Eastern Theatre to Present “Africa to America” on March 24

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/19/2019) The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present two performances of “Africa to America: Perspective, Pride, and Power” on March 24 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

Directed by Eastern Theatre Professor DeRon Williams and written by Wendy Coleman, chairwoman of theatre arts at Alabama State University, the performance chronicles the history, heritage and legacy of African Americans through oration, music and dance.

This rich and powerful experience depicts the struggles, determination and triumphs of African ancestors and descendants who survived the voyage from Africa to America. The audience will see representations of some of the most notable icons of the civil rights movement, including Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Rosa Parks and the first African-American president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama.

The March 24 performance will feature original poetry and choreography by Eastern students. A post-show discussion with Coleman and Williams will follow the 4 p.m. performance.

Tickets are free; however, guests are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance by visiting http://easternct.showare.com/africatoamerica/. Walk-ins will be accepted as tickets remain available.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Theatre Presents ‘The Wolves’ with All-Female Cast

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented “The Wolves” as its first production of the spring 2019 semester. Running from Feb. 27-March 3 in the DelMonte Studio Theatre, “The Wolves” is a coming-of-age story that takes place on the turf of a local indoor soccer field.

The play was performed by an all-female cast, directed by Theatre Professor Kristen Morgan and written by award-winning playwright Sarah DeLappe.

The Wolves are a highly competitive indoor soccer team composed of nine teenage girls. Each scene depicts the girls on the artificial turf warming up before their weekend game. The play spans a variety of themes pertinent to modern society, told candidly from the perspectives of nine passionate young women growing up in America.

“Anyone who identifies as female can tell you that growing up in America can feel like one batter after the other,” said Morgan, pointing out the unique pressures women feel about body image, sexuality and social obedience. “Athletics can mean freedom for girls and women. When you’re on the field, everything else may fall away… there are moments of overwhelming strength, as if you could do anything, like you are free.”

The girls who make up the Wolves are at a turning point in their lives; they’ve grown up playing together and know all about each other’s bodies and personality quirks, but adulthood is beckoning. Into their fragile mix comes a new player, drivers license’s, college scouts, weekend ski trips and other challenges.

As the girls stretch, run drills and kick the soccer ball among each other, their conversations explore abortion, immigration, eating disorders, sexual assault and other difficult topics.

Contrary to most theatrical productions, “The Wolves” features an all-female cast. “This is an important play for today’s world because it shows teenage girls in a different light than how you typically see them,” said Sara Lafrance ’19, who played #25. “They’re not portrayed as boy-crazy, catty or overemotional. They’re portrayed as intelligent, athletic, strong, funny young women. It shows how teenage girls can work through conflict and maintain a strong bond.”

“I think this play gives a semblance of what it means to be a young woman in high school with strengths and weaknesses and fears of the future,” said Onyae Randall ’19, who played #2. “The play can be re-evaluated and reimagined so many times because of the playwright’s use of nuance. It’s the type of story where you learn something new each time you see it. This is the kind of work we all need to expose ourselves to.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Student-Leader Katelyn Root Selected for Newman Civic Fellowship

Katelyn Root, a third-year student at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been selected for the Newman Civic Fellowship, a program of Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities. The year-long fellowship recognizes and supports high-potential students who have demonstrated a commitment to their community through a record of public service. Fellows are nominated by their university president based on their potential for public leadership.

The 2019-20 class of fellows includes 262 community-committed students from across the country, Mexico and Greece. Root is one of six selections from Connecticut, and the only from the state university system.

Root is a student leader at Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE). Through her CCE activities, she has played an integral role in developing a volunteer program with the Windham Recovery Community Center, a branch of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR). As a regular volunteer, she leads job-readiness trainings and group sessions, and has recruited more than 60 student volunteers over the past two years.

“Katelyn has been a vocal advocate for the recovery community and has created a welcoming and understanding corps of volunteers who support the center’s staff and guests,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “She has worked effectively to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and to support individuals in recovery.”

“Volunteering in the Willimantic community has changed me entirely,” said Root, who hails from Stratford and double majors in elementary education and liberal studies. “Without these experiences I would not be the person I am today. Working at the recovery center has allowed me to impact the lives of many adults facing recovery from drugs, alcohol and other addictions.

