Goddard, Shafer Halls Reopen to New Look and Purpose

Shafer exterior
Shafer cafe
Shafer residence
Shafer lounge
Shafer kitchen lounge
Goddard KPE lab
Goddard KPE lab
Goddard psychology lab

 

Two fabled buildings on the Eastern campus reopened their doors this fall semester after undergoing extensive renovations for more than a year. Shafer Hall, formerly home to the university’s fine arts programs, has been transformed into a loft-style residence hall. Goddard Hall, the university’s first facility devoted to science, has been outfitted with fresh labs and technology and finished with a contemporary interior.

Constructed in 1946, Shafer Hall remains one of Eastern’s most historic buildings. While major renovations have converted it into a residence hall, the building retains its original glazed block arches, wooden benches lining the hallway and other classic touches. The original lobby’s raised paneling was restored and continues to serve as an entrance to the newly remodeled auditorium and café.

The building has capacity for 91 residents. The residential suites include single apartments with kitchenettes, sitting areas, breakfast bars and lofts for bedroom furniture. Three- and four-person suites feature private bedrooms, kitchens and separate bath and toilet facilities.

The former Harry Hope Theatre will soon be reopened as a gym for students campus wide. Other building highlights include a game room, a kitchen lounge where students can gather to cook group dinners, as well as computer, study and meeting rooms.

All new mechanical systems, electrical, plumbing, sprinklers, data connectivity, windows, floors and roofing meet the university’s high standards for safety, technology and minimal environmental impact. The renovation was designed in accordance with Connecticut High Performance Building Regulations, which closely align with the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification standards.

The project was funded by bonds from the Connecticut Health & Educational Facilities Funds Authority (CHEFA) at a cost of $24.6 million. Construction began in August 2018. The architect was Stantec and the contractor was O&G Industries Inc.

The newly reopened Goddard Hall marks the completion of the Goddard/Communication Renovation Project—the Communication Building reopened in fall 2018. The adjoining buildings now represent a modernized academic complex home to several departments.

Completely gutted and rehabbed, Goddard includes fresh labs, classrooms and offices. There’s a suite of six labs for the Psychology Department as well as a lab for the Kinesiology and Physical Education Department, outfitted with an interactive wall and workout equipment for research.

The building also has new HVAC, plumbing, sprinkler and heating systems. New windows and improvements to the exterior make the building more energy efficient, also aligning it with Connecticut High Performance Building Regulations.

The two-phased Goddard/Communication project was funded by state-appropriated bond funds at a cost of $21.7 million. Goddard construction began in May 2017. The architect was MDS National Inc. and the contractor was PDS Engineering & Construction Inc.

Written by Michael Rouleau

‘Africa to America’ Back by Popular Demand

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present three performances of “Africa to America: Perspective, Pride and Power” on Sept. 17-19 in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

On Sept. 17, the curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m.; on Sept. 18, the performance opens at 3 p.m.; and a special matinee performance on Sept. 19 will take place at 11 a.m.

Back by popular demand, the production is directed by Eastern Theatre Professor DeRon Williams and written by Wendy Coleman, chair of theatre arts at Alabama State University.

This interdisciplinary performance chronicles the involuntary voyage from Africa to the unknown lands of America through the use of oration, music, dance and multimedia. “This rich and powerful experience depicts the struggles, determination and triumphs as seen through the eyes of many African ancestors and descendants,” said Williams. “The audience will also learn of the history, culture, heritage and legacy of African Americans from some of the nation’s most notable icons in the freedom struggle: Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Rosa Parks and former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.  

Tickets are $5 for the general public and free for Eastern students on a first-come, first-serve basis. For group or school pricing, or for more information, please contact the Fine Arts Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu. Walk-ins will be accepted as tickets remain available.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern’s Balcerski Book Explores Male Friendships Among Politicians

Tom Balcerski, assistant professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University, has published a book titled “Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King.” The book published by Oxford University Press, examines the friendship of the bachelor politicians James Buchanan (1791-1868) of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King (1786-1853) of Alabama.

Balcerski will present his findings in a talk entitled “James Buchanan: The First Gay President?” on Sept. 19 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 301 of the Science Building. He will also autograph copies of his book. The public is invited. Admission is free.

Buchanan and King’s intimate friendship has elicited much speculation through the years. In his book, Balcerski narrates Buchanan and King’s relationship and each man’s rise to national prominence. King was elected vice president in 1852 and Buchanan became the nation’s 15th president in 1856.

