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.

Author of ‘Latino City’ to speak at Eastern

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/08/2018) Llana Barber, author of “Latino City: Immigration and Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000,” will give a lecture on her book at Eastern Connecticut State University on March 21. Barber’s presentation takes place from 3-4:30 p.m. in Webb Hall, room 110. “Latino City” explores the transformation of Lawrence into New England’s first Latinx-dominated city, and how it was revitalized from its poor economic state, though not without numerous obstacles faced by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans.

Written by Jordan Corey

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.

Constance Motley Expert at Eastern

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, CT — Gary Ford Jr., assistant professor of Africana Studies at Lehman College and author of the book, “Constance Baker Motley, One Woman’s Fight for Civil Rights and Equal Justice under Law,” will speak on Feb. 14, at 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre on Eastern Connecticut State University campus.

Born in New Haven in 1921 as the daughter of immigrants from Nevis, British West Indies, Motley attended Fisk University before transferring to New York University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in economics. She subsequently became the first black woman accepted to Columbia Law School. A wife and mother who became a pioneer and trailblazer in the legal profession, she broke down barriers, overcame gender constraints, and operated outside the feminine role assigned to women by society and the civil rights movement.

Motley met Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and became the only female attorney to work for the fund, arguing desegregation cases in court during much of the civil rights movement. From 1946 through 1964, she was a key litigator and legal strategist for landmark civil rights cases that included the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the desegregation of the universities of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. She represented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others jailed for their participation in sit-ins, marches and freedom rides.

“Gary Ford’s well-researched book is more than a biography of Motley’s extraordinary life,” said Henry Louis Gates, Endowed Alphonse Fletcher Professor of History and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. “It is an argument for recognizing the tenacious, courageous role African American women like her played in advancing the cause of civil rights and equal justice for all. To witness Judge Motley in action was to be fortified and astounded. Now, thanks to Ford, a new generation can bear witness to her immense talents.”

“Dr. Ford’s book has sold out three times already this year,” said Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity at Eastern, whose office invited Ford to campus. The Offices of the President, Provost and Academic Affairs, Education Professional Studies and the Graduate Division, and Departments of History, Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work are co-sponsors for Ford’s appearance at Eastern.

“The narrative of the civil rights movement is fundamentally and irrevocably altered by the inclusion of Constance Baker Motley,” said Ford. “Her story is like a breath of fresh air that only strengthens the legacy of the movement as a whole. Her contribution expands the view of history from the model of leadership by charismatic men to a more complex model that is inclusive of female change agents and leaders. Judge Motley broke down barriers for other women of color, attorneys and women in general.”

Ford earned a bachelor of arts in African American history from Harvard University; a law degree from Columbia University; a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the New School; and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland. In addition to his writing and teaching, Ford helped produce the 2012 award-winning documentary film “Justice is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley” with director/producer Professor Michael Calia, director of the Quinnipiac University Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center and scriptwriter Susan Bailey.

Eastern Hosts 7th Marrow Drive

University Partners with DeCasanova to Find Life-Saving Matches

•Members of the men's soccer team with Coach DeVido (left) and Willy the Warrior

Members of the men’s soccer team with Coach DeVido (left) and Willy the Warrior

 Written by Michael Rouleau

In its ongoing support for people with life-threatening blood diseases, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its seventh marrow registry on Dec. 6. Organized by the men’s soccer team, 140 people were registered into the “Be The Match” database – the largest marrow registry in the world – bringing Eastern’s total to 1,650 registrants over the past five years.

The campus’s first marrow drive occurred in 2012, when student and soccer player Jon DeCasanova was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and lymphatic cancer. DeCasanova, a senior at the time, was given less than a one-percent chance of survival by some doctors.

Jon DeCasanova '16 explains the registration process

Jon DeCasanova ’16 explains the registration process

“One of the treatments I needed was a marrow transplant,” said DeCasanova ’17, who graduated last spring and now works for the Rhode Island Blood Center. In his role as an assistant account executive, DeCasanova helps run Be The Match events throughout the region. “I was able to receive a stem cell transplant, which is a science that we’re supporting here today. It’s a science that saved my life.”

In the past five years, 20 Eastern registrants have made life-saving donations to people with rare blood diseases – a rate much greater than the national average of one in 300 being selected as a best possible donor, and one in 430 actually going through with the procedure.

People identified as matches have two options for donating. One method is via a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, a nonsurgical procedure similar to giving blood. The other method is via a bone marrow donation, a surgical procedure in which bone marrow is extracted directly from the pelvic bone.

