Students Gain Insights Abroad: Ireland and Greece

Mackenzie Seymour ’20 studied abroad in Ireland.

Chelsy Popo ’19 studied abroad in Greece.

Eastern Connecticut State University students Chelsy Popo ’19 and Mackenzie Seymour ’20 recently completed semesters abroad this fall. They studied in Greece and Ireland, respectively.

Popo, who majors in political science, believes that studying abroad is invaluable because it allows students the opportunity to see the world. “My coursework at Hellenic American University in Athens included a class called ‘Athens Across the Ages.’ Each session was held at a different location in Athens, so I was able to visit and learn about many of the ancient sites and museums, in addition to more modern locations in the city.”

The destinations Popo found most memorable were the Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens, as well as the island of Crete. She also enjoyed visiting Meteora, a rock formation in central Greece that hosts one of the largest, most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. She took side trips to London, Paris, Budapest and Amsterdam.

Mackenzie Seymour

“I never expected to study in Ireland, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Seymour, an accounting major. Like Popo, she visited nearby countries, such as Spain, England, the Netherlands and Italy, while exploring Ireland itself. “I had the most fun traveling within Ireland, to Galway, Dublin, Cork and the Ring of Kerry, a scenic route in southwest Ireland. It looked like a breathtaking painting — and has become my favorite place.” Seymour noted her appreciation for learning about unfamiliar cultures along the way.

Popo similarly found herself intrigued by the environment she lived in. “It was interesting to study in Greece as a political science major, since Athens is known as the birthplace of democracy and because of the current political climate.” Popo also enjoyed the Mediterranean climate and the warm, welcoming people she encountered.

Seymour said study abroad programs help students step out of their normal lives. “Many of us are used to a normal routine — it can be hard to change things,” she said. “I believe that it’s important to explore life and experience new things. I became more independent and mature because of my trip. I have returned to America a much stronger person.”

Chelsy Popo

Popo concurred: “Once I made up my mind to step outside my comfort zone, I learned so much about the world and myself. The experiences and connections have helped me become a global citizen.” She plans to study international or criminal law after graduating.

“I have become extremely grateful for my time at Eastern and am excited about returning to continue with my classes,” concluded Seymour, who wants to attend graduate school to become a certified public accountant. “The professors go above and beyond to assist students in understanding the subjects we are studying, and after studying abroad, I can say for sure that my favorite part of Eastern is the academics.”

Written by Jordan Corey

 

Eastern Graduates First Dance Student, Charliece Salters

Charliece Salters ’19 is the first Eastern student to graduate with a concentration in the Dance and World Performance.

A week before her final exams, senior Charliece Salters stood alone on stage in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. She cued up a mid-tempo R&B song and then performed a series of impressive leaps and dance sequences before sitting down to reflect on her time at Eastern. 

Salters is the first Theatre major to graduate with the relatively new Dance and World Performance concentration. “I thought I would dance on my own time in college, but I never considered it as more than a pastime,” explained Salters, who attended the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven with a focus on dance before enrolling at Eastern. 

Dance started to become a priority during her freshman year when a fellow student encouraged her to join the Fusion Dance Crew student club. In her sophomore year, dance once again took on a central role in Salters’ life. “I was a child psychology major, but I wanted to change majors,” she said. “My advisor asked me what I liked to do, and I said dance.” 

Salters visited Alycia Bright-Holland, assistant professor of theatre, who was launching the Dance and World Performance concentration, and became the concentration’s first major. She worked with Bright-Holland to grow the program, which offers dancers opportunities ranging from choreographing their own dances, to networking and collaborating with other art forms. “I definitely feel like I’ve grown,” said Salters. “My knowledge wasn’t as broad and my love for dance is stronger.”  

Salters was also asked to step out of her comfort zone that same year when she was named captain of the Fusion Dance Crew. “I knew I had leadership qualities, but I had never choreographed hip hop before.” 

Being named captain, a position she maintained through her senior year, gave Salters a new sense of purpose. Choreographing, teaching and helping other dancers grow and push themselves has become her passion. “It’s not just a club. I really care about everyone that’s been on the team. I hope I gave them something.”

