Eastern Named to Princeton Review’s 2020 ‘Best Colleges’ Guide

Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized by in the Princeton Review in its “2020 Best Colleges” guide for the Northeast region. Featured schools were chosen based on survey results from 140,000 students across the country. Eastern was praised for its small class sizes, close-knit campus community and affordability. 

Home to 5,200 students annually, Eastern students come from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, along with 29 other states and 20 other countries. The 16:1 student to faculty ratio encourages group discussions and teamwork. Eastern offers 41 majors and 59 minors, with a liberal arts curriculum that’s rooted deep in the school’s mission to provide students with a well-rounded education. Eastern was also ranked among the top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2020 Best College ratings.

Eastern also offers 18 NCAA Division III sports teams, more than 90 registered student organizations and 17 honors societies. Eastern’s athletic mission is to emphasize values such as diversity, sportsmanship, health, wellbeing and equity. Eastern hosted its annual President’s Picnic and Student-Club Fair. In spring of 2019, more than 50 percent of Eastern students participated in at least one club. Clubs with the highest membership last semester were Eastern Outdoors Club, Freedom at Eastern and People Helping People. Eastern is also home to student services such as the Womens Center, LGBT support groups and minority support groups. Eastern was awarded the ‘Green Campus’ Status by Princeton Review for the ninth year in a row in fall 2018.

Written by Molly Boucher

Balcerski Explores Relationship of Two 19th Century Politicians

Tom Balcerski

As the nation heads towards the 2020 elections, observers have asked if America has ever elected a gay president. Some say yes. Others say no. Tom Balcerski, assistant professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University and author of the highly acclaimed new book, “Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King,” discussed the topic on Sept. 19 at his book talk “James Buchanan: The First Gay President?”

Balcerski has thoroughly researched the friendship of the bachelor politicians James Buchanan (1791-1868) of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King (1786-1853) of Alabama. He narrates Buchanan and King’s relationship and each man’s rise to national prominence. King was elected vice president in 1852 and Buchanan became the nation’s 15th president in 1856.

Balcerski said before the two men became prominent politicians, they became close friends while living together in a Washington, D.C., boarding house. “Their friendship blossomed into a significant cross-sectional — some have suggested sexual — political partnership. They were the talk of the town. The gossip was unkind. Andrew Jackson once called Buchanan — Jackson’s minister to Russia — ‘Miss Nancy.’ King’s political opponents called him Buchanan’s ‘better half.’ Their friendship was so intense that people called them ‘Siamese twins’ and ‘bosom friends,’ the title of my book.”

Even so, Balcerski, an expert on male gender studies, says, “though their 20-year relationship was intense, the evidence is just not there to say that either man was gay. There is nothing there to suggest that their close relationship was more than a political alliance.” He said male political, platonic friendships were common in the 19th century.

Balcerski’s highly acclaimed book has received coverage in the national news media, including CNN, NBC News and Time and Smithsonian magazines. “‘Bosom Friends’ is a revelation,” said Douglas Egerton, author of “Year of Meteors: Douglas, Lincoln and the Election That Brought on the Civil War.”

“Exhaustively researched, (Balcerski’s book) sheds fresh light on antebellum politics through its discerning analysis of a distinctive, intimate friendship that crossed sectional, if not sexual, boundaries,” write Egerton. “Prepare to be surprised and enlightened by Balcerski’s findings.”

By Dwight Bachman

Courant Names Eastern a ‘Top Workplace’

For the eighth time the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With almost 1,000 employees, Eastern ranked 10th in the “large” category, and was the only public higher education institution recognized among 60 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 22 in the Hartford Courant.

“We are honored to be recognized once again as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern’s President Elsa Núñez. “Even though Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our university has always prided itself on being a close-knit community and a welcoming, inclusive campus for students, faculty and staff. The Courant’s announcement reminds us that Eastern is a stable, inspiring place for our faculty and staff to come to work each day, and a supportive learning environment for our students. I am very pleased that we were among those recognized.”

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by Energage, LLC, a research and consulting firm that has conducted employee surveys for more than 50,000 organizations. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations. This year’s Courant survey surveyed 29,000 employees across the state.

The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.

To honor all “Top Workplaces,” The Hartford Courant held its annual awards program on Sept. 19 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, CT, where it announced the top workplaces in each category.

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern’s Balcerski Book Explores Male Friendships Among Politicians

Tom Balcerski, assistant professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University, has published a book titled “Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King.” The book published by Oxford University Press, examines the friendship of the bachelor politicians James Buchanan (1791-1868) of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King (1786-1853) of Alabama.

Balcerski will present his findings in a talk entitled “James Buchanan: The First Gay President?” on Sept. 19 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 301 of the Science Building. He will also autograph copies of his book. The public is invited. Admission is free.

