Hartford Courant: Students to lead strike for climate action on Friday at Capitol with ECSU polisci student Mitchel Kvedar

Hartford Courant: Students to lead strike for climate action on Friday at Capitol


By Amanda Blanco
Sept. 19, 2019

Inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, college students Sena Wazer and Mitchel Kvedar of Sunrise Movement CT will lead a climate action protest at the state Capitol Friday.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend, demanding that Gov. Ned Lamont declare a climate emergency and establish a Green New Deal for the state.

Wazer, a 15-year-old UConn freshman, shared on Thursday that her main goal is to inspire immediate and drastic action from the governor and legislators.

“Climate scientists say we have 11 years to take radical action or face unending disasters,” the two students said in a written statement. “While we appreciate our state’s best efforts, they are not enough.”

The Connecticut Climate Strike is part of a global movement. Millions of people in more than 150 countries are expected to call on politicians to take climate action Friday. Thunberg, 16, who is leading the Global Climate Strike, recently echoed to Congress the frustration young people feel toward apathetic government leaders.

“Please save your praise, we don’t want it,” she told Congress Tuesday. “Don’t invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are without doing anything about it. I know you’re trying, but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

Wazer began advocating for the environment in elementary school. She joined Sunrise Movement in December. The youth organization made headlines in November for occupying Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office to advocate for the Green New Deal with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“Is 100% clean and renewable energy too much?” Ocasio-Cortez asked at a Sunrise Movement rally in May. “Is fighting for dignified jobs that pay enough people to live too much? Is proposing a solution on the scale of the climate crisis too much?”

While students around the world have participated in school strikes led by Thunberg, Wazer and Kvedar said this strike will be different.

“Youth have called on adults to join in,” they said. “At this event, strikers will show that people from all walks of life care about climate change and expect our elected leaders to take immediate action. … Connecticut has the opportunity to lead. Let’s take it.”

Wazer and Kvedar, a 19-year-old sophomore at Eastern Connecticut State University, are acting with the CT Climate Crisis Mobilization. The coalition includes more than 80 groups, such as the CT Citizens Action Group, the People’s Action for Clean Energy and several of Connecticut’s Unitarian societies. The protest also has support from labor unions, including 32BJ SEIU.

The protest will take place from noon to 3 p.m. on the back steps of the Capitol. It marks a weeklong series of pro-environment events around Connecticut, including a solidarity film series, a protest against a planned gas power plant in Killingly and a vigil in East Haddam.


Eastern polisci student Demitra Kourtzidis (’19) Represents Connecticut on Capitol Hill

By Jordan Corey

Eastern Connecticut State University student Demitra Kourtzidis ’19 of East Hampton was one of two researchers from Connecticut who presented their projects at the highly selective Posters on the Hill (POH) research conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on April 30. The annual event featured 60 representatives from colleges and universities across the nation. Eastern has represented Connecticut eight out of the past 12 years.

Kourtzidis, a political science major, presented her research poster titled “What Drives Criminal Justice Reform: A Qualitative Analysis of the Policymaking Process in Massachusetts, Oregon and Louisiana.” Her research was completed under the supervision of political science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Demitra (center) showing her work to Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney (right) supported by her mentor Professor Courtney Broscious (left)

Each spring, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) hosts the poster session during which a select group of undergraduate students present their research to members of Congress and other invited guests. CUR works to ensure that legislators have a clear understanding of research and education programs that they fund. The organization also encourages participants to discuss the benefits of undergraduate research with their state’s representatives.

Demitra heading to the U.S. Capitol (in the back) to inform lawmakers about scientific evidence regarding justice reform in selected states. 

Kourtzidis met with Rep. Joe Courtney and a legislative aide to Sen. Chris Murphy. “We talked about the important role that research has played in the quality of my education and about my project itself, an analysis of criminal justice reform efforts,” she said. “We are lucky to have representatives who value higher education and see the clear need for change in our criminal justice systems.”

At POH, Kourtzidis received encouraging feedback from audience members, including professors, students and a legislative aide to Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Everyone was surprised by the extent to which monied interests and law enforcement agencies impacted criminal justice reform in my cases. This topic is understudied in political science, so it was nice to find out that other scholars value work on this subject.”

Kourtzidis’ study focuses on Massachusetts, Oregon and Louisiana – where incarceration rates, political landscapes and population composition vary widely – to determine the conditions under which each reform effort succeeded. “Louisiana’s reform was modest, because certain economic stakeholders have a lot of power over criminal justice legislation in the state,” explained Kourtzidis. “Oklahoma surpassed them as the state with the highest incarceration rate, but that was already projected to happen without the reform legislation.

“Oregon’s reform has been more successful, but their final reform bill was much more restrictive than the original legislation. They now have the 17th-lowest incarceration rate in the country. Massachusetts went from having the second-lowest incarceration rate to having the lowest incarceration rate. Their reform made some necessary changes, but created new punitive policy. Last year, they underwent another reform effort with fair results.”

Kourtzidis feels that presenting her thesis at the conference was both fun and gratifying. “It was the culmination of so many months of work,” she said. “I was happy to share something that I cared so much about with other people.”


