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 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

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

Halladay Discusses Gender Stereotypes on Confidence

Brianna Halladay, assistant professor of economics, addressed the topic “Perception Matters: The Role of Task Gender Stereotype on Confidence and Tournament Selection” at the Faculty Scholars Forum on March 20.

Halladay said extensive research suggests that women avoid competition even when they can be benefit from potential rewards. Researchers conclude that women differ in their preference for competition compared to men.

Halladay’s own research explores the potential that another channel may be yielding the observed gender gap in tournament selection: a gender difference in beliefs about future performance reflecting gender stereotypes.

Given four choices—1) Sadness 2) Shame 3) Fear and 4) Sympathy, which do you believe reflects the emotion in this image, supplied to Halladay by the Great Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. The correct answer is at the bottom of the story!

Using a laboratory experiment, she analyzed differences in tournament entry, using a male-stereotype task and a female-stereotype task. Her findings suggest that the observed difference in behavioral responses to competition among men and women is not due to a difference in preference for competition, but rather a difference in beliefs about future performance task (an environment where women would carry lower beliefs about future performance), and that more women than men enter the tournament under the female-stereotype task.

“In other words, it appears an increase in female confidence and decrease in male confidence is driving this result,” said Halladay. “This suggests the effect of competitiveness on gender is not exclusively about a difference in preference for competition, but consistent with a difference in beliefs about future performance.”

The correct answer is “Sympathy!”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Halladay, Canavan, Torcellini Present a Range of Research

Halladay Discusses Gender Stereotypes on Confidence

By Dwight Bachman

Brianna Halladay, assistant professor of economics, addressed the topic “Perception Matters: The Role of Task Gender Stereotype on Confidence and Tournament Selection” at the Faculty Scholars Forum on March 20.

Halladay said extensive research suggests that women avoid competition even when they can be benefit from potential rewards. Researchers conclude that women differ in their preference for competition compared to men.

Halladay’s own research explores the potential that another channel may be yielding the observed gender gap in tournament selection: a gender difference in beliefs about future performance reflecting gender stereotypes.

Using a laboratory experiment, she analyzed differences in tournament entry, using a male-stereotype task and a female-stereotype task. Her findings suggest that the observed difference in behavioral responses to competition among men and women is not due to a difference in preference for competition, but rather a difference in beliefs about future performance task (an environment where women would carry lower beliefs about future performance), and that more women than men enter the tournament under the female-stereotype task.

“In other words, it appears an increase in female confidence and decrease in male confidence is driving this result,” said Halladay. “This suggests the effect of competitiveness on gender is not exclusively about a difference in preference for competition, but consistent with a difference in beliefs about future performance.”

Canavan Presents at Sports Medicine Symposium

By Raven Dillon

Paul Canavan, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented at the 31st Sports Medicine Symposium in Wisconsin on March 14. Canavan gave three presentations and was also a guest speaker at the symposium.

Canavan’s first presentation was titled “Preventing Groin Injuries,” and used evidence from research literature as well as Canavan’s own real-life experience with the Northeastern University ice hockey team. He spoke on the importance of providing specific screening and interventions to prevent such injuries in sports.

His second presentation was called “Efficient and Effective Functional Examination and Exercise Prescription for the Lower Extremity” and was directed towards physicians and physical therapists to advocate the use of tests that screen for strength, flexibility and control, as well as provide specific therapeutic exercises.

The final presentation, “Knee Varus and Knee Valgus: Considerations for Therapeutic Exercise Intervention,” examined Canavan’s prior research related to the stresses upon the knee for individuals with knee valgus (knock-kneed) and knee varus (bow-legged). This presentation helped attendees understand various exercises that may help these individuals and potentially slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

The Sports Medicine Symposium was primarily attended by physicians and physical therapists throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Nearly 250 attendees included primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nurses, coaches, athletic directors and others who were interested and involved in the care of athletes of all ages and abilities.

Torcellini: ‘Buildings Mortgage the Energy Futures of the World’

By Dwight Bachman

Paul Torcellini, endowed chair of sustainable energy studies and professor of environmental earth science, kicked off the Spring Faculty Scholars Forum on Feb. 13 with a fascinating presentation on “Living at Zero: Experiences in Moving Towards an All Renewable Energy Lifestyle.”

Torcellini, who has been researching energy efficiency since he was in high school, said buildings that use electricity and natural gas to stay warm, cool and lighted are the largest consumer of energy in America. Unfortunately, the growth of new facilities is taking place more quickly than measures to impact energy efficiency. “Buildings mortgage the energy futures of the world,” said Torcellini.

