Eastern Receives Generous Davis Foundation Grant

Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines

Written by Michael Rouleau

•A peer mentor tutors a student in the Writing Center in Eastern's J. Eugene Smith Library:

• A peer mentor tutors a fellow student in the Writing Center in Eastern’s J. Eugene Smith Library

WILLIMANTIC, CT (07/18/2017) The Davis Educational Foundation has awarded Eastern Connecticut State University a $200,000 grant to develop its “Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines” initiative. The two-year project aims to strengthen first- and second-year students’ analytical thinking, reading and writing skills by enhancing faculty approaches to teaching critical thinking. The project also aims to improve teaching and learning assessment, as well as better link Eastern’s discussion-oriented First Year Program with its level-two Writing Program – two programs that all Eastern students pass through regardless of major.

“In the past it was assumed that students develop higher-order thinking skills as a cumulative result to degree completion,” explained David Pellegrini, project director and theatre professor. “But today, educational researchers have found that intentional instruction focused on critical reading and writing best ensures that students graduate with the skills they need in competitive and ever-evolving career landscapes. Moreover, this emphasis on critical thinking must begin at the very beginning of a student’s college experience.”

While the grant will be distributed over a two-year period, university officials plan to make the “Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines” program a sustained component of Eastern’s liberal arts curriculum.

•Psychology Professor Peter Bachiochi is one of the key faculty members involved in the Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines program. He will participate in the Critical Thinking Task Force and review curriculum

• Psychology Professor Peter Bachiochi is one of the key faculty members involved in the Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines program. He will participate in the Critical Thinking Task Force and review curriculum

Beginning in fall 2017, a faculty-led Critical Thinking Task Force will convene with expert consultants in the field of college-level critical thinking pedagogy and assessment. Faculty workshops will be developed and best practices will be shared among colleagues and with students in a process that will transform how critical thinking is taught in each academic discipline at Eastern.

“Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines” is connected to two longstanding Eastern programs: the First Year Liberal Arts Introduction (FYI 100) and the Writing Program. To assist them in becoming engaged in the intellectual life of the university, first-year students enroll in one of many discussion-oriented FYI courses that explore a broad, contemporary theme developed from the expertise of the instructor. From there, students take their major’s designated Writing Intensive (WI) course.

“By convening and providing training for instructors of FYI 100 and level-two WI courses, this project will forge meaningful connections between modes of instruction, evaluation and assessment to enhance the development of critical thinking competencies for students from freshman to sophomore year,” added Pellegrini.

“One advantage of a small liberal arts college is that faculty are able to come together to jointly plan programs,” said Provost Dimitrios Pachis, speaking to the collaborative nature of the project. “In line with the interdisciplinary nature of our liberal arts curriculum, this project draws on the interests and expertise of faculty from nearly all of our major programs.”

“We are honored to receive this significant grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, which is recognized for its support of innovative programs at New England colleges and universities,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “We are very grateful to the foundation’s trustees for this grant, which will strengthen the core academic skills of all Eastern students. As a liberal arts institution, we keenly understand the importance of developing strong reading and writing skills in our students, regardless of their major. This grant will allow us to significantly improve our first-year program, increasing student learning from freshman to sophomore year while improving student learning outcomes and retention and graduation rates.”

The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

Eastern Named a “Great College to Work For” for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”


About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Eastern Professor Moderates Salute to President H. W. Bush

Written by Dwight Bachman

Cesar Beltran, lecturer in the Department of Communication, played a key role in a tribute to former President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara, when the two were honored earlier this year for their friendship and service to the Jewish community.

Cesar Beltran, assistant professor of communication, addressing the audience during a tribute to former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who were honored for their friendship and service to the Jewish community.

Cesar Beltran, assistant professor of communication, addressing the audience during a tribute to former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who were presented the Mensch Foundation International Award for their friendship and service to the Jewish community.

Beltran, who once served as acting deputy ambassador and public affairs counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, acted as co-master of ceremony during an awards ceremony in March where the Mensch International Foundation presented the prestigious Mensch International Foundation Award to the Bushes. The ceremony took place at the Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX, the state’s oldest congregation. Head Rabbi David Lyon assisted in the awarding ceremony, as did members of the Bush family.

As part of the award ceremony, Beltran read from a letter the former president’s cousin, George Herbert Walker III, a former ambassador to Hungary who Beltran trained in diplomacy, diplomatic duties and responsibilities, and introduced to the Mensch Foundation.

Seated front are George and Barbara Bush, with Caesar Beltran, with, center and left, members of the Mensch Foundation board of directors, and right, George Geiger, founder of the Mensch Foundation, and his wife Julia Geiger.

