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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Professor Ayeni Selected as AEF Visiting Fellow

Eastern Professor Christopher Ayeni was selected as a visiting professor for the Advertising Educational Foundation (AEF) meeting in June.

Christopher Ayeni, associate professor of communication at Eastern Connecticut State University, spent June 17-25 in Chicago participating in the Advertising Educational Foundation (AEF) Visiting Professor Program (VPP).

Ayeni resides in Windsor Locks and has been teaching at Eastern since 2002. He joined other advertising and marketing communications professors in the VPP for immersion and research sessions at top Chicago advertising agencies, exploring issues related to the latest innovations in marketing and advertising practice.

Participating companies include advertising agencies, marketers and media companies such as Leo Burnett; McGarry Bowen, Foote, Cone and Welding; Energy BBDO; R/GA; IBM; Ogilvy; Facebook; McCann Erickson; and Wavemaker, among others.

The goal of the VPP is to enhance professors’ understanding of current advertising and marketing practices to inform and enhance their teaching and research. The program provides a forum for professors to exchange knowledge and create long-term relationships with agencies and marketers.

“The advertising executives shared insights on the role of data analytics in predicting buying and consumption behaviors,” said Ayeni. “They also explored diversity and trends in the ever-changing marketing communications world. We examined the latest trends in social media, global brand building, consumer insights, the future of media, data analytics and diversity. It was a very enriching experience that will inform and shape new curriculum development and pedagogy.”

Since its inception, more than 500 professors have participated in the AEF Visiting Professor Program (VPP). “The VPP is a highly competitive program,” said Sharon Hudson, program vice president. “More than 100 professors applied for the VPP fellowship. We reviewed how professors teach advertising, marketing and communications courses; the strength of their statement expressing their reason for and practical benefit of the VPP experience for themselves and their students; and how students have already benefitted from their teaching.”

Ayeni accompanied Eastern students to the PRSSA National Assembly in Portland, OR, including Erin Teague ’19, Kathryn Arena ’21, Marissa Simonetti ’19, Olivia Godin ’19 and Ryan Tarko ’21.

Ayeni’s students have been very successful in and outside of the classroom, winning local and national advertising competitions. Student awards include placing in the Top 10 in the National Effie Collegiate Advertising Campaign in 2015, where the students developed an advertising campaign for TARGET aimed at millennials. In 2010, Ayeni’s students also captured Third Place in the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut Underage Drinking Campaign.

Ayeni recently took five student members of the Public Relations Student Society of America to the national meeting in Portland, OR, where they learned about modern advancements in the field. He has attended numerous conferences, such as the Athens Institute of Education and Research” in Greece and the Popular Culture Association Conference in Washington, D.C. Ayeni is also writing a book titled “Crisis Communication in the Age of Terrorism.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Alumna Wins 2 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

LaToya Smith (left) was named “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” by the New York Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Here she stands with Lizbeth Rodriguez, advisor with SBDC.

Eastern Connecticut State University graduate LaToya Smith ’06 has been named “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the New York Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Smith is the CEO and founder of Brass City Media, Inc., located in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 2006 with degrees in communication and history. Smith received a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University in 2008.

The SBDC recognized Smith at its annual awards dinner on April 30 in Ithaca, NY. The SBA ceremony occurred on May 7 at the Microsoft Technology Center in New York City.

LaToya Smith offers tips on how to market your business to aspiring entrepreneurs in New York City.

“My undergraduate experience at Eastern helped shape my career and professional life,” said Smith. “I will forever be grateful for the knowledge and skills that I learned from my professors and my former employers in the offices of Financial Aid and University Relations, and in the Department of History. I’m incredibly blessed to have such a huge community of love and support.”

“These two SBA and the SBDC Young Entrepreneur Awards being presented to LaToya are the result of her business vision, dedication and focus, along with her ability to incorporate the resources and experts that have helped her to take her business to the next level,” said Lizbeth Rodriguez, SBDC business advisor. “As her business advisor, I am so very proud of this top-of-the-line, well-deserved recognition for LaToya.”

“This truly is an honor,” said Smith. “SBA has been an incredible resource to me. My SCORE (“Service Corps of Retired Executives”) mentors helped me incorporate my business and have been with me every step of the way. SBDC helped me refocus my business and expand it beyond a service-based business.”

SBA and SBDC’s “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award “recognizes business owners under age 40 who have demonstrated a substantiated history as an established business that fosters local economies by creating job opportunities; has shown an increase in sales, net profit, and/or net worth for the three prior calendar years; and supports their neighborhood through community-oriented projects.”

“LaToya has shown remarkable growth and ingenuity in delivering her products or services,” said Beth Goldberg, SBA New York district director. “She has taken all that she learned as a journalist and in building her own brand, helped other entrepreneurs tell their stories more effectively.”

A native of Waterbury, CT, Smith is launching a new platform this fall as a direct result of the guidance of her SBDC business advisor and the SBA. “With SBA and SBDC’s support, I hope to reach profitable new markets that will ensure the growth of my company. Equally as important is their advice, which has unleashed excellent, new ideas that will help me carry out a plan on which I place very high value-making wise investments to better increase employment opportunities in the community.”

