Alyssiah Wiley Basketball Tournament Aims to End Relationship Violence

Wilye's mother, Corrina Martin, speaks during the tournament's intermission.
Students host tables in the Student Center that quiz passersby about their knowledge of relationship abuse.
Corrina Martin poses for a photo with the tournament's winning team.
The student organization Fashion Forward put on a mini fashion show.
Eastern graduate Ashon Avent served as master of ceremonies.


Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a 3-on-3 basketball tournament on Oct. 9 to honor former student Alyssiah Wiley. The event featured an array of activities aimed at raising awareness of relationship, dating and intimate partner violence—Wiley was an Eastern student in 2013 when she was murdered by her boyfriend.

Wiley’s mother, Corrina Martin, spoke at the event. She is the founder and president of the nonprofit organization Mothers of Victim Equality. Throughout the afternoon, informational tables were laid out in the Student Center to create a “journey to awareness” and the Sports Center lobby was lined with resource tables.

To honor Wiley’s reputation as a fashionista, the event also featured makeup demonstrations and a mini fashion show by the student organization Fashion Forward, aimed at female empowerment.

Event organizer Brenda Westberry, a lecturer in the sociology program, said that men were a target audience for awareness-raising event. While both men and women are victims of relationship abuse, national statistics indicate that males perpetrate intimate/sexual violence at a far greater rate than their female counterparts.

The College Dating and Abuse Poll shows that girls and women between the ages of 16–24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—nearly triple the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that violent crime is a growing problem, with an increase from 2.7 million reported incidents in 2015 to 3.3 million incidents in 2018. In that time, the number of victims of rape or sexual assault rose from 204,000 to 347,000.

Table one of the "journey to awareness" was dedicated to Wiley's memory.
Brenda Westberry (left) introduces Corrina Martin and her family during the opening ceremony.
The student organization Fashion Forward put on a mini fashion show.
Students hosted resource tables in the Sports Center lobby.


“I’m talking to the males in the room,” said Martin during the tournament’s intermission. Martin has lost two daughters and a granddaughter to abusive male partners. “The hardest thing a parent can do is bury their child. Even harder is when you don’t have a child to bury,” she said, referring to the disappearance and dismemberment of Wiley. 

Martin called for men to be sensitive, informed partners. “Take a stand. Don’t worry about masculinity or coming off as weak. Worry about being a good partner.” She added, “Don’t just play this game (basketball). Visit the tables, learn the signs, be proactive. If nothing else, learn the signs of relationship violence.”

One initiative of Mothers of Victim Equality is to implement a national violent offenders registry. Martin said that one of her daughters’ murderers had a record in one state but not in Connecticut. “We need a national registry, not just individual states,” she said. People’s interested in signing a petition in support of a national registry can visit and search “National Violent Offenders Registry.”

Throughout the tournament, students perused tables, learned about the local sexual assault hotline (1-888-999-5545), reviewed offerings at Eastern’s Women’s Center and explored other resources. They learned about Wiley, a psychology major who went by the nickname “Lele.” With the influence of social media and cell phones, they learned about the subtleties of digital abuse. Participants also wrote letters to survivors of domestic violence. A quiet room in the Student Center was reserved for a labyrinth where visitors could contemplate and reflect.

Event organizers and Wiley’s family hope to make the Alyssiah Wiley End Relationship Violence Basketball Tournament an annual event. Sponsors included the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work and the Office of Equity and Diversity.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Stamford NAACP Honors Eastern Social Work Professor Eunice Matthews

Left to right, Stacey Close, Eastern’s associate provost and vice president for equity and diversity; Sen. Richard Blumenthal; Eunice Matthews, Denise Rodriguez, lecturer in the Department of Social Work; Shirley Matthews, sister of Eunice Matthews and professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University; and Isabel Logan, assistant professor of social work, congratulate Matthews.

On Sept. 27, at the NAACP’s Annual Freedom Fund Dinner, the Stamford NAACP presented Eunice Matthews, professor of social work and coordinator of the Social Work Program at Eastern Connecticut State University, its prestigious Dr. Joyce Yearwood Humanitarian Award.

