Eastern Supports Greater Hartford Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Day

Left to right: Dwight Bachman, public relations officer; Hannah Antoine ’22 of East Hartford who is majoring in Health Science; Kathleen Reilly, interim president and Urban League CEO; Alyssa Lawrence ’22 of East Hartford who is majoring in Sociology and Criminology; Governor-Elect Ned Lamont; Christopher Ayeni, associate professor of communication; and Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity. Lamont, who visited campus on Oct. 30, said he had a great time talking with Eastern students, remarking that they “ask great questions, are very sharp and fun to talk with.” Photography credit: Bill Costen

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.

Health Sciences Faculty Present at Research Seminar

Professor Ashley Bissonnette presented her research related to public health programs and social activism in indigenous communities.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Health Sciences (HSC) Department held its first faculty research seminar on Nov. 5 in the Science Building. The event showcased research activities of HSC faculty as well as informed students of potential opportunities for independent study with faculty mentors.

The Health Sciences major consists of three concentrations – Public Health, Pre-Nursing and Pre-Physical Therapy. The department’s objective is to train future scientists and health specialists through a combination of experiential learning and coursework designed to prepare students for careers in physical therapy, occupational therapy, public health, nursing and a variety of other health- and biological science-related positions.

HSC faculty members who presented research topics included Professor Anita Lee, who presented “Physical Activity and Health.” Lee discussed the role of physical activity related to health and disease prevention, the concept of normal weight obesity and how physical activity can be “prescribed” to the general population to achieve health.

Professor Mary Kenny’s “Applying Social Science Research in Public Health” presentation detailed the benefits of public health careers and her background in diverse projects in countries such as Brazil, Jamaica, Mongolia and Ghana. She addressed how applying acquired social science research skills can assist in developing health and educational interventions in similar countries. “Highlight your strengths. This type of work is of value to future employers – focus on it. It greatly enhances your résumé,” said Kenny.

“Using Cultural Resources for Planning Public Health Programs and Social Activism in Indigenous Communities,” presented by Professor Ashley Bissonnette, addressed health disparities rooted in this country’s first wars against indigenous peoples and ways cultural resources can be used in the development of public health educational programs.

HSC Professor and Department Chair Yaw Nsiah detailed his research on experimenting with compounds from tropical trees and shrubs from West Africa.

“Extraction and Purification of Pharmacoactive Compounds from Tropical Plants,” presented by HSC Professor and Department Chair Yaw Nsiah, detailed his research that focuses on experimenting with compounds from tropical trees and shrubs from West Africa. The hope is that new anti-infectives will be discovered that can be used to combat viruses and bacteria.

Health Sciences major Cassidy Martin ’19, who assists Professor Nsiah with his research, said, “I participate in his research project by extracting active compounds from leaves, then use various evaporation and purification techniques to identify organic compounds and test them on different bacteria types for their reactions.

“I’m grateful to be participating in the research project because I enjoy microbiology and now have the opportunity to learn additional techniques and apply them to real research,” said Martin. She plans on pursuing a career in nursing, with an interest in nursing education and biomedical research.”

Students were encouraged to ask questions and contact faculty members to further explore opportunities for involvement in their cutting-edge research opportunities. Department Chair Nsiah announced that the department intends to continue to host faculty research seminars each semester.   

The following HSC faculty also presented at the seminar:

  • “Molecular Mechanisms for Urate Secretion in Human Kidney Cells,” presented by Professor Amy Bataille, documented diseases that are associated with uric acid imbalances – gout, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disease, among others.
  • Professor Pallavi Limaye presented “Genomic Analysis of the Human Fetal Brain,” which focused on how the understanding of human fetal brain development can be enhanced by genomic data analysis.
  • Professor Paul Canavan presented “Analysis of the Baseball Pitch: Effect of Floor Placement on Body Movement and Pitching Accuracy.”
  • Professor Mitchell Doucette presented “Right-to-Carry Laws and Workplace Homicides: The Role of Firearm Exposure.”

Eastern’s Anita Lee Named Outstanding Advisor by National Association

Health Sciences Professor Anita Lee with
Greg Hyman ’16, now an account executive for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Phoenix Suns.

Written by Dwight Bachman

WILLIMANTIC, CT (10/23/2018) The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) recently presented the Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Academic Advisor in a Faculty Role to Anita Lee, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University. Lee was honored on Sept. 30, during NACADA’s annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ..

