Shawn’s Cupboard Combats Food Insecurity at Eastern

Shawn Dousis ’19, the food pantry’s namesake, majors in elementary education and liberal studies and hails from East Lyme

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/25/2019) Research has shown that college students are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity in America, with up to half of them lacking consistent access to food. At Eastern Connecticut State University, a team of collaborators is taking strides toward solving this problem with the launch of Shawn’s Cupboard, a free, on-campus food pantry that welcomes all students.

Over the past two semesters, Geography Professor Patrick Vitale has investigated the prevalence of food insecurity at Eastern through his “Geography of Food” course. His students have developed surveys, conducted interviews and utilized existing research to better understand the issue. Their studies found that 14 percent out of 695 Eastern students have what the United States Department of Agriculture defines as “very low” food security. Of students with very low food security, 32 percent went an entire day without eating in the past year.

Vitale’s students also discovered a direct connection between food insecurity and student performance in and outside the classroom. Food insecurity correlates with negative impacts on grades, graduation rates and participation in campus life.

“Patrick’s class was key in finding the statistics we needed to prove our students suffered with food insecurity and grabbed the university’s attention,” said Shawn Dousis ’19, the pantry’s namesake and president of the Campus Ministry, the organization that jumpstarted the project. Dousis handles social media, organizes volunteers and seeks community donations for the cupboard.

“When I was told two years ago that Eastern had a pantry, I took it upon myself to try and build it up,” Dousis explained, who majors in elementary education and liberal studies. Surprised to learn that such a place existed on campus, she was eager to move the project beyond its developing stages. “Little did I know so many people would become part of the team!”

Other driving forces behind the pantry include Father Larry Lapointe and Nancy Brennan of the Campus Ministry, in addition to Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement.

“Working with the cupboard has enriched my class and is one of the most rewarding parts of my work at Eastern,” said Vitale. While his students get a small amount of extra credit for their volunteer hours, most do it solely because they care about getting involved, and leave with new insights. “In the process of working there they learn a lot about food insecurity at the university and how the cupboard operates,” said Vitale. “This often informs their final projects in the class. For example, several of the volunteers are developing surveys of students who use the cupboard and others are developing promotional materials of various sorts.”

“I’ve managed to schedule more than 20 student volunteers throughout the week, most sitting in for one to two hours at a time,” said Dousis. “They are expected to log their own hours, stock donations, sign off on people who come in for food and organize the fridge and shelves. We are constantly encouraging them to promote the cupboard and making sure they see how important their volunteer time is.”

Dousis is passionate about combatting food insecurity for numerous reasons, such as witnessing friends and family who have suffered from it. The most significant motivator, however, is knowing the severity of the issue and how little has been done about it across the nation. “It’s both frustrating and inspiring to attend workshops and conferences and hear about other food pantries. I want to take all I’ve learned, with what I continue to learn, and implement it here at Eastern. Raising awareness and helping Eastern students every day is extremely rewarding.”

Vitale hopes that Shawn’s Cupboard will transform into a space that will allow students to organize and support one another. “It should be a place where students not only can get food, but also recognize and work to overcome common struggles,” he said. “Right now our shared vision is driven by immediate concerns of making sure students are informed and that we have enough food.”

Donations are encouraged, particularly food that requires minimal preparation, such as granola bars, microwave popcorn, macaroni and cheese, canned soup and peanut butter.

Dousis sees the cupboard eventually being able to house more perishable items, and similarly wants it to be somewhere that people are comfortable using it freely. She noted that partnering with outside organizations and actively promoting programs of this nature will assist in its success. The Swipe It Forward program at Eastern, for instance, grants five free dining hall meals to students per semester. Michelle Delaney, dean of students, can be contacted at delaneymi@easternct.edu for more information.

Shawn’s Cupboard is open at its main location, the Knight House, at the following hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday; 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday; 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

Food donations can me made during the operating hours of Shawn’s Cupboard, or during the hours of these locations: Newman Hall, 290 Prospect Street in Willimantic from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday; the Center for Community Engagement from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday to Friday; Webb Hall Room 325 from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday and 1:45 to 3:45 p.m. on Thursday.