“I’ve had an overwhelming number of guests approach me with news of interviews, second interviews and job offers after my sessions. In addition to resume and job-search assistance, I chair recovery meetings and provide telephone support to guests attending other centers.”

Root was named CCAR’s “Volunteer of the Year” in 2018 and received the CCE’s “Strengthening Communities” award in 2017.

She will be mentored by CCE Director Kim Silcox through the duration of the fellowship. In addition to exclusive learning opportunities with a national network of similarly engaged student leaders, fellows are invited to attend the Newman Civic Fellows National Convening this November 2019 in Boston.

The Newman Civic Fellowship was created in honor of Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders and an advocate for the role of higher education in preparing students for active and engaged citizenship. The fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.

Campus Compact is a coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities that are committed to the public purposes of higher education. The Newman Civic Fellowship is meant to nurture the next generation of public leaders through exclusive virtual and in-person learning opportunities.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Represents at ‘Women in Psychology’ National Conference

Antuanett Ortiz, Professor Jennifer Leszczynski, Joanna Casuccio and Alyssa Sokaitis present at Association for Women in Psychology.

Three psychology students and two professors from Eastern Connecticut State University presented two research posters at the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP) national conference from Feb. 28-March 3 in Newport, RI. Students Alyssa Sokaitis ’19, Antuanett Ortiz ’19 and Joanna Casuccio ’19 presented alongside Psychology Professors Jennifer Leszczynski and Alita Cousins.

“Generational differences in feminist self-identification & liberal feminist beliefs” was presented by Leszczynski, Cousins and Casuccio.The research analyzes how feminist identification, descriptions and attitudes changed between 2011 and 2018. The researchers found that participants were more likely to self-identify as feminists and describe feminists as liberal in 2018; whereas in 2011, participants described feminists as radical. Additionally, participants reported higher beliefs in liberal feminism in 2018 as compared to 2011.

“Feminist identity and liberal feminist attitudes and beliefs” was presented by Leszczynski, Sokaitis and Oritz. The research analyzes how self-identified feminists differed from those who did not self-identify as feminists. The study found that those who self-identify as feminists were more likely to endorse liberal feminist attitudes and describe feminists as liberal rather than radical.

The AWP convened during the 1969 meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) because the APA was not responding to issues raised by the new women’s liberation movement. Today, they remain one of the leading feminist voices in the field of psychology, working closely with the APA and other organizations.

Written by Raven Dillon

Students Present at Eastern Economics Association Conference

left to right, Brendan Cunningham, Demitra Kourtzidis, Catherine Falvey, Anastasia Shnyakin, Lazizakhon Akbarkhujaeva, John Fiester, Marcus Lim, Al Viglione and Steve Muchiri.

Seven economics majors from Eastern attended the Eastern Economic Association’s 45th Annual Conference in New York City from Feb. 28 to March 2. Club advisors Brendan Cunningham, associate professor of economics, and Steven Muchiri, assistant professor of economics, accompanied the students to New York.

Students included Lazizakhon Akbarkhujaeva’22 of Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Demitra Kourtzidis ’19 of East Hampton; John Fiester ’20, from Monson, MA; Al Viglione ’19 of Clinton; Anastasia Shnyakin ’21, from Bethany; Catherine Falvey ’19 of West Hartford; and Marcus Lim ’19 from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Catherine Falvey presents her research.

The students presented their research, received feedback and commented on the research of peers from other universities. Falvey presented on the topic “If You Believe It You Can Achieve It: An Analysis of Expectations on Educational and Occupational Attainment of American Youth.” She said the conference was a great experience for herself and other members of the Economic Club.

Al Viglione presents his research.

“It is the best environment for learning about the research currently being conducted in the field, and it provided us all with a picture of where we could be in our future,” said Falvey. “As a senior, I was given the opportunity to present my Honors Thesis, and I could appreciate the other research being presented, having gone through the process myself.”

Viglione agreed: “Attending this conference helped me appreciate my current economic understanding and also opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of the field of economics, and how there is an opportunity to learn much more.”

Left to right, Marcus Lim and Al Viglione visit Columbia University to attend a research seminar on Development Economics.

