New Summer Research Institutes Challenge Underclassmen

Using motion-capture technology, the student in the background is rendered as a 3D image on the computer.

Eastern Connecticut State University held three inaugural Summer Research Institutes from May 14–18 to engage promising first- and second-year students in intensive, weeklong research programs pertaining to the fields of new media, network science and English. A fourth research institute for psychology occurred during the same time, although this has been an annual program.

The New Media Studies institute challenged seven students to develop a short film using motion-capture technology. The group made a three-minute noir-esque film that showed a 3D-rendered detective frog (the frog being a symbol of Willimantic) performing motion-captured actions such as drinking a martini, smoking a pipe and dancing.

Under the supervision of faculty members Kristen Morgan and Travis Houldcroft, as well as student mentor Zachary Parisella, students utilized a variety of motion capture equipment and animation software, including Motive, Blender, Adobe Premiere and After Effects, and Pro Tools for audio.

“In terms of the software, this project really forced me to utilize everything I know and consider solutions that I had never thought of before,” said Wasan Hayajneh ’19, who majors in new media studies and visual arts.

Students were also introduced to the fundamentals of animation post-production with an introduction to character visual design, voice-over recording, and the use of diegetic sound in an animated environment.

A student presents on his group’s network analysis of “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

The network science institute challenged nine students to perform network analyses of character interactions in a movie to evaluate a hypothesis about the movie’s social structure. Broken into three groups, the students analyzed “The Matrix Trilogy,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” and Disney’s “Mulan.” 

Under the supervision of professors Megan Heenehan (mathematics) and Garrett Dancik (computer science), and student mentor Haley Knox ’18, students found their movie’s script online, wrote code to extract information and analyze that script, then used the software Gephi to visualize their network analysis.

“Our initial hypothesis for ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ was incorrect,” said Oliver Chase, who majors in New Media Studies. “At first we thought that Edmund was the most important character, due to his connection to both sides of Narnia. However, we discovered that Peter in fact had more interactions and scenes than any other character.”

Professor Allison Speicher works with her research institute students.

The English research institute challenged 10 students to select a work of literature and then pair it with other works and sources to craft meaningful arguments. Under the mentorship of English Professor Allison Speicher and student mentor Jessica Maloney ’18, students used their pairings to devise research projects based on intertextual analyses.

English major Julia MacKinnon selected the novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, a story about the struggles of two women living in Afghanistan. She paired it with book reviews, other novels and historical texts.

“I researched people’s stereotypic views of Afghanistan and its refugees by looking at media depictions,” said MacKinnon. “I also researched the history of the country to get a better understanding of the wars and how the fighting affects civilian’s lives. Then I compared the novel to other works by Hosseini in order to understand his purpose for writing about Afghanistan. I also read critical readings about the text in order to learn what others concluded about the novel.”

Reflecting on the institute, Kaylee Blackwood ’20 said, “I realize now how deep the pursuit of research can be. You can take one topic, start simple, and fall so deep into research that you end up with 20-30 pages of knowledge and arguments to use to write an essay.”

A student presents on her project during the conclusion of the research institute.

For the psychology research institute, nine students were introduced to topics in sensation, perception and cognitive neuroscience. Students dissected cow eyeballs, explored taste by blocking perception of sweetness with the herb gymnema sylvestre, and explored visual processing by working with an eye-tracking device. They also learned how to search and review peer-reviewed literature, develop a research question and design an empirical study to answer that question. A poster presentation concluded their institute.

“My favorite part of this experience was learning to collect data from your own experiment and choosing the correct test to run the analysis,” said Genesis Ramon ’20, who researched how social media influences the eating behavior of women. “This has shown me the value of research and the hard work that goes into developing a research project.”

The institute was led by Psychology Professors Luis Cordón and Lyndsey Lanagan-Leitze, as well as student mentor Malvina Pietrzykowski ’18.

The Summer Research Institutes were born of the university’s mission to foster student success and retention through structured research and creative activity. The institutes were a product of Eastern’s Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity Council as well as the University Retention Committee.

To see all of the Summer Research Institute final projects, visit Eastern’s undergraduate research website.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Top U.S. Mental Health Official Speaks at Eastern’s 128th Commencement

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

More 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.