Balcerski’s highly acclaimed book has received coverage in the national news media, including CNN, NBC News and Time and Smithsonian magazines. “‘Bosom Friends’ is a revelation,” said Douglas Egerton, author of “Year of Meteors: Douglas, Lincoln and the Election That Brought on the Civil War.”

“Exhaustively researched, (Balcerski’s book) sheds fresh light on antebellum politics through its discerning analysis of a distinctive, intimate friendship that crossed sectional, if not sexual, boundaries. Prepare to be surprised and enlightened by Balcerski’s findings.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

‘Andrej 5K’ Fun Run in Honor of Late RHAM High School Teacher

The second annual “Andrej 5K” will occur on Sept. 28 at 10:30 a.m. at Mansfield Hollow State Park. The fun run/walk is in honor of Andrej Cavarkapa, an avid runner and high school teacher who passed away in January 2017 while jogging near his home in West Hartford. The event was created to keep Andrej’s spirit alive, as well as to raise funds for his memorial endowed scholarship at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Cavarkapa was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzcegovina, in 1987, the son of Branko and Aleksandra Cavarkapa. He was four years old when his family moved to the United States. He graduated from Eastern in 2009 with degrees in biology and biochemistry, and also received his master’s degree in secondary education from Eastern in 2012.

Cavarkapa was a science teacher at RHAM High School where he was known as “Mr. C.” He was passionate about his job and worked to make physics and chemistry accessible to all students. His interest included art, music, environmental activism and running.

The Andrej Cavarkapa Memorial Endowed Scholarship honors Andrej’s passion for running and education by assisting biology majors with financial need, with a preference for RHAM graduates.

Last year, 190 people ran or walked in the inaugural Andrej 5K. All are welcome to run or walk the trail – including dogs – although the terrain is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs.

Those unable to attend are encouraged to run or walk in solidarity. People from as far as Hawaii and Idaho participated in solidarity last year.

Entrants can register for the run online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2nd-annual-andrej5k-runwalk-tickets-53841399074. All proceeds will go to Andrej’s memorial endowed scholarship. You can also be a sponsor of the event and donate directly to the scholarship by filling out the Andrej Cavarkapa Memorial Endowed Scholarship sponsorship form, found at https://ecsufoundation.com/andrej5k-sponsorship/.

An after party will follow the run. Follow the event’s social media pages for more details: https://www.facebook.com/Andrej5K/ and https://www.instagram.com/andrej5k/.

Written by Vania Galicia

Dymond Smith Participates in Yale Summer Research Experience

Dymond Smith (beside Yong Zhu, program co-director at Yale and professor of epidemiology) completed a summer research experience at Yale School of Public Health.

Health sciences major Dymond Smith ’22 participated in an eight-week research experience at Yale University this summer. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Summer Research Experience in Environmental Health (SREEH) is open to students enrolled in Connecticut universities who are interested in pursuing careers in environmental health sciences.

One of 10 students admitted to the program, Smith’s research project was titled “Glutathione in ethanol metabolism.” Glutathione is an antibiotic-defense system that plays a role in the metabolism of alcohol after it is consumed.  

She said of the experience, “The Yale School of Public Health summer research experience is one I will never forget. I was able to conduct experiments, expand my knowledge of the field of public health and grow as a future researcher with the help of faculty and doctoral students.”

Smith’s advisor at Eastern, Health Sciences Professor Anita Lee, commented, “Our department encourages students to explore all possibilities to sharpen their knowledge, skills and abilities—including having a productive summer learning experience related to their career goals. We are not only preparing students in allied health and public health professions, but also have students with great passion for research in the fields of health sciences and public health—Dymond is one of them.”

The SREEH program focuses on five major and emerging topics in environmental health sciences: climate and energy; developmental origin of disease; green chemistry; novel approaches to assessing environmental exposures; and health disparities. Participants received a stipend and worked closely with Yale faculty mentors on Ph.D.-level research in Yale’s laboratory facilities.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern a Top 25 Public Regional University in U.S. News and World Report

The class of 2023 gathered for a group photo during the Fall 2019 Warrior Welcome weekend–Eastern draws students from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns

 Eastern Connecticut State University is again the highest ranked institution among Connecticut’s four state universities in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s edition of “Best Colleges.” The 2020 rankings were released on Sept. 9.

This is Eastern’s highest ranking ever as it was ranked 21st among public universities in the North Region. Eastern moved up five spots among public institutions over last year’s rankings and moved up 13 spots when both public and private institutions were considered.