Lee is active in promoting student success in numerous capacities on campus. In addition to her teaching and faculty responsibilities, she has served as special assistant to the dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies (2015-2017); co-established the Student Excellence and Persistence System to promote student success, retention and support academically challenged students; and served as an advisor to Eastern’s Opportunity Scholars program, L.E.A.P., Eastern’s student leadership program and the University’s Asian Cultural Society student club.

Lee, a native of Hong Kong, believes education often occurs outside the classroom, and that involvement with external student activities can help one effectively connect with students.

“I believe cultivating connections with students in such an environment enhances student academic ownership, and is key to helping students set and achieve their academic and career goals. This national award belongs to all students and colleagues who worked with me at Eastern. It is impossible to promote student success without their support.”

Greg Hyman ’16, who is as an account executive for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Phoenix Suns, said “I was immediately impressed with Dr. Lee’s professional demeanor, strong interpersonal skills and accountability to fully maximize my academic career at Eastern. I can strongly say that I would not be working in the NBA today were it not for Dr. Lee’s devotion to helping me as my advisor.”

Melody Kramarz ’16, graduate student and research assistant in the field of exercise science at the University of Connecticut, said Lee’s advisement, instruction and motivation were key to her confidence and competence as she pursues a master’s degree.

“I was able to acquire the tools that have helped me secure a position as a research assistant in graduate school,” said Kramarz. “Dr. Lee’s inquisitive nature serves well during advisement sessions, as it allows for the fluid flow of student goals, ideas and interests into opportunities and documented achievements. Her unwavering work ethic, caring attitude and commitment to her students and institution make her very deserving of this award.”

NACADA was chartered as a non-profit organization in 1979 to promote quality academic advising and professional development of its membership to ensure the educational development of students. NACADA has grown to more than 10,000 members consisting of faculty members, professional advisors, administrators, counselors and others in academic and student affairs concerned with the intellectual, personal and vocational needs of students.

 

Researchers at Eastern Analyze the Baseball Pitch

• A pitcher from Eastern’s baseball team wears a motion-capture suit so that his biomechanics can be analyzed.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Health sciences researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University analyzed the biomechanics of the baseball pitch this past weekend, using pitchers from Eastern’s own baseball team as study subjects. Titled “Analysis of the Baseball Pitch: Effect of Foot Placement on Body Movement and Pitching Accuracy,” the study was led by Health Sciences Professor Paul Canavan, visiting biomechanical engineer Nicholas Yang and Eastern students Christina Gosselin ’19 and Ashley Kennison ’19.

“Improper mechanics can lead to shoulder and elbow injury,” said Canavan. “The placement of the front foot of the pitcher during the pitch can affect the timing of motion in the hips, trunk, shoulder and elbow, possibly resulting in future injury and decreased accuracy.”

• Student Ashley Kennison uses a radar gun to measure the speed of the pitch.

Student athletes from the baseball team agreed to participate in the study, which occurred in the Geissler Gymnasium with a slew of high-tech equipment, provided by Yang, a colleague of Canavan’s from San Francisco. Using high-speed cameras, a radar gun and a motion-capture suit (Xsens) worn by the study subjects, researchers were able to analyze the minute movements that happen during a baseball pitch.

“Providing individual athletes and coaches in the future with results that could optimize mechanics may improve performance and decrease injury risk,” said Canavan of the study’s implications.

This study provided an opportunity for undergraduates in Eastern’s health sciences program to participate in practical research. Gosselin and Kennison assisted in setting up equipment and data collection. They also read literature reviews on similar studies and considered ways to improve upon their study.

“I’m honored to have participated in this research,” said Gosselin, who aspires to become a physical therapist. “I reached out to Professor Canavan this summer, hoping to aid him in any upcoming research projects and we started right away. I’m always searching for new ways to expand my knowledge, and this study has been the perfect opportunity for me to gain experience in the field of sports research.”

Eastern Professor Recognized for Firearm Storage Research

Written by Jolene Potter

Mitchell Doucette, an assistant professor in health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, was part of a research team recognized by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) for having One of the Best Papers of the Year in 2018. Titled “Storage Practices of U.S. Gun Owners in 2016,” Doucette’s research study was selected for the journal’s Editor’s Choice Awards.

