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. Hence the “student-sourcing.” There are more than 200 schools across the United States and 14 countries participating in Tiny Earth.

“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 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 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 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,” said Hulvey. “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/.

A&E Executives Visit Eastern, Speak on Crime TV

The panel (back left) and audience watch an unaired scene of an A&E show.

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted several Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) executives on Nov. 7 who discussed the representation of crime on television. Held in the J. Eugene Library, the panel included Laura Fleury, senior vice president of programming, Sean Gottlieb, vice president of development and programming, and Peter Tarshis, executive producer of A&E and Lifetime Movies Network.

Several sociology and criminology classes attended and asked questions regarding police procedures, documentary film crew work, and the differences between scripted and unscripted crime shows. Moderated by Eastern faculty and professors, the panel treated students to exclusive, unaired clips from A&E’s upcoming shows, including the new season of “The First 48,” a show produced by Tarshis that focuses on the first 48 hours after a crime has been committed.

Students also inquired about the difficulties of filming shows such as “Live PD,” which gives a transparent look at law enforcement on duty. Gottlieb, the producer of “Live PD,” talked in detail about the humanizing aspect of showing police interactions and how the documentary crew or bodycams often captured things that the officers missed.

The written and unwritten rules regarding “true crime” – meaning unscripted television about crimes which actually occurred – were discussed at length. “Unresolved cases are corrosive to viewership,” Tarshis explained. “So right away, you need to focus on cases that resolve nicely, that end with the bad guy going to jail.”

Tarshis went on to explain that this gives an extremely black and white perspective of crime on linear network television, with little room for morally gray areas. Other mediums, like streaming services such as Netflix, allow producers to stretch story arcs over several episodes so they can delay viewer gratification.

One student asked about the families of the victims, which prompted a discussion regarding scripted television. Fleury, producer of the Emmy-nominated show “Beyond Scared Straight,” talked about how carefully they have to tread in order to make a stimulating, yet non-exploitative narrative.

“Our first priority is to not re-victimize the family of the victim. We have to be very careful with not only the victims themselves, but the victims’ families, as well as creating a satisfying story for people who don’t care about these rules.”

The event was sponsored by the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work.

Health Sciences Faculty Present at Research Seminar

Professor Ashley Bissonnette presented her research related to public health programs and social activism in indigenous communities.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Health Sciences (HSC) Department held its first faculty research seminar on Nov. 5 in the Science Building. The event showcased research activities of HSC faculty as well as informed students of potential opportunities for independent study with faculty mentors.

The Health Sciences major consists of three concentrations – Public Health, Pre-Nursing and Pre-Physical Therapy. The department’s objective is to train future scientists and health specialists through a combination of experiential learning and coursework designed to prepare students for careers in physical therapy, occupational therapy, public health, nursing and a variety of other health- and biological science-related positions.

HSC faculty members who presented research topics included Professor Anita Lee, who presented “Physical Activity and Health.” Lee discussed the role of physical activity related to health and disease prevention, the concept of normal weight obesity and how physical activity can be “prescribed” to the general population to achieve health.

Professor Mary Kenny’s “Applying Social Science Research in Public Health” presentation detailed the benefits of public health careers and her background in diverse projects in countries such as Brazil, Jamaica, Mongolia and Ghana. She addressed how applying acquired social science research skills can assist in developing health and educational interventions in similar countries. “Highlight your strengths. This type of work is of value to future employers – focus on it. It greatly enhances your résumé,” said Kenny.

“Using Cultural Resources for Planning Public Health Programs and Social Activism in Indigenous Communities,” presented by Professor Ashley Bissonnette, addressed health disparities rooted in this country’s first wars against indigenous peoples and ways cultural resources can be used in the development of public health educational programs.

HSC Professor and Department Chair Yaw Nsiah detailed his research on experimenting with compounds from tropical trees and shrubs from West Africa.

