Eastern Presents Ella T. Grasso Awards

Written by Dwight Bachman

Left to right, Kinesiology and Physical Education Professor Anita Lee, educator Leigh Jones-Bamman and honor student Valerie Vance ’17.

Left to right, Kinesiology and Physical Education Professor Anita Lee, educator Leigh Jones-Bamman and honor student Valerie Vance ’17.

Willimantic, Conn. –Eastern Connecticut State University presented its 2017 Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards on March 29 to student Valerie Vance ’17, Kinesiology and Physical Education Professor Anita Lee and retired educator Leigh Jones-Bamman. The awards recognize individuals who work to promote women’s rights and gender equality, and are given in memory of Ella Grasso, who became Connecticut’s governor in 1974, the first woman in America to be elected as governor in her own right.  Previous women governors had succeeded their deceased husbands to gain the office.

“Ella Grasso noted years ago that there were no ‘foremothers’ among the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, only ‘forefathers,’” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “She saw it as a problem, and more than 40 years later, it is clear that we haven’t learned our history lesson. With a majority of our students at Eastern being females, we are graduating a powerful group of intelligent young women each year to assume their place in the halls of business, government, medicine, law and other professions. If we had more women in leadership positions…the world surely would be a better place.”

Vance, who won the student award, is a mother and veteran of the U.S. Navy. She earned an associate’s degree from Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, and is pursuing a bachelor of arts in sociology at Eastern. Vance is due to graduate with honors this coming May. She has a minor in gender studies and has taken a number of courses on racial and socioeconomic equality. Vance was honorably discharged from the Navy, earning the Armed Forces Expeditionary and Humanitarian Service medal during her enlistment.

Lee, winner in the faculty/staff category, joined Eastern in 2008. After showing outstanding skills as a classroom teacher, she was awarded tenure in 2014, and in fall 2015, began working as special assistant to the dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies for a two-year term. Lee has been a strong contributor to academic life at Eastern, ranging from serving on campus committees to participating in the strategic planning process and developing academic courses and programs. Lee has also led several national and regional committees in coaching education, measurement and evaluation in exercise science and student research. Lee earned her bachelor of arts in physical education and recreation studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. Both her MS in recreation management and her doctorate of physical education are from Springfield College.

Jones-Bamman, winner of the community award, received a bachelor of arts from Stanford University, a teaching credential from San Jose State University and her master’s degree from Central Connecticut State University in community psychology. Her career has focused on K-12 education, starting as a teacher in California, Oregon and Washington. Due to her interest in violence prevention, she worked at The Governor’s Prevention Partnership in Connecticut, providing training to schools in peer mediation, conflict resolution, mentoring and bullying prevention. She also chaired a committee of the Association for Conflict Resolution that developed national standards for school-based peer mediation programs. Jones-Bamman currently volunteers at Eastern’s Women’s Center and Unity Wing, the Windham Area Women and Girls Fund and EASTCONN’s adult ESL class in Willimantic.

Wildaliz Bermúdez, an advocate on energy, health care, legal aid and Latino issues in the Hartford mayor’s office, delivered the keynote address. Bermúdez encouraged students to set goals and to never give up on pursuing them.

Strong Showing for Eastern at Northeast COPLAC Conference

Madeleine Haynes ’17, an environmental earth science major, presents "A Comparison of Arsenic Distributions in Groundwater for Study Sites with Similar Hydrogeologic Conditions" at the conference.

Madeleine Haynes ’17, an environmental earth science major from Willimantic, presented “A Comparison of Arsenic Distributions in Groundwater for Study Sites with Similar Hydrogeologic Conditions” at the conference.

Written by Michael Rouleau

North Adams, MA — Twelve students from Eastern Connecticut State University presented their research and creative activity at the Northeast Regional Research Conference of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) on Oct. 21–22. Hosted by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), eight colleges in the COPLAC consortium participated in the undergraduate conference.

Eastern at COPLAC (002)“We are here to showcase and celebrate the talent, insight, collaborative spirit and inquiry of students from our COPLAC campuses in the Northeast and to recognize the support and guidance they receive from their dedicated faculty,” said MCLA President James Birge. “This conference provides a supportive venue at which students can present and discuss the results of their undergraduate research with their peers and faculty members from other COPLAC institutions.”

