Education for Democracy at Eastern

•Rick Battistoni leads the conference's keynote discussion

Rick Battistoni leads the conference’s keynote discussion

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its second annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 8. to dissect the practice of “service learning” and its impact on students and society. Service learning is a mutually beneficial teaching strategy that aligns classroom learning with community efforts. Organized by the Center for Community Engagement, the conference featured insights from Eastern faculty and students – Rick Battistoni, who teaches public/community service studies at Providence College, was the keynote speaker.

•Professor Terry Lennox presents on her class's service learning work with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

Professor Terry Lennox presents on her class’s service learning work with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

“Why connect classroom to community?” asked Terry Lennox, digital art and design professor. She had three answers: Working in the real world accelerates the learning process. Secondly, when students can see their impact, they realize the value of their work. Thirdly, service learning is great for portfolios and resumes.

For several years, Lennox has led the Eastern Design Group (a capstone course for seniors) on digital design projects with local nonprofits and community organizations. Among their endeavors, students have designed a permanent exhibit at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, as well as created designs for a gala at Windham Hospital and the nonprofit Grow Windham.

•An Eastern student presents on her service learning work with the Windham Region No Freeze shelter.

•An Eastern student presents on her service learning work with the Windham Region No Freeze shelter.

Speaking to service learning in general, Lennox added, “students benefit by increasing their depth of pre-professional experiences, as well as gaining the reward of successfully working together and seeing their individual talents bring about positive change.”

Communication Professor Denise Matthews has taught a video field production course for 14 years, in which students produce videos for local organizations. “While the quality of the work is very important,” she says, “the experience that students acquire in the process of working as a professional with a client may be the most important component of their learning experience.”

Business Administration Professor Fatma Pakdil brings her students to collaborate with local businesses to analyze operations management topics. “We focus on their business problems and projects so students can see the real-life application of topics covered in the classroom,” she said. “Having a real case with various topics to work on is more challenging and informative, and shows students what they can expect after graduation.”

Keynote speaker Rick Battistoni took the stage for his talk, “Community or Political Engagement? Educating for Democracy in Troubled Times.” “Our current political landscape is full of craters and our discourse has become more polarized,” he said, adding that “voter turnout is abysmally low, especially among college-aged people, for a country that I like to think of as a democracy.”

Battistoni is confident that well-implemented service learning in higher education can counter this civic disengagement, saying that “community engagement is indeed education for democracy.”

In order for this to come to fruition, however, Battistoni says service learning must satisfy three things: purpose, accountability and time.

He explained that classroom goals must clearly align with the goals of the community partner (purpose); the impact must be measured (accountability); and the programs must be long enough to develop meaningful relationships and knowledge (time). “It must be sustained and developmental,” he said, “not just a one-and-done.”

This concept of “time” aligned with the conference’s opening presentation on Eastern’s soon-to-be-formalized Civic Action Plan, which aims to “institutionalize” the practice of service learning. The plan will expand service learning and community engagement opportunities at Eastern; create an academic minor in civic engagement; develop a committee on community-engaged teaching and learning; and reinforce the practice by recognizing and rewarding service learning achievements.

“Eastern has always had a longstanding relationship with the community; it just hasn’t always been organized,” said Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement, which acts as a bridge between the campus and the surrounding community. “This plan broadens and refines the work that’s already been happening on campus.”

 

Eastern Celebrates Veterans Day

•Members of the Natchaug River Young Marines led the presentation of colors.

Members of the Natchaug River Young Marines led the presentation of colors.

Written by Michael Rouleau

The campus community at Eastern Connecticut State University came together on Nov. 10 in celebration of Veterans Day. The heartfelt ceremony featured remarks by university dignitaries and distinguished guest Lt. Colonel Mark Tallo of the Connecticut Army National Guard.

“Right now, from Danbury to Danielson, from all of Connecticut’s 169 towns, young men and women are serving to protect our liberties,” said Tallo, who is the director of the Counter-Drug Task Force and a 21-year veteran. “Today is a tribute and a celebration.”

•Lt. Colonel Mark Tallo was the ceremony's distinguished guest

Lt. Colonel Mark Tallo was the ceremony’s distinguished guest

“Our admiration to those who commit themselves to the ideals of military service should be unflanking,” said Father Laurence LaPointe of Eastern’s Campus Ministry.