“Extraction and Purification of Pharmacoactive Compounds from Tropical Plants,” presented by HSC Professor and Department Chair Yaw Nsiah, detailed his research that focuses on experimenting with compounds from tropical trees and shrubs from West Africa. The hope is that new anti-infectives will be discovered that can be used to combat viruses and bacteria.

Health Sciences major Cassidy Martin ’19, who assists Professor Nsiah with his research, said, “I participate in his research project by extracting active compounds from leaves, then use various evaporation and purification techniques to identify organic compounds and test them on different bacteria types for their reactions.

“I’m grateful to be participating in the research project because I enjoy microbiology and now have the opportunity to learn additional techniques and apply them to real research,” said Martin. She plans on pursuing a career in nursing, with an interest in nursing education and biomedical research.”

Students were encouraged to ask questions and contact faculty members to further explore opportunities for involvement in their cutting-edge research opportunities. Department Chair Nsiah announced that the department intends to continue to host faculty research seminars each semester.   

The following HSC faculty also presented at the seminar:

  • “Molecular Mechanisms for Urate Secretion in Human Kidney Cells,” presented by Professor Amy Bataille, documented diseases that are associated with uric acid imbalances – gout, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disease, among others.
  • Professor Pallavi Limaye presented “Genomic Analysis of the Human Fetal Brain,” which focused on how the understanding of human fetal brain development can be enhanced by genomic data analysis.
  • Professor Paul Canavan presented “Analysis of the Baseball Pitch: Effect of Floor Placement on Body Movement and Pitching Accuracy.”
  • Professor Mitchell Doucette presented “Right-to-Carry Laws and Workplace Homicides: The Role of Firearm Exposure.”

Digital Art Exhibition at Eastern Begs for Human Interaction

In Balam Soto’s piece “Interface,” projections shift on the wall according to surfaces touched by visitors.

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/06/2018) The work of Hartford-based digital artist Balam Soto is on display at the Eastern Connecticut State University Art Gallery from Nov. 1-Dec. 7 in an exhibition titled “Interface.” Blurring the line between spectator and participant, the exhibition allows gallery visitors to manipulate the digital artwork by physically interacting with its tactile components.

“I have always been inspired by technology,” said Soto at the Nov. 1 opening reception. “Technology is an ocean, large enough to swim in, and it can transform the way people look at the world, or look at art.”

Eastern students interact with “Interface.”

Pieces in the gallery incorporate tactile surfaces that, when touched, cause fluctuations in sound and light projection, literally putting the experience of the art into gallery visitors’ hands. With the press of a button, sounds change and projections morph as the artwork endlessly transforms.

Soto handles both the creative and technical sides of his art. He melds low tech with high tech and employs the use of custom software and electronics. “When people go to galleries or museums, there is a glass wall between them and the exhibition,” said Soto as he watched students

A hand affects sound and light with the piece “Sonic Moon.”

interact with his artwork. “I want to remove that barrier.”

At first, visitors were hesitant to touch any of the installations – seemingly content to view from a distance the beautiful abstract projections on the walls. The energy within the gallery quickly changed, however, once patrons realized they could interact with the pieces.

Within 20 minutes, the “glass wall” had been shattered and the gallery was filled with fluidly shifting projections and echoing musical harmonies. The visitors became an integral part of the display. Most pieces in the exhibition allow for human interaction, thus altering the experience.

Kristen Morgan, director of new media studies and associate professor of theatre, enjoys Interface exhibition, holding one Godeon while the older son, Judevine, takes a break to “interface” with his Rubics Cube! BTW, Judevine is also the name of a play written by the late poet, David Budbill, a dear family friend from Vermont.

Soto is an internationally successful artist, with gallery exhibitions and art pieces around the world. He has received six Editor’s Choice awards and one Best in Class award from the World Maker Faire, held in the New York Hall of Science Museum.

He has also received official citations from the Mayor of Hartford, and the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In April 2008, Soto was honored with a Diploma of Recognition as a “Maestro,” a Master of Visual Arts, by the National Congress of Guatemala for “being a valuable and outstanding artist with international success.”

