Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

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.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. 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 1,389 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. 10.

For the past 33 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.

Students Write Fiction in Italy

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Fourteen students from Eastern Connecticut State University spent a month this summer in Florence, Italy, in a global field course called “Creative Writing Abroad.” The region of Tuscany’s rich culture and picturesque landscapes inspired students’ literary senses as they wrote, critiqued and edited original works of fiction.

“While my story had an element of fantasy, other students in the class wrote about realistic scenarios,” explained Victoria Randazzo ’18. “One thing everyone’s story shared was a touch of Florence. Whether characters or places, everyone drew from our daily experiences. I was happy to get more in touch with my creative side; the beauty of Florence was an inspiration.”

“I was able to put a lot of detailed description into my story that I wouldn’t have been able to had I not been there firsthand to see how the city looked, how the people interacted, and the feeling of being away for an extended period of time adapting to another culture,” said McKenzie Fayne ’17. “Being in Italy as a creative writing student gave me the tools I needed to step out of my comfort zone in terms of writing style. I enjoyed writing this piece on my own terms and being able to perfect it while in such a beautiful city.”

Led by English Professor Christopher Torockio, the students gathered for writing workshops at SACI—Studio Arts College International (in Florence)—and immersed themselves in Italian culture as they visited the famed cities of Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and Pisa.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

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About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Eastern Professor Moderates Salute to President H. W. Bush

Written by Dwight Bachman

Cesar Beltran, lecturer in the Department of Communication, played a key role in a tribute to former President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara, when the two were honored earlier this year for their friendship and service to the Jewish community.

Cesar Beltran, assistant professor of communication, addressing the audience during a tribute to former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who were honored for their friendship and service to the Jewish community.

Cesar Beltran, assistant professor of communication, addressing the audience during a tribute to former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who were presented the Mensch Foundation International Award for their friendship and service to the Jewish community.

Beltran, who once served as acting deputy ambassador and public affairs counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, acted as co-master of ceremony during an awards ceremony in March where the Mensch International Foundation presented the prestigious Mensch International Foundation Award to the Bushes. The ceremony took place at the Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX, the state’s oldest congregation. Head Rabbi David Lyon assisted in the awarding ceremony, as did members of the Bush family.

As part of the award ceremony, Beltran read from a letter the former president’s cousin, George Herbert Walker III, a former ambassador to Hungary who Beltran trained in diplomacy, diplomatic duties and responsibilities, and introduced to the Mensch Foundation.

Seated front are George and Barbara Bush, with Caesar Beltran, with, center and left, members of the Mensch Foundation board of directors, and right, George Geiger, founder of the Mensch Foundation, and his wife Julia Geiger.

Seated front are George and Barbara Bush. Standing left to right are Cesar Beltran; center and left, members of the Mensch Foundation board of directors, and right, George Geiger, founder of the Mensch Foundation, and his wife Julia Geiger.

“The couple serves as a great example of tolerance and political leadership,” said Walker in his letter. “George and Barbara have amply supported the activities and principles of the Mensch Foundation. When I came to Budapest in 2003, I was unaware of how Hungary suffered from the round up and extermination of most of its Jewish citizens at the end of World War II. If I could do anything to avert such a horrific past, I meant to do so, and I believe I share these feelings with George and Barbara.”

The Mensch Foundation International Award event made national news on all the networks.

The Mensch Foundation International Award ceremony made national news.

President George H. W. Bush supported the Jewish community in many ways, most notably playing a supportive role when Ethiopia evacuated 14,000 Jews in the late 1980s. He also stepped up by providing U.S. financial and commercial assistance when Hungary, Poland and other former Warsaw Pact nations became independent after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The foundation said it was honoring Barbara Bush as well because she has always been supportive of her husband.

Caesar Beltran speaking with President Bush’s son Neil Bush, center, and Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson Jr., a member of President Bush’s church.

Cesar Beltran speaking with President Bush’s son Neil Bush, center, and Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson Jr., a member of St Martin’s Episcopal Church, President Bush’s church.

During the award ceremony, Beltran said that the mission of the Mensch International Foundation is to educate children and young adults about the horrors of the Holocaust, and to underline the ugliness of bigotry, prejudice and anti-Semitism. Founded in Budapest 15 years ago by Steven Geiger, the foundation carries out its mission through summer study camps, commemorative activities and its awards programs. Beltran currently serves as communications advisor for the foundation.

