Students Gain Insights Abroad: Ireland and Greece

Mackenzie Seymour ’20 studied abroad in Ireland.

Chelsy Popo ’19 studied abroad in Greece.

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

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

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

Mackenzie Seymour

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

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

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

Chelsy Popo

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

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

Written by Jordan Corey

 

For Lynda Petrides, Dreams Really Do Come True

Lynda Petrides now holds an IT position at SPIROL International Corporation.

Lynda Petrides ’17 is living her dream these days. After years of working at part-time jobs, the 59-year-old Eastern graduate is finally working full time in her chosen career field of information technology, recently landing a position as a systems analyst at Danielson, CT-based SPIROL International Corp., a leading manufacturer of engineered fasteners and components used primarily in automotive and aerospace applications.

The position is the culmination of a long journey. Instead of going to college right after high school, Petrides decided to join the workforce. She took a job as a cashier in a grocery store and quickly learned she wanted a better job with better hours, enrolling in Hagerstown (PA) Community College. Her classes in accounting and business administration paid off, as she was promoted to the accounting office with better work hours.

The college experience had another benefit; she met her husband! He was in the Army, and life happened. “We got married, moved to Georgia, then to Germany, back to Georgia, and finally, to eastern Connecticut. We had four children and I became a stay-at-home mom for many years. Eventually, I worked part time at my children’s elementary school as a library aide and later as an assistant computer instructor. This work supported the school and fed my interest in technology.”

Petrides and Professor Kunene at the national EDSIGCON conference in Austin, TX.

In 2010, Petrides found a part-time job as an administrative assistant for Loos & Co. in Pomfret, which manufactures aircraft cable and other stainless-steel products. “This job supported my interests in computer technology and increased my desire to expand my horizons in information systems,” said Petrides. “When my youngest child graduated from high school in 2013, my new dream was to complete my associate degree at Quinebaug Valley Community College.

Petrides graduated summa cum laude from the community college in 2015 and set her sights on her next goal — obtaining her bachelor’s degree. Unsure of what to major in but still interested in technology and business, Petrides learned about Eastern’s business information systems (BIS) major. In summer 2015, she took her first foundation class at Eastern with Sukeshini Grandhi, associate professor of business information systems.

“Life was good! In the spring semester of 2016, I was offered an internship through Cigna’s Technology Early Career Development Program. My role was in project management and I learned valuable skills working with large datasets. This was a great experience for me.”

In her senior year, Petrides worked with Nikki Kunene, assistant professor of business information systems and health information management, on a research project that culminated with Petrides co-presenting at a national conference.

Lynda Petrides on graduation day.

“Our project was on the usability of the Blackboard interface from the instructor’s perspective. Dr. Kunene and I worked on the project throughout 2017 with research, lab testing, data analysis, surveys and write-ups. Our research paper was accepted for inclusion at the EDSIGCON Conference (Information Systems and Computing Education) in Austin, TX.”

“To meaningfully contribute in a research project a student must be able to think, be ready to learn the research skills needed, write well, and quickly learn the technologies we use,” said Kunene. “Lynda had all those qualities. She worked hard, thought critically, and learned new skills readily. She was the ideal student in a STEM major with a liberal arts grounding.”

Crediting her position at SPIROL to her internships, research experiences and BIS classes, Petrides says, “I thank all the great professors at Eastern for providing wonderful learning experiences to students, especially part-time students like myself.”

Petrides’ job at SPIROL challenges her on many levels, “but I’m learning something new every single day. I’m probably the oldest person ever to major in Business Information Systems at Eastern. I hope I broke some gender and age stereotypes along the way! Just know this — dreams really do come true no matter what your age. You just need to take that first step.”

by Dwight Bachman

Eastern Graduates First Dance Student, Charliece Salters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Meghan Carden

Eastern Represents at American Historical Association Annual Meeting

Cassaundra Epes ’19 and Dana Meyer ’19

Written by Michael Rouleau

Two students and three professors from Eastern Connecticut State University attended and presented research at the American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting in Chicago, IL, from Jan. 3–6.

Dana Meyer ’19 of Manchester and Cassaundra Epes ’19 of Baltic were two of 28 students meeting-wide selected for the poster presentation portion of the meeting, which occurred on Jan. 5. Meyer presented “Connecticut Revolutionary War Deserters: An Experiment in Digital History.” Epes presented “A Willing Audience: The Brown Book and the Enduring Power of Conspiracy Theory.”

Students with Professor Balcerski.

