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.

Eastern’s Applied Behavioral Analysis Program Recognized Nationally

Written by Ed Osborn

behavioral analysisEastern Connecticut State University is one of 57 institutions in the United States recognized for its applied behavioral analysis program by Applied Behavior AnalysisEdu.org.  The first Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst program in Connecticut and one of only three in the state, Eastern’s program is a concentration offered within the Psychology major.  The program has been certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and given the BACB’s Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) credential.

“We are big fans of Eastern Connecticut University because of the many undergraduate research and creative activities available to students,” wrote ABAEdu.org. “In fact, students (at Eastern) enjoy the opportunity to work closely with faculty mentors on an array of projects that contribute to the growing body of research in the field of applied behavior analysis.”

Certification is usually required for employment in the field of applied behavioral analysis, especially when working with children with autism.

“Dr. James Diller continues to do an outstanding job leading this program,” said Carlos Escoto, professor of psychology and chair of the Psychological Sciences Department. “We are grateful to be recognized by a national organization and pleased to be able to offer our students this special professional credentialing opportunity.”

2 Students Awarded Eastern Summer Fellowships

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern students Jolene Potter ’18 and Julie Leitao ’18 participated in Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Fellowships this summer. Potter, a psychology major, prepared her research study, “Awareness and Understanding of Rape Culture among College Students,” for publication. Leitao, a theatre and early childhood education double major, worked to devise the script and choreography for the upcoming Eastern theatre production “Thread City.”

Jolene Potter '18

Jolene Potter ’18

Potter began her research in fall 2016, and aspired to submit her 9,000-word manuscript to an undergraduate research journal at the conclusion of the summer fellowship.

“Through in-depth interviews with Eastern students, my research examines how students define, perceive and reproduce notions about rape culture,” said Potter. “The study explores student acceptance of rape myths, their victim-blaming behavior and their tendency to defend the perpetrator. I also assess feelings regarding campus safety, beliefs regarding the necessity and efficacy of campus programs regarding sexual assault, and awareness of services for victims of sexual assault.”

Potter reports that her findings suggest “an association between awareness and understanding of rape culture and decreased rape myth acceptance and victim-blaming behavior, increased concerns pertaining to campus safety, and increased awareness of services offered to victims of sexual assault.”

Julia Leitao '18

Julia Leitao ’18

Leitao worked on the upcoming theatre production “Thread City,” which will be performed at Eastern Oct. 11-15. The show aims to tell the story of the immigrants who came to Willimantic to work in its historic thread mills. During one of Leitao’s spring semester classes, she interviewed local residents, learned about theatre companies and completed “moment work”—a theatrical technique in which individual moments are dissected and explored.

“We delved deeper into the research and used it to create the characters, storyline and movement pieces of the show,” said Leitao. “‘Thread City’ will focus on movement and sound rather than being a text-heavy performance.

“Devising a piece of theatre that tells the story through the body is something I am very excited to be a part of,” added Leitao. “Our characters and movements will represent immigrants from various locations who have traveled to a new, strange world and are adapting to a new life.”

Eastern’s Summer Research/Creative Activity Fellowship program is administered by the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Advisory Council. Students from all majors can apply for the competitive fellowship. Participants receive a $1,000 stipend and $250 for travel.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

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About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Psychology Students Study Culture in Hawaii

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eighteen psychology students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Hawaii in May 2017 to study cross-cultural differences related to well-being and relationships. From western and native-Hawaiian perspectives, the Eastern students examined topics such as parenting and attachment styles, social support, emotional expression, romantic relationships and more.

“Prior to going on this trip our class learned a lot about the culture in Hawaii and how they view relationships,” said Elizabeth Navarro ’17. “However, after traveling there I found that learning about culture in a classroom is nothing like experiencing it firsthand. I thought I had a good idea of Hawaiian culture until we traveled there; it was a complete culture shock.”

The trip to Hawaii was the field component of a course taken on the Eastern campus during the academic year, and was led by Psychology Professors Madeline Fugere and Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault.

