Eastern Athletes Tops in Little East Conference for Third Straight Year

Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Athletic Director Lori Runksmeier; and LEC Commissioner Cora H.L. Brumley

 For the third straight year, Eastern Connecticut State University has claimed the Little East Conference (LEC) Commissioner’s Cup, the league’s top honor for overall athletic performance among the LEC’s nine primary member institutions. The Warriors captured the 2018-19 Commissioner’s Cup after accumulating a point average of 6.26. Eastern’s accomplishment is especially significant as it has only 17 of the 19 varsity sports for which LEC members earn points.

“We are delighted to win the Commissioner’s Cup for the third year in a row for having the best athletic record in the Little East Conference,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Our student-athletes are bringing honor and recognition to the University while achieving great heights on the playing field.

“I am equally proud that our athletes take their studies seriously as they prepare for rewarding professional careers. Our student-athletes apply their teamwork skills, self-discipline and a commitment to excellence in and out of class on campus, and they demonstrate the same standards in athletic competition.

“For Eastern athletes to perform at a consistently high level across varsity sports in the conference is a tribute to them, their coaches and our Athletic Department. I could not be more proud of the Warriors!”

Eastern Connecticut Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier added, “Eastern athletics has a long and proud tradition of success. Winning the LEC Commissioner’s Cup for the third year in a row is a result of the hard work our student-athletes and coaches have put in this year and is a testament to the support that athletics receives from the University. The Little East Conference is a strong league, and knowing we need to push ourselves to be competitive makes us better.”

Eastern claimed the outright regular season title in men’s soccer, and was one of two programs to share the regular season championship in men’s basketball and women’s soccer. The Warriors were second in the conference standings in women’s basketball and women’s cross country, and totaled four third-place finishes – men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, softball, and women’s swimming and diving. Only two of Eastern’s 17 programs placed lower than fourth in the LEC standings in 2018-19.

“Congratulations to the Eastern Connecticut State University administration, coaches and student-athletes on earning three Commissioner’s Cups (the LEC’s highest athletic award) in a row,” said Little East Commissioner Cora H.L. Brumley. “The Warriors exemplify the NCAA Division III philosophy by consistently excelling both on and off the field of play.”

The University of Southern Maine finished second in the 2018-19 Commissioner’s Cup standings, followed by Keene State College, UMass Dartmouth, Plymouth State University, Rhode Island College, UMass Boston, Western Connecticut State University and Castleton University.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Grad Accepts Digital History Fellowship at George Mason University

 Manchester-native Dana Meyer ’19, a recent graduate of the history program at Eastern Connecticut State University, accepted a digital history fellowship at the George Mason University Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). This Ph.D.-track fellowship is given to two students per year and provides full tuition for five years along with a stipend.

The Digital History Fellowship at RRCHNM was established in 1994 and is the oldest digital history center in the country. It creates websites and open-source digital tools that maintain and showcase the past, advance history education and historical understanding, encourage participation in the practice of history and more.

Meyer’s fellowship will focus on the American Revolution, as he works with Christopher Hamner, editor-in-chief of the “Papers of the War Department” – a project that transcribes documents that were destroyed in the U.S. War Office.

Meyer will also further work on his digital research about Connecticut Revolutionary War deserters, which he says was motivated by “the lack of secondary scholarship exploring the Continental soldiers’ psychological response to the Revolutionary War.” He hopes this research will benefit early-American digital scholarship and offer answers to an issue not often explored.

As an incoming Digital History Fellow in George Mason University’s Ph.D. program, Meyer will work alongside professional researchers, developers, programmers and more. “The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University is by far the most reputable Digital Humanities graduate program in the world,” said Meyer. “The Digital History Fellowship will allow me to continue the analysis I have been conducting at Eastern… on a much larger and collaborative platform.”

Speaking to the undergraduate opportunities afforded to him, Meyer said, “Eastern’s digital history lab provided the resources and support necessary to embark on a data-driven historical project centered around a quantifiable thesis that has never been answered before.”

