The Eastern Chamber Singers Tour Post-Hurricane Puerto Rico

The Chamber Singers pose for a group photo in San Juan

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of talented vocalists from Eastern Connecticut State University embarked on a unique tour of post-hurricane Puerto Rico this spring break. From March 9–15, members of the Chamber Singers performed in concerts and worked on service projects in the slowly recovering island.

In addition to three performances in San Juan, the group volunteered in the hurricane-battered neighborhood of La Perla, just beyond the walls of Old San Juan. Divided into three work crews, they cleared away debris from the residential section of the neighborhood while others repaired roofs and restored gardens.

Eastern students repairing roofs
Eastern students sorting through rubble in La Perla

 

“We witnessed the devastation firsthand while sorting through the rubble in La Perla,” said Jenny Lindquist ’20 of Tolland, who sings alto. “Piece after piece, we picked up the left-behind memories and belongings of families.”

Hannah Bythrow ’18 of Bolton, alto, remembers seeing new electricity poles being installed along the roads—flown in by helicopters—a stark reminder that many people are still living without power. “Exploring outside the city was eye opening,” she said. “I realized how long it might take for the island to return to its former glory. It made me realize the privileges we take for granted on the mainland.”

On a lighter note, during a roofing project, Bythrow recalled, “I remember us hammering nails in the heat of the day, singing at the top of our lungs and thinking to myself, ‘This is happiness.’”

The Chamber Singers performed for enthusiastic crowds at Stella Maris Parish and Escuela Libre de Música (Music School in San Juan).

“The high school-ers were shouting and dancing in their seats the entire time, itching to get up and sing with us,” said Halie Poirier ’18 of Putnam, soprano. “I’ll never forget those amazing kids.”

The Chamber Singers perform at Escuela Libre de Musica

David Belles, conductor of the ensemble, said of the demands of the tour: “Seeing our students have to kick it up a notch and adjust immediately to a new environment, new audiences, new spaces—having music be the only language many of us had in common—was a moment when all the work preparing for this endeavor really paid off.”

“Much like the colorful buildings and landscapes of the island,” added Bythrow, “our audiences’ faces lit up when they heard us and it was clear that they were truly thankful be a part of our singing.”

For Poirier, a graduating senior, this was her final tour with the Chamber Singers. “Puerto Rico was the perfect ending to a magnificent run with these truly awesome and talented people. I have laughed and cried with them while singing many wrong notes but still making beautiful music. I’ve toured with them for three years and no matter where we go, we always have a fantastic time.”

The Chamber Singers is Eastern’s premier vocal ensemble, composed of 20-25 auditioned singers from various academic departments. Performance repertoire encompasses chamber music from more than four centuries. The annual spring tour serves to enrich the musical lives of audiences near and far, and enhance the cultural experience of members of the ensemble while studying at Eastern.

The Artists of ‘Mom and Dad’ Explain their Work

Kalen Na’il Roach stands before one of his pieces in the Art Gallery.

Written by Casey Collins

The Art Gallery at Eastern Connecticut State University is exhibiting “Mom & Dad” from March 8 to April 19. The exhibit features a collection of long-term photographic projects from artists Nelson Chan, Kalen Na’il Roach and Mariela Sancari. On March 22, Chan and Roach held an artist talk at the opening reception to discuss the motivations behind their snapshots.

Nelson Chan addresses the crowd at the exhibition’s opening reception.

For Chan, a picture is priceless. The thought and precision needed to capture exactly what he wants within the 8×10 frame exceeds any sort of limits he could imagine. Yet he assigns very specific values to each photo that stem from a reason, a memory, a longing or desire to understand the true meaning of family.

For decades, Chan’s parents lived apart from each other. While his mother resided in New Jersey, his father often spent his time running the family toy business in Hong Kong. Their relationship was one of cold and silence, yet some equal level of understanding. For Chan, it was especially difficult to understand this at such a young age, all the while splitting time between the two homes.

To better understand his parents’ relationship, Chan undertook “Mom & Dad,” a photographical exploration of his parent’s relationship. Now 13 years into the project, Chan explained what it has taken for him to reach this point in the work where he is ready to share the shots.

