Eastern Presents Pedro Noguera

Noguera by TOMWritten by Dwight Bachman

“If we want to create a more equitable society, we must transform the way we teach our children.” That was the message that Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), drove home during his lecture to a packed house on Nov. 14 at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Speaking in the beautiful Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, Noguera was introduced by Jacob Easley, dean of Eastern’s School of Education and Professional Studies. “Dr. Noguera’s advocacy for educational equity is timely. We are delighted that community members and future educators alike are energized by his message. It is clear that sound pedagogy alone will not tip the scale to ensure that educational excellence is afforded to all children and youth. Advocacy, policy and practice have to work together.”

Noting that family income is the best predictor of student success, Noguera reiterated a point found in many of his published writings – if we want to see student academic performance improve, our society must deal with the root causes of poverty at the same time that we attempt to implement classroom reform.

Nogueara_Wide_shot_in_FAICPolicies such as “No Child Left Behind” still leave far too many children behind, said Noguera, especially children with the greatest needs. He offered numerous ways to close the achievement gap, arguing that equity is recognizing that not all students are the same; some need more time and help due to disadvantages. Equity is about fairness, giving all children the same opportunities.

Noguera also said schools should stop blaming students and accept responsibility for raising achievement in all students, not just the privileged. He called for an “equity lens” in addressing the challenge. “We are supposed to make sure all kids have a chance. Throughout the country, educating kids is a major challenge. School reform has been insufficient in paying attention to teaching and learning.”

The nationally recognized scholar lamented that, “Teachers today focus on control and passive learning, covering material, memorization, when they should be emphasizing engaged learning.” He encouraged the audience of students, faculty and staff from Eastern as well as those from area schools, to seek ways to recognize and develop excellence in students. “We must raise their confidence, competence and resilience . . . If we feed their curiosity, they become life-long learners and problem solvers.”

In sharing a variety of strategies he has observed in schools across the nation that can empower students to learn, Noguera said, “We have to stop treating the kids like inmates.” Innovations he endorsed included personalized lesson plans, team projects, simulations and other engaging teaching methods.

During a lively question and answer period, Noguera said society should reverse what is Noguera_in_FAIC_verticalcurrently happening – spending more money to keep young students in jail than to educate them. “We need to focus on student strengths rather than their deficits.”

He said it is in society’s own interests to invest in education, and he encouraged students to go into teaching “to make a difference, not to make money. Becoming an educator is to become a role model. To become a teacher is to become a life-long learner. We must be committed. We must have the passion for this work.”

Noguera recalled the 19th-century New England educator Horace Mann, who famously said, “Education is “is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery,” and said that we must continue to invest in teaching our children if we want social equity and a prosperous nation.

“Education is the solution to so many of the problems we face. If we invest in the education of kids, we will secure democracy in this country. The goal is to make sure everyone with different learning skills is getting a quality education. We must meet the needs of all kids. The cost of failure is simply too great.”

Prior to his current position at UCLA, Noguera served as the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University and the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools; the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and as professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also the director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change.

He began his career as a classroom teacher in Providence, RI, where he attended Brown University. Among Noguera’s published writings are the books “City Schools and the American Dream”, “Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation’s Schools” and “The Trouble With Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education.”

Noguera’s presentation celebrated the 10th year anniversary of Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education. The event was sponsored by Eastern’s School of Education and Graduate Studies, Office of Equity and Diversity, Windham Public School and Eastern’s Multicultural Leadership Council.


Eastern Hosts DACA Event

Eastern students viewing an informational poster at Social Action Day.

Eastern students viewing an informational poster at Social Action Day.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The current national debate on immigration policy — in particular the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order issued by President Barack Obama in 2012 — was the focus of an event at Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 14 hosted by social work students.

The students’ annual Social Action Day was held in the Betty R. Tipton Room in the Student Center. Titled “DACA 411,” the event was the result of a collaborative effort of social work students taught by Professors Isabel Logan, Paul Trubey and Pamela Chiang. Local community members were also invited to attend.