Meyer acknowledges his mentor, Professor Jamel Ostwald, for guiding him throughout his independent study. “Dr. Ostwald has offered his knowledge and support, and without his help I would never have been able to create such a provocative research project.”

He concluded, “Eastern has far exceeded my expectations. The History Department is truly unparalleled.”

Written by Bobbi Brown

Eastern at Small College Rugby Association All-Star Championships

(l to r) Josh Synott, Brad Marston, Nate Tozzi and Kodey Duplissie

Four Eastern Connecticut State University rugby players represented the Northeast on the National Select Side at the National Small College Rugby Association All-Star Championships in Houston May 23-28. Of the hundreds of schools in the Northeast that qualified for this distinction, Eastern rugby was afforded the opportunity of having four of its players selected. The Eastern players participated in five matches over thee days, with the Northeast team they were on placing second.

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Graduates 1,250 Students at XL Center

Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba

Hartford, CT — Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, told the 1,259 graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement to “Allow yourself the faith to ‘dream ahead’ as you embrace the next chapter in your journey.” Noting that college graduates have greater job security, live longer and have greater social mobility, Malerba told the graduates that they had made “a smart decision” in pursuing their educational dreams.

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 21, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,175 undergraduates and 84 graduate students received their diplomas.

Malerba told the graduates “Your education has just begun, as you have ‘birthed’ a career that will only grow and mature over time.” She also reminded graduates to set aside time for the “keepers of your heart” — family and friends who share life’s challenges. “When you meet others on the path of life, offer a kind word, encourage someone, comfort someone, and celebrate someone’s joy.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. 

Malerba was appointed the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe in August 2010, becoming the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. She previously was chair of the tribal council and executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her leadership roles in the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University and her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

In addition to a distinguished career as a registered nurse and her leadership positions with the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba is also a national advocate of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She serves in a number of national roles, including positions with the Federal Indian Health Services; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the National Institutes of Health.

Other speakers at the Commencement exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Merle Harris, vice-chair of the

President Elsa Núñez

Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges 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.

“The most important lesson I hope you have learned at Eastern is the knowledge that our great American democracy is only great because of the involvement and participation of our citizens,” said Núñez. “Being a citizen means debating the issues with your friends and in public forums — wherever you get a chance to voice your opinion. Most importantly, be willing to say no to whatever doesn’t feel right.

“You have learned how to think critically on our campus. You have learned how to ask questions, conduct research and analyze the results.  Do this in your workplace, in your community, and as a citizen of our great country.  I know you can do it . . . and I am counting on you to do so.  We need your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge more than ever.”

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 160 of the state’s 169 towns, with approximately 85 percent of graduates staying in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Michael Theriault (right)

Senior Class President Michael Theriault presented the Senior Class Gift to President Núñez — an annual Class of 2019 scholarship — and thanked his classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. He recalled registering for classes in the early morning hours, “trying to stay silent on the third floor of the library” and Thursday night pancakes. Looking to the future, Theriault said the arena floor was a sea of graduation caps, but “While they may look the same from the outside, the reality is that we all will wear different hats. Some of us will go on to be future educators and make differences in the lives of students. Others will become journalists, historians, psychologists, broadcasters and so much more. No matter what hat you will wear, we will all be Eastern Warriors now and forever.”

In speaking on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, Vice-Chair Merle Harris reminded the audience that “commencement” means “beginning.” She told the graduates they “have gained the skills needed to make wise decisions. . .” and were ready to “make your community, our state, and our nation a better place. I am gratified that I can greet you tonight as you begin the next phase of your life’s journey.”

CSCU President Ojakian also offered remarks. Pointing to the “transformational academic journey you have just completed,” he called the graduates “change agents for the future and the next generation of leaders.” Ojakian went on to say, “Connecticut needs bright, talented individuals to stay here, fill the jobs of the 21st century, purchase homes, and raise their families here in the state. Connecticut needs your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit and your ingenuity. You are the future of Connecticut — and because of that, Connecticut’s future is bright.”

