Eastern Alumna Wins 2 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Dwight Bachman

43 Strong, Eastern Represents in Georgia at National Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Professor Examines Role of Elephants in Southeast Asia

During a Q & A, Davis referenced how Hannibal famously led an army of war elephants across the Alps as part of his war machine.

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 humans.

Davis’ talk covered findings from recent archival research in Vietnam, including a case of death by elephant from the 1830s. 

Davis and his colleagues, who began their interdisciplinary investigation in Singapore this past November, will continue with a meeting in Paris this summer.

Davis’ 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.

Written by Dwight Bachman

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

Eastern Students Present at CSU Making History Conference

Eastern students and faculty represent Eastern at the CSU Making History Conference, which took place at Southern Connecticut State University this year.

Twelve history students from Eastern Connecticut State University presented at the 2019 Connecticut State University Making History Conference on March 22. The fifth-annual conference was held at Southern Connecticut State University.

Eastern students presented on a range of topics, from Hiram Bingham and Machu Picchu to Japanese samurai culture. Several students also gave presentations on developments in the discipline of history, including discussing tools for digital history dissection and a roundtable discussion on teaching the historical methods course.

“I learned a lot about the value of coming together to discuss new research and ideas,” said Martha Ennis, a history major who gave a presentation titled “Mexican Migration in Connecticut: Braceros and Beyond.” She added, “I also learned about subjects I had never even thought about before.”

Eastern History Professors Joan Meznar and Thomas Balcerski accompanied the students to the conference and helped them prepare for their presentations.

“Students in the history department are conducting impressive original research, and are presenting at local, regional and national conferences, said Meznar. “This year’s conference was another affirmation of Eastern’s role as Connecticut’s Public Liberal Arts University.”

Conferences such as these are vital for student research and thesis development. History student Raven Dillon, who was a part of a presentation called “Re-tooling the Historical Methods Course” said: “This conference really helped me envision my future as an indigenous professor and researcher. I’m already planning my proposal for next year.”

Some students study broad historical eras, while others focus on a specific field of study. Allen Horn, a history major who also presented “Re-tooling the Historical Methods Course,” is focusing his research in the study of Morgan horses in the Civil War. “I want to elevate the field of human interaction with horses to a legitimate field of scholarship,” Horn said. 

“It was a banner day for Eastern’s history department,” Balcerski concluded. “Our history students exhibited high-quality research and effectively presented their findings to a broader audience. They exhibited polish, poise and passion for their subjects.”

Written by Raven Dillon

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Represents at American Historical Association Annual Meeting

Cassaundra Epes ’19 and Dana Meyer ’19

Two students and three professors from Eastern Connecticut State University attended and presented research at the American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting in Chicago, IL, from Jan. 3–6.

Dana Meyer ’19 of Manchester and Cassaundra Epes ’19 of Baltic were two of 28 students meeting-wide selected for the poster presentation portion of the meeting, which occurred on Jan. 5. Meyer presented “Connecticut Revolutionary War Deserters: An Experiment in Digital History.” Epes presented “A Willing Audience: The Brown Book and the Enduring Power of Conspiracy Theory.”

Students with Professor Balcerski.

History Professors Thomas Balcerski, Anna Kirchmann and Joan Meznar presented papers and spoke on panels at the meeting. Kirchmann chaired a panel titled “Conflicted Loyalties and/or Pragmatism,” and presented her paper “Urban Renewal and the Response of American Ethnic Groups, 1949–74.”

Balcerski organized and participated in a panel titled “Writing Early Queer Lives: Authorial and Biographical Imperatives before 1900.” Meznar attended several panels on teaching the “World History Survey” and one on careers for history PhDs outside of academia.

“The annual meeting for the American Historical Association is the oldest and largest society of historians in the United States,” said Meznar. Speaking to Eastern’s students, she added, “It is quite an honor that two of our students were among the 28 students meeting-wide to be selected for the poster session. With the support of outstanding faculty mentors, our majors are engaged in high-caliber research that is showcased in top-tier professional conferences.”

