Author Malik Champlain Visits Eastern, Speaks on Racial Injustice

Malik Champlain

Malik Champlain

Written by Jordan Corey

Motivational speaker and author Malik Champlain spoke at Eastern Connecticut State University on Sept. 6 during the school’s “University Hour” series. As part of #EasternBlackout Day, Champlain gave a presentation on how to remain proactive in the face of oppression. Attendees were encouraged to dress in all black as tribute to black and African-American people who have died unjustly at the hands of law enforcement.

Before starting, Champlain projected a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that read “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” which set the tone for the following hour. He began his lecture by thanking those who attended the University’s recent rally in support of DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — and introduced himself through poetry.

Students gather for a group photo for "Blackout Day," in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Students gather for a group photo for “Blackout Day,” in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement

The topic of racism has long surrounded discussions of American society, becoming especially prevalent in the past few years. Champlain is one of many who feels a personal responsibility to speak, and more importantly, act out against it. He shared with the audience his own experiences, including marching in Washington, D.C. and co-sponsoring nonprofit organizations such as The Black Man Can Institute.

“Now is going to be in the history books,” he said, urging students to play their own part in joining a movement and emphasizing that sometimes it only takes one person to jumpstart something big.

Champlain provided a list of eight ways to get involved with a social justice movement, including educating oneself on a particular movement and using social media as a platform. Coming full-circle in his speech, Champlain concluded with a rhyme: “When I say Black Lives Matter, I look at you,” he said, “When you hear Black Lives Matter, what will you do?”

Students Study Health Care in Ghana

Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18
Photo courtesy of Helena Delfino '18

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Ten health sciences students from Eastern Connecticut State University returned from a study abroad trip in Ghana this August. The purpose of the two-week trip was to introduce students to the health care system of a developing country.

Trip highlights included two days at Mampong Hospital, a rural facility where the students observed two live births. “Students got to see a cesarean section and hold a five-minute old baby, which is an unparalleled experience,” said trip supervisor Rochelle Gimenez, a health sciences professor at Eastern.

“My goal is to become a labor and delivery nurse,” said Helena Delfino ’18. “We all got the chance to stand in the operating room and watch a cesarean section! A few days later we observed a natural birth; I got to stand next to the table and hold the baby boy immediately after he entered the world. This experience solidified my dream of becoming a labor and delivery nurse.”

The Eastern students also spent time at an orphanage and gained first-hand knowledge of the local infrastructure while touring a water-treatment plant and an environmental health/sanitation center. They also visited local markets, a game reserve, a monkey sanctuary, a cultural center, a rainforest, and learned about the slave trade at Cape Coast Castle.

“After returning home, the impact of my trip has really become apparent,” said Allison Nadeau ’17. “As an American-born citizen, I have never known any other lifestyle. My times of hardship are minuscule in comparison to what Ghanaians may go through daily. Clean water, wash rooms, consistent electricity and drivable roads are things that I have taken for granted in the United States. Ghanaians showed me the simplicity of true happiness.”

Students Write Fiction in Italy

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Fourteen students from Eastern Connecticut State University spent a month this summer in Florence, Italy, in a global field course called “Creative Writing Abroad.” The region of Tuscany’s rich culture and picturesque landscapes inspired students’ literary senses as they wrote, critiqued and edited original works of fiction.

“While my story had an element of fantasy, other students in the class wrote about realistic scenarios,” explained Victoria Randazzo ’18. “One thing everyone’s story shared was a touch of Florence. Whether characters or places, everyone drew from our daily experiences. I was happy to get more in touch with my creative side; the beauty of Florence was an inspiration.”

“I was able to put a lot of detailed description into my story that I wouldn’t have been able to had I not been there firsthand to see how the city looked, how the people interacted, and the feeling of being away for an extended period of time adapting to another culture,” said McKenzie Fayne ’17. “Being in Italy as a creative writing student gave me the tools I needed to step out of my comfort zone in terms of writing style. I enjoyed writing this piece on my own terms and being able to perfect it while in such a beautiful city.”

Led by English Professor Christopher Torockio, the students gathered for writing workshops at SACI—Studio Arts College International (in Florence)—and immersed themselves in Italian culture as they visited the famed cities of Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and Pisa.