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, 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.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

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!

Committed to Community: Eastern’s 2017 Service Expo

The Le Le Project, represented by FEMALES club members Amanda Peterson, Jay Ortiz and Kiana Wiggins, won the Leadership Development Award. Their project focused on spreading awareness of domestic violence.

The Le Le Project, represented by FEMALES club members Amanda Peterson, Jay Ortiz and Kiana Wiggins, won the Leadership Development Award. Their project focused on spreading awareness of domestic violence.

Written by Michael Rouleau

More than 20 projects were on display for Eastern Connecticut State University’s annual Service Expo and Awards on April 12. Held at St. Joseph Church in Willimantic, the annual ceremony was hosted by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and showcased a variety of volunteer and service-learning work completed by Eastern students in the Windham community. Projects were evaluated and awarded and outstanding students, faculty and community partners were recognized.

In the 2015-16 academic year, 1,167 Eastern students – of a campus population of approximately 5,300 – served 20,024 hours in the community. Independent Sector, a public policy organization, values community service at $23.56 per hour, which equated to $471,765 worth of service last year to the Windham community. In the current academic year (2016-17), Eastern students are projected to match, if not surpass, these totals – the academic year will conclude next month.

Jasmine Carvalho speaks after receiving the Student Community Engagement Award. Carvalho credits her plethora of community engagement experience at Eastern with developing her as a person and building confidence she never could have dreamed of as a freshman.

Jasmine Carvalho speaks after receiving the Student Community Engagement Award. Carvalho credits her plethora of community engagement experience at Eastern with developing her as a person and building confidence she never could have dreamed of as a freshman.

Projects featured at the Service Expo spanned a variety of causes and organizations, from working with local youth in after school programs to assisting at a local homeless shelter; from volunteering with adults with disabilities to starting a new initiative that brings leftover food from Eastern’s dining hall to the local soup kitchen.

Social work major Mariana Vega ’17 presented on her project with the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR). “The goal of CCAR is to put a face on recovery,” said Vega, acknowledging the stigma surrounding people in addiction and recovery. Two hours a day, three days a week, she helps at the center by assisting clients with job applications, studying for their GED and other tasks.

“There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom,” said Vega, who is interested in the fields of addiction, recovery and substance abuse. “When you actually hear their stories and see the people face to face, it’s a huge impact. We get a lot out of it.”

Student projects are categorized as community service (volunteering) or service learning (community service-based classwork). Speaking to the concept of service learning, Nicolas Simon, sociology professor and expo judge, said: “Sending our students to the community, talking with human beings, self-reflecting on the experience, and connecting the experience to the material we’re covering in the classroom really helps students have a concrete relationship to knowledge.”

Adam Pszczolkowski and Josh Desouza, alongside their faculty advisor Alex Citurs (left), explain their service project with Grow Windham, in which they developed a website for the nonprofit organization.

Adam Pszczolkowski and Josh Desouza, alongside their faculty advisor Alex Citurs (left), explain their service project with Grow Windham, in which they developed a website for the nonprofit organization.

Not only is community service eye-opening for students, it deepens their sense of belonging while helping to meet community needs, builds resumes and professional experience, and gives students insight into the field they may be considering after graduation. Simon concluded, “Service learning is really a complement to the liberal arts education at Eastern.”

Josh Desouza ’17, who double majors in business administration and business information systems, presented on his project with Grow Windham, a local nonprofit that deals with food insecurity. Working alongside four of his classmates, “This project was over 700 hours of work,” he said.

“The website we built allows Grow Windham to better manage its operations; they can run reports to see how many hours their interns have worked, how many events they ran in a year, how many crops they’ve grown in their different gardens.” Desouza says the website will soon be migrated with Grow Windham’s main site, and assist the organization in obtaining grant funding by helping it to easily build reports and access numbers.

Concluding the event, standout projects and individuals were recognized. The Service Learning Award went to John Murphy, a lecturer in the Communication Department at Eastern. Murphy has engaged students in community-based media production work, resulting in valuable promotional videos, on-air public service announcements and data analytics for many area non-profit organizations.

The Food Recovery Program, led by students Sarah Tricarico, Goy Voladate, Wali Mohammod and Zach Stygar, won two awards: Going Green and Best New Program. Presented by expo judge Ellen Lang, the program demonstrates creative and sustainable efforts that protect the environment.

