Revelations Abound in Hawaii for Eastern Students

Photo by Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault.

Twenty psychology students expanded their worldview over winter session during a global field course in Hawaii. Titled “Cross-Cultural Well-Being and Relationships in Hawaii,” the course ran from Jan. 2–11. Students were immersed in the local culture and visited some of the island chain’s most breathtaking sites.

“This course was designed to provide an overview of cross-cultural issues related to well-being and relationships,” said Psychology Professor Madeleine Fugère, who led the trip with Professor Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault. “Aspects of well-being and relationships were examined from Western and native-Hawaiian perspectives.”

The Eastern students examined differences in attachment styles, social support, parenting, psychological disorders, personality and emotional expression, physical attraction, romantic relationships and compassionate love.

“I came to realize some of my own cultural biases,” said Danielle Gallagher ’20. “Being aware of these biases will enable me to interact better with individuals from a multitude of cultural backgrounds, which will not only help me in achieving my career goals, but in my daily interactions in general.”

The Eastern group volunteered at an ancient fish farm that is damaged by storms and invasive plant growth. They helped rebuild a portion of the wall that surrounds the pond, and cut and burned invasive mangrove. Photo by Madeleine Fugère.

One of the students’ most impactful realizations was how the native people relate interpersonally. “Hawaiians have a strong sense of family and community,” said Erica Mchugh ’19. “They call everyone cousin, uncle and other familial terms. Throughout our trip, many of the locals referred to us as cousins, even though we had never met them before.

“Hawaiians put a lot of emphasis on the ‘aloha spirit’ and treating everyone with kindness,” added Mchugh. “We’re not used to this concept in the Northeast. Most of the time we don’t think to stop and say hi to a stranger.”

Cooled lava from the eruptions of summer 2018 cover a roadway. Photo by Brianna Starkey.

What struck Brianna Starkey ’19 was how the natives regard members of the LGBTQ community. “Native Hawaiians have a much more accepting approach to individuals in this community, especially transgender individuals,” she said. “We learned that individuals who identify with both masculine and feminine genders are called ‘mahu,’ which means having the spirit of a male and female. These people are not judged as having something wrong with them like they often are in our culture.”

Another revelation was the people’s connection to the land, and their respect for volcanic activity. “We spent so much time in nature — restoring an ancient fish pond, exploring lava tubes, hiking the ancient petroglyph trail — it was impossible to ignore the respect for the land all around us,” said Gallagher, who remarked on the prevalence of signs reminding nature goers to be respectful of wildlife, as well as the cultural emphasis to live more sustainably.

“‘Pele’ is the goddess of the volcanoes, who is credited with creating the islands,” said Gallagher. “There is a lot of respect for Pele and her land because Hawaiians feel it is a gift that they are able to be there. There is no sense of entitlement or ownership over the land, but gratitude and respect toward it.”

Signs dot the Hawaiian countryside telling people to respect the land. Photo by Danielle Gallagher.

During a tour in which the Eastern group saw a road covered in hardened lava from the volcanic eruptions of summer 2018, the guide informed them that Hawaiians don’t divert the lava’s path, out of respect for Pele.

“This mindset was incredibly hard for me to relate to because there is a strong sense of land ownership in our culture and it’s rare to see such passivity in relation to natural events,” added Gallagher. “Our culture attempts to exert control over events as much as possible, rather than accepting and embracing them as they come.”

Another highlight of the trip was a volunteer project at the 800-year-old Pae Pae fishpond, which is a source of food for the locals but currently damaged by storms and the growth of invasive plant species.

The Eastern group also went on several excursions to sites such as Pearl Harbor, Puako Petroglyph Field, Rainbow Falls, Imiloa Astronomy Center, Volcanoes National Park, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Pu’uhonoa o Honaunau National Historic Park, and St. Benedict’s Catholic Church (Painted Church). 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern’s New PASS Program Offers ‘Academic Reset’ for Students

Academic advisors and study-skills specialists in Easterm’s Advising Center help students develop individualized action plans.