A final challenge for Salters came this fall when she took on the role of assistant choreographer for the Theatre Program’s production of “Cabaret” for her senior project. She was tasked with critiquing the dancers and choreographing the comical and raunchy “Two Ladies” dance number.

“Musical theatre is far out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It was challenging but I love the outcome.” Looking forward, Salters plans to return to New Haven and look to local dance studios to get her feet wet. She also intends to continue her dance training in New York City and in a few years dance professionally.

“Now I can play a song and just move and be confident in what I’m doing,” said Salters.  “I’m thankful for whom I’ve met here and the people who helped me get through, especially Alycia, David Pellegrini and my best friend. I appreciate being here.”

Written by Meghan Carden

Eastern Announces Results of 2018 TIMPANI Toy Study

The stackable, magnetic, bottle-shaped “Magz Clix” scored highest for engaging children in mindful play and was named Eastern’s 2018 TIMPANI Toy of the Year.

Written by Ed Osborn

On Dec. 4, Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education announced that “Magz Clix” (previously known as “Bottle Clix”) by Magz® has been named the 2018 TIMPANI toy. TIMPANI stands for “Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination.”

Now in its ninth year, the annual toy study investigates how young children learn as they play with a variety of toys in natural settings. The toys were placed in preschool classrooms at the University’s Child and Family Development Resource Center, and student researchers used hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys. Faculty and undergraduate student researchers then coded the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization.

“The opportunities that Eastern undergraduates have to conduct faculty-mentored research are a strength of our liberal arts education,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The TIMPANI toy study is a wonderful example of the sophisticated nature of student research on our campus. For the past nine years, students from the early childhood education, psychology and other departments have observed children at play with a variety of toys. In the process, they have developed a criteria-based assessment of what toys are best for the cognitive, social and creative development of young children. Parents, preschool educators and others around the world are turning to Eastern for direction on how best to support children’s play. At the same time, our students are conducting empirical research of the highest quality.”

The 2018 TIMPANI researchers included (left to right) students Allison Lundy ’19 and Morgan Winship ’18, Professor Emeritus Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, CECE Director Julia DeLapp and student Dominique McLean ’18. A fourth student was involved as well: Nicole Green ’18.

For this year’s study, researchers also investigated how teachers introduce new play materials into their classrooms and the effects of those introductions on children’s play quality. To study that aspect effectively, it was important to select toys that had similar characteristics, so the researchers selected eight construction toys to study.

Magz Clix received the highest overall score in this year’s study and was the highest-scoring toy in the social interaction subscale. The toy includes colorful, magnetic, bottle-shaped pieces that can be connected side-to-side or stacked. Children were often seen stacking the pieces in very tall towers. According to Morgan Winship, a psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study, “That was a huge problem that they had to solve together. How were they going to get high enough to stack the pieces when the towers were taller than them? They needed to interact and help each other.”

Children were also observed using the Magz Clix to create microphones, rocket ships, and guitars with their peers. “It provided them the opportunity to express themselves open-endedly through object transformations and play narratives,” said Allison Lundy, another psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study. “I wasn’t expecting this toy to score the highest, because it didn’t really seem like there was much to do with them. But watching the videos, I was surprised to see the different ways that children utilized them.”

According to Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and retired Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, toys that appear simple to adults often inspire some of the highest quality play. “We’ve found over the years that toys that are quite basic and can be used in multiple ways do very, very well.” He also noted that like many construction toys, the Magz Clix consist of many small parts, which leads to more social interaction and problem-solving. “Children need to coordinate their activities with peers as they’re building with them.”

Notably, Magz Clix also held children’s attention over time. “With many toys, we see high-quality play the first day that it’s in the classroom, but then the play quality wanes over time,” said Julia DeLapp, director of the Center for Early Childhood Education and co-investigator of the study. “But with Magz Clix, we actually saw an improvement in the play quality the second week that it was in the classroom.” Magz Clix was also the highest-scoring toy for Hispanic children and for children from families with high levels of financial need.