On the day of the event, members of the soccer team spread throughout campus, asking everyone they saw if they’re willing to help save a life. They even recruited the school’s mascot, Willy the Warrior. “Without the promotion of the team, there wouldn’t be as much success as there is,” said Greg DeVito, head coach, who reports the team volunteered approximately 70 hours in advance and during the event. “It’s an honor to see the team use their free time to help out a good cause.”

Volunteer Lauren Landry '20 takes a minute between mouth swabs for a photo.

Volunteer Lauren Landry ’20 takes a minute between mouth swabs for a photo.

“Most current students weren’t here in 2012, so they don’t quite understand what it did to this campus,” said DeCasanova of his diagnosis, remembering the fear and outpouring of support across the Eastern community. “Most people don’t experience cancer at such a young age; I was only 20 years old at the time. None of us really understood what was going on.”

While the men’s soccer team spearheads the effort with Be The Match, several other student organizations help the event run smoothly. Among them this year were the Social Work Club and Love Your Melon, a nonprofit organization with a chapter on campus that is focused on pediatric cancer. Among other tasks, student volunteers prescreened interested donors for eligibility – using a questionnaire concerning general health – and administered mouth swabs.

“I don’t get emotional too much these days,” said DeCasanova, “but when it comes to this event and Eastern in general, and the family we have here, it’s amazing… the passion everyone still has for this event, and their continuing support, not only for me, but for all the patients out there that need matches.”

With DeCasanova’s story and Eastern’s support, the soccer team won the 2016 National Association of D3 Athletic Directors Community Engagement Award. In 2014, the University was honored with the National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match Awareness Award. Representatives from the organization have commented that Eastern outperforms schools with much larger student populations.

“It’s not about me anymore. My life is saved,” concluded DeCasanova, adding that there are more than 70 diseases that are curable via marrow transplants. “It’s about all the other patients out there who are still looking for matches.”

Eastern Professor in Safe Passage Run

Bergstrom_Lynch_and_kidsWritten by Jordan Corey

Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University who lives in Manchester, participated in a road race on Dec. 3 to honor the late Alyssiah Wiley, an Eastern student who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2013. The Hot Chocolate Run is an annual fundraiser to benefit Safe Passage, an organization dedicated to creating a world free of domestic violence and relationship abuse. The run took place in Northampton, MA.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that nearly 20 people are physically abused every minute by a domestic partner in the United States – more than 10 million women and men per year. Of female murder victims, one in three are killed by intimate partners.

Safe Passage, located in Northampton, supports safe shelter, legal assistance and counseling services for adults and kids who have lived with violence in their homes. Since Wiley’s death in 2013, Bergstrom-Lynch has been dedicated to raising awareness of intimate partner violence.

Though she was never a “runner” before her recurring participation in The Hot Chocolate Run, Bergstrom-Lynch trained for it, feeling that it’s important to take a stand for all victims of domestic abuse. This year, she was joined by her two daughters, ages six and eight, as she raised $1,510 – totaling $6,185 for Safe Passage to date. “Donations came flooding in from my Eastern colleagues,” she said, including former students, the dean and the president, as well as many friends and family members.

As a professor and the department chair of sociology, domestic violence has a heavy impact on Bergstrom-Lynch – something undoubtedly amplified by what happened to Wiley. At just 20 years old, Wiley was kidnapped from campus by then-boyfriend Jermaine Richards, whom she had planned on breaking up with as a result of his unhealthy, possessive behaviors. Following her disappearance, Wiley was found dismembered in the woods a month later. Having gone through two mistrials, Richards was finally convicted in September 2017.

“My senior seminar students brought Alyssiah’s mother, Corinna Martin, to campus in fall 2013 to talk to an overflowing audience in the Student Center Theater about the loss of her daughter,” Bergstrom-Lynch stated. “She moved me deeply.” Tragically, Wiley’s sister – Chaquinequea Brodie – and nine-year-old niece were also murdered this past August. Brodie’s boyfriend is believed to be the perpetrator, again demonstrating the severity of domestic violence cases.

Brodie was the vice president of Mothers of Victim’s Equality (MOVE) Inc., a nonprofit group established by her mother to provide dating and domestic violence education. In a similar fashion, Bergstrom-Lynch stressed the significance of promoting awareness and discussing these issues that are often deemed “private” in a public way. “All of us know someone who has been impacted by intimate partner violence, and many of us have experienced it ourselves,” she said. “If anyone sees red flags, either in their own relationship or in friends or family members’ relationships, I want them to know that there is hope out there, and there are safe places to go.”

This year’s Hot Chocolate Run collected a total of $615,000 for Safe Passage, with 6,000 runners and walkers in attendance. “Alyssiah meant a lot to many people at Eastern, and her memory lives on,” Bergstrom-Lynch concluded, having completed another successful race. She encouraged students to seek assistance if needed. Options for support include Eastern’s Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT) and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), which has a 24/7 telephone line at 888-774-2900.