Eastern Connecticut State University is going the extra mile to ensure that African American and Hispanic students who end up on academic probation are provided the support they need to succeed. The new PASS (Promoting Academically Successful Students) program is funded through a $75,000 grant from the Connecticut State Office of Higher Education.

PASS recognizes that African American and Hispanic college students are often first-generation college students without college-educated parents to provide support and personal knowledge of what it is like to attend college. Trying to juggle supporting a family, working to pay for tuition, room and board, and books, and studying can be stressful. Adjusting to campus life is also a challenge. The result can be academic probation and can even lead to dropping out.

PASS is managed by Eastern’s Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning (CSEL) in collaboration with the Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD) and Eastern’s Advising Center. The program uses a hands-on advising model and an active career development program to inform students of available support services.

“While the PASS Program’s immediate goal is to return participants to good academic standing by the end of the semester, its ultimate goal is to reset how students perceive themselves academically and professionally so they put in place learning practices that will sustain them through to graduation,” said June Dunn, assistant dean in the Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning. 

Dunn says PASS helps students take charge of their own learning. “This is particularly crucial for first-generation students on probation who may not have family members or mentors who are college graduates to prepare them for college success. They have repeatedly heard it’s important to get good grades, and they will tell anyone who asks that their intention is to get good grades. What’s unique about Eastern’s PASS program is that we are putting in place the infrastructure that helps students internalize the connection between their education and career goals,” said Dunn.

PASS requires weekly mandatory advising sessions, skill development workshops, and group meetings for all participating students to review their schedules and make any necessary adjustments. Academic advisors and study skills specialists help students develop individualized action plans that may include more appropriate course selection and/or majors Students must show how they plan to keep up with coursework and meet professor expectations.

Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development helps students internalize the connection between their education and career goals.

The CICD also has an important role. “Participating students have to take the FOCUS 2 assessment, and then come into the office to meet with a career advisor to assess results,” said Cliff Marrett, CIDC director. “The assessment helps each students identify a major and explore career clusters that align with their interests. Students work with their career advisor and check in weekly after they complete their career development assigned tasks.”

Participating students also attend workshops on resume development, interviewing skills and dressing for success, and use interactive online job search tools and mentoring programs to connect to potential employers and alumni mentors.  “We believe this rigorous academic/career routine will ensure the motivation needed for students to come off and remain off academic probation,” said Dunn.

by Dwight Bachman

Students Gain Insights Abroad: Ireland and Greece

Mackenzie Seymour ’20 studied abroad in Ireland.

Chelsy Popo ’19 studied abroad in Greece.

Eastern Connecticut State University students Chelsy Popo ’19 and Mackenzie Seymour ’20 recently completed semesters abroad this fall. They studied in Greece and Ireland, respectively.

Popo, who majors in political science, believes that studying abroad is invaluable because it allows students the opportunity to see the world. “My coursework at Hellenic American University in Athens included a class called ‘Athens Across the Ages.’ Each session was held at a different location in Athens, so I was able to visit and learn about many of the ancient sites and museums, in addition to more modern locations in the city.”

The destinations Popo found most memorable were the Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens, as well as the island of Crete. She also enjoyed visiting Meteora, a rock formation in central Greece that hosts one of the largest, most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. She took side trips to London, Paris, Budapest and Amsterdam.

Mackenzie Seymour

“I never expected to study in Ireland, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Seymour, an accounting major. Like Popo, she visited nearby countries, such as Spain, England, the Netherlands and Italy, while exploring Ireland itself. “I had the most fun traveling within Ireland, to Galway, Dublin, Cork and the Ring of Kerry, a scenic route in southwest Ireland. It looked like a breathtaking painting — and has become my favorite place.” Seymour noted her appreciation for learning about unfamiliar cultures along the way.

