Eastern Presents Inclusive Excellence Awards to ALANA Students

Written by Dwight Bachman

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

 Eastern Connecticut State University recognized the academic achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students on May 5 during its Fifth Annual Inclusive Excellence Awards ceremony. Nine awards were given and 165 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.5 or higher.

Eastern presented Melat Assefa and Christina Perez the Advisor’s Choice Award; Deja Seawright the Inspirational Leadership Award; and Chisolm Sunny Uduputa the International Student Award. The Resilient Warrior Award to AnnRichelle Akko, Daniel Costillo, Adrian Lopez Diaz and Yineira Lopez. Taylor Hemphill was named recipient of the Social Justice Advocacy Award, and the Volunteer Service Award went to Destiny Hartmann.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez told those in attendance that the awards ceremony was not just about inclusion. “It also speaks to Eastern’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, Social Responsibility, Engagement, and Empowerment. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  We are very proud of you! We are doing everything we can to promote the success of students of color. We know that having an inclusive, diverse, and culturally rich campus is good for all our students — in the end, we all must learn to live together in today’s global society.”

Natasha Stephens

Natasha Stephens

Alumna Natasha Stephens, who graduated from Eastern in 2003 and is the Title IX Coordinator at Wichita State University in Kansas, delivered the keynote address. She told the honorees she was honored to come back to campus. “While you have breath in your body, thank those who helped you, took time to meet with you, who gave you an opportunity and took a chance on you.  Never forget your roots and where you came from — no matter how high you go in life, give back of your time to someone else.”

She concluded by telling students that they can always change their plans. “Don’t limit yourself or your abilities — challenge yourself to new things. Believe in yourself, and give someone the wings to fly.”

MEDIA ADVISORY: 300 Students to Participate in Eastern Research Conference

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The Third Annual CREATE Conference at Eastern Connecticut State University will take place this Friday, April 21, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier conference showcasing student research and creative activity.

All activities take place in the Student Center except for an exhibit of student art taking place in room 223 of the Wood Support Services Center from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

From art to zoology, Shakespeare to social media, tax law to terrorism, Eastern students of all majors explore important concepts and produce exemplary research and creative work; the culmination of their work this academic year will be on display at CREATE. The one-day conference will feature more than 300 Eastern undergraduates, who will present talks, professional posters, live music, dance performances, art and photography exhibits, documentary films and panel discussions.

“CREATE is a reaffirmation of Eastern’s commitment to undergraduate research as Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Niti Pandey, business administration professor and conference co-chair. Reflecting on this year’s record number of participants, she added, “There is a wonderful variety of presentations and performances for people to see. CREATE 2017 showcases the hard work and talent of our students and demonstrates the dedication of their faculty mentors. We look forward to an excellent event!”

Members of the Eastern campus and surrounding communities are invited to browse the conference’s many cultural and academic offerings. “CREATE will be a superb learning experience for all who participate and a true celebration of our student’s achievements,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and conference co-chair.

Registration takes place at 8:15 a.m. in the Student Center Café, and the opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Those interested in the event but unable to attend the whole conference can view the schedule and presentation details at www.easternct.edu/create. Ample parking is available in the University’s two parking garages.

NOTE TO NEWS MEDIA:  The news media is invited to attend and cover the conference. This event is a marvelous collection of academic presentations, plays, musical performances, art on exhibit, and other student work — more than 300 students in all. Students and faculty mentors are available for interviews, and there will be host of photography opportunities. Come and see how undergraduates at Eastern are doing research commonly found only in graduate programs at larger institutions!

Strong Showing for Eastern at Northeast COPLAC Conference

Madeleine Haynes ’17, an environmental earth science major, presents "A Comparison of Arsenic Distributions in Groundwater for Study Sites with Similar Hydrogeologic Conditions" at the conference.

Madeleine Haynes ’17, an environmental earth science major from Willimantic, presented “A Comparison of Arsenic Distributions in Groundwater for Study Sites with Similar Hydrogeologic Conditions” at the conference.