In addition to their studies, the students also visited Iolani Palace, the home of the Hawaiian royal family; the Byodo-In Temple, in commemoration of the anniversary of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii; Waimea Valley, where they toured botanical gardens and took a waterfall swim; and Pearl Harbor. They also participated in a community service project to rebuild the wall of an 800-year-old aquaculture site.

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore 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.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, 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, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Three Students Win Library Research Awards

Award winners Malvina Pietrzykowski '19, Kimberly Mines '17 and Isabella Rossi '17 with Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Award winners Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19, Kimberly Mines ’17 and Isabella Rossi ’17 with Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Michael Rouleau

Three Eastern students were recognized at the sixth annual Library Research Awards at the conclusion of the 2016-17 academic year. Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19, Kimberly Mines ’17 and Isabella Rossi ’17 were awarded based on their ability to conduct research that stemmed from the physical collections and online databases of Eastern’s J. Eugene Smith Library.

Pietrzykowski majors in psychology and her research project was titled “The Neuropsychological Effects of Religion and Spirituality.” Her abstract reads: “This literature review critically analyzes psychological and medical research regarding religion and spirituality. The paper begins with analyses of religion’s psychological and social appeal, as well as comparison of different types of religion. Various aspects of neuropsychology are covered, including religion’s influence on functions of the brain.”

Mines majors in labor relations/human resources management and her research project was titled “Framing Arab Americans in the Detroit News Press.” Her abstract reads: “A significant proportion of today’s Arab Americans descended from Christian immigrants, though they are often conflated with Muslims and ‘unhinged’ caricatures who do not contribute to society. This study examines the post-911 evolution of Arab-American representations within mainstream Detroit news press-a city known as ‘the capital of Arab America.'”

Rossi majors in history and her research project was titled “The Elite Opulence of the Gilded Age: Creation of an 1876 Style Evening Gown.” Her abstract reads: “In this project I researched the fashions of the American Gilded Age and created a historically accurate 1876 evening gown with this information. I also explored the historical context of these fashions and examined how clothing was used by social elites to display status.”

Eastern Presents Inclusive Excellence Awards to ALANA Students

Written by Dwight Bachman

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

 Eastern Connecticut State University recognized the academic achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students on May 5 during its Fifth Annual Inclusive Excellence Awards ceremony. Nine awards were given and 165 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.5 or higher.

Eastern presented Melat Assefa and Christina Perez the Advisor’s Choice Award; Deja Seawright the Inspirational Leadership Award; and Chisolm Sunny Uduputa the International Student Award. The Resilient Warrior Award to AnnRichelle Akko, Daniel Costillo, Adrian Lopez Diaz and Yineira Lopez. Taylor Hemphill was named recipient of the Social Justice Advocacy Award, and the Volunteer Service Award went to Destiny Hartmann.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez told those in attendance that the awards ceremony was not just about inclusion. “It also speaks to Eastern’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, Social Responsibility, Engagement, and Empowerment. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  We are very proud of you! We are doing everything we can to promote the success of students of color. We know that having an inclusive, diverse, and culturally rich campus is good for all our students — in the end, we all must learn to live together in today’s global society.”

Natasha Stephens

Natasha Stephens

Alumna Natasha Stephens, who graduated from Eastern in 2003 and is the Title IX Coordinator at Wichita State University in Kansas, delivered the keynote address. She told the honorees she was honored to come back to campus. “While you have breath in your body, thank those who helped you, took time to meet with you, who gave you an opportunity and took a chance on you.  Never forget your roots and where you came from — no matter how high you go in life, give back of your time to someone else.”

She concluded by telling students that they can always change their plans. “Don’t limit yourself or your abilities — challenge yourself to new things. Believe in yourself, and give someone the wings to fly.”

MEDIA ADVISORY: 300 Students to Participate in Eastern Research Conference

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The Third Annual CREATE Conference at Eastern Connecticut State University will take place this Friday, April 21, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier conference showcasing student research and creative activity.