From the colorful Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the piercing 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 reflected Eastern’s longstanding Commencement traditions.

University Senate President Andrew Utterback presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Andrew Hofmann, Tiara Lussier, Austin Stone, Ryan Michaud and Sara Ann Vega sang “America the Beautiful”; senior Shawn Ray Dousis gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Dickson Cunningham was recognized as the 2019 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Written by Ed Osborn

Students Present at State Association of Social Workers Meeting

Left to right, Alex Casertano, Brittany Acevedo-Corona, Travis Walls, Marangely Diaz-Ortiz and Jimarie Morales

Eastern Connecticut State University students in the Social Work program presented their research during the 34th annual conference of the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter, held in Cromwell, CT, on May 3.

This year, Eastern students captured second and fourth place in the student research poster session, competing successfully against entries that included Master of Social Work students from the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University.

The conference is the largest annual state conference for social work practitioners, policy makers, educators and other related professionals, who gather to share their research, knowledge, latest practices, policy ideas and more.

Pamela Chiang, assistant professor of social work, serves as the group’s faculty mentor and led the students in their research presentations. In their year-long, original research projects, students selected topics of interest, created proposals, designed surveys, collected and analyzed data, and presented their findings.   

Student presenters included Alex Casertano and Marena Dees, whose presentation “Followers & Streaks: Does Social Media Use Boost the Self-Esteem in College Students?” won second place; and Britney Acevedo-Corona, whose presentation “The Impact of Emotional Abuse in Dating on College Students’ Self-Esteem” took home fourth place. Jimarie Morales and Marangely Diaz presented “Why Don’t You Call? Barrier to Child Maltreatment Reporting in a Financially-Disadvantaged Town,” and Travis Walls, Logan Cash and Olivia Donnelly presented “Knowledge of Opioid Use and Treatment among Willimantic Residents.”

By Dwight Bachman

Students Honored at Library Research Awards

Winners of the J. Eugene Smith Annual Library Research Awards, left to right, are Jackson DeLaney, Emily Miclon and Cassaundra Epes

On May 15, Library Director Janice Wilson announced the selection of three Eastern Connecticut State University students as winners of the Ninth Annual Undergraduate Student Library Research Award. The prize was established to recognize and celebrate exemplary student research projects that demonstrate the ability to locate, evaluate, select and apply information from appropriate resources. Primary emphasis is placed upon the creative and effective use of library resources, services and collections encompassing print, microform and online databases.

Jackson DeLaney ’21, a political science major from Southbury, won the $350 prize in the freshman/sophomore category for his paper “The Influence of Political News Consumption on Voting Behavior.” Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas provided the faculty statement of support.

Emily Miclon ’19 a music major from Enfield, won the $350 prize in the junior/senior category for her paper titled “La Musique en Plein Air: Debussy’s Open Air Emplacement.” Timothy Cochran, assistant professor of music, provided the faculty statement of support.

Cassaundra Epes ’19, a history major from Baltic, received Honorable Mention in the junior/senior category for her paper on “The Ideal Woman: Sexology, Sex Reform, and Engineering Marriage in Weimar Germany.” Scott Moore, assistant professor of history, provided the faculty statement of support.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez congratulated the winners saying,Today, knowledge on this planet doubles every 12 hours—12 hours!—and within that mass of information exists detailed information on every conceivable topic.  There has never been more information available, yet the task of locating and synthesizing information continues to be a skill unto itself.”  She said academic success and the intellectual growth of student scholars “speak to the scholarship on our campus, the relationship between student scholars and their faculty mentors, and of the importance of having a vibrant library in the 21st century academy.” 

