Eastern is Top School in New England for NCUR Participation

• Eastern student Yohan Krumov ’18 presents “Divided Attention and Learning Without Awareness” at NCUR 2018.

Eastern Connecticut State University was New England’s most prolific representative at this year’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Held April 4-7 at the University of Central Oklahoma, the conference was among the premier gatherings in all of U.S. academia, with more than 3,500 students representing more than 460 colleges and universities from across the country. Remarkably, Eastern was the 12th institution in terms of participation, with 45 students presenting research – the most in all of New England.

Of the top 12 schools, only four have student bodies of 6,000 or below – Eastern’s enrollment is a modest 5,300. The rest range from 9,000 to 35,000 students, and two of them are based in Oklahoma. In the past five years, Eastern has sent more than twice as many students to NCUR as all other Connecticut schools combined.

“Undergraduate research is clearly a strength of Eastern,” said Carlos Escoto, psychology professor and director of Eastern’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. “We had students from 15 different departments represented and the majority of presenters were students outside of the university’s Honors Program.”

Departments ranged from Environmental Earth Science to Music, Economics to Health Science, Mathematics to Visual Arts. Research topics included global water shortages; media and mental illness stigma; childhood poverty and educational outcomes; non-drug therapies and cancer patients; political rhetoric; and much more.

• Eastern student Elizabeth Hilton ’18 presents “Sleep Hygiene, Psychological Distress and Acceptability of Sleep Hygiene Practices in College Students” to a packed room at NCUR 2018.

Escoto continued: “This ranking, coupled with our first Goldwater Scholar (Jacob Dayton ’18), a second Fulbright award recipient in two years (Adam Murphy ’18), and many more students succeeding in the realm of research, speaks to the quality of instruction and faculty mentorship at Eastern.”

Reflecting on her experience at the 2017 NCUR conference in Memphis, TN, communication major Olivia Godin ’19 said, “Presenting at NCUR has been one of the most valuable experiences in my collegiate career. I was able to give an oral presentation to several students and professors about my research, which discussed the differences between how men and women communicate – a project I spent several months working on with my advisor.”

“Learning to conduct research is a major component of a liberal arts education,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “That is why Eastern is committed to supporting our undergraduate students so they can conduct research and present it at regional and national conferences. We know that students who are engaged in applied learning activities such as research projects get better grades and graduate at higher rates.”

The National Conference on Undergraduate Research was established in 1987. From a pool of several thousand applicants, students are accepted into the conference if their research demonstrates a unique contribution to their field of study. NCUR offers undergraduates the opportunity to present their research findings to peers, faculty and staff from colleges and universities across the nation, providing a unique networking and learning opportunity.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Repeats as LEC Commissioner’s Cup Winner

The women’s cross country team captured its first-ever LEC title in fall 2017 and was a major contributor to Eastern winning the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup.

PAWTUCKET, R.I. – For the second straight year, Eastern Connecticut State University has claimed the Little East Conference (LEC) Commissioner’s Cup, the league’s top honor for overall institutional athletic performance among the LEC’s eight primary member institutions in its 19 sponsored sports. The Warriors captured the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup after accumulating a point average of 5.62 among their 17 programs that compete in the LEC.

“We are thrilled and honored to win the Commissioner’s Cup again as the top performing school in our conference,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Eastern’s student-athletes work hard in the classroom to prepare themselves for rewarding professional careers, and they compete with the same commitment and enthusiasm on the playing field. For Eastern athletes to perform at a consistently high level across all varsity sports in the Conference is a tribute to them, their coaches and our Athletic Department staff. Well done Warriors!”

Lori Runksmeier, Eastern’s athletics director, added, “We are very proud to receive the Commissioner’s Cup for the second straight year. The LEC has proud athletic traditions and earning the Commissioner’s Cup is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes and coaches.”

Eastern’s women’s cross country team captured its first-ever LEC title in the fall, while the men’s basketball team won the outright regular season title and the women’s soccer team finished tied for first place in the final regular season standings. The Warriors recorded a second-place finish in five sports, all during the spring season—baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, women’s outdoor track & field—and finished third in field hockey, women’s volleyball and women’s swimming & diving.

“Congratulations to the Eastern Connecticut State University administration, coaches and student-athletes on earning back-to-back Commissioner’s Cups,” said LEC Commissioner Cora H. Brumley. “The Warriors exemplify the NCAA Division III philosophy by excelling both on and off the field of play and are continuing to usher in a new era of competitive parity across the LEC!” 