He used the construction of his own family home to encourage others to strive to live at what he called “net zero or zero net.” For sure, it is net positive. He described the process as “building on a diet.” Together, he and his family decided to evaluate and examine the cost and value of how they would light, heat the space, use hot water, appliances and electronics in their new home.

The family started building the home in 2014 and finished in 2016. Through a series of measures including a great deal of insulation, heat pumps, energy efficient windows and efficient LED lighting, the house uses so little energy that solar photovoltaic panels generate enough electricity to cover all the loads. The solar panels also produce enough electricity to partially power a new electric vehicle.

In addition, the construction of the house minimized the introduction of chemicals that outgas during the life of the house. Mineral-based paints, linoleum with cork backing and tongue oil on native wood floors were used.

Another sustainability measure is the Torcellini family’s commitment to raising much of their own food, including organically fed meat from turkeys, chickens, sheep and pigs, as well as producing eggs.

Students Present at Eastern Economics Association Conference

left to right, Brendan Cunningham, Demitra Kourtzidis, Catherine Falvey, Anastasia Shnyakin, Lazizakhon Akbarkhujaeva, John Fiester, Marcus Lim, Al Viglione and Steve Muchiri.

Seven economics majors from Eastern attended the Eastern Economic Association’s 45th Annual Conference in New York City from Feb. 28 to March 2. Club advisors Brendan Cunningham, associate professor of economics, and Steven Muchiri, assistant professor of economics, accompanied the students to New York.

Students included Lazizakhon Akbarkhujaeva’22 of Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Demitra Kourtzidis ’19 of East Hampton; John Fiester ’20, from Monson, MA; Al Viglione ’19 of Clinton; Anastasia Shnyakin ’21, from Bethany; Catherine Falvey ’19 of West Hartford; and Marcus Lim ’19 from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Catherine Falvey presents her research.

The students presented their research, received feedback and commented on the research of peers from other universities. Falvey presented on the topic “If You Believe It You Can Achieve It: An Analysis of Expectations on Educational and Occupational Attainment of American Youth.” She said the conference was a great experience for herself and other members of the Economic Club.

Al Viglione presents his research.

“It is the best environment for learning about the research currently being conducted in the field, and it provided us all with a picture of where we could be in our future,” said Falvey. “As a senior, I was given the opportunity to present my Honors Thesis, and I could appreciate the other research being presented, having gone through the process myself.”

Viglione agreed: “Attending this conference helped me appreciate my current economic understanding and also opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of the field of economics, and how there is an opportunity to learn much more.”

Left to right, Marcus Lim and Al Viglione visit Columbia University to attend a research seminar on Development Economics.

“This conference provided an amazing number of benefits for students,” said Cunningham. “It allowed the students to practice their public speaking and communication skills during a professional conference. Second, they learned about the research of professional economists. This is highly valuable for classwork, and for those students who are continuing with graduate studies. Finally, the students themselves organized the logistics for this trip, and they also attended an economics research seminar at Columbia University.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Finance Panel Examines US Economy 10 Years after Recession

Panelists included Eastern Accounting Professor Candice Deal, guest speaker Jeffrey Fuhrer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Business Administration Professor Chiaku Chukwuogor, Economics Professor Brendan Cunningham and panelist Randall Peteros of the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Business Administration department at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a panel on Feb. 5 to discuss the United States economy 10 years after the 2008 recession. The panel featured a range of professionals who raised points about what caused the economic crash, who was impacted and how the economy has changed since then.

Panelists included Jeffrey Fuhrer and Randall Peteros of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Royal Bank of Canada, respectively, along with Eastern professors Brendan Cunningham and Candice Deal. The event was moderated by Chiaku Chukwuogor, chair of the Department of Business Administration.

Fuhrer is the executive vice president and senior policy advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. He has been active in economic research for more than 30 years and has published extensively. To begin his presentation, Fuhrer broke the financial recession of 2008 into three parts — the liquidity crisis, the credit crisis and the economic crisis.

“Those were scary times,” he said. “We did not know where the bottom was by a long shot. It was conceivable that what we were looking at was the beginning of an episode that would rival the Great Depression.”

He explained that liquidity deals with short-term borrowing. When the economy struggled, such financing became largely unavailable, in part because of uncertainty surrounding repayments. “People who might otherwise provide money to non-financial firms and to other financial firms were worried about whether those firms would actually be solvent, whether they could actually survive for the next week or even the next few days.” Fuhrer provided an array of diagrams and statistics, like a “reverse EKG” chart that highlighted the unusual borrowing rates.

According to Fuhrer, one solution was that banks were given federal money to allow for short-term funding, awarded in “term auction facilities.” This money was auctioned off rather than handed out, creating an environment of competitive bidding for borrowers. “It wouldn’t be a sign of weakness if you went to this facility to borrow. That was important,” said Fuhrer. Funding granted lending terms that could be extended, in turn offering people newfound stability. The initiative was retired by the beginning of 2010 when short-term markets were mostly restored.

