Top U.S. Mental Health Official Urges Audience to “Get Involved” in Responding to National Opioid Crisis

                                                                            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.

Eastern Student Wins Fulbright Scholarship to Study in Indonesia

Eastern Connecticut State University student Adam Murphy ’18 has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to study Indonesian language in an intensive-language program in Salatiga, Indonesia, this summer. Murphy hails from Meriden and double majors in political science and history with a minor in Asian studies.

The scholarship will fund Murphy’s travel expenses and his educational costs. The program is sponsored by the Consortium of Teaching Indonesian through the Cornell University Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Murphy follows Quanece Williams ’16, who is completing a year in the Czech Republic through the Fulbright program.

Salatiga is a city on the island of Java, the most populated island in the world and one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. Murphy will be in Indonesia from June to August, living with a host family and taking language classes at a local university. “I am honored to have been selected for such an amazing program, honored to have been awarded this prestigious scholarship, and excited to return to Indonesia. With this award I can continue to learn about Indonesia and its wonderful people.”

This is not Murphy’s first trip to Indonesia. Last year he lived for the summer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, studying in an immersive language program with funding through a fellowship from the U.S.-Indonesian Society.

In addition to taking language classes, Murphy taught English for “Stichting Jogja,” which offers free English classes to people living in poverty. He also met with national leaders and scholars, including the Minister of State, the Princess of Yogyakarta, the Speaker of the House and the Deputy U.S. Ambassador.

“I am ecstatic to return to Indonesia to continue my language studies,” said Murphy. I am excited to try new foods, meet new people, live in a different area of the country, and visit friends I met during my past trip there. I am honored to be accepted to this program and awarded the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship.”

“Adam exemplifies Eastern’s emphasis on a practically applied liberal arts education,” said History Professor Bradley Davis, Murphy’s faculty mentor. “While completing a double major in history and political science and a minor in Asian studies, Adam has produced compelling original scholarship on the role of U.S. agricultural development specialists in Indonesia during the Cold War.”

Murphy is also active on Eastern’s campus, currently working as a resident assistant, and previously as a tutor and student ambassador in the Pride Center. He has been involved with the Student Government Association, the International Student Association and as president of the College Democrats.

This coming fall, Murphy will begin a master’s program in Southeast Asia Studies at the University of Wisconsin. He intends to go on to earn a doctorate in political science and foreign policy.

Written by Ed Osborn

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 Student Presents at ‘Posters on the Hill’ in Washington, D.C.

Eastern Professor Courtney Broscious, U.S. Representative Joseph Courtney and Tess Candler.

Eastern Connecticut State University student Tess Candler ’18 of Ledyard was one of two researchers from Connecticut given the distinguished opportunity of presenting their projects at the highly selective Posters on the Hill (POH) academic conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Candler‘s major is Political Science and Economics.

During the April 17 event she presented her research poster titled “When Reds Go Green: Determinants of Conservative Support for Environmental Policy.” Her research was completed under the supervision of Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Each spring, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) hosts the event during which select undergraduate students present their research to members of Congress and other invited guests. CUR works to ensure that members of Congress have a clear understanding of the research and education programs that they fund. Approximately 60 students out of a pool of 600 nationwide applicants are selected to present their research posters.

According to Candler, prior research has demonstrated that individuals with conservative ideals are less likely to support environmental policies. However, she asserts that it is worth noting that some of the most significant environmental legislation has been passed under Republican leadership, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. This shows that comprehensive environmental policy has been passed under Republican administrations. Candler wanted to examine what made conservatives more or less likely to support environmental policy.

Her study examined the the conditions under which conservatives demonstrate high levels of support for environmental policy. “Understanding the rationales of conservative support for environmental policy can help those interested in passing this type of legislation be better equipped to shape policy in a way that increases its likelihood of enactment,” said Candler.

Candler found that conservatives are more likely to support environmental policy when there are no states’ rights concern, no unnecessary extension of government and the policy protects the rights of citizens.

