Eastern to host September-October University Hour Events

Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo is a past University Hour guest, who spoke on “being out” in politics as a gay man.

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting a variety of University Hour events this fall 2018 semester. This free and open-to-the-public series of guest lectures and performances occurs on Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m. in locations across campus. Upcoming University Hours for late September and October include:

On Sept. 26 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall, Carmen Balthrop-Metropolitan Opera alumna and first-place winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Competition-will share her experience as an international opera singer and highly sought-after voice pedagogue. Balthrop will select five students for participation in a public masterclass during which she will address issues of vocal technique and presentation.

On Oct. 3 in the Student Center Theatre, veteran Bruce Weigl will discuss his latest book of poetry, “On the Shores of the Welcome Home.” His previous collection, “The Abundance of Nothing,” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Weigl’s Vietnam War experiences inspire much of his work. “The paradox of my life as a writer,” he has said, “is that the war ruined my life and in return gave me my voice.”

On Oct. 17 in the Student Center Theatre, Professor James Lawler of Pace University will share a recent project that uses augmented reality (AR) to improve the performance of students with developmental and learning disabilities, including several videos he produced to document the process. AR is a view of a real-world environment with elements that are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptions.

On Oct. 24 in the Student Center Theatre, a presentation will advocate for a transformation of Puerto Rico’s electric grid, with rooftop solar communities that pool available resources to operate as microgrids. The human suffering caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has been immense. The catastrophe exposed the lack of maintenance to the grid and the lack of environmental planning.

On Oct. 31 in the Student Center Threatre, Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe tribe-an internationally renowned environmentalist, Native rights advocate, author and former vice-presidential candidate for the Green Party in the United States-will discuss restoring systems that have long been considered sacred. LaDuke works on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable development, food systems and environmental justice.

New Communication Building Meets the Present, Greets the Future

The north entrance of the Communication Building now features more interior space and an abundance of windows.

Written by Michael Rouleau

The biggest change to the Eastern Connecticut State University campus this fall is the opening of the newly renovated Communication Building. For the past 14 months, the building remained shuttered while under construction, but reopened in August with a modernized design and a number of improvements to efficiency and technology.

Originally constructed in the early 1970s, the building’s extensive renovations include new state-of-the-art facilities for television production, sound recording, audio production and video editing.

“It is as important to refresh our existing facilities as it is to build new ones,” remarked Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “In using such state-of-the-art technology, students in our Communication and New Media Studies majors can better prepare for careers in the media world of the 21st century.”

All of the classrooms have been upgraded with new equipment; the television studio and radio station are now revamped; and three new computer labs were constructed.

“These new media production spaces provide unique opportunities for communication majors to practice and hone the skills that they learn in class,” said Communication Professor Andrew Utterback, who added, “The faculty are thrilled to be teaching in such a modern, up-to-date space.”

Professor Edmond Chibeau teaches in one of the building’s updated, tiered classrooms.

The classrooms follow Eastern’s standards for smart-classroom design, with increased square-foot-per-student ratios that allow for better accessibility and provide ample space for collaboration between students and faculty.

“The physical environment has a powerful effect on students’ ability to learn,” said Communication Professor Edmond Chibeau. “This new building is an example of Eastern’s dedication to giving students an ergonomically designed state-of-the-art learning environment.”

Subtler improvements to the Communication Building include efficiencies in sustainability. The renovations follow high-performance (green) building standards set by the State of Connecticut. Such standards include utilizing recyclable materials for a portion of the construction, as well as materials sourced within 500 miles of the worksite. Improvements have also been made to water conservation, energy conservation and insulation.

“We meet these high-performance standards and now have a building that is significantly more efficient than the previous building,” said Renee Keech, director of Facilities Management and Planning.

Building renovations also took into consideration occupants’ mental health by adding more windows, which admit higher levels of daylight and offer more views. Communication Professor Terri Toles-Patkin agreed: “Students and faculty are getting a morale boost just from being in this new space.”

The foyer of the building features a lounge, study space and new meeting room.

One of the Communication Building’s most distinct changes is a glass-encased façade on the north end. This ground-level area was once an outdoor concrete tunnel, but now is a vibrant foyer furnished with contemporary furniture.