All activities take place in the Student Center except for an exhibit of student art taking place in room 223 of the Wood Support Services Center from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

From art to zoology, Shakespeare to social media, tax law to terrorism, Eastern students of all majors explore important concepts and produce exemplary research and creative work; the culmination of their work this academic year will be on display at CREATE. The one-day conference will feature more than 300 Eastern undergraduates, who will present talks, professional posters, live music, dance performances, art and photography exhibits, documentary films and panel discussions.

“CREATE is a reaffirmation of Eastern’s commitment to undergraduate research as Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Niti Pandey, business administration professor and conference co-chair. Reflecting on this year’s record number of participants, she added, “There is a wonderful variety of presentations and performances for people to see. CREATE 2017 showcases the hard work and talent of our students and demonstrates the dedication of their faculty mentors. We look forward to an excellent event!”

Members of the Eastern campus and surrounding communities are invited to browse the conference’s many cultural and academic offerings. “CREATE will be a superb learning experience for all who participate and a true celebration of our student’s achievements,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and conference co-chair.

Registration takes place at 8:15 a.m. in the Student Center Café, and the opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Those interested in the event but unable to attend the whole conference can view the schedule and presentation details at www.easternct.edu/create. Ample parking is available in the University’s two parking garages.

NOTE TO NEWS MEDIA:  The news media is invited to attend and cover the conference. This event is a marvelous collection of academic presentations, plays, musical performances, art on exhibit, and other student work — more than 300 students in all. Students and faculty mentors are available for interviews, and there will be host of photography opportunities. Come and see how undergraduates at Eastern are doing research commonly found only in graduate programs at larger institutions!

Committed to Community: Eastern’s 2017 Service Expo

The Le Le Project, represented by FEMALES club members Amanda Peterson, Jay Ortiz and Kiana Wiggins, won the Leadership Development Award. Their project focused on spreading awareness of domestic violence.

The Le Le Project, represented by FEMALES club members Amanda Peterson, Jay Ortiz and Kiana Wiggins, won the Leadership Development Award. Their project focused on spreading awareness of domestic violence.

Written by Michael Rouleau

More than 20 projects were on display for Eastern Connecticut State University’s annual Service Expo and Awards on April 12. Held at St. Joseph Church in Willimantic, the annual ceremony was hosted by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and showcased a variety of volunteer and service-learning work completed by Eastern students in the Windham community. Projects were evaluated and awarded and outstanding students, faculty and community partners were recognized.

In the 2015-16 academic year, 1,167 Eastern students – of a campus population of approximately 5,300 – served 20,024 hours in the community. Independent Sector, a public policy organization, values community service at $23.56 per hour, which equated to $471,765 worth of service last year to the Windham community. In the current academic year (2016-17), Eastern students are projected to match, if not surpass, these totals – the academic year will conclude next month.

Jasmine Carvalho speaks after receiving the Student Community Engagement Award. Carvalho credits her plethora of community engagement experience at Eastern with developing her as a person and building confidence she never could have dreamed of as a freshman.

Jasmine Carvalho speaks after receiving the Student Community Engagement Award. Carvalho credits her plethora of community engagement experience at Eastern with developing her as a person and building confidence she never could have dreamed of as a freshman.

Projects featured at the Service Expo spanned a variety of causes and organizations, from working with local youth in after school programs to assisting at a local homeless shelter; from volunteering with adults with disabilities to starting a new initiative that brings leftover food from Eastern’s dining hall to the local soup kitchen.

Social work major Mariana Vega ’17 presented on her project with the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR). “The goal of CCAR is to put a face on recovery,” said Vega, acknowledging the stigma surrounding people in addiction and recovery. Two hours a day, three days a week, she helps at the center by assisting clients with job applications, studying for their GED and other tasks.

“There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom,” said Vega, who is interested in the fields of addiction, recovery and substance abuse. “When you actually hear their stories and see the people face to face, it’s a huge impact. We get a lot out of it.”