The award is given to an individual who is a premier advocate for fairness, justice and equality in the community in health care, employment, housing, education or voting

Naomi Chapman Taylor, left, and Guy Fortt, Executive Committee members of the Stamford NAACP, present Professor Matthews with the rk and coordinator of the Social Work Program at Eastern Connecticut State University, its prestigious Dr. Joyce Yearwood Humanitarian Award.

rights. The award recognized Matthews for her work as a clinician providing mental health services for two decades to adults and adolescents in southern Connecticut. 

Several dignitaries were on hand, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who praised Matthews, saying, “Dr. Yearwood was a personal friend who I loved and greatlyrespected for her diligence in enhancing the lives of others. I thank you, Dr. Matthews, for the wonderful work you have done so effortlessly and continue to do in transforming the lives of so many people in Stamford and beyond.”

Matthews secured her first faculty appointment at Fordham University’s School of Social Services. She joined Eastern in 2000, and helped develop Eastern’s nationally recognized Social Work program. In 2001, she also began serving as a clinician at the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, and as a consultant for the Healthy Families New York in South Bronx, NY, where she served for 15 years.

Matthews continues to contribute to the intellectual discourse in her field, serving on the board of directors of the Southern Conference of African American Studies and the Council of Social Work Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Morgan State University; her master’s degree in Social Work at Columbia University; and her Ph.D. in Sociology at the City University of New York. 

Eastern Named to Princeton Review’s 2020 ‘Best Colleges’ Guide

Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized by in the Princeton Review in its “2020 Best Colleges” guide for the Northeast region. Featured schools were chosen based on survey results from 140,000 students across the country. Eastern was praised for its small class sizes, close-knit campus community and affordability. 

Home to 5,200 students annually, Eastern students come from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, along with 29 other states and 20 other countries. The 16:1 student to faculty ratio encourages group discussions and teamwork. Eastern offers 41 majors and 59 minors, with a liberal arts curriculum that’s rooted deep in the school’s mission to provide students with a well-rounded education. Eastern was also ranked among the top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2020 Best College ratings.

Eastern also offers 18 NCAA Division III sports teams, more than 90 registered student organizations and 17 honors societies. Eastern’s athletic mission is to emphasize values such as diversity, sportsmanship, health, wellbeing and equity. Eastern hosted its annual President’s Picnic and Student-Club Fair. In spring of 2019, more than 50 percent of Eastern students participated in at least one club. Clubs with the highest membership last semester were Eastern Outdoors Club, Freedom at Eastern and People Helping People. Eastern is also home to student services such as the Womens Center, LGBT support groups and minority support groups. Eastern was awarded the ‘Green Campus’ Status by Princeton Review for the ninth year in a row in fall 2018.

Written by Molly Boucher

Courant Names Eastern a ‘Top Workplace’

For the eighth time the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With almost 1,000 employees, Eastern ranked 10th in the “large” category, and was the only public higher education institution recognized among 60 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 22 in the Hartford Courant.

“We are honored to be recognized once again as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern’s President Elsa Núñez. “Even though Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our university has always prided itself on being a close-knit community and a welcoming, inclusive campus for students, faculty and staff. The Courant’s announcement reminds us that Eastern is a stable, inspiring place for our faculty and staff to come to work each day, and a supportive learning environment for our students. I am very pleased that we were among those recognized.”

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by Energage, LLC, a research and consulting firm that has conducted employee surveys for more than 50,000 organizations. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations. This year’s Courant survey surveyed 29,000 employees across the state.

The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.

To honor all “Top Workplaces,” The Hartford Courant held its annual awards program on Sept. 19 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, CT, where it announced the top workplaces in each category.

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern a Top 25 Public Regional University in U.S. News and World Report

The class of 2023 gathered for a group photo during the Fall 2019 Warrior Welcome weekend–Eastern draws students from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns

 Eastern Connecticut State University is again the highest ranked institution among Connecticut’s four state universities in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s edition of “Best Colleges.” The 2020 rankings were released on Sept. 9.

This is Eastern’s highest ranking ever as it was ranked 21st among public universities in the North Region. Eastern moved up five spots among public institutions over last year’s rankings and moved up 13 spots when both public and private institutions were considered.