New media “Interface” artist Balam Soto chats with Retired Mathematics Professor Emeritus Stephen Kenton during the reception for the exhibition.

Eastern’s Art Gallery is located in Room 112 of the Fine Arts Instructional Center on the Eastern campus. Parking is available in Cervantes Garage and in the Student Center parking lot. The gallery is free and open to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday 11 to 5 p.m., Thursday 1 to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, call the gallery at (860) 465-4659 or visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery/.

Eastern to Host Third Annual Civic Action Conference

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/02/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its third annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 14 from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Johnson Community Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library. The conference is free and open to the public. Registration begins at 9 a.m.

The conference is organized into four overarching themes, each featuring a variety of subtopics, such as the role of service learning in urban revival and career-readiness via community-based projects. At lunch, keynote speaker Thomas Piñeros-Shields of University of Massachusetts-Lowell will discuss his sociological research about immigration policy, youth civic engagement and social movements.

The first theme, “Writing Assignments to Promote Civic Action,” begins at 10 a.m. Eastern sociology professors Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, Lucy Hurston and Nicolas Simon, along with English professor Miriam Chirico, will discuss social justice and service learning through writing.

The second theme, “Employability and Civic Engagement,” begins at 11 a.m. and will explore undergraduate student career readiness. Featured Eastern professors for this segment are Terry Lennox (Art and Art History), Fatma Pakdil (Business Administration) and Alex Citurs (Business Information Systems).

Following theme two is Piñeros-Shields’ luncheon keynote presentation from noon-1 p.m.

The third theme, “Higher Education as a Public Good: Dimensions of Civic Engagement,” begins at 1 p.m. Several presenters from the University of Connecticut will discuss the development and enactment of community-engaged critical conversations through a graduate level course.

The fourth theme, “Community Engagement Research,” will include presentations from Eastern professors Nicolas Simon (Sociology) and Patrick Vitale (Geography), in addition to Yolanda Bergstrom-Lynch, who is a public services librarian and reference lecturer with the J. Eugene Smith Library.

The Civic Action Conference is sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement. For more information, contact Kim Silcox at silcoxk@easternct.edu, John Murphy at murphyjo@easternct.edu or Nicolas Simon at simonn@easternct.edu.

Faculty Present in 3 October Scholars Forums

Ari de Wilde

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern faculty continue to share their prolific scholarship with the campus community during the University’s Faculty Scholars Forum. In the month of October, three professors shared fascinating research on the underworld of professional bike racing, how service to community can enhance faculty scholarship, and the evolving artistic work of how women are now depicted in Persian art.

On Oct. 31, Ari de Wilde, associate professor of kinesiology and physical education, presented “Splinters, Snake Oil and Six Days: Collusion and Underworld Politics in Early 20th Century Professional Bicycle Racing.”

Today, professional cycling is marred by doping scandals and corruption, scenarios that de Wilde says are portrayed as new by the popular media. He argues that these realities are not new behaviors and could be found in the thriving, professional racing circuit of America’s early 20th century, noting that “while underworld-related actives are rarely formally recorded, close reading of autobiographies, newspaper accounts and other descriptions can yield tremendous insight into this world.” 

On Oct. 17, John Murphy, lecturer in the Communication Department; Nicolas Simon, sociology lecturer; Art Professor Terry Lennox; and Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement, examined “Community Engagement as a Path to Faculty Development.” Topics ranged from Simon’s discussion of his scholarly research based on community engagement to Silcox’s overview of the Center for Community Engagement and how the center supports faculty through service learning course development. Faculty interested in learning more are encouraged to contact the center at (860) 465-4426.

On Oct. 3, Afarin Rahmanifar, lecturer in the Art and Art History Department, shared her work on “Women in Persian Poetry, Storytelling and Painting.” Rahmanifar said to understand her work, one must understand Iranian history. Until the 20th century, traditional painting, art, poetry and writing in Iran were dominated by men. Women were often portrayed in art without power or authority.