Seated front are George and Barbara Bush. Standing left to right are Cesar Beltran; center and left, members of the Mensch Foundation board of directors, and right, George Geiger, founder of the Mensch Foundation, and his wife Julia Geiger.

“The couple serves as a great example of tolerance and political leadership,” said Walker in his letter. “George and Barbara have amply supported the activities and principles of the Mensch Foundation. When I came to Budapest in 2003, I was unaware of how Hungary suffered from the round up and extermination of most of its Jewish citizens at the end of World War II. If I could do anything to avert such a horrific past, I meant to do so, and I believe I share these feelings with George and Barbara.”

The Mensch Foundation International Award event made national news on all the networks.

The Mensch Foundation International Award ceremony made national news.

President George H. W. Bush supported the Jewish community in many ways, most notably playing a supportive role when Ethiopia evacuated 14,000 Jews in the late 1980s. He also stepped up by providing U.S. financial and commercial assistance when Hungary, Poland and other former Warsaw Pact nations became independent after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The foundation said it was honoring Barbara Bush as well because she has always been supportive of her husband.

Caesar Beltran speaking with President Bush’s son Neil Bush, center, and Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson Jr., a member of President Bush’s church.

Cesar Beltran speaking with President Bush’s son Neil Bush, center, and Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson Jr., a member of St Martin’s Episcopal Church, President Bush’s church.

During the award ceremony, Beltran said that the mission of the Mensch International Foundation is to educate children and young adults about the horrors of the Holocaust, and to underline the ugliness of bigotry, prejudice and anti-Semitism. Founded in Budapest 15 years ago by Steven Geiger, the foundation carries out its mission through summer study camps, commemorative activities and its awards programs. Beltran currently serves as communications advisor for the foundation.

Eastern is Vet Friendly!


Eastern Connecticut State University is the 14th highest ranked public institution in the north when it comes to being a “Best College for Veterans,” according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 rankings. Eastern’s campus is home to more than 600 faculty, staff, and students who are self-identified veterans, active military or reserves service members. Veterans who are students have a range of resources available through The Vet Center, which has a study area and lounge and hosts social events and family programs. Because veterans often face additional challenges as students—such as post-traumatic stress disorder or families to support—the center organizes trainings for faculty to teach them about this dynamic student group. Situated in Willimantic, a town with a large veteran population, the Vet Center works as a link to the community, connecting students to the local American Legion and Veterans Affairs offices.

“I visit the Veterans Center here on campus because it provides a sense of community, which is an important part of transitioning to civilian life,” said Shannon Polhemus, a Coast Guard veteran and current Eastern student.

At Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development is a representative who helps veterans look for jobs and incorporate military experience into their resumes. Student vets and service members also have access to on-campus mental health services.


Eastern Warriors Win Top Conference Honors On and Off the Field

Written by Ed Osborn

•Men's basketball player Tarchee Brown '18 and women's volleyball player McKenzie Maneggia '20 pose with Willi the Warrior and the two LEC Cups

Men’s basketball player Tarchee Brown ’18 and women’s volleyball player McKenzie Maneggia ’20 pose with Willi the Warrior and the two LEC Cups

WILLIMANTIC, CT (07/06/2017) For the first time, student-athletes at Eastern Connecticut State University have won the Little East Conference’s (LEC) two top honors – the Presidents’ Cup and the Commissioner’s Cup – in the same year.

For the third year in a row, Eastern was awarded the LEC Presidents’ Cup for overall academic performance during the 2016-17 academic year. In addition, for the first time in its 17-year existence, the LEC’s Commissioner’s Cup, awarded for the most successful athletic program in the conference, was won by Eastern.

The LEC Presidents’ Cup measures the highest cumulative grade point average of all eight institutions in the conference. Each institution calculates the cumulative grade point average for all its student-athletes who competed in the league’s 19 championship-sponsored sports. The Eastern Warriors registered a cumulative grade point average of 3.12, narrowly beating out Keene State College and Plymouth State University. The women’s cross country and soccer teams performed the best among all Eastern teams with 3.43 cumulative GPAs.

During the year, Eastern athletes achieved LEC All-Academic recognition (minimum GPA of 3.30) a total of 118 times – 47 in six fall programs, 36 in six spring programs, and 35 in five winter programs. Additionally, a record 68 Eastern student-athletes earned an E-Club Scholar-Athlete Award, 38 of them receiving an Outstanding (cumulative 3.50+) Scholar-Athlete Award.

The Little East Conference began awarding the Presidents’ Cup following the 2009-10 academic year, and this year Eastern became the first school to win four LEC Presidents’ Cups (2010, 2015-17).