2 Students Awarded Eastern Summer Fellowships

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern students Jolene Potter ’18 and Julie Leitao ’18 participated in Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Fellowships this summer. Potter, a psychology major, prepared her research study, “Awareness and Understanding of Rape Culture among College Students,” for publication. Leitao, a theatre and early childhood education double major, worked to devise the script and choreography for the upcoming Eastern theatre production “Thread City.”

Jolene Potter '18

Jolene Potter ’18

Potter began her research in fall 2016, and aspired to submit her 9,000-word manuscript to an undergraduate research journal at the conclusion of the summer fellowship.

“Through in-depth interviews with Eastern students, my research examines how students define, perceive and reproduce notions about rape culture,” said Potter. “The study explores student acceptance of rape myths, their victim-blaming behavior and their tendency to defend the perpetrator. I also assess feelings regarding campus safety, beliefs regarding the necessity and efficacy of campus programs regarding sexual assault, and awareness of services for victims of sexual assault.”

Potter reports that her findings suggest “an association between awareness and understanding of rape culture and decreased rape myth acceptance and victim-blaming behavior, increased concerns pertaining to campus safety, and increased awareness of services offered to victims of sexual assault.”

Julia Leitao '18

Julia Leitao ’18

Leitao worked on the upcoming theatre production “Thread City,” which will be performed at Eastern Oct. 11-15. The show aims to tell the story of the immigrants who came to Willimantic to work in its historic thread mills. During one of Leitao’s spring semester classes, she interviewed local residents, learned about theatre companies and completed “moment work”—a theatrical technique in which individual moments are dissected and explored.

“We delved deeper into the research and used it to create the characters, storyline and movement pieces of the show,” said Leitao. “‘Thread City’ will focus on movement and sound rather than being a text-heavy performance.

“Devising a piece of theatre that tells the story through the body is something I am very excited to be a part of,” added Leitao. “Our characters and movements will represent immigrants from various locations who have traveled to a new, strange world and are adapting to a new life.”

Eastern’s Summer Research/Creative Activity Fellowship program is administered by the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Advisory Council. Students from all majors can apply for the competitive fellowship. Participants receive a $1,000 stipend and $250 for travel.

2 Biology Students Complete NASA CT Summer Fellowships

Written by Michael Rouleau

Two Eastern biology students were among six undergraduate students from universities across Connecticut to receive fellowships from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium this summer. Lauren Atkinson ’17 used the fellowship to assist in her pursuit of discovering new antibiotics. Lillian Hyde ’17 used hers to research a cell found in the central nervous system known as microglia.

Lauren Atkinson and her research mentor Professor Barbara Murdoch

Lauren Atkinson ’17 and her research mentor Professor Barbara Murdoch

Atkinson’s research is titled “Evaluating the Scorpion Microbiome for Diversity and Antibiotic Production.” Alongside her research mentor Biology Professor Barbara Murdoch, Atkinson researched the scorpion abdominal microbiome in pursuit of finding new antibiotics to address the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. A microbiome is the collection of microbes or microorganisms that inhabit an environment — in this case, the abdomen of a scorpion — and antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microbe to resist drugs (like antibiotics) that had previously been useful in treating them.

“The United Nations has declared antimicrobial resistance a fundamental global threat to human life, food production, economic development and security,” said Atkinson. “One step in responding to this threat is to develop new drugs that microbes have not developed resistance to.”

Scorpions are routinely exposed to potentially deadly microbes since many of their prey are vectors for deadly pathogens. “We are testing bacteria naturally found in the abdomens of scorpions for their ability to produce antibiotics,” said Atkinson. “We hypothesize that scorpions have formed symbiotic relationships with bacteria that produce antibiotics that protect the scorpions from these pathogens.”

Lillian Hyde '17

Lillian Hyde ’17

Hyde’s research is titled “Assessment of Microglia Function in Brain and Blood Microenvironments.” She reports: “My experiment focuses on microglia, a cell found in the central nervous system that has been shown to change between an anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory state. These cells are normally grown in fetal bovine serum, however in the body they are isolated in a cerebrospinal fluid-like environment, the fluid that coats the brain and the spinal cord.”