“This conference provided an amazing number of benefits for students,” said Cunningham. “It allowed the students to practice their public speaking and communication skills during a professional conference. Second, they learned about the research of professional economists. This is highly valuable for classwork, and for those students who are continuing with graduate studies. Finally, the students themselves organized the logistics for this trip, and they also attended an economics research seminar at Columbia University.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Sport-Management Students Win Case Study Competition

Alexa Spalla, Brighton Leonard, Ryan Coppinger, Mckenzie Maneggia and Professor Gregory Kane represent Eastern at the New England Sport Management Case Study Competition.

Four sport and leisure management students from Eastern Connecticut State University students won the 2019 New England Sport Management Case Study Competition on Feb. 28 at Nichols College.

Eastern competed against eight other teams and won first place for the second year in a row. Students Alexa Spalla ’19, Brighton Leonard ’20, Ryan Coppinger ’20 and Mckenzie Maneggia ’20 represented Eastern alongside Professor Gregory Kane of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE).

In advance of the competition, students were given two weeks to analyze a case study and prepare a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation. The study concerned a NFL team that needed to choose a new naming-rights sponsor for its stadium.

The students analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of four different sponsors and prepared a defense by comparing financials and community input, and adding additional recommendations to increase revenue. The presentations were then cross-examined by a panel of distinguished judges, including Paul Cacciatore of the Boston Celtics and Greg Kaye, NCAA Division III commissioner.

The Eastern students who competed were selected for the competition based on their academic achievements, independent research, work ethic and community involvement.

Although Eastern has never before competed in the College Sport Research Institution (CSRI) National Competition, the KPE Department is now considering it. The National Case Study Competition will be held at the CSRI National Conference in Columbia, SC, and includes competitors from across the country.

Written by Raven Dillon

Korean Ensemble Delights Audiences Everywhere

People around the world believe music is a universal language that everyone understands. Louis Armstrong, American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor, considered to be one of the most influential figures in jazz, said it well—“I know two languages; English and music.” Another observer put it this way—“You don’t need to understand the words of every culture. Music does the talking for us.”

Internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang

Eastern’s Samul Jeonsa (Samul Warriors) Korean Ensemble, founded in 2014 and dedicated to performing a traditional Korean music genre known as samulnori, perfectly reflects this notion that music, wherever and however it is created, connects people.

Each semester, Samul Jeonsa, a diverse group of students under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang, go through a collective compositional process of performing highly sophisticated art form that layers  traditional Korean folk music, and creates new rhythms and works as well. In doing so, students learn the history and culture of Korea and much more about their own potential as well.

Left to right, Venlo Odom ’20, majoring in music; Josh Perry ’19, music major; and Ryan Michaud ’19,  music major.

Samul Jeonsa performers include David Annecchiarico ’19, Emily Kennedy ’21, Ryan Michaud ’19, Venlo Odom ’20, Lanitza Padilla ’21, Safiya Palmer ’22, Joshua Perry ’19, Antonia Reynolds’19 and Skye Serra ’21.

“Talented and curious-minded students learn to play four different Korean percussion instruments to create pieces that are firmly rooted in Korean musical tradition, while constantly pushing the limits of what is possible by incorporating contemporary references as well as individual flares,” said Hwang.

Left to right, Lanitza Padilla ’20 music major, and Emily Kennedy, music major.

Hwang said the instruments derive from the Korean words “sa” and “mul” mean “four things” and “nori” means “play.” The four instruments—the buk (a barrel drum) and the janggu (an hourglass-shaped drum) are leather instruments, and the jing (a large gong) and the kkwaenggwari (a small gong) are brass instruments.  Each of these four instruments is said to represent different elements of weather: the buk symbolizes clouds, the janggu rain, the jing wind and the kkwaenggwarri thunder.

Left to right, Skye Serra ’20, music major and Antonia Reynolds ’19, music major.

Despite the Ensemble’s short history, the group has been invited to perform across the state and around the nation, including performances in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. 

Perry originally got involved with the group to learn and practice percussion skills. Hwang took him to another level. “This Ensemble is great because of its accessibility. Very little previous musical skill or knowledge is required. Dr. Hwang did a fantastic job of introducing me to the genre during the class’s very first session. I quickly became interested in the cultural source materials that formed the genre of Samul Nori, as well as mastering the instruments. There is a great depth to explore when composing and performing. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible.” 