Smith has used SBA’s free live webinars, on-demand trainings and in-person events to improve her business finances, marketing, sales and operations. She also worked with the Local Development Corporation of East New York (LDCENY), a city agency under SBA, to receive her Minority and Woman Business Enterprise Certification (M/WBE), which provides increased access to government contracting opportunities.

Written by Dwight Bachman

43 Strong, Eastern Represents in Georgia at National Conference

With 43 student presenters, Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation, and the only school from New England to make the list.

Forty-three students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Georgia on April 11-13 to present original research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The 2019 conference occurred at Kennesaw State University and featured hundreds of undergraduate students from across the country.

Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation this year – the only school from New England to make the list – and one of the few with a student population of less than 6,000.

Eastern students from a range of majors presented artwork, music performances and oral/poster presentations. Research questions probed topics such as the microbiome of scorpions, the link between casual sex and online dating, pop-culture glamorization of eating disorders, and much more.

Adella Dzitko-Carlson presents “Finding Faith in the 21st Century: The Search for the Sacred in John Luther Adams’ “In the Name of the Earth.”

Music major Esther Jones ’20 commented on the experience of performing a lecture-recital. “This experience at NCUR was a milestone in my life because I didn’t think that I could actually do it when the time finally came around. I thought that I would be trembling so badly that my mind would go blank.”

Jones’ piano performance was titled “‘Theme and Variations on an Egyptian Folksong’ by Gamal Abdel-Rahim.” She added, “This experience helped to boost my confidence and has given me courage to face new challenges.”

“One of my greatest takeaways from this conference is how it pushes you and makes you a better academic,” said Michael Tuttle ’19, who majors in psychology and mathematics.

“Presenting at a conference subjects your research to a higher level of scrutiny, challenging your thoughts and ideas. When audience members ask questions and offer suggestions, it pushes you to think critically and creatively.” Tuttle’s presentation was titled “Overconfidence and Impulsivity of College Students in a Cognitive Reflection Task.”

Theresa Parker presents “Echo Chambers in Social Media: Why do People Seek or Reject Opposing Viewpoints.”

Biology major Chris Shimwell ’20 presented “Molecular Identification of the Scorpion Telson Microbiome.” He said, “Presenting at a national conference is a valuable experience because it allows you to synthesize information into an audio-visual format and present it to others who are highly educated and knowledgeable about your field.”

Jacob Dayton ’19, a biology major who presented two projects – one on the genetic diversity of a migratory bird group and one on the behaviors of strawberry poison-dart frogs – added that the value of presenting at national conferences is threefold.

“One, it provides students with the opportunity to practice communicating their research to a diverse audience. Two, questions and comments from audience members challenge students to defend and/or expand their thinking. And three, it provides the opportunity to publicize Eastern and the quality research that its students are conducting.”

Students also cited being exposed to new research questions during others’ presentations, interacting with peers from across the country, and sharing the NCUR experience with their Eastern friends as highlights of the conference. Psychology Professors Carlos Escoto and James Diller and Biology Professor Patricia Szczys accompanied the Eastern group.

NCUR was established in 1987. From a pool of several thousand applicants, students are accepted into the conference if their research demonstrates a unique contribution to their field of study. NCUR offers undergraduates the opportunity to present their research findings to peers, faculty and staff from colleges and universities across the nation, providing a unique networking and learning opportunity.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

 

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/08/2019) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Students present research during the poster session of the 2018 CREATE conference.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Helps Hartford Deltas Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Eastern’s delegation (left to right): Dwight Bachman, public relations officer; Kayla Rose Thomas ’19 a communication major from Windsor; Morgan Russell ’19 a political science major from Hartford; Gov. Lamont; Stacey Close, associate vice president for equity and diversity; Katherine Atkinson, administrative assistant to Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Chelsy Popo ’19, a political science major from Manchester; Hanna Antoine ’22, a health sciences major from East Hartford; and Alyssa Lawrence ’22, a sociology major from East Hartford

Several Eastern staff and students attended the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast at the Connecticut Convention Center on Jan. 21. Dr. King would have been 90 years old this year. 

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, State Treasurer Shawn Wooden, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, and Johana Hayes, the first African American woman elected to Congress from Connecticut, were among the many dignitaries in attendance.  Lamont promised the packed ballroom that he would create a diverse cabinet and state government that would work to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.

Since 1984, the Deltas have provided scholarships totaling $365,000 to upwards of 150 African American female high school students to support their college education.

Eastern Holds Third Civic Action Conference

Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern students have a reputation of service to community that goes back decades. But at the Third Annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 14, it was demonstrated how much students actually learn as a result of their service.

Eastern President Elsa Nunez introduced the idea of structured service learning in 2009, when she established the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), directed by Kim Silcox.