Self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injury is a major public health concern in the United States. Doucette’s research explores the factors that influence firearm storage among gun owners. Through a nationally representative online survey, it also assesses gun storage habits and attitudes about gun storage practices.

Methods for safe storage include securing guns in a locked safe or gun rack and using trigger locks. The study found that only 50 percent of gun owners self-reported storing all of their firearms safely. It was noted, however, that having children and/or participating in gun-safety courses increases the likelihood of safe firearm storage.

The research also examined the organizations that gun owners view as credible sources of information about firearm storage. The research found that gun owners viewed law enforcement and hunting/outdoor organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) as most credible for communicating safe gun storage.

“Safe gun storage has the potential to serve as a meaningful intervention to reduce both gun-related injuries and mortalities,” said Doucette. “Public health practitioners should utilize gun-safety training courses and partner with the groups that gun owners find credible – like law enforcement – to increase safe firearm storage.”

The American Journal of Public Health is dedicated to the publication of original work in research, research methods and program evaluation in the field of public health. The mission of the journal is to advance public health research, policy, practice and education. The December 2018 issue of AJPH will include a column about the winning publications, which will feature Doucette and his innovative research.

 

Health Sciences Research Spans Baseball Pitches and Firearm Storage

A pitcher from Eastern’s baseball team wears a motion-capture suit so that his biomechanics can be analyzed.

Written by Michael Rouleau and Jolene Potter

Two new assistant professors of the Health Sciences Department saw recent developments in their research activities. Paul Canavan led a study on campus that analyzed the biomechanics of Eastern’s own baseball pitchers, and Mitchell Doucette’s research on firearm storage was named One of the Best Papers of the Year by the American Journal of Public Health.

On Oct. 13 and 14, health sciences researchers led by Paul Canavan analyzed the biomechanics of the baseball pitch, using pitchers from Eastern’s own baseball team as study subjects. Titled “Analysis of the Baseball Pitch: Effect of Foot Placement on Body Movement and Pitching Accuracy,” the study also involved visiting biomechanical engineer Nicholas Yang and Eastern students Christina Gosselin ’19 and Ashley Kennison ’19.

“Improper mechanics can lead to shoulder and elbow injury,” said Canavan. “The placement of the front foot of the pitcher during the pitch can affect the timing of motion in the hips, trunk, shoulder and elbow, possibly resulting in future injury and decreased accuracy.”

Student athletes from the baseball team agreed to participate in the study, which occurred in the Geissler Gymnasium with a slew of high-tech equipment, provided by Yang, a colleague of Canavan’s from San Francisco. Using high-speed cameras, a radar gun and a motion-capture suit (Xsens) worn by the study subjects, researchers were able to analyze the minute movements that happen during a baseball pitch.

“Providing individual athletes and coaches in the future with results that could optimize mechanics may improve performance and decrease injury risk,” said Canavan of the study’s implications.

This study provided an opportunity for undergraduates in Eastern’s health sciences program to participate in practical research. Gosselin and Kennison assisted in setting up equipment and data collection. They also read literature reviews on similar studies and considered ways to improve upon their study.

“I’m honored to have participated in this research,” said Gosselin, who aspires to become a physical therapist. “I reached out to Professor Canavan this summer, hoping to aid him in any upcoming research projects and we started right away. I’m always searching for new ways to expand my knowledge, and this study has been the perfect opportunity for me to gain experience in the field of sports research.”

Health Sciences Professor Mitchell Doucette.

Earlier this month, Mitchell Doucette was part of a research team recognized by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) for having One of the Best Papers of the Year in 2018. Titled “Storage Practices of U.S. Gun Owners in 2016,” Doucette’s research study was selected for the journal’s Editor’s Choice Awards.

Self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injury is a major public health concern in the United States. Doucette’s research explores the factors that influence firearm storage among gun owners. Through a nationally representative online survey, it also assesses gun storage habits and attitudes about gun storage practices.

Methods for safe storage include securing guns in a locked safe or gun rack and using trigger locks. The study found that only 50 percent of gun owners self-reported storing all of their firearms safely. It was noted, however, that having children and/or participating in gun-safety courses increases the likelihood of safe firearm storage.

The research also examined the organizations that gun owners view as credible sources of information about firearm storage. The research found that gun owners viewed law enforcement and hunting/outdoor organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) as most credible for communicating safe gun storage.