“We are a nation in turmoil,” said LaPointe, acknowledging today’s political and social divides. “However, within the armed forces you find a microcosm of the nation as a whole. There are those from all over the world, from every faith, represented in the military.”

Expanding on the diversity that exists within the armed forces, Walter Diaz, vice president for student affairs, added that nearly 50 percent of the women who serve in the U.S. military are Latina or African American. Forty percent of the military population overall are people of color.

“About three percent of Americans have served in the military,” said Diaz, who took a moment to thank the hundreds of veterans and active service members who study or work at Eastern. “The rest of us are protected by only a fraction of the population.”

Tallo focused his talk on the origins of this national holiday. Veterans Day coincides with Armistice Day, he explained, which first occurred in 1918 upon the conclusion of World War I. The agreement, or armistice, was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

November 11 is not to be confused with Memorial Day, emphasized Tallo. “Memorial Day is a day of somber silence, a time to remember the fallen. Veterans Day is a time of triumph, a celebration of our vets and the liberties they preserve. Other than Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday.”

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.

Mars: Sound Art Installed at Eastern

Mars ArtistWritten by Casey Collins

Sean Langlais is not your everyday contemporary artist. Rather than use canvas or clay, Langlais prefers to craft his art from metals and sound. In collaboration with the Department of Art and Art History, Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting an exhibition by Langlais titled, “Mars: A Sound Art Installation.” Showing from Oct. 6 to Dec.7, “Mars” is the first exhibition of its kind on Eastern’s campus. An opening reception was held Nov. 2.

Students listen to the tickting of Langlais' "sound art.":

Students listen to the tickting of Langlais’ “sound art.”:

When visitors enter the exhibit, they see a wall of metal that resembles a panel off a space shuttle rather than a piece of art. The exhibit can best be described as what Langlais calls “the ever-growing and complex relationship between organic processes in nature and newly emerging products of technology.” The display was created from 100 industrial panels, each rigged with a magnet and light-absorbent materials.

Upon closer inspection of the glimmering wall it becomes easier to understand what Langlais means. As the panels are hit with different degrees of light, each produces different sounds that mimic the static noise of nature. If you visit the art gallery during the day when it may be empty, you can hear the fair humming and whirring that comes from the simultaneous swinging of the magnets. It’s almost as if you were transported into the depth of the wilderness, with nothing but the faint chirp of insects surrounding you.

Langlais has always been fascinated with sound art. Since he was 15 years old he has considered himself to be a tinkerer, playing with and creating new things from materials that would come to form the basis of his art. He also loved the outdoors, and found himself amazed at the complexity of simple aspects of nature such as water hitting a shoreline. Admittedly, he didn’t think he was creating sound art for many years, insisting that he was simply creating from his imagination and desiring to figure out how the world operates. “I’m painting my own painting of what I see as nature,” Langlais said, “and the nature I see today is technology.”

Mars Artist WorkThe Art Gallery is located in Room 112 of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus. Gallery hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 11 to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 1-7 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. Parking is available in the Cervantes parking garage and in the Student Center parking lot. For more information regarding this and other exhibitions at The Art Gallery, please call (860) 465-4659 or visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery.

Preserving Indian Culture at Eastern

Matika_WilburWritten by Jordan Corey

According to the National Congress of American Indians, there are 562 federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, nations, pueblos, rancherias, communities and Native villages in the United States. Matika Wilbur – member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes of Washington – founded her photography mission “Project 562” to give each one of these groups honest representation. On Nov. 1, Wilbur came to Eastern Connecticut State University to tell their stories to help the University celebrate National Native American Heritage Month.

Upon entering the Student Center Theatre, attendees were met with a projected photo of a young Native American girl kneeling next to a tree, depicted in color against a black and white background. The girl is Bahazhoni Tso, a Navajo of New Mexico. She is pictured in front of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ – part of the Navajo people’s four sacred mountains. Tso sat with her family in peaceful protest to protect the mountain range from the city of Flagstaff, which wanted to use reclaimed water to create man-made snow for a ski resort there.