In addition to the foyer, Keech added, “This gave us space to prominently place the radio station and provide a multipurpose room that can be used by the communication department and the university.”

“This was a much needed facelift, and one that goes beyond its impressive appearance,” concluded Toles-Patkin. “This is a building designed not only to meet the needs of the present but to anticipate the changes of the future.”

Eastern to host Annual Dance Awareness Day

Modern Movement, a dance club at Eastern Connecticut State University, will host its second annual Dance Awareness Day on Sept. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC). A number of dance classes will be offered in a variety of styles and levels.

Registration is from 8:30–9:30 a.m. Classes are $5 each for non-Eastern students. Eastern students get one class free (with Eastern ID); additional classes are $5 each. Classes will occur in rooms 117, 215 and 219 of the FAIC.

Classes are led by Modern Movement members, Eastern alumni and faculty members in Eastern’s Dance and World Performance concentration. Multiple classes will occur simultaneously during certain timeslots.

The schedule is as follows: 9:30-10:30 a.m. yoga/Pilates; 10:30-noon beginner ballet, intermediate/advanced contemporary-modern dance or intermediate/advanced Afro-modern dance; 1-2:30 p.m. intermediate/advanced lyrical dance, intermediate/advanced hip-hop or musical theatre; 2:30-4 p.m. West African dance and drum or beginner tap dance.

Modern Movement is Eastern’s pre-professional dance company. Although there is a focus on modern dance, Modern Movement creates and performs choreography in a wide variety of dance styles. Money raised at Dance Awareness Day supports Eastern’s Dance and World Performance concentration.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern’s Okon Hwang Performs at Carnegie Hall

Eastern Connecticut State University Music Professor Okon Hwang performed at Carnegie Hall this past June with the S.O.Y. Piano Trio. The trio’s debut performance at the famed venue was in celebration of their first-place performance at the 2018 American Protégé International Competition. The trio competed in the College Students and Professional Musicians category for the Piano and Strings Competition.

Consisting of Seulye Park (violin), Okon Hwang (piano) and Yun-Yang Lin (cello), the S.O.Y. Piano Trio is a chamber ensemble based in the United States and South Korea. Since its formation in 2015, the trio has blended master works with newer works in experimental multi-media settings. As part of their 2018-19 season, the trio is invited to perform at the Sejong Cultural Center, one of the most prestigious performance venues in South Korea.

CPTV and Eastern to Host Advance Screening of ‘Native America’ Episode

• Eastern’s Sarah Baires (left) and Melissa Baltus, professor at the University of Toledo, are experts on the ancient Native American city Cahokia.

Eastern Connecticut State University and Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) will host a free advance screening of an episode from the new PBS series “Native America” on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. in Eastern’s Student Center Theatre. The four-part series will premiere on CPTV on Oct. 23.

The third episode of the series, “Cities of the Sky,” will be shown at the screening, followed by a Q&A session with series producer Gary Glassman and director Joe Sousa. “Cities of the Sky” explores the cosmological secrets behind America’s ancient cities, and features Eastern Anthropology Professor Sarah Baires. Baires will lead the Q&A discussion.

“Native America” was made with the active participation of Native American communities in some of the most spectacular locations in the hemisphere, and illuminates the splendor of a past whose story has remained untold for too long.

“We are excited to partner with Eastern Connecticut State University to offer this screening and discussion of ‘Native America,'” said Carol Sisco, vice president and station manager for programming and acquisitions at CPTV. “‘Native America’ not only spotlights the history of America’s first peoples, it also explores Native American cultures, communities and traditions still thriving today. We hope that many of our Connecticut neighbors can join us at Eastern for the special advance peek before the series’ CPTV premiere!”

“We are very proud of Dr. Baires for her thought-provoking research on Cahokia, the ancient Native American city in what is now southern Illinois,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “It is commendable that Sarah is part of the PBS ‘Native America’ series, and we are delighted that we can host this special preview on our campus. Having the series’ producer and director on site for the event is a special honor.”

The screening is free and open to the public; advance registration is not required.

“Native America” will premiere on CPTV on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 9 p.m. Subsequent episodes will air Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 9 p.m., and Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern’s Tropical Biology Field Course Reaches Milestone

50 Years of Students becoming Scientists

A group of Eastern students crosses a suspension bridge into the Costa Rican jungle at dusk.