The Food Recovery Program, led by students Sarah Tricarico, Goy Voladate, Wali Mohammod and Zach Stygar, won two awards: Going Green and Best New Program. Presented by expo judge Ellen Lang, the program demonstrates creative and sustainable efforts that protect the environment.

The Student Community Engagement Award went to Jasmine Carvalho ’17, a psychology major. Carvalho’s community engagement spans all four of her years at Eastern, working with the CCE, several service-based organizations on campus, and numerous projects and special events.

The Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award went to Social Work Professor Catina Caban-Owen, who also is a social worker at North Windham School. Caban-Owen routinely brings her students into the community for learning and service. She is also the founder of the Windham Task Force to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect.

The Community Partner Award went to Avery Lenhart, shelter manager at the Windham No Freeze Shelter. She is the coordinator of the Youth Empowerment Team Initiative (YETI), which focuses on youth homelessness with a goal of ending youth and family homelessness in Connecticut by 2022.

The Windham Afterschool Program, represented by Endiza Torres (right), won the Kids First Award, for its focus on youth tutoring and mentoring.

The Windham Afterschool Program, represented by Endiza Torres (right), won the Kids First Award, for its focus on youth tutoring and mentoring.

The Outstanding Community Event Award went to the United Way of Central and Northeast Connecticut, which focuses on childhood education and financial stability for families. The United Way Readers Program was expanded to include Windham this year, serving 23 children at Natchaug Elementary School during the school day and after school. The United Way Community Engagement staff provided training, materials and ongoing support for the 17 Eastern volunteers in the program.

Eight student-driven projects were recognized in seven categories. The Food Recovery Program won the Going Green Award and the Best New Program Award. The Broadening Horizons Award went to Vanderman Place. The Leadership Development Award went to the Le Le Project. The Strengthening Communities Award went to CCAR. The Putting Liberal Arts into Action Award went to two programs: the Windham Middle School Tutorial Program and the Windham Middle School Girls Mentoring Program. The Kids First Award went to the Windham High School Afterschool Program.

‘Earth Day, Every Day’ Tours Schools Statewide

Back row (left to right): Aiden Eastwood (Bob the Director), Daniel Fernandez (Chadwick Composter), Kate Prozesky (stage manager), Shane Kegler (director), Calvin Gee (Elmer Energy), Jordan Merrill (Mr. Gas Guzzler), Diana McCarthy Bercury (Eversource eesmarts program administrator) Front row: Joseph Diaz (Roger Recycle), Olivia Florence (Scarlet Upcycle), Stephanie Madden (Kelly, assistant director), Alexis Kurtz (Penelope Precycle) and Deborah Stauffer (playwright)

Back row (left to right): Aiden Eastwood (Bob the Director), Daniel Fernandez (Chadwick Composter), Kate Prozesky (stage manager), Shane Kegler (director), Calvin Gee (Elmer Energy), Jordan Merrill (Mr. Gas Guzzler), Diana McCarthy Bercury (Eversource eesmarts program administrator) Front row: Joseph Diaz (Roger Recycle), Olivia Florence (Scarlet Upcycle), Stephanie Madden (Kelly, assistant director), Alexis Kurtz (Penelope Precycle) and Deborah Stauffer (playwright)

Written by Michael Rouleau

A zany cast of characters performed by Eastern Connecticut State University alumni is amid an ambitious month-long tour for a children’s theatre production called “Earth Day, Every Day.” Brought to audiences by eesmarts™, an Energize Connecticut initiative managed by Eversource and the United Illuminating Company, the play will tour Connecticut elementary schools from March 27-April 21.

Three public performances are scheduled: two on April 13 at the Energize Connecticut Center (122 Universal Drive North, North Haven) at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and one on April 14 at Stafford Palace Theatre (75 Main St., Stafford Springs) at 10 a.m.

“Earth Day, Every Day” was born when nontraditional student Debbie Stauffer ’16 hesitantly enrolled in a scriptwriting class taught by Communication Professor Edmond Chibeau. “As it turned out, I can write scripts,” said Stauffer, “and with the great direction from Dr. Chibeau I wrote a script for the eesmarts contest. The rest is history!” In the photo, the two are seen holding flowers at the March 24 debut showing at the Energize Connecticut Center.