DACA was an executive order signed by Obama in June 2012 to grant temporary protection to eligible immigrants who entered the country as minors and received a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. The policy also allowed the students to obtain work permits, drivers’ licenses and attend college. They are frequently referred to as “Dreamers,” a reference to the Dream Act, first introduced in Congress in 2001. While it has been debated and frequently reintroduced since—as recently as this fall — this legislation to provide a legal path to U.S. citizenship for millions of immigrants has not been passed.

Eastern student panelists speaking at Social Action Day.

Eastern student panelists speaking at Social Action Day.

In early September 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was rescinding the Obama-era policy, pending a six-month delay to give those students whose DACA status was set to expire before March 2018 one month to submit an application for renewal. There are approximately 800,000 students covered under DACA in the United States; more than 100 attend Eastern.

Without legislative action to provide permanent protections to these undocumented students, they face deportation to countries they have no memory of, nations they have never considered home.

Featured speakers at Social Action Day included State Rep. Susan Johnson, who represents local District 49; Attorney Edwin Colon, director of the Immigrant Children’s Justice Project at the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford; and community activist Renato Calle of the Connecticut Working Families Party. The event also featured two DACA students enrolled at Eastern —Political Science major Yenimar Cortes ’19 and Computer Science major Estefanny Perez Hernandez ’20.

“What we want is for people to have the support from everyone in the community in terms of a clean (immigration) bill with no unfortunate actions, no building of the wall,” said Colon.  “Last week there were a number of acts of civil disobedience around the United States, protests in Washington and even in Hartford. Everyone is anticipating that this will be hard-fought effort. I know this is not going to come easy – we are hopeful but cautiously optimistic about the future. This issue hits very close to home for many.”

Colon, who is also a faculty member at Capital Community College in Hartford and the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, provided a legal aid van through the Center for Children’s Advocacy for students and local community members during the event. The mobile office provides free legal consultation and representation related to immigration issues.

“That people are having to constantly live in fear is not a way to run a country or state,” said Rep. Johnson. “We need to be able to support undocumented people without criminalizing them,” added Calle.

“The word ‘Dreamer’ comes with a narrative that you are an immigrant and a student with a high GPA – a ‘good’ immigrant,” said Cortes. “It tends to indicate that all others that are part of the immigrant community are ‘bad’ immigrants even though they sustain, work hard for their families and contribute to our community. I prefer to call myself undocumented instead of being classified as DACA.”

“DACA was a little bit of hope. I qualified for DACA, but by the time my sister came of age it was already being repealed,” said Perez Hernandez. “We lost everything that we had gained. However, the current issues are also bringing us together. Events like this educate people on the topic — we feel connected. I feel included here.”

Students from the Social Work program presented topics such as “DACA Policy, Now and Then” as well as “State Responses to DACA,” and hosted a mock debate and a discussion of the results of a student survey on DACA that was circulated among Eastern students. Attendees were also given the option to sign petitions to be sent to members of the U.S. Congress and Connecticut General Assembly.

Preparing for the Social Action Day event was an eye-opening experience for the social work students. “I learned about how hard it is to create a policy, especially when it comes to DACA, and then to see the abolition of the policy,” said Brooke Unikewicz ’20, a student in Trubey’s class. “I have been inspired and have been spreading my knowledge to anyone who doesn’t know about DACA. One thing that surprised me was the amount of people who supported the abolition of DACA when we circulated the survey – I expected there would be no one who wants to get rid of the policy.”

“The students were very engaged in several areas including the research study to assess the familiarity and knowledge of the DACA issue on campus,” said Trubey. “These social work students are learning the importance of standing up for social change and against social injustice. The students in the course embraced this challenge and put together an informative program.”

Social Work student Hanna Levesque ’19 of Bristol said, “I hope that the overall message people took away from our Social Action Day is that, above all else, Eastern cares, and we are trying to help our fellow colleagues, friends and loved ones enrolled in the DACA program feel protected.”