Eastern geography students cited in Senator Chris Murphy’s report

On May 6, 2019 Senator Chris Murphy released a report on food and housing insecurity among college and university students. Senator Murphy cites research that Eastern students conducted in Professor Patrick Vitale’s Geography of Food class. The report notes that given the lack of uniform data, students are collecting their own research on food insecurity on Connecticut campuses. This report cites that 35% of surveyed Eastern students reported limited access to nutritious food in 2018 (in fact, the Geography of Food report shows that 44% of surveyed Eastern students had limited access to nutritious food).In his report Senator Murphy calls on Congress to take a number of measures to meet the basic needs of college and university students. These include: increasing the maximum Pell grant, improving student access to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), requiring the Department of Education to collect data on basic needs security, and expanding the federal work-study program.


Read Senator Murphy’s report here: https://www.murphy.senate.gov/download/basic-needs-insecurity-report

Click here to read the Report from Geography of Food.



Eastern again in Posters on the Hill in Washington DC with Demitra Kourtzidis (’19)

By Alyssa Wessner

The Political Science, Geography and Philosophy (PPG) Department is proud to announce the participation of polisci student Demitra Kourtzidis (’19) to the Posters on the Hill conference on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. This prestigious event is organized by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). Students compete nationally with an acceptance rate of only 10%. Eastern has been represented in the last 8 out of the 13 Posters on the Hill conferences and for the past 4 consecutive years. Recent Political Science students who presented their work were Tess Candler, Kayla Giordano, and Sabreena Croteau. Moreover, Eastern is the only university in the state that has represented Connecticut this many times.

This academic year has truly been rewarding for Demitra. She has been working very hard on her research investigating criminal justice reforms. Last year, Demitra presented her research titled, “State Policy Impacts on Imprisonment in Louisiana,” at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Kennesaw, Georgia. In January, Demitra attended the Southern Political Science Association Annual Conference in Austin, Texas with one of her mentors, Dr. Courtney Broscious. Her thesis received great feedback from the conference attendees. Demitra will continue presenting her work in April at Posters on the Hill, in company of Dr. Broscious.

Eastern polisci student Demitra Kourtzidis (’19) ready to engage in a discussion on the policy impacts of imprisonment in Louisiana at NCUR last year.

Their time at the conference will certainly be busy as they have many goals to accomplish. Half of the day is devoted to the presentations of undergraduate research. Dimitra will be presenting her work in the U.S. Congress for House Representatives in the Ray Burn House Office Building. The other half of the day will be spent lobbying and promoting awareness in the her area of interest, justice reforms. Last year, Dr. Broscious and Tess Candler met with House Rep. Joe Courtney. This year, Demitra and Dr. Broscious expect to meet with Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy along with Rep. Joe Courtney. Demitra is ready for this event and as she explains: “I look forward to presenting my thesis alongside undergraduates from around the country and meeting with members of Congress to show them the value of undergraduate research. I’m really grateful that Eastern has given me the opportunity to go to conferences like this, and to my thesis mentor, Dr. Broscious, for her unwavering support in this process.” Eastern is extremely proud of the accomplishments of Demitra and grateful to the efforts of her mentor Dr. Broscious.

Discussing walls

By Mary Greenwell

Polisci student Mary Greenwell

Walking into my first meeting with many established members of the Political Science department was without a doubt very daunting as a young student beginning my experience with the program. And of course, with such a heavy topic it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and under-prepared in the face of experts. We were fortunate enough to get an inside look at Dr. David Frye’s books Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick, a historical account of one of modern politics most volatile topics. It’s no surprise that in a room of political thinkers the concept turned towards boarder walls and how they have played a role throughout history to shape cultures inside and outside. What was the most interesting, was Dr. Frye’s opinion on the political climate. After many questions from the audience and members of the department, he explained that he is purely a historian, he looks at facts to tell a story of the past rather than predict the future. Political Science often contains only the facts that people want to see, those who wanted a wall saw how the wall is beneficial, those who don’t saw how they failed. Dr. Frye’s book was manipulated and interpreted in many different directions, but at the end of the day it is purely just a historical account of when and where border walls have prospered. Even in such a heightened political climate it is important to remember the roots of the things we fight for, security and safety. That is why walls are built, and sometimes why walls are broken down. Although the conversation was about walls, I feel that this event was an eye opening and border breaking experience for myself becoming involved in the Political Science community at Eastern. I highly recommend anyone interested make an effort to attend a night of Pizza and Politics.

Dr. David Frye (left) and the student panel addressing the Pizza and Politics audience and discussing the effects on walls on history.

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.’”

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.


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.

Quinnipiac’s Law School Dean of Admissions visits Eastern

Mr. Barrett, discussing Law School options, and the President of the Pre-Law Society.

By Alyssa Wessner

On Wednesday October 3rd, the Pre-law Society hosted the Dean of Admissions of Quinnipiac Law School, Mr. Adam Barrett. This was an extremely interesting and informative event. Mr. Barret gave helpful advice on the admission process and how to find a school that best fits your professional objectives. The students who attended left feeling inspired to attend Quinnipiac and Law School in general.

The President of the Pre-law Society, Megan Hull, shared her thoughts on the event: “The atmosphere at the event was one of excitement, we had a bit of a celebrity in the Pre-law world. In essence Mr. Barrett would be one of the many individuals who will review our applications if we chose to apply to Quinnipiac.” As part of his presentation, the Dean emphasized that students need to find a Law School that fits you and your needs. This particular school also offers many opportunities to advance the careers of graduate students in the legal field and related areas, such as combining a law degree with other options such as business. Megan summarized her thoughts on law school in an easy to remember sentence: “Pain is temporary, a Law degree is Forever.”

Pre-Law students and other attendees learning the strong commitment that Law School entails.