Eastern students represented a variety of majors, including biology, psychology, visual arts, theatre and education. Their research topics spanned antibiotic discovery, gender and attitudes toward casual sex, optimism and heart rate, the role of those with siblings who have disabilities, and more.

“Undergraduate research is one of the best aspects of an Eastern liberal arts education,” said Carmen Cid, dean of Eastern’s School of Arts and Sciences. “It provides our students the ability to develop their talents in a meaningful and successful career path. Those who present at COPLAC represent the leaders of tomorrow for Connecticut.”

Established in 1987, COPLAC is dedicated to the advancement of high-quality liberal arts education in a public college setting. COPLAC represents a distinguished sector in higher education consisting of 30 colleges and universities in 28 states and one Canadian province. Eastern is Connecticut’s designated public liberal arts university and joined COPLAC in 2004.

The Courant Names Eastern a 2016 Top Workplace

Written by Michael Rouleau

Top Places LogoWillimantic, CT — For the fifth time in the past six years, the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With 961 employees, Eastern ranked fourth in the “large” category, and was the only higher education institution to be recognized among 61 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 18 in the Hartford Courant.

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by WorkplaceDynamics LLP, a research and consulting firm that has compiled top employer lists for some of the nation’s largest media outlets. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations.
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.
Survey statements included: “This company operates by strong values and ethics”; “I have confidence in the leader of this company”; “I have the flexibility I need to balance my work and personal life”; for example.

“We are honored to be recognized as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “While Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our campus has always prided itself on its sense of community and for being a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, their families and the community-at-large. This announcement is a wonderful reminder that Eastern is a great workplace for our faculty and staff and I am delighted that we were among those recognized.”

Eastern Jumps Seven Places in U.S. News and World Report Rankings

Written by Ed Osborn
US News and World Report-FlagsEastern Connecticut State University moved up seven places among regional universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 edition of “Best Colleges” to 85th overall; Eastern was also tied for 26th place among public universities on the list. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 13.

Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities, and this year’s ranking was Eastern’s best ever.

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.

US News and World Report-Campus Scene“I am gratified to see Eastern achieve its highest ranking ever in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to academic excellence, our focus on student engagement and the introduction of new majors have resulted in strong scores for such criteria as academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources and alumni giving. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These new rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a quality, affordable liberal arts education on our beautiful residential campus.”
US News and World Report- Residential Halls ExteriorThis year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,374 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. 4.

Eastern to Host Series of Events around Election 2016

Written by Edward Osborn

Democracy at Work LogoWillimantic, CT — As the 2016 election cycle moves into its post-Labor Day countdown, Eastern Connecticut State University has created a series of education events and programs designed to highlight the issues surrounding this year’s elections.  The series is titled “Democracy at Work” and features more than 25 events and activities focused on various aspects of the campaign.
Democracy at Work Schedule of Classes

“Our faculty have worked hard to create a set of events that speak to different perspectives on our democratic process,” said Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas, who chaired the faculty planning committee.  “And while our students are always the focus of anything we do on Eastern’s campus, all these events are free and open to the public and we encourage people from the community to join us.”

The election series kicks off with a panel discussion of national media experts on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. in Fine Arts 103.  Panelists include Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute; Tim Murphy from Mother Jones; and Fernando Pizarro of Univision.  The panel will be moderated by Lucy Nalpathanchil of WNPR.

On Oct. 4, the schedule continues with a live viewing and discussion of the vice presidential debate in the Student Center Theater, beginning at 9 p.m.

On Oct. 5, “Events under Tents” will take place throughout the day on the Webb/Library Quad, and will include voter registration, campaign organization tables, poetry readings and historical games with prizes.  “Events under Tents” will be back all day on Oct. 6.

On Oct. 5 from 3-4 p.m., as part of Eastern’s “University Hour” series, students will conduct a mock presidential debate in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room in the J. Eugene Smith Library.