“Earth Day, Every Day” was born when nontraditional student Debbie Stauffer ’16 hesitantly enrolled in a scriptwriting class taught by Communication Professor Edmond Chibeau. “As it turned out, I can write scripts,” said Stauffer, “and with the great direction from Dr. Chibeau I wrote a script for the eesmarts contest. The rest is history!” In the photo, the two are seen holding flowers at the March 24 debut showing at the Energize Connecticut Center.

“Earth Day, Every Day” was written by Eastern alumna Deborah Stauffer ’16, who won the 2016 eesmarts Student Contest “Wright the World” college category. The play aims to teach children the importance of making smart and sustainable energy choices. With numerous performances at elementary schools in 38 Connecticut towns, the messages of “Earth Day, Every Day” will reach approximately 10,000 students.

The play follows Roger Recycle, Penelope Precycle, Elmer Energy, Chadwick Composter and Scarlet Upcycle as they audition for a special Earth Day commercial broadcast. During their audition, they try to convince the director that they are the best solution for conserving energy and resources. By the end, the characters realize that each of them play important roles in conserving the planet, and that they need each other to make the world a better place.

“A lot of us go into theatre to make a difference,” said Director Shane Kegler ’11, an alumnus of the Theatre Program at Eastern. “This production allows us to be a part of something big, and being able to do this many shows and reach this many kids proves just how important we all think it is.”

“Earth Day, Every Day” features a cast and crew of 13 Eastern alumni and students. “I remember how much I was influenced by shows that were brought to my elementary and middle schools,” said Alexis Kurtz ’16, who plays Penelope Precycle and majored in theatre at Eastern. “Hopefully, this play helps a lot of kids to become aware of ways they can make a difference in the environment, and that even small contributions are helpful in reducing waste.”

Stauffer added, “I’m excited that my script has come to life. The costumes are outstanding and every character is really what I imagined them to be. I am so thrilled with it all!”

The production is the result of a collaborative effort that involved several departments at Eastern, Eversource and the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), which resulted in an original play with more than 50 scheduled performances.

“The continued commitment of Eversource and CREC to educate children through the arts will affect the future of energy conservation,” said Eastern Theatre Professor Ellen Brodie, who acted as facilitator/liaison for “Earth Day, Every Day.” “This is a wonderful beginning to what is sure to be a very effective tour of enlightenment and entertainment.”

The three public performances are free of charge to audience members. For more information, please contact Alysse Rodriguez at (203) 799-0460 or arodrigues@crec.org.

 

 

‘Iroko, the Tree of Life’ Opens in Connecticut

IROKO Eye of the Ceiba, reed woven sculpture, created by Imna Arroyo, 2017

IROKO Eye of the Ceiba, reed woven sculpture, created by Imna Arroyo, 2017

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — “Iroko, the Tree of Life,” an arts project featuring Eastern Connecticut State University faculty members Imna Arroyo, Tao Chen and Jaime Gomez, opens this spring in three Connecticut art spaces.

The Clare Gallery and Charter Oak Cultural Center, both in Hartford, as well as MS17 Art Project Gallery in New London, are the spring 2017 exhibition hosts. Each installation focuses on distinct interpretations of “Iroko–the Tree of Life” as home of the ancestors, humanity and the gods.

The project includes three art exhibitions, a short film and a book that will serve as the catalog for the traveling art exhibition. “Iroko” is inspired by the sacred “Tree of Life,” known as “Iroko” to the Yoruba people of West Africa and those of the African Diaspora, “Yaxché” to the Maya, “Kapok” in Southeast Asia, “Silk-Cotton Tree” to Indigenous North Americans and “La Ceiba” in the Caribbean, and in Central and South America.

The tree is of great symbolic, spiritual, mythological, medicinal, magical, commercial,

“From Puerto Rico to Taiwan”: This photographic composition depicts the Iroko trees from Puerto Rico known as La Ceiba and Kapok in Southeast Asia by Tao Chen and Jaime Gomez. Image composed by Tao Chen. The original source photos are from a picture Jaime Gomez took in Puerto Rico and another taken by Tao Chen in Taiwan.

“From Puerto Rico to Taiwan”: This photographic composition depicts the Iroko trees from Puerto Rico known as La Ceiba and Kapok in Southeast Asia by Tao Chen and Jaime Gomez. Image composed by Tao Chen. The original source photos are from a picture Jaime Gomez took in Puerto Rico and another taken by Tao Chen in Taiwan.

ecologicaland aestheticimport. Through the exploration of materials old and new as well as traditional and innovative technologies, this multi-media installation focuses on the mysteries of nature using Iroko as an anchor to express the power, continuity and resiliency of nature, which hold the promise for a sustainable future if nurtured and honored.