Popo similarly found herself intrigued by the environment she lived in. “It was interesting to study in Greece as a political science major, since Athens is known as the birthplace of democracy and because of the current political climate.” Popo also enjoyed the Mediterranean climate and the warm, welcoming people she encountered.

Seymour said study abroad programs help students step out of their normal lives. “Many of us are used to a normal routine — it can be hard to change things,” she said. “I believe that it’s important to explore life and experience new things. I became more independent and mature because of my trip. I have returned to America a much stronger person.”

Chelsy Popo

Popo concurred: “Once I made up my mind to step outside my comfort zone, I learned so much about the world and myself. The experiences and connections have helped me become a global citizen.” She plans to study international or criminal law after graduating.

“I have become extremely grateful for my time at Eastern and am excited about returning to continue with my classes,” concluded Seymour, who wants to attend graduate school to become a certified public accountant. “The professors go above and beyond to assist students in understanding the subjects we are studying, and after studying abroad, I can say for sure that my favorite part of Eastern is the academics.”

Written by Jordan Corey

 

Eastern Represents at American Historical Association Annual Meeting

Cassaundra Epes ’19 and Dana Meyer ’19

Two students and three professors from Eastern Connecticut State University attended and presented research at the American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting in Chicago, IL, from Jan. 3–6.

Dana Meyer ’19 of Manchester and Cassaundra Epes ’19 of Baltic were two of 28 students meeting-wide selected for the poster presentation portion of the meeting, which occurred on Jan. 5. Meyer presented “Connecticut Revolutionary War Deserters: An Experiment in Digital History.” Epes presented “A Willing Audience: The Brown Book and the Enduring Power of Conspiracy Theory.”

Students with Professor Balcerski.

History Professors Thomas Balcerski, Anna Kirchmann and Joan Meznar presented papers and spoke on panels at the meeting. Kirchmann chaired a panel titled “Conflicted Loyalties and/or Pragmatism,” and presented her paper “Urban Renewal and the Response of American Ethnic Groups, 1949–74.”

Balcerski organized and participated in a panel titled “Writing Early Queer Lives: Authorial and Biographical Imperatives before 1900.” Meznar attended several panels on teaching the “World History Survey” and one on careers for history PhDs outside of academia.

“The annual meeting for the American Historical Association is the oldest and largest society of historians in the United States,” said Meznar. Speaking to Eastern’s students, she added, “It is quite an honor that two of our students were among the 28 students meeting-wide to be selected for the poster session. With the support of outstanding faculty mentors, our majors are engaged in high-caliber research that is showcased in top-tier professional conferences.”

The American Historical Association is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies. The AHA provides leadership for the discipline, protects academic freedom, develops professional standards, aids in the pursuit and publication of scholarship, generates innovative teaching, and supplies various services to sustain and enhance the work of its members. As the largest organization of professional historians in the world, the AHA represents more than 12,000 members and serves historians representing every historical period and geographical area.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Citizen’s Police Academy Exposes Eastern to World of Policing

Christopher Ambrosio, interim director of the Office of Student Conduct, is trained in breaching a door during the program’s “SWAT Week.”

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (12/13/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University students and staff recently expanded their law enforcement knowledge through an extensive program offered by the Willimantic Police Department (WPD). Eight students as well as Christopher Ambrosio, interim director of the Office of Student Conduct, completed the WPD’s Citizen’s Police Academy this past November.

Student Lucian Afragola is trained in using a Taser during “Use of Force Week.”

The nine-week course covered a variety of topics centered on police officer training. Each week focused on a different component, including traffic stops, the use of force, drug searches and more. Those in the program were able to assess mock crime scenes and practice firing non-lethal weapons. Three-hour classes were facilitated by officers each week.

“It was a pleasure having Eastern students in the class each week,” said WPD Detective Lt. Douglas Glode. “Most were interested in a career in law enforcement, and I hope this influenced them in some way. I think the class opened their eyes to the inner workings of a police department, which, for the most part, not many citizens get to see.”