Study co-investigator Julia DeLapp gave the opening remarks at the 2018 press conference.

The TIMPANI toy study provides undergraduate students at Eastern a unique opportunity to engage in primary research – an opportunity that ensures they are well prepared for graduate school and the workforce because of the professional experience that research projects provide. In addition to Winship and Lundy, two additional undergraduate students were involved in this year’s study: Dominique McLean, a psychology and early childhood education student, and Nicole Green, an English and elementary education student. April Doolan, a communication student, was the student editor for this year’s video.

The results of the study were first announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington, DC, on Nov. 14. Findings will be disseminated to preschool teachers nationally to inform their decisions about the toys to include in their classroom. Findings will also be shared with families. The investigation on how teachers introduce play materials will continue for another year; results are expected in late 2019.

For more information on TIMPANI as well as the 2018 video, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/. Contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687.

Previous TIMPANI toys include Animal Kingdom Mega Pack by Animal Planet (2017); Plus-Plus® by Plus-Plus® (2016), Wooden Cash Register by Hape (2015); Paint and Easel (easel by Community Playthings), and Hot Wheels Cars by Mattel (2014); Magna-Tiles by Valtech!, and My First Railway by Brio (2013); Duplo Blocks by LEGO (2012); Tinker Toys by Hasbro (2011); and Wooden Vehicles and Signs by Melissa and Doug (2010).

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Disclaimer: The TIMPANI toy study does not consider, nor does it test, the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy studied. Neither the Center for Early Childhood Education nor Eastern Connecticut State University is liable for any mishaps related to the use of toys mentioned in study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Governor-Elect’s Policy Summit Hosted at Eastern

Governor-elect Ned Lamont

Written by Michael Rouleau

Nearly 500 people convened on Eastern’s campus on Nov. 27 for Governor-elect Ned Lamont’s public policy summit. The gathering consisted of the incoming administration’s transition team as well as concerned citizens from a range of economic sectors and political affiliations. Fifteen policy committees met across campus with the goal of establishing a roadmap for the incoming governor.

President Elsa Núñez welcomed Lamont and gave the opening remarks. “’Public’ is the most important aspect of our mission,” she said to the Betty R. Tipton Room audience in the Student Center. “We at Eastern build a middle class for Connecticut; that’s really the business we’re in.”          

Núñez applauded Lamont’s emphasis on jobs, workforce and economic development, and cited Eastern’s partnership with Cigna — in which students work a paid on-campus internship that often leads to full-time employment — as a prime example of how higher education and industry can work together.    

Lt. Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz

Speaking of the transition team, Lt. Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz said, “We’ve brought together smart, competent, experienced people. You’re here to help us develop a roadmap to move our state forward.”

“This is a fresh start for Connecticut,” said Lamont. “I hope the outcome of today’s work is not just a nice report that gathers dust on a bookshelf.”

The policy committees concerned a range of issues, including transportation, energy, education, health care, human services, criminal justice, jobs/economy, women, environment, digital strategy, agriculture, shared services, arts/culture/tourism, housing and public safety.

The policy summit recommendations and transition memos from various commissioners in the current administration will be used by Lamont and his team to craft a plan of action in the coming weeks. “I’m looking like a laser beam at ways we can impact economic development in Connecticut,” Lamont said.

Written by Michael Rouleau

November Music Events in Review

The Nov. 19 performance featured several vocal and instrumental ensembles.

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University sponsored several performances during the month of November, ranging from faculty recitals to guest ensembles. All performances occurred in the Concert Hall and other venues within the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

S.O.Y. Piano Trio at “Night Reflections.”

The Faculty Recital Series presented “Night Reflection: S.O.Y. Piano Trio Multi-Media Concert” on Nov. 2. Collaborating with Eastern theatre and visual arts faculty members, the trio (violinist Seulye Park, pianist Okon Hwang and cellist YunYang Lin) presented compositions inspired by, and evocative of, Ernest Bloch, Reynaldo Hahn, Astor Piazzolla and Gaspar Cassado.