The purpose of the study is to test if the microglia have different states in cerebrospinal fluid (fluid closest to their native environment) compared to fetal bovine serum (their standard culture media).

“A main component of the study is cell culture,” said Hyde, who worked with Biology Professor Kurt Lucin during the fellowship. “I am responsible for maintaining the cell culture and conducting various experiments. My experiment is testing how the cells react to growing in different culture environments and assessing their different states based on their appearance, chemicals that they secrete, and how they respond to foreign substances.”

Relating the experiment to space travel, the NASA CTSGC writes: “By establishing a baseline for microglia function in their native environment, space travel conditions can eventually be tested to assess their effects on the central nervous system.”

NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium is a federally mandated grant, internship and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA Education. There are Space Grant Consortia in all 50 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Eligible full-time undergraduate/graduate students of a consortium university/college may apply for the fellowship program, in which students are expected to work on research related to space/aerospace science or engineering under the guidance of a faculty member or a mentor from industry.

Students Complete NSF Research Experiences Across the Country

Written by Michael Rouleau

Two Eastern Connecticut State University students participated in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) this summer. Mathematics major Haley Knox ’18 and Catherine Falvey ’17, who double majors in mathematics and economics, conducted research at Iowa State University and California State University respectively.

Knox (middle, first row) with her group of five undergraduate students, two graduates students and Steve Butler (back right), professor at Iowa State University

Haley Knox ’18 (middle, first row) with her group of five undergraduate students, two graduates students and Steve Butler (back right), professor at Iowa State University

Knox’s project was titled “Ordered Multiplicity Inverse Eigenvalue Problem for Graphs on Six Vertices.” Alongside a team of undergraduate and graduate researchers, her project was in the field of mathematics known as combinatorial matrix theory, which is a mix of linear algebra and graph theory.

“It was a wonderful experience to live in Ames, IA, for eight weeks!” said Knox. “I enjoyed working in a group, and am grateful to have been able to join a new community in the middle of the country without financial burden. I learned a lot this summer and highly recommend that undergraduates studying mathematics apply for an REU before they graduate.”

Catherine Falvey

Catherine Falvey ’17

Falvey’s project was titled “Probabilities Concerning Sets of Matrices.” At the Channel Islands campus of California State University, her team-based project involved linear algebra, numbertheoryand abstract algebra.

“I am honored to have been able to work under a NSF grant,” said Falvey. “I gained valuable research experience as well as insight into working on a team. It was a change of pace from the typical semester because we focused on answering only one main question, and we worked on it every day. It gave us an idea of the ups and downs that come with doing research.”

 

Eastern a 2017 College of Distinction

COD_Program Badge Business 2017-2018 COD_Program Badge Education 2017-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University was recognized as a 2017-18 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction. New this year, Colleges of Distinction is further recognizing colleges that have distinctive fields of study—first-rate programs with professional accreditations. This year Eastern received badges for programs of distinction in education and business.

“Eastern Connecticut State University is one of the teaching-centered colleges that makes up the fabric of the American educational system,” said Wes Creel, founder of Colleges of Distinction. “It’s a school that delivers well our four overarching distinctions—Engagement, Teaching, Community and Outcomes—the fundamental elements of an effective undergraduate education. It is the mission of Colleges of Distinction to honor and recognize those institutions that are so essential to educating the next generation of young adults.”

To be designated a “college of distinction” a school’s curriculum must emphasize such core competencies as critical thinking, writing, oral skills, research and global perspectives. They must also offer dynamic out-of-classroom learning and study abroad programs.

“The Colleges of Distinction evaluation process goes beyond traditional ranking models that assess colleges based on things like historic prestige, selectivity, athletic prowess and the size of its endowment,” said Creel. “Such ranking systems tend to focus on the perceived ‘top’ schools, despite the fact that the vast majority of students do not attend the small, exclusive selection of ‘big-name’ schools.”

Once a school is deemed qualified to be among Colleges of Distinction, an in-depth profile of the school is published on their website and in their guidebook, which is then made available to high school students nationwide.