Afarin Rahmanifar

In 1932, Reza Shah, the first Shah of Iran and father of Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, passed a law that forced women to take off their veils. From 1945-1979, Rahmanifar says there were a huge effort to modernize the country and create an educational system.  After the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini made it mandatory for women to wear the hejab again.

Rahmanifar’s work primarily reflects her experience living in exile from Tehran, where she grew up in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution. Her art reflects an interest in telling stories about women in repressed societies who are involved in politics, culture and religion. Rahmanifar’s most recent project is “Women of the Shahnameh,” which is a result of her reading “The Book of Kings (“Shahnameh”) by Persian poet Ferdowsi, who lived 1,000 years ago.

“His epic stories shape women as active and who play participatory and even leading roles in leadership and decision making in Iranian society,” said Rahmanifar.  “Women are presented as lively figures, warm, with intellect who dare to exercise liberties and do not fear death. . . Within my work, I’ve attempted to not only create images from my inspired reading of (Ferdowsi’s) stories, but also to break the conventional wisdom and messages of earlier historical miniature paintings.”

‘Cabaret’ Swings Eastern Theatregoers back to Nazi Germany

Written by Michael Rouleau

The first theatrical production of the fall 2018 semester at Eastern Connecticut State University was “Cabaret,” the Tony Award-winning musical set on the eve of Nazi-controlled Germany. With six performances between Oct. 18 and 28, theatregoers were dazzled by a stage set in the seedy Kit Kat Klub in early-1930s Germany, a time rife with political tensions that ultimately brought Adolf Hitler to power.

The Kit Kat Klub is a promiscuous nightclub whose patrons seem happily oblivious to the shifting culture and crumbling society outside. Cliff Bradshaw (Harold Gagne ’20) is an American writer seeking inspiration. He finds his way into the ‘klub’ and becomes enamored with one of the dancers, Sally Bowles (Zoe Czerenda ’19). Cliff is quick to notice the rising Nazi movement, but Sally and her Kit Kat patrons would rather not think about politics.

Eastern’s rendition of “Cabaret” was directed by Eastern alumna and adjunct faculty member Nichola Johnson ’05. In her director’s notes, Johnson describes 1932 Berlin as a city in chaos, with economic hardships that severely stratified the country since the end of World War I.

“With German citizens hungry, out of work and hopelessly dreaming of a better future, a rising extremist movement calls for hatred of the ‘other,’ the ‘other’ including Jews, African immigrants and gay people,” writes Johnson. “The rising populace is schooled to believe in a gloriously revived Germany, a Germany that returns to the purity of its roots.”

Further describing the cultural context of early-1930s Germany, Johnson mentions the rising condemnation of artists and intellectuals, misogyny and ethnic intolerance. “It is deeply disturbing,” she writes, “that almost a century later, we are locked in the same struggles for acceptance and human rights, newly made acute by waves of populism taking hold all over the world.”

“I’m grateful to have had the honor to participate in such a culturally relevant show,” said Edward Lorsin ’21, who played Max, the owner of the Kit Kat Klub. “The themes within this decades-old musical highlight societal struggles that people continue to deal with today.”

Showcased in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC), the set for “Cabaret” featured an elevated platform from which a band of contracted musicians played jazz and swing music. On either side of the platform were stairs leading down to the stage, which served as swanky staircases for the Kit Kat girls to dance on.

Staying true to the form of theatre that is “cabaret,” the play featured a flamboyant emcee (Jacob Buckley ’21) and risqué musical numbers and choreography, including an act where the ensemble dressed and danced in drag.

“The choreography was so different from what I’m used to,” said Hannah Avena ’21, who played a Kit Kat girl named Helga. “We had to make contorted shapes with our bodies. To act in a play from a different time period – the way the people dressed and conveyed themselves – was fascinating to me.”

“Cabaret” was originally a book by Joe Masteroff, based on the play “I Am a Camera” by John Van Druten, which was adapted from the novel “Goodbye to Berlin” by Christopher Isherwood.