History Professors Thomas Balcerski, Anna Kirchmann and Joan Meznar presented papers and spoke on panels at the meeting. Kirchmann chaired a panel titled “Conflicted Loyalties and/or Pragmatism,” and presented her paper “Urban Renewal and the Response of American Ethnic Groups, 1949–74.”

Balcerski organized and participated in a panel titled “Writing Early Queer Lives: Authorial and Biographical Imperatives before 1900.” Meznar attended several panels on teaching the “World History Survey” and one on careers for history PhDs outside of academia.

“The annual meeting for the American Historical Association is the oldest and largest society of historians in the United States,” said Meznar. Speaking to Eastern’s students, she added, “It is quite an honor that two of our students were among the 28 students meeting-wide to be selected for the poster session. With the support of outstanding faculty mentors, our majors are engaged in high-caliber research that is showcased in top-tier professional conferences.”

The American Historical Association is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies. The AHA provides leadership for the discipline, protects academic freedom, develops professional standards, aids in the pursuit and publication of scholarship, generates innovative teaching, and supplies various services to sustain and enhance the work of its members. As the largest organization of professional historians in the world, the AHA represents more than 12,000 members and serves historians representing every historical period and geographical area.

Eastern’s Nanette Tummers Publishes ‘Healthy Choices’ Book

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/10/2019) Nanette Tummers, professor of kinesiology and physical education at Eastern Connecticut State University, recently published “Healthy Choices for Your Health, Wellness, and Overall Happiness.” The textbook introduces students to proactive practices they can apply to positively impact current and long-term health. “Healthy Choices” was published by Cognella Academic Publishing this January.

The book recommends practices such as identifying goals, working with a peer mentor as an accountability coach, meditating and making healthier nutritional choices. Tummers’ book encourages readers to examine key aspects of their personal wellness and make adjustments to enhance their health now rather than later in life.

The text explores broad topics related to health and also addresses social, emotional, spiritual, physical, environmental and intellectual well-being, to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of health and wellness in today’s society.

“Health focuses primarily on physical aspects and on symptoms, while wellness looks at the person’s well-being, including physical but also emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual and environmental factors,” said Tummers. “Wellness see us an integrated whole – that all areas affect and connect with each other. Prevention and enhancement of our lives is the focus: living well every day, not just when you are sick or old.”

“Healthy Choices” explains the difference between health and wellness, teaches ways to improve the quality of immediate environment and proposes methods for determining personal wellness strategies. It serves as a resource for pre-service professionals in health education pedagogy, in addition to acting as an ideal supplementary text for foundational courses in public health and healthcare professions.

Tummers is a certified holistic stress management instructor and yoga teacher. In the past, she was awarded the prestigious professional service award for her years of commitment to health education and fitness by the Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

 

Windham Textile & History Museum to Feature Work of Remarkable Dressmaker

‘English Night’ Celebrates Student Excellence

Fall 2018’s cohort of Sigma Tau Delta inductees.

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — The English Department held its end-of-semester celebration of student excellence on Dec. 5 in the Betty R. Tipton Room. “English Night” featured an awards ceremony, induction into the Sigma Tau Delta honor society, and student presentations.

“The English Department has been hosting English Night at the end of each semester for decades,” said Barbara Little-Liu, English professor and department chair. “We want to recognize the interesting, innovative and high-quality scholarship and creative work our students are doing in their capstone courses.

Mikayla Fish presents during the poster session of English Night.

“Additionally,” she added, “the various awards, scholarships and other forms of recognition give us a chance to celebrate all of our outstanding students, from freshmen to seniors.”

The Constance Campo Memorial Scholarship was given to Kay Daniels ’19. The scholarship was established in memory of Constance Campo, a long-time member of the English Department staff. The scholarship is for a non-traditional student who has demonstrated excellence in their studies and has shown sensitivity to gender and diversity issues as Campo did.

The Alexander “Sandy” Taylor Memorial Scholarship was given to Keara Berisso ’19. The scholarship was launched by family, friends and colleagues of Sandy Taylor, who was a scholar, Eastern professor and publisher. The award is for an English major, particularly someone who demonstrates a commitment to peace and human rights and who shows an interest in poetry.

Recipients of the First Year Writing Awards were Abby Wilson ’22 and Victoria Bryer ’21. These are given to students in the “College Writing” and “College Writing Plus” courses whose writing is innovative, creative, well-researched or uniquely articulated.

Monica Muriel presents her senior seminar project to a large audience.