Written by Michael Rouleau

North Adams, MA — Twelve students from Eastern Connecticut State University presented their research and creative activity at the Northeast Regional Research Conference of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) on Oct. 21–22. Hosted by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), eight colleges in the COPLAC consortium participated in the undergraduate conference.

Eastern at COPLAC (002)“We are here to showcase and celebrate the talent, insight, collaborative spirit and inquiry of students from our COPLAC campuses in the Northeast and to recognize the support and guidance they receive from their dedicated faculty,” said MCLA President James Birge. “This conference provides a supportive venue at which students can present and discuss the results of their undergraduate research with their peers and faculty members from other COPLAC institutions.”

Eastern students represented a variety of majors, including biology, psychology, visual arts, theatre and education. Their research topics spanned antibiotic discovery, gender and attitudes toward casual sex, optimism and heart rate, the role of those with siblings who have disabilities, and more.

“Undergraduate research is one of the best aspects of an Eastern liberal arts education,” said Carmen Cid, dean of Eastern’s School of Arts and Sciences. “It provides our students the ability to develop their talents in a meaningful and successful career path. Those who present at COPLAC represent the leaders of tomorrow for Connecticut.”

Established in 1987, COPLAC is dedicated to the advancement of high-quality liberal arts education in a public college setting. COPLAC represents a distinguished sector in higher education consisting of 30 colleges and universities in 28 states and one Canadian province. Eastern is Connecticut’s designated public liberal arts university and joined COPLAC in 2004.

Eastern Connecticut State University Dominates Charger Startup Weekend

Written by Christina Rossomando

Left to right: Maria Silva '17, Michael Lauer, business information systems major, Rebecca Eisch, graduate student majoring in accounting and Candice Deal, faculty advisor.

Left to right: Maria Silva ’17, Michael Lauer, business information systems major, Rebecca Eisch, graduate student majoring in accounting and Candice Deal, faculty advisor.

Willimantic CT- A team of three Eastern Connecticut State University students, supported by faculty advisor Candice Deal, assistant professor of business administration, took home first place in the University of New Haven’s first “Charger Startup Weekend Challenge” on Sept. 16-18.

Charger Startup Weekend is a three-day weekend experience that gives students the opportunity to apply what they know and solve real problems. An entrepreneurial workshop empowered students from a variety of majors to identify a problem and then generate a business plan to provide a solution.   Students pitched their business ideas to a larger group of students, and then a panel of judges narrowed the ideas it down to eight ideas that students picked to work on.

Charger Startup Weekend Logo_RevRebecca Eisch, a student in Eastern’s master’s program in accounting, pitched her idea “Interview4u” to the group. “To watch people fall in love with my original idea was great,” said Eisch.

Eastern students Maria Silva and Michael Lauer joined Eisch’s team and conducted surveys and prepared financials and business proposals. “After three days of hard work we had four minutes to pitch the idea,” said Eisch, “followed by a four-minute question and answer session with the judges.”

Eastern students pitch their business idea, “Interview4u” to judges’ panel in New Haven, CT.

Eastern students pitch their business idea, “Interview4u” to judges’ panel in New Haven, CT.

Judges for the event were experts in entrepreneurship, medical services, investments and engineering. Receiving the first place award “was the most rewarding part,” said Lauer, “especially because of all the hard work and effort we put into our project.”

“The main idea for the weekend was to learn the steps to be able to start our own business,” said Silva. “Coming in first place was amazing but this is just the beginning of our journey.”

“The hardest part was listening,” said Eisch. “You don’t go into ‘Shark Tank’ to outsmart the venture capitalist. You play by their rules to get the best outcome for your business.”

The Courant Names Eastern a 2016 Top Workplace

Written by Michael Rouleau

Top Places LogoWillimantic, CT — For the fifth time in the past six years, the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With 961 employees, Eastern ranked fourth in the “large” category, and was the only higher education institution to be recognized among 61 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 18 in the Hartford Courant.

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by WorkplaceDynamics LLP, a research and consulting firm that has compiled top employer lists for some of the nation’s largest media outlets. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations.
The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.
Survey statements included: “This company operates by strong values and ethics”; “I have confidence in the leader of this company”; “I have the flexibility I need to balance my work and personal life”; for example.