“Tess serves as a shining example of what we can achieve at Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Broscious.

Eastern has represented Connecticut seven out of the 12 times students have presented in the annual Posters on the Hill conference.

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.

Weather Underground Co-founder to Speak at Eastern

Written by Ed Osborn

Tim Plenk Photography

Jonathan Lerner, novelist, magazine editor and political activist from the 1960s, will speak at Eastern Connecticut State University this coming Monday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Theater. Lerner is a founding member of the Weather Underground, the militant offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and has recounted those turbulent times in his new memoir, “Swords in the Hands of Children, Reflections of an American Revolutionary.” Copies of the book will be available for purchase and book signing. The event is open to the public; admission is free.

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 https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“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 https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

Professor Asks, “Who is Puerto Rican?” at Eastern

Written by Jordan Corey

Charles Venator-Santiago

Charles Venator-Santiago

Charles Venator-Santiago, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, appeared at Eastern Connecticut State University on Sept. 20 to discuss the extension of U.S. citizenship to native Puerto Ricans.

The “University Hour” lecture covered the history of this complex extension, dating from 1898 to present day. Controversy over the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans has come to light in various contexts, explained Venator-Santiago, including the Tuana v. United States federal court case in 2015, which brought attention to the voting rights of U.S. nationals. “This word ‘extension’ is really important,” he stressed.

America gained military control over Puerto Rico in 1898, following the Treaty of Paris ratification. It was governed as an incorporated territory until 1900, when the Foraker Act was introduced to provide the territory a civil government. In 1901, the Doctrine of Territorial Incorporation was established, consisting of three basic elements to lay out the constitutional interpretation of Puerto Rico and other territories. Puerto Rico has been ruled as an unincorporated territory ever since.

The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization Act (BINA) of 1906 was the first law that enabled those born in Puerto Rico to naturalize as American citizens. By 1917, Congress passed the Jones Act to provide for the collective naturalization of Puerto Rico’s inhabitants.

The Jones Act called for people to choose between keeping their Puerto Rican citizenship or gaining United States citizenship. It did not, however, change Puerto Rico’s territorial status, so those born on the island could only obtain a derivative form of parental, or “jus sanguinis” – blood right – citizenship. Birth in Puerto Rico at this time was equivalent to birth outside of the United States.

Venator-Santiago went on to explain the corrective amendments made to Section 5 of the Jones Act from 1927-1940. In 1940, Congress created legislation granting “jus soli” – birthright – citizenship to those in Puerto Rico. The Nationality Act of 1940 thus established that Puerto Rico was part of the United States for citizenship purposes. Since 1941, birth in Puerto Rico is commensurate to birth in the United States.

That said, Venator-Santiago argued, “The Supreme Court has cherry-picked which rights to extend and withhold,” which is where many debates stem from. As of March 2017, Congress has deliberated 101 bills containing citizenship provisions for Puerto Rico. “There are different kinds of rights that apply differently,” he said. “Puerto Rico is considered to be a foreign place for constitutional purposes.”

According to Venator-Santiago, the arguments surrounding status have focused on two questions – how to simultaneously uphold the status of a person’s Puerto Rican citizenship, and what to do with the economy of Puerto Rico. Despite the ongoing societal discussion on the topic, he pointed out that one of the biggest issues is lack of awareness. “The average American doesn’t have a clue (that Puerto Rican natives are considered United States citizens),” he claimed. “There is no clear understanding among the public.”

Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. 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 1,389 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 10.

For the past 33 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.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy to Host Town Hall on August 13

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy will hold a town hall meeting at Eastern Connecticut State University this Sunday, Aug. 13, from 5:15-7 p.m. The event is being held in the Concert Hall of the new Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC).  The FAIC is the second building north of the main entrance on the west side of High Street. Free parking is available in the Cervantes and Shakespeare parking garages.  (Click here for a campus map)  We hope you can join us. Please RSVP to RSVP_Connecticut@Murphy.Senate.Gov; please include your name and town.