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, 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. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Eastern Student Wins Fulbright Scholarship to Study in Indonesia

Eastern Connecticut State University student Adam Murphy ’18 has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to study Indonesian language in an intensive-language program in Salatiga, Indonesia, this summer. Murphy hails from Meriden and double majors in political science and history with a minor in Asian studies.

The scholarship will fund Murphy’s travel expenses and his educational costs. The program is sponsored by the Consortium of Teaching Indonesian through the Cornell University Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Murphy follows Quanece Williams ’16, who is completing a year in the Czech Republic through the Fulbright program.

Salatiga is a city on the island of Java, the most populated island in the world and one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. Murphy will be in Indonesia from June to August, living with a host family and taking language classes at a local university. “I am honored to have been selected for such an amazing program, honored to have been awarded this prestigious scholarship, and excited to return to Indonesia. With this award I can continue to learn about Indonesia and its wonderful people.”

This is not Murphy’s first trip to Indonesia. Last year he lived for the summer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, studying in an immersive language program with funding through a fellowship from the U.S.-Indonesian Society.

In addition to taking language classes, Murphy taught English for “Stichting Jogja,” which offers free English classes to people living in poverty. He also met with national leaders and scholars, including the Minister of State, the Princess of Yogyakarta, the Speaker of the House and the Deputy U.S. Ambassador.

“I am ecstatic to return to Indonesia to continue my language studies,” said Murphy. I am excited to try new foods, meet new people, live in a different area of the country, and visit friends I met during my past trip there. I am honored to be accepted to this program and awarded the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship.”

“Adam exemplifies Eastern’s emphasis on a practically applied liberal arts education,” said History Professor Bradley Davis, Murphy’s faculty mentor. “While completing a double major in history and political science and a minor in Asian studies, Adam has produced compelling original scholarship on the role of U.S. agricultural development specialists in Indonesia during the Cold War.”

Murphy is also active on Eastern’s campus, currently working as a resident assistant, and previously as a tutor and student ambassador in the Pride Center. He has been involved with the Student Government Association, the International Student Association and as president of the College Democrats.

This coming fall, Murphy will begin a master’s program in Southeast Asia Studies at the University of Wisconsin. He intends to go on to earn a doctorate in political science and foreign policy.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Student is Connecticut’s only 2018 Goldwater Scholar

Eastern Connecticut State University student Jacob Dayton ’18, a biology major from Bolton, has been awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for undergraduates in STEM fields who intend to pursue a Ph.D. and research career. Dayton is Eastern’s first Goldwater recipient and intends to attend graduate school in genomics.

“I am truly honored to be a recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,” said Dayton. “This recognition is a testament to the strength of Eastern’s biology program and the value of the research experiences I have acquired in Dr. Patricia Szczys’ laboratory. Throughout my biology coursework and research at Eastern, I have learned how scholarship and experimental inquiry are engaging and never-ending. The more scientific literature I read, conferences I am able to attend and researchers I meet, the more questions I have. Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship is affirmation that I am on the right track in pursuing a career in research.”

This year 1,280 students from 455 institutions across the country were nominated for a Goldwater scholarship, and 211 were named Goldwater Scholars. Dayton is the only student from a Connecticut institution to receive a Goldwater Scholarship this year. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology, with eventual plans to conduct research in molecular and evolutionary genomics and teach at the university level.

During his time at Eastern, Dayton has conducted research with Biology Professor Patty Szczys to study genetic diversity in roseate terns; collaborated with scientists from France, Poland and the Ukraine on the Whiskered Tern Population Genetic Structure study; published his findings in the peer-reviewed journal “Waterbirds”; and presented at the annual meeting of the International Waterbird Society, the Northeast Region-1 TriBeta Conference and Eastern’s CREATE conference.

In addition to the Goldwater Scholarship, Dayton has received awards ranging from the President’s Award for Research to the Marc Freeman Scholarship to support his summer science research project, and others.

Active on campus, Dayton also served as a research-lab peer mentor, president and secretary of Eastern’s Biology Club, and as a tutor at Windham Middle School.

Dayton was recently accepted into a National Science Foundation-funded research program at the Jackson Laboratory for this coming summer, joining other students from Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Hofstra University, Colorado State University and other institutions.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern’s Burr Hall wins Warrior Cup, Local School gets $4,000

Children from St. Mary-St. Joseph School (SMSJ) help Eastern President Elsa Nunez hold the check for a group photo with Burr Hall residents and other Eastern and SMSJ staff.