The sun was setting on Costa Rica. The air was thick with humidity and adrenaline. The rain was coming down, and Nicholas Kukla, a biology student at Eastern Connecticut State University, was about to step foot on a narrow suspension bridge.

Roughly 30 meters off the ground and 100 meters away from their destination, this was the moment that Kukla and his group had been waiting for. They were venturing from the comfort of their lodge into the deepness of the rainforest for the first and only night-hike of their field trip in the Central American country.

“Once we got into the rainforest, the first thing I noticed were the sounds,” recalled Kukla. “A rush of sounds from different directions had my head swiveling. I wanted to know what each twig snap and leaf rustle could be.”

Using artificial light to see in the pitch-black forest, the researchers spent hours investigating tropical organisms. Among their finds, they discovered the bullet ant, named for a debilitating sting that some say is the most painful in existence. The creature rested comfortably on the handrail of the guided trail, unbothered by its visitors.

“It was the process of turning over every log and exploring every dark hole we encountered that made the night-hike so special,” Kukla said. “This trip really shows you how science works at the smallest levels.”

Since 1968, Eastern’s biology department has taken students on a tropical biology field experience—known as a “global field course” (GFC)—in international locales. This May, a riveting trip to Costa Rica marked the department’s 50th annual trip. The country is a frequent destination due to its tropical rainforests and rich biodiversity.

 

The biology GFC is the longest running program of its kind at Eastern. Destinations have changed over time, initially taking students to Bermuda. In 1984, the department introduced Jamaica as a second location, though Belize took its place by 1986. Bermuda and Belize alternated each year until 2001, when San Salvador Island in the Bahamas replaced Bermuda. Costa Rica replaced the Belize course as a destination in 2008.

Biology Professor Charles Booth has seen much of this evolution, teaching more than 20 global field courses throughout his Eastern tenure.

“My first trip was in May of 1985 to Bermuda with former professors Barry Wulff and Michael Gable,” he said. “I have many great memories — nighttime walks through the Belize rainforest, using a headlamp to spot animals; scuba diving with hammerhead sharks off San Salvador; visiting spectacular Mayan ruins in Belize and Guatemala. My best memories are sharing the experiences with students.”

“Every time I teach the course, I have unique experiences,” said Biology Professor Patricia Szczys. “What I love most about the tropical biology course is to witness the first-time rainforest experiences of my students. Plants, animals and cultural differences that have become familiar to me over 20 years feel new and exciting when I travel with them. Each student brings me a new perspective.”

 

Szczys, alongside Biology Professor Matthew Graham, accompanied 14 students on the trip this May. During the school year preceding the trip, students worked in groups to read the literature and design an experiment later to be executed in Costa Rica. This coming fall 2018 semester, they will analyze the data and create posters that convey their research. Several students are planning to submit their work for publication.

Biology student Jessica Purick and her group studied the effects of visual and olfactory cues on behavioral responses of the strawberry poison dart frog. “It was a very hands-on adventure with lots of hiking and sightseeing. It definitely made me want to do another research trip in the future and travel more in general.”

“The knowledge and experiences that I gained during my days in Costa Rica were invaluable,” added student Nathan Murphy. “Not only did the trip allow me to explore places I’d never imagined seeing before, it also allowed our class to perform scientific research projects involving real-world data collection and experimentation that would not be possible in the United States.”

Eastern students scuba dive in the Bahamas.

“For students in our tropical biology courses,” said Booth, “the biological concepts they read about in textbooks and hear about in lectures come alive when they visit an oceanic island, snorkel on a coral reef or walk through a tropical rainforest. They see exotic plants and animals up close and gain a sense of how tropical organisms interact. They learn how plant and animal communities are structured and how they differ from the communities that we have in New England.”

Booth continued: “The students also learn about new cultures. They see how the local people interact with their environment, how they use native plants and animals for food and medicine. Bermuda, Belize and the Bahamas are English-speaking countries, former British colonies, but they have distinct histories, cultures and customs. The Costa Rica course exposes students to a very different, predominantly Spanish-speaking culture. Among the students who go on these trips, some have never been out of New England, some have never flown on a plane before and some have never been out of the United States. The trips become a transforming experience for many, exposing them to a world they may have only read about or perhaps never knew existed.”