The Faculty Recital Series continued on Nov. 3 with a performance by Eastern woodwind faculty. Faculty members Amanda Baker (flute), Christopher Howard (clarinet), Joshua Thomas (saxophones) and David Ballena (piano) presented an evening of music by American composers, including Simeon Bellison, Neil Thornock, Robert Muczynski and Arthur Kreiger.

“Music Still Speaks” was a choral concert that featured two guest ensembles as well as Eastern Concert Chorale (depicted here).

Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers hosted a choral concert titled “Music Still Speaks” on Nov. 4. Joined by Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble and Consonare Youth Chorus, the concert featured performances by each ensemble and a final selection performed by all four choirs.

The Charter Oak Brass Band celebrated their 30th anniversary season on Nov. 10 with a concert featuring highly anticipated new works. The band is a 28-piece musical ensemble whose distinctive sound comes from its all-brass instrumentation.

Eastern hosted the Willimantic Philharmonic Orchestra on Nov. 11. The orchestra is a non-profit community orchestra dedicated to the performance of symphonic orchestral music.

Night’s Blackbird worked with Eastern music students in the Concert Hall.

The Nov. 19 performance featured several vocal and instrumental ensembles.

The Music Program presented guest ensemble Night’s Blackbird on Nov. 16. Night’s Blackbird is an early-music ensemble based out of Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. Members of the ensemble also worked with Eastern voice students on the interpretation and presentation of several lute ayres.

November performances concluded on Nov. 19 with a major performance by the Concert Chorale, Chamber Singers and Eastern Wind Ensemble. The concert also featured the work of several student conductors.

Social Action Day Focuses on Ex-Offender Reentry

A group of social work students presents at Social Action Day.

Written by Jordan Corey

The issues surrounding housing reentry for ex-offenders were center stage on Nov. 13 for Social Action Day. Organized by the Social Work Program, the event included student presentations, a panel of ex-offender reentry experts, and a “listening tour” featuring formerly incarcerated individuals.

Social Action Day is an opportunity for junior social work students to address a real-life issue that affects vulnerable populations. In five groups, students worked to educate the audience on housing setbacks faced by former inmates in their lives after prison.

Some of these barriers include finding a steady means of income, obtaining residency in certain areas because of their criminal record and being subjects of racial discrimination. The goal of this year’s Social Action Day was to present an evidence-based housing policy to lawmakers that will help increase housing stability and promote post-release success.

Students discussed re-entry population demographics, re-entry policies utilized in other states and direct actions that Connecticut can use to improve the quality of life for ex-offenders reentering society.

One group shared an interview with caseworkers, who touched on the unmet needs of ex-offender communities, many of them homeless and without proper resources—such as clean clothes — to thrive in a working society. Another presented results from a survey given to 92 Eastern students that reflected the attitudes and understanding of facts surrounding ex-offenders. Student also had Social Action Day attendees take the same survey.

Social Action Day panelists included (left to right): Theresa Severance, coordinator of Eastern’s criminology program; Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens, community education and outreach specialist with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center; Steven Hernandez, Esq. interim executive director for the Commission on Equity and Opportunity; Fernando Muniz, chief executive director at Community Solutions, Inc.; State Representative Brandon McGee; Lisa Cato, chief probation officer I of the Court Support Service Division.

Panel members were Fernando Muñiz, Theresa Severance, Lisa Cato-Scott, Brandon McGee, Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens, Bruce Bressler and Steven Hernández. They covered a range of subjects, from stigmatization to advocacy, reflecting the diversity of their experiences and knowledge.

One point raised by Muñiz — CEO of Community Solutions, Inc. — was that while incarceration rates have decreased over the years, the population leaving prisons is now older. Many ex-offenders have physical limitations that restrict their work and housing options. “The system hasn’t really shifted to accommodate them.”

Bressler, who is co-chair of the Legislative Housing Re-Entry Working Group and has spent more than 20 years of his life incarcerated, emphasized the importance of mental health and maintaining a motivated mindset as an ex-offender. He talked about changing the value system of the inmate, calling for outsiders to recognize their individuality within a generalized group and for inmates to exhibit positive attitudes. “The past should be something that teaches us,” he said, “not something that holds us hostage.”