Under the mentorship of Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan, Roshani Budhathoki ’19 was selected for an undergraduate fellowship by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB).

.The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, and is known as the most competitive among the four regions that make up the U.S. News and World Report ranking system.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked based on 15 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, class size, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

“Given the uncertain times facing the higher education community, I am delighted to see Eastern achieving its highest ranking ever,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “This is a testament to our commitment to high standards and the faculty and staff’s focus on providing students with personal attention. Our improved ranking this year is due to our rising graduation and retention rates as well as the continued quality of our incoming classes.

 Environmental earth science students traveled to the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho this summer for a geology field course led by Eastern faculty.:

“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 upwards of 1,400 schools nationwide and are available at They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2020 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 15.

For the past 35 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.

Written by Ed Osborn

Jonathan Mooney, Author with Dyslexia, to Speak at Eastern

Jonathan Mooney, a dyslexic writer and speaker who did not learn to read until he was 12 years old, will speak at Eastern Connecticut State University on Sept. 11 at 3 p.m. in the Student Center at Eastern.

“Instead of flipping burgers, I ended up writing books, the first of which I wrote in undergraduate school at 23 years of age,” said Mooney, who graduated with honors in English Literature from Brown University. “Growing up, I faced a number of low expectations. I was told that I would be a high school dropout and end up in jail. Instead of becoming an inmate, I became an advocate, creating organizations and initiatives that help people who get the short end of the stick.”

For his work, Mooney has been named the recipient of the Harry S. Truman Fellowship for Public Services and named a finalist for a Rhoades Scholarship. Mooney has been featured on ABC News, HBO, National Public Radio, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune and USA Today, to name a few media outlets. 

“What I’m most proud of,” said Mooney, “is not that I proved wrong people who doubted me, but that I proved the many people — my mom, a teacher named Mr. R. my wife Rebecca — to be right, not just about my potential, but about the potential for all of us who live and learn differently.”

Mooney’s presentation is sponsored by the President’s Office, the Office of Equity and Diversity, Accessibility Services, the Division Student Affairs, and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Student-Professor Duo Presents at Symbolic Interaction Conference

Sociology Professor Nicolas Simon and student Tara Nguyen presented at the annual Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction Conference this past August.

Eastern Connecticut State University Sociology Professor Nicolas Simon and student Tara Nguyen ’21 presented and organized a session at the 2019 annual Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) Conference on August 9–11 in New York City.

They organized a session titled “‘The Next Generation’: Outstanding Symbolic Interactionist Undergraduate Papers,” which highlighted undergraduate research on the topic of symbolic interactionism — a theory that examines how humans impose their subjective meanings on objects, events and behaviors. To organize the session, Simon and Nguyen reached out to faculty members and students from colleges and universities in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. They also reviewed student applications and abstracts to determine who to invite to the session. The SSSI primarily features research by Ph.D. students and professors, so Simon and Nguyen’s session was a rare opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in the conference.

Nguyen, a sociology major, was among the undergraduate presenters. Her presentation was titled “Communities Unite: An Autoethnography of the Resistance to Gentrification in Chinatown, Boston.” Gentrification is a topic that Nguyen has been studying with Simon, her faculty mentor.

Nguyen’s research focused on social inequalities within the Asian American community through the lens of intersectionality and critical race theory—which consider how various social identities overlap in the context of race, law and power. She addressed the issue of gentrification in Boston’s Chinatown and discussed what activists are doing to fight it.

Professor Simon also presented at the conference during a session titled “Self and Object.” His presentation was titled “What are you wearing? The Symbolic Value of a School Logo.” His research focused on the concept of “symbolic value” and the relationships that individuals, groups and societies have with symbols.

Simon has been a member of the SSSI since 2011 and has organized other sessions for undergraduate students in the past. He noted that he wants to continue to promote the next generation of symbolic interactionist researchers and help other students as professors have done for him in the past.

“I think it is important to encourage students who want to go to graduate school to present their work at a professional conference,” he said. “The first time I went to the SSSI annual conference in 2011, I was invited by my professor, Dr. Clint Sanders at the University of Connecticut. I was his teaching assistant and took a course with him in the fall of 2010. He invited all of us to present our work at the SSSI annual conference. It was a terrific experience!”