Speaking to the transformation, Kukla added, “These trips really make you feel like you’re transitioning from a student to a scientist.”

In San Salvador, students study the biology of tropical terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Marine studies focus on coral reef, sea grass bed, mangrove, beach and rocky shore communities. Terrestrial studies examine cave, mud flat, sand dune and upland shrub communities. San Salvador’s flora and fauna include both native and introduced species, making the island a natural laboratory for studying island biogeography.

Studying in Costa Rica increases student understanding of tropical ecosystems by reviewing fundamental concepts of tropical ecology, as well as various topics currently attracting research attention. Considerable effort is devoted to assignments and activities designed to enhance educational value. In addition to factual and conceptual content, the course centers on the design and execution of field studies in tropical biology.

 

“All students return changed in some way,” said Szczys. “Some students realize that they love and have a talent for field work, others realize that they are much more interested in laboratory-based biology. All return with an appreciation of tropical biodiversity and the complexity of tropical field studies, along with an understanding of a new culture. Our students return having overcome environmental, cultural and intellectual challenges.”

These challenges, according to Szczys, include handling wildlife, lack of air conditioning amid intense humidity, and troubleshooting experimental designs with limited Internet service.

“For most, perhaps all students, the trips offer a chance to reflect on their personal lives and goals,” added Booth. “Some students decide they want to travel more, and they have newfound confidence in their ability to travel internationally, while some want to go to graduate school to study tropical environments. Others simply have a new perspective on their lives in the United States after having experienced life in another country.”

He also noted that global field courses are as much a learning experience for faculty as they are for students. “I learn something new on every trip — not just biology, but I have gained a better understanding of countries we have visited, and have gotten to know the students better. These experiences helped, I think, to make me a better teacher and mentor back on campus, and to make me a more informed citizen.”

Szczys concurred, “It is a privilege to share my interests as a biologist and experience as a global citizen with my students.”

“The Costa Rica trip was absolutely unforgettable,” concluded Kukla. “I am so thankful to Eastern for providing me with this opportunity that has sparked a permanent interest in rainforest biology.”

Written by Jordan Corey

Students Sample the ‘Real World’ through Summer Internships

Samantha Honeywell is interning at Fox 17 News in Nashville–an opportunity she learned of thanks to Eastern alumnus Adam Wurtzel (right).

From radio stations to baseball stadiums, the efforts of Eastern students to enter the working world are evident this summer. With the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing an internship at the undergraduate level comes other benefits, such as resume enhancement, network building and skills development. Following are just a few of those students who are seizing their summer with an internship.

Business Administration major Joshua Lamoureux ’18 interns for The Nutmeg Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of Hall Communications Radio Group, at WILI radio station in Willimantic, CT. “I write scripts for ads in addition to recording radio voice promotions and advertisements for the AM and FM stations,” he said. “I also attend to marketing, research and copywriting tasks.”

Lamoureux’s favorite part of the internship is creating his own recordings and adding personal touches to them, like music selections and sound effects. “The skills I’m utilizing are important because I’m interested in pursuing a career in the same field.”

Samantha Honeywell ’20 is another student finding her place in broadcasting. A Communication major, she was introduced to her internship at Fox 17 News in Nashville, TN, by Eastern alumnus Adam Wurtzel ’07, a reporter on “Nashville Insider” and host of “The Nashouse.”

Honeywell assists multimedia journalists with reporting, filming and editing news packages. The fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment of the news industry has been enlightening to her. “Up until now I’ve been allowed to take my time on video editing projects. But here, there’s a completely different set up.”

Katherine O’Rourke is a housing operations intern at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Mathematics student Katherine O’Rourke ’19 also traveled out of state to fulfill her position as a housing operations intern at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Duties include managing work orders, conducting preventative maintenance by patrolling buildings, working with facilities and taking inventories.

“My favorite thing about my summer internship is exploring Philadelphia and working with new acquaintances. I also really enjoy getting to know how different schools function,” said O’Rourke. “As an aspiring student affairs professional, I think my internship is providing me with important experience in terms of the operations side of the field.”