Professor Logan concluded, “I think that my students were definitely empowered and I think they took away more knowledge on a topic they were already passionate about.”

Magnificently Mistaken at Eastern

•The ensemble rehearses for "Magnificently Mistaken

• The ensemble rehearses for “Magnificently Mistaken

Written by Michael Rouleau

The Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers at Eastern Connecticut State University will perform their premier concert of the fall semester, “Magnificently Mistaken,” on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Conducted by David Belles and Sarah Kaufold, the three-part performance features musical compositions that are cloaked in mystery; with misleading twists and mistakenly developed histories. Admission to the concert is free.

“An aspect of singing is the opportunity to explore the manner in which our voices respond to other voices and across physical space,” wrote the conductors. “Featuring poly-choral pieces and ambient sounds, we have the opportunity to discover how some mistakes in music can be simply magnificent.”

Part one features pieces that are focused on the concept of “home.” Among them are “I’m Going Home,” selected from the Sacred Harp (1844), followed by “Kodutee,” which speaks of bridging the gap between life and death. “Yonder Come Day” closes part one with several traditional tunes that signify the “ultimate destination and resting place.”

MagnificentlyMistaken_flyerThe second part of the concert opens with “Tres Cantos Nativos Dos Indios Kraó,” a composition of freely based melodies sung by the Kraó tribe of the Amazon forest of northwestern Brazil. The sounds of a virtual rainforest enhance the three short melodies – which happen to have unknown meanings.

Another piece, Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere Mei, Deus,” was developed over the ages through a series of mistakes. Once considered a favorite of the Vatican, the pope forbade anyone from transcribing it. In the 1830s the pope was defied by a composer who mistakenly transcribed it at a much higher pitch, then subsequently printed it in the New Grove Dictionary. “The result was a melding of the original version with a passage of high notes, creating the most famous and moving passage of the song,” wrote the conductors.

The concert closes with a collection of choral movements by Mozart ripe with historical confusions. Three were written for historic mass ceremonies. Revolving around the selections is a “spirited controversy as to how they fit into the canon in terms of form and function.”

Chamber Singers is Eastern’s premier vocal ensemble and consists of 20-25 auditioned singers. Repertoire performed by Eastern Chamber Singers encompasses chamber music from more than four centuries.

The Eastern Concert Chorale is the largest vocal ensemble at Eastern and focuses on choral and orchestral masterworks, as well as shorter choral selections. The Music Program at Eastern supports a variety of musical ensembles, small and large, classical and non-classical. Eastern’s ensembles are open to all students, regardless of major, symbolizing the liberal arts mission of Eastern.

Gift of the Magi Coming to Eastern


 Written by Jordan Corey

It’s no secret that with the winter season fast approaching, becoming engrossed in holiday stress can be all too easy. What better way to decompress than with a night out at a show?

On Dec. 2, Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting the Chatterbox Players, a group of local residents who will present a live old-time radio performance of “The Magic Christmas Tree” and “The Gift of the Magi.” The event – free and open to the public – takes place in Webb Hall 110 at 6 p.m.

“I started The Chatterbox Players to bring radio history to life,” said director Christine Guarnieri ’03. The role of the radio in American culture has been significant since commercial radio broadcasting began in 1920. As the first device to allow for mass communication, radio brought news and entertainment into the comfort of people’s homes. What we now refer to as the old-time radio era, or the Golden Age of Radio, was undoubtedly an exciting age for many.

Guarnieri hopes to recreate the intimate atmosphere of radio. “This is my way of giving people a chance to step away from the negative thoughts and feelings that bombard us at work, on the news or through social media,” she said, “… a way to find a little inner peace through laughter, memories and a sense of community.”

For the upcoming Chatterbox Players performance, actors from the Windham Theatre Guild, Eastern professors, listeners of Guarnieri’s long-running radio show and some of her grandchildren will read from the 1949 “Our Miss Brooks” script of “The Magic Christmas Tree” and the classic O. Henry story “The Gift of the Magi.” Musical bridges will be played by Eastern student Erick Smith, an advanced saxophone player.