Under the mentorship of Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan, Roshani Budhathoki ’19 was selected for an undergraduate fellowship by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB).

.The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, and is known as the most competitive among the four regions that make up the U.S. News and World Report ranking system.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked based on 15 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, class size, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

“Given the uncertain times facing the higher education community, I am delighted to see Eastern achieving its highest ranking ever,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “This is a testament to our commitment to high standards and the faculty and staff’s focus on providing students with personal attention. Our improved ranking this year is due to our rising graduation and retention rates as well as the continued quality of our incoming classes.

 Environmental earth science students traveled to the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho this summer for a geology field course led by Eastern faculty.:

“Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college. These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high-quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of upwards of 1,400 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2020 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 15.

For the past 35 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Written by Ed Osborn

Psychology Researchers Publish on Human, Pigeon Suboptimal Choice

James Diller

Eastern Connecticut State University Psychology Professor James Diller and recent graduate Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19 were published in Springer’s “Learning and Behavior Journal” on Aug. 19 for their research titled “Human and Pigeon Suboptimal Choice.” The research looked at the completion of similar tasks by humans and pigeons to determine whether non-human performance can serve as a model for human gambling research.

The project was designed by Diller’s undergraduate mentor, Maggie McDevitt of McDaniel College, who ran the pigeon component of the experiment. Pietrzykowski, a former student of Diller’s, ran the human subject experiment. Students from McDaniel College’s psychology department also assisted with data collection.

To determine whether pigeons could serve as a model to observe the way humans behave when gambling, the researchers carried out two sets of experiments that evaluated both human and pigeon behavior. The task for pigeon subjects involved each pigeon choosing between two different color-lit keys by pecking at them. Each key allowed the pigeons to access food for a certain amount of time depending on the color—blue for 10 seconds; red for 0. Two other colors consistently allowed the pigeons to access food for three seconds.

Eastern graduate Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19 presents the project’s research poster at the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conference.

The task assigned to the human subjects consisted of humans playing a computer game that awarded points depending on the color they chose. Like the pigeon experiment, each color had a set point value and subjects had to choose a color to earn points.

The results of the experiments showed that the pigeon subjects chose to “gamble,” or test their luck, more often than humans and that humans did share some patterns with pigeons when it came to “gambling.” However, although the results of the experiments suggest that humans and pigeons can behave similarly when assigned tasks that include a suboptimal choice, Diller concluded that more research must be done to truly determine whether pigeons are good subjects to test in comparison to human gambling behavior.

Diller commented on the experience, “It has been a lot of fun working across ‘academic generations’ on this project. I think this type of thing underscores the value of research experience and mentorship for students.” Speaking to his mentor and research colleague, he added, “If it weren’t for Maggie, I know I wouldn’t be at Eastern, and I’m proud to pass that type of experience on to Malvina and my other students.”

To see the full paper, see Springer’s website at https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13420-019-00391-8. 

Written by Vania Galicia

Jonathan Mooney, Author with Dyslexia, to Speak at Eastern

Jonathan Mooney, a dyslexic writer and speaker who did not learn to read until he was 12 years old, will speak at Eastern Connecticut State University on Sept. 11 at 3 p.m. in the Student Center at Eastern.

“Instead of flipping burgers, I ended up writing books, the first of which I wrote in undergraduate school at 23 years of age,” said Mooney, who graduated with honors in English Literature from Brown University. “Growing up, I faced a number of low expectations. I was told that I would be a high school dropout and end up in jail. Instead of becoming an inmate, I became an advocate, creating organizations and initiatives that help people who get the short end of the stick.”

For his work, Mooney has been named the recipient of the Harry S. Truman Fellowship for Public Services and named a finalist for a Rhoades Scholarship. Mooney has been featured on ABC News, HBO, National Public Radio, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune and USA Today, to name a few media outlets. 

“What I’m most proud of,” said Mooney, “is not that I proved wrong people who doubted me, but that I proved the many people — my mom, a teacher named Mr. R. my wife Rebecca — to be right, not just about my potential, but about the potential for all of us who live and learn differently.”

Mooney’s presentation is sponsored by the President’s Office, the Office of Equity and Diversity, Accessibility Services, the Division Student Affairs, and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Student-Professor Duo Presents at Symbolic Interaction Conference

Sociology Professor Nicolas Simon and student Tara Nguyen presented at the annual Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction Conference this past August.

Eastern Connecticut State University Sociology Professor Nicolas Simon and student Tara Nguyen ’21 presented and organized a session at the 2019 annual Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) Conference on August 9–11 in New York City.