Buchanan and King’s intimate friendship has elicited much speculation through the years. In his book, Balcerski narrates Buchanan and King’s relationship and each man’s rise to national prominence. King was elected vice president in 1852 and Buchanan became the nation’s 15th president in 1856.

Balcerski’s highly acclaimed book has received coverage in the national news media, including CNN, NBC News and Time and Smithsonian magazines. “‘Bosom Friends’ is a revelation,” said Douglas Egerton, author of “Year of Meteors: Douglas, Lincoln and the Election That Brought on the Civil War.”

“Exhaustively researched, (Balcerski’s book) sheds fresh light on antebellum politics through its discerning analysis of a distinctive, intimate friendship that crossed sectional, if not sexual, boundaries. Prepare to be surprised and enlightened by Balcerski’s findings.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

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

David Frye Interviewed for ‘History Channel’ Documentary

History Professor David Frye sat down on July 26 for an interview with producers from Onza Entertainment, who flew in from Spain to get Frye’s perspective on geo-political forces impacting the global order. Onza Entertainment is producing a series for the History Channel titled “A History of the Future.”

The series was conceived by Diego Rubio, professor of applied history and global governance at IE University in Segovia, Spain. The History Channel is part of the A&E Network, which will air the television series this fall and in early 2020 in the United States, Spain, Portugal, Iberia and several other European countries.

“Claudia Lorenzo, who serves as line producer for the series, and I wanted to talk with Professor Frye because he is one of many renowned experts from around the world who is best qualified to discuss the ‘The Future of Globalization’ episode,” said Rubio via telephone from Spain during the interview.

Rubio and his colleagues had read Frye’s new book, “Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick,” which has received rave reviews from around the world. New York Magazine, the History Book Club, Booklist and Kirkus Review are among the many literary organizations that have written glowing reviews of the book. The book has been ranked one of the “20 best books of 2018,” and best-selling author and historian Tom Holland praised it as “a haunting and brilliant achievement.”

Another insightful review came from Barry Strauss, author of “The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination.” Strauss commented that Frye “writes . . . about what lies on either side of them (walls) with so much grace and insight that you hardly noticed that 4,000 years of history have passed, and now you have to rethink all your perceptions.”

Ferran Estelles, director of content for Onza Entertainment, said, “We wanted Professor Frye to share his wisdom and reflect on how some historical events can shed significant light on the societal, political and economic changes that the near future will bring to the international order, i.e., power balances, migration, trade and so on.”

During the interview, Frye said walls have shaped human behavior throughout history. He said in ancient times, walls were on every continent. They were not controversial; in many instances, walls created the security needed for citizens to safely pursue art, culture and commerce. “Without walls, there would have been no Chinese scholars, Babylonian mathematicians or Greek philosophers.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern Grad Accepts Digital History Fellowship at George Mason University

 Manchester-native Dana Meyer ’19, a recent graduate of the history program at Eastern Connecticut State University, accepted a digital history fellowship at the George Mason University Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). This Ph.D.-track fellowship is given to two students per year and provides full tuition for five years along with a stipend.

The Digital History Fellowship at RRCHNM was established in 1994 and is the oldest digital history center in the country. It creates websites and open-source digital tools that maintain and showcase the past, advance history education and historical understanding, encourage participation in the practice of history and more.

Meyer’s fellowship will focus on the American Revolution, as he works with Christopher Hamner, editor-in-chief of the “Papers of the War Department” – a project that transcribes documents that were destroyed in the U.S. War Office.

Meyer will also further work on his digital research about Connecticut Revolutionary War deserters, which he says was motivated by “the lack of secondary scholarship exploring the Continental soldiers’ psychological response to the Revolutionary War.” He hopes this research will benefit early-American digital scholarship and offer answers to an issue not often explored.

As an incoming Digital History Fellow in George Mason University’s Ph.D. program, Meyer will work alongside professional researchers, developers, programmers and more. “The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University is by far the most reputable Digital Humanities graduate program in the world,” said Meyer. “The Digital History Fellowship will allow me to continue the analysis I have been conducting at Eastern… on a much larger and collaborative platform.”

Speaking to the undergraduate opportunities afforded to him, Meyer said, “Eastern’s digital history lab provided the resources and support necessary to embark on a data-driven historical project centered around a quantifiable thesis that has never been answered before.”

Meyer acknowledges his mentor, Professor Jamel Ostwald, for guiding him throughout his independent study. “Dr. Ostwald has offered his knowledge and support, and without his help I would never have been able to create such a provocative research project.”

He concluded, “Eastern has far exceeded my expectations. The History Department is truly unparalleled.”

Written by Bobbi Brown

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

Students Honored at Library Research Awards

Winners of the J. Eugene Smith Annual Library Research Awards, left to right, are Jackson DeLaney, Emily Miclon and Cassaundra Epes

On May 15, Library Director Janice Wilson announced the selection of three Eastern Connecticut State University students as winners of the Ninth Annual Undergraduate Student Library Research Award. The prize was established to recognize and celebrate exemplary student research projects that demonstrate the ability to locate, evaluate, select and apply information from appropriate resources. Primary emphasis is placed upon the creative and effective use of library resources, services and collections encompassing print, microform and online databases.