Demitra Kourtzidis ’19, a Political Science and Economics double major, experienced similar professional growth during her time spent as an intern at the Office of Policy and Management in Hartford, CT.

“Because of my internship, I’ve learned that legislation is its own language — and I can now read and understand it,” she said. “My supervisor taught me about different political strategies and how small steps legislators take eventually end up as part of a bigger plan.”

Kourtzidis helped track legislation from early public hearings through passage in the House and Senate. She also took notes at public hearings and various agency meetings, tracked bills and amendments and attended House and Senate sessions to track bill status.

“My internship allowed me to learn about the behind-the-scenes political process,” she continued. “It taught me so much about politics and public policy, and is already proving to be useful in my academic career.” Kourtzidis is interested in a career as a public policy consultant. Moreover, she would like to pursue a doctorate in public policy so that she can become a college professor and conduct research.

Sport and Leisure Management major Madalyn Budzik ’19 is refining skills that will be useful in her potential career endeavors, as well. She is a field promotion intern for the Bristol Blues collegiate baseball organization based in Bristol, CT.

Budzik organizes all advertising sponsors and games, and works closely with the game announcer to ensure all event communications take place accurately and seamlessly. She also devises games and events for children attending games.

“It takes me out of my comfort zone in terms of public speaking because it requires me to speak in front of large groups of people,” she said. “I know this will help me in the future because I am building organizational and communication skills. Internships are important for students because they provide real-world, hands-on experience so they can decide whether they want to continue to pursue the career path they may be considering.”

Honeywell concurred, “Every student should do an internship, or more than one if possible, so that they can experience different scenarios and challenges that arise in their field.”

“Internships are invaluable for students,” concluded O’Rourke.

Written by Jordan Corey

Summer Fellowships Delve into Industrial Psych, Music Performance

Among her percussion instruments, Emily Miclon trained with the marimba during her summer fellowship.

Two Eastern students participated in Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity (UGRCA) Fellowships this summer, which are intensive research experiences on the Eastern campus that pair students with faculty mentors. Psychology major Kelly Bielonko ‘18 conducted a project on employee support groups while music major Emily Miclon ‘18 prepared for advanced percussion performance.

Bielonko partnered with Professor Peter Bachiochi to execute her study titled “The Relationship Between Employee Resource Groups and Occupational Health Outcomes.” She has prior experience as a research assistant in Bachiochi’s industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology lab. I/O psychology focuses on human behavior in relation to work.

Bielonko attended the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference this past April in Chicago.

“I became personally interested in I/O psychology over a year ago when I realized we spend nearly one-third of our lives working,” said Bielonko. “I’ve always been one for statistical representations or nuanced ways of looking at everyday occurrences, and this one hit home. Workplace behavior and health are very interesting topics that are often overlooked, yet they are a critical component of any successful business infrastructure.

“Within any workplace, there are a variety of backgrounds, from gender to race, ethnicity, religion, talent, disability and more,” she added. “The question is, how can an employer support such a diverse workforce?”

Miclon, on the other hand, partnered with Music Professor Jeff Calissi on a project titled “The Preparation and Performance of Advanced Percussion Repertoire.” Their research included preparing advanced pieces of music on marimba, snare drum and timpani.

“Throughout the program, I had intensive lessons that focused on performance practice, with the goal of preparing me as a musician for performance and competition,” said Miclon. “This advanced repertoire — including transcription works — helped me properly understand how to approach the instruments in a musically effective manner to be presented in front of audiences.

“I believe this will help my contribution to the ensembles I play with at Eastern,” she continued. “Musical performances can unite people and communities, and I hope that I can use my skills to impact others.”

With each fellowship experience came different goals, ranging from personal development to enhancing the lives of others. Miclon, for instance, wants to move on with increased confidence as a performer.

“Musical performance can be a vulnerable thing,” she said, “and I hope to not only feel comfortable taking on challenges in my musical career, but also to feel more comfortable presenting myself as a musician.”

Bielonko noted the possibility of refining workplace environments through her analysis, calling attention to the effectiveness of employee support groups (ERGs). “Not feeling supported by an organization can lead to negative outcomes for both employer and employee. We want individuals to feel happier and healthier in their place of work, and we hope to highlight with our study that the conceptual framework of an ERG can enhance everybody’s experience.”