“Both of these shows create a powerful image of giving, but on completely different levels,” Guarnieri stated. The preparation process has required dedicated efforts from all sides, shown through the careful consideration of music and sound effects, the capturing of the right voices and the hours spent rehearsing.

Doors open for the family-friendly event at 5:30 p.m. “Many times in the past, members of my audience have commented, ‘I just closed my eyes and listened, and I felt I was somewhere else in time.’ That, to me, is the highest compliment,” concluded Guarnieri.

The Truth behind True Crime

                                             A&E Executives Speak at Eastern

The six-person panel (left to right) included three Eastern faculty members--William Lugo, Kim Dugan and Theresa Severance--and TV executives Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb

The six-person panel (left to right) included three Eastern faculty members–William Lugo, Kim Dugan and Theresa Severance–and TV executives Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb

Written by Jordan Corey

Three Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) executives – Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb – shared their expertise of “true crime” programs with Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 8. Complete with promo clips, intriguing audience questions and thoughtful responses, the panel generated dialog on what goes into capturing real-life crime narratives on television.

“We’ve all been affected by crime … they’re powerful, important stories,” said Sociology Professor William Lugo in his introduction to the program. To begin the discussion, Tarshis, a producer of TV shows like “The First 48” and “The Eleven,” addressed the unique opportunity that television production teams have in being allowed into certain environments, particularly crime scenes. “We’re very mindful of that incredible privilege … we try to humanize the process.”

Fleury, who has worked on “Beyond Scared Straight” and “Cold Case Files,” agreed that the access is a “great luxury” and should be approached as such. She highlighted the importance of consciousness in order to respect all aspects of a situation. “Every person in this story has rights,” she said, from the victims and their families, to the law enforcement involved, to the suspects and their families. To protect such rights, a multitude of steps are taken. Releases are signed regarding participants and objects, as well as following journalistic protocol and partnering with specialized lawyers.

True Crime logoThe executives argued that the true crime shows they work on grant people a window into what is actually going on. Not only that, but they have helped solve crimes that otherwise may not have been pursued by police departments – due to lack of resources or time, for example. With dedicated social media followings, widespread viewership and avid research teams behind them, the programs both raise and answer many questions.

An audience member asked whether or not the current “spirited” political climate changes the direction of what can be screened. When it comes to talking about social issues, a phrase used at A&E is “hiding the broccoli” – the act of integrating something that may not be appealing to everyone, but is nonetheless important, into something that will captivate all parties. Part of the job is to find ways to engage people, and the executives aim to do this in as observational a manner as possible.

Fleury pointed out that at this moment in time, there is not as much trust in the government and overall legal system as there has been in the past. This makes the idea that “maybe somebody got it wrong” more compelling, seen in the sweeping popularity of shows like “Making a Murderer.” The concept of a gray area or wrongful conviction used to be a “non-starter,” according to Tarshis; viewers simply wanted to see “bad guys” put away. Coupled with these contemporary outlooks, he noted, the numerous distribution mediums available now have opened new doors for telling and sharing stories.

Just as the executives and their colleagues have had to adapt to how people are retaining programs, Gottlieb – producer of shows like “8 Minutes” and “Live PD” – drew attention to the fact that audiences have had to acclimate to how shows are being broadcasted. On shows such as “Live PD,” there is not always a clear resolution as there is on shows such as “The First 48.” “Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s ambiguous, sometimes it’s action-packed,” Gottlieb said. “Different situations bring out different audiences … you see it almost immediately online.” The panel compared true crime viewers to those of sports games.

Given the nature of true crime, one student asked about the ethical obligations that arise during the filming process. In response, Tarshis recalled working on “Codependent,” a show centering on codependent drug addicts. A couple wanted to empty their drug supply the night before attempting recovery, and the woman involved accidentally overdosed. The television crew stepped in and called 911, despite her boyfriend’s claims that she was fine. “Basic decency and human life is more important than any hour we put on the air,” Tarshis concluded.