Later that day, from 5:30-6:45 p.m. in Fine Arts 115, a reception and discussion will take place on “Visual Democracy: Political Cartoons from the Election,” a visual exhibit of election-related political cartoons that will be on display from Oct. 4-Nov. 2.

Also on the evening of Oct. 5 is “The Immigrant Project: A Multi-Media, Oral Story-Telling Performance” in the Studio Theater of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, beginning at 7 p.m. A second performance will take place on Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.

On Oct. 6, the Connecticut League of Women Voters will host “Election Media: Debates, News Coverage and Social Media” in the Student Center Theater, from 11 a.m. to noon.

Throughout the day on Oct. 5-7, Eastern faculty will be conducting “Open Classrooms” on a variety of topics; the public is invited to attend.  Topics include political advertising, the use of social media in election campaigns, gender and civil rights in politics, protest music, gerrymandering, and much more.

For a complete listing of open classrooms and other “Democracy at Work” events, visit http://www.easternct.edu/democracyatwork

Youngest Nobel Prize Winner Inspires Eastern Students

Eastern Connecticut State University students and alumni traveled to hear Malala Yousafzai speak in Providence, RI, on July 28. Yousafzai is a Nobel Prize winner who travels around the globe inspiring and encouraging women through her talks.

“Yousafzai advocates for equal educational opportunities, which fits right along with the mission of Eastern’s Women and Gender Studies program — to advocate for the elimination of all oppressions,” said Eastern alumna Erin Drouin.

After girls in Pakistan were banned from attending school and other cultural activities such as dancing and watching television, 15-year-old Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban by speaking out on Pakistani TV and other media outlets. “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” she asked.

“I personally have never had to deal with any barriers to being educated in regards to my gender,” said Drouin. “Getting to hear not only her experiences but the ones she’s encountered through her philanthropic work was eye opening.”

Yousafzai used anonymous blogging online to bring attention to life in the Swat Valley under Taliban rule. One day a Taliban member fired three shots at her on the school bus and wounded her. After being airlifted to the United Kingdom, people all over the world offered their support. Once she had recovered from her injuries she returned to school and published her first book, an autobiography titled, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” She was later awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

“For someone who is so young, Malala has accomplished so much,” said Drouin. After being the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Yousafzai said, “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”

Students in the Women and Gender Studies program at Eastern learn about the achievements and activism of women and other historically underrepresented groups as they consider the ways in which gender and other identities shape social experiences in a liberal arts context. Women’s and Gender Studies has grown into an interdisciplinary academic program that analyzes how all lives are shaped by gender and other forms of identity. Eastern is the only public university in Connecticut that offers a major in this field. Eastern students in the program think about social change in informed ways and develop an intellectual community that integrates a range of experiences.

Eastern Named a 2016-17 College of Distinction

CoD_Yearly_Badge_16_17_500px

Innovative application of high impact educational practices at Eastern Connecticut State University has earned the school recognition among the nation’s Colleges of Distinction. Eastern students earned college credit and valuable life experience while participating in study abroad programs in 17 countries, as well as through service learning, undergraduate research, and internships.

“We’re so happy to recognize Eastern for developing skills relevant to graduates’ lives,” said Tyson Schritter, executive editor for Colleges of Distinction. “High student engagement in college is one of the keys to a successful undergraduate education. With an increasing emphasis on hands-on learning techniques, Colleges of Distinction applauds Eastern for practicing methodologies that prepare students for their futures.”

Schools must demonstrate results across four distinctions—Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community, and Successful Outcomes. High school counselors and educators make nominations, and each school is evaluated on key indicators including student engagement, student empowerment and curricular innovation. Colleges that have distinguished themselves in each of the four distinctions and that have demonstrated dedication to enriching student outcomes through innovative learning opportunities are then invited to join Colleges of Distinction.

The annual process to select the nation’s Colleges of Distinction also includes a review of each institution’s freshman experience, as well as its general education program, strategic plan, and alumni success and satisfaction measures.

“Colleges of Distinction is more than an annual ranking of colleges and universities. We only include colleges that offer every student a holistic and valuable experience,” said Schritter. “The Colleges of Distinction have earned solid reputations for serving their students and nurturing success. Like Eastern, our member schools provide the affirming undergraduate experience every student deserves.”