An Exciting Year for Singers: Groban, ‘Game of Thrones,’ Montreal

Chamber-Singers-with-Groban-at-Mohegan-Sun

Written by Michael Rouleau

Student vocalists had an exciting 2015-16 academic year, singing in several high-profile productions including performances with Josh Groban and the “Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience,” as well as a three-show tour in upstate New York and Montreal.

The Chamber Singers, Eastern’s premier vocal ensemble, left such a positive impression when they performed with singer/songwriter Josh Groban in fall 2015 that they were asked to perform with him again at the Mohegan Sun Arena on July 29, 2016. The ensemble joined Groban on stage for “Dust and Ashes” and “You Raise me Up.”

“It’s particularly gratifying when professionals recognize Eastern’s exceptional work,” said David Belles music professor and conductor at Eastern. “Having an artist of international acclaim ask us to perform is an honor. The university should be proud of these students.”

Rehearsal for "Game of Thrones" concert

Rehearsal for “Game of Thrones” concert

On Feb. 25, 19 students sang in the “Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience” at Mohegan Sun Arena. Led by renowned composer Ramin Djawadi, students performed in an epic three-hour concert alongside professional musicans before a sold-out crowd. The best compositions from “Game of Thrones” were brought to life with footage from famous scenes and special effects, capturing the grand scale of a series that has been hailed as one of the best television programs of all time.

“It was truly an honor and a privilege to work with and be conducted by Ramin Djawadi,” said music major Hannah Bythrow ’17. “The only word that can truly describe this experience is ‘immersive.’ Being able to even be one piece in this huge puzzle was inspiring and amazing.”

The Chamber Singers embarked on its annual spring tour this past March, performing twice in upstate New York and once in Montreal. In its tour, titled “Poetry and Praise,” the ensemble presented music that spans 400 years of history from both secular and sacred traditions.

“Poetry and Praise” was divided into two halves; the first featuring music dealing with topics of nature, the second examining various texts about devotion and praise from a sacred perspective. “Equally expressive, both halves of the program enlightened, informed and entertained audience members,” concluded Belles.

Honors Students Study Environmental Conflict in Costa Rica

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of honors students from Eastern Connecticut State University spent 10 days in Costa Rica in May 2017 for a field course that examined the country’s rich biodiversity and developing agricultural industry.

“This course required students to examine the conflict between preservation of the tropical rainforest and Costa Rica’s economic shift to export-focused agriculture,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and trip supervisor.

“Our trips to plantations as well as conservation centers and the tropical rainforest allowed us to see how the Costa Rican citizens feel about the conflict, what they’re doing to fix it, and put our research into perspective,” said Michelle D’Agata ’18, a sport and leisure management major. “Overall, I found that the citizens, scientists and plantation owners have positive attitudes and genuine concerns for the environment, and plantation owners use a number of tactics to minimize their negative impacts.”

The trip to Costa Rica was the field component of a course taken on the Eastern campus during the academic year. The students toured the tropical rainforest as well as plantations that grow pineapples, bananas, peppercorn and coffee. They even participated in a community service project where they planted 100 trees at a peppercorn farm as part of a reforestation effort.

“Costa Rica was certainly a great conclusion to my undergraduate career!” said Kayla Giordano ’17, a political science and economics double major. “I think the most eye-opening part of the trip was experiencing how our food is grown and how different agriculture is in Costa Rica compared to the United States. I’m glad I spent the semester learning about the biodiversity in Costa Rica before actually traveling to the country. It was awesome to be able to identify species we’d discussed in class during excursions into the rainforest.”

Students Study Tropical Biology in Bahamas

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Twenty biology students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to the Bahamas in May 2017 to study the island’s tropical biology.

At the Gerace Research Center, students experienced life at an active field station where they explored mangrove forests, sea grass beds, saline lakes and coral reefs. The group snorkeled at field sites around the island and identified species and compared notes on the animals and behaviors they observed. They also conducted quantitative surveys of rocky intertidal and dune communities.

The trip to the Bahamas was the field component of a class taken on the Eastern campus during the academic year, in which students studied island formation and the ecology of island ecosystems. The class was led by Biology Professors Joshua Idjadi, Kristen Epp and Brett Mattingly.

In their free time, students enjoyed interacting with other school groups and local residents at the research center and surrounding community. Students described the field course as their best experience at Eastern.