He continued by delving into the credit and economic components of the financial crash, going over the trouble with assets reliant on mortgage payment along with the “duel-trigger” hit of simultaneous disruption in income and home value. The interconnectedness of commercial systems during this time led to a mess that made assets unstable for even those who tried to plan carefully. “This wasn’t just about crazy subprime borrowing and lending. It wasn’t just stupid people doing stupid things,” Fuhrer emphasized. “Twenty-five percent of all mortgages went under water.”

Toward the end of his presentation, Fuhrer noted that the current monetary policy for the U.S. economy is in a “neutral zone,” which “is a good thing.” While he agreed there always need to be some regulations implemented to safeguard against economic risks, he feels that nothing can guarantee protection from financial downfall.

“No matter what we put in place, we’re probably going to get ourselves into trouble, because that’s what we do as humans.” He reiterated that financial crises have happened globally throughout history and should be examined in conversation with one another to better understand how these major upsets can happen.

Following the opening lecture, remaining panelists had their own segments to analyze various aspects of the recession. Cunningham, a professor of economics at Eastern, went first, unpacking the microeconomics of what happened from a longer-term perspective. He has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and book chapters in addition to previously serving as co-editor of the Journal of Media Economics.

He drew on the work of Kenneth Arrow, an economist, mathematician and political theorist who received a Nobel Prize in economics partially due to his fundamental welfare theorems. “Like any proof, his proofs were built upon some assumptions,” said Cunningham. He described the four assumptions, which make statements regarding consumerism, competition and financial availability. One argument, he stated, is that the government should function as closely as possible to Arrow’s pre-conditions. “Maybe we’d be less likely to see such a disruptive and destructive financial crisis as we did in 2008.” Among the topics he considered were accountant responsibility, “imperfect” information and regulations in relation to efficiency.

Accounting Professor Candice Deal serves on several university committees and faculty search committees, and is a member of the American Accounting Association and Beta Gamma Sigma. She once worked as a grant manager for the National Science Foundation, managing a $1 million dollar grant. During the panel discussion, Deal used her home country, the Bahamas, as a reference to address how the 2008 economic crash affected those outside of the United States.

“The financial crisis had a large impact on Caribbean countries, specifically the Bahamas” Deal started. She contended three reasons why this occurred — close proximity, the US being one of their major trading partners and the decline of tourism. While Americans “were feeling the pinch financially,” as Deal put it, they were unable to travel to the Bahamas, thus directly influencing the Bahamian economy.

“We’re not talking about small numbers here and there. The impact was so bad that the hotels in the country had employees working maybe one or two days a week, and they were the lucky ones, because the others were just fired.” She said that about 112,000 people were receiving government unemployment benefits from a population of less than 400,000.

Randall Peteros is the senior vice president of wealth management with the Royal Bank of Canada and an adjunct business administration professor at Eastern. He received a “Best Paper” award at the 25th Annual Association for Global Business Conference in 2009 for his paper “Financial Crisis Investing in Perspective: Probabilities and Human Behavior.” His role in the panel was to talk about financial stocks and bonds, providing modern data points in comparison to past data points. Peteros informed the audience that stocks were down 57 percent from peak-to-trough when the recession finally ended. “To come back to even, you’d have to go up about 132 percent.” Despite the overwhelming negative spike a decade ago, January 2019 marked the best January for stock rates in 30 years, he asserted. “Volatility is back, it seems.”

Written by Jordan Corey

Conference Lends ‘Parrot’s-Eye View’ into Latin America and Caribbean

Three Eastern students present “Media Narratives and their Impact on the Immigrant Rights Movement.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

On the 526-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World, on Oct. 12, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its third Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Conference. The symposium featured research presentations and panel discussions by Eastern faculty and students, as well as a keynote presentation by visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College.

“The date of this conference is significant,” said Anthropology Professor Ricardo Pérez, conference co-organizer. “It’s on this day in 1492 that Columbus spotted an island in the Caribbean and ‘discovered the New World,’ an event that resulted in a number of circumstances still felt today.”

The LACS Conference explored some of those circumstances, from the maroon communities of descendants of African slaves in Brazil, to the media portrayals of undocumented youth in the U.S., to the perils of Puerto Rican parrots after Hurricane Maria – and colonialism.

Anthropology Professor Mary Kenny opened the first panel with a discussion of her new book, “Deeply Rooted in the Present: Heritage, Memory, and Identity of Brazilian Quilombos.” Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country, and was the last to abolish slavery (1888). Presently there are more than 4,000 estimated maroon communities (known as Quilombos) in Brazil, many of which are in remote locations disconnected from mainstream society.

