Eastern Theatre Presents ‘Awakenings: Youth and Chitra

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/19/2018) The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present its first Main Stage production of the spring 2018 semester from April 5-8 with “Awakenings: ‘Youth’ by Thornton Wilder and ‘Chitra’ by Rabindranath Tagore.” These two one-act plays, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the West (Wilder) and East (Tagore), will be shown in the Del Monte Bernstein Studio Theatre in Eastern’s Fine Arts Instructional Center.

The sets, costumes, lighting, projections, music and dance will fill the theater with the tropical island ambiance of ‘Youth’ and the lush Indian aura of ‘Chitra.’ “Awakenings: Youth and Chitra” is being directed by Eastern students Matthew Bessette of Lebanon, CT, and Emily John of Woodstock, CT, respectively.

“Conceived in the 1960s, amid a youthful population that had discovered for the first time its social and political clout, ‘Youth’ might well have been Wilder’s satirical meditation on the excesses of America,” writes the publishing company Samuel French, Inc. “More than just a jab at a particular decade and the foibles of utopian idealism of young people everywhere, however, ‘Youth’ demonstrates Wilder’s ever-generous spirit, his life-long belief in community and the value of the contributions every individual can make.”

In “Chitra,” Tagore explores “the balancing of the physical and spiritual aspects of love and the power of a woman’s physical charm against her inner strength,” writes Zafar Anjum in the analysis “Tagore’s Chitra and Folklore’s Hidimba: Power of the Feminine.” “At some crucial point, these aspects converge when Chitrangada stands forth as man’s mental and spiritual equal, strengthening Tagore’s concept of womanhood. Tagore’s depiction of women is bold and experimental; the portrayals are ideologically oriented but the feminist inclinations are obvious.”

“Awakenings: Youth and Chitra” will be performed on Thursday, April 5, at 5:30 p.m.; Friday, April 6, at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 8, at 4 p.m. Tickets at free for Eastern students; $5 for other students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for senior citizens; $12 for Eastern faculty, staff and alumni; and $20 for the general public. For tickets and more information, call the box office at (860) 465-5123 or email theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu. To purchase online, visit http://easternct.showare.com/awakenings/.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Hosts Renowned Korean Architect

Korean architect and author Hwang Doojin explains his architectural style at a lecture in Eastern’s FAIC.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

On Feb. 28, well-respected South Korean architect and author Hwang Doojin presented stunning examples of his eclectic architectural projects during a lecture in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Seoul, Korea, is a key influence in the evolution of Doojin’s architectural style. He is one of a select group of architects who incorporate modernism with traditional culture and history. During the move toward industrialization and economic change in Seoul a few decades ago, many traditional Korean homes, called hanoks, were bulldozed. Despite efforts to preserve them, the single-story courtyard homes were replaced with large, drab commercial buildings and stark modern housing developments. Doojin’s projects have resulted in a newer urban architectural style and have triggered the rethinking of urban architectural movements.

An example of Doojin’s architectural style.

The director of Doojin Hwang Architects in Seoul, Doojin studied architecture at Seoul National University and Yale University. He was selected by Richard Meier, a well-known American architect, to work on the Seamarq Hotel, which welcomed global visitors to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last month. The hotel’s construction included a small village composed of five discrete wooden hanoks. This nod to tradition, combined with modern luxury, is an eclectic example of Doojiin’s style. Some of his other major projects can be found in Frankfurt and Stockholm.

Eastern Professor of Music Okon Hwang (left) and her brother, well-known Korean architect Hwang Doojin (right).“Tradition matters only when it has future values,” said Doojin. “When you try to reinterpret tradition, the first step is the process of ‘fragmentation’ — you either get inspiration from ideas or concept, or you borrow certain elements and play with it. You can never keep tradition intact as a whole while doing something creative with it.”

Doojin has authored numerous books and is the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Prime Minister Prize of the Korean Architecture Award, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Award and the Korean Public Design Award Grand Prize. His sister, Eastern Professor of Music Okon Hwang, arranged for his visit to Eastern, which he graciously accepted during a busy week of engagements at Harvard and Yale.

Eastern Art Gallery presents “Mom & Dad”

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/12/2018) The Art Gallery at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “Mom & Dad” from March 8 to April 19. On March 22 from 3-4 p.m. there will be a gallery talk with exhibiting artists Nelson Chan and Kalen Na’il Roach, followed by an opening reception from 4-6 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Mom & Dad” brings together Chan, Roach and fellow artist Mariela Sancari, who investigate their personal and familial histories through long-term photographic series and installations.