Students present to a packed Betty Tipton Room in the Student Center.

McGee, a state representative, encouraged the audience to identify their government representatives and contact them if they want to assist in making changes. “There were, and still are, champions around this work,” he stated. As somebody familiar with the impact of having family in and out of prison, McGee has made an effort to reform social justice issues such as housing for ex-offenders. He explained that not all legislators understand this population — one reason why awareness must be spread on all sides. “Now is the time more than ever. Your voice matters.”

The Legislative Housing Re-Entry Working Group, directed by the Commission on Equity and Opportunity, organized a “listening tour” in partnership with Representative McGee as part of Social Action Day. Members of the post-incarceration community were given the opportunity to speak directly to stakeholders about their experiences obtaining permanent housing in Connecticut.

Shackathon Raises Awareness of Homelessness

Members of Habitat for Humanity break down camp after spending the night sleeping in cardboard boxes.

Written by Jordan Corey

A group of Eastern Connecticut State University students slept outdoors in cardboard boxes on Nov. 7-8 for “Shackathon.” The annual Habitat for Humanity event aims to raise awareness of homelessness and support the organization’s mission to alleviate the problem of sub-standard housing.

Club members spent 24 hours outside, weathering the cool night sheltered only by cardboard boxes, tarps and sleeping bags. Surrounding their camp, located in front of Webb Hall, were flyers with statistics about homelessness — a public display for those passing by.

Through the 24-hour period, club members received food and donations from members of the Eastern community. Donations go toward the Windham chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which supports housing construction projects for local community members.

Sophomore Brandon Turley commented on the chilly overnight experience. “I sleep in a comfortable bed every night,” he said. “We could do this in August or September, but it wouldn’t have the same effect.”

Turley added that while many people face homelessness in the Windham community, not all students are attuned to the severity of the issue. “We don’t see it as much on campus,” he said. “It’s eye opening to get a glimpse of what’s going on.”

Eastern Celebrates Veterans Day 100 Years after WWI

Speakers at this year’s ceremony included, left to right: VP of Student Affairs Walter Diaz, VET Center Coordinator Rebekah Avery, Brigadier General Ralph Hedenberg, Father Laurence LaPointe and President Elsa Núñez.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University held its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 9 in the Student Center. Two days before the 100th anniversary of the close of World War I (Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918), the ceremony featured remarks by Eastern dignitaries as well as distinguished guest Brigadier General Ralph Hedenberg.

The Natchaug River Young Marines.

Following the Presentation of Colors by the Natchaug River Young Marines and the national anthem by Eastern’s Chamber Singers vocal ensemble, Father Laurence LaPointe of the Campus Ministry shared his reflections.

“There are none of us left who remember that day 100 years ago,” he said of the first Armistice Day. “The horrors of WWI, the horrible loss of life, 37 million people died… Because of the valor of those who died, the sacrifice that nations make to give up their young is why we cherish those who come home.

“As they grow old,” he said of combat veterans, “they often are reluctant to tell their stories. We must never forget the devastation of war.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Walter Diaz shifted the focus of the ceremony to Eastern’s campus. “Today we celebrate the vets who live, work and study on this campus. We enjoy a true democracy because of their sacrifice.

“Reflect on this past Tuesday, Nov. 6, voting day,” he continued. “You were able to vote – Democrat, Republican, independent and any other party – because of this democracy.”

President Elsa Núñez called attention to Eastern’s distinction as one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans” in the North by U.S. News and World Report.

“We have nearly 150 active-duty military and veterans enrolled at Eastern this semester,” she said. “The VETS Center, under the leadership of veteran Rebekah Avery ’94, not only offers a unique space on campus, but also the expertise to help veterans access the services and support they’ve earned and deserve.