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (05/03/2018) 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. Burr Hall was the 2017-18 winner of the cup, but the real winner is St. Mary-St. Joseph School in Willimantic, which received $4,000 from the year’s Warrior Cup activities.

Residence halls earn points in the yearlong competition through the academic achievement of their residents, as well as their participation in campus activities, fundraisers and community service events.

Abby Demars, principal of St. Mary-St. Joseph School :

This year, freshman residence halls placed in the top four, with Burr Hall earning 358 points, Mead Hall earning 353, Crandall Hall with 295 and Burnap Hall with 267 points. This is Burr Hall’s first Warrior Cup victory since the program started in 2008.

All fundraising activities among the residence halls went to this year’s designated recipient, St. Mary-St. Joseph School. Abby Demars, the school’s principal, said the money will support several initiatives, including purchasing laptop computers for students, buying new playground equipment and funding a school trip to Mystic Aquarium.

Speaking to the merits of on-campus living for Eastern students, President Elsa Nunez said: “It’s not just about getting a degree and moving on; it’s the out-of-class experiences and the skills you develop when engaging with the local community.”

LaMar Coleman, director of Housing and Residential Life, spoke to Burr Hall residents: “You’ve made history by getting Burr Hall onto the Warrior Cup trophy. We hope that you will carry the community spirit you’ve developed onward.”

Warrior Cup started in 2008 and has raised $37,628 for a variety of organizations, including the Windham No Freeze Center, Puentes al Futuro, Higher Edge, Windham Area Interfaith Ministry (WAIM), Windham Textile and History Museum and others.

 

‘Town Pride, Town Wide’ Beautifies Greater Windham

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (05/03/2018) More than 100 students from Eastern Connecticut State University dispersed around Willimantic on May 28 for “Town Pride, Town Wide,” Eastern’s annual spring cleaning and beautification project. The students volunteered nearly 500 hours of time as they worked at more than 20 sites in collaboration with community partners.

Among their efforts, students washed windows at local churches, picked up trash along roadways, mulched and cleaned garden beds at town parks, painted and raked leaves at nearby housing developments, and much more.

Project sites included the Airline Trail/East Coast Greenway, the Windham Textile and History Museum, Lauter Park and Willimantic Whitewater Park; Andover Town Hall; local nonprofit organizations Windham Area Interfaith Ministry (WAIM), CLiCK and Grow Windham; and others.

Sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), “Town Pride, Town Wide” is the university’s largest volunteer event of the year. This year it was funded in part by The Last Green Valley, Inc.

“Town Pride, Town Wide” started years ago as a means to give Eastern students the opportunity to work closely with community members and agencies. The event is a collaboration between the CCE, Windham Region Chamber of Commerce, Willimantic Waste Paper Co. and the Town of Windham.

 

Eastern Art Gallery Presents 2018 Senior Exhibition

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/30/2018) The Art and Art History Department at Eastern Connecticut State University will present its 2018 Senior Art Exhibition from May 4-15 in the Art Gallery of the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC). The opening reception will take place on May 4 from 4-6 p.m.

The exhibition will highlight the work of more than 30 graduating seniors who specialize in painting, sculpture, graphic design, printmaking and other art forms. The senior exhibition is the Art Gallery’s final show of the 2017-18 academic year.

The gallery is open on Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday 1-7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. The public is invited and admission is free. For more information, contact the gallery at (860) 465-4659 or (860) 465-4647, or visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery.

Dwight Bachman Honored for Service to Youth

On April 21, the Prince Hall Masonic Foundation of Connecticut and Composite Lodge #22 of Bloomfield’s Willie B. McLendon Scholarship Fund presented the James Ralston/David G. Carter Sr. Youth Education Innovator Award to five individuals for creating, developing educational programs and engaging in activities to support young people. The event took place at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Bloomfield. 

