Year-End Student Activity Enriches Campus

Fashion Forward. Photo courtesy of club.
Fashion Forward. Photo courtesy of club.
Fashion Forward. Photo courtesy of club.
Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT). Photo courtesy of club.
Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT). Photo courtesy of club.
Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT). Photo courtesy of club.
Natural Hair Club. Photo courtesy of club.
Natural Hair Club. Photo courtesy of club.
Natural Hair Club. Photo courtesy of club.
Key of She. Photo courtesy of club.

 

The end of the academic year is not only crunch time for final projects and exams, it’s also a busy time when Eastern’s many student organizations host year-end events. April and May have had a plethora of vibrant student activities, ranging from fashion shows to carnivals to Asian festivals. Below are a few of the clubs that are closing spring 2019 with a bang.

Fashion Forward held its annual fashion show on April 13 at Windham High School. The club aims to inform and educate Eastern students about the latest fashion trends.

The Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT) held its spring showcase on April 27 at Windham High School. The showcase featured originally choreographed pieces by club members. The club presented big-group pieces (30 or more people), small group dances (15 people), combos (3–6 people), duets and solos. The styles of dances included lyrical, modern, hip hop, jazz and tap. RDT presents a showcase every semester.

The Natural Hair Club hosted its first hair show on April 28 in the Student Center.  The club empowers and uplifts the natural hair community on campus by organizing events that focus on hair hygiene and maintenance, lifestyle tips, hair styles and hacks, skin care and more. “We recognize the trials and tribulations that come with having natural hair,” writes the club. “We want the Eastern community to take pride in their hair in its natural state. Culturally, everybody’s hair is different. We all should love our hair no matter the roots it comes from.”

The Music Society’s acapella group “Key of She” held its annual concert on April 26 in the Student Center. The club educates students about the different aspects of music and enhances the musical experiences of the Eastern community.

Springfest carnival. Photo courtesy of CAB.
Springfest carnival. Photo courtesy of CAB.
Springfest carnival. Photo courtesy of CAB.
Asian Cultural Society. Photo courtesy of the club.
Asian Cultural Society. Photo courtesy of the club.
Asian Cultural Society. Photo courtesy of the club.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz speaks at the College Democrats' "Political Intelligence" event. Photo courtesy of the club.
College Democrats. Photo Courtesy of the club.
College Democrats. Photo Courtesy of the club.
African Club fashion show. Photo courtesy of club.
African Club fashion show. Photo courtesy of club.

 

The Campus Activity Board (CAB) held its annual carnival and fireworks display on May 4. Featuring a Ferris wheel, scrambler and cotton candy, the carnival wrapped up Springfest, a week of festivities that included a dunk tank, virtual-reality roller coasters and other activities.  

The Asian Cultural Society celebrated “Holi,” a popular Hindu festival in India and Nepal that involves throwing colored powders and water in celebration of the start of spring. Hosted on April 29 on the Webb Lawn, this was the fourth year the club has celebrated the festival on campus.

The College Democrats hosted an event titled “Political Intelligence” in collaboration with the Quiet Corner Democrats on April 27. The event featured nine panels concerning topics such as immigration and gun control. Guests included Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Deputy Secretary of State Scott Bates, Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt, Senior Advisor of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection James Albis, State Senator Cathy Osten and State Reps. Susan Johnson, Greg Haddad, Mike Winkler, Pat Boyd and Pat Wilson Pheanious.

The African Club hosted a fashion show on April 27. The club promotes interest in the history, development and cultures of Africa, and organizes related service projects and events for the Eastern community.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Professors Davis and Graham Wrap up Spring Faculty Forum Series

Davis Presents on “An Elephant’s Eye View: Megafauna and Dominion in Southeast Asia.”

During the Punic Wars, Hannibal famously led an army of war elephants across the Alps.
Elephants at Hai Ba Tung Celebration in Vietnam 1957.
Elephants during military conflict in Vietman and Laos 1970s.

 

On April 17, Bradley Davis, associate professor of history, presented a talk titled “An Elephant’s Eye View: Megafauna and Dominion in Southeast Asia.” As a member of a multi-disciplinary team working on the history of elephant populations in Africa, Europe and Asia, Davis has worked with anthropologists, forest ecologists, and biologists to reexamine the cultural history of large animals and their relationships with plants and humans.

He said the more than 3,200 elephants in Southeast Asia over the years have been the center of tourism in the region and are also used for transportation. “Throughout the region, elephants are still the best source of transportation, often called “tractors that poop.”

Davis’ talk covered findings from recent archival research in Vietnam, including a case of death by elephant from the 1830s. He also cited the unique role of elephants throughout history when they served as “war machines” around the world. He and his colleagues, who began their interdisciplinary investigation in Singapore this past November, will continue with a meeting in Paris this summer. His work on elephants is part of his second book project, an environmental history of Vietnam, which he will complete during his sabbatical leave as a visiting fellow in the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University this fall.

Graham Discusses “The Roles of Evolving Landscapes, Ancient Waterways and Shifting Climates in Structuring Desert Arachnofaunas.”

 

Matthew Graham, assistant professor of biology, discussed “The Roles of Evolving Landscapes, Ancient Waterways and Shifting Climates in Structuring Desert Arachnofaunas” on May 1, wrapping up the Spring Faculty Forum Series.

Normally when one thinks of deserts, sand, cactuses and camels come to mind. Maybe, a rattlesnake too. But for Graham, it is scorpions and spiders. He has travelled to the American Southwest, to research these ancient species for years. It is why students, who have learned much about not only scorpions but big camel spiders and tarantulas too, affectionately call him “The Scorpion Man.”Graham said the rugged and varied landscapes of the American Southwest were shaped by a dynamic history of Neogene tectonics and Pleistocene climates. Mountains uplifted, rivers changed course, and climates fluctuated between the ice ages and warmer interglacial periods.

Graham’s talk summarized genetic data from scorpions, tarantulas and camel spiders to evaluate the impact of their history on shaping modern compositions and distributions of arachnids in our southwestern deserts.

Graham said scorpions have been around for nearly 400 million years. They can live in the hot, arid desert by secreting a wax over their exoskeleton that lets them live in dry environments. Some can construct burrow holes up to six feet deep.

Mitochondrial and nuclear data from scorpions and tarantulas suggest that arachnids diversified in response to changing landscapes and waterways. Shifting climates during the Pleistocene significantly altered the abundance and distributions of arid-adapted arachnid species.

Graham finished by presenting new genomic data that highlight the profound effects of recent climatic warming on arachnid distributions, especially in the Great Basin Desert.

Written by Dwight Bachman

‘Town Pride, Town Wide’ Beautifies Willimantic

With rakes and shovels in hand, students deployed across Willimantic on April 27 for the 11th annual “Town Pride, Town Wide” beautification event. Coordinated by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), 122 students volunteered 538 hours at 25 project sites during the day.

Students picked up approximately 750 pounds of trash and lawn waste at project sites including Windham public parks, churches, schools, nonprofit organizations and housing developments. Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Willimantic, spoke to students at the event kick off on the Eastern campus.

 

Town Pride, Town Wide is an opportunity for Eastern students to