No need for Big Bucks to Run for Office

By Victoria Weiss

On Tuesday, April 4, Elona Vaisnys visited Eastern Connecticut State University to present “No Need for Big Bucks, Run for a State Office”. Vaisnys spoke about CEP, which is the Citizens Election Program. CEP provides public funding to run election campaigns for seats in the state legislature and for state offices. CEP is important because those who can campaign through CEP funding will have no special interests once elected into office. As residents of a state that was once known as “Corrupt-icut” this is a program we should pay attention to.


Eastern guest Elona Vaisnys explains the Citizens Election Program (CEP) to students.

Vaisnys visited Eastern to encourage students to consider running for state offices. All one needs to do to qualify for a CEP grant is to prove that they are a serious candidate. Elona explains this as going out into the community and raising funds as small as $5 per donor to prove that the potential candidate has support from the community. One great benefit of CEP grants is that an individual can run for state office without using funds from special interest groups to whom the candidate will owe a favor, contract, etc.

The money from CEP comes from the sale of abandoned property in the state of Connecticut. As a matter of fact, Connecticut is the only state with this type of successful program. CEP grants go towards campaigns to run for state governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller, and general assembly. All current Connecticut State officers ran their election campaigns on CEP grants, and about 89% of the current Representatives and Senators ran for their seat in the Connecticut General Assembly on CEP funding.

Vaisnys enthusiastically endorses the Citizens Election Program. She raises a thought-provoking question; if CEP is available to all and 89% of those in office make use of the program, why don’t the other 11%? What do candidates have to gain from special interest group support that support through CEP cannot provide? CEP provides candidates with money to run a clean, debt-free campaign. This way, while the candidate secures their position with the state, their job will be their top priority, as opposed to repaying campaign debts to special interest groups.

Elona Vaisnys encourages students at Eastern to consider running for state office. With passion, community support, and a CEP funded campaign, running for state office is more attainable than ever. You truly do not need big bucks to run for state office. Be a challenger and give the incumbents a run for their money.

Studying Politics as a Digital Arts Major

By Alyssa Koval

As a student I have always found the topic of politics very interesting, but within the last year and a half with the onslaught of political propaganda brought on by this past election, the most chaotic election to date some U.S politicians have argued, I have been thinking a lot about how both politics and the arts may seem different but have always gone hand in hand. Being a Digital Arts major thrown into the Poli-Sci lions den, so to speak, has been jarring and taken me out of my comfort zone-I’ll admit that- but I think it’s a great experience to be able to listen to my colleagues and their opinions of what’s going on in the political world today, and what we can do as a collective to make the world a more Just, peaceful place to be. I appreciate the ability to have a discussion, and value the voice of people that may or may not have the same opinion as you-as this is the core of how we as a society can make progress in the political world; Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc. We all have the freedom to voice our opinions but progress can only be made if leaders truly listen to the words of their counterparts and respect that they also want to make a positive change in the world, and in our country. I see this value being taught in even the politics classes on campus, which is why I thought it was so important to mention here; being that today’s students and young adults will be the leaders of tomorrow. I greatly respect and appreciate the opportunity to dip my toe into the pool of collegiate political discussion as an art major because not only does it give me a unique perspective into the world of politics, but it also makes me think about my own field and how the most famous art in history reflects so much of what politics were present at that point in time. I have a couple of  my personal favorite examples of this:

Liberty Picture

Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix.

Liberty Leading the People is arguably one of the most powerful paintings of the era of Romanticism in France. This painting, by Delacroix, is depicting the Revolution of 1830 where the people of France sought to overthrow the unjust Charles the X. The main figure, a bare-chested woman barreling over a barricade in the streets of Paris with her bayonet in one hand while proudly thrusting the French flag of revolution upwards into the air, her followers in quick pursuit behind her. This woman is not a literal historical figure, but the personification of liberty itself leading the people of France to victory.

Rosie the Riveter.

Rosie the Riveter.

On the opposite side of the same coin, we have Rosie the Riveter- an American icon promoting women’s strength and ability. The classic “We Can Do It!” poster was originally created to promote women and house wives to get back to work in factories and shipyards in order to help the war effort during World War II. Many able bodied working men had gone off to war, leaving little to no help back home so then was created Rosie; an attempt to persuade the women of America that they can hold down the fort while the men were fighting over seas. Rosie has since become the face of the Feminist movement promoting equality for women everywhere.



Polisci Student Adam Murphy is Awarded a Prestigious Scholarship to Study in Indonesia

Adam Murphy2

Proud Adam thinking about the big journey ahead.

