CREATE Conference Shows Breadth and Depth of Eastern Students

Written by Michael Rouleau

Displays of research and creativity filled the Student Center at Eastern Connecticut State University on April 13 for the annual CREATE conference. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier undergraduate conference of the academic year.

CREATE featured more than 200 students of all majors who led oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, music and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, as well as documentary viewings and new-media demonstrations.

Students give a musical performance.
A student gives an oral presentation.
Conference patrons peruse the CREATE art gallery.
Students give a theatrical performance.


“This conference really cements our slogan that Eastern offers a ‘liberal arts education, practically applied,’” said Brian Oakley, conference co-chair and professor of environmental earth science. “It’s evident when you look around and see the breadth and depth of the work being done by our students.”

“There is no event on campus more important than CREATE,” affirmed Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Some of the work on display represents three or four years of problem solving, testing and intellectual pursuit. This event is more than a source of pride; it’s a validation of our university’s mission.”

Midway through the conference, two students and two faculty members received awards for undergraduate research and faculty mentorship.

Julie Underhill ’18, who majors in labor relations and human resources management, and Tess Candler ’18, who double majors in political science and economics, received the undergraduate research awards. The faculty awards went to Underhill and Candler’s mentors, respectively: Business Administration Professor Niti Pandey and Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Award recipients Julie Underhill (middle) and Niti Pandey (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.
Award recipients Courtney Broscious (middle) and Tess Candler (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.


“Without the professors we cannot celebrate the success of the students,” reminded Provost Dimitrios Pachis, “and without the students we cannot celebrate the success of the professors. This is how the world works, the yin and the yang. With this sort of partnership, we create the future.”

The CREATE conference advances Eastern’s strategic plan by reinforcing high-impact practices such as mentored research and creative projects; increasing the percentage of students who present scholarly work; raising awareness of the accomplishments of Eastern students; and contributing to the intellectual richness of the campus community.

Eastern English Alumni Discuss Careers in Law and Library Science

English alumni Hilary Saxton ’13, Caroline Hayden ’13, and Eric Alan ’12 discuss the opportunities of library science for English majors

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/19/2018) This semester, the English Department at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted two alumni panels to combat the popular notion that English degrees lead only to academic professions. The “English at Work” series welcomed several Eastern graduates who took alternative routes following their time at Eastern – some went on to receive a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and others earned a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.

Kristen Brierley ’08, Samuel Lisi ’13 and Andrew Minikowski ’12 made up the February panel, while the March panel consisted of Hilary Saxton ’13, Caroline Hayden ’13 and Eric Alan ’12. Each group discussed their transition from studying English to joining the working world, sharing real-life professional experiences and providing helpful insight for current English majors.

When asked about which English classes they consider particularly helpful when applying to law school, the J.D. panel agreed on the importance of rhetoric and composition classes. “That’s what law is… that’s the meat of practicing law,” said Minikowski, calling attention to the importance of being able to structure evidence and form coherent arguments. Lisi pointed out that it is beneficial for English students to participate actively in these classes as a means of refining discourse skills. “You need to be able to speak in a way that’s clear and makes sense.”

As a law student, “You have to have balance,” said Lisi. It is no secret that English majors also require remarkable balance. The dedication behind the field and those in it is a sweeping part of what shapes a student to succeed in a demanding discipline later in life. “In hindsight, law school is like training for anything. It’s very difficult because it’s worth it.”

“Of course there are moments here you’re in over your head,” said Brierley, reassuring students that every professional journey comes with challenges – especially in the field of law – and that struggling does not make somebody a failure. Rather, she suggested, one must learn what methods work best for them and put in consistent effort. “It is not what you expect, it is not like your time as an undergraduate, but you know yourself.”

In the same way studying both English and law showcases versatile character, an array of connections brings widespread career possibilities. Lisi mentioned the benefits of interning and becoming familiar with companies that pertain to one’s field, even if not in an expected position, as a means of “learning-by-proxy.” The J.D. panel stressed the magnitude of this multifaceted effort. “Be strategic in looking for places you’d want to gain some exposure,” said Minikowski.

Likewise, the Library and Information Science (MLIS) alumni also emphasized that finding the right career fit is an individualized process, which is why it is important to consider a number of options. Hayden shared that before English, she had majored in art, and before that, psychology. “I needed to reevaluate my career choices,” she stated. She found value in her on-campus job, working in the archives at Eastern’s library.

Saxton, on the other hand, knew that she loved English, but did not know what to do with her degree after graduation. She revealed that her decision to get an MLIS was because a friend was doing it, and it turned out that she quickly took to the study. However, it was not before Saxton discovered that she hated being a college librarian that she discovered she loved being a children’s librarian.