Chan’s photographs follow his parents as they travel back and forth between the United States and Hong Kong, where their business is based. His project is both an intimate portrait of his parents’ lives and relationship and a snapshot of larger processes of globalization and economic migration.

Roach works with and within his family’s archive. By painting, drawing and pasting over family photographs, he searches for the family he knows beneath the seamless illusion of the photographic surface.

Like Roach, Sancari explores how memory shapes identity-and how it shades into fiction. In her photographic series “Moisés,” Sancari confronts the lingering uncertainties surrounding her father’s life and death by photographing men in their 70s–the age her father would be today had he not committed suicide when she was a child.

The Art Gallery is located in room 112 of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 1-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. Parking is available in Cervantes Garage and in the Student Center parking lot. For more information regarding this and other exhibitions at the Art Gallery, please call (860) 465-4659 or visit on the website at http://www.easternct.edu/artgallery.

Eastern Professor Presents at Symposium on Bolivia

Eastern Political Science Professor Martin Mendoza-Botelho (center), accompanied by symposium hosts Professor of Latin American Studies Robert Albro (left) and Dean of Academic Affairs Núria Vilanova (right), both of American University.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

Willimantic, CT — Eastern Political Science Professor Martin Mendoza-Botelho was invited by a small group of panelists to discuss “Bolivia: Assessing the Contemporary Social and Political Landscape” at a public symposium at American University in Washington, DC, on March 5.

Presenters at the event addressed the significance of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ term in office and the MAS, Bolivia’s governing party under Morales. They also discussed the historical impact of the era, key policies and initiatives, and addressed challenges and controversies that promise to shape Bolivia’s present and future.

“Among other things, I commented on Bolivia’s Welfare State, including social policies such as education, healthcare and pensions, as well as how some recent changes will affect them, such as the reduction in price of key commodities, such as natural gas, that Bolivia exports,” said Mendoza-Botelho.

Since the beginning of his presidency in 2006, Morales has set an ambitious program of reform mainly aimed at incorporating long-standing social demands of indigenous and less privileged groups. Benefiting from the high prices of international commodities, the Bolivian government has been able to implement important reforms that have allowed the country to cut poverty by more than half, in addition to implementing important institutional changes such as the rewriting of the country’s Constitution.

“I hope this conference will foster an informed debate among experts that will eventually resonate among policymakers,” concluded Mendoza-Botelho. “In the recent past, the Morales administration has achieved impressive and positive social and economic changes that have benefited many sectors of the population, in particular indigenous groups that were historically marginalized.”

Mendoza-Botelho began his professional career with UNICEF and worked for several organizations including the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Organization of American States. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Cambridge, is a member of the Bolivian Studies Association and was editor-in-chief of the Bolivian Research Review journal. He became a faculty member at Eastern in 2013.

Author of ‘Latino City’ to speak at Eastern

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/08/2018) Llana Barber, author of “Latino City: Immigration and Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000,” will give a lecture on her book at Eastern Connecticut State University on March 21. Barber’s presentation takes place from 3-4:30 p.m. in Webb Hall, room 110. “Latino City” explores the transformation of Lawrence into New England’s first Latinx-dominated city, and how it was revitalized from its poor economic state, though not without numerous obstacles faced by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans.

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Names Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awardees

Left to right, Bill Stover, Mariana Serrano and William Lugo, winners of Eastern’s 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, CT — Mariana Serrano, a senior majoring in health sciences with a minor in anthropology; William Lugo, professor of sociology; and Bill Stover, director of family and community partnerships in Windham Public Schools, have been named recipients of Eastern Connecticut State University’s 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards. The awards were presented on Feb. 28 in the Paul E. Johnson Community Conference Room of Eastern’s J. Eugene Smith Library.

            Serrano is a student ambassador in Eastern’s Intercultural Center. One of her favorite quotes by Dr. King is “Life’s persistent and the urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” 

She mentors minority students in high school and college, implementing leadership, cultural awareness and inclusive programming. After completing her undergraduate degree, Serrano plans to attend medical school and wants her legacy to be one of educating and inspiring people within marginalized communities on the importance of social justice.