English Professor Miriam Chirico presents “John Leguizamo’s Comic Frame and Search for Identity.”

Among the problems facing the Quilombos is their status. Without federal recognition – or land acquisition rights – they are seen as squatters and sometimes forcibly moved to make way for development. According to Kenny, less than 10 percent of the Quilombos have federal status, yet some have existed for hundreds of years.

The third panel opened with English Professor Miriam Chirico’s research “John Leguizamo’s Comic Frame and Search for Identity.” Her research explores the tendency for Latino men to be typecast as gangsters and drug dealers in movies and television, which only reinforces negative stereotypes. “It’s hard to underestimate the effect this has on the public mind,” said Chirico.

A longtime actor-activist from Colombia, Leguizamo has made a career in white-dominated Hollywood by playing to the stereotypes of Latin American men, while also attempting to retain his ethnic identity.

Social Work Professor Isabelle Logan closed panel three with her presentation “Microaggressions and Bilingual Latino Professionals in the Court System.” Prior to coming to Eastern, Logan worked in the court system for 20 years. “When I started I was the only bilingual social worker in the public defender’s office,” she said. “I soon realized I was being asked to fulfill certain tasks that my colleagues were not.”

Social Work Professor Isabelle Logan presented “Microaggressions and Bilingual Latino Professionals in the Court System.”

Many of these tasks included serving as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking clients, however this added workload resulted in her being unable to complete her other work. When she asked for support, her plight was dismissed with statements such as, “Isn’t this the reason you were hired?”

Microagressions are subtle forms of discrimination. Logan’s research shows that they affect bilingual professionals in the hiring process and work environment, as well as their work performance and professional development.

Panel four consisted of students Vania Galicia (English), Monica Torrijos Ronquillo (psychology and criminology) and Juan Matiz (computer science) who spoke on the experience of undocumented students in a presentation titled “Media Narratives and their Impact on the Immigrant Rights Movement.”

Though it has never been passed, the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 as a way to grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. In an effort to protect these youth from deportation, the Obama Administration passed DACA in 2012 — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“Growing up, we began to realize the effects of our undocumented status, particularly the lack of economic mobility and access to higher education,” said Matiz. Galicia agreed: “When I was a kid, I wondered if I’d ever be able to go to college, or if I could even get a job.”

The students’ presentation focused on the media’s role in crafting the DREAMer narrative – “DREAMer” is a term used to describe undocumented youth with high hopes in America. The students explained that this narrative is an example of “American exceptionalism,” as DREAMers are often depicted as highly educated young people with impressive career trajectories – an idealized notion of the “right immigrant.”

Student Monica Torrijos Ronquillo discusses the media’s portrayal of the immigrant-rights movement.

“If you’re undocumented, you’re either perfect (a DREAMer) or a criminal,” said Torrijos Ronquillo. “You can’t be anywhere in the middle. You can’t just be normal.” The students indicated that this societal pressure, coupled with their uncertain futures, breeds anxiety and depression.

The conference closed with visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College, who presented “The Great Silence: A Parrot’s Eye View of the Forests of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.”

“Imagine a Caribbean region with thousands of parrots flying overhead. Columbus described such a flock darkening the sky. This display is unimaginable today,” said Paravisini-Gebert, explaining that there has been a steady decline in parrot populations due to human and environmental events.

Visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College presents her research about the perils of Puerto Rican parrots after Hurricane Maria.

Many endemic species of parrot and macaw have gone extinct throughout the Caribbean due to habitat destruction/deforestation and hunting.

“If you’ve been around a long time, you become picky,” said Paravisini-Gebert. “This is true of the parrots, who commanded the forest a long time. They need certain habitats to be just so.”

Parrots have been slow to adapt to the changes brought after colonization. With diminished habitats from human development, parrot populations have declined to the point where, now, a direct hit on their range – such as by a hurricane – could bring a localized population to extinction.

To boost populations, some parrots in Puerto Rico are bred in captivity and reintroduced to the wild in the island’s more remote regions. The problem with this has to do with loss of language. Parrots have complex vocalizations that differ among species and regions.

“Those from captivity don’t speak Puerto Rican parrot,” joked Paravisini-Gebert, “like their wild counterparts in other parts of the island.”

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference also featured presentations by Sociology Professor Dennis Canterburgy, who recently authored “Neoextractivism and Capitalist Development”; Geography Professor Patrick Vitale’s presentation “From McKeesport to Mexico City: How American Suburbs Fought the Cold War”; and History Professor Joan Meznar’s presentation “Saving Brazil from Communism: Our Lady Aparecida and the Military Regime, 1964-85.”