The MLIS panel members touched on the flexibility of their degrees, promoting the field as a promising space for the adaptable English student. Much like an English degree, a library degree does not inherently land somebody in academia. “It’s not just universities, it’s not just historical societies,” said Hayden. “We all go into the program, come out and go off in a million different directions.”

Alan concurred, pointing out that many people do not have a distinct plan going into this graduate study. “The great thing about a library degree is that you can do practically anything with it.” He added that the English major’s polished ability to gather and organize information makes for a smooth transition into library and information science.

The varying degrees of experience called attention to not only the professional growth that comes with library science, but to the academic development undertaken by an English student. Alan affirmed that the overall practicality of the English major is a powerful quality in the working world, whether it is directed toward an MLIS or elsewhere. “You will be able to take that and use it.”


Eastern Students Win Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awards

Eastern’s 2018 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awardees Nadia Balassone ’18 (left) and Yuberki Delgadillo ’18 (right) with Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Anne Pappalardo

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/19/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University students Nadia Balassone ’18 of East Hartford and Yuberki Delgadillo ’18 of Quaker Hill were named the recipients of the 2018 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award on April 17. The 30th annual Henry Barnard Awards Banquet, held at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, CT, recognized 12 outstanding undergraduates from Connecticut’s four state universities – Central, Eastern, Southern and Western.

The Barnard Awards program is the premier academic recognition event of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System (CSCU) and is sponsored by the CSCU Foundation. To be considered for the award, a student must have at least a 3.75 GPA, a record of community service and be nominated by their respective university president.

Balassone, an English and Business Administration major, carries a 3.89 GPA and is on the Dean’s List. She is a writing tutor and received the Academic Excellence Scholarship. She is also president of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, staff writer for the student-run Campus Lantern newspaper and was vice president of the Entrepreneurship Club. She has an internship at the Institute of Sustainable Energy, where she helped pilot the Sustainable CT statewide certification program, represented at the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, and completed an internship at Waste Management National Accounts, where she gained insight into recycling. She volunteers at an animal shelter and plans to pursue law school to work the sustainability field in environmental or animal law. Balassone was recently accepted at Quinnipiac Law School for the fall term.

“From the minute I stepped foot on Eastern’s campus, I could tell it was a community,” said Balassone. “I think that was one of the biggest deciding factors for me coming to Eastern. I wanted a sense of community and I wanted that support.

“Working as a peer tutor at the Writing Center has shaped me as a writer. I’ve learned how to communicate and reach back into my community. Receiving the Barnard Scholar Award is a huge honor for me. I would say it really punctuates the sense of community at Eastern for me,” she added.

“When Nadia worked in our Writing Center as a peer tutor, it turned her on to the world of rhetoric and composition,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Combine that with her work in the Institute of Sustainable Energy and you can see why she plans to enter law school this fall in pursuit of environmental law. Nadia’s mom says he daughter is going to save the world and I’m convinced it will happen.”

Delgadillo, a Biology major, carries a 3.85 GPA and is also on the Dean’s List. She is an award-winning resident assistant, widely known for her leadership and scholarship. She is co-president of the Pre-Health Society and a member of the Tri-Beta National Biology Honor Societ, as well as a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. She has also been a teaching assistant at Eastern, and presented her research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research at the University of Central Oklahoma earlier this month.

Delgadillo works as a certified nursing assistant at St. Joseph’s Living Center and volunteers at Backus Hospital. She also participated in a pre-medical urban enrichment program at Cooper Medical School and will be travelling to Ghana this coming summer for a public health internship. Her goal is to become a nurse practitioner and eventually a nurse educator.

“The last four years at Eastern have definitely been years of growth,” said Delgadillo. “I had so many opportunities and I took every opportunity I had – just to learn about myself.

“I became interested in health care because of my experiences here at Eastern. I’ve loved helping people and sending people to the resources they need. Receiving the Henry Barnard Award is an honor. I feel like it truly reflects my past four years of being so involved – I feel like it’s really paid off.”

“Yuberki has combined her love of science and love of people to pursue her interest in nursing and plans to attend UConn’s School of Nursing next January,” said Núñez. “As a Biology major she has done research on Alzheimer’s disease and spent the six weeks last summer refining her interests and skills in medicine. She is now preparing to be certified as a medical interpreter to assist doctors with Spanish-speaking patients.

“Her hero is her mother, who was the first college graduate in her family back home in the Dominican Republic. She wants to make a difference in the lives of women and the elderly – and I know she will,” added Núnez.

Hartford native Henry Barnard was one of the principal forces in creating the American public school system in the 19th century, serving in the Connecticut General Assembly before becoming superintendent of schools in Connecticut and principal of the New Britain Normal School in 1850. He became the first U.S. commissioner of education in 1867.