Monetary donations are appreciated as well and can be made out to the Foundation for Campus Ministry with a notation that the funds are for Shawn’s Cupboard. The Cupboard is staffed entirely by volunteers and is available to any member of the Eastern community.

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern’s Music Program to Host 7 April Performances

The Eastern Jazz Ensemble

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/25/2019) The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a variety of performances in April, representing a wide range of genres and style periods. All concerts and recitals will be performed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission is free, although donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

On April 5 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern professors Anthony Cornicello and Rick O’Neal, with drummer Venlo Odom will present a night of standard jazz repertoire in an expressive, adventurous and visceral manner. This recital is presented as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series, which was established to raise scholarship funds for current and incoming Music Program students. All donations received at the door will go directly to supporting these scholarships and awards.

On April 6 at 2:30 p.m., “Sounds of Korea” features traditional and contemporary music and culture from Korea including a Samul percussion ensemble, classical art music and K-pop. Presenters in Korean traditional clothes will provide brief background information for each entry to enhance the audience’s understanding of what they will see and hear on the stage and screen.

On April 11 at 12 p.m., guest ensemble Cuatro Puntos will present a program of Persian classical music for the santoor (a hammered dulcimer-like instrument) and string quartet written by Dr. Reza Vali, as well as a purely classical Persian improvisatory piece on santoor performed by Dr. Dariush Saghafi. Vali is an accomplished composer who is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University; Saghafi is the world’s leading master of the Persian santoor.

On April 14 at 2:30 p.m., there will be a Music Program recital and awards ceremony to honor students for their academic achievements in both performance and musicology. A reception in the lobby will follow the performance.

On April 22 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Concert Chorale, conducted by David Belles, will present “Requiem for the Living” by contemporary composer Dan Forrest. This exciting work features choir, soloists and orchestra, and is guaranteed to delight audience members who attend. In addition, senior music major Ryan Michaud will be featured as guest conductor for another of Forrest’s compositions, “St. Patrick’s Hymn” for choir and piano. The concert is free of charge with a suggested $10 donation at the door.

On April 24 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Concert Band will present a festive spring program of standards and newer music for wind band.

On April 29 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Jazz Ensemble will present an evening of music featuring student soloists. The Eastern Jazz Ensemble is under the direction of Professor Bryce Call. If you miss this concert, the ensemble will also perform alongside Eastern’s Jazz Combo at the Shaboo Stage in Jillson Square on May 11 at 1:00 p.m.

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern Students Participate in Job Shadow Day


Eight students from Eastern Connecticut State University’s PASS program took a trip to Hartford on March 11 for a career shadow day at the United Bank headquarters and Hartford Yard Goats baseball stadium. PASS stands for, “Promoting Academically Successful Students” and is intended for students who are placed on academic probation, especially students of color. This opportunity was provided by The Center for Internship and Career Development (CICD).

Job shadow events give students an inside look at potential career paths. Eight students ranging in majors from business to communication participated in the event. They learned LinkedIn tips, underwent training for proper interview etiquette and learned what United Bank’s Human Resources Department seeks in potential employees.

The PASS program has an emphasis on supporting students of color who face unique challenges in higher education. PASS pays close attention to these students, providing them with the extra support and resources needed to help them earn an Eastern degree.

The CICD’s partnership with PASS supplies students with real-world experiences by pinpointing what their future career goals are and giving them opportunities to gain exposure in those fields. The CICD offers résumé help, proper interviewing skills, volunteering opportunities, and even hosts a career fair every semester for students to explore and start networking for future employment.

At the Yard Goats stadium, students gathered information about the various departments at the facility, including Community Partnerships, Tickets and Hospitality, Operations and Business Development, — showing Eastern students the many options they have once they enter the workforce.

Written by Bobbi Brown

Eastern Professor Speaks at Sports Medicine Symposium

Paul Canavan, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented at the 31st Sports Medicine Symposium in Wisconsin on March 14. Canavan gave three presentations and was also a guest speaker at the symposium.