Citizen’s Police Academy participants train in a WPD tactical space in Willimantic.

Criminology major Lucian Afragola ’20 agreed: “I gained much more insight into what it’s like to be a police officer. The course ranged from working with K-9 Units to riding in the department’s military vehicle. We were told at the beginning of the class it was going to be hands-on, and it did not disappoint.” Afragola hopes to become a police officer.

Ambrosio added: “Since the Office of Student Conduct works closely with law enforcement, the Citizen’s Police Academy was a great opportunity to see how they examine critical incidents that may involve our students.”

“This is such a wonderful accomplishment,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “It really binds Eastern to the law enforcement community in a positive way. These efforts show initiative and motivation.”

“For me, the most important takeaway from this program is that the police really do want to help the community and show people how law enforcement operations run,” concluded Afragola. “I highly recommend applying.”

The Citizen’s Police Academy is free, and applicants must be at least 17 years old when the course begins. Willimantic residents are given precedence. More information can be found at http://www.willimanticpolice.org/citizens-police-academy/.

Eastern Students Design for Access Agency

Eastern and Access Agency personnel peruse the students’ final poster designs at the project’s Nov. 29 unveiling at Access.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Ten graphic design students at Eastern Connecticut State University recently concluded a major project with the Access Community Action Agency in Willimantic. As part of Professor Terry Lennox’s capstone course “Eastern Design Group,” the students created 13 posters that graphically represent the agency’s 13 community programs.

The posters will live in the agency’s conference room as official representations of Access’ services, which include assistance programs for energy, food, housing and employment. The posters will also be used externally for fundraising and outreach events.

“How do we better tell our story?” asked Kathleen Krider, Access’ senior director of community engagement, at the poster unveiling in late November. “By working with Eastern students!” she exclaimed.

Eastern Design Group students and Professor Terry Lennox (middle, back row) stand before several of their final poster designs.

Krider reflected on an email she received this past summer from Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), in which local nonprofits and charities were invited to apply for service projects with Eastern students. Krider responded that Access could use assistance in the realm of marketing and branding.

Enter the Eastern Design Group. Each year, a new cohort of graduating seniors takes on a design-related project to serve an area community organization. This was Lennox’s 10th year bringing students into the community for such a project, and her first with Access.

Robert John ’19 stands before one of his two poster designs.

“We work exclusively on real-world projects, following the same protocol students will use as professionals,” she said. That protocol involves ongoing research of the client’s needs and mission, interviewing clients, determining timetables and maintaining communication throughout the design process.

“Working with a client isn’t as easy as one might expect,” said student Robert John ’19. “There’s constant back-and-forth, new ideas, changes and countless drafts. It’s difficult to meet everyone’s expectations, including your own.”

After receiving design input from Access program coordinators, each student designed 13 posters – one for each program – as well as numerous drafts and revisions. In the end, Access selected a poster from each student, with some students receiving multiple selections.

One of the challenges was navigating differences in artistic opinion. “Before this, all the art I’ve done has been what I like,” said Olivia DeForge ’19, who designed the poster for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). “If the client wants something changed, you have to do it even if you might not agree. This experience taught me how to interact with and take input from a client.”

Lennox agreed, “It’s all about meeting the client’s needs by translating your own creativity, skills and training.” She also pointed out the résumé- and portfolio-building aspects of this project.

“We wanted the posters to frame the programs from a wide lens,” said Krider. “That way, as the programs change, the posters remain applicable.”

Oivia DeForge ’19 stands before her poster design.

For instance, income guidelines for energy assistance may change from year to year. “If the content is too specific, it may become dated,” said Krider. “We’d like to keep these posters in circulation for several years.”

“I’m incredibly pleased with the end result of my work, as well as the work of my peers,” said John, who designed posters for the Rapid Re-Housing program and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program. “It’s satisfying knowing that something you created will benefit others for years to come.”