“It’s a living, breathing process,” said Fleury. “We always remind ourselves that these are real people.” The executives collectively agreed that they are not exempt from the heavy emotional influence that is often evoked from their television shows, and they have assorted methods of dealing with it. While Tarshis tries to compartmentalize his life and avoid taking on the degrees of sadness he sees at work, Fleury tends to focus on those who survive bad situations and come out stronger. In short, the group expressed that true crime in its entirety serves a number of significant purposes. “You start to realize that these shows have real impacts,” affirmed Gottlieb.

Education for Democracy at Eastern

•Rick Battistoni leads the conference's keynote discussion

Rick Battistoni leads the conference’s keynote discussion

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its second annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 8. to dissect the practice of “service learning” and its impact on students and society. Service learning is a mutually beneficial teaching strategy that aligns classroom learning with community efforts. Organized by the Center for Community Engagement, the conference featured insights from Eastern faculty and students – Rick Battistoni, who teaches public/community service studies at Providence College, was the keynote speaker.

•Professor Terry Lennox presents on her class's service learning work with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

Professor Terry Lennox presents on her class’s service learning work with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

“Why connect classroom to community?” asked Terry Lennox, digital art and design professor. She had three answers: Working in the real world accelerates the learning process. Secondly, when students can see their impact, they realize the value of their work. Thirdly, service learning is great for portfolios and resumes.

For several years, Lennox has led the Eastern Design Group (a capstone course for seniors) on digital design projects with local nonprofits and community organizations. Among their endeavors, students have designed a permanent exhibit at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, as well as created designs for a gala at Windham Hospital and the nonprofit Grow Windham.

•An Eastern student presents on her service learning work with the Windham Region No Freeze shelter.

•An Eastern student presents on her service learning work with the Windham Region No Freeze shelter.

Speaking to service learning in general, Lennox added, “students benefit by increasing their depth of pre-professional experiences, as well as gaining the reward of successfully working together and seeing their individual talents bring about positive change.”

Communication Professor Denise Matthews has taught a video field production course for 14 years, in which students produce videos for local organizations. “While the quality of the work is very important,” she says, “the experience that students acquire in the process of working as a professional with a client may be the most important component of their learning experience.”

Business Administration Professor Fatma Pakdil brings her students to collaborate with local businesses to analyze operations management topics. “We focus on their business problems and projects so students can see the real-life application of topics covered in the classroom,” she said. “Having a real case with various topics to work on is more challenging and informative, and shows students what they can expect after graduation.”

Keynote speaker Rick Battistoni took the stage for his talk, “Community or Political Engagement? Educating for Democracy in Troubled Times.” “Our current political landscape is full of craters and our discourse has become more polarized,” he said, adding that “voter turnout is abysmally low, especially among college-aged people, for a country that I like to think of as a democracy.”

Battistoni is confident that well-implemented service learning in higher education can counter this civic disengagement, saying that “community engagement is indeed education for democracy.”

In order for this to come to fruition, however, Battistoni says service learning must satisfy three things: purpose, accountability and time.

He explained that classroom goals must clearly align with the goals of the community partner (purpose); the impact must be measured (accountability); and the programs must be long enough to develop meaningful relationships and knowledge (time). “It must be sustained and developmental,” he said, “not just a one-and-done.”

This concept of “time” aligned with the conference’s opening presentation on Eastern’s soon-to-be-formalized Civic Action Plan, which aims to “institutionalize” the practice of service learning. The plan will expand service learning and community engagement opportunities at Eastern; create an academic minor in civic engagement; develop a committee on community-engaged teaching and learning; and reinforce the practice by recognizing and rewarding service learning achievements.

