion among group members. Zoe kindly acknowledged Eastern’s sponsorship mentioning that  “…I would not have been able to attend had our Department not sponsored our team, and I am honored to have been selected to attend”. She plans to learn more about International Human Rights Law after she graduates from Eastern.

The inaugural meet at the Yale 2018 International Policy Competition (Source: Yale/IPC).

We are extremely proud of the work of our students at this event. They represented Eastern in a professional and intelligent way through their presentations and proposals, addressing issues relevant not only in the class room but beyond, like China’s growing domination in the South China Sea. Eastern will continue sponsoring events like this that allow our students to represent our school and gain invaluable practical experience.