Runksmeier named NADIIIAA Vice President

Written by Mckenzie Maneggia ’20 / Sports Information Office

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier was recently named vice president of the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA). She was nominated for this position by her colleagues.

Runksmeier has been a member of the NADIIIAA organization for many years. “I believe the creation of NADIIIAA was very important. I believe in it because it addresses the specific challenges of DIII athletics,” said Runksmeier, who has spent the last three years of her 30-year career in athletic administration in her current position at Eastern. Runksmeier came to Eastern in the summer of 2015 after 16 years as Director of Athletics at Division III New England College.

Runksmeier will serve a two-year term as vice president for NADIIIAA before advancing to the position as association president. She is excited to have started this position.“Having this opportunity serve NADIIIAA is an honor. I look forward to working with NADIIIAA’s leadership to further support DIII athletic administrators,” she says.

In addition to Runksmeier’s appointment, Keri Alexander Luchowski was elected NADIIIAA president and Kiki Jacobs secretary and named as at-large executive committee members were Shana Levine, Michael Lynch, Pam Samuelson, Mike Snyder and Portia Hoeg. Luchowski is currently executive director of the North Coast Athletic Conference and Jacobs director of athletics at Roger Williams University.

As she sees it, Runksmeier will focus upon planning education sessions specifically catered to Division III athletics. The vice president position includes programming panels at the NCAA convention and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) convention, which are held once a year. “Our relationship with NACDA has already proven beneficial, and I expect we will continue to strengthen those ties. I look forward to serving.”

One goal that Runksmeier hopes to achieve while she is serving is to increase membership in this organization. There are currently over 700 athletic administrators that are part of NADIIIAA and she strives to increase this number so more Division III voices can be heard nationwide.

In three years under Runksmeier, ten intercollegiate programs at Eastern have combined to win 17 Little East Conference regular-season and playoff titles or one-day championship events. Twice, Eastern has won the Commissioner’s Cup for conference athletic supremacy and twice has earned the Presidents’ Trophy for academic supremacy.  Runksmeier has also spearheaded recent fund-raising drives to name the softball field in memory of softball founder Clyde Washburne and the turf field in honor of lacrosse founder Rick McCarthy.

This past summer, two facilities are undergoing upgrades. Field Turf is being installed at the soccer, field hockey and lacrosse field  at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex – replacing the original material – and a new surface has been installed on the swimming pool deck and walls. 

NADIIIAA athletic administrators are from over 350 institutions and conferences competing at the NCAA Division III level. The association encourages the continued development of athletic programs focused on the student-athlete and based on sound educational principles and the Division III philosophy. NADIIIAA is administered by NACDA, which is in its 53rd year.

Eastern Student Awarded American Society of Plant Biologists Fellowship

Roshani Budhathoki ’19 and her mentor, Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan.

By Anne Pappalardo

Eastern Connecticut State University student Roshani Budhathoki ’19 was recently awarded a summer undergraduate research fellowship from the American Society of Plant Biologists.

The ASPB Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows program funds promising undergraduate students so they can conduct research in plant biology over 10 weeks during the early part of their college careers. The scholarship includes a generous stipend, funds for research supplies and a travel grant to attend the 2019 Biology Research Conference in San Jose, CA, as well as a two-year ASPB membership.

The scholarship is a nationally competitive award. Budhathoki is one of only three awardees selected from the “Primarily Undergraduate Institution” category. She is also a recipient of Eastern’s Department of Biology’s Marc Freeman Summer Research Scholarship. Budhathoki has given oral presentations of her research work at several professional conferences, including the American Society of Plant Biologists-Northeast Section Meeting and the Eastern Colleges Science Conference. She received best oral presentation awards at both conferences, and also presented at Eastern’s on-campus research conference in the spring.

“When Roshani approached me in Fall 2017 to do independent research in my lab, I accepted her without hesitation because she was one of the best students in my genetics course. Roshani is passionate about plants and her long-term goal is to get a Ph.D. in plant breeding and genomics,” said Budhathoki’s faculty mentor, Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan.

“I am looking forward to working on this project this summer and will hopefully present my findings at the 2019 annual ASPB meeting,” said Budhathoki. “This fellowship will help me continue my proposed research – it’s a wonderful opportunity to gain research experience and hands-on training while I am preparing to apply for graduate schools.”

“I am thankful to Eastern’s Biology Department for supporting undergraduate research. I found out about this fellowship from Professor Veerappan. Professor Ross Koning also assisted me in the application process and wrote a recommendation letter. Another great thing about the fellowship is that it welcomes international students like me.”


Eastern Grads Accepted into Doctor of Occupational Therapy Degree Programs

Kelsey Sullivan ’18 and Kaley Kennedy ‘18

 By Anne Pappalardo

Two recent Eastern Connecticut State University graduates, Kaley Kennedy ’18 of Enfield and Kelsey Sullivan ’18 of Wethersfield, were recently accepted into occupational therapy doctoral programs. Both Kennedy and Sullivan were Health Sciences majors.

The Health Sciences major prepares students to become health specialists through coursework and experiential learning such as internships, independent study and faculty-directed research.

To my knowledge, these are the first Eastern students to be accepted into a doctor of occupational therapy degree program,” said Health Sciences Professor Amy Bataille. The Health Sciences major includes three concentrations – public health, pre-nursing and pre-physical therapy. Kennedy and Sullivan are members of the first Health Sciences graduating class since the program was created in 2014. Kennedy’s concentration was pre-nursing, while Sullivan’s was public health.