To view Eastern’s profile or to find more information about the innovative learning experiences it offers, visit CollegesofDistinction.com.

 

 

Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Hartford, CT — More than 13,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 12, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,130 undergraduates and 70 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 125th Commencement exercises.

Award-winning author and distinguished Eastern alumna Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’01 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of her honorary degree. Adichie graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001 with a degree in Communication. She was also awarded Eastern’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.

Adichie is the author of a collection of short stories, “The Thing around Your Neck,” and three novels. Her latest novel, “Americanah,” was published in 2013, earning recognition as one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. Last month, Ms. Adichie was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

In her remarks, she told the graduates that she cherished the bachelor’s degree she received at Eastern. “You are very fortunate to have received your education at Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, where professors are keen to see you succeed.”

Adichie recalled that when she graduated 14 years ago, “I had doubts and worries. ‘What next?’ was the question on my mind. You are worried today just as I was. You should be worried, because it shows that you care.  It is okay not to have all the answers.”
In concluding her remarks, Adichie encouraged the graduates to “make an effort and speak the truth.  It is okay to say, “‘I am wrong’ or ‘I don’t know.’  Life on Earth is short.  Each moment that we are not truthful to ourselves, we are wasting our time on Earth.”

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; attorney David Jimenez, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles; and Matthew Hicks ’15, 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.
Nunez told the audience that this year’s event was Eastern’s 125th Commencement Exercises. “Our campus has grown from four rooms to more than 50 buildings on 82 acres and a campus footprint of almost two million square feet.  In 1891, we graduated 22 students; today we have almost 1,200 graduates, and we are closing in on 30,000 alumni.”

Turning to the graduates, Nunez told them, “Our nation and the global society we live in are looking to you for leadership.  As you embark on your career, take care of yourself, take care of your families, but make sure that you take time to help others when you can. You will find that supporting and helping others strengthens you.  As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “‘From caring comes courage.’”

“Amidst your joy and celebration, I ask you to spend some time today in reflection—please step back for a moment to think about your past four years, what you have learned, and what you are taking from Eastern as you continue your journey.”

Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez—an annual Class of 2015 scholarship—and said the Commencement ceremony “symbolizes more than just earning a degree. It exemplifies the goals we have accomplished through personal growth, strength and ambition.”

David Jimenez spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  “Today is a significant milestone in your life,” he said, “for which you should be incredibly proud. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference. Pursue your goals with the same dedication that brought you to this day.”

In his Senior Class Address, Matthew Hicks said, “To be here is no small feat, each of us has sacrificed a great deal of time and energy to walk across this stage.” Noting that he and his classmates had endured a challenging four years at Eastern and “have come out critical thinkers, determined activists, and dedicated leaders,” Hicks concluded his remarks by saying, “Let us enter this new (challenge) with our heads held high, ready to take what we have learned here and change the world, and most of all, let us never forget the amazing people and memories we have made while discovering who we are.”

Other graduates were reflective in describing their Eastern experiences.  English major Kathryn Shpak, a native of Oxford, CT, said her time interning for the English Department, as well as her student employment job in the Office of University Relations, helped develop her writing and editing skills, which she hopes to use in the fitness/nutrition industry.

Jonah Sanchez, from Newington, majored in business administration minored in accounting and business information systems. For the past three years, Sanchez served as a Benefits Finance intern with United Technologies. Sanchez says Eastern has helped him grow in many ways. “Being a part of and serving as president of the Organization of Latin American Students has opened up many doors for leadership and networking opportunities. Also, on campus job opportunities have been plentiful. I have worked as a resident assistant and a program assistant in the Intercultural Center. I like the fact that Eastern allows it’s students to be active and involved around the campus.” After graduation, Sanchez will begin full-time with United Technologies as an associate in the Financial Leadership Program at United Technologies.

Aaron Daley, from Bloomfield, majored in political science and minored in business information systems and pre-law. “My liberal education helped me to enhance my critical thinking skills, and built up my confidence; I now know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to achieve.”

First Annual CREATE Conference a Success

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern students present undergraduate research projects at recent CREATE conference.