Nguyen commented on her own experience at the conference. “The experience was intense, but very rewarding. I was glad to help give other undergraduate students the opportunity to present their research at a conference filled with Ph.D. students and professors.”

 She plans on continuing to research other topics related to social inequalities in the Asian American community and pursue a Ph.D. program in either education or social policy.

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Students Present at State Association of Social Workers Meeting

Left to right, Alex Casertano, Brittany Acevedo-Corona, Travis Walls, Marangely Diaz-Ortiz and Jimarie Morales

Eastern Connecticut State University students in the Social Work program presented their research during the 34th annual conference of the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter, held in Cromwell, CT, on May 3.

This year, Eastern students captured second and fourth place in the student research poster session, competing successfully against entries that included Master of Social Work students from the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University.

The conference is the largest annual state conference for social work practitioners, policy makers, educators and other related professionals, who gather to share their research, knowledge, latest practices, policy ideas and more.

Pamela Chiang, assistant professor of social work, serves as the group’s faculty mentor and led the students in their research presentations. In their year-long, original research projects, students selected topics of interest, created proposals, designed surveys, collected and analyzed data, and presented their findings.   

Student presenters included Alex Casertano and Marena Dees, whose presentation “Followers & Streaks: Does Social Media Use Boost the Self-Esteem in College Students?” won second place; and Britney Acevedo-Corona, whose presentation “The Impact of Emotional Abuse in Dating on College Students’ Self-Esteem” took home fourth place. Jimarie Morales and Marangely Diaz presented “Why Don’t You Call? Barrier to Child Maltreatment Reporting in a Financially-Disadvantaged Town,” and Travis Walls, Logan Cash and Olivia Donnelly presented “Knowledge of Opioid Use and Treatment among Willimantic Residents.”

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Alumna Onika Harry Recognized among ‘100 Women of Color’

Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Onika Harry ’03 of Windsor was honored last month at the 100 Women of Color Black Tie Gala and Awards ceremony hosted by June Archer & Eleven28 Entertainment Group – named for musician, author and motivational speaker June Archer. The gala recognized the contributions that women in business, education, entrepreneurship, entertainment and service have made to impact communities in Connecticut to Massachusetts.

Harry, a native of Guyana in South America, is passionate about giving to those in need. She has received several recognitions this year for her efforts, including citations from the Connecticut General Assembly and Connecticut Office of the Treasurer for positively impacting the lives of people in Connecticut. While at Eastern, she had a notable presence, participating in clubs and extracurricular activities, including tutoring.

“When I started at Eastern I didn’t know my purpose,” said Harry. “I was the first in my family to attend college, along with only being in the United States for four years at the time. Eastern led me to my purpose in life. There are many who assisted me through my journey, such as the faculty and administration. Those same individuals assisted in pushing me through adversities that I faced, allowing me to gain leadership principles and teach me how to handle conflict as I continue to grow professionally.”

In addition to working as an eligibility services worker for the Connecticut Department of Social Services in its Division of Eligibility Policy and Economic Security/Escalation Unit, Harry was appointed to serve on the statewide Affirmative Action Employee Advisory Committee. She regularly volunteers for the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford, where she helps low-literacy adults learn how to read, write and speak English.

With all of her achievements, Harry is humbled by her experiences. “I went from sharing my nightly dinner with my brother, which was served on the size of a salad plate, to now owning my own business and serving food abundantly.” Her knowledge about health and human service programs and the importance of perseverance have fostered a flourishing career path that is still evolving. Harry is in the process of obtaining her PhD in psychology from Capella University.

In the future, Harry hopes to become a college professor, author her first book and open a community center that provides resources for troubled youth. “Life is full of ups and downs. Use it as a tool to order your steps to success,” she concluded.

Through June Archer’s nonprofit organization, Concerned Citizens for Humanity, part of the proceeds from the 100 Women of Color Black Tie Gala and Awards event went toward scholarships for young women who graduate from high school and plan on attending college, leadership and mentorship programs. Contributions also promoted healthy living for women and supported groups that need funding for cervical and breast cancer research.

Written by Jordan Corey