“Safe gun storage has the potential to serve as a meaningful intervention to reduce both gun-related injuries and mortalities,” said Doucette. “Public health practitioners should utilize gun-safety training courses and partner with the groups that gun owners find credible – like law enforcement – to increase safe firearm storage.”

The American Journal of Public Health is dedicated to the publication of original work in research, research methods and program evaluation in the field of public health. The mission of the journal is to advance public health research, policy, practice and education. The December 2018 issue of AJPH will include a column about the winning publications, which will feature Doucette and his innovative research.

English Students Study in Italy

Eastern’s Creative Writing Abroad group at Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence.

Written by Dwight Bachman

A group of Eastern students, under the guidance of Professor Christopher Torockio, recently traveled to Italy to participate in the Creative Writing Abroad course. The students spent five weeks, from June 25 to July 31, writing fiction stories inspired by their travels and experiences at the Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence.

A quick break from one of our class workshops, which were held in the beautiful garden of Studio Art College-Florence’s main building, Palazzo dei Cartelloni, a Renaissance-era palazzo that was remodeled in the 17th Century as a residence for the mathematician Vincenzo Viviani, who had been a pupil of the astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei.

 Michael Merrow, a junior majoring in Communications, was one of the students who used Italy’s Tuscan views, scenery, art and architecture to inspire their writing. “The creative writing study aborad course is an amazing way to gain cultural perspective,” said Merrow. “The art and lifestyle of Florecne provided great inspiration. This was truly a life changing experience.”

Colleen Deely, a junior majoring in Psychology, agreed: “Since taking this creative writing course, I’ve explored not only a new and beautiful place, but a different, more creative side of myself. Through my classmate’s inspiring stories and breathtaking surroundings, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and greater knowledge for Italian culture. This trip has really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and travel more!”

The group took intensive, creative writing workshops in the lovely Renaissance-era palazzo garden at SACI, where they also critiqued and edited each other’s original works of short fiction.

Somewhere in Tuscany.

“Florence is a great location for creative writers, as it’s not only a beautiful, historic and artistically rich city,” said Torockio. “Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is also centrally located in Italy, allowing the students to take lots of day trips almost anywhere throughout Italy.”

Abby Murren, a junior majoring in English, said the course was the one of the best adventures she will ever take: “As an English major with a concentration in creative writing, this course gave me the perfect opportunity to improve my writing while experiencing one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The amount of inspiration I had from experiencing Florence’s people, culture, and history only strengthened my love for writing, and I’m beyond grateful to have had that opportunity.”


Hiking-from-Vernazza-to-Monterosso

Guided by SACI art historians, the students also visited Italian destinations ranging from Fiesole to Siena, Venice, San

Gimignano, Lucca, Pisa the Amalfi Coast and the Colosseum in Rome. Trips to other European destinations included Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam and more, where the students visited museums, galleries and other cultural landmarks.

Eastern Grads Accepted into Doctor of Occupational Therapy Degree Programs

Kelsey Sullivan ’18 and Kaley Kennedy ‘18

 By Anne Pappalardo

Two recent Eastern Connecticut State University graduates, Kaley Kennedy ’18 of Enfield and Kelsey Sullivan ’18 of Wethersfield, were recently accepted into occupational therapy doctoral programs. Both Kennedy and Sullivan were Health Sciences majors.

The Health Sciences major prepares students to become health specialists through coursework and experiential learning such as internships, independent study and faculty-directed research.

To my knowledge, these are the first Eastern students to be accepted into a doctor of occupational therapy degree program,” said Health Sciences Professor Amy Bataille. The Health Sciences major includes three concentrations – public health, pre-nursing and pre-physical therapy. Kennedy and Sullivan are members of the first Health Sciences graduating class since the program was created in 2014. Kennedy’s concentration was pre-nursing, while Sullivan’s was public health.

Kennedy and Sullivan are also friends, having met early in their college experience through mutual acquaintances. Both were members of Phi Theta Delta, Eastern’s Health Sciences honor society. Sullivan was also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national honor society for leadership. Sullivan started at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions in Boston in June, while Kennedy will be initiating her studies this fall at Western New England University in Springfield, MA. 