“Eastern has always had a longstanding relationship with the community; it just hasn’t always been organized,” said Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement, which acts as a bridge between the campus and the surrounding community. “This plan broadens and refines the work that’s already been happening on campus.”


Eastern Shack-a-thon for Homelessness

•Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of Eastern Connecticut State University students emerged from frost-covered cardboard boxes on Thursday morning, Nov. 9, after spending a freezing night sleeping outside. The temperatures dipped into the 20s for the annual “Shack-a-thon,” a fundraising event for the Habitat for Humanity club that aims to raise awareness of substandard housing.

Duct-taped boxes, plastic lining and tarps littered Eastern’s main courtyard for the 24-hour event, which challenged club members to weather the elements like homeless people do.

“I was very glad to have layers,” said sophomore Bryan Duffy. Besides lacking warm clothing, he added, “A homeless person might not even have access to the supplies we had. Someone could easily die of hypothermia in their sleep.”

The students learned some tricks to keeping warm. “You want a small box, rather than a large one,” said Duffy, “as your body acts like a furnace and heats up the space.” A tarp on the ground and plastic coverings were key for keeping dry, and duct-taped edges helped to seal in the warmth and reinforce the structure.

Another challenge for Shack-a-thon participants was to eat only food that was donated. Luckily the students had the support of members of the Eastern community, who chipped in with snacks and pizza. But they recognized that if not for a few generous souls, their hunger levels would have been drastically different-another insight into the life of being homeless.

Shack-a-thon and the club’s other activities lead toward its yearly highlight: a spring break trip to the Carolinas where the students build houses with other Habitat for Humanity chapters. Club members have been honing their skills locally in preparation for the trip. They’ve been helping to construct a house on Ivan Hill Street in Willimantic throughout the fall semester.

As part of the Habitat for Humanity policy, the to-be homeowner has been building the house alongside the volunteers in what is called “sweat equity.” “It’s really heartwarming to see him and his kids walk around the rooms that I built,” said sophomore Genna Fritsch. “It’s amazing to see the kids excitedly say ‘this is going to be my room!'”

Habitat for Humanity partners with community members all over the world to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. With volunteer support, Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families.

Collaborative Multimedia Performance at Eastern

SOY dancersWritten by Jolene Potter

Music, visual art and dance came together on Nov. 3 for a unique multimedia performance at Eastern Connecticut State University. This multimedia event involved extensive collaboration between Eastern faculty and students to provide audience members with an exceptional sensory-engaging experience. The “S.O.Y. Piano Trio Multi-Media Concert” was held in Eastern’s state-of-the art Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall.

The talented S.O.Y. Piano Trio, composed of violinist Seulye Park, pianist Okon Hwang and cellist Yun-Yang Lin, worked with visual artist Afarin Rahmanifar, movement specialist Alycia Bright-Holland, and media designers Kristen Morgan and Travis Houldcroft to present pieces by Cornicello, Rocherolle and Piazzolla.

Multimedia productions enrich music performance through a combination of different forms of expression such as audio, text, imagery, video and interactive content. The concert illustrated the artistic shift away from music as a product to music as one element of a multimedia art form.

SOY musiciansThe show opened with Anthony Cornicello’s “Towards,” performed by the S.O.Y. Piano Trio and accompanied by audio and video interaction and media design. Cornicello is a professor of music theory, composition and electronic music at Eastern. His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication. “Towards” illustrates how live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound.

Performers also presented six original compositions by Eugénie Rocherolle written for piano, violin and cello. The beautiful collection of flowing pieces show Rocherolle’s warm compositional style. The performance involved the collaboration of the S.O.Y. Piano Trio, movement specialist and Eastern professor Alycia Bright-Holland and Eastern dance group Modern Movement. Bright-Holland is a professor of performance arts with a particular focus on acting and movement.

The performance also led audience members on a journey throughout the four seasons with one of Astor Piazzolla’s most popular works “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aries.” The musical transitions from summer to autumn, winter and spring presented by the S.O.Y. Piano Trio were accompanied by the striking and expressive artwork of Afarin Rahmanifar, professor of painting and drawing at Eastern. The music and artwork provided concert-goers with an audio and visual sensory experience of the seasons, capturing the beauty of this famous work.