 Canavan’s first presentation was titled “Preventing Groin Injuries,” and used evidence from research literature as well as Canavan’s own real-life experience with the Northeastern University ice hockey team. Canavan spoke on the importance of providing specific screening and interventions to prevent such injuries in sports.

His second presentation was called “Efficient and Effective Functional Examination and Exercise Prescription for the Lower Extremity” and was directed towards physicians and physical therapists to advocate the use of tests that screen for strength, flexibility and control, as well as provide specific therapeutic exercises.

The final presentation, “Knee Varus and Knee Valgus: Considerations for Therapeutic Exercise Intervention,” examined Canavan’s prior research related to the stresses upon the knee for individuals with knee valgus (knock-kneed) and knee varus (bow-legged). This presentation helped attendees understand various exercises that may help these individuals and potentially slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

The Sports Medicine Symposium was primarily attended by physicians and physical therapists throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Nearly 250 attendees included primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nurses, coaches, athletic directors and others who were interested and involved in the care of athletes of all ages and abilities.

Eastern Art Gallery to Feature ‘A Narrative of Printmaking’

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/21/2019) Eastern Connecticut State University will showcase an exhibit titled “Between Spaces: A Narrative of Printmaking” from March 23-April 25 in the Art Gallery of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. The opening reception will occur on March 28 from 4-6 p.m. A talk featuring all four artists will precede the reception from 3-3:45 p.m. in the Art Gallery.

The collection is curated by Simonette Quamina, an assistant professor of printmaking at Eastern. Four artists are featured in the exhibition, including Taro Takizawa, David Curcio, Carrie Scanga and Cornelia Mcsheehy. The exhibition focuses on the representation or exploration of space through the medium of printmaking. The show will include contemporary prints as well as 3D works constructed of prints, books, installations and other forms of printmaking that take the print off the wall and into the space of the gallery.

Takizawa is a visual artist who recently graduated from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. He focuses on printmaking, vinyl installations, painting, drawing and ceramics.

Curcio has a MFA in printmaking from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. He specializes in printmaking, woodcuts, drawing and embroidery. Curcio’s work often features animals or portraits, taking inspiration from the symmetry of nature and the beauty of the human form.

Scanga is a multidisciplinary artist from the University of Washington who focuses on printmaking and installations. She takes inspiration from personal mythologies, ecology, architecture and design. Scanga teaches at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME.

McSheehy is a professor of printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design and her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in both group and solo exhibitions since 1969. She earned her master’s degree in printmaking from the State University of New York at Albany.

Eastern’s Art Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 1-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery or call (860) 465-4659.

Written by Raven Dillon

New Research Lends Instight into Workplace Homicides

Mitchell Doucette is an assistant professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University as well as an affiliated research scientist with the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Mitchell Doucette, assistant professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University recently published a paper about the changing trends of workplace homicides in the research journal “Injury Epidemiology.” Doucette’s paper is titled “Workplace homicides committed by firearm: recent trends and narrative text analysis” and was published on March 18.

The paper analyzes workplace homicides committed by firearm, focusing on trends from 2011-15, as well as possible motivations and circumstances. The paper addresses research gaps in homicide literature by creating a comprehensive analysis of why workplace homicides are committed.

Doucette’s research discovered that while overall workplace homicides have decreased, the motivations behind the fatalities have changed. In previous years, intentional workplace deaths were largely caused by robberies. Sixty-five percent of workplace deaths in the late 1990s and early 2000s were from robberies.

Now workplace homicides are most often due to events such as an interpersonal argument including work-performance criticism, intimate personal violence and mass shootings. Because of this shift in motivations, Doucette contends that there must be a shift in policy.

“Robbery-related prevention recommendations were fitting several decades ago, when workplace homicides were most often a result of a robbery,” Doucette continued. “As the circumstances of these crimes have shifted towards non-robbery events in recent years, so too must prevention techniques.”

Access to firearms significantly increases the potential of lethality during an argument, and Doucette reasons that restricting workplace access to firearms may be a possible measure to reduce the number of workplace homicides.