Eastern to hold Ninth Annual Service Expo and Awards Ceremony

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/11/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University will hold its annual Service Expo and Awards Ceremony on April 19 from 2-5 p.m. in the lobby of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the event will showcase the numerous service projects being spearheaded by Eastern students in the Windham area.

Student volunteers will present posters describing their projects, which have occurred at more than 30 sites in the region. Guest judges from the community and Eastern faculty and staff will present awards for the best programs.

Awards will be given to the following individuals: Service Learning Award – Denise Matthews, professor of communication at Eastern; Community Program Award – Christy Calkins and Journey House Program at Natchaug Hospital; and Community Engagement Awards to Nancy Brennan, Interfaith Campus Ministry, Erin Corbett and student Makayla Mowel.

The expo will kick off with keynote speaker Erin Corbett of Second Chances, an education program within the Connecticut prison system. The event is open to the public. For more information, contact the CCE at (860) 465-0090.

4 Women Honored at Eastern’s Annual Ella Grasso Awards

Award-winners Laurel Cannon, Donna Mims and Regina Lester-Harriat

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/03/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University’s annual Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards ceremony took place on March 28. Those honored included student Laurel Cannon of Ellington; English Professor Maureen McDonnell; and community members Donna Mims and Regina Lester-Harriat, who are leaders of the Pretty Brown Girl Club #85 at Metacomet Elementary School in Bloomfield.

Eastern student Laurel Cannon won the Student Award at the 2018 ceremony

The Student Award went to Laurel Cannon of Ellington, a senior who is double majoring in biology and psychology. Passionate about uplifting women in diverse ways, she founded the Cannon Project, an organization with a mission to educate, empower and support women of color. By promoting academic excellence and healthy lifestyle choices to ensure future success, Cannon hopes that the group can become a beneficial resource for minority women. “I plan to nurture this organization to its full potential,” she stated.

Regina Lester-Harriat and Donna Reed Mims received the Community Award for their work with the Pretty Brown Girl Club at Metacomet Elementary School in Bloomfield. The club is a component of the Pretty Brown Girl movement, which is dedicated to empowering girls at a young age.

“It’s an honor and it’s an obligation to be part of the community,” said Lester-Harriat, the school’s social worker and supervisor of the Student and Family Assistance Center. She noted that as somebody with a good upbringing, and good teachers to guide her along the way, she feels it is her mission to give something back to the children she works with. “They are so excited because they are a part of something special. It’s a blessing to be part of that journey.”

The recipient of the Faculty/Staff Award was English Professor Maureen McDonnell, who actively focuses on gender equity, anti-racist work and disability rights as the director of Eastern’s women’s and gender studies program. She played a major role in establishing Eastern as the only Connecticut public university that grants a degree in women’s and gender studies. Unable to attend the ceremony due to a conference, McDonnell pre-recorded a video message expressing her thanks and assuring her dedication to intersectional studies.

Keynote speaker Shelby Brown addresses the crowd

The keynote speaker – described by Eastern President Elsa Núñez as a “community activist in the best sense of the word”- was Shelby Brown, managing director of Everyday Democracy, a national organization dedicated to building an equitable, participatory democracy at all levels. She previously served as executive administrator of the Connecticut Office of Governmental Accountability.

Brown called on the audience to consider how a woman from a marginalized group might gain access to certain domains and how her experiences could differ from those of others. “How would she know that her voice matters?” She discussed the experiences of her mother, an “entrepreneur and fashionista” who worked tirelessly in pursuit of her own aspirations and instilled in Brown an understanding of why women are remarkable.

Brown touched on the necessity of assisting those who cannot claim their own voice, something that Everyday Democracy aims to do. “We have all contemplated the question ‘How can we do better?'” she asked. “‘Who can help us make a difference?'” She emphasized the power of “seeing yourself in the solution” and encouraged everyone to take ownership of public issues.

3 Poetry Events to Take Place in Willimantic this April

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/29/2018) Three poetry readings will take place in Willimantic this April, two of which will occur at Eastern Connecticut State University and benefit the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

On April 5 at 7 p.m. in Eastern’s Science Building, room 301, Maria Mazziotti Gillan will do a reading and book signing as part of the English Department’s “Visiting Writers” series. Gillan has published 22 books of and about poetry, in addition to four anthologies, and received the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature. The event is free and open to the public. Canned and non-perishable food items will be collected for the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

On April 10 at 5 p.m. in Eastern’s Science Building, room 301, the English Department and Creative Writing Club will present a night of readings by Connecticut poets laureate. Featured poets include Susan Allison (Middletown), Christine Beck (West Hartford), Kathy Carle (Seabury Community in Bloomfield), Ginny Connors (West Hartford), Daniel Donaghy (Windham County), Allan Garry (The Veterans Art Foundation), Tarn Granucci (Wallingford), Joan Hofmann (Canton), Pat O’Brien (Old Saybrook), Julia Paul (Manchester), Rhonda Ward (New London) and Gordy Whiteman (Guilford). The event is free and open to the public. Canned and non-perishable food items will be collected for the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