“I congratulate the scholar-athletes of Eastern Connecticut State University for earning three consecutive Little East Conference Presidents’ Cups, the LEC’s highest academic award, as well as earning the institution’s first-ever Commissioner’s Cup in the same academic year,” said LEC Commissioner Cora H. Crumley. “This prestigious award clearly demonstrates intercollegiate athletics’ ability to enhance the academic mission of our member institutions. The Warriors’ staff is to be commended for their role in facilitating their student-athletes’ achievements.”

Eastern is the first program since 2012-13 to win the Little East Conference’s top honors in the same year. “It is gratifying to win both the Commissioner’s Cup and the President’s Cup for the performances of our student-athletes,” said Lori Runksmeier, Eastern’s director of athletics. “Division III is all about balance, and I am so proud that Eastern could achieve these results on the field and in the classroom.”

In winning its first Commissioner’s Cup, Eastern won five LEC regular-season titles and one LEC tournament championship in 2016-17, with 9 Eastern teams in the ten LEC sports that keep regular season standings finishing fourth or higher and two teams going undefeated in LEC regular-season play. Moreover, nine individuals won a major LEC award (Player, Rookie or Coach-of-the-Year) and 114 were named to All-LEC teams.

Mariana Serrano Receives Biomedical Scholarship Through Harvard University

ms 1Mariana Serrano ’18 of Waterbury, CT, received a $7,500 scholarship at the Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP) “Evening of Hope” reception at Harvard University on April 27.  The scholarship, funded by Radius Health, a biopharmaceutical company in Waltham, MA, will support Serrano’s education at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she is a health science major and biology minor.

Serrano’s relationship with the BSCP began in summer 2016 with a summer internship at Harvard Medical School’s Summer Clinical and Translational Research Program, a 10-week mentored research program designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented populations who are exposed to clinical research.  Serrano was one of only 10 students selected.

“I have been so fortunate to have this opportunity to be introduced to the bio-medical profession at Harvard Medical School,” said Serrano.  “The experiences I have had range from observing surgeries to hands-on training in biomedical research, from learning to give presentations to networking within a large intellectual community.”

With a concentration in pre-physical therapy, Serrano is interested in the intersectionality of medicine and anthropology and is conducting research with Mary Kenny, professor of anthropology at Eastern. She has also been researching therapeutic regimens related to aortic valve disease at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Roxbury, MA.

Serrano began her college career at Eastern in the Summer Transition at Eastern Program/ Contract Admissions Program (STEP/CAP), a six-week residential program the summer after high school graduation that provides intensive instruction in mathematics, writing and study skills.  Successful STEP/CAP students are then admitted to Eastern each fall. Serrano will serve as a peer assistant in STEP/CAP in summer 2017.

Eastern’s Teacher Preparation Program Achieves Reaccreditation

•Education students supervise preschool children on the climbing wall of the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC)

Education students supervise preschool children on the climbing wall of the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC)

WILLIMANTIC, CT (05/30/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University recently received continued accreditation through fall 2021 from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), based on the standards of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE’s performance-based accreditation system for teacher preparation ensures that teaching candidates are prepared to make a difference in P-12 student learning.

The accreditation report indicated that Eastern has met all six standards for Initial Teacher Preparation and Advanced Preparation, including candidate knowledge and skills; unit evaluation and assessment systems; field experiences and clinical practice; diversity; faculty qualifications, performance and development; and unit governance and resources.

Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith speaks at the press conference for Eastern's renowned TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination)

Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith speaks at the press conference for Eastern’s renowned TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination)

All Eastern teacher preparation programs, including bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, elementary education, physical education, and secondary education, as well as graduate programs in early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, educational technology and reading/language arts, are covered by the continuing accreditation decree.

Eastern has been preparing Connecticut’s teaching workforce since its founding in 1889, and its educational programs continue to be recognized in various national rankings. For instance, both the elementary and secondary education undergraduate programs are ranked in the top five in New England by path2teach.org; the secondary program is ranked in the top 10 nationally by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Other noteworthy accomplishments include Eastern’s leadership role in advancing diversity among the teaching profession through its partnership with the Holmes Masters Program, and a new partnership with Norwalk Community College to enable its students to leverage their associate’s degree to earn their bachelor’s degree in the area of early childhood education.

Education faculty are also making news, with Assistant Professor of Education Mark Fabrizi named editor-in-chief of “The Leaflet,” the journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English; and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, professor and Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair for Early Childhood Education, and Sudha Swaminathan, professor of early childhood education, awarded a Spencer Foundation grant for the project “The Relationship of Teacher-Child Math Talk During Preschool Play to Young Children’s Mathematics Learning.”