Wilbur began her presentation with a lively energy, a booming laugh and an evident passion for her culture. “I come from the people of the tide,” she explained, incorporating Native language into the opening. During her explanation of the Tulalip Salmon Ceremony, Wilbur introduced the crowd to the word “tigwicid,” a means of expressing thanks. For the past five years, this pride in heritage has guided Wilbur all over America in her RV – nicknamed “Big Girl” – and so far, she has documented about 450 of the 562 federally recognized Indigenous groups.

Project 562 aims to not only replace outdated, stereotyped representations that are found about Indigenous people in online searches, but to provide an accurate visualization of Native Americans overall in order to combat the negative viewpoints upheld by society. Part of what drove Wilbur to this pursuit was her experience as a teacher at Tulalip Heritage High School, where a number of her students died of unnatural causes, such as suicide, drug use and homicide. “I’d have students in class with me, and the next day, we’d be putting them in the ground.”

She knew the Tulalip students struggled with various issues centered on the misrepresentation of Native Americans, but had nothing to show them how to counteract it. Nevertheless, Wilbur felt obligated to do something. Refusing to continue the promotion of historically inaccurate narratives, she created Project 562 to spotlight the successes and depth of Native people. Not only does Wilbur take their photos, but she asks her subjects a series of questions to gain insight on who they are. One person featured during her presentation was John Trudell, a Santee Dakota poet, musician, actor, author and activist.

“The only thing that the American Indian has ever known is struggle,” Trudell told Wilbur when she met him in San Francisco. He discussed the direction he would like to see Native Americans move toward, and his own role in that progression. In addition to Trudell, Wilbur highlighted a Hawaiian language teacher who talked to her about incorporating Indigenous linguistic structures into Standard English to create a sense of community, and a farmer she called “Uncle John,” who discussed the problem of sunscreen-ridden water in regards to growing kalo. Other photographs included college professors, ranchers and artisans.

Wilbur touched on the connection between identity and land for Native people, playing a Project 562 video of the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The video depicted peaceful protestors being sprayed with mace and attacked by dogs. “What we saw at Standing Rock,” she stated, “was an incredible violation of human rights without much consequence.”

The photographer argued that the current political climate surrounding Native Americans must be combatted in more ways than one, from creating welcoming spaces in society to further incorporating real representations, like those of Project 562, into educational environments. Wilbur concluded with a story of the Nisqually tribe and the fight to maintain their canoe-centric traditions, victorious in their efforts despite governmental backlash. “There can be great loss, but there can also be great resurrection,” she said.

Renowned Scholar to Speak at Eastern

Written by Dwight Bachman

Pedro Noguera PHOTOWillimantic, CT—Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as faculty director for UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools, will lecture at Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 14. The event begins at 9 a.m. in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center

Noguera’s scholarship and research focuses on ways that schools and their students are influenced by social and economic conditions and demographic trends. Noguera serves on the boards of many national and local organizations and appears as a regular commentator on educational issues on CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio and other national news outlets.

Prior to joining the faculty at UCLA, Noguera served as the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University and the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools; the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and as professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also the director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change.

Noguera has also served as a trustee for the State University of New York (SUNY). In 2014, he was elected to the National Academy of Education. He recently received awards from the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences, the National Association of Secondary Principals, and the McSilver Institute at NYU for his research and advocacy efforts aimed at fighting poverty. Noguera served as a classroom teacher in public schools in Providence, RI, and in Oakland, CA, and continues to work with schools nationally and internationally as a researcher and advisor.

Noguera has published more than 200 research articles, monographs and eports on topics such as urban school reform, conditions that promote student achievement, the role of education in community development, youth violence, and race and ethnic relations in American society. His work has appeared in multiple major research journals.  He is the author of several books, includingCity Schools and the American Dream”;  “Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation’s Schools”; “The Trouble With Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education”; and “Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving from Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap” with A. Wade Boykin. His most recent books are “Excellence Through Equity” with Alan Blankstein and “Race, Equity and Education: The Pursuit of Equality in Education 60 Years After Brown” with Jill Pierce and Roey Ahram.