“Most of the characters are based on real people,” explained Hannah Zammarieh ’20, the play’s dramaturg. Cliff Bradshaw, for instance, is based on Christopher Isherwood himself, who lived in Berlin from 1929-1933 for the purpose of writing a novel: “Goodbye to Berlin.”

“While there are no exact dates for the timeline of the show, based on the time that Isherwood was in Berlin, it can be assumed that the action of the musical takes place during the time when Adolf Hitler was just coming into power,” said Zammarieh. By 1934, one year after Isherwood’s departure from Germany, Hitler had named himself fuehrer (leader) of Germany.

Musical direction for “Cabaret” was provided by Anthony Pandolfe. In addition to an extensive musical career as a freelancer who has performed in such prestigious locations as the Vatican, Pandolfe is director-of-bands at Edwin O. Smith High School in Mansfield. Director Johnson also served as choreographer. In addition to being a lecturer at Eastern, she is the founder of The Complex Performing and Creative Arts Centre in Putnam, CT.

College Democrats Bring Ned Lamont to Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont visited Eastern on Oct. 30 for a meet-and-greet organized by the student organization College Democrats. To a large audience in the Student Center Café, Lamont discussed his platform and fielded questions by students. 

Club president Alex Thompson ’20 opened the event by reminding the audience that Eastern is a non-partisan institution that does not endorse any political candidate. The mission of College Democrats is to inform students about the democratic process and to promote intelligent political discourse.

Lamont opened by listing his support for gun-law reform, Obamacare, public transportation and the state’s public university system. He emphasized his goals to retain Connecticut residents and to foster a strong job market for young people entering the workforce.

“There are a lot of great jobs in Connecticut right now,” assured Lamont. “Identify what you want and put your shoulder to the wheel. It’s a great time to be in Connecticut.”

During the Q&A portion of the event, students asked Lamont’s take on the opioid epidemic, renewable energy and support for undocumented students. Lamont answered that Connecticut should be a leader in creative tactics to address opioid abuse; that the state’s Energy Efficiency Fund should be restored; and that he sympathizes with the plight of undocumented families.

Members of College Democrats pose for a photo with Ned Lamont.

One student asked about the government’s role in creating jobs, to which Lamont answered: “The government doesn’t create jobs; it creates an environment where jobs can grow.”

Lamont claims he will foster this environment by enabling a highly skilled and educated workforce and by “bringing all stakeholders to the table, including business and labor, democrats and republicans.”

Another student asked about STEM jobs — science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Lamont agreed that Connecticut’s workforce needs to possess STEM skills, but also that the liberal arts are important.

“We need to learn how to continue learning,” he said of the soft skills developed through the liberal arts. “Your job will change over the course of your career. You need to be able to change with the industry.”

Lamont was brought to campus via the outreach efforts of the College Democrats. “A lot of young people in college assume that politicians don’t care about them,” said club member Demitra Kourtzidis ’19, a political science major and Spanish minor. “This has shown us that when you reach out to them, they’ll follow through, especially if they’re trying to get your votes.”

Another club member, Jackson DeLaney ’21, mentioned that some of the important issues for college-aged people include paying off student debt and getting a good job — better yet, a good job in the state.

A political science major and communication minor, DeLaney is interested in working on political campaigns after college. “It would be great to help elect officials in the state that I grew up in.” 

For the past several months, College Democrats have been canvassing the Eastern campus, encouraging students to vote. “We’ve gone to all the residence halls, all the busy buildings on campus,” said Kourtzidis. “Our goal is to get every Eastern student to turn out and vote.”

Lamont closed with, “It’s said that 80 percent of 80-year-olds vote and 20 percent of 20-year-olds vote. Get out there and vote!”