Other recent initiatives include two clinical practice partnerships with local school districts that include year-long, residency-based internships for Eastern graduate students seeking master’s degrees in education.

The residency internship is designed to reshape graduate teacher education by ensuring long-term, high quality clinical experiences for professionals seeking to become classroom teachers. Each intern works in an assigned classroom for a full academic year, while completing university coursework.

Both university and school district partners collaborate on supervision and curriculum to ensure that theory and practice are integrated. Graduate students also participate in school wide initiatives and demonstrate positive impact on student learning and the school community as a program outcome.

During fall 2016, an inaugural cohort of 10 was selected for placements in Coventry School District. The program was a success. Of participating school district teachers and administrators, 85 percent indicated that interns were able to positively impact the learning experiences for P-12 students, and 100 percent of district participants supported program continuation.

“The year-long residency internship adheres to national standards for university-school district partnerships for clinical practice,” said Jacob Easley II, dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies and Graduate Division. “We are certain that the profession will be transformed by partnerships such as this; and we are excited about expanding the program in Windham Public Schools during the upcoming academic year.”

Occum Hall wins Warrior Cup, Puentes al Futuro gets $4,500

Residents of Occum Hall with Rosie Hernandez, founder of Puentes al Futuro, and William Stover, director of Family and Community Partnerships (center, holding check)

Residents of Occum Hall with the Warrior Cup trophy, alongside Rosie Hernandez, founder of Puentes al Futuro, and William Stover, director of Family and Community Partnerships (center, holding check)

Written by Michael Rouleau

The Warrior Cup is an annual competition in which all 13 residence halls at Eastern Connecticut State University compete for the benefit of a local nonprofit organization or charity. Occum Hall was the 2016-17 winner of the cup, but the real winner is Puentes al Futuro (Bridges to the Future), a Windham Public Schools afterschool program, which received $4,500 from the year’s Warrior Cup activities.

Rosie Hernandez thanks Occum Hall residents for their fundraising efforts

Rosie Hernandez thanks Occum Hall residents for their support of Puentes al Futuro

Residence Halls earn points in the year-long competition through the academic achievement of their residents, as well as their participation in campus activities, fundraisers and community service events. Occum Hall, composed primarily of transfer students, finished the year with 492 points, followed by the freshman halls of Burr, Constitution and Mead. All fundraising activities among the 13 residence halls went to this year’s designated recipient, Puentes al Futuro.

“This money will help keep the program alive,” said Kim Silcox, director of Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement, which is an avid supporter of Puentes al Futuro. “Funding for afterschool programs is more uncertain now than ever.”

More than 250 Eastern students have volunteered 3,600 hours with the program since its inception six years ago. Through the program, local middle school children learn about their Hispanic heritage in a variety of cultural and academic enrichment activities. With its partnership with Eastern, children see a “bridge to the future” as they interact with college students, often times on the Eastern campus.

“This 4,500 will go to the kids; not to salaries, not to administrators,” assured Rosie Hernandez, founder of Puentes al Futuro. “This really is an incredible amount of money that will go very far for the program.”

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Tip-A-Cop 2017 Raises $3,000

Police officers and Amici Grill staff

Police officers and Amici Grill staff

Police officers from Eastern Connecticut State University and the City of Middletown traded in their uniforms for aprons on May 3 to ‘serve’ the community in a different way. The officers spent the day waiting tables at Amici Italian Grill in Middletown in support of the fourth annual Tip-A-Cop fundraiser.

Approximately $3,000 was raised for the Connecticut Special Olympics. Contributing to the total, Amici donated 10 percent of its sales for the day, the cop-turned-servers donated all tips, and members of the Eastern community ordered $500 worth of food —delivered for lunch to their desks in Willimantic by Eastern volunteers.

Sgt. Lisa Hamilton of the Eastern police department and Angelo Simoni

Sgt. Lisa Hamilton of the Eastern police department and Angelo Simoni

“The Special Olympics is the designated charity of law enforcement in Connecticut,” explained Angelo Simoni, Tip-A-Cop coordinator and director of Eastern’s Office of Student Conduct. According to Simoni, Tip-A-Cop has raised approximately $15,000 for the Connecticut charity in four years.

The Eastern Police Department supports community charities throughout the year. It participates in Jail-N-Bail, a fundraiser in which officers ‘arrest’ members of the campus community who are then ‘bailed’ out of a fake jail, with all proceeds going to the Connecticut Special Olympics. Eastern police also participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which kicks off the Connecticut Special Olympics games — coming up this June at Southern Connecticut State University.