Willimantic, Conn. – CREATE (Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern), the premier undergraduate research and art conference at Eastern Connecticut State University, held its inaugural event on April 17 and 18. By providing exemplary students of all majors an on-campus venue to present their research and creative work, CREATE was the culmination of the 2014–15 academic year, as well as the beginning of a new era.  “This is a very dynamic and action-packed event, balanced in subject matter, presentation type and departments represented,” said Professor Dickson Cunningham, co-chair of CREATE, during the opening remarks. “It’s an interdisciplinary forum where we can all learn from each other, so we encourage everyone to attend multiple presentations and see what your classmates and colleagues have been up to.”

The two-day event showcased approximately 170 student projects, including oral and poster presentations, art and photography exhibits, video and documentary viewings, and live music and dance performances.

“Why is CREATE important?” asked Cunningham. In addition to contributing to the intellectual richness of campus and raising external perceptions of Eastern, he pointed out that for some students, CREATE is “the culmination of their undergraduate career,” and that they should “feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.”“Hopefully this will inspire other students to present and to develop mentor relationships with faculty,” Cunningham concluded.

Attendees peruse the undergraduate art exhibition at recent CREATE conference.

The CREATE conference marked the merging of Eastern’s two previous end-of-year academic conferences: the Excellence Expo and the Arts and Sciences Research Conference and Exhibition. “The merging of these two separate conferences took a lot vision, time and work,” said Provost Rhona Free, pointing out the campus-wide efforts that led to the creation of CREATE, and the hard work of the conference’s organizational committee. “It takes a very strong and dedicated student to produce this quality of work, and it’s important for other students to see this output,” said Free. “It takes a committed and skillful mentor to guide students to the work that is on display.”

Free concluded the opening remarks with presentations of this year’s two Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Mentor Awards. Meredith Metcalf, environmental earth science professor and mentor to graduating senior Laura Markley, was the first recipient. In her nomination, Markley mentioned how Metcalf provides guidance that makes her students’ research valid, while still allowing them to maintain ownership over their project.

Miriam Chirico, English professor and mentor to graduating senior Renee Drouin, received the second award. “A good mentor teaches others to mentor as well,” said Chirico. “Another aspect of mentoring is pushing students to be their best.”

For the following two days, students, family and members of the Eastern community at large browsed the conference’s many presentations in the Science Building and Student Center, and enjoyed a reception and catered breakfast and lunch. From presentations on forensic accounting and cyber security, to West African dance and opera performances, to eclectic artwork and photography exhibits, all sectors of Eastern academics were on display.

Unrecognized Historical Figure’s Story Gets Revived

Written by Kathryn Shpak

Willimantic, Conn – Award-winning author Susan Campbell came to Eastern Connecticut State University on March 4 to share the story of Isabella Beecher Hooker, an important figure who had been excluded from the pages of history.

As a former columnist for the Hartford Courant, Campbell was assigned the task of digging up facts on Isabella, the unknown, forgotten Beecher sister.  While her co-workers had the privilege of writing about Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister Catharine, Campbell was landed with the challenge of learning about their sister Isabella, who was largely unknown.

After researching, writing a column, and then publishing a book, Campbell developed a passion for sharing Hooker’s story.  Once it became clear to her just how important this historical figure actually was, it bothered her that Hooker was pushed aside and called crazy.  Campbell not only wrote a book to revive her story, but she also continues to visit many schools and tell it.

Campbell said that Hooker was an excellent writer and a strong advocator for women’s right to vote.  She and her husband presented a property bill to the Connecticut General Assembly in 1870 which would provide married women with property rights, however; the bill was initially rejected.  She continued to reintroduce the bill each year, until it was finally passed in 1877.

Though some of Hooker’s writing could have been published and could have brought her success and notoriety, she wound up doing something that caused her siblings to turn on her.  She stood up for her brother’s wife when she came out with information that he was not an innocent minister or a good husband.  This action caused Hooker’s siblings to call her crazy, and she was viewed as such from then on.

After spending the majority of her life fighting for women’s rights to vote, Hooker died before the 19th amendment was passed and never got the opportunity to vote.