The Truth behind True Crime

                                             A&E Executives Speak at Eastern

The six-person panel (left to right) included three Eastern faculty members--William Lugo, Kim Dugan and Theresa Severance--and TV executives Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb

The six-person panel (left to right) included three Eastern faculty members–William Lugo, Kim Dugan and Theresa Severance–and TV executives Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb

Written by Jordan Corey

Three Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) executives – Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb – shared their expertise of “true crime” programs with Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 8. Complete with promo clips, intriguing audience questions and thoughtful responses, the panel generated dialog on what goes into capturing real-life crime narratives on television.

“We’ve all been affected by crime … they’re powerful, important stories,” said Sociology Professor William Lugo in his introduction to the program. To begin the discussion, Tarshis, a producer of TV shows like “The First 48” and “The Eleven,” addressed the unique opportunity that television production teams have in being allowed into certain environments, particularly crime scenes. “We’re very mindful of that incredible privilege … we try to humanize the process.”

Fleury, who has worked on “Beyond Scared Straight” and “Cold Case Files,” agreed that the access is a “great luxury” and should be approached as such. She highlighted the importance of consciousness in order to respect all aspects of a situation. “Every person in this story has rights,” she said, from the victims and their families, to the law enforcement involved, to the suspects and their families. To protect such rights, a multitude of steps are taken. Releases are signed regarding participants and objects, as well as following journalistic protocol and partnering with specialized lawyers.

True Crime logoThe executives argued that the true crime shows they work on grant people a window into what is actually going on. Not only that, but they have helped solve crimes that otherwise may not have been pursued by police departments – due to lack of resources or time, for example. With dedicated social media followings, widespread viewership and avid research teams behind them, the programs both raise and answer many questions.

An audience member asked whether or not the current “spirited” political climate changes the direction of what can be screened. When it comes to talking about social issues, a phrase used at A&E is “hiding the broccoli” – the act of integrating something that may not be appealing to everyone, but is nonetheless important, into something that will captivate all parties. Part of the job is to find ways to engage people, and the executives aim to do this in as observational a manner as possible.

Fleury pointed out that at this moment in time, there is not as much trust in the government and overall legal system as there has been in the past. This makes the idea that “maybe somebody got it wrong” more compelling, seen in the sweeping popularity of shows like “Making a Murderer.” The concept of a gray area or wrongful conviction used to be a “non-starter,” according to Tarshis; viewers simply wanted to see “bad guys” put away. Coupled with these contemporary outlooks, he noted, the numerous distribution mediums available now have opened new doors for telling and sharing stories.

Just as the executives and their colleagues have had to adapt to how people are retaining programs, Gottlieb – producer of shows like “8 Minutes” and “Live PD” – drew attention to the fact that audiences have had to acclimate to how shows are being broadcasted. On shows such as “Live PD,” there is not always a clear resolution as there is on shows such as “The First 48.” “Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s ambiguous, sometimes it’s action-packed,” Gottlieb said. “Different situations bring out different audiences … you see it almost immediately online.” The panel compared true crime viewers to those of sports games.

Given the nature of true crime, one student asked about the ethical obligations that arise during the filming process. In response, Tarshis recalled working on “Codependent,” a show centering on codependent drug addicts. A couple wanted to empty their drug supply the night before attempting recovery, and the woman involved accidentally overdosed. The television crew stepped in and called 911, despite her boyfriend’s claims that she was fine. “Basic decency and human life is more important than any hour we put on the air,” Tarshis concluded.

“It’s a living, breathing process,” said Fleury. “We always remind ourselves that these are real people.” The executives collectively agreed that they are not exempt from the heavy emotional influence that is often evoked from their television shows, and they have assorted methods of dealing with it. While Tarshis tries to compartmentalize his life and avoid taking on the degrees of sadness he sees at work, Fleury tends to focus on those who survive bad situations and come out stronger. In short, the group expressed that true crime in its entirety serves a number of significant purposes. “You start to realize that these shows have real impacts,” affirmed Gottlieb.

Eastern Shack-a-thon for Homelessness

•Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of Eastern Connecticut State University students emerged from frost-covered cardboard boxes on Thursday morning, Nov. 9, after spending a freezing night sleeping outside. The temperatures dipped into the 20s for the annual “Shack-a-thon,” a fundraising event for the Habitat for Humanity club that aims to raise awareness of substandard housing.