She also acknowledged her own professional growth. “Going through the entire grant and fellowship process, along with generating an I/O research study from beginning to end, has allowed me to better understand the life of a psychology researcher in academia. The ultimate goal is to publish and present our findings at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference next spring.”

Miclon concluded, “Working closely with faculty over an extended period of time is an incredible opportunity. Professors at Eastern are so willing to spend time doing research with students, and it’s amazing that the school provides opportunities like this fellowship.”

Those selected for the competitive UGRCA fellowships each receive a stipend of $1,000 and $250 to be used for their projects or travel to present/exhibit their projects. Students and faculty members must apply as a pair.

Written by Jordan Corey

South Dakota to Kentucky, Eastern Students Conduct NSF Research

Taylor Brown and a team of researchers in the East Fork Indian Creek.

Two Eastern Connecticut State University students have spent the summer working on National Science Foundation-sponsored research projects in Sioux Falls, SD, and Menifee County, KY. Psychology major Kelly Bielonko ’18 has been learning about the challenges faced by rural Native Americans in Sioux Falls, while biology major Taylor Brown ’18 has been monitoring river restoration efforts of the East Fork Indian Creek in Kentucky.

Both students are participating in 10-week Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs), a program of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In South Dakota, Bielonko has tackled a number of projects at the Sanford Research institute in Sioux Falls. Among them, she’s been conducting an analysis of the factors and outcomes of burnout-related teacher attrition in tribal and rural schools in the United States.

Kelly Bielonko at Sanford Research in Sioux Falls

“The focus of my topic comes from my passion for organizational psychology, occupational health and serving those who are underserved,” said Bielonko. “I am looking at cultural, community, school-level and student-level factors that contribute to teachers becoming ‘burned’ out, as well as the outcomes that follow.”

Brown, on the other hand, has been examining the impact of “cross-vanes” on fish diversity and habitat quality along a restored site of the East Fork Indian Creek in Kentucky. Cross-vanes are U-shaped structures made with rocks or boulders to direct energy toward the center of the channel rather than toward the stream bank, which is supposed to reduce erosion, improve habitat and provide stability of the channel.

“This interests me because my goal is to work in conservation,” said Brown. “By doing this project, I am able to provide information to researchers of organizations, such as the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, regarding the impact that their stream management structures are having. I get to see if these structures are actually benefitting the area.”

Both students have had to navigate certain challenges during their REU. For Bielonko, the lack of existing research available on American tribal teacher attrition has made it difficult to carry out a systematic literature review. Meanwhile, Brown has had to familiarize herself with previously foreign topics of study and work around weather conditions that impact the data collection process.

Taylor Brown

Each challenge, however, has made them stronger researchers, as has conducting research out of state versus doing it locally.

“It’s been a wonderful experience to travel to Kentucky, specifically the central Appalachia,” said Brown. “I had never been here before, so I’ve gotten to learn about the environment while simultaneously doing research, which I really like. I’ve also met a diverse group of people that I most likely wouldn’t have met without doing this REU. I’m the only person out of the 10 interns from the Northeast.”

Bielonko concurred, “The experience of being away from home has been incredible, even though I miss Connecticut greatly. Being in a new place, with new people and new things to do, is refreshing and widens your perspective. In the past nine weeks I have learned an incredible deal about myself, industry, academia and the world itself. I will be coming home refreshed to take on my senior year and am motivated to bring back to Eastern what I’ve learned here in Sioux Falls at Sanford Research.”

Some objectives of the NSF-funded program are to enhance students’ overall knowledge of the research process, develop their communication skills and assist them in short- and long-term goal setting to increase future educational and research-related career success.

“The REU has had a significant impact on my research insight,” said Brown. “I have done a considerable amount of fieldwork, learned new techniques and have figured out the direction that I want to go in from here. I am excited to do more research in the future.”

NSF REU participants work directly with faculty mentors and collaborators, including agency professionals, and engage in all aspects of research including study design, data collection, analyses and presentation of results. Those accepted into the program include individuals from the study region, and from other parts of the nation, often from diverse socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Announces New Head Baseball Coach

Brian Hamm joins Warriors after nine seasons leading Amherst College

Former Amherst College head baseball coach Brian Hamm has been named the seventh head baseball coach in the 71-year history of the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball program.