“They were embracing in their office, and I thought it was a very tender moment between the two of them,” he recalls. “I remember saying to myself that I would give the shot to my mother as a gift. When she came back to New Jersey I gave it to her and she was not happy about it at all. This photograph that I describe as my parents embracing each other was actually my mother embracing my father, and my father, who was very distant, looking out into the distance. When she opened it, she whispered something to herself, and I heard it. She said, ‘He doesn’t love me anymore.'”

Chan described the moment as earth-shattering to him. At the time he was simply a college student trying to figure out what it meant to be a photographer. For a truth like this to come from a gift of good intentions was mind-blowing to him, and helped him discover the unintentional power that photographs can truly contain.

An arrangement of photographs by Nelson Chan.

“In that moment I realized pictures can mean so many different things to so many different people,” said Chan. “I decided I would begin this project of photographing my family after college. Not just to better understand my family, but to better understand myself.”

While Chan takes a more traditional approach to presenting his work, Kalen Na’il Roach has mastered the unorthodox. His art hangs from the gallery walls in the form of vibrant cloth banners. Images of men from decades past center the streamers, a collage of different backgrounds and colors laid out behind them. It is as dazzling as it is confusing to the eye. The men are Roach’s family members, a theme central to his art.

Art had been an integral part of Roach’s family lineage dating back generations. His father was a photographer and his grandfather was a painter and jazz musician. Before he became a photographer Roach was a talented painter himself, but, “It was my father who put the camera in my hands first.” His father passed away in October 2017.

Roach’s fascination with his family’s work stems from a vast collection of photographs left behind by his father and grandfather. “I had found these images that my father took at parties. He would take these portraits of people and sell them for $5 a pop,” said Roach. “One day I found these images that he hadn’t sold, and they were all pictures of my family, I was shocked at the performance of it all and how much photography can be performance; how it relates to portraiture; and how it related to my experience with my family members. In the pictures they were putting on their best selves, but I knew so much more.”

The more he mined this archive of photos, the deeper his understanding grew, but it was never enough. While Roach’s ultimate goal of his art is to honor the legacies his father and grandfather, he also yearned to fully comprehend the relationships of his family especially that of his mother and father. While the two were close, they were not together- separating when Roach was three years old. Despite all the photos of his family he had unearthed, one of the hardest things for Roach was that he did not have a photograph of him and his parents. It was only a short time ago that he set out on one of his most ambitious projects yet- to take that coveted photograph.

A photograph by Mariela Sancari.

“I tricked them into doing a shoot together,” explained Roach. “I told them to wear black and meet me at my mom’s basement, and that it was an emergency and that I needed them both. I knew there was no other way to do it. I needed to create this image of them together because we didn’t have it.”

Roach describes how he used this photo for his first-ever solo show, the deeper motivations behind the shot, and what it took to capture this elusive moment. “I was playing with the idea of what our family really was and what our family looks like,” said Roach. “I thought it was going to be like pulling teeth, but once we got together they were all-in. We had a great time, but I forced them to be stoic. I told them what to be, how to look and how to act. I was so controlling with it because I wanted it to be as made up of a picture as possible, so when you looked at the awkwardness of it you could see the tension. It was an acronym of what two people who have a kid together and aren’t together anymore- but love each other- is.”

Although she was not able to attend the opening reception, Sancari did leave a message explaining the meaning behind her portion of the gallery. Her photography explores how memory shapes identity, and how it shades into fiction. In her photographic series “Moisés,” Sancari confronts the lingering uncertainties surrounding her father’s life and death by photographing men in their 70s- the age her father would be today had he not committed suicide when she was a child.

The Art Gallery is located in Room 112 of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus. Gallery hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 11 to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 1-7 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. Parking is available in the Cervantes parking garage and in the Student Center parking lot. For more information regarding this and other exhibitions at The Art Gallery, please call (860) 465-4659 or visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery.

Eastern Celebrates NCAA Division III Week

Written by Megan Silver-Droesch

Eastern Connecticut State University is celebrating Division III Week from April 2-8. The week is held each year in Division III schools across the country to build greater awareness of Division III athletics.

“Division III Week is a great way to celebrate the positive impact that collegiate sports have on Division III athletes,” said Athletic Director Lori Runksmeier. “Eastern student-athletes are committed to their sports and still find time to achieve academically, build lifelong friendships and contribute to their community. That is really what sport is all about.”