Jackson DeLaney ’21, a political science major from Southbury, won the $350 prize in the freshman/sophomore category for his paper “The Influence of Political News Consumption on Voting Behavior.” Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas provided the faculty statement of support.

Emily Miclon ’19 a music major from Enfield, won the $350 prize in the junior/senior category for her paper titled “La Musique en Plein Air: Debussy’s Open Air Emplacement.” Timothy Cochran, assistant professor of music, provided the faculty statement of support.

Cassaundra Epes ’19, a history major from Baltic, received Honorable Mention in the junior/senior category for her paper on “The Ideal Woman: Sexology, Sex Reform, and Engineering Marriage in Weimar Germany.” Scott Moore, assistant professor of history, provided the faculty statement of support.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez congratulated the winners saying,Today, knowledge on this planet doubles every 12 hours—12 hours!—and within that mass of information exists detailed information on every conceivable topic.  There has never been more information available, yet the task of locating and synthesizing information continues to be a skill unto itself.”  She said academic success and the intellectual growth of student scholars “speak to the scholarship on our campus, the relationship between student scholars and their faculty mentors, and of the importance of having a vibrant library in the 21st century academy.” 

Librarians and teaching faculty comprised the committee that read the research of all the applicants and selected the award winners. “Each year, we are pleased to receive applicants from students showing the product of their extensive research and inspired use of library resources,” said Library Director Janice Wilson. “This year was no exception, as we received an above average number of entries and decided to recognize a deserving paper as Honorable Mention.”

By Dwight Bachman

Professors Davis and Graham Wrap up Spring Faculty Forum Series

Davis Presents on “An Elephant’s Eye View: Megafauna and Dominion in Southeast Asia.”

During the Punic Wars, Hannibal famously led an army of war elephants across the Alps.
Elephants at Hai Ba Tung Celebration in Vietnam 1957.
Elephants during military conflict in Vietman and Laos 1970s.

 

On April 17, Bradley Davis, associate professor of history, presented a talk titled “An Elephant’s Eye View: Megafauna and Dominion in Southeast Asia.” As a member of a multi-disciplinary team working on the history of elephant populations in Africa, Europe and Asia, Davis has worked with anthropologists, forest ecologists, and biologists to reexamine the cultural history of large animals and their relationships with plants and humans.

He said the more than 3,200 elephants in Southeast Asia over the years have been the center of tourism in the region and are also used for transportation. “Throughout the region, elephants are still the best source of transportation, often called “tractors that poop.”

Davis’ talk covered findings from recent archival research in Vietnam, including a case of death by elephant from the 1830s. He also cited the unique role of elephants throughout history when they served as “war machines” around the world. He and his colleagues, who began their interdisciplinary investigation in Singapore this past November, will continue with a meeting in Paris this summer. His work on elephants is part of his second book project, an environmental history of Vietnam, which he will complete during his sabbatical leave as a visiting fellow in the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University this fall.

Graham Discusses “The Roles of Evolving Landscapes, Ancient Waterways and Shifting Climates in Structuring Desert Arachnofaunas.”

 

Matthew Graham, assistant professor of biology, discussed “The Roles of Evolving Landscapes, Ancient Waterways and Shifting Climates in Structuring Desert Arachnofaunas” on May 1, wrapping up the Spring Faculty Forum Series.

Normally when one thinks of deserts, sand, cactuses and camels come to mind. Maybe, a rattlesnake too. But for Graham, it is scorpions and spiders. He has travelled to the American Southwest, to research these ancient species for years. It is why students, who have learned much about not only scorpions but big camel spiders and tarantulas too, affectionately call him “The Scorpion Man.”Graham said the rugged and varied landscapes of the American Southwest were shaped by a dynamic history of Neogene tectonics and Pleistocene climates. Mountains uplifted, rivers changed course, and climates fluctuated between the ice ages and warmer interglacial periods.

Graham’s talk summarized genetic data from scorpions, tarantulas and camel spiders to evaluate the impact of their history on shaping modern compositions and distributions of arachnids in our southwestern deserts.

Graham said scorpions have been around for nearly 400 million years. They can live in the hot, arid desert by secreting a wax over their exoskeleton that lets them live in dry environments. Some can construct burrow holes up to six feet deep.

Mitochondrial and nuclear data from scorpions and tarantulas suggest that arachnids diversified in response to changing landscapes and waterways. Shifting climates during the Pleistocene significantly altered the abundance and distributions of arid-adapted arachnid species.

Graham finished by presenting new genomic data that highlight the profound effects of recent climatic warming on arachnid distributions, especially in the Great Basin Desert.

Written by Dwight Bachman