Librarians and teaching faculty comprised the committee that read the research of all the applicants and selected the award winners. “Each year, we are pleased to receive applicants from students showing the product of their extensive research and inspired use of library resources,” said Library Director Janice Wilson. “This year was no exception, as we received an above average number of entries and decided to recognize a deserving paper as Honorable Mention.”

By Dwight Bachman

Lavender Graduation Honors LGBTQ Seniors

The fourth annual Lavender Graduation was held on May 9 to recognize seniors who exemplify the values of Eastern Connecticut State University and support the campus’s LGBTQ+ community. Emma Costa, Shannon Carroll, Rebecca Cyr, Angelique Greenberg, Priscilla Leon, Rebecca Loh, Paige Matheson, Bria Nicole Prentice and Zac Troiano were all recognized. In addition, Cyr received the LGBTQ+ Campus Community Award, while Prentice received the Academic Excellence Award.Julia Golden-Battle, assistant dean of student affairs at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, was the keynote speaker. Golden-Battle was the first queer person of color to create a national Trans and Queer Person of Color safe training program.

Eastern’s Pride Center — expanded in 2016 — continues to provide leadership in advancing awareness sand support of LGBTQ+ issues on campus. In addition to seeing an increase in Pride Center visitors, the center sponsored a range of programs this past year, including participation in National Coming Out Day, International Pronouns Day, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Events specific to Eastern included a World Aids Day lecture, a Transgender Day of Visibility panel discussion attended by CSCU President Mark Ojakian, and Rainbow Connections, an open mike night that takes place three times each semester.

The Lavender Graduation was instituted by Ronni Sanlo in 1995 and is now celebrated by more than 100 colleges and universities across the country.

Another Selection for Prestigious ‘Posters on the Hill’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Alumna Onika Harry Recognized among ‘100 Women of Color’

Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Onika Harry ’03 of Windsor was honored last month at the 100 Women of Color Black Tie Gala and Awards ceremony hosted by June Archer & Eleven28 Entertainment Group – named for musician, author and motivational speaker June Archer. The gala recognized the contributions that women in business, education, entrepreneurship, entertainment and service have made to impact communities in Connecticut to Massachusetts.

Harry, a native of Guyana in South America, is passionate about giving to those in need. She has received several recognitions this year for her efforts, including citations from the Connecticut General Assembly and Connecticut Office of the Treasurer for positively impacting the lives of people in Connecticut. While at Eastern, she had a notable presence, participating in clubs and extracurricular activities, including tutoring.

“When I started at Eastern I didn’t know my purpose,” said Harry. “I was the first in my family to attend college, along with only being in the United States for four years at the time. Eastern led me to my purpose in life. There are many who assisted me through my journey, such as the faculty and administration. Those same individuals assisted in pushing me through adversities that I faced, allowing me to gain leadership principles and teach me how to handle conflict as I continue to grow professionally.”

In addition to working as an eligibility services worker for the Connecticut Department of Social Services in its Division of Eligibility Policy and Economic Security/Escalation Unit, Harry was appointed to serve on the statewide Affirmative Action Employee Advisory Committee. She regularly volunteers for the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford, where she helps low-literacy adults learn how to read, write and speak English.

With all of her achievements, Harry is humbled by her experiences. “I went from sharing my nightly dinner with my brother, which was served on the size of a salad plate, to now owning my own business and serving food abundantly.” Her knowledge about health and human service programs and the importance of perseverance have fostered a flourishing career path that is still evolving. Harry is in the process of obtaining her PhD in psychology from Capella University.

In the future, Harry hopes to become a college professor, author her first book and open a community center that provides resources for troubled youth. “Life is full of ups and downs. Use it as a tool to order your steps to success,” she concluded.

Through June Archer’s nonprofit organization, Concerned Citizens for Humanity, part of the proceeds from the 100 Women of Color Black Tie Gala and Awards event went toward scholarships for young women who graduate from high school and plan on attending college, leadership and mentorship programs. Contributions also promoted healthy living for women and supported groups that need funding for cervical and breast cancer research.

Written by Jordan Corey