“We are very excited to welcome Brian Hamm to the Eastern family,” said Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier in making the announcement. “Brian emerged as our leading candidate from a highly competitive pool, and I am confident he is going to do great things. The Eastern baseball program has a tradition of success, and the expectations that accompany those successes are high,” added Runksmeier. “Brian has shown he can produce teams that win with character, and he has the passion to succeed as a Warrior. I believe he will meet our expectations and create great experiences for our baseball players.”

Hamm averaged nearly 25 wins a year with a .662 winning percentage in his nine-year career with the Mammoths. He replaces Matt LaBranche, who was 124-77 with two Little East Conference tournament titles in five seasons. LaBranche resigned in June to become the director of athletics at Western New England University.

Hamm expressed his thanks to Eastern President Dr. Elsa Núñez, Vice President of Student Affairs Walter Diaz and Runksmeier, as well as the search committee “for the opportunity to serve as Eastern’s baseball coach. Under Lori Runksmeier’s leadership, the department enables its athletes and coaches to be successful through a supportive and positive culture. The great energy and spirit associated with the University and Athletics Department is exciting to join,” added the new head coach. “Our goal is to win championships and to do so in a way that honors the legacy of the baseball program and is in line with the mission of our university.”

A 2002 graduate of Middlebury College and a native of Terryville, Hamm spent the past 14 years at Amherst, the first four assisting legendary head coach Bill Thurston before succeeding the Hall of Fame coach in 2010. In nine years as head coach at Amherst, Hamm oversaw the winningest period in Amherst baseball’s 156-year history, winning 221 games and losing 113 (.662), leading the program to four NCAA Division III tournaments and two NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) tournament championships. Hamm’s teams were 96-35 (.725) in conference play and set program records for highest team batting average (.323) and lowest team ERA (3.12).

Hamm left Amherst after the 2018 season to return to Connecticut where his wife, Maija Cheung, is a surgeon at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “Returning to Connecticut and coaching at one of our great public institutions is important to me,” noted Hamm, a product of the Terryville Public Schools System. “My family has a long history in sports in Terryville and in Connecticut, and to join the Eastern baseball family and represent our alumni is a privilege that I will do my best to honor. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do so with the young men that are on the team now. I’ve spoken with some of the players and it is clear that I am joining a wonderful group.”

During the 2018 season, Amherst compiled at least 20 wins for the ninth straight year in 2018 and won its second NESCAC championship in six years with a final record of 24-14. The No. 1 seed in the East Division of the NESCAC this past year, Amherst defeated Tufts, the No. 1 seed in the West, twice after a 3-2, 12-inning tournament-opening victory over Bates College to claim the title. At the conclusion of the season this past year, Amherst was ranked sixth in the final NEIBA Division III poll. The Mammoths made their first appearance in the poll – sharing fifth place – after claiming the NESCAC tournament crown.

Hamm was named NESCAC Coach-of-the-Year in 2011 and 2018. In 2014, Amherst won a program-record 30 games and was ranked as high as No. 3 in New England and No. 22 in the final ABCA national poll. During his tenure at Amherst, four players were selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, two of them signing after their junior seasons.

As a college athlete, Hamm played baseball and soccer at Middlebury. After graduating, he spent three seasons as an assistant baseball coach at Middlebury before moving on to Amherst in 2006.

Hamm inherits an Eastern team that finished 25-16 last year – 10-4 in the Little East Conference – reaching the championship round of the Little East Conference tournament as the No. 2 seed. Six of the nine starters in last year’s final game are expected to return, as are all but one of last year’s pitchers. Top senior returnees are two-time all-region third baseman Alex Parkos (Meriden) and all-conference right-handed pitcher Jordan Muchin (West Hartford) and all-conference shortstop Dale Keller (Oxford).

“What stands out to me during the many conversations that I have with alumni, players and coaches is their passion and love for Eastern Connecticut and its baseball program,” said Hamm. “I have great respect for the many coaches and alumni who have worn the jersey and contributed to its meaning, and I look forward to learning more about Eastern’s long history from them.”

Hamm holds a B.A. Degree in Political Science from Middlebury and an M.S. Degree in Sport Management from the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management.

Written by Bob Molta