Nunez celebrated Eastern’s faculty for its commitment to organized, systematic service learning. “Students need to ask why people are suffering, and truly reflect on what they can do,” she said. “Getting faculty involved by connecting class curriculum to community needs will increase civic action in a meaningful way. It is so gratifying to see our students embrace this, as it reflects Eastern’s core values”

A wide range of speakers focused on four themes at the conference: 1.) writing assignments to promote civic action; 2.) employability and community engagement; 3.) higher education as a public good; and 4.) community engagement research.

“The conference highlights the amazing work Eastern faculty have achieved in engaging students in the community,” said Silcox, who organized the conference along with Nicolas Simon, assistant professor of sociology. “Students participating in service learning projects are engaging in research, thinking critically and expressing themselves as they reflect on the experiences. These are key marketable skills in today’s job market.”

Part-time lecturer Lucy Hurston and Nicholas Simon, assistant professor of sociology.

Part-time lecturer Lucy Hurston focuses on learning outcomes rather than just the student-volunteer experience. She had students conduct research on numerous issues, including homelessness and poverty. Students volunteered on a Habitat for Humanity housing project. The activity helped students change their perceptions of lower-income populations.

Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch

Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch’s intensive writing course requires students to focus on social inequalities and to identify solutions. “Students then develop a research project through a sociological lens and write a research paper,” said Bergstrom-Lynch.

English Professor Miriam Chirico

English Professor Miriam Chirico’s students focused on urban revitalization. “The goal,” she said, “is to have students come together to create a social network that helps enhance writing about tourism and increase pride in community.” Through the experience, students reinforced their civic commitment and simultaneously developed writing and rhetorical skills.

Education Professor David Stoloff

Addressing the theme of employability and civic engagement, Art and Art History Professor Terry Lennox’s students creatively design with the intent “to advance the communication and marketing outcomes of non-profit organizations. It is a collaborative, guided effort designed to learn the value of art and also show what we all can do, working together,” she said. Through these projects, students build portfolios, which contributes to their employability upon graduating.

Fatma Pakdil, associate professor of business administration, examined employability from a market perspective. She presented statistics showing that “only 11 percent of business leaders agree that today’s college graduates have the skills and competencies their businesses need, while 96 percent of chief academic officers say their institutions are very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the world of work.” Pakdil proposed affording students courses that enable students “to study on projects analyzing real problems, issues and bottlenecks faced by business organizations,” which she believes will better prepare students for the work place.

Associate Professor of Business Information Systems (BIS) Alex Citurs and student Rebekah Brancato, a BIS major, with a minor in Healthcare Informatics, showed how community-based projects help students gain practical experience and make meaningful contributions to communities. Students also gain insight into new ways of doing things and building relationships for future collaborations. The work in information systems that he and his students do, which many organizations cannot afford from professional consultants, improves the operations of non-profit organizations.

Education Professor David Stoloff examined pre-service education as a positive dimension of civic engagement. His students participate in projects in local school and community centers. They write reflections on these experiences at mid-term and at the end of the semester. Stoloff said the goal is to teach students “knowledge, skills, responsibility and commitment within social justice views of civic engagement.”

John Murphy, lecturer in the Department of Communication

John Murphy, lecturer in the Department of Communication, uses local radio, television, web sites, social and print media to demonstrate the value of service learning. Students use various media — digital platforms included — to share stories about the important assets of organizations and people served. This creates opportunities for students to build portfolios and provides information to the community on valuable, underutilized resources available in the community.

Geography Professor Patrick Vitale’s “Geography of Food” class made community-engagement research a campus project. Their results suggest that many students on campus experience food insecurity. The students examined the impact of food insecurity, the resources that are available to support students, and what other universities are doing to address this crisis. “Their research shows the political and educational potential of a class that engages students to take on a pressing concern in their community,” said Vitale.

Yolanda Bergstrom-Lynch, a campus librarian, said “It is vital that librarians have a seat at the table as service learning partners.” She introduced a “Service Learning and Community Engagement” library research guide that was created in collaboration with the Center for Community Engagement. The publication serves as a resource guide of the various ways in which librarians promote community engagement. “Librarians serve as bridges, connecting the library to other campus organizations and the campus community to service learning resources in the library.”

Eastern Supports Greater Hartford Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Day

Eastern was on hand on Nov. 2 when the Urban League of Greater Hartford (ULGH) celebrated its 54th Equal Opportunity Day with a gala at the Marriott Downtown Hartford. The ULGH’s mission is to reduce economic disparities in area communities through programs, services and educational opportunities. It provides programs and services in such areas as adult education, youth development, workforce development and training, economic empowerment, and health and wellness. The league provides services to more than 3,000 area residents annually.

The ULGH honored five individuals and Pratt and Whitney for their efforts in restoring hope in the community. They include WVIT-TV anchorwoman Keisha Grant; Entrepreneur Sanford Cloud Jr.; State Senator Douglas McCrory; noted photographer Riley Johnson; and Aundrya Montgomery, an active member of the ULGH’s Young Professionals auxiliary.