Student projects are categorized as community service (volunteering) or service learning (community service-based classwork). Speaking to the concept of service learning, Nicolas Simon, sociology professor and expo judge, said: “Sending our students to the community, talking with human beings, self-reflecting on the experience, and connecting the experience to the material we’re covering in the classroom really helps students have a concrete relationship to knowledge.”

Adam Pszczolkowski and Josh Desouza, alongside their faculty advisor Alex Citurs (left), explain their service project with Grow Windham, in which they developed a website for the nonprofit organization.

Adam Pszczolkowski and Josh Desouza, alongside their faculty advisor Alex Citurs (left), explain their service project with Grow Windham, in which they developed a website for the nonprofit organization.

Not only is community service eye-opening for students, it deepens their sense of belonging while helping to meet community needs, builds resumes and professional experience, and gives students insight into the field they may be considering after graduation. Simon concluded, “Service learning is really a complement to the liberal arts education at Eastern.”

Josh Desouza ’17, who double majors in business administration and business information systems, presented on his project with Grow Windham, a local nonprofit that deals with food insecurity. Working alongside four of his classmates, “This project was over 700 hours of work,” he said.

“The website we built allows Grow Windham to better manage its operations; they can run reports to see how many hours their interns have worked, how many events they ran in a year, how many crops they’ve grown in their different gardens.” Desouza says the website will soon be migrated with Grow Windham’s main site, and assist the organization in obtaining grant funding by helping it to easily build reports and access numbers.

Concluding the event, standout projects and individuals were recognized. The Service Learning Award went to John Murphy, a lecturer in the Communication Department at Eastern. Murphy has engaged students in community-based media production work, resulting in valuable promotional videos, on-air public service announcements and data analytics for many area non-profit organizations.

The Food Recovery Program, led by students Sarah Tricarico, Goy Voladate, Wali Mohammod and Zach Stygar, won two awards: Going Green and Best New Program. Presented by expo judge Ellen Lang, the program demonstrates creative and sustainable efforts that protect the environment.

The Food Recovery Program, led by students Sarah Tricarico, Goy Voladate, Wali Mohammod and Zach Stygar, won two awards: Going Green and Best New Program. Presented by expo judge Ellen Lang, the program demonstrates creative and sustainable efforts that protect the environment.

The Student Community Engagement Award went to Jasmine Carvalho ’17, a psychology major. Carvalho’s community engagement spans all four of her years at Eastern, working with the CCE, several service-based organizations on campus, and numerous projects and special events.

The Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award went to Social Work Professor Catina Caban-Owen, who also is a social worker at North Windham School. Caban-Owen routinely brings her students into the community for learning and service. She is also the founder of the Windham Task Force to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect.

The Community Partner Award went to Avery Lenhart, shelter manager at the Windham No Freeze Shelter. She is the coordinator of the Youth Empowerment Team Initiative (YETI), which focuses on youth homelessness with a goal of ending youth and family homelessness in Connecticut by 2022.

The Windham Afterschool Program, represented by Endiza Torres (right), won the Kids First Award, for its focus on youth tutoring and mentoring.

The Windham Afterschool Program, represented by Endiza Torres (right), won the Kids First Award, for its focus on youth tutoring and mentoring.

The Outstanding Community Event Award went to the United Way of Central and Northeast Connecticut, which focuses on childhood education and financial stability for families. The United Way Readers Program was expanded to include Windham this year, serving 23 children at Natchaug Elementary School during the school day and after school. The United Way Community Engagement staff provided training, materials and ongoing support for the 17 Eastern volunteers in the program.

Eight student-driven projects were recognized in seven categories. The Food Recovery Program won the Going Green Award and the Best New Program Award. The Broadening Horizons Award went to Vanderman Place. The Leadership Development Award went to the Le Le Project. The Strengthening Communities Award went to CCAR. The Putting Liberal Arts into Action Award went to two programs: the Windham Middle School Tutorial Program and the Windham Middle School Girls Mentoring Program. The Kids First Award went to the Windham High School Afterschool Program.