On April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Windham Theatre Guild, “Here in Windham: A Celebration of Poetry” will feature poets Doug Anderson of Northampton, MA; Alexandrina Sergio, poet laureate of Glastonbury; Steve Straight of South Windsor; as well as poets from Windham County high schools. The event is in remembrance of former Eastern professor Alexander “Sandy” Taylor, who founded Curbstone Press, a nonprofit literary publishing house in Willimantic focused on works that express a commitment to social awareness, human rights and peace. Admission for adults is $8 and $5 for students.


Eastern to hold Annual Ella Grasso Awards on March 28

Governor Ella Grasso

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/20/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University will hold its annual Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards ceremony on March 28 from 3-4 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre. The event is open to the public. Born in Windsor Locks, Grasso became the governor of Connecticut in 1974, making her the first woman-elected governor in the United States. She was notable for her policies on education and health.

This year’s award recipients will be Eastern student Laurel Cannon of Ellington, who double majors in biology and psychology; Eastern English professor Maureen McDonnell; and community members Donna Mims and Regina Lester-Harriat, who are leaders of the Pretty Brown Girl Club #85 at Metacomet Elementary School in Bloomfield.

The Grasso Awards, established in 2009, recognize people who demonstrate courage, perseverance and leadership by promoting justice and peace. Previous recipients include 2014 winner Betsy Wade, the first woman to be a copy editor at The New York Times; 2015 winner Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, Eastern professor of sociology; 2016 winner Leigh Duffy, director of the Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center; and 2017 winner Valerie Vance, Eastern sociology student and veteran of the United States Navy.

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit

Eastern Professor Wins Scholars for the Dream Travel Award

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/24/2018) Christine Garcia, assistant professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, has won a 2018 Scholars for the Dream Travel Award given by the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). Garcia, who resides in Willimantic, CT, and hails from San Angelo, TX, is one of 20 award recipients, and will use it to present her research at the CCCC Annual Convention on March 15 in Kansas City, MO.

Her presentation, “Contesting the Myth of the Monolithic Linguistic Experience: Latina Student Writers, Translingualism, and Writing Across Communities,” “asks how a writing-across-communities/translingual approach to first-year college writing can cultivate agency and autonomy for the Latina student writer,” explained Garcia.

“This approach to teaching college writing practices respect for our writers’ knowledge and abilities instead of focusing on remediating the skills they lack,” she said. “I reject the notion that young college students cannot write, and instead honor them as complex language users who require contemporary and thoughtful college writing courses to continue cultivating their writing strengths and talents.”

Garcia concluded: “Much of my research is with Latina college writers, a student population whose rich linguistic repertoires and innovative ways of crafting and creating deserves recognition. My presentation at this conference, made possible by the Scholars for the Dream travel award, will be focused on highlighting and honoring Latina college writers.”

The CCCC is a constituent organization within the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). The CCCC sponsors the Scholars for the Dream Awards to encourage scholarship by historically underrepresented groups, which include Black, Latinx, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander scholars.

Garcia is originally from San Angelo, TX, where she received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in English Language and Literature from Angelo State University. She received her PhD in Rhetoric and Writing at the University of New Mexico.


Students Recognized at “English Night”

Written by Jordan Corey

On the evening of Dec. 6, English enthusiasts gathered in the Betty R. Tipton Room for Eastern’s “English Night,” which showcases student excellence in the English Department.

Hosted by English Professor and department chair Barbara Liu, the event featured the awarding of scholarships, the Sigma Tau Delta induction and three senior seminar presentations.

The Connie Campo Memorial Scholarship — awarded to non-traditional English students — was given to Yanira Hernandez. Liu highlighted Hernandez’s dedication to her studies and undeniable contribution to the department.

The First-Year Writing award, presented by Stephen Ferruci, English professor and coordinator of the First-Year Writing Program, was given to Christopher Oski.

The Sigma Tau Delta induction ceremony was the largest in its chapter, Alpha Epsilon Delta, with 36 new members joining. According to its official website, Sigma Tau Delta — the International English Honor Society — has more than 880 active chapters located in the United States and abroad, there are more than 1,000 faculty sponsors, with approximately 9,000 members inducted annually.

The products of months’ worth of effort, senior seminar projects from Maureen McDonnell’s Liberation Literature course were thoughtful and engaging. Students featured were Jacob St. Jean, Montgomery Kupson and Jason Osman.