“We suspect that the change in workplace-homicide circumstance, moving from robbery to non-robbery motivated crimes, may be in part due to an increase in firearm exposure,” he concluded. “Workers are now more likely than ever to interact with a customer or co-worker carrying a firearm.”

In addition to being a professor at Eastern, Doucette is an affiliated research scientist with the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. He was lead author for this paper and worked alongside Maria T. Bulzacchelli, Shannon Frattaroli and Cassandra K. Crifasi.

“Injury Epidemiology” is dedicated to advancing the scientific foundation for injury prevention and control through publication and dissemination of peer-reviewed research. The publication’s goal is to be the premier venue for communicating epidemiologic studies of unintentional and intentional injuries. The journal has a special focus on studies generating practical knowledge that can be translated into interventions to reduce injury morbidity and mortality on a population level.

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern to Participate in Ellen DeGeneres’ ‘One Million Acts of Good’

Eastern Connecticut State University students will assemble 200 boxes of nonperishable food items on March 26 as participants of “One Million Acts of Good,” a program sponsored by Ellen DeGeneres and Cheerios. From 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Student Center Lobby, students will pack boxes of cereal, granola bars and other nutritious snacks that will be delivered to a Willimantic afterschool program the following day.

Chartwells, Eastern’s food service provider, is partnering with General Mills, which is donating the food items. Eastern is one of 100 Chartwells higher-education clients nationwide participating in One Million Acts of Good. The lunchbox-sized boxes that students will assemble are provided by MATTER, a global nonprofit dedicated to increasing healthy food access to children.

Eastern’s mascot, Willi the Warrior, will cheer on students as they assemble the boxes – 25 of which will go to Eastern’s on-campus food pantry, Shawn’s Cupboard; the rest going to a local afterschool program affiliated with Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Theatre to Present ‘Africa to America’ on March 24

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present two performances of “Africa to America: Perspective, Pride, and Power” on March 24 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

Directed by Eastern Theatre Professor DeRon Williams and written by Wendy Coleman, chairwoman of theatre arts at Alabama State University, the performance chronicles the history, heritage and legacy of African Americans through oration, music and dance.

This rich and powerful experience depicts the struggles, determination and triumphs of African ancestors and descendants who survived the voyage from Africa to America. The audience will see representations of some of the most notable icons of the civil rights movement, including Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Rosa Parks and the first African-American president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama.

The March 24 performance will feature original poetry and choreography by Eastern students. A post-show discussion with Coleman and Williams will follow the 4 p.m. performance.

Tickets are free; however, guests are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance by visiting http://easternct.showare.com/africatoamerica/. Walk-ins will be accepted as tickets remain available.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Theatre Presents ‘The Wolves’ with All-Female Cast

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented “The Wolves” as its first production of the spring 2019 semester. Running from Feb. 27-March 3 in the DelMonte Studio Theatre, “The Wolves” is a coming-of-age story that takes place on the turf of a local indoor soccer field.

The play was performed by an all-female cast, directed by Theatre Professor Kristen Morgan and written by award-winning playwright Sarah DeLappe.

The Wolves are a highly competitive indoor soccer team composed of nine teenage girls. Each scene depicts the girls on the artificial turf warming up before their weekend game. The play spans a variety of themes pertinent to modern society, told candidly from the perspectives of nine passionate young women growing up in America.

“Anyone who identifies as female can tell you that growing up in America can feel like one batter after the other,” said Morgan, pointing out the unique pressures women feel about body image, sexuality and social obedience. “Athletics can mean freedom for girls and women. When you’re on the field, everything else may fall away… there are moments of overwhelming strength, as if you could do anything, like you are free.”

The girls who make up the Wolves are at a turning point in their lives; they’ve grown up playing together and know all about each other’s bodies and personality quirks, but adulthood is beckoning. Into their fragile mix comes a new player, drivers license’s, college scouts, weekend ski trips and other challenges.