FBI, Military, Social Work: 3 New Eastern Fellows Inducted


Charlotte Braziel, Shawn Meaike and Raymond Hill sit on a panel moderated by Interim Provost for Academic Affairs William Salka

Written by Jolene Potter

Three distinguished alumni from Eastern Connecticut State University were inducted into the Eastern Fellows Program on Oct. 19. In addition to joining the ranks of the University’s most successful alumni, Charlotte Braziel ’80, Raymond Hill Jr. ’83 and Shawn Meaike ’95 returned to campus to meet with students and share career advice during a panel discussion.

Braziel is a retired FBI agent who now leads an investigative consulting firm; Hill is a professor at the Air Force Institute of Technology with an extensive military background; and Meaike is a former social worker-turned-entrepreneur who leads the multi-million dollar organization Family First Life.

A public policy and government major at Eastern, Braziel served 26 years as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). She specialized in organized crime, domestic and foreign terrorism, and bank and healthcare fraud.

“My father saw an advertisement in the paper for the FBI, recruiting women,” reflected Braziel on her life three decades ago. “When he told me he thought I’d be a good candidate, I laughed and said I would never get in. His response was, ‘Not with an attitude like that.’ But after a two-and-a-half-year application process, I got hired as an agent in December 1987 and had the career of a lifetime.”

Braziel continued, “As a young student at Eastern I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I’d make it to the FBI. I didn’t even know that women were FBI agents. The lesson I learned was to listen to people who have suggestions and encouragement for you. They may see talent in you that you don’t see yourself.”

In her current occupation as head of Braziel & Associates, LLC, Braziel advises defense attorneys as an investigative consultant. She also teaches courses in crime scene investigation and criminal justice ethics at St. Leo University in Florida.

“Because of what started at Eastern,” concluded Braziel, “I went from being a wallflower to an FBI agent who teaches internationally.”

Hill graduated from Eastern in 1983 with a degree in mathematics, went on to earn a Ph.D in industrial/systems engineering from The Ohio State University, and served as an active-duty lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force for 23 years. He continues to have a decorated career in the air force and academia.

Currently a professor of operations research at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Hill conducts research to support the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense, advises air force and army graduate students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, and teaches graduate-level courses in statistics and mathematical modeling.

 The new Eastern Fellows pose for a photo with President Elsa Nunez

“When I started thinking about the type of professor I wanted to be, I thought back to Eastern,” said Hill. “My professors’ doors were never closed. I could go to any of their offices for help both academically and personally. I’ve adopted that same philosophy.”

Hill has published nearly 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and more than 250 technical works. He has advised more than 150 graduate projects at the master’s and doctoral levels, and been involved in another 125 projects. His extensive research background led to his management of more than $7.9 million in research funding. He is the principal lead investigator for an eight-university research consortium, as well as an associate editor for six journals and co-editor for the Journal of Defense Analytics and Logistics.

In advising Eastern students, Hill said, “Make the best of your current situation, always keep an ear out for other opportunities and move to something new when it feels right.”

Meaike graduated from Eastern with a degree in sociology/applied social relation in 1995 and then worked for the Department of Children and Families for 13 years as a social worker. “My social work experience here was raw and real,” he said. “We were challenged to speak and work with passion; it helped shape who I am today.”

In 2013, Meaike launched Family First Life, a multi-million dollar independent marketing organization located in Uncasville, CT, that generated more than $10 million in sales in its first year. The company is a network of agencies represented by 6,000 licensed agents around the country that markets life insurance, retirement planning and investments. After five years of continuous growth, the company is posited to finish 2018 with more than $175 million in paid life and annuity business and expects to reach more than $200 million in sales in 2019.

With an abiding desire to give back, Meaike launched the Family First Life Scholarship in 2014, which is aimed at helping students from New London County who have good academic standing as well as financial need. Meaike is also the founder of CT Affordable Waste. Since launching in August of 2018, the company is providing local Connecticut businesses and residential homeowners with an easier and more affordable way of completing renovations.

The Eastern Fellows Program was established in the 2008-09 academic year to recognize and engage distinguished alumni in the life of the campus community. Including the three newest honorees, 32 Eastern alumni have been inducted into the program.