Following the awards ceremony, 32 students were inducted into the Sigma Tau Delta international honor society. In order to qualify, English students must have completed a minimum of four 200-level English courses, a minimum average GPA of 3.5 in English courses, and an overall 3.0 GPA. Members are eligible for select scholarships, internship opportunities and other benefits.

English Night closed with senior seminar presentations from the capstone course “The Rhetoric of Crime.” “The students engaged an important issue: the ways that crime is represented in the media and in fiction,” explained Professor Rita Malenczyk of the seminar.

English Department Chair Barbara Little-Liu gives the English Night opening remarks.

Monica Muriel ’19 presented “The Misrepresentation of Crime in the Media and Its Detrimental Effects on the Public,” and Ashlee Shefer ’19 presented “The Safest Place on Earth.” Following presentations, English Night attendees engaged in a poster session, viewing senior projects by Mikayla Fish ’19, Jolee Iannantuoni ’19, Zoe Stephen ’19, Jessica Maloney ’19 and Alec Taylor ’19.

“Over the years, we’ve expanded English Night to include work not just from the capstone seminar classes, but also posters from students completing their capstone in independent directed research,” said Liu. “Eastern’s English Department is blessed with so many talented, intelligent and engaged students. I’m always happy and excited to host this recognition of their accomplishments.”

Eastern Students Design for Access Agency

Eastern and Access Agency personnel peruse the students’ final poster designs at the project’s Nov. 29 unveiling at Access.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Ten graphic design students at Eastern Connecticut State University recently concluded a major project with the Access Community Action Agency in Willimantic. As part of Professor Terry Lennox’s capstone course “Eastern Design Group,” the students created 13 posters that graphically represent the agency’s 13 community programs.

The posters will live in the agency’s conference room as official representations of Access’ services, which include assistance programs for energy, food, housing and employment. The posters will also be used externally for fundraising and outreach events.

“How do we better tell our story?” asked Kathleen Krider, Access’ senior director of community engagement, at the poster unveiling in late November. “By working with Eastern students!” she exclaimed.

Eastern Design Group students and Professor Terry Lennox (middle, back row) stand before several of their final poster designs.

Krider reflected on an email she received this past summer from Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), in which local nonprofits and charities were invited to apply for service projects with Eastern students. Krider responded that Access could use assistance in the realm of marketing and branding.

Enter the Eastern Design Group. Each year, a new cohort of graduating seniors takes on a design-related project to serve an area community organization. This was Lennox’s 10th year bringing students into the community for such a project, and her first with Access.

Robert John ’19 stands before one of his two poster designs.

“We work exclusively on real-world projects, following the same protocol students will use as professionals,” she said. That protocol involves ongoing research of the client’s needs and mission, interviewing clients, determining timetables and maintaining communication throughout the design process.

“Working with a client isn’t as easy as one might expect,” said student Robert John ’19. “There’s constant back-and-forth, new ideas, changes and countless drafts. It’s difficult to meet everyone’s expectations, including your own.”

After receiving design input from Access program coordinators, each student designed 13 posters – one for each program – as well as numerous drafts and revisions. In the end, Access selected a poster from each student, with some students receiving multiple selections.

One of the challenges was navigating differences in artistic opinion. “Before this, all the art I’ve done has been what I like,” said Olivia DeForge ’19, who designed the poster for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). “If the client wants something changed, you have to do it even if you might not agree. This experience taught me how to interact with and take input from a client.”

Lennox agreed, “It’s all about meeting the client’s needs by translating your own creativity, skills and training.” She also pointed out the résumé- and portfolio-building aspects of this project.

“We wanted the posters to frame the programs from a wide lens,” said Krider. “That way, as the programs change, the posters remain applicable.”

Oivia DeForge ’19 stands before her poster design.

For instance, income guidelines for energy assistance may change from year to year. “If the content is too specific, it may become dated,” said Krider. “We’d like to keep these posters in circulation for several years.”

“I’m incredibly pleased with the end result of my work, as well as the work of my peers,” said John, who designed posters for the Rapid Re-Housing program and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program. “It’s satisfying knowing that something you created will benefit others for years to come.”

The Eastern Design Group was started by Professor Emeritus June Bisantz. Now, Lennox, as well as Professors Tao Chen and Lora Lee, regularly lead art students through community-related graphic design projects. Past projects from their various courses include designing print materials and exhibitions for the Commercially Licensed Co-operative Kitchen (CLiCK), Windham No-Freeze Project, Generations Family Health Center, Windham Hospital, Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and other Windham-area nonprofits.