Adam Murphy, a major in Political Science and History, was awarded US-Indonesian Summer Studies scholarship to take part in a 10-week immersive language training program this summer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Yogyakarta is located on the island of Java, the most populous island in the world with 135 million people, containing 60% of Indonesia’s population. His award comes from the United States-Indonesia Society whose mission is “To expand mutual understanding in the areas of politics, economics, history, culture, and to strengthen the bilateral relationship.” Adam, who has no prior Indonesian language experience, will be living with a host family, in addition to taking part in programs meant to encourage cultural understanding. In his own words: “I am incredibly proud and excited to have been given this opportunity. This will be a great experience to take what I have learned about Indonesia and build on it. I am just excited to see a place vastly different than what I know, and just build relationships with people I meet there.” Von buoyage Adam and BIG congratulations!!!

The Ordeal of Undocumented Students

By Yenimar Cortes

What’s the craziest thing you did over spring break? I’m sure that question leads into many memorable stories. Let me start mine by introducing myself. My name is Yenimar Cortes, I am eighteen years old and I recently changed my major from biology to political science. I am also part of Connecticut Students for a Dream, a youth-led organization across the State that empowers, educates and advocates for immigrants’ rights. The craziest thing I did over this spring break was share with Connecticut legislators that I am one of the many undocumented students that live in Connecticut today. You’re probably asking yourself now, “Why would she do that? And why does it matter?” I did it to help undocumented students in Connecticut receive access to institutional aid, education equity, and help them afford college to accomplish their goals.

I arrived to Connecticut at the age of two with my older sister who has always been my role model. Like many undocumented students my senior year was the hardest year. That year most undocumented students discover that they are barred from many financial help and that all your efforts in high school could be meaningless. After senior year most undocumented students find themselves in very difficult situations. Some work two to four jobs trying to pay for school and others are never full-time students. Unfortunately, many students skip semesters trying to make ends meet. The costs of attending school to seek a higher education come with an overwhelmingly intimidating obstacle, financially. The impact of financial aid could be the difference between a student succeeding or regrettably dropping out of college. The latter is as of yet the inevitable outcome for undocumented students because we are ineligible to receive financial aid. To graduate from college and be undocumented is something almost impossible; according to the Migration Policy Institute only about 1% of undocumented students actually graduate college.


Yenimar at a rally supporting better policies for education. Source:

Although it seems hopeless, it is not. Many organizations led by powerful undocumented youth are leading campaigns that propose pieces of legislation that bring equality and equity. One of the many is the Afford to Dream Campaign led by Connecticut Students for a Dream. Currently we have two proposed bills, Senate Bill 17 and House Bill 7000. Institutional aid is student-generated funds that are set aside to be given to help students, based on financial need. Everyone who pays school tuition, including undocumented students, contribute to this fund. However, the same fund readily supports all students except the undocumented because they cannot fill out the FAFSA. These proposed pieces of legislation only ask that undocumented students have access to apply to that fund that they contribute to, so that they will be able to afford college and accomplish their goals.

The fight for undocumented students to have access to institutional aid has been long and hard. This year marks the fourth year in which we fight to pass this “Afford to Dream” legislation. Last year it made it past the Higher Education committee and Senate floor with bipartisan vote   but it was not brought up to the House floor and we once again lost a battle. Although it has been a tough and exhausting four years we have and never will lose hope.

Last week during our campaign’s week of action, both undocumented youth and allies alike gathered together and numbered 50 to venture out to the Legislative Building to advocate for the proposed legislation. Together we watched as both bills were voted out of the Higher Education Committee. Following that, we spent half the day talking to legislators, giving them fact sheets and graduation caps to symbolize that we only desire to be able to afford to graduate from higher education. We spent the other half of the day having a sit-in in the legislative building’s lobby, while holding signs that showed the future occupations we aspire to have. The next day we learned about institutional racism and education and what we can do to dismantle it. All the support that was shown during our week of action helped prove to legislators how much people want and need this proposed legislation to pass. At the end of these two days we all were left exhausted, but filled with much power and passion to keep advocating passage of these bills.

After the week of action, I thought about the impact legislation can have on the lives of millions of people to shape people’s lives for better or worse and shape the way society looks. If SB 17 and HB 7000 pass this will change the lives of countless undocumented students in Connecticut for the better. These students will be able to afford going to college and won’t have to kill themselves for years to chase this dream. Like this legislation, we the people also have so much power to demand what is right. The only way things will change is if we raise our voice to demand it. I changed my major from biology to political science because I want to help shape society into a better place for every individual, no matter who they are. The politics of today seem to be more concerned over who has more power instead of focusing on making people’s life better. We are the future of the political world so my question to you is, why are you a political science major?