Duct-taped boxes, plastic lining and tarps littered Eastern’s main courtyard for the 24-hour event, which challenged club members to weather the elements like homeless people do.

“I was very glad to have layers,” said sophomore Bryan Duffy. Besides lacking warm clothing, he added, “A homeless person might not even have access to the supplies we had. Someone could easily die of hypothermia in their sleep.”

The students learned some tricks to keeping warm. “You want a small box, rather than a large one,” said Duffy, “as your body acts like a furnace and heats up the space.” A tarp on the ground and plastic coverings were key for keeping dry, and duct-taped edges helped to seal in the warmth and reinforce the structure.

Another challenge for Shack-a-thon participants was to eat only food that was donated. Luckily the students had the support of members of the Eastern community, who chipped in with snacks and pizza. But they recognized that if not for a few generous souls, their hunger levels would have been drastically different-another insight into the life of being homeless.

Shack-a-thon and the club’s other activities lead toward its yearly highlight: a spring break trip to the Carolinas where the students build houses with other Habitat for Humanity chapters. Club members have been honing their skills locally in preparation for the trip. They’ve been helping to construct a house on Ivan Hill Street in Willimantic throughout the fall semester.

As part of the Habitat for Humanity policy, the to-be homeowner has been building the house alongside the volunteers in what is called “sweat equity.” “It’s really heartwarming to see him and his kids walk around the rooms that I built,” said sophomore Genna Fritsch. “It’s amazing to see the kids excitedly say ‘this is going to be my room!'”

Habitat for Humanity partners with community members all over the world to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. With volunteer support, Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families.

Eastern Names Alumni Fellows

‘The Intersection between Opportunity and Preparation’

•James Girard '97, Anne Iezzi '79 and Andrew Mitchel '89 were inducted into Eastern's Fellows Program. They held a panel discussion with students on the Eastern campus in September.

James Girard ’97, Anne Iezzi ’79 and Andrew Mitchel ’89 were inducted into Eastern’s Fellows Program. They held a panel discussion with students on the Eastern campus in September.

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT –Three alumni from Eastern Connecticut State University were inducted into the Eastern Fellows Program this September. In addition to joining the ranks of the university’s distinguished alumni, James Girard ’97, Anne Iezzi ’79 and Andrew Mitchel ’89 returned to campus to meet with students and share career advice.

Girard, a business administration major, is the vice president of human resources at Harris Corporation, a global technology company with approximately 17,000 employees. Iezzi, a sociology major, is the vice president and chief compliance officer for the Retirement Services Division at Voya Financial, a Fortune 500 company . Mitchel, an economics major, is an international tax attorney whose expertise has been sought after by The Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

During a panel discussion with students, the alumni spoke of their experiences as Eastern students and insights in the business world. On the topic of lifelong learning, Girard said, “If you are to be successful, you need to continually learn. Having this mindset gives you an edge in the workplace, as the techniques and tactics of your industry will continue to change.” Iezzi followed with, “When you’re in the workplace, you may stop getting tested, but you should never stop being curious. Learning doesn’t stop after graduation.”

Speaking to the role of luck in career success, Girard said, “I don’t believe in luck. Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. The key is hard work.” Iezzi reflected on her previous job at The Hartford, where she held several roles, eventually becoming a vice president in the Wealth Management Division. “Over the course of my 28 years with The Hartford, I never applied for a job. They came to me.”

The talk was ripe with career advice for students and seasoned professionals alike. “Take the job that nobody wants,” said Girard. “Some jobs are sexy, some aren’t, but those may be more important.” Emphasizing the importance of good writing and paying attention to the basics, he said: “Check your emails before you send them,” adding that it’s embarrassing how often poorly written emails make their way to upper management.

On the topic of leadership, Girard said, “At a certain point in your career, you can’t get the job done on your own, no matter how skilled you are. It takes a team. That comes down to leadership, and leadership is about emotional intelligence (EQ), not just IQ.”

Finally, on the topic of interviewing, the three alumni encouraged the students to research the company and review the LinkedIn profile of the interviewer beforehand. “Show them that you’re prepared and curious. Come ready with a question.”

The Eastern Fellows Program was established in the 2008-09 academic year to recognize and engage distinguished alumni in the life of the campus community. Twenty-six alumni of all majors and fields have been inducted into the program. For more information as well as a listing of Eastern fellows, visit www.easternct.edu/alumni/fellows.

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.

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

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.

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.