Mars: Sound Art Installed at Eastern

Written by Casey Collins

Sean Langlais is not your everyday contemporary artist. Rather than use canvas or clay, Langlais prefers to craft his art from metals and sound. In collaboration with the Department of Art and Art History, Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting an exhibition by Langlais titled, “Mars: A Sound Art Installation.” Showing from Oct. 6 to Dec.7, “Mars” is the first exhibition of its kind on Eastern’s campus. An opening reception was held Nov. 2.

Students listen to the tickting of Langlais' "sound art.":

Students listen to the tickting of Langlais’ “sound art.”:

When visitors enter the exhibit, they see a wall of metal that resembles a panel off a space shuttle rather than a piece of art. The exhibit can best be described as what Langlais calls “the ever-growing and complex relationship between organic processes in nature and newly emerging products of technology.” The display was created from 100 industrial panels, each rigged with a magnet and light-absorbent materials.

Upon closer inspection of the glimmering wall it becomes easier to understand what Langlais means. As the panels are hit with different degrees of light, each produces different sounds that mimic the static noise of nature. If you visit the art gallery during the day when it may be empty, you can hear the fair humming and whirring that comes from the simultaneous swinging of the magnets. It’s almost as if you were transported into the depth of the wilderness, with nothing but the faint chirp of insects surrounding you.

Langlais has always been fascinated with sound art. Since he was 15 years old he has considered himself to be a tinkerer, playing with and creating new things from materials that would come to form the basis of his art. He also loved the outdoors, and found himself amazed at the complexity of simple aspects of nature such as water hitting a shoreline. Admittedly, he didn’t think he was creating sound art for many years, insisting that he was simply creating from his imagination and desiring to figure out how the world operates. “I’m painting my own painting of what I see as nature,” Langlais said, “and the nature I see today is technology.”

Mars Artist WorkThe 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’s Mama Authors Miracle Stories


Raouf Mama, professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, has recently authored “It was a Beautiful Day and Other Personal Quiet Miracle Stories,” an e-book published by WestBow Press.

The collection of powerful, inspirational stories captures personal, life-changing moments as it celebrates “the transmutation of sorrow into joy, of fear, despair and grief into a song of thanksgiving,” in the words of the author.  The book transcends Mama’s personal sense of gratitude for unexpected moments of grace in his life as it reaffirms the possibility of miracles in people’s daily lives.

The book taps into the universal appeal of miracles and invites readers to recognize and celebrate their own personal miracles, events that may otherwise pass unnoticed in their daily lives.

“In an era of widespread unbelief and skepticism, this book is an attempt to awaken the reader to a sense of the miraculous and the mysterious in the world and sounds a warning about the insufficiency of our senses as the exclusive basis for our judgment and our conclusions,” Mama adds.

Mama’s viewpoint on the issue of miracles is best expressed by an excerpt from his book:  “Dressed in my Sunday best, my car washed and waxed to a dazzling sheen, I set out to fetch my son. The sky was just as clear as it was two weeks earlier on Father’s Day, the air just as sweet, the day brighter still; but the joy that lifted and brightened my heart on that day, poetry and oratory will labor in vain to capture. One would have to envision the ecstasy the apostles must have felt after the agony of Good Friday, to get the full measure of my felicity.”

Mama is a distinguished professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University and an award-winning storyteller of international renown, the only one in the world today who tells in English, French, Yoruba and Fon folktales from his native Benin and other parts of the world.

Mama’s style of presentation blends stories with poetry, music and dance, and his publications include his memoir titled “Fortune’s Favored Child”, “Why Goats Smell Bad,” “Tropical Tales,” “Pearls of Wisdom” and “Why Monkeys Live In Trees,” winner of the 2008 National Multicultural Children’s Book Award.