“To me, our military represents the great diversity of America itself, and reflects how we are evolving as a nation and as a people,” continued Núñez, referring to Pew Research Center data that shows 40 percent of active-duty military personnel in 2015 were made up of ethnic minority groups. “They all took the same oath: ‘To support and defend the Constitution of the United States; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and to obey the orders of the president of the United States.'”

Conducted by Music Professor David Belles, the Eastern Chamber Singers sang the national anthem as wells the hymn “We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace.”

Brigadier General Hedenberg delivered the ceremony’s keynote address. A decorated veteran himself, Hedenberg is currently director of the joint staff of Joint Force Headquarters, Connecticut Army National Guard.

“There are approximately 190 militaries around the world, but we are the only one that takes an oath to an ideal – the Constitution – not to a monarch,” he said.

“Our understanding of Veterans Day has evolved over the years. Armistice Day 100 years ago was a day of remembrance for those who died in WWI. That was meant to be the ‘war to end all wars,’ but we’ve fought many since.

“After WWII, our veterans came home as heroes,” he continued. “The holiday became more festive; a celebration of success. The day commemorated both World Wars.

“Then came the Korean War, which some call the forgotten war; that’s unfair, as those soldiers fought hard as any. The Vietnam War was one of social unrest and protest, but those soldiers fought hard nonetheless.”

Speaking to the United States’ other conflicts, Hedenberg said that as a people we’ve learned to separate the politics of war from its participants. “People aren’t ‘in’ the army,” he said. “They ‘are’ the army. They represent themselves as well as those who came before them, and those who will come after.”

In closing the event, Avery, coordinator of the VETS Center, called attention to Willimantic’s new Veterans Coffeehouse. Starting Nov. 28, the coffeehouse will occur every Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. at the Salvation Army at 316 Pleasant Street, Willimantic. The Veterans Coffeehouse is open to all veterans to meet, socialize and discuss benefits and services.

Students Combat Antibiotic-Resistance Crisis via ‘Tiny Earth’

Students in Bio 334 test bacteria for antibiotic properties.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University is joining the push to mitigate one of the world’s most critical public health crises: antibiotic resistance. Through a new opportunity in the Biology Department, Eastern students are tapping into the Tiny Earth network, an international crowdsourcing effort that engages young scientists in the search for new antibiotic medicines.

The United Nations has named antibiotic resistance a global priority. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia. The problem? As antibiotics are misused – and new ones are slowly discovered – harmful bacteria develop resistances against them, rendering the medications ineffective.

Through Bio 334 (General Microbiology), Eastern students have joined scientists worldwide in the pursuit of new antibiotics by examining microorganisms found in soil. Why soil? Many of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics were discovered from “dirt,” including penicillin and vancomycin.

Students in Bio 334 test bacteria for antibiotic properties.

“Our supply of effective antibiotics is dwindling, leaving people susceptible to extended illness and even death as a result of seemingly simple bacterial infections,” wrote Biology Professors Barbara Murdoch and Jonathan Hulvey, leaders of Eastern’s antibiotic resistance efforts. “Of even more concern is that only a few new classes of antibiotics have been created since the 1970s, and many pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the search for new antibiotics because of dwindling profit margins and long timelines for FDA approval.”

Eastern’s laboratory findings, and those of the thousands of other students tapped into the network, are sent to Tiny Earth headquarters at the University of Wisconsin. There are more than 200 schools across the United States and 14 countries participating in Tiny Earth — hence the “student-sourcing.”

“I feel as though we are a part of the fight against antibiotic resistance,” said Max Walter ’19, a biology major enrolled in Bio 334. “There are already reemerging pathogenic outbreaks happening around the world, such as tuberculosis.”

Classmate Katlyn Little ’19 echoed, “There’s a purpose to what we’re doing. It’s not an arbitrary lab to learn skills. There’s real importance behind it.”

A goal of the project is to get young people excited about science while training them in important molecular techniques. Research has shown that students who engage in authentic research experiences are more likely to pursue and persist in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“A big part of this program is having students take ownership over their own research project,” said Hulvey, who is leading Bio 334. “The fact that it’s connected to this global effort makes it all the better.”