Division III Week opens on April 2 with Warriors@Work, an opportunity for Eastern student-athletes to visit with alumni who played varsity sports while at Eastern. Warriors@Work will be held in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Room in the library at 6 p.m. and will be moderated by Eastern Head Soccer Coach Greg DeVito.

Although the program is open to all Eastern student-athletes, Warriors@Work is intended for current juniors and seniors to participate in a panel discussion with recent graduates. This year’s panelists are Chris Robitaille ’13, men’s basketball; Sarah Froehlich ’16, swimming; Julia DePoi ‘’17, women’s basketball; and Alejandro Tobon ’17, men’s soccer.

Michael Stenko, director of alumni affairs, encourages current student-athletes to engage with this unique opportunity. “Listening to the stories of the alumni panelists and understanding the skills that you have developed as a student-athlete will help you be better prepared when it’s your turn to start your own career after you graduate. There’s so much competition out there for jobs; our students need every advantage they can get.”

Runksmeier encourages the campus community to support Eastern athletes by attending home athletic events scheduled during Division III Week. On April 3, the softball team hosts in-state rival Wesleyan University at 3:30 p.m. The baseball team will follow with their own home game on April 4 against Bridgewater State University at 4 p.m.  On April 6, student-athletes are encouraged to join Athletic Department staff and coaches for coffee in the Athletic Department Conference Room from 9-11 a.m.

Division III Week concludes on April 8 with the annual Student-Athlete Awards Ceremony, which takes place at 7 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room.  This is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of student-athletes as they balance academics, athletics and community engagement. Juniors and seniors with cumulative GPAs above 3.15 will receive the Scholar-Athlete Award. Those who have earned a GPA above 3.5 will receive the Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award and be inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma Honors Fraternity. Seniors who will graduate during the 2017-18 academic year will be presented with a plaque commemorating their time as Eastern athletes. Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) Charles Chatterton will also present the FAR award to the team that best represents the Division III mission by demonstrating academic achievement and community engagement.

In addition to academic awards, several athletic awards will be presented at the Student-Athlete Award Ceremony.  The Morell Service Award recognizes a student worker who demonstrates outstanding service to the Athletic Department while maintaining good academic standing. The Bonnie Edmondson Female Sports Person of the Year and the Francis Geissler Male Sports Person of the Year are awarded based on “athletic excellence, dedication, community service, loyalty, enthusiasm, integrity, spirit and devotion to the team.”

Leadership Luncheon Recognizes Outstanding Donors and Alumni

The award winners of the 2018 Leadership Luncheon pose for a group photo. Front row: Elaine Ossen, Patricia McGrath (Geraldine Spillane’s daughter), Geraldine Spillane, Eastern President Elsa Núñez, Jack Spillane, Sean Spillane, Ken DeLisa, Vice President. Back row: Lorraine Scanlon (Mike’s wife), Mike Scanlon, and Debra Spillane

Written by Ed Osborn

A spirit of celebration and good will was in the air when Eastern Connecticut State University held its annual President’s Leadership Awards Luncheon on March 16 to honor the University’s leadership level supporters. The luncheon is Eastern’s premier donor appreciation event of the year and also recognizes the University’s most distinguished Eastern alumni. An appreciative crowd of Eastern supporters enjoyed this year’s event in the Fine Arts Center’s Susan Sukman McCray Foyer, named after a major donor to the University’s Theatre Program.

Ken DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement, opened the luncheon by speaking to the University’s fundraising achievements of the past year. Total giving to the ECSU Foundation, Inc., exceeded $2 million for the sixth straight year, with student scholarship awards totaling $2.1 million over the past four years.  Projected scholarship awards in fiscal year 2019 will approach a record $700,000.

In recognizing the awardees as well as the many donors present, DeLisa said, “Because of your professional achievements, personal philanthropy and unwavering commitment to Eastern, you inspire our passion for higher education. You serve as role models for our students and you create opportunities for them to succeed.”

In her remarks, Eastern President Elsa Núñez told the audience that their generosity was contributing to Eastern’s improved reputation, indicating that the University had entered the ranks of the top 25 universities in the North Region for the first time in last fall’s U.S. News and World Report “Best Colleges” rankings. Eastern was also the only public institution in New England named a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and was named a Green College by The Princeton Review for the eighth year in a row. 