            Lugo, who works with local community groups to advance public policy, has served as director of the Windham Community Task Force to Prevent Underage Drinking, and on the executive board of the Northeast Communities against Substance Abuse from 2006-10. He serves as an advocate for Eastern’s Opportunity Scholars and other undocumented students, and is one of the advisors for the new Freedom at Eastern Club, which supports undocumented and DACA students. Lugo is also an elected member of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education.

As a bilingual educator, Stover has made a significant impact on youth and families in the Windham community. He has drawn together community nonprofits, universities, municipal leaders, parents, teachers and school administrators to address the significant academic achievement gap in Windham Public Schools. Stover has been a catalyst for parent and community member training for many years, to develop confidence and skill among Windham’s low-income and minority populations

Bishop John Selders Jr., pastor of Amistad United Church of Christ in Hartford and associate college chaplain at Trinity College, delivered the keynote address. “While Dr. King is certainly among the greatest of orators this nation has gifted to the world,” said Selders, “the more evolved, more mature Dr. King gets far too little attention. Dr. King also said America was a very sick society, where people of color with skills and character could not get jobs.

“The challenge I leave with you today is this; What will each of you do for the cause of justice today? What will your life be about? Will it all be about ‘The Benjamins’ (money), or will your life be about something rooted deeper than money? Will you ask, like Dr. King, what can I do to better my community and the world?”

Eastern’s CFDRC Continues to Maintain Excellence

Written by Anne Pappalardo

Willimantic, Conn. – The Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) at Eastern Connecticut State University was recently notified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) that the organization has reviewed the center’s Annual Report and that it is maintaining the center’s accreditation, reflecting continued excellence in their programming.

The CFDRC achieved a five-year term of accreditation with the NAEYC in 2014. The accreditation – recognized as “the mark of quality in early childhood education” – is valid until Oct. 1, 2019.

“Accreditation from the NAEYC is the most prestigious stamp of excellence for childhood programs – staff work hard to maintain NAEYC accreditation annually. As a result, children and families gain from a high quality program and in turn, we model best practices for Eastern’s pre-service teacher candidates,” said Niloufar Rezai, director of the CFDRC. 

Among the tasks of becoming NAEYC-accredited, programs must score at least 80 percent on each of the association’s 10 program standards. Scores are based on a site visit, which includes an observation of classroom sessions and an overall environmental assessment, as well as a review of the program’s portfolios. The CFDRC scored 100 percent on every standard.

The 10 program standards evaluated include promoting positive relationships and personal health; utilizing relevant curriculum and effective teaching and assessment approaches; employing qualified and committed staff and management; interacting with families, communities and outside agencies; and providing indoor and outdoor environments that foster growth and development.

The NAEYC is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on improving the well-being of young children, with particular emphasis on the quality of educational and developmental services for children from birth through age eight.

Addressing Opioids on a Local Level: Eastern Promotes Community Coalition

Photo provided by Willimantic Chronicle: A panel discusses the Willimantic HOPE program, which allows dug users seeking help to go to the police department for transport to a local hospital or clinic for immediate entry into a recovery program.

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/06/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University held a seminar on Feb. 28 to encourage dialogue about what can be done to combat the American opioid crisis on a local level. Hosted by the Health Sciences Department, the event featured a panel of professionals who are working to address the issue.

The first speaker, Thomas St. Louis, is an epidemiologist with the Connecticut Department of Public Health. He discussed beneficial workplace approaches to the opioid epidemic. “I think the time of researching or trying to figure out whether or not this is a real problem is over.”

St. Louis called attention to the relationship between workplace injuries and opioid abuse, citing a number of factors that can enable addiction–different levels of access to healthcare, the severity of an injury and socioeconomic status.

He listed five principles for employers to utilize when handling opioids: identifying the problem early, giving instant support, being flexible, regularly reviewing the situation, and enlisting success in the employee. St. Louis stressed that the prevailing judgmental attitude toward addiction and the dynamics of workplace policies need to change. “We’re talking about a person with a disease.”

The next presenters were Willimantic police officers Matthew Solak and

Photo provided by Willimantic Chronicle: Matthew Solak, a Willimantic police officer, discusses the law-enforcement challenges of battling the opioid crisis.

Matthew Nixon, who covered some of the legal aspects of opioid use. Solak noted that the recent increase in synthetic opioids, in combination with changing drug trafficking methods, makes it difficult to confront this issue on a large scale.