Honorees included the late Dr. David G. Carter (posthumously), retired chancellor of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; Walter Luckett, corporate executive at Unilever Home and Personal Care, North America (HPCNA) and Hall of Fame basketball player who established the Walter Luckett Foundation to develop young people; Clifford Stamm, engineer at Stanadyne, founder of the Connecticut Freemasons Foundation and the Masonchip International Child Identification Program; Rufus Jones, Travelers Insurance vice president and president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Greater Hartford and the BSL Educational Foundation; and Eastern Connecticut State University Public Relations Officer Dwight Bachman, who has written numerous feature stories over the years lifting young African American students, along with organizations in the community that support young people.

bachman award

Mason Mondell Davis presents Dwight Bachman with the Prince Hall Masons  James Ralston-David G. Carter Sr. Youth Education Innovator Award

“If we don’t tell our story, who will,” said Bachman. “I always encourage young people to read to learn the wonderful story of our people. Journalist Carl Rowan once wrote, “Learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.” 

award winners

(left to right) Prince Hall Masonic Hall winners Walter Luckett, Clifford Stamm, Rufus Jones and Dwight Bachman

Eastern to Host Fun Mud Day for Preschoolers

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/27/2018) The preschool children of Eastern Connecticut State University’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) will be participating in the Fun Mud Day on May 7 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Fun Mud Day will take place in the playground area outside the CFDRC and include mud, sprinklers, slippery slopes, leaves, ice and other elements of nature designed to challenge children’s physical abilities. The event will take place rain or shine.

Eastern students majoring in physical education will offer support and motivation to the children throughout the day. The event consists of a challenge course filled with obstacles that children do not usually encounter during a typical physical education class. The event is not a race, but an opportunity to work together as a team, to ensure all participants complete the course and to have fun.

Parents and guardians are invited to attend as well to enjoy the activity with their child. They may participate as spectators and take pictures or choose to participate as a “mud partner” alongside their child. Physical Education majors may also complete the course.

Spectators are welcome and encouraged. Eastern campus community members who are active or retired members of the U.S. military are especially invited, as this event is Eastern’s preschool version of the “Tough Mudder.” Tough Mudder events are held to support the “Wounded Warrior Project,” whose mission is to honor and empower wounded veterans. All visitors should enter through the main entrance of the CFDRC and sign in at the reception desk.

“There is no doubt that the memories made this day will last a lifetime,” said Kinesiology and Physical Education Professor Darren Robert.

For more information, contact Robert at robertd@easternct.edu.

 

Eastern Service Expo Honors Community Servants

Italo Bucca presents on his volunteer work with the Windham High School ESOL program

Written by Michael Rouleau

More than 1,000 Eastern Connecticut State University students volunteered more than 17,000 hours in the Windham area in the past academic year. On April 19, these students—and the projects and community partners they represent—were honored at the annual Service Expo and Awards, sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement.

The expo showcased more than 30 student-led community service projects, followed by an award ceremony and keynote address by Erin Corbett of the Second Chance ex-offender educational program. Projects spanned a variety of causes and organizations, including working with the elderly at a rehabilitation center, mentoring high school students at afterschool programs, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, addiction center, and more.

Italo Bucca ’19, a sociology major, volunteers with the Windham High School ESOL, an English language-learning program that benefits Spanish-speaking youth in Willimantic. ESOL stands for “English for Speakers of Other Languages.”

“Growing up, I was an ESOL student,” he said. “I can speak from my own experience and assure them that it’s possible for them to learn English. I, too, only spoke Spanish, so it gives them hope.”

 

Alyssa Law ’19, a health sciences major, volunteers at the High Chase Residential Care Home, a facility in Willington that cares for people with intellectual disabilities. “They don’t often get to socialize outside of the facility,” said Law, who visits every Tuesday with other Eastern volunteers to play games and interact with residents.

“I want to be an occupational therapist,” she said, “so working at High Chase has given me insight into how to approach people with autism and other disabilities, and shown me what they’re capable of.”

Dillon Wadsworth ’20, a criminology major, volunteered at Vanderman Place Rehabilitation Center, which works with elderly people who are recovering from medical issues. “Twice a week we go there in hopes of getting the people to leave their rooms and join us in our recreation center,” he said. “Even though we come from different times, we find common ground and have meaningful interactions. Some people say it’s the highlight of their week.

“Some people are depressed,” admitted Wadsworth. “They fear this may be the end of their independence, but others have such a positive outlook; they want to make the most of their situation. I find that empowering.”

Adilsa Encarnacao ’18, a social work major, volunteers with the Barrows STEM Academy After School Program, where she tutors kids and engages them in educational activities. Encarnacao is an aspiring social worker who has worked a variety of projects during her years with the CCE.