The Eastern Design Group was started by Professor Emeritus June Bisantz. Now, Lennox, as well as Professors Tao Chen and Lora Lee, regularly lead art students through community-related graphic design projects. Past projects from their various courses include designing print materials and exhibitions for the Commercially Licensed Co-operative Kitchen (CLiCK), Windham No-Freeze Project, Generations Family Health Center, Windham Hospital, Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and other Windham-area nonprofits.

Eastern’s Walter Diaz Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Walter Diaz, vice president for student affairs at Eastern Connecticut State University

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (12/10/2018) The Connecticut Association of Latinos in Higher Education (CALAHE) presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Walter Diaz, vice president for student affairs at Eastern Connecticut State University, at the CALAHE annual meeting on Dec. 7 at the University of Hartford.

The award was given in recognition of Diaz’s commitment to CALAHE’s mission and for his dedication to helping students achieve their academic potential.

Diaz has served Eastern in a variety of capacities since arriving on campus in July 1999. In addition to serving as the director of career services, he also served for two and a half years as acting director of the Office of Housing and Residential Life, before becoming the dean of students in 2010.

He has more than 30 years of higher education experience, having also served at Tunxis Community College, Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering, SUNY’s Institute of Technology, and the University of Connecticut, before coming to Eastern.

In his various capacities at Eastern, Diaz has implemented a number of innovative programs, including Haven training on sexual misconduct; “Tell Somebody,” a campaign to improve the reporting of student behavioral concerns; the Academic Performance Notification System; the Occupancy Management Group, which increased retention and occupancy rates for on-campus housing; the Warriors’ Cup to promote the campus culture; Friday After Dark, which provides weekend activities for resident students; the Priority Points System for preferred housing; and an expanded Cultural Calendar that has seen a 50 percent increase in diversity and social justice programs.

In addition to his administrative duties, Diaz is known around campus for his commitment to students. He has mentored hundreds of students as an advisor to the MALES and OLAS student clubs and through his support of the Unity Wing, STEP/CAP, and other University initiatives. Diaz has also provided leadership on a number of University committees, including as chair of the Enrollment Management Committee, the Professional Development Committee, and the SUOAF Minority Mentoring and Recruitment Committee.

He is also active in national organizations associated with student affairs professionals, including the American Association of Latinos in Higher Education; NASPA, the national association for student affairs administrators in higher education; and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. More locally, Diaz was a member of the Latino Endowment Fund of the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving, and is past vice president of CALAHE.

Diaz earned his bachelor’s degree at Central Connecticut State University, his master’s degree at the University of Connecticut, and his doctorate at Johnson & Wales University. In 2016, he completed a fellowship with the New Leadership Academy, coordinated by the University of Michigan on behalf of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education and the National Center for Institutional Diversity.

Eastern Announces Results of 2018 TIMPANI Toy Study

The stackable, magnetic, bottle-shaped “Magz Clix” scored highest for engaging children in mindful play and was named Eastern’s 2018 TIMPANI Toy of the Year.

Written by Ed Osborn

On Dec. 4, Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education announced that “Magz Clix” (previously known as “Bottle Clix”) by Magz® has been named the 2018 TIMPANI toy. TIMPANI stands for “Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination.”

Now in its ninth year, the annual toy study investigates how young children learn as they play with a variety of toys in natural settings. The toys were placed in preschool classrooms at the University’s Child and Family Development Resource Center, and student researchers used hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys. Faculty and undergraduate student researchers then coded the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization.

“The opportunities that Eastern undergraduates have to conduct faculty-mentored research are a strength of our liberal arts education,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The TIMPANI toy study is a wonderful example of the sophisticated nature of student research on our campus. For the past nine years, students from the early childhood education, psychology and other departments have observed children at play with a variety of toys. In the process, they have developed a criteria-based assessment of what toys are best for the cognitive, social and creative development of young children. Parents, preschool educators and others around the world are turning to Eastern for direction on how best to support children’s play. At the same time, our students are conducting empirical research of the highest quality.”