“We are honored to be recognized as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “While Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our campus has always prided itself on its sense of community and for being a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, their families and the community-at-large. This announcement is a wonderful reminder that Eastern is a great workplace for our faculty and staff and I am delighted that we were among those recognized.”

Eastern Jumps Seven Places in U.S. News and World Report Rankings

Written by Ed Osborn
US News and World Report-FlagsEastern Connecticut State University moved up seven places among regional universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 edition of “Best Colleges” to 85th overall; Eastern was also tied for 26th place among public universities on the list. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 13.

Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities, and this year’s ranking was Eastern’s best ever.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

US News and World Report-Campus Scene“I am gratified to see Eastern achieve its highest ranking ever in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to academic excellence, our focus on student engagement and the introduction of new majors have resulted in strong scores for such criteria as academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources and alumni giving. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These new rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a quality, affordable liberal arts education on our beautiful residential campus.”
US News and World Report- Residential Halls ExteriorThis year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,374 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 4.

Eastern Named a 2016-17 College of Distinction


Innovative application of high impact educational practices at Eastern Connecticut State University has earned the school recognition among the nation’s Colleges of Distinction. Eastern students earned college credit and valuable life experience while participating in study abroad programs in 17 countries, as well as through service learning, undergraduate research, and internships.

“We’re so happy to recognize Eastern for developing skills relevant to graduates’ lives,” said Tyson Schritter, executive editor for Colleges of Distinction. “High student engagement in college is one of the keys to a successful undergraduate education. With an increasing emphasis on hands-on learning techniques, Colleges of Distinction applauds Eastern for practicing methodologies that prepare students for their futures.”

Schools must demonstrate results across four distinctions—Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community, and Successful Outcomes. High school counselors and educators make nominations, and each school is evaluated on key indicators including student engagement, student empowerment and curricular innovation. Colleges that have distinguished themselves in each of the four distinctions and that have demonstrated dedication to enriching student outcomes through innovative learning opportunities are then invited to join Colleges of Distinction.

The annual process to select the nation’s Colleges of Distinction also includes a review of each institution’s freshman experience, as well as its general education program, strategic plan, and alumni success and satisfaction measures.

“Colleges of Distinction is more than an annual ranking of colleges and universities. We only include colleges that offer every student a holistic and valuable experience,” said Schritter. “The Colleges of Distinction have earned solid reputations for serving their students and nurturing success. Like Eastern, our member schools provide the affirming undergraduate experience every student deserves.”

To view Eastern’s profile or to find more information about the innovative learning experiences it offers, visit CollegesofDistinction.com.



Accounting Students Help ‘Make Ends Meet’ through VITA Program

-Psychology major Christopher Brown ’17, an IRS-certified volunteer with VITA, preparing a taxpayer’s income taxes at the ACCESS Agency in Willimantic.

Psychology major Christopher Brown ’17, an IRS-certified volunteer with VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), preparing a taxpayer’s income taxes at the ACCESS Agency in Willimantic.

Written by Michael Rouleau

On a cold February evening in Willimantic, an anxious, middle-aged woman sits beside Nicole Brooks. The woman opens a folder and nervously spreads out an assortment of tax forms, pay stubs and medical bills upon the table. After navigating the paperwork and plugging numbers into a computer program, Brooks turns to the woman and reveals a large, positive number on the screen. The woman’s expression lights up as she gives Brooks a hug and begins to cry.

This was two years ago, when Brooks ’15 was an Eastern Connecticut State University student volunteering with the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program. Brooks is now a staff accountant at a local Connecticut-based firm, but Eastern accounting students continue this work.

Eastern graduate Nicole Brooks ’15 at Eastern’s Accounting Banquet in 2014, where she won a scholarship from the CT Society of CPAs (certified public accountants). Brooks’ VITA experience helped land her job with Nicola, Yester and Company P.C.

Eastern graduate Nicole Brooks ’15 at Eastern’s Accounting Banquet in 2014, where she won a scholarship from the CT Society of CPAs (certified public accountants). Brooks’ VITA experience helped land her a job with Nicola, Yester and Company P.C.