Eastern Career Week

career fair 2017Written by Casey Collins

 WILLIMANTIC, Conn. —Eastern Connecticut State University is dedicated to preparing its students for the professional world ahead, and career development activities are a big part of that effort. Career Week was a series of activities and seminars from Oct. 23-25 aimed at helping students prepare for life after eastern. It was sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD). The week-long event included seminars, activities and a career and internship fair with 78 regional and national businesses in attendance.

Beginning with a resume building workshop, students were guided through the process of writing and formatting their resumes to professional standards. With free food and drinks provided, the coordinators of the event made comfortable while lending a helping hand in fine-tuning their resumes.

The next event on the schedule was the career fair boot camp. For this seminar, students were given helpful tips about the world of business by volunteering professionals, including Eastern staff as well as members of the Men Achieving Leadership Excellence and Success club (M.A.L.E.S.). The discussion included pointers on everything from how to dress professionally, what mannerisms you should avoid using, and even how to stand or sit correctly during an interview.

Perhaps the most interesting topic of the entire seminar series was how to perform a “power pose”. One of the speakers took to the front of the room and asked all students to stand up. He then guided them on different poses to maintain before, during and after an interview, including keeping your back straight, the angle to keep your arm at when shaking hands and even flexing your muscles every now and then.

The week concluded with the career and internship fair. This was the proving ground where students utilized their new skills. When the doors opened, a flood of students in pressed suits and colorful dresses entered the room, all armed with their own assortment of portfolios, folders and business cards. Some of the most notable companies in attendance included insurance companies such as Travelers, Bankers Life and H.D. Segur, both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, as well as public service agencies such as Norwich Public Schools and the West Hartford Police Department.

While students of all majors were encouraged to attended, the most sought-after majors included accounting, business administration, communication, education and finance. For the next few hours, students engaged with the companies in casual conversation, discussing everything from where they were from to their personal goals. Those who were well prepared were often asked for their resume, a sign that good things could be on the horizon.

Senior Stephanie Hartnett, who attended the event as both a student and as a representative of Eastern’s Office of Alumni Affairs, described the day as “real successful.” She added, “It’s great to see so many students come out and want to make something for themselves; you can only hope everyone gets a chance at a job.”

At the end of the day, nearly 400 students attended the fair. Those who enjoyed the experience will not have to wait long for their next opportunity, as the CICD will host their next Career Week on April 5, 2018 from 1-4 p.m. in spring 2018.

Eastern’s Day of Giving is Nov. 22

DAY OF GIVING 2017-FILEEastern Connecticut State University’s 11th annual Day of Giving will occur on Nov. 22 in Hurley Hall. The event is open to Willimantic residents who might not otherwise enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. The meal will be served from 12-2 p.m.

The major community event-which served more than 700 guests last year-is a collaboration between Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the Office of Institutional Advancement and Chartwells, Eastern’s food service provider.

The festive spread of Turkey, stuffing and all the traditional fixings will be donated by the ECSU Foundation and Chartwells. Chartwells staff will donate their time to prepare the food and decorate the dining hall. More than 50 volunteers from the Eastern community-students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university-will serve food, provide transportation, welcome guests, lead children’s activities and clean up.

During the four weeks leading up to the Day of Giving, the CCE will conduct food drives at area grocery stores. Donations will go to the Covenant Soup Kitchen and other local food pantries. Upcoming drives include the Willimantic Food Co-op on Nov. 4 and 5; Bob’s IGA in South Windham on Nov. 11; Stop & Shop in East Hampton on Nov. 12; and Stop & Shop in Uncasville on Nov. 18 and 19. Volunteers will collect items from 10am to 2pm on each day.

Last weekend’s food drive, which took place at the Canterbury Better Value Super Market, 575 food items totaling 702 pounds were collected, along with $96 in cash donations.

Additionally, collection boxes have been placed throughout the Eastern campus in residence halls, classroom buildings and administration buildings. Last year, 859 food items were donated on campus; the goal for this year is 1,000 items.

‘Alcohol Monologues’ at Eastern

Alcohol_Monologues Written by Jordan Corey

An estimated 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. College students account for approximately 1,825 of these deaths. To stress the negative effects of alcohol abuse, Eastern Connecticut State University held the “Alcohol Monologues” on Oct. 25.