The 2018 TIMPANI researchers included (left to right) students Allison Lundy ’19 and Morgan Winship ’18, Professor Emeritus Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, CECE Director Julia DeLapp and student Dominique McLean ’18. A fourth student was involved as well: Nicole Green ’18.

For this year’s study, researchers also investigated how teachers introduce new play materials into their classrooms and the effects of those introductions on children’s play quality. To study that aspect effectively, it was important to select toys that had similar characteristics, so the researchers selected eight construction toys to study.

Magz Clix received the highest overall score in this year’s study and was the highest-scoring toy in the social interaction subscale. The toy includes colorful, magnetic, bottle-shaped pieces that can be connected side-to-side or stacked. Children were often seen stacking the pieces in very tall towers. According to Morgan Winship, a psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study, “That was a huge problem that they had to solve together. How were they going to get high enough to stack the pieces when the towers were taller than them? They needed to interact and help each other.”

Children were also observed using the Magz Clix to create microphones, rocket ships, and guitars with their peers. “It provided them the opportunity to express themselves open-endedly through object transformations and play narratives,” said Allison Lundy, another psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study. “I wasn’t expecting this toy to score the highest, because it didn’t really seem like there was much to do with them. But watching the videos, I was surprised to see the different ways that children utilized them.”

According to Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and retired Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, toys that appear simple to adults often inspire some of the highest quality play. “We’ve found over the years that toys that are quite basic and can be used in multiple ways do very, very well.” He also noted that like many construction toys, the Magz Clix consist of many small parts, which leads to more social interaction and problem-solving. “Children need to coordinate their activities with peers as they’re building with them.”

Notably, Magz Clix also held children’s attention over time. “With many toys, we see high-quality play the first day that it’s in the classroom, but then the play quality wanes over time,” said Julia DeLapp, director of the Center for Early Childhood Education and co-investigator of the study. “But with Magz Clix, we actually saw an improvement in the play quality the second week that it was in the classroom.” Magz Clix was also the highest-scoring toy for Hispanic children and for children from families with high levels of financial need.

Study co-investigator Julia DeLapp gave the opening remarks at the 2018 press conference.

The TIMPANI toy study provides undergraduate students at Eastern a unique opportunity to engage in primary research – an opportunity that ensures they are well prepared for graduate school and the workforce because of the professional experience that research projects provide. In addition to Winship and Lundy, two additional undergraduate students were involved in this year’s study: Dominique McLean, a psychology and early childhood education student, and Nicole Green, an English and elementary education student. April Doolan, a communication student, was the student editor for this year’s video.

The results of the study were first announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington, DC, on Nov. 14. Findings will be disseminated to preschool teachers nationally to inform their decisions about the toys to include in their classroom. Findings will also be shared with families. The investigation on how teachers introduce play materials will continue for another year; results are expected in late 2019.

For more information on TIMPANI as well as the 2018 video, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/. Contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687.

Previous TIMPANI toys include Animal Kingdom Mega Pack by Animal Planet (2017); Plus-Plus® by Plus-Plus® (2016), Wooden Cash Register by Hape (2015); Paint and Easel (easel by Community Playthings), and Hot Wheels Cars by Mattel (2014); Magna-Tiles by Valtech!, and My First Railway by Brio (2013); Duplo Blocks by LEGO (2012); Tinker Toys by Hasbro (2011); and Wooden Vehicles and Signs by Melissa and Doug (2010).

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Disclaimer: The TIMPANI toy study does not consider, nor does it test, the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy studied. Neither the Center for Early Childhood Education nor Eastern Connecticut State University is liable for any mishaps related to the use of toys mentioned in study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Eastern Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

Demonstrations of Native dancing by members of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes rounded out the Native American Heritage Day of Events on Nov. 13.