Left to right David Annecchiarico ’19, music major, and Sky Serra, ’20 majoring in music.

“Participating in Samul has been wonderful,” said Kennedy.  I have expanded my music abilities and

Internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang

culturalunderstanding. I’ve grown close to the students in the ensemble and to Dr. Hwang. It is a wonderful space to expressyour musical opinions or ideas.”

A native of Seoul, Korea, Hwang came to the United States to further her study in various graduate schools and pursue her creative/research interests. She performs regularly as a soloist and a chamber musician, and is also a member of the S.O.Y. Piano Trio.

As an ethnomusicologist, Hwang has studied the intersection of Western art music and Korean cultural identity, as well as various aspects of popular music in Korea. She has received numerous research grants, and delivered papers at regional, national and international conferences.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Artist Explains ‘Sacred Geometry,’ on Display Until March 7

Reni Gower explains the concepts behind her artwork during her visit to Eastern.

Mixed-media artist Reni Gower recently visited Eastern Connecticut State University to kick off the opening of her exhibition, “Sacred Geometry: The Perfect Proof.” The exhibition is on display in the Art Gallery from Feb. 1 to March 7, located in room 112 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

“Sacred Geometry” consists of large singular “papercuts,” which are complex patterns inspired by Celtic knotwork and Islamic ornamental tiles that are hand cut from single sheets of paper. Gower was inspired by sacred geometry, a concept from ancient times that derives meaning from perfect shapes such as circles, squares and triangles. At her lecture, Gower discussed her development as an artist and how her fascination with patterns and geometry has continually inspired her work since she was a student.

Papercuts: Burdock (2018) and Quatrefoil (2018). Acrylic on hand-cut paper

“Geometry exists as an intrinsic belief in the natural world,” said Gower. “Humans love to find patterns in everything, and there are plenty of them in nature. Time, culture and religion come together in this concept of observing and creating perfect geometric shapes.”

Gower’s artistic evolution began with her mixed-media work. She used recycled materials such as canvas, cheesecloth, plastic, aluminum screens or rug-hold, and cut them into strips to be layered onto a frame. After arranging these materials, she then painted her unusual canvas with acrylic in varying designs. This highly-contrasting work led to Gower’s experimentation with acrylic and canvas with more conventional methods, but her interest in mixed-media never wavered.

“I have always been interested in recycled materials being used in art,” Gower said. “A common theme in all of my work is materials adding up to more than the sum of their parts.”

Her interest in geometry led her to explore the ancient art of papercutting. These pieces are painstakingly designed and cut from a single piece of paper. Some of Gower’s works are over six feet in length. The process is laborious but meditative, allowing Gower to reflect on the nature of geometric designs.

“Sacred Geometry: The Perfect Proof” features these intricate works of art and Gower hopes the universal language of sacred geometry will connect Western and Middle Eastern artistic legacies with hope and optimism.

Eastern’s Art Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 1-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery or call (860) 465-4659.

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern Presents Annual Dr. MLK Jr. Awards

Leah Ralls (left), president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch; Isabel Logan (middle, front), assistant professor of social work; and political science major Morgane Russell ’19 (right) received MLK awards at Eastern’s annual ceremony. Keith Beauchamp (middle, back), a documentary producer, delivered the keynote address.

Political Science major Morgane Russell ’19; Isabel Logan, assistant professor of social work; and Leah Ralls, president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch, received Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards at Eastern Connecticut State University’s annual award reception on Feb. 27.

In her sophomore and junior years, Russell was president of the Black Student Union, a role in which she saw that she needed to gain more knowledge of policies affecting minority populations. As a result, she changed her major from Business Administration to Political Science. Russell is currently the president of the campus NAACP chapter and an intern in the Connecticut General Assembly. As she gains first-hand experience in the legislative process, she is learning more about public policy. She aspires to serve as a legislative representative while gaining insight into issues affecting marginalized communities around her.

“Morgane is a team player who carries out all of her duties professionally and with high quality and distinction,” said Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity. “She took the lead on organizing numerous major diversity programs within our office and off campus . . . Morgane is the embodiment of a peaceful agape warrior for justice!”

Logan’s passion for issues of social justice and equality began in 1996, when she was a social worker for the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services in the New Haven Superior Court and Superior Court for Juvenile Matters at Hartford. In 2001, American University selected her to assist with the development of the cultural competency curricula for drug court professionals.