As the girls stretch, run drills and kick the soccer ball among each other, their conversations explore abortion, immigration, eating disorders, sexual assault and other difficult topics.

Contrary to most theatrical productions, “The Wolves” features an all-female cast. “This is an important play for today’s world because it shows teenage girls in a different light than how you typically see them,” said Sara Lafrance ’19, who played #25. “They’re not portrayed as boy-crazy, catty or overemotional. They’re portrayed as intelligent, athletic, strong, funny young women. It shows how teenage girls can work through conflict and maintain a strong bond.”

“I think this play gives a semblance of what it means to be a young woman in high school with strengths and weaknesses and fears of the future,” said Onyae Randall ’19, who played #2. “The play can be re-evaluated and reimagined so many times because of the playwright’s use of nuance. It’s the type of story where you learn something new each time you see it. This is the kind of work we all need to expose ourselves to.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Former State Rep. Evelyn Mantilla Speaks on Being ‘Out’ in Politics

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/13/2019) Evelyn Mantilla, a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, visited Eastern Connecticut State University on March 6 to discuss her experience as the first openly bisexual legislator in the nation. Mantilla is committed to advocating for underrepresented groups and encouraging others to become involved in politics.

Before beginning her career as a state representative, Mantilla experienced setbacks that highlighted the importance of perseverance. During her initial run for office, she was thought to have won by five votes, which called for an automatic recount. She actually lost by 16 votes. “Every vote really does count,” she said.

Moreover, Mantilla was especially inspired to campaign again after being dismissed by another politician, a Puerto Rican man who had ties to law enforcement and used the position to his advantage. Born in Puerto Rico herself, Mantilla felt that she had to intervene. “I didn’t like the way he was representing my community, so I decided to challenge him.”

While Mantilla had more than 100 volunteers on her team, they were threatened and harassed by people working for the opponent. Despite their efforts, she lost a second time. “We celebrated because we were proud of what we did,” she stated. However, the man who beat her was convicted of voter fraud, and Mantilla received a third chance. She petitioned to be on the next ballot, and was finally elected in 1997.

“When I ran, I was not open about my sexuality,” she revealed, though she was in a committed relationship with a woman. “I realized that there was a big part of me that I was not bringing to that new table.” At a LGBT pride event in Hartford, Mantilla made a speech in which she not only declared her bisexuality, but also proposed to her partner in front of everybody. “I proposed marriage, in public, in the shadow of the State Capitol.” Feedback was mainly positive.

Nevertheless, Mantilla and her partner soon considered the safety risks that came with such overt vulnerability. With their lives exposed, they were occasionally nervous to leave the house, but found strength in support from those around them. “There were people in our community who we knew weren’t just going to be accepting, but encouraging.”

Still, as Mantilla had suspected, encouragement was not shown by all. When she strived for re-election, one Pentecostal minister ran a homophobic campaign against her, utilizing derogatory terms on posters and general hate speech to sway voters. Mantilla went about her business, running a “normal, door-to-door campaign,” and proved successful in the face of adversaries. She was re-elected with 88 percent of the vote.

During her role as a legislator, she acted as a resident “social worker” in lower socioeconomic areas, attuned to their most pressing needs and vocalizing them. She was able to work on the issue of same-sex marriage, along with contributing to election reform. “I really wanted to level the playing field,” said Mantilla. She stressed the significance of forcing combatants to collaborate with outcast groups “in all of their identities” and emphasized the effectiveness of connecting on a human level.

“I’ve remained involved professionally and as an activist,” she said of her time spent away from the House of Representatives. Her final term expired in 2007. Urging the audience to run for office, Mantilla pointed out that there is not enough minority representation and, consequently, not enough diverse opinions active in government. She promoted getting involved locally in addition to speaking with somebody like herself on how to approach a campaign. “You simply have to have knowledge of your community.”

Mantilla concluded: “Some of the simplest things carry you through in the end.” She cited familial support and focusing on successes rather than failures as means of pushing through to accomplish goals, particularly in politics. “There is nothing more powerful than bringing yourself to a table you have fought for.”

Written by Jordan Corey