Despite such expansion, he expressed that simply arresting substance users is not the solution. “Quite frankly,” he said, “We can’t arrest our way out of the problem … we can’t just keep locking people up.” Solak argued that a strategy focused on incarceration results in people stuck in the criminal justice system rather than receiving help.

Nixon, a certified drug-recognition expert, described the Drug Influence Evaluation test, a voluntary post-arrest test that determines what drug people are under the influence of.

He added that the Willimantic Police Department is taking initiatives to combat driving under the influence with programs such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nonprofit that strives to tighten policies on impaired driving, including being under the influence of opioids. “A DUI is a preventable problem,” Nixon said.

Dr. Tiwalola Kolawole, a psychiatrist at Backus Hospital focused on the perils of opioid addiction during her lecture, presenting statistics and hypothetical scenarios. An opioid that is of current concern is Fentanyl, which is 5,200 times more potent than heroin, said Kolawole. She then explained how opioids work–by making pain disappear. Frequent use then becomes addiction, as “the release of dopamine in the brain now becomes dependent on the use of the drug.”

She proposed that a better term for addiction is “substance use disorder,” to reinforce the idea that addiction is a medical condition. Negative effects that come from being dependent on opioids include a feeling of hopelessness, lack of appetite and poor sleep schedule.

Kolawole also touched on the barriers that come with getting assistance, from the public, the medical industry and family. “Stigma, stigma, stigma,” she said. “We all need to talk about this. The bottom line for today is that everybody needs to do something. It’s everybody’s problem.”

Having experienced addiction herself, Tracie Compositor, a case manager in Willimantic, serves as a support system for users, from a peer perspective as well as a professional one. She discussed the importance of building genuine connections and understanding that users come from different backgrounds.

“There’s no quick fix for treatment of addiction,” said Compositor, noting that individualized treatment is necessary to effective recovery. “It can be hard to maintain hope,” she continued, but her goal is to “hold that hope for someone until they’re strong enough to take it and run with it.”

Other speakers included Angie Bolduc, a practical nurse, Samantha Wilson, a clinical therapist and Kelvin Young, a holistic stress management instructor.


Eastern Student Research Lends Insight into Dual Language Learning

Eastern student Stefanie Dominguez ’18 of Glastonbury (right) presents her research

Written by Anne Pappalardo

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/05/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University student Stefanie Dominguez ’18, an Early Childhood Education and Communication major, recently had her research thesis published in the Early Childhood Education Journal. The highly-ranked, refereed journal analyzes trends, policies and practices in early childhood education for children ranging from birth to age eight. The publication serves the needs of early childhood practitioners including classroom teachers, child care providers and teacher educators.

A Glastonbury resident, Dominguez is a research assistant at Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) and an Honors Program student. Her thesis, titled “A Qualitative Study of the Play and Dual Language Learners in Preschool,” is one of the first to document social interactions of low English-proficient preschoolers, referred to as Dual Language Learners (DLLs), in classrooms. The paper addresses distinct verbal and nonverbal social behaviors utilized by DLLs with low English proficiency when playing with peers in English-speaking preschool classrooms. Dominguez’s research investigated how DLL social behaviors differ from those of English-speaking children during play interaction. She also observed social interactions among DLLs compared to formal assessments of their involvement with peers and teachers during play.

“As an Eastern Honors Program student I was required to write a thesis,” said Dominguez. “I’d always wanted to write an education-based thesis. I worked with Early Childhood Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith on my project. I feel it is a very important field and that my work could be helpful to teachers and students.”

Last year Dominguez was asked to work on research projects with Trawick-Smith and Professor Sudha Swaminathan, as well as CECE Director Julia DeLapp.

“Part of the research required assessing the math knowledge of preschool students. Because I speak Spanish, I was assigned to test the children who spoke Spanish at home so that we could accurately test their math knowledge – not the understanding of the English questions. Through that research, and after talking with the professors, I devised my thesis topic – the social and emotional development of children who speak languages other than English at home,” said Dominguez.

“I found it interesting to see just how different the experiences were for DLLs and their English-speaking peers. I was surprised to see how often DLLs experienced ‘teacher-assisted interactions’ compared to their peers. Seeing how seldom DLLs were able to successfully interact with peers without a teacher’s help was surprising and made me really want to educate teachers. The DLLs were perfectly capable of playing with each other and having sustained play behaviors, but they often needed a teacher to help them get the interaction started. Knowing this can change how teachers interact with our classes and our students on individual levels.”