Jonathan Hulvey teaches in his General Microbiology course (Bio 334), which has a laboratory component connected to Tiny Earth.

“What I like best about the lab is that we are allowed a lot of freedom,” said Molly Corvello ’18, a biology major enrolled Bio 334. “We get to decide what bacteria to test and which pathogens to test against. We’re doing actual lab work and there’s real mystery involved. This isn’t a ‘cookie-cut’ lab where the outcome is already known. It’s pretty exciting to think that the bacteria we find may be used in the future of medicine.”

Murdoch has led students through this research via independent study for the past several years. “We’re not telling the students what to do,” she said of the Tiny Earth approach. “We tell them the project and teach the skills they’ll need. They do genetic analysis and bioinformatics. They can take it as far as they want and apply these skills to other areas of science.”

Eastern students have gone to Church Farm, an Eastern property in rural Ashford, to collect soil samples. Collections have come from wetland areas, loamy soils and sandy soils. This experimentation and comparison of soil types is part of each student’s individual project.

When they return to the lab, they isolate bacteria from the soil; test the bacteria to see if they deter the growth of other bacteria, which indicates the possible presence of antibiotics; and then test to find the identity of the deterrent bacteria.

A student in Bio 334.

“In addition to testing bacterial colonies for the production of potentially significant antibiotic molecules, we must conduct additional tests to determine what species we are actually studying,” said biology and mathematics double-major Stefanos Stravoravdis ’20. “In doing such, this experiment acquires an interesting element of discovery ordinarily absent when conducting stock lab procedures with anticipated results.”

Hulvey added, “As their projects develop, they gain new skills. They’re learning how to analyze DNA sequences or how to carry out biochemical tests for identifying bacteria. These are skills that students would hope to learn in any microbiology class, but we’re putting it in the context of this semester-long project.”

Another goal of the project is to increase awareness of the antibiotic resistance crisis. Eastern is collaborating with local schools, such as Ellis Technical High School in Danielson, which are helping to collect soil samples. “This is an avenue to educate the public and to pique the interest of high school students,” said Hulvey.

Murdoch originally brought the student-sourcing approach of Tiny Earth to Eastern in 2013, piloting it via independent study projects.

“I wanted to link my research to a larger global problem,” said Murdoch, “and to enhance the critical thinking, research and communication skills of our students, as well as provide them with outreach opportunities to communicate the antibiotic crisis to audiences beyond Eastern. I’m thrilled that Tiny Earth is finally being delivered in a classroom setting, under the direction of Dr. Hulvey.”

Hulvey has been engaged in a similar vein of research for the past eight years, testing antimicrobial resistance in fungi.

“Dr. Murdoch introduced me to Tiny Earth, which I immediately saw as a tremendous opportunity to immerse students in the world of microbiology and in a way that benefits society,” he said. “Her enthusiasm, along with that of other Tiny Earth folks, is contagious and I’m seeing this semester that my students have also caught the antibiotic-discovery bug!”

For more information, contact Hulvey and Murdoch at hulveyj@easternct.edu and murdochb@easternct.edu, or visit the Tiny Earth website at https://tinyearth.wisc.edu/.

ScholarMatch Recognizes Eastern’s Support of Low-Income Students

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Connecticut State University was recognized by ScholarMatch as one of the standout colleges in the United States providing support for first-generation and low-income students. ScholarMatch is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by author Dave Eggers. Its mission is to make higher education possible for young people from modest backgrounds.

Each year, ScholarMatch analyzes 1,400 U.S. colleges and universities, using public data and information from College Scorecard, to determine which schools offer the most supportive environments for students whose families earn less than $50,000 per year. ScholarMatch publishes its findings in its College Honor Roll, which recognizes 375 schools that are offering robust student support and are achieving excellent outcomes for this student population.

ScholarMatch also features schools recognized on its College Honor Roll in ScholarMatcher, the free interactive college search tool created by ScholarMatch to help underserved student populations find their best fit college in just a few simple clicks. Read more about ScholarMatch at www.scholarmatch.org.