“IN LAK’ECH You are my other me, If I do harm to you, I do harm to myself. If I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.” (Mayan Greeting Tradition).”


Reflections on Water and Politics

By Lindsey Berube

Veronica Herrera

UConn Professor Veronica Herrera challenging students on their views on water and politics during her talk about her new book on Mexico.

Last March, I had the opportunity to attend a talk on the water crisis in developing urban cities by UCONN Political Science Professor Veronica Herrera, author of Water and Politics: Clientelism and Reform in Urban Mexico. As a political science student, I enjoy the Pizza and Politics events organized by the department because it gives students the chance to learn about topics within the field that we might not get the chance to throughout our time at Eastern. In my experience, I have not studied the concept of water systems and the political implications associated with them in great depth and was not fully aware of the connection it had prior to the presentation. The speaker was able to present the issue in a way that was easily understood by discussing her qualitative research approach performed throughout eight Mexican cities. She analyzed the effect that water distribution had on the citizens’ lives and found significant results. I discovered that within those Mexican cities, political corruption is rampant and can affect citizens’ daily lives. For instance, the occurrence of water being shut off to part of the urban area due to a lack of votes for a specific candidate is not uncommon. The basic need of water is distributed unevenly and unfairly and has severely affected the populations based on the political conditions in place. I believe this topic is essential for students to be aware of and I strongly urge fellow students to engage in these great opportunities offered by the department.

Polisci student Sierra Colon receives the César Chávez Distinguished Service Award

By Phillip Hoeps

Sierra award

Sierra (center) surrounded by family love during the Award Ceremony. At her right aunt Migdalia, abuela Carmen and at her left abuela Gina and her proud mom Denise.

We are very proud to announce that the 2017 student recipient of the César Chávez Distinguished Service Award is our fellow Political Science student, Sierra Colon! We wanted to showcase some of Sierra’s many achievements that lead to her receipt of the award. Sierra has worked as an intern with the Department of Environmental and Energy Projection, where she composed a bill for disposal of mercury thermostats to be reviewed by the legislature.  She has also advocated for affordable tuition at college appropriations meetings hosted by state representatives as well. Last summer, Sierra was awarded the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship, that allowed her to complete a two-month internship in Cape Town, South Africa, working on agriculture reform and social justice issues within the community. Notable is also her four-year devotion to the Organization of Latin American Students, where she created the annual Latin Fest, a celebration of Latin culture and the merge of cultures in the United States. We are very proud to have such an engaged student in our department and at our University, a big CONGRATULATIONS SIERRA!!!

Talk on Voting Behavior – Professor Nichole Szembrot, Trinity College

Dr. Nichole Szembrot, Trinity College, will present her paper entitled “Perceptions of Special Interest Influence and Voting Behavior” on Wednesday, April 26 at 3:00 in Webb 437. 

Prof. Szembrot

Dr. Nichole Szembrot

This paper documents voters’ perceptions of interest group influence on candidates’ policy positions and the effect of perceived influence on intended voting behavior. The literature on campaign contributions has several explanations for why interest groups contribute to campaigns and how those funds translate into votes. Closing these models requires assumptions about voters’ responses, but there is little empirical evidence on the relationship between voters’ perceptions of interest group influence and their voting decisions. This paper uses an online survey conducted during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to begin to close that gap in the literature. Subjects answer questions about their own opinions on 10 policy issues and make hypothetical choices between pairs of candidates. Then, they answer questions about the opinions of the leading candidates for president on the same set of issues. One treatment does not mention donors; another asks subjects to consider the possible influence of special interests; and a third treatment asks pairs of questions about policy preferences with and without taking donor influence into account. Respondents also rate candidates in terms of 7 personal characteristics. Controlling for candidates’ policy intentions, voters are neither more nor less likely to choose a candidate whose positions on issues were more influenced by interest groups. However, they are less likely to vote for a candidate they perceived to have received more money. When controls for personal characteristics are also included in the model, the effect of donations on vote choice disappears.

For more information contact Dr. Brendan Cunningham, Department of Economics.

Polisci alumna (’16) Quanece Williams receives a highly competitive Fullbright grant award to serve in the Czech Republic

By Ed Osborne

Quanece Williams ’16 of Bridgeport, CT, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to serve an English teaching assistantship in the Czech Republic. The grant, which is for the 2017-18 academic year, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.