Eastern Hosts DACA Event

Eastern students viewing an informational poster at Social Action Day.

Eastern students viewing an informational poster at Social Action Day.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The current national debate on immigration policy — in particular the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order issued by President Barack Obama in 2012 — was the focus of an event at Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 14 hosted by social work students.

The students’ annual Social Action Day was held in the Betty R. Tipton Room in the Student Center. Titled “DACA 411,” the event was the result of a collaborative effort of social work students taught by Professors Isabel Logan, Paul Trubey and Pamela Chiang. Local community members were also invited to attend.

DACA was an executive order signed by Obama in June 2012 to grant temporary protection to eligible immigrants who entered the country as minors and received a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. The policy also allowed the students to obtain work permits, drivers’ licenses and attend college. They are frequently referred to as “Dreamers,” a reference to the Dream Act, first introduced in Congress in 2001. While it has been debated and frequently reintroduced since—as recently as this fall — this legislation to provide a legal path to U.S. citizenship for millions of immigrants has not been passed.

Eastern student panelists speaking at Social Action Day.

Eastern student panelists speaking at Social Action Day.

In early September 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was rescinding the Obama-era policy, pending a six-month delay to give those students whose DACA status was set to expire before March 2018 one month to submit an application for renewal. There are approximately 800,000 students covered under DACA in the United States; more than 100 attend Eastern.

Without legislative action to provide permanent protections to these undocumented students, they face deportation to countries they have no memory of, nations they have never considered home.

Featured speakers at Social Action Day included State Rep. Susan Johnson, who represents local District 49; Attorney Edwin Colon, director of the Immigrant Children’s Justice Project at the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford; and community activist Renato Calle of the Connecticut Working Families Party. The event also featured two DACA students enrolled at Eastern —Political Science major Yenimar Cortes ’19 and Computer Science major Estefanny Perez Hernandez ’20.

“What we want is for people to have the support from everyone in the community in terms of a clean (immigration) bill with no unfortunate actions, no building of the wall,” said Colon.  “Last week there were a number of acts of civil disobedience around the United States, protests in Washington and even in Hartford. Everyone is anticipating that this will be hard-fought effort. I know this is not going to come easy – we are hopeful but cautiously optimistic about the future. This issue hits very close to home for many.”

Colon, who is also a faculty member at Capital Community College in Hartford and the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, provided a legal aid van through the Center for Children’s Advocacy for students and local community members during the event. The mobile office provides free legal consultation and representation related to immigration issues.

“That people are having to constantly live in fear is not a way to run a country or state,” said Rep. Johnson. “We need to be able to support undocumented people without criminalizing them,” added Calle.

“The word ‘Dreamer’ comes with a narrative that you are an immigrant and a student with a high GPA – a ‘good’ immigrant,” said Cortes. “It tends to indicate that all others that are part of the immigrant community are ‘bad’ immigrants even though they sustain, work hard for their families and contribute to our community. I prefer to call myself undocumented instead of being classified as DACA.”

“DACA was a little bit of hope. I qualified for DACA, but by the time my sister came of age it was already being repealed,” said Perez Hernandez. “We lost everything that we had gained. However, the current issues are also bringing us together. Events like this educate people on the topic — we feel connected. I feel included here.”

Students from the Social Work program presented topics such as “DACA Policy, Now and Then” as well as “State Responses to DACA,” and hosted a mock debate and a discussion of the results of a student survey on DACA that was circulated among Eastern students. Attendees were also given the option to sign petitions to be sent to members of the U.S. Congress and Connecticut General Assembly.

Preparing for the Social Action Day event was an eye-opening experience for the social work students. “I learned about how hard it is to create a policy, especially when it comes to DACA, and then to see the abolition of the policy,” said Brooke Unikewicz ’20, a student in Trubey’s class. “I have been inspired and have been spreading my knowledge to anyone who doesn’t know about DACA. One thing that surprised me was the amount of people who supported the abolition of DACA when we circulated the survey – I expected there would be no one who wants to get rid of the policy.”

“The students were very engaged in several areas including the research study to assess the familiarity and knowledge of the DACA issue on campus,” said Trubey. “These social work students are learning the importance of standing up for social change and against social injustice. The students in the course embraced this challenge and put together an informative program.”

Social Work student Hanna Levesque ’19 of Bristol said, “I hope that the overall message people took away from our Social Action Day is that, above all else, Eastern cares, and we are trying to help our fellow colleagues, friends and loved ones enrolled in the DACA program feel protected.”

Professor Logan concluded, “I think that my students were definitely empowered and I think they took away more knowledge on a topic they were already passionate about.”

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.