Written by Jolene Potter

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/28/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University held several events in commemoration of Native American Heritage Month in November. Events featured prominent figures and speakers from the local Native American community – including internationally acclaimed author and environmental activist Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe Tribe as well as Chief Marilynn Malerba of the local Mohegan Tribe. The celebration also included demonstrations of music, jewelry making and natural medicines.

There are currently 573 tribes recognized by the federal government according to The Bureau of Indian Affairs. All federally recognized tribes are sovereign and self-governing nations that maintain a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Each indigenous nation has a distinct history, language and culture.

Native American Heritage Month serves to educate the public about the challenges faced by Native people currently and historically as well as the ways in which tribal citizens and communities have worked to address these challenges.

There are two federally recognized Native American tribes in Connecticut – the Mashantucket Pequot Nation and the Mohegan Tribe. However, there are several other tribes, bands and communities in Connecticut that don’t have federal recognition, including the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe, Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Tribe and Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation.

Many Native communities are not recognized by the federal government, as obtaining federal recognition requires extensive documentation, which is particularly difficult for the many Native communities that have oral histories with little written down. Without recognition, communities aren’t eligible for certain services and have limited rights to self-governance. The Eastern Pequots lost their federal status on Oct. 12 (Columbus Day), 2005.

Author and activist Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe Tribe spoke with the Eastern community on Oct. 31.

The first event of Native American Heritage Month occurred on Oct. 31 and featured internationally acclaimed author and environmental activist Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe Tribe. LaDuke’s talk, “A Native Perspective: Sustaining Our Land, Recovering the Sacred,” explored how indigenous understandings of land, religion and sacredness influence strategies for a sustainable environment.

The current and historical territorial dispossession of indigenous peoples often goes hand in hand with natural resource exploitation. LaDuke discussed how the exploitation of natural resources threatens Native communities, as well as the necessity for utilizing renewable forms of energy. This exploitation often violates treaty rights, threatens the environment and contributes to climate change.

LaDuke is the executive director of Honor the Earth, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and financial support for indigenous environmental justice. The organization recently played an active role in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. LaDuke was also involved in stopping work on the Sandpiper Pipeline in northern Minnesota in 2015.

Eastern hosted Chief Marilynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe on Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Malerba is the 18th chief of the Mohegan Tribe and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. Malerba spoke of many issues affecting Native communities throughout the nation including land rights, voting rights, rates of poverty and unemployment, violence – particularly against women and children – suicide, drug and alcohol abuse rates, educational shortcomings and healthcare inadequacies. “American Indian activism is needed now more than ever,” she said.

Chief Marilynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe spoke with the Eastern community on Nov. 7.

Malerba focused on the tendency for Native communities to experience poverty and joblessness. Seventeen percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and 27 percent of all self-identified Native Americans and Alaska Natives live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

“The living conditions for Natives on reservations are often of poor quality,” said Malerba. “On many reservations the electricity is subpar, plumbing is subpar or nonexistent, the roads need renovating and the homes are overcrowded.” Malerba’s assertions are supported by data from the National Congress of American Indians, which states that 40 percent of Natives who live on reservations are in substandard housing, one-third of homes are overcrowded and less than 16 percent have indoor plumbing.

Eastern Pequot tribal members Natasha Gambrell ’15 and Valerie Gambrell ’77 (both Eastern graduates) spoke on Nov. 13 about the difficulties their tribe experiences with federal recognition.

Also discussed was the shockingly high rates of violence against women and children in Native communities. According to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, American Indians are the victims of rape and sexual assault at a rate more than three times higher than that of any other race in the United States. Furthermore, while the majority of survivors of sexual assault are victimized by a family member or intimate partner, American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence committed by a stranger or acquaintance outside of the tribal community, with 70 percent of perpetrators being non-Native. This creates unique challenges for tribal communities in adjudicating cases of sexual assault, leading to lower prosecution and a lack of justice for Native survivors of sexual violence.