Núñez also noted the growing philanthropy of Eastern supporters. “Since I arrived here 12 years ago, we have added 52 new endowed scholarships totaling $6.7 million; we have doubled the number of donors making annual gifts of $1,000 or more; and the percentage of alumni making gifts has grown from three percent to nine percent, the highest giving percentage among Connecticut’s four state universities, and higher than private institutions such as the University of Hartford, Sacred Heart University and Quinnipiac University.”  

In applauding the generosity of leadership donors, Núñez said, “Your contributions to student scholarships make a world of difference in the lives of the individual students who benefit from your generosity.  Over time, endowed scholarships at Eastern will benefit not only the thousands of students you are helping to fulfill their personal dreams, but will also have a great impact on Connecticut and our great American Democracy. As John F. Kennedy said in 1961, ‘Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream, which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.’”

Following the luncheon service, Núñez was joined by Justin Murphy Esq., president of the ECSU Foundation, Inc., Board of Directors, to announce this year’s awards.

Elinore McCance-Katz ’78 was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award.  A graduate of Eastern’s Biology program, McCance-Katz has been a national leader in mental health and addiction policy for decades, and recently was appointed as the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. She is the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

In addition to her Eastern degree, she holds a Ph.D. from Yale University and an M.D. from the University of Connecticut.  Prior to her federal appointment, McCance-Katz held senior medical officer positions in Rhode Island, Virginia and California, and has taught at Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, the University of Texas and other universities.

Michael Scanlon ’75 (right) received the Distinguished Service Award. Justin Murphy, president of the ECSU Foundation Board of Directors, and Eastern President Elsa Nunez join him for a photo.

Michael Scanlon ’75 received the Distinguished Service Award.  A native of Manchester, CT, Scanlon earned his M.S. in organic chemistry from the University of Connecticut, and went on to have a distinguished management career in the chemical engineering industry. In addition to years of service as a member and later as president of the ECSU Foundation, Inc., Board of Directors, Scanlon and his wife Lorraine volunteer for Meals on Wheels in their hometown of Redding, CT, and are active with the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, site of the historic Woodstock music festival in New York State.

“I am truly humbled and honored to be recognized today,” said Scanlon. “I was blessed with a quality education at Eastern, where I learned the value of social responsibility and how to think critically in real-world settings.” A first-generation college student, Scanlon followed three friends to Eastern, where he majored in biology. He thanked several professors who had inspired and supported him, including two — retired Mathematics Professor Steve Kenton and retired Chemistry Professor Max Ferguson — who were on hand to congratulate him.  “Some of my best years were at Eastern,” concluded Scanlon, sharing that the day was also he and his wife’s 27th wedding anniversary.

The Hermann Beckert “Friend of the University” Award was given to Rheo Brouillard, recently retired President and CEO of the SI Financial Group, Inc., a role he assumed in 2004 after being the president of the Savings Institute Bank and Trust (SIBT) since 1995.  Under Brouillard’s leadership, SIBT has contributed more than $60,000 to support Eastern students and University initiatives.

Through the SI Financial Group Foundation, established in 2005, Brouillard and his colleagues have also provided financial support for local organizations such as the Covenant Soup Kitchen, Camp Horizons, and the Northeast Connecticut Community Development Corporation, which is providing safe, affordable housing for local Windham residents and working to revitalize downtown Willimantic.

Eileen Ossen speaks on behalf of her family foundation after receiving the ECSU Foundation’s Board of Director’s Award.

Local philanthropist Eileen Ossen and the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation received the Foundation’s Board of Director’s Award. Jeffrey Ossen, a local businessman who built a successful company in the manufactured housing industry, passed away in 2007. A lifelong philanthropist, Ossen made a $500,000 leadership gift that led to building the $8.5 million Jeffrey P. Ossen Emergency Center at Windham Community Memorial Hospital. 

Ossen’s widow Eileen has continued her late husband’s work through the Jeffrey P. Ossen Foundation, which has been instrumental in creating and supporting a variety of endowed scholarships at Eastern. The scholarships have a cumulative balance of $240,000 and have supported 53 students with scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 each of the past three years.