When it came to Eastern as an undergraduate option, the choice was clear for both. “Eastern stood out for me and made the decision easy,” said Kennedy. “It offered much smaller class sizes compared to other schools, so I knew that would ensure a more direct learning style and increased student participation.” She was also attracted by the opportunity to play on the women’s soccer team and played on the team until her junior year.

Sullivan chose Eastern for a similar reason. “I wanted to go to Eastern because it offered small class sizes and good professor-to-student ratios. Because of this, I knew Eastern would give me the opportunity to build relationships with my professors. I also wanted to come to Eastern because of their well-known and exceptional education program.”

Sullivan originally started her academic career as a double major in Math and Secondary Education as she comes from a family of teachers. “However, after some soul-searching, I decided that I really had a passion for the medical field and helping people,” said Sullivan. ‘Through my research, occupational therapy popped up as a career option. I decided to pursue a Health Sciences degree and become an occupational therapist.” Sullivan also worked in Eastern’s Office of AccessAbility as well as a chiropractic office in her hometown. Both helped her gain insight into health-related fields.

As part of her Public Health concentration, Sullivan was required to complete an internship. She chose to complete the requirement by participating in a Global Field Course to Ghana led by Health Sciences Professors Yaw Nsiah and Rochelle Gimenez. Sullivan was moved and deeply impacted by her work in Ghana. “The trip has become a part of me,” said Sullivan. “It molded me, shaped me and inspired me to be the best version of myself, as well as inspire others to do the same.” 

Kennedy works in the special education department in the East Windsor public school system, where she observed an occupational therapist in both in- and out-patient settings, helping familiarize her with the field. She also works at Strong Foundations in Vernon to assist children diagnosed with autism, Asperger Syndrome, social communication disorder and other related disabilities, as well as language and cognitive delays. She attributes her experiences at both places as a major influence in her interest in occupational therapy.

Both students credit their parents as being major influences in their success. “My parents have always told me to reach for the stars and strive to do my best, but to also have fun while doing it,” Kennedy said. “They never stood in the way of my dreams, but rather pushed me even closer to fulfilling my goal.”

“My mom and dad have been a continual pillar of support since I was born a premature baby,” said Sullivan. “Without their dedication to support me in any way needed I would not be the woman I am today.”

“My favorite thing about occupational therapy is the fact that I get to provide help to people,” said Kennedy. “As an occupational therapist, I can help patients with rehabilitation or everyday life skills. My favorite thing about the Health Sciences major at Eastern is how it prepares students to further their education.”

“My favorite thing about occupational therapy is not only the opportunity to help change someone’s life by helping them adapt to the world around them, but the opportunity for them to change my life as well,” said Sullivan. “This career, like the major at Eastern, is constantly adapting to best serve its clients, professionals, staff and students.”  

After receiving her doctorate, Kennedy plans on gaining experience in the field and working in a public school system. Sullivan is interested in either inpatient or outpatient hospital-based pediatric occupational therapy, eventually becoming a certified neonatal therapist.

“We are very proud of our students and the fact that they are admitted into these strong, reputable programs,” said Bataille. “It is especially gratifying to see that our Health Sciences program is succeeding in giving students these opportunities and contributing to their tremendous success.  We look forward to hearing more about their exciting careers in the future.”

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

WILLIMANTIC, CT (06/18/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized as a 2018-19 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction.

The organization praised Eastern for its student-centered approaches and high-impact educational practices. High-impact practices of note include Eastern’s community-based learning programs, intensive writing courses, living-learning communities for residents, undergraduate research, internships and other hands-on learning experiences.

“We are absolutely thrilled to recognize Eastern Connecticut State University as a College of Distinction for its effective dedication to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, CEO for Colleges of Distinction. “Colleges of Distinction is so impressed with Eastern’s curriculum, which is enriched with the kind of high-impact educational practices that are most crucial for student development. Such innovative engagement is preparing the next generation of young adults to thrive after college.”

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction is far more than a ranking list of colleges and universities,” said Schritter. “We seek out the schools that are wholly focused on the student experience, constantly working to produce graduates who are prepared for a rapidly changing global society. Again recognized as a College of Distinction, Eastern Connecticut State University stands out in the way it strives to help its students to learn, grow and succeed.”

Top U.S. Mental Health Official Speaks at Eastern’s 128th Commencement

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

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

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.