Polisci and History student Quanece Williams, first Eastern student to receive a Fullbright award.

Williams will be placed in an English language class as an assistant teacher in a secondary school in the Czech Republic. During her time there, she plans to partner with the European Environmental Agency to inform local residents about the environment and conduct cleanup projects. Williams also plans to utilize her dance training by hosting weekly modern and hip-hop classes.

Williams is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad for the 2017-18 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

“Having been selected as a Fulbright recipient, I will have the opportunity to promote my passion for education while immersing myself in the rich culture and history of the Czech Republic,” said Williams. “I am both humbled and excited to embark on this journey and would like to thank Eastern faculty for helping me with the process!”

Williams graduated summa cum laude from Eastern last May with a double major in political science and history. As a senior, she was one of two Eastern students to receive the prestigious Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award from the state university system. While a student, she volunteered with Jumpstart, providing literacy instruction to preschoolers. She is currently in a graduate program taking elementary education courses while working at a charter school serving underprivileged students.

“Ms. Williams was a student leader and impressive scholar on our campus, and we are pleased that the Fulbright program saw those same talents in her,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Many of our faculty have been named Fulbright Scholars over the years, and we are proud that one of our students has also been recognized with this honor. I know Ms. Williams will make a special contribution to the students she works with in the Czech Republic, and it is my hope that her experiences will pave the way for continued participation in the Fulbright Program by Eastern students in the future.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered at Eastern by Julia DeLapp, coordinator of national scholarships and fellowships, with support from a faculty advisory committee. For more information, visit

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English and conduct research annually. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in more than 140 countries throughout the world. Lists of Fulbright recipients are available at:

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the United States Congress to the Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. In the United States, the Institute of International Education administers and coordinates the activities relevant to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program on behalf of the Department of State, including conducting an annual competition for the scholarships.



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Polisci Professor William Salka receives a prestigious Fellowship from the American Council on Education (ACE)

By Ed Osborne

The American Council on Education (ACE) announced today that William Salka, professor of political science at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been named an ACE Fellow for the 2017-18 academic year.

Professor William Salka

Professor William Salka

Salka, who resides in Somers, CT, joined Eastern’s Political Science Department in 2000 after receiving his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Northern Colorado. In addition to teaching undergraduate courses, he has also served as chair of the Political Science Department and as president of Eastern’s University Senate. Salka is in his fifth year as the director of the University Honors program and also chaired the University’s strategic planning process that produced the latest 2013-18 Strategic Plan. He is the coordinator of accreditation in preparation for Eastern’s next re accreditation review, and is also co-chair of the Senate committee assigned to improve assessment of Eastern’s academic programs.

“As a scholar, teacher, faculty leader, mentor and role model, Dr. Salka continues to serve Eastern and the greater academic community with distinction,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Bill has demonstrated an intellectual depth and possesses outstanding leadership skills that I know he will develop and expand during his ACE fellowship.”

Established in 1965, the ACE Fellows Program is designed to strengthen institutions and leadership in American higher education by identifying and preparing faculty and staff for senior positions in college and university administration through its distinctive and intensive nominator-driven, cohort-based mentorship model. Nominated by the senior administration of their institutions, 46 fellows were selected this year following a rigorous application process.

“This is an incredible opportunity and honor, and I would like to thank President Núñez for nominating me,” said Salka. “This fellowship has helped develop many leaders over the past five decades, and I hope to bring new skills and ideas back to Eastern to help in our ongoing efforts to provide a high quality liberal arts education to all of our students.”

Nearly 1,900 higher education leaders have participated in the ACE Fellows Program over the past five decades, with more than 80 percent of fellows going on to serve as senior leaders of colleges and universities. The 2017-18 class will kick off its work this fall as ACE prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2018.

“Fulfilling higher education’s 21st century mission depends upon a visionary, bold and diverse global community of institutional leaders, and the ACE Fellows Program plays a key role in cultivating these leaders,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “The diverse and talented 2017-18 Fellows class demonstrates why the program has made such a vital contribution for more than a half-century to expanding the leadership pipeline for our colleges and universities.”

The program combines retreats, interactive learning opportunities, visits to campuses and other higher education-related organizations, and placement at another higher education institution to condense years of on-the-job experience and skills development into a single year.

During the placement, fellows observe and work with the president and other senior officers at their host institution, attend decision-making meetings and focus on issues of interest. Fellows also conduct projects of pressing concern for their home institution and seek to implement their findings upon completion of the fellowship placement


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