“I believe in Windham and Willimantic,” said Eileen Ossen in accepting the award. “Supporting education is the best way to help this community, because it can empower our residents to fulfill their dreams for a better life. Jeff would have a light in his eye if he saw how many young people we are helping through the foundation.”

The Spillane family: (first row) Jack Spillane, Geraldine (Shea) Spillane ’57, Debra Spillane (Sean Spillane’s wife), Patricia McGrath (Geraldine Spillane’s daughter). Second row: Sean Spillane, nephew Steve Spillane.

Pawcatuck, CT, resident Geri (Shea) Spillane, Class of 1957, her brother-in-law Jack Spillane, and his son, Sean Spillane, were honored with the ECSU Foundation’s Distinguished Donor Award. Gerry Spillane’s late husband, Robert “Buddy” Spillane ’56, served as superintendent of schools in Boston, as well as in school districts in Virginia, New York and New Jersey. He later worked as the European regional officer for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools. 

In addition to his distinguished career in education, Buddy Spillane served on the ECSU Foundation, Inc., Board of Directors for more than a decade, and was the first recipient of the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1969.

Following his passing in 2015, Spillane’s brother Jack, and nephew Sean, joined with Geri Spillane to create an endowed scholarship in Buddy’s honor, and have funded it with gifts in excess of $150,000. Sean and Jack Spillane are successful businessmen in the Minneapolis, MN, area, and Jack serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing.

In speaking for his family, Jack Spillane recounted how he and his brother grew up on High Street in Willimantic upstairs from what is now Blarney’s Cafe. In the 1950s, the family ran a lunch counter on the first floor of the building. “The Campus Shoppe” was frequented by many Eastern students at the time, including Buddy Spillane’s future wife, Geraldine Shea.

“Bud’s heart was in this school,” said Jack Spillane, “and we are pleased that we can create a long-lasting legacy for him at Eastern.  Bud is not gone . . . he is still in all the places where he made an impact.”

In concluding the day’s festivities, DeLisa thanked the donors in attendance: “You honor Eastern through your continued faith in the University and your ongoing commitment to giving our students access to all the opportunity that comes with higher education.”

Eastern Education Students Present at New Mexico Conference

Caroline Perry (bottom left) and Morgan Winship (bottom right) and their research mentors Niloufar Rezai and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith attend the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers conference in Albuquerque, NM.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University students Caroline Perry and Morgan Winship presented research at the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers conference in Albuquerque, NM, this March 15–17. Their presentation was titled “Authentic Experiences with Families: Impact on Pre-service Teachers’ Knowledge and Dispositions.”

“The essence of this research was to find out how positive family-teacher communication can strengthen a classroom’s interpersonal environment,” said Perry, who hails from Wilton and majors in early childhood education and English. “Family communication is such a large and integral part of a classroom teacher’s role, however there is minimal preparation for this component in education certification programs.”

Under the mentorship of Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, professor of early childhood education, and Niloufar Rezai, director of Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC), the students were tasked with developing strong relationships with families of children enrolled at Eastern’s CFDRC preschool. They did this by maintaining communication with children’s families, going on a home visit, planning a family event at the CFDRC, and more. 

“This pushed us to go outside of our comfort zone and be in constant communication with families from the classroom that we were interning in,” said Winship, who hails from Monroe and majors in early childhood education and psychology. “Until this course, I never realized how important it is for teachers to develop relationships with parents. Home life and school life affect each other; teachers and parents need to know how a child is doing in both environments.”

To assist with day-to-day communication, the students experimented with a mobile app called “Remind,” which enabled them to capture moments throughout the day and share them directly with parents.

“This app became my main resource for communicating with my focus child’s family,” said Perry. “It’s really important to keep families updated and involved with their child’s school day. It also offers families a way to get in touch with you (the teacher) beyond an email address.”

Conducting home visits was another major component of the project. “When you visit families in their home you see so much more,” said Winship. “This helps you better understand the child and better connect your curriculum in order to make learning more meaningful to them.”

Reflecting on their experience, Perry said, “We found that family communication is such a valuable resource for creating meaningful learning experiences for children. If you support your students’ families, they will support you. Together, you become a strong team with a shared interest: their child’s success.”