“At first thought I wanted to work with kids, but then I fell in love with our addiction recovery program,” she said. “Then I volunteered with one of our high school programs, which is a population I never thought I’d work with, but I fell in love with them, too. Then I did a prison program, and now I can see myself working in a prison… I’m comfortable working with so many populations. The CCE has provided me with great experiences for when I become a social worker.”

Keynote speaker Erin Corbett of Second Chance Educational Alliance

A panel of 14 judges representing seven categories—composed of faculty, staff and community members—went from student to student, rating their projects.

“The range of people the students are working with is impressive,” said Patrick Doyle of United Way, a judge for the “Putting Liberal Arts Into Action” category. “They’re covering a lot of ground and completing a lot of good work in so many different places.”

United Way partners with the CCE for some of its Windham-area programs. “This partnership has enabled us to grow our own programming,” said Doyle, “not only quickly but securely. When the CCE helps us recruit and train volunteers, I know that they’ll be top notch and that we can depend on them.”

These community partnerships are the CCE’s specialty, resulting in long-term projects that address root problems and authentically connect students to the greater community. “We’re not simply picking up trash,” said CCE Director Kim Silcox. “These are meaningful, sustainable collaborations with community organizations.”

The ceremony’s keynote address was given by Erin Corbett, founder of Second Chance Educational Alliance (SCEA). Recognizing that education is a pathway to career enhancement, SCEA provides ex-offenders with access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

“There are some brilliant minds in prison,” said Corbett of her students. “My goal is for them to see the freedom that education provides, and that even in jail, your education cannot be taken, cannot be stripped from you. For higher education to be offered to the incarcerated… it means a new beginning, a new chance at life, it means chains being broken,” she continued. “A new mind produces a new day. Some of my students’ entire outlooks change.”

The awards portion of the expo included the judges’ picks for best community programs as well as awards for select individuals.

Outstanding Student Leader Award winners Carly Perron and Sarah Tricarico (middle) beside CCE Director Kim Silcox and Associate Director Kemesha Wilmot
Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award winner Nancy Brennan (right) with CCE Director Kim Silcox
Student Community Engagement Award winner Makayla Mowel
Communication Department colleague John Murphy accepted the Service-Learning Award on behalf of Professor Denise Matthews

 

For the program awards, the Girl’s Circle at Natchaug Elementary won in the Leadership Development category.  Windham High School ESOL won in two categories: Putting Liberal Arts into Action and Broadening Horizons. Windham Recovery Center Jobs 101 won in the Strengthening Communities category. Jumpstart won in the Kids First category. Warrior Food Recovery won in the Going Green category. Boy’s Circle at Natchaug Elementary won in the Best New Program category. Covenant Soup Kitchen won in the Community Choice category. 

For the individual awards, Eastern Communication Professor Denise Matthews won the Service Learning Award. She’s an accomplished documentary filmmaker who has recently increased her involvement with the CCE by working with students to produce videos for a range of local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The Student Community Engagement Award went to Makayla Mowel ’19, an elementary education and women’s and gender studies double major who volunteers with Jumpstart, a program that focuses on early childhood literacy. As a Jumpstart AmeriCorps member and team leader for three years, Mowel has spent more than 1,000 hours working directly with children and supporting other Jumpstart volunteers.

The Faculty/Staff Award went to Nancy Brennan of the Campus Ministry, who manages Eastern’s quarterly Red Cross blood drives.

The Community Partner Award went to Erin Corbett (the keynote speaker) of Second Chance Educational Alliance.

The Outstanding Community Event Award went to Journey House Program of Natchaug Hospital, a residential treatment program for adolescent girls who have been referred from the juvenile justice system. Many have a history of trauma, domestic violence, sex trafficking, mental illness and other serious conditions. Eastern first became involved with Journey House in 2010, and it is consistently among the most popular CCE programs.

Finally, the Outstanding Student Leader Awards went to history and social science major Carly Perron ’18 and social work major Sarah Tricarico ’18. Their volunteer efforts have spanned a number of CCE programs over their Eastern tenures, including The Covenant Soup Kitchen, Sweeney Elementary After School Program, Windham Middle School Enrichment and After School Programs, Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center, and more.