Logan’s research has led to policy implementation and a continued cultural competence movement within the Connecticut Judicial System. She also assisted the Connecticut Court Support Service Division with the development of its cultural competence curriculum.

“Dr. Logan’s support of restorative justice mirrors the message of Dr. King,” said Eunice Matthews-Armstead, professor of social work and program coordinator of Eastern’s Social Work Program. “She is an organizer, teacher, leader and consummate fighter for justice, freedom and equality.”

Ralls is a social worker for the State of Connecticut, Public Defender Division. She started her career working in a local substance abuse agency helping people deal with homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and other chronic medical conditions. She now works with the same population but in a legal environment, where the consequences are greater for clients because they are facing incarceration.

Ralls has a passion for advocating for those less fortunate in the community. As president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch, she brings that same compassion and energy in fighting for civil rights. In her remarks, Ralls thanked members of the local NAACP branch for their activism, and said Dr. King had the “tenacity to help those who were voiceless.”

Three years ago, the branch was in reactivation status and needed 50 active members to reestablish operations. Under Rall’s leadership, the branch has grown to more than 120 members. She and branch members have worked hard to start a conversation and increase awareness and appreciation of Black History and civil rights in the local community. “In the past two years, under the leadership of Mrs. Ralls, our NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch has run community conversations on race and addressed individual and institutional examples of racism in our area with a combination of education and legal action,” said Cassandra Martineau, university assistant in Eastern’s Pride Center. “She has worked with community leaders, schools and other institutions to raise awareness of racial disparity, helping ex-inmates find employment, and brought African American History to schools and libraries in the area.”

Keith Beauchamp

Keith Beauchamp, producer of the documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” delivered the keynote address. He is the executive producer and host of Investigation Discovery’s crime reality series, “The Injustice Files” and the producer of the upcoming feature film “Till.”

Till was a 14-year-old African American teenager from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi in 1955 when he was brutally murdered by two white men for allegedly flirting with one of the men’s wife. The two men were acquitted of the murder, yet the truth behind Till’s death was largely left untold. Based in part on Beauchamp’s powerful film, the U.S. Department of Justice re-opened the 50-year-old murder case on May 10, 2004. While a Mississippi grand jury ultimately decided not to indict other suspects in the case, Beauchamp’s film reestablished Emmett Till’s story as a potent reminder of the need to fight racism and injustice at every turn.

“Racial issues are deeply embedded in the American lifestyle,” said Beauchamp. He called Martin Luther King Jr. a “gentle warrior,” and said Dr. King “left us with a vision of what this country can become. Regardless of our skill set, we are obligated to use it to uphold the legacy of Dr. King.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez opened the ceremonies, noting current racial tensions in the nation and encouraging the audience to “stand tall as Dr. King did, confronting every instance when a person or a group people acts out their prejudice and bigotry.”

“Human beings are inevitably connected, no matter how hard someone may try to separate us. That is why the truth and power found in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can touch each of us and lift our hearts up together. Let us never forget Dr. King’s message – that each person in this world deserves to live in a just, caring society, and that we can never let violence, bigotry, and inhumanity prevail.”

She concluded, “Let me end with this passage from Dr. King: ‘I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.'”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern’s Music Program to Host 2 March Concerts

All March concerts will occur in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a variety of performances in March, representing a range of genres and style periods. All concerts and recitals will be performed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center’s (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission is free – donations are gratefully accepted at the door in support of music student scholarships.

On March 1 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern faculty members Emily Jo Riggs, soprano, and David Ballena, piano, will present “Voices of America.” From the raucous to intimate, the program will explore the range of emotions captured in the words and music of some of America’s greatest poets and composers. This recital is presented as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series, which was established to raise scholarship funds for current and incoming Music Program students. All donations received at the door will go directly to supporting these scholarships and awards.

On March 3 at 3 p.m., the Willimantic Orchestra will present their Winter Concert, featuring the Academic Festival Overture by German composer Johannes Brahms and Symphony No. 96 “The Miracle” by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. Claude Debussy’s “Danses sacrée et profane,” written for the chromatic harp and string orchestra will feature Megan Sesma on the harp.