According to Professor Trawick-Smith, “There are not many undergraduate students who can say they have produced a work that will have an international impact on the thinking in a whole field of study. Yet Stefanie has done just that by addressing a research question which has simply not been asked or answered in previous work. Hers is the only investigation I know of that describes and analyzes the naturalistic interactions of DLLs in preschool. Perhaps Stefanie’s most important finding is that DLLs can interact with peers in positive ways in preschool classrooms if they receive a certain kind of support from their teachers. Her work indicates yet another way in which the preschool teachers play a vital role in promoting the well-being of young children.”

In November Dominguez also presented her thesis research at the National Association for the Educators of Young Children (NAEYC) conference in Atlanta. NAEYC is a professional membership organization that promotes high quality early learning for young children through age eight by connecting early childhood practice, policy and research. She also presented her research to the staff at Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center as part of professional development. Professor Trawick-Smith is using her research in his Families and Cultures course.

“I think undergraduate research is beneficial for students because they have the opportunity to explore a field that most undergraduates are not usually able to access while still pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” said Dominguez. “The ability for students to perform undergraduate research tasks at Eastern also helps them to form stronger relationships with professors outside of a typical classroom setting and provides them with opportunities to travel and share their knowledge with others in their field,” added Dominguez.

Dominguez has presented previous research projects at Eastern’s annual Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern conference held each April and plans to present research there again this year. “Stefanie is already receiving national attention from this project – an invitation to present at a national research forum on children’s play in Atlanta and requests and inquiries from around the country for information about her work,” added Trawick-Smith.

Dominguez is interested in pursuing a master’s degree in special education, and possibly a second master’s degree in deaf education. She wants to become a teacher in a hospital for children who are unable to attend traditional school due to medical problems that keep them in a hospital setting.

Her favorite thing about Eastern? “The size – I was walking in the Student Center one day and the assistant dean came up to me and congratulated me on my publication. He knew me, my name and my accomplishments. That doesn’t happen at large schools. I have formed amazing relationships here at Eastern that I will keep with me once I leave this May.”


‘Locked In, Locked Out’: Judy Dworin Performance Project Comes to Eastern

Members of the JDPP perform ‘Brave in a New World’ at Eastern. Photo credit: Samantha Soracco 

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/01/2018) Representatives of the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Feb. 21 to present “Brave in a New World,” a performance that examines the different experiences of incarcerated women.

The nonprofit arts organization, which was established in 1989, has worked closely with Niantic’s York Correctional Facility for the past 13 years to welcome former prisoners into the realm of professional artistry. Bringing together music, choreography and real-life stories, “Brave in a New World” causes audience members to reflect on the complexity of the judicial system in relation to human existence.

JDPP’s performance, depicts prison as a “permanent home.” Photo credit: Samantha Soracco 

JDPP’s performance put issues of agency, conviction and redemption on display, depicting prison as a “permanent home.” While interpretive dancers utilized props – carefully constructed cubes that allowed for exit and reentry – others shared different metamorphic narratives on stage via song or spoken word, from recollections of drunken car crashes, to domestic abuse situations, to drug use. Performers highlighted the intricacy behind individual choices, particularly the ones that lead to unforeseen consequences. “We forget that our actions can change who we are in an instant,” one person noted.

Not only did the performance spotlight how people became part of the prison system, but also the ongoing setbacks that come with it. In addition to the bleak life inside prison walls-loss of identity, mistreatment from guards, lack of resources-women return to a society that is inherently working against them. “Brave in a New World” called attention to how hindering the rehabilitation process can be.

“I need somebody to touch me in a healing way,” one cast member sang. Despite having served their time, many of these women find that they are still outcasts following incarceration, strapped with stigmas and scrounging for assistance. Facing obstacles like rejection from family, biased employers, disconnection from children, and social withdrawal, it’s easy for ex-prisoners to feel that they have made no progress, that they no longer have value to those around them. The rehabilitation process is dehumanizing in that manner, in the same way prison is.

Though JDPP’s production reiterated that there are flaws in the current prison system, it also stressed the importance of understanding and unity, executed by a cast that showed unwavering resilience. “I’ll be brave in a new world,” a concluding line confirmed.