For 17 years, Eastern has championed the VITA program in northeast Connecticut. Through VITA, IRS-certified volunteers prepare income taxes free of charge for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. This season, more than 30 student volunteers and interns are staffing four sites in northeast Connecticut — the ACCESS Agency in Willimantic, Putnam Library, Stafford Library and KIDSAFE in Vernon —  as well as several pop-up sites at area hospitals and housing developments.

“Eastern has the only academic program in this region of Connecticut involved with VITA,” said Accounting Professor Mohd RuJoub, who brought the program to Eastern in 1998 when he joined the faculty. “Our students run the program and provide all the time and effort. They invest thousands of hours in the program yearly.”

VITA offers a major economic boost to the lower-income families who may not properly file their taxes or take advantage of the credits and deductions they are entitled to, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Last year, more than one quarter of the filers in the Windham region (who used VITA) were eligible for this credit, receiving an average of $1,334 from the EITC alone.

“In our state, one in three families is struggling to make ends meet,” said Maura Cook of United Way, a partner with VITA that provides funding and recruits volunteers. “Tax refunds can be a huge boost to financial security. That’s why we feel so passionate about VITA. Communities are better off when families are secure.”

“We don’t want families to spend hundreds of dollars for paid preparers when they don’t have that money to spend, trying to make ends meet,” said Laura O’Keefe, family financial stability coordinator with The Village, the VITA partner that trains and certifies volunteers. “Tax season is a perfect opportunity for families to start saving and make steps toward their financial goals.”

While their volunteer time supports grateful families, Eastern students also benefit from the experience. “I will never forget the gratitude expressed by our clients,” said Brooks, reflecting on that woman two years ago. “She made very little money; it was amazing to be able to help ease some of her financial stress.” Brooks is now a staff accountant with the Glastonbury firm Nicola, Yester and Company P.C.

-Eastern graduate Chris Gardella ’15 (right) works as an accountant at KPMG and also volunteers with VITA as a site coordinator of the ACCESS Agency. Lining the room are taxpayers paired with Eastern student volunteers and interns, who are IRS-certified through VITA.

Eastern graduate Chris Gardella ’15 (right) works as an accountant at KPMG and also volunteers with VITA as a site coordinator of the ACCESS Agency. Lining the room are taxpayers paired with Eastern student volunteers and interns, who are IRS-certified through VITA.

For Chris Gardella ’15, a recurrent volunteer with the program, “VITA impacted my life in two major ways,” he said. “Professionally, VITA impacted my career as an accountant and opened the door for me at KPMG (the firm he now works at full time). The program also impacted my life personally.

“The reactions and gratitude you get from clients definitely leaves a mark on you. That alone is what keeps me coming back to work with VITA and what drives me to continue working with the program for years to come.”

This tax season, Gardella is serving as coordinator of the ACCESS site, where he oversees the site in a managerial role. “This consists of ensuring we have volunteers for every shift, identifying and settling any issues that may arise, and checking over each tax return for quality.”

Helping Gardella and other volunteers to reach their level of competency was O’Keefe, who brought the training to Eastern. The multi-day, 14-hour training briefs the students in tax law, acquaints them with the software Tax Wise, and requires them to pass several tests.

“The biggest thing is the customer service experience; the soft skills part of the program,” said O’Keefe. “In school, students do mock returns and learn textbook knowledge. That whole situation is changed when you add the human element. When you’re actually sitting across from someone in need, seeing how grateful they are, realizing the impact. A lot of people are really intimidated at first, but once they do it, they love it.”

This season, seven students have elected to participate in the VITA internship for course credit. To complete the internship, students work 16 hours a week and complete 224 hours during the season, and “they tend to be excellent tax preparers,” added Cook.

-John Michael ’16, an accounting major and VITA volunteer, reviewing a taxpayer’s forms before preparing her income taxes.

John Michael ’16, an accounting major and VITA volunteer, reviewing a taxpayer’s forms before preparing her income taxes.