The American Historical Association is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies. The AHA provides leadership for the discipline, protects academic freedom, develops professional standards, aids in the pursuit and publication of scholarship, generates innovative teaching, and supplies various services to sustain and enhance the work of its members. As the largest organization of professional historians in the world, the AHA represents more than 12,000 members and serves historians representing every historical period and geographical area.

Written by Michael Rouleau

History Students Visit Gettysburg National Park

Written by Anne Pappalardo

A group of history students from Eastern visited Gettysburg National Military Park on Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 10-11. Students enrolled in Professor Barbara Tucker’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” course and Professor Thomas Balcerski’s “Antebellum America” course went on the trip. The park is the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg, the event that inspired President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

After an orientation at the museum’s visitor center, the group proceeded to Little Round Top, the site of one of the most well-known Civil War actions at Gettysburg, where Confederate troops waged an unsuccessful assault against Union forces on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863.

They also visited Devil’s Den, a section of the Gettysburg battlefield dominated by terrain challenges and intense infantry and artillery fighting. The location is the site where many famous post-battle photographs were taken by well-known Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner.

Wheatfield, often described as the bloodiest square mile of fighting in American history, was another stop on the group’s itinerary. More than 6,000 of 20,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed, wounded or captured at the location.

Culp’s Hill, another location the group visited, was a critical part of the Union Army’s defensive line and the scene of fierce fighting. Over 22,000 Americans fought for seven hours under sustained close combat conditions that concluded with Confederate surrender.

“The students and faculty that attended the trip were able to experience one of the most famous theaters of war in United States history, while paying tribute to Connecticut soldiers who died in the Civil War,” said History Department Chair and Professor Joan Meznar. “As they recalled President Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent eulogy to those whose blood had consecrated the battlefield, and whose sacrifice ensured that the states would remain united, they also honored the countless men and women who have offered their all for the cause of freedom in battlefields all over the world.”

The group also paid tribute to various Connecticut regiments that fought in the battle by laying flowers at their respective monuments. They visited the Soldier’s National Cemetery, the site of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” before returning to Eastern.

History Professor Authors Timely Book on Walls

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/16/2018) Although they have shaped human civilization, little research has been published about walls. David Frye, a history professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, has changed that with his new book, “Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick.” On Nov. 14, Frye discussed “Walls” at a book talk and signing event with the university community.

“We have histories of water, we have histories of salt, we have dozens of histories of chocolate,” said Frye during his presentation. “What about these walls that no one’s written anything about?”

Even Frye’s own research did not begin with walls, but rather with Roman history, which is his primary field of study. In the process, he dedicated several weeks to researching city layouts and walls, searching how these structures impacted the societies on either side.

While in discussion with a fellow professor, Frye lamented the lack of books or academic research published about walls and the reasons behind their creation. Why, he wondered, had no one written a book about walls?

“He told me, ‘You know the reason why nobody wrote a book about walls? Because no one gives a flip,'” Frye said ruefully.

However, the 2016 election suddenly brought the talk of walls back into the spotlight. “Now,” Frye recalls, “You have auditoriums full of people chanting ‘Build that wall!'” Within a very short time frame, people began caring about walls.

While walls are an often contested topic in today’s political climate, Frye says that walls were rarely controversial in ancient times. For thousands of years, civilizations spent time building and assaulting walls, and throughout history there are walls found on every continent. From the Persians, Romans and the Chinese to the Inca, the Ukrainians and dozens more, walls have been built by societies across the globe.

Frye’s book, which Kirkus Reviews called “provocative” and “timely,” delves into the people who live on either side of walls. Between entertaining narratives of his own archeological digs and his research as a historian, Frye’s book manages to tell 4,000 years of history in less than 300 pages. Although he writes briefly on modern walls such as the Berlin Wall, the majority of his book is dedicated to the walls of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Greece, China, Rome and others.

These walls serve as the main characters of the narrative, which often feels more like a novel than academic literature. Frye asks several important questions in his book that resonate long after finishing. Did walls make civilization possible? And can we live without them?

Eastern Holds Third Civic Action Conference

Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Dwight Bachman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch

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

English Professor Miriam Chirico

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

Education Professor David Stoloff

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

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

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

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

John Murphy, lecturer in the Department of Communication

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

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

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