Humberto Figueroa from Puerto Rico and Migdalia Salas of MS17 Art Project Gallery are the curators of the traveling exhibition. Art installations are by Imna Arroyo and include drawings on Amate paper, etchings, rief sculptural prints created with handmade paper and encaustic, reed fiber-woven sculptures, s well as a multimedia video.

The video was created in collaboration with graphic and digital media artist Tao Chen and video producer Jaime Gomez. It includes visuals of Indigenous people from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta of Colombia by Gomez and videographer Julio Charris as well as traditional Yoruba Orisha songs sung by Amma McKen, Iya Ola and Swahili Henry and a new dance performed by Eastern student Sinque Tavares and choreographer Alycia Bright-Holland, assistant professor of theatre at Eastern.

IROKO FILM. Ima3.IROKO FILM. Image from “Iroko Tree of Life,” a film produced and directed by Imna Arroyo, Tao Chen and Jaime Gomez editing and special effects by Tao Chen. Featuring traditional Yoruba Orisha songs singers by Amma McKen, Denise Ola DeJean and Swahili Henry with dance performance by Sinque Tavares and choreographer Alycia Bright-Holland. In addition to photos, graphics and video footage by Imna Arroyo, Jaime Gomez and Tao Chen.

IROKO FILM. Ima3. IROKO FILM. Image from “Iroko Tree of Life,” a film produced and directed by Imna Arroyo, Tao Chen and Jaime Gomez editing and special effects by Tao Chen. Featuring traditional Yoruba Orisha songs singers by Amma McKen, Denise Ola DeJean and Swahili Henry with dance performance by Sinque Tavares and choreographer Alycia Bright-Holland. In addition to photos, graphics and video footage by Imna Arroyo, Jaime Gomez and Tao Chen.

Iroko also includes a book designed by Tao Chen featuring essay contributions by ecologist Carmen Cid, art historian Maline Werness-Rude, and writers Isis Rakia Mattei, María Vázquez, Esperanza Cáseres Santa Cruz, Jaime Gómez, Migdalia Salas and Humberto Figueroa. To view a video trailer for the project, visit https://youtu.be/tz_OqlnsVrQ.  Exhibition dates are listed below.

“The Tree of Life/Árbol de Vida,” an exhibition of mixed-media works by Arroyo representing personal interpretations of the tree of life opened on March 16 in the Clare Gallery at the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry, 285 Church St. in Hartford, and will run through May 21, 2017. The artist will conduct a workshop on April 8 from 4–5 p.m. as part of Slow Art Day. A reception and the Iroko Tree of Life film viewing will follow from 5-7 p.m.

The “Iroko: Home of the Ancestors/La Casa de los Ancestros” exhibit and Tree of Life film will also be presented at the Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Ave. in Hartford, from March 23-May 6, 2017. The exhibit features Amate paper drawings and wood cut tapestries by Arroyo exploring the Ceiba tree as the home of the ancestors. An opening reception and film showing will take place on March 30 at 5:30 p.m.

IROKO BOOK. Image from Iroko Tree of Life, book page essay by Jaime Gomez, “Ancient Practices Rooted in Indigenous Wisdom,” designed by Tao Chen and sacred lagoon photographed from the Sierra of Santa Marta photograph courtesy of the Golkushe Tayrona Wiwa organization from Colombia, South America.

IROKO BOOK. Image from Iroko Tree of Life, book page essay by Jaime Gomez, “Ancient Practices Rooted in Indigenous Wisdom,” designed by Tao Chen and sacred lagoon photographed from the Sierra of Santa Marta photograph courtesy of the Golkushe Tayrona Wiwa organization from Colombia, South America.

ROKO: Home of the Gods/La Casa de las Orichas” comes to the MS17 Art Project Gallery at 165 State St., New London, from April 22-July 1, 2017. This multidisciplinary exhibition is dedicated to the Ceiba as the Tree of Life and focuses on the dialog of the environment, spirituality and art. The exhibit includes the Iroko Tree of Life short film produced and directed by Arroyo, Chen and Gómez. An opening artists’ reception takes place on April 22, 2017 from 5–7 p.m.