The dedication of the Eastern students participating in the program is noteworthy. Christine Gaumond ’16 is a nontraditional student who works full time, is a mother and still finds time to volunteer. “Last year I put in all the sick and vacation time I had; I volunteered six days a week.” On top of that, she commutes nearly an hour from Killingly to volunteer at KIDSAFE in Vernon. “When you love to do something, I guess it doesn’t really matter.

“As a single parent, I know how hard it can be to make ends meet. It’s awesome to help those people out. I feel bad because many of our clients who just found out about VITA come in to our sites and talk about how they paid hundreds of dollars to do their taxes in the past.”

This year, Gaumond is serving as the site coordinator at KIDSAFE. “Our biggest downfall is not enough people know about VITA.” To get the word out, Gaumond designs and distributes flyers around town. “Even if someone doesn’t qualify, hopefully they’ll have the information to pass on the word.”

Accounting professor RuJoub teaching students.

Accounting Professor Mohd RuJoub brought the VITA program to Eastern 17 years ago when he joined the Eastern faculty in 1998.

Gaumond also promotes her site on social media. “I feel that strongly about the program. I’m constantly talking about it; I’ll be at the grocery store saying, ‘Hey, if you know anyone that meets these income requirements, they can get their taxes done for free!’”

The benefits of VITA are significant for all parties involved — from the clients who receive the refunds to the local economies that are enriched to the students who prepare and file the returns.

“This amazing opportunity allows our students to gain valuable experience and IRS tax certification, as well as the skills to communicate with clients and interact with a variety of people from all walks of life,” said RuJoub, who also points out the resume building and networking opportunities with certified public accountants. “We plan to participate in this marvelous program for many years to come!”

“We always get a tremendous group of students from Eastern,” said O’Keefe. “They’re very responsible, engaged and interested in learning more. They provide an excellent caliber of students.”

Cook adds, “Those students are the reason the numbers are so high in Windham County. The participation grows every year, that’s a testament to Dr. RuJoub; he really cares about this program.”

For the full list of VITA sites and hours of operation, visit https://unitedwayinc.org/2016VITASites. To schedule an appointment, call 2-1-1

Eastern Presents Contemporary Theater Production “Pornography”

Written by Jolene Potter

Willimantic, Conn. – Home-grown terrorism, the effects of a consumerist culture, and the alienation and objectification of individuals were only a few of the themes portrayed in Eastern Connecticut State University’s production of the award-winning contemporary play, “Pornography” by Simon Stephens. The play, which was put on by the Performing Arts Department and Drama Society, was performed in Eastern’s Harry Hope Theater from Oct. 6-11.

The play offered an eerie and extraordinary portrait of the events of July 7, 2005, in London, England, when several bombs went off in the London transport system, killing 56 people including the four bombers. “This play allowed us the opportunity to explore sensitive, controversial and relevant topics, such as home-grown terrorism, that plague our society” said director David Pellegrini, professor of theater. The play’s script is unique, in that the director receives a manuscript with all the characters’ lines, but can rearrange them in any way they want. “Having the ability to rearrange the lines made for a one-of-kind performance of this production,” said Pellegrini.

The ambiguous exploration of morality in “Pornography” impacted the ensemble as well. “It was quite the intellectual challenge finding a true meaning behind the play. Right down to the show and even in between shows I was constantly analyzing the meaning behind different lines and why we were saying them. Even after the play’s conclusion, I still wonder how different characters could be interpreted,” said communication major Derek Bleau ‘16. “In the end, the play still has me wondering about its motives, and I challenge myself in explaining to others what it truly meant. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced an exploration of human character and morality like we did in this show, and it was beyond enlightening.”

Hanna Madler, an accounting and theater major, pushed herself to take on new and interesting roles in this production, both acting in the ensemble as well as taking on the duties of a design assistant. “I have acted and designed costumes before but never both simultaneously. It was a great learning experience to sit in on production meetings and be a part of rehearsals as well,” said Madler. “Having someone in the cast who works on costumes can help the designer better understand what the director wants out of the show, which is a unique angle to work with.”