Bacholle and He Wrap up Fall Faculty Scholars Forum

French Professor Michèle Bacholle                                                                        Gary Bozylinsky Photography

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern faculty continue to showcase their scholarship on a wide range of research topics, which they share during lunch presentations at the Faculty Scholars Forum.

On Dec. 5, French Professor Michèle Bacholle ended the fall series of presentations by creating an interactive discussion on “Suicide Survivors or Captivating Your Audience with Counter-Presentations.” Bacholle asked audience members to play her version of the television of “Family Feud.”

Bacholle, as an activist from the feminist “Party of the Circle,” in her counter-presentation on Chloé Delaume’s “The Republic’s Witches,” U. of Guelph, Canada, April 2018

Questions focused on suicide and suicide loss, a topic Bacholle has been writing on for the past five years. Bacholle then explained that “counter-presentations” are performances based on serious research, the goal of which is to keep the audience engaged and more likely to retain information. Bacholle showed how counter-presentations can be effective at conferences and in the classroom.

Kedan He

On Nov.14, Kedan He, assistant professor of physical sciences, gave a presentation titled “From Quantum to Classical Mechanics, the Application of Computational Chemistry to Understand, Predict, and Design.” She presented on computational chemistry and how it could be applied to understand, predict and design chemical systems. Computational chemistry is a branch of chemistry that uses computer simulation to assist in solving chemical problems.

This is an interdisciplinary field that merges chemistry and physics, theoretical chemistry, computer science, as well as data science, and uses efficient computer programs to calculate the structures and properties of molecules and solids.

Professor He explained the difference between classical and quantum mechanics, how each physics law is used in answering chemistry-related questions, and the advantages and disadvantages of both methods. She then demonstrated the application of using Ab Initio electronic computation in illustrating the difference between the thermodynamics vs. kinetic control of a chemical reaction. She demonstrated how high-accuracy computation, in conjunction with cutting-edge experimental techniques, discovers the third reaction mechanism – “Tunneling control.” Under this mechanism, she said, the reactant with extremely low thermal energy can penetrate a narrow activation barrier and produce the unexpected product.

The second half of her talk focused on molecular docking, one of the most commonly used methods of the computer-aided drug design. The computer-aided drug design takes advantage of the freely available database on protein structures and drug-like small molecules, using a fast screening process to help identify possible drug candidate, and reduces the time required in developing new drugs. In the structure-based drug design approach, she said, the structure of a target protein is well characterized. The target protein and small drug molecule candidates are docked to simulate the interaction pose. The interaction binding affinity between the protein and small molecules are also calculated using molecular-docking software to identify the best performing drug molecule candidates. 

Eastern’s Bergstrom-Lynch Runs in Honor of Domestic Violence Survivors

Despite the rainy weather, thousands of runners participated in the Hot Chocolate Run on Dec. 2, with Eastern’s Cara Bergstrom-Lynch among the top 10 fundraisers event wide.

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (12/05/2018) Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, sociology professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, participated in a road race on Dec. 2 to honor the late Alyssiah Wiley, an Eastern sophomore who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2013. The Hot Chocolate Run is an annual fundraiser in Northampton, MA, to benefit Safe Passage, an organization dedicated to providing support for victims of domestic violence or relationship abuse.

This year marks the sixth consecutive year that Bergstrom-Lynch has participated in the Hot Chocolate Run to help raise awareness of intimate partner violence. This year, she raised $1,815, making her the 10th highest fundraiser out of a pool of more than 6,300 participants. She has raised more than $8,000 for Safe Passage in the past six years, thanks to the generosity of friends, family and dozens of Eastern faculty, staff and alumni.

Alyssiah Wiley

Wiley’s murder at the hands of her ex-boyfriend not only impacted Bergstrom-Lynch, but the entire Eastern community. “All of us know someone who has been impacted by intimate partner violence, and many of us have experienced it ourselves,” she said.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence and stalking.

Bergstrom-Lynch hopes to continue honoring Wiley’s memory for years to come at the Hot Chocolate Run. “It’s a wonderful event that raises money to provide peace, safety and justice for survivors of domestic violence,” she said. “I am honored to participate.”

This year’s Hot Chocolate Run raised more than $628,000 for Safe Passage. The organization provides shelters, legal assistance and counseling services for adults and children who have experienced violence in their homes. Since 1977, they’ve helped thousands of women and families achieve safety, build justice, and rebuild their lives in the wake of domestic violence.

For Eastern students who are seeking assistance or support, please contact Eastern’s Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT). Additionally, the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) has a 24/7 telephone line at 888-774-2900.