Having successfully presented at the conference in New Mexico, the students and their mentors now aim to publish their results in the “Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education.”

‘We’re a Mighty Force’: J Mase III Talks on Life as a Gay, Trans Person of Color

Written by Jordan Corey

As the first “University Hour” lecturer of the spring semester, Seattle-based poet J Mase III discussed his experience as a black, gay and transgender man during his talk at Eastern Connecticut State University on Jan. 31. Using a powerful combination of poetry and dialog, Mase called attention to setbacks faced daily by minority groups.

He has worked as an educator with thousands of members of the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) community across the United States, England and Canada, in addition to founding “awQward,” the first talent agency for transgender and queer people of color. His career as a poet, he revealed, began because he was fired from his job — an event that inspired the haiku he opened his presentation with.

After reading a poem titled “Neighbor,” Mase, who grew up in a Christian-Muslim household, touched on what it was like coming out to his family. “I got two very different reactions,” he explained. While his Muslim relatives were considerably understanding, the Christian side practiced “passive faith” and was less than supportive at times.

Mase took such pushback and incorporated it into his writing, with thoughtful poems like “Josephine.” He emphasized the transformative, somewhat healing power behind feeling anger and being able to vocalize it. “If anything, this is free therapy for me,” he joked, before drawing attention to the symbolic “Ambiguous Power Guy.”

Mase asked attendees to articulate qualities somebody in a position of power typically has. Answers included able-bodied, neurotypical, white, straight, upper-class — the list goes on. He used this as an opportunity to address societal power disparities, specifically wealth distribution, pointing out that discrimination “looks a very particular type of way even if we don’t always identify it as that.”

Mase also shared a collection of quotes from people he has encountered in the career world. One was from when he worked at an LGBT youth organization, the only transgender person and one of few black people there. In the process of determining whether or not to hire a new applicant, who was also transgender, Mase recalled, his boss questioned him, “But are they ‘angry’ trans?”

Mase acknowledged that speaking out often comes with repercussions — losing his standing in the community, being seen as a “difficult” employee, getting looked over for future promotional opportunities. Another quote came after Mase approached an employer about his unequal position among his white coworkers, as he was actively aware of his disadvantages. “But if you get promoted, my title won’t mean much,” he was told in response, indicating the perception that supporting minority individuals comes with a cost.

Not only did the interaction bring up questions surrounding accessibility, but showcased the hidden hypocrisy behind some organizations. Not all that claim to be intersectional actually are, and subsequently contribute to the structure they are supposedly against. Part of the reason for this, Mase noted, is the lack of representation in power positions.

To stand in solidarity, he argued, we sometimes have to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to promote equality — to think critically of our own positionality. “There are living standards that are very different for trans people of color,” Mase said on the issue. Life expectancy of transgender women of color, for example, is only 35 years.

In his creative professional life, Mase has experienced pushback from schools and traditional workspaces, often getting treated like a token guest instead of a valuable asset. “People were treating me as a flavor of the month.” However, he highlighted that through his choices, he has gained a sense of voice and agency that not many in the community are afforded, and that being forced into the background of a mainstream company run by a mainstream group of people is like “disappearing into someone else’s dreams.”

Concluding with poems such as “Gender Buddy” and “#AllyFail,” which make humorous yet honest commentary that reflects his strong character, Mase encouraged the audience to continue to speak passionately in favor of social justice. “We’re a mighty force,” he stated confidently.

Kathy Manizza, Coach-of-the-Year

Written by Casey Collins

Eastern Connecticut State University cross country coach Kathy Manizza was named Little East Conference (LEC) Cross Country Coach-of-the-Year this fall after leading the Warriors to their first-ever LEC title. Manizza, who resides in Lebanon, has been coaching at the university level for more than 24 years, serving as head coach of Eastern’s cross country and track and field teams for the past six years. She is the first LEC Cross Country Coach-of-the-Year in Eastern’s history.

At this year’s LEC championships, the Warriors found themselves matched up against a daunting field of competitors. Eastern’s main rival, Keene State College, entered the championship as the 17-time defending conference champions. In the end, Eastern placed all five of its scoring runners within the top 14 finishers, out of a seven-team field from seven schools. As a result, the Warriors edged out second-place Plymouth State University by a mere eight points to take home the championship.