Zach Watson ’17, communication major, was one of many students who stepped outside of their comfort zones to perform in “Pornography.” “This was my first main stage production and I couldn’t have been surrounded by better friends and talent. Each night I would actively take notes in my head and watch my fellow cast members steal the show,” said Watson. “As for the subject matter of the show – Stephens’ commentary on society and how we live in ‘pornographic times’ – was enthralling not only to discuss but to be a part of. The issues in this show are especially important because we deal with them every day.”


Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Hartford, CT — More than 13,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 12, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,130 undergraduates and 70 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 125th Commencement exercises.

Award-winning author and distinguished Eastern alumna Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’01 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of her honorary degree. Adichie graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001 with a degree in Communication. She was also awarded Eastern’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.

Adichie is the author of a collection of short stories, “The Thing around Your Neck,” and three novels. Her latest novel, “Americanah,” was published in 2013, earning recognition as one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. Last month, Ms. Adichie was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

In her remarks, she told the graduates that she cherished the bachelor’s degree she received at Eastern. “You are very fortunate to have received your education at Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, where professors are keen to see you succeed.”

Adichie recalled that when she graduated 14 years ago, “I had doubts and worries. ‘What next?’ was the question on my mind. You are worried today just as I was. You should be worried, because it shows that you care.  It is okay not to have all the answers.”
In concluding her remarks, Adichie encouraged the graduates to “make an effort and speak the truth.  It is okay to say, “‘I am wrong’ or ‘I don’t know.’  Life on Earth is short.  Each moment that we are not truthful to ourselves, we are wasting our time on Earth.”

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; attorney David Jimenez, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles; and Matthew Hicks ’15, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ‘’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ‘’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.
Nunez told the audience that this year’s event was Eastern’s 125th Commencement Exercises. “Our campus has grown from four rooms to more than 50 buildings on 82 acres and a campus footprint of almost two million square feet.  In 1891, we graduated 22 students; today we have almost 1,200 graduates, and we are closing in on 30,000 alumni.”

Turning to the graduates, Nunez told them, “Our nation and the global society we live in are looking to you for leadership.  As you embark on your career, take care of yourself, take care of your families, but make sure that you take time to help others when you can. You will find that supporting and helping others strengthens you.  As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “‘From caring comes courage.’”

“Amidst your joy and celebration, I ask you to spend some time today in reflection—please step back for a moment to think about your past four years, what you have learned, and what you are taking from Eastern as you continue your journey.”

Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez—an annual Class of 2015 scholarship—and said the Commencement ceremony “symbolizes more than just earning a degree. It exemplifies the goals we have accomplished through personal growth, strength and ambition.”

David Jimenez spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  “Today is a significant milestone in your life,” he said, “for which you should be incredibly proud. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference. Pursue your goals with the same dedication that brought you to this day.”

In his Senior Class Address, Matthew Hicks said, “To be here is no small feat, each of us has sacrificed a great deal of time and energy to walk across this stage.” Noting that he and his classmates had endured a challenging four years at Eastern and “have come out critical thinkers, determined activists, and dedicated leaders,” Hicks concluded his remarks by saying, “Let us enter this new (challenge) with our heads held high, ready to take what we have learned here and change the world, and most of all, let us never forget the amazing people and memories we have made while discovering who we are.”

Other graduates were reflective in describing their Eastern experiences.  English major Kathryn Shpak, a native of Oxford, CT, said her time interning for the English Department, as well as her student employment job in the Office of University Relations, helped develop her writing and editing skills, which she hopes to use in the fitness/nutrition industry.

Jonah Sanchez, from Newington, majored in business administration minored in accounting and business information systems. For the past three years, Sanchez served as a Benefits Finance intern with United Technologies. Sanchez says Eastern has helped him grow in many ways. “Being a part of and serving as president of the Organization of Latin American Students has opened up many doors for leadership and networking opportunities. Also, on campus job opportunities have been plentiful. I have worked as a resident assistant and a program assistant in the Intercultural Center. I like the fact that Eastern allows it’s students to be active and involved around the campus.” After graduation, Sanchez will begin full-time with United Technologies as an associate in the Financial Leadership Program at United Technologies.

Aaron Daley, from Bloomfield, majored in political science and minored in business information systems and pre-law. “My liberal education helped me to enhance my critical thinking skills, and built up my confidence; I now know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to achieve.”