Mimicking the “Vagina Monologues” – an episodic play by Eve Ensler that addresses women’s issues such as sexual experiences, body image and reproduction – the “Alcohol Monologues” was composed of anonymous stories read aloud by students. The stories conveyed the different, and serious ways that alcohol can have an impact.

The testimonies were written by students of Nanette Tummers, kinesiology and physical education professor at Eastern, who collaborated with Eastern’s Sandra Rose-Zak, coordinator of the Office of Wellness Education, to bring the event to campus. “We invite you to consider the effects of alcohol in your own lives,” Rose-Zak said in her introduction to the program.

With brutal honesty, the nameless narratives covered a range of alcohol-driven incidences. While a handful of the stories incorporated humor – one story recounted getting arrested in a Fred Flintstone costume on Halloween – many were depressing and emphasized the consequences that come with drinking too much.

A recurring theme, for example, was the recollection of sexual assault. Multiple students wrote of waking up in bed with another person and no memory of what happened. Others remembered everything, conscious of being taken advantage of in a vulnerable state. Somebody even addressed concerns that they had administered unwanted sexual advances, drunkenly kissing people at a party, according to their friends. “I was a little scared,” the student said.

Another common issue was violence, with “monologues” coming from the points of view of victims and perpetrators alike. At the age of 15, one student was jumped by a group of intoxicated people and stabbed, and another wrote of punching somebody in the face when he should have walked away from the confrontation.

Other points brought to light were feelings of social isolation in those who choose not to drink; embarrassing behavior when under the influence; legal and financial repercussions; familial disconnects; lack of academic success; strain on romantic relationships; mental health complications; and in severe cases, fatality.

Rose-Zak herself presented an account describing a woman whose son died at college as a result of binge drinking in a fraternity house. The woman went to the school after receiving the devastating call at 8 a.m. While the idea of viewing her son’s body was difficult enough, the reality was unsettling. “What she didn’t expect to see,” Rose-Zak read, “was the word written across his forehead: ‘loser.'” His fraternity brothers had labeled him after he passed out, partying on, unaware that he would never wake up again.

Ensemble Shines at Eastern

Ensemble conductor FaceWritten by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Providence-based new music and multimedia consort Ensemble / Parallax brought its avant-garde flavor to Eastern Connecticut State University last week as part of the school’s “University Hour” series. Conducted by Peyman Farzinpour, the award-winning instrumental group performed on Oct. 18 in the concert hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, with five musicians in attendance — Orlando Cela (flute), Lisa Goddard (violin), Yoko Hagino (piano), Kevin Price (clarinet) and Nara Shahbazyan (cello).

Ensemble conductor 1The ensemble opened with Arnold Schoenberg’s “The Chamber Symphony No. 1,” a piece that quickly picks up pace and showcases a scattered collection of sounds. Making its premier in 1907, the composition highlights “the point at which harmony begins to break down,” according to Farzinpour. It set the stage for 12-tone and atonal pieces in years to come, known for its intricate and specific essence.

This proved to be the perfect gateway into Ensemble / Parallax’s feature performance, a rendition of Enno Poppe’s “Gelöschte Lieder.” Before playing, Farzinpour and each musician discussed some of the piece’s defining elements and how its varying components work as a whole. Inherently complex, it experiments with different pitches and tones. “It pushes the envelope in terms of what Poppe’s asked the musicians to do,” Farzinpour said.

To better show the contrasting instrumental parts that make up the entire piece, the group addressed sections individually before coming together for the final product. Shahbazyan, for instance, touched on the particular hand positioning needed to play her part, which was written in treble clef, a relatively uncommon occurrence for cello. Continually, Hagino commented that while she does not have any special piano techniques, she has to mindfully keep rhythm with the rest of the ensemble, despite having what seems like such an isolated part.

Farzinpour led into “Gelöschte Lieder” by telling the audience, “Some of you might be thinking, ‘What melody? What are you talking about?’” but nonetheless assured them that, complete with its tempo and volume changes, lulls and clutters and scattered instrumental bits, it serves as a noteworthy constituent of musical history. Consequently, the piece has become an integral part of Ensemble / Parallax’s mission to create a platform for living composers and visual artists, specifically to be heard and seen in collaboration with one another.