“This was my dream team,” said Manizza. “We had been building this team for the past five years, and we had an outside chance of winning the conference last year. We knew that it was a small chance, but we also knew that we had the talent to do it.”

Junior Christina Gosselin has been running for Manizza for the past three years. When asked about her head coach she said, “Coach Manizza has been a great mentor and coach to me. Not only has she helped me become a stronger runner, but she has led our team to achieve success and many accomplishments over the year.”

Sophomore Samara Johnson just concluded her first year running on the team, and said of her coach: “Coach Manizza is always supportive, encouraging and pushing us to do our absolute best. If anyone deserves coach-of-the-year, it’s certainly her.”

Eastern Joins Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative

Written by Casey Collins

In an effort to promote awareness of substance use, Eastern Connecticut State University has been granted $10,000 by the Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative, a project supported by the Wheeler Clinic and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The grant supports a number of awareness, education and prevention efforts at Eastern around the topic of substance use on college campuses.  In addition to marketing to targeted audiences, the University will be sponsoring public awareness events and speakers throughout the spring semester. In addition, as a member of the Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative, Eastern will be inviting its students to participate in a voluntary survey in January to further understand the attitudes and perceptions of substance use on campus.

The survey is being administered by the Core Institute, the nation’s largest database on college students’ drinking and substance use. It has been found that students’ perceptions of drug use and the reality of campus drug use are often far apart. The survey aims to bridge this knowledge gap by understanding trends among students, identifying influential factors and determining areas that need to be monitored or improved.

One of the project’s education and awareness efforts concerns the proper disposal of medicines and legally obtained drugs. Far too often, prescription drugs are handled in an improper manner, starting with how they are prescribed. Dr. Daniel Tobin, assistant professor of medicine at Yale University, says that 80 percent of doctors prescribing opioids are primary care physicians, not pain specialists. They may not receive the same comprehensive training that pain specialists receive and may be less qualified to accurately diagnose and responsibly distribute opioid prescriptions. This contributes to an issue we face as a nation today — the improper disposal of unused medicines.

To many people, a natural solution to this issue is simply to dispose unused medications by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage. This approach only worsens the situation. Drugs that are flushed down the toilet enter our water stream and can contaminate water or harm aquatic wildlife. The same goes for garbage as well, as pills that make it to landfills can make their way into the soil and contaminate the ground.

To address this issue, Eastern has invested in a special new preventive technology called Deterra. Known as a drug deactivation system, Deterra consists of a charcoal lined bag that seals off and deactivates the active compounds inside a capsule, therefore rendering them completely safe to dispose of. The school has made Deterra widely available to students who need to dispose unused medicines.

Eastern’s participation in the Healthy Campus Initiative program comes at a time where our nation faces a serious drug abuse issue. As of Oct. 26, 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “national emergency.” While Eastern has never experienced an opioid overdose on its campus, the state of Connecticut finds itself at risk. The Wall Street Journal estimates that more than 1,000 people in Connecticut perished from an opioid-related overdose in 2017. By promoting the safe storage and disposal of drugs, along with other prevention initiatives, Eastern is building a foundation of knowledge to reduce the risk of opioid use.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with these issues, contact the Opioid Treatment hotline at (800) 563-4086.

6 Years, Eastern a ‘Top Workplace’

Professor Okon Hwang teaches piano and ethnomusicology for Eastern's Music Program

Professor Okon Hwang teaches piano and ethnomusicology for Eastern’s Music Program

Written by Edward Osborn

For the sixth time in the past seven years, the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With almost 1,000 employees, Eastern ranked fourth in the “large” category, and was the only public higher education institution recognized among 60 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 22 in the Hartford Courant. Eastern also received a special recognition this year for the leadership provided by Senior Management.

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by WorkplaceDynamics LLP, a research and consulting firm that has compiled top employer lists for some of the nation’s largest media outlets. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations.

The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.

“We are honored to be recognized once again as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Even though Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our campus has always prided itself on being a close-knit community and a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, their families and the community-at-large. This announcement reminds us that Eastern is a great place for our faculty and staff to work and a wonderful atmosphere in which our students can learn.  I am very pleased that we were among those recognized.”

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?”