They organized a session titled “‘The Next Generation’: Outstanding Symbolic Interactionist Undergraduate Papers,” which highlighted undergraduate research on the topic of symbolic interactionism — a theory that examines how humans impose their subjective meanings on objects, events and behaviors. To organize the session, Simon and Nguyen reached out to faculty members and students from colleges and universities in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. They also reviewed student applications and abstracts to determine who to invite to the session. The SSSI primarily features research by Ph.D. students and professors, so Simon and Nguyen’s session was a rare opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in the conference.

Nguyen, a sociology major, was among the undergraduate presenters. Her presentation was titled “Communities Unite: An Autoethnography of the Resistance to Gentrification in Chinatown, Boston.” Gentrification is a topic that Nguyen has been studying with Simon, her faculty mentor.

Nguyen’s research focused on social inequalities within the Asian American community through the lens of intersectionality and critical race theory—which consider how various social identities overlap in the context of race, law and power. She addressed the issue of gentrification in Boston’s Chinatown and discussed what activists are doing to fight it.

Professor Simon also presented at the conference during a session titled “Self and Object.” His presentation was titled “What are you wearing? The Symbolic Value of a School Logo.” His research focused on the concept of “symbolic value” and the relationships that individuals, groups and societies have with symbols.

Simon has been a member of the SSSI since 2011 and has organized other sessions for undergraduate students in the past. He noted that he wants to continue to promote the next generation of symbolic interactionist researchers and help other students as professors have done for him in the past.

“I think it is important to encourage students who want to go to graduate school to present their work at a professional conference,” he said. “The first time I went to the SSSI annual conference in 2011, I was invited by my professor, Dr. Clint Sanders at the University of Connecticut. I was his teaching assistant and took a course with him in the fall of 2010. He invited all of us to present our work at the SSSI annual conference. It was a terrific experience!”

Nguyen commented on her own experience at the conference. “The experience was intense, but very rewarding. I was glad to help give other undergraduate students the opportunity to present their research at a conference filled with Ph.D. students and professors.”

 She plans on continuing to research other topics related to social inequalities in the Asian American community and pursue a Ph.D. program in either education or social policy.

Written by Vania Galicia

Adella Dzitko-Carlson Completes Music Fellowship

Eastern Connecticut State University student Adella Dzitko-Carlson ’19 devoted three weeks this summer to mastering the clarinet and analyzing music scores. As part of an on-campus fellowship that concluded this August, she worked with her faculty mentor, Professor Christopher Howard, to strengthen her performance skills and obtain a better understanding of her role as a musician.

Her intensive schedule included playing the clarinet for six hours a day and studying score sheets for three hours a day. She also took the time to begin preparing her repertoire for graduate school auditions and her senior recital. Howard noted that the goal of the fellowship was for Dzitko-Carlson to understand the clarinetist’s role in a broader sense.

When studying the scores, she also analyzed the roles of other instruments in a composition. “I allowed the pieces to inform my decisions on dynamics,” she said. “I also thought about what other instruments can do when applied to playing with the clarinet.”

Dzitko-Carlson plays the clarinet throughout the year, but she hadn’t had the opportunity to fully immerse herself in her playing. “It was nice to have extended periods to focus only on practicing,” she said.

Howard noted that she was not only playing music and analyzing it but gaining experience few ever get. “One of the more invaluable skills that Adella was able to get out of this experience is learning how it feels to be completely enveloped in a regimen that’s as intense as she went through for the past three weeks.”

In addition to playing the clarinet and studying score sheets, Dzitko-Carlson also had writing assignments in which she reflected on the new perspectives and knowledge she was gaining as a musician.

Professor Chris Howard and Adella Dzitko-Carlson.

One of the obstacles she faced was keeping up with the challenging schedule. “A big challenge was definitely building up mental endurance; it took a lot to get through the long days while remaining focused and productive the entire time.”

Howard added, “Playing the clarinet is not something that many people realize can be as physically taxing as it is. Something we had to be careful about was performance injuries. We had to be aware of things like hands and facial muscles.”

Howard commented on how much work and effort it took from Dzitko-Carlson to get through the three weeks. “This is not something that is suited for every music student; it takes a very special type of student to do what she did. Adella is one of the hardest working students I’ve ever worked with; she completely took the challenge and ran with it.”

Dzitko-Carlson plans to continue playing the clarinet and obtaining her master’s degree in performing arts after graduating from Eastern.

Written by Vania Galicia