Malerba also discussed the massive disparities in health care for Native Americans as compared to the general population. Although Native Americans are able to receive health care through Indian Health Services (IHS), like many other federal agencies that serve Native people, the IHS suffers from a lack of funding. As a result, one in three Natives are uninsured and lacking proper healthcare. According to the Center for Disease Control, Natives suffer from high rates of diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Another epidemic facing Native communities is youth suicide. According to U.S. Census data, suicide is the second most common cause of death for Native youth ages 15 to 24 – two and a half times the national rate for that age group.

“Maintaining a connection with their tribe lowers the suicide rate for indigenous youth, among serving them in other ways,” said Malerba. “The Indian Child Welfare Act is not highly regarded and indigenous children are still being displaced. This contributes greatly to an increased risk of suicide.”

Demonstrations of Native dancing by members of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes rounded out the Native American Heritage Day of Events on Nov. 13.

Malerba also stressed voter suppression as a major issue for Native communities. “Only about two percent of the U.S. population is made up of American Indian and Alaskan Native people,” said Malerba. “We can’t move mountains with elections. We need other people to care about and rally toward Native rights.” Some factors that contribute to voter suppression are lack of official addresses on most reservations and the distance of polling places from reservations.

Malerba ended her informative talk with an important lesson: “Have a large voice when you’re offered a seat at the table. Advocate for what you think is right.”

The month of recognition and celebration continued on Nov. 13 with the “Native American Heritage Day of Events.” Lessons in jewelry design were led by Natasha Gambrell ’15 of the Eastern Pequot Tribe. An interactive program featuring a variety of Native music was also held by Chris Newell, a singer and senior educator of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

Native American Heritage Month events were co-sponsored by the Intercultural Center, Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Institute of Sustainable Energy and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work.

 

Eastern Opens Arms to Willimantic with Annual Day of Giving

Hurley Hall was the venue for the Day of Giving

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/21/2018) More than 500 local Willimantic residents enjoyed an early Thanksgiving meal at the 12th annual Day of Giving at Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 21.

The Day of Giving is a collaboration between Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the Office of Institutional Advancement and Chartwells, Eastern’s food service provider. Turkey and traditional fixings were donated by the ECSU Foundation and Chartwells.

“The majority of the food is donated,” said Joe Salvaggio, senior director of Dining Services. “We start reaching out to our vendors in September and ask what they can do for donations. We have a couple repeat donors that provide to us every year. It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ event.”

CCE special events coordinator Sarah Tricarico, who was in charge of organizing student volunteers, commented that the lead-up to the Day of Giving is one of her favorite aspects of the event. She spoke on the importance of weekly food drives and the value of seeing donations go to those in need.

Amberlee Cubanski, the CCE student leader in charge of the event, said: “There are a lot of people who don’t have a hot meal on Thanksgiving. When they come here, there’s no discrimination, no judging. They can just come and have a nice meal. It’s really awesome to see everybody sit together, even if they don’t know who’s at the other end of the table.”

Staff from Chartwells prepared food and decorated the Hurley Hall dining room. More than 50 volunteers from Eastern, as well as a group from Putnam Public

More than 500 members of the Willimantic community showed up for the event.

School, served food, provided free transportation, welcomed guests, ran children’s activities and cleaned up.

Marisol, a member of the Willimantic community, praised the overall quality of the event. “I come every year,” she said. “It’s beautiful. It’s clean. The people are very polite. The relationship between Eastern and Willimantic is a good relationship.”

Interim Provost William Salka served stuffing at the food line – his first time with the Day of Giving. “People are very thankful, and we’re very happy to see them,” he said. “Eastern benefits so greatly from being in this community, it’s the least that we can do to give back.”

Sabrina Linares, Willimantic resident and Eastern student, highlighted the wholesome atmosphere of the occasion. “I bring my family with me. We get time to bond here.”

Tricarico concluded: “We continue to hold the Day of Giving because there’s need for it. To be able to offer people a good Thanksgiving meal… It’s great that we can provide that.”