Kennedy and Sullivan are also friends, having met early in their college experience through mutual acquaintances. Both were members of Phi Theta Delta, Eastern’s Health Sciences honor society. Sullivan was also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national honor society for leadership. Sullivan started at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions in Boston in June, while Kennedy will be initiating her studies this fall at Western New England University in Springfield, MA. 

When it came to Eastern as an undergraduate option, the choice was clear for both. “Eastern stood out for me and made the decision easy,” said Kennedy. “It offered much smaller class sizes compared to other schools, so I knew that would ensure a more direct learning style and increased student participation.” She was also attracted by the opportunity to play on the women’s soccer team and played on the team until her junior year.

Sullivan chose Eastern for a similar reason. “I wanted to go to Eastern because it offered small class sizes and good professor-to-student ratios. Because of this, I knew Eastern would give me the opportunity to build relationships with my professors. I also wanted to come to Eastern because of their well-known and exceptional education program.”

Sullivan originally started her academic career as a double major in Math and Secondary Education as she comes from a family of teachers. “However, after some soul-searching, I decided that I really had a passion for the medical field and helping people,” said Sullivan. ‘Through my research, occupational therapy popped up as a career option. I decided to pursue a Health Sciences degree and become an occupational therapist.” Sullivan also worked in Eastern’s Office of AccessAbility as well as a chiropractic office in her hometown. Both helped her gain insight into health-related fields.

As part of her Public Health concentration, Sullivan was required to complete an internship. She chose to complete the requirement by participating in a Global Field Course to Ghana led by Health Sciences Professors Yaw Nsiah and Rochelle Gimenez. Sullivan was moved and deeply impacted by her work in Ghana. “The trip has become a part of me,” said Sullivan. “It molded me, shaped me and inspired me to be the best version of myself, as well as inspire others to do the same.” 

Kennedy works in the special education department in the East Windsor public school system, where she observed an occupational therapist in both in- and out-patient settings, helping familiarize her with the field. She also works at Strong Foundations in Vernon to assist children diagnosed with autism, Asperger Syndrome, social communication disorder and other related disabilities, as well as language and cognitive delays. She attributes her experiences at both places as a major influence in her interest in occupational therapy.

Both students credit their parents as being major influences in their success. “My parents have always told me to reach for the stars and strive to do my best, but to also have fun while doing it,” Kennedy said. “They never stood in the way of my dreams, but rather pushed me even closer to fulfilling my goal.”

“My mom and dad have been a continual pillar of support since I was born a premature baby,” said Sullivan. “Without their dedication to support me in any way needed I would not be the woman I am today.”

“My favorite thing about occupational therapy is the fact that I get to provide help to people,” said Kennedy. “As an occupational therapist, I can help patients with rehabilitation or everyday life skills. My favorite thing about the Health Sciences major at Eastern is how it prepares students to further their education.”

“My favorite thing about occupational therapy is not only the opportunity to help change someone’s life by helping them adapt to the world around them, but the opportunity for them to change my life as well,” said Sullivan. “This career, like the major at Eastern, is constantly adapting to best serve its clients, professionals, staff and students.”  

After receiving her doctorate, Kennedy plans on gaining experience in the field and working in a public school system. Sullivan is interested in either inpatient or outpatient hospital-based pediatric occupational therapy, eventually becoming a certified neonatal therapist.

“We are very proud of our students and the fact that they are admitted into these strong, reputable programs,” said Bataille. “It is especially gratifying to see that our Health Sciences program is succeeding in giving students these opportunities and contributing to their tremendous success.  We look forward to hearing more about their exciting careers in the future.”

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

WILLIMANTIC, CT (06/18/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized as a 2018-19 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction.

The organization praised Eastern for its student-centered approaches and high-impact educational practices. High-impact practices of note include Eastern’s community-based learning programs, intensive writing courses, living-learning communities for residents, undergraduate research, internships and other hands-on learning experiences.

“We are absolutely thrilled to recognize Eastern Connecticut State University as a College of Distinction for its effective dedication to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, CEO for Colleges of Distinction. “Colleges of Distinction is so impressed with Eastern’s curriculum, which is enriched with the kind of high-impact educational practices that are most crucial for student development. Such innovative engagement is preparing the next generation of young adults to thrive after college.”

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction is far more than a ranking list of colleges and universities,” said Schritter. “We seek out the schools that are wholly focused on the student experience, constantly working to produce graduates who are prepared for a rapidly changing global society. Again recognized as a College of Distinction, Eastern Connecticut State University stands out in the way it strives to help its students to learn, grow and succeed.”

Psychology Professor Carlos Escoto Elected to CUR Executive Board

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (05/29/2018) Carlos Escoto, professor and department chair of psychology, and coordinator for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been elected to the executive board of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). A member of CUR’s Psychology Division, Escoto will begin his three-year term on July 1, 2018.

Escoto received his associate’s degree from Irvine Valley College, his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chapman University, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in psychology from Loma Linda University. He credits his ability to conduct research while enrolled at a private liberal arts college as instrumental to his acceptance into a doctoral program.

As a faculty member at Eastern, he has mentored many undergraduates to complete and present their research. In leading the University’s undergraduate research programs the past four years, he has successfully grown research support in a challenging fiscal climate. A CUR councilor, he serves as chair of the organization’s internationalization task force.

“I am honored to serve CUR as a member of the Executive Board,” said Escoto. “I am committed to contributing to CUR in this new capacity and to bringing my experience with undergraduate research across several domains to this work.”

Written by Ed Osborn

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’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

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