Second place for the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup was UMass Boston with a point average of 5.34, while 16-time LEC Commissioner’s Cup winner Keene State College finished third with a point average of 5.18. Rounding out this year’s Commissioner’s Cup standings were the University of Southern Maine (fourth, 4.89 points), UMass Dartmouth (fifth, 4.71 points), Plymouth State University (sixth, 4.67 points), Western Connecticut State University (eighth, 4.31 points) and Rhode Island College (eighth, 4.26 points).

For sports in which the LEC conducts in-season play (baseball, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball), points are determined by the ranked order of finish in the final regular season standings. For sports that do not conduct in-season play (cross country, swimming & diving, track & field), points are awarded based on the order of finish at the LEC championship meet.

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The Little East Conference (LEC) was formed in 1986 when six public institutions gathered to create a single sport athletic conference and has expanded into what is now New England’s premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. The LEC features 19 Championship Sports and sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes while following the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.

Summer Research Institutes Expose Students to New Fields of Inquiry

Using motion-capture technology, the student in the background is rendered as a 3D image on the computer.

Eastern Connecticut State University held three inaugural Summer Research Institutes from May 14–18 to engage promising and high-achieving students in intensive, weeklong research programs pertaining to the fields of new media, network science and English. A fourth research institute for psychology occurred during the same time, although this has been an annual program.

The New Media Studies institute challenged seven students to develop a short film using motion-capture technology. The group made a three-minute noir-esque film that showed a 3D-rendered detective frog (the frog being a symbol of Willimantic) performing motion-captured actions such as drinking a martini, smoking a pipe and dancing.

Under the supervision of faculty members Kristen Morgan and Travis Houldcroft, as well as student mentor Zachary Parisella, students utilized a variety of motion capture equipment and animation software, including Motive, Blender, Adobe Premiere and After Effects, and Pro Tools for audio.

“In terms of the software, this project really forced me to utilize everything I know and consider solutions that I had never thought of before,” said Wasan Hayajneh ’19, who majors in new media studies and visual arts.

Students were also introduced to the fundamentals of animation post-production with an introduction to character visual design, voice-over recording, and the use of diegetic sound in an animated environment.

A student presents on his group’s network analysis of “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

The network science institute challenged nine students to perform network analyses of character interactions in a movie to evaluate a hypothesis about the movie’s social structure. Broken into three groups, the students analyzed “The Matrix Trilogy,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” and Disney’s “Mulan.” 

Under the supervision of professors Megan Heenehan (mathematics) and Garrett Dancik (computer science), and student mentor Haley Knox ’18, students found their movie’s script online, wrote code to extract information and analyze that script, then used the software Gephi to visualize their network analysis.

“Our initial hypothesis for ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ was incorrect,” said Oliver Chase, who majors in New Media Studies. “At first we thought that Edmund was the most important character, due to his connection to both sides of Narnia. However, we discovered that Peter in fact had more interactions and scenes than any other character.”

Professor Allison Speicher works with her research institute students.

The English research institute challenged 10 students to select a work of literature and then pair it with other works and sources to craft meaningful arguments. Under the mentorship of English Professor Allison Speicher and student mentor Jessica Maloney ’18, students used their pairings to devise research projects based on intertextual analyses.

English major Julia MacKinnon selected the novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, a story about the struggles of two women living in Afghanistan. She paired it with book reviews, other novels and historical texts.

“I researched people’s stereotypic views of Afghanistan and its refugees by looking at media depictions,” said MacKinnon. “I also researched the history of the country to get a better understanding of the wars and how the fighting affects civilian’s lives. Then I compared the novel to other works by Hosseini in order to understand his purpose for writing about Afghanistan. I also read critical readings about the text in order to learn what others concluded about the novel.”

Reflecting on the institute, Kaylee Blackwood ’20 said, “I realize now how deep the pursuit of research can be. You can take one topic, start simple, and fall so deep into research that you end up with 20-30 pages of knowledge and arguments to use to write an essay.”

A student presents on her project during the conclusion of the research institute.

For the psychology research institute, nine students were introduced to topics in sensation, perception and cognitive neuroscience. Students dissected cow eyeballs, explored taste by blocking perception of sweetness with the herb gymnema sylvestre, and explored visual processing by working with an eye-tracking device. They also learned how to search and review peer-reviewed literature, develop a research question and design an empirical study to answer that question. A poster presentation concluded their institute.

“My favorite part of this experience was learning to collect data from your own experiment and choosing the correct test to run the analysis,” said Genesis Ramon ’20, who researched how social media influences the eating behavior of women. “This has shown me the value of research and the hard work that goes into developing a research project.”

The institute was led by Psychology Professors Luis Cordón and Lyndsey Lanagan-Leitze, as well as student mentor Malvina Pietrzykowski ’18.

The Summer Research Institutes were born of the university’s mission to foster student success and retention through structured research and creative activity. The institutes were a product of Eastern’s Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity Council as well as the University Retention Committee.

To see all of the Summer Research Institute final projects, visit Eastern’s undergraduate research website.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Student Wins Fulbright Scholarship to Study in Indonesia

Eastern Connecticut State University student Adam Murphy ’18 has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to study Indonesian language in an intensive-language program in Salatiga, Indonesia, this summer. Murphy hails from Meriden and double majors in political science and history with a minor in Asian studies.

The scholarship will fund Murphy’s travel expenses and his educational costs. The program is sponsored by the Consortium of Teaching Indonesian through the Cornell University Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Murphy follows Quanece Williams ’16, who is completing a year in the Czech Republic through the Fulbright program.

Salatiga is a city on the island of Java, the most populated island in the world and one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. Murphy will be in Indonesia from June to August, living with a host family and taking language classes at a local university. “I am honored to have been selected for such an amazing program, honored to have been awarded this prestigious scholarship, and excited to return to Indonesia. With this award I can continue to learn about Indonesia and its wonderful people.”

This is not Murphy’s first trip to Indonesia. Last year he lived for the summer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, studying in an immersive language program with funding through a fellowship from the U.S.-Indonesian Society.

In addition to taking language classes, Murphy taught English for “Stichting Jogja,” which offers free English classes to people living in poverty. He also met with national leaders and scholars, including the Minister of State, the Princess of Yogyakarta, the Speaker of the House and the Deputy U.S. Ambassador.

“I am ecstatic to return to Indonesia to continue my language studies,” said Murphy. I am excited to try new foods, meet new people, live in a different area of the country, and visit friends I met during my past trip there. I am honored to be accepted to this program and awarded the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship.”

“Adam exemplifies Eastern’s emphasis on a practically applied liberal arts education,” said History Professor Bradley Davis, Murphy’s faculty mentor. “While completing a double major in history and political science and a minor in Asian studies, Adam has produced compelling original scholarship on the role of U.S. agricultural development specialists in Indonesia during the Cold War.”

Murphy is also active on Eastern’s campus, currently working as a resident assistant, and previously as a tutor and student ambassador in the Pride Center. He has been involved with the Student Government Association, the International Student Association and as president of the College Democrats.

This coming fall, Murphy will begin a master’s program in Southeast Asia Studies at the University of Wisconsin. He intends to go on to earn a doctorate in political science and foreign policy.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Student is Connecticut’s only 2018 Goldwater Scholar

Eastern Connecticut State University student Jacob Dayton ’18, a biology major from Bolton, has been awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for undergraduates in STEM fields who intend to pursue a Ph.D. and research career. Dayton is Eastern’s first Goldwater recipient and intends to attend graduate school in genomics.

“I am truly honored to be a recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,” said Dayton. “This recognition is a testament to the strength of Eastern’s biology program and the value of the research experiences I have acquired in Dr. Patricia Szczys’ laboratory. Throughout my biology coursework and research at Eastern, I have learned how scholarship and experimental inquiry are engaging and never-ending. The more scientific literature I read, conferences I am able to attend and researchers I meet, the more questions I have. Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship is affirmation that I am on the right track in pursuing a career in research.”

This year 1,280 students from 455 institutions across the country were nominated for a Goldwater scholarship, and 211 were named Goldwater Scholars. Dayton is the only student from a Connecticut institution to receive a Goldwater Scholarship this year. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology, with eventual plans to conduct research in molecular and evolutionary genomics and teach at the university level.

During his time at Eastern, Dayton has conducted research with Biology Professor Patty Szczys to study genetic diversity in roseate terns; collaborated with scientists from France, Poland and the Ukraine on the Whiskered Tern Population Genetic Structure study; published his findings in the peer-reviewed journal “Waterbirds”; and presented at the annual meeting of the International Waterbird Society, the Northeast Region-1 TriBeta Conference and Eastern’s CREATE conference.

In addition to the Goldwater Scholarship, Dayton has received awards ranging from the President’s Award for Research to the Marc Freeman Scholarship to support his summer science research project, and others.

Active on campus, Dayton also served as a research-lab peer mentor, president and secretary of Eastern’s Biology Club, and as a tutor at Windham Middle School.

Dayton was recently accepted into a National Science Foundation-funded research program at the Jackson Laboratory for this coming summer, joining other students from Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Hofstra University, Colorado State University and other institutions.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Service Expo Honors Community Servants

Italo Bucca presents on his volunteer work with the Windham High School ESOL program

Written by Michael Rouleau

More than 1,000 Eastern Connecticut State University students volunteered more than 17,000 hours in the Windham area in the past academic year. On April 19, these students—and the projects and community partners they represent—were honored at the annual Service Expo and Awards, sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement.

The expo showcased more than 30 student-led community service projects, followed by an award ceremony and keynote address by Erin Corbett of the Second Chance ex-offender educational program. Projects spanned a variety of causes and organizations, including working with the elderly at a rehabilitation center, mentoring high school students at afterschool programs, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, addiction center, and more.

Italo Bucca ’19, a sociology major, volunteers with the Windham High School ESOL, an English language-learning program that benefits Spanish-speaking youth in Willimantic. ESOL stands for “English for Speakers of Other Languages.”

“Growing up, I was an ESOL student,” he said. “I can speak from my own experience and assure them that it’s possible for them to learn English. I, too, only spoke Spanish, so it gives them hope.”

 

Alyssa Law ’19, a health sciences major, volunteers at the High Chase Residential Care Home, a facility in Willington that cares for people with intellectual disabilities. “They don’t often get to socialize outside of the facility,” said Law, who visits every Tuesday with other Eastern volunteers to play games and interact with residents.

“I want to be an occupational therapist,” she said, “so working at High Chase has given me insight into how to approach people with autism and other disabilities, and shown me what they’re capable of.”

Dillon Wadsworth ’20, a criminology major, volunteered at Vanderman Place Rehabilitation Center, which works with elderly people who are recovering from medical issues. “Twice a week we go there in hopes of getting the people to leave their rooms and join us in our recreation center,” he said. “Even though we come from different times, we find common ground and have meaningful interactions. Some people say it’s the highlight of their week.

“Some people are depressed,” admitted Wadsworth. “They fear this may be the end of their independence, but others have such a positive outlook; they want to make the most of their situation. I find that empowering.”

Adilsa Encarnacao ’18, a social work major, volunteers with the Barrows STEM Academy After School Program, where she tutors kids and engages them in educational activities. Encarnacao is an aspiring social worker who has worked a variety of projects during her years with the CCE.

“At first thought I wanted to work with kids, but then I fell in love with our addiction recovery program,” she said. “Then I volunteered with one of our high school programs, which is a population I never thought I’d work with, but I fell in love with them, too. Then I did a prison program, and now I can see myself working in a prison… I’m comfortable working with so many populations. The CCE has provided me with great experiences for when I become a social worker.”

Keynote speaker Erin Corbett of Second Chance Educational Alliance

A panel of 14 judges representing seven categories—composed of faculty, staff and community members—went from student to student, rating their projects.

“The range of people the students are working with is impressive,” said Patrick Doyle of United Way, a judge for the “Putting Liberal Arts Into Action” category. “They’re covering a lot of ground and completing a lot of good work in so many different places.”

United Way partners with the CCE for some of its Windham-area programs. “This partnership has enabled us to grow our own programming,” said Doyle, “not only quickly but securely. When the CCE helps us recruit and train volunteers, I know that they’ll be top notch and that we can depend on them.”

These community partnerships are the CCE’s specialty, resulting in long-term projects that address root problems and authentically connect students to the greater community. “We’re not simply picking up trash,” said CCE Director Kim Silcox. “These are meaningful, sustainable collaborations with community organizations.”

The ceremony’s keynote address was given by Erin Corbett, founder of Second Chance Educational Alliance (SCEA). Recognizing that education is a pathway to career enhancement, SCEA provides ex-offenders with access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

“There are some brilliant minds in prison,” said Corbett of her students. “My goal is for them to see the freedom that education provides, and that even in jail, your education cannot be taken, cannot be stripped from you. For higher education to be offered to the incarcerated… it means a new beginning, a new chance at life, it means chains being broken,” she continued. “A new mind produces a new day. Some of my students’ entire outlooks change.”

The awards portion of the expo included the judges’ picks for best community programs as well as awards for select individuals.

Outstanding Student Leader Award winners Carly Perron and Sarah Tricarico (middle) beside CCE Director Kim Silcox and Associate Director Kemesha Wilmot
Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award winner Nancy Brennan (right) with CCE Director Kim Silcox
Student Community Engagement Award winner Makayla Mowel
Communication Department colleague John Murphy accepted the Service-Learning Award on behalf of Professor Denise Matthews

 

For the program awards, the Girl’s Circle at Natchaug Elementary won in the Leadership Development category.  Windham High School ESOL won in two categories: Putting Liberal Arts into Action and Broadening Horizons. Windham Recovery Center Jobs 101 won in the Strengthening Communities category. Jumpstart won in the Kids First category. Warrior Food Recovery won in the Going Green category. Boy’s Circle at Natchaug Elementary won in the Best New Program category. Covenant Soup Kitchen won in the Community Choice category. 

For the individual awards, Eastern Communication Professor Denise Matthews won the Service Learning Award. She’s an accomplished documentary filmmaker who has recently increased her involvement with the CCE by working with students to produce videos for a range of local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The Student Community Engagement Award went to Makayla Mowel ’19, an elementary education and women’s and gender studies double major who volunteers with Jumpstart, a program that focuses on early childhood literacy. As a Jumpstart AmeriCorps member and team leader for three years, Mowel has spent more than 1,000 hours working directly with children and supporting other Jumpstart volunteers.

The Faculty/Staff Award went to Nancy Brennan of the Campus Ministry, who manages Eastern’s quarterly Red Cross blood drives.

The Community Partner Award went to Erin Corbett (the keynote speaker) of Second Chance Educational Alliance.

The Outstanding Community Event Award went to Journey House Program of Natchaug Hospital, a residential treatment program for adolescent girls who have been referred from the juvenile justice system. Many have a history of trauma, domestic violence, sex trafficking, mental illness and other serious conditions. Eastern first became involved with Journey House in 2010, and it is consistently among the most popular CCE programs.

Finally, the Outstanding Student Leader Awards went to history and social science major Carly Perron ’18 and social work major Sarah Tricarico ’18. Their volunteer efforts have spanned a number of CCE programs over their Eastern tenures, including The Covenant Soup Kitchen, Sweeney Elementary After School Program, Windham Middle School Enrichment and After School Programs, Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center, and more.

Eastern Student Presents at ‘Posters on the Hill’ in Washington, D.C.

Eastern Professor Courtney Broscious, U.S. Representative Joseph Courtney and Tess Candler.

Eastern Connecticut State University student Tess Candler ’18 of Ledyard was one of two researchers from Connecticut given the distinguished opportunity of presenting their projects at the highly selective Posters on the Hill (POH) academic conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Candler‘s major is Political Science and Economics.

During the April 17 event she presented her research poster titled “When Reds Go Green: Determinants of Conservative Support for Environmental Policy.” Her research was completed under the supervision of Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Each spring, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) hosts the event during which select undergraduate students present their research to members of Congress and other invited guests. CUR works to ensure that members of Congress have a clear understanding of the research and education programs that they fund. Approximately 60 students out of a pool of 600 nationwide applicants are selected to present their research posters.

According to Candler, prior research has demonstrated that individuals with conservative ideals are less likely to support environmental policies. However, she asserts that it is worth noting that some of the most significant environmental legislation has been passed under Republican leadership, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. This shows that comprehensive environmental policy has been passed under Republican administrations. Candler wanted to examine what made conservatives more or less likely to support environmental policy.

Her study examined the the conditions under which conservatives demonstrate high levels of support for environmental policy. “Understanding the rationales of conservative support for environmental policy can help those interested in passing this type of legislation be better equipped to shape policy in a way that increases its likelihood of enactment,” said Candler.

Candler found that conservatives are more likely to support environmental policy when there are no states’ rights concern, no unnecessary extension of government and the policy protects the rights of citizens.

“Tess serves as a shining example of what we can achieve at Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Broscious.

Eastern has represented Connecticut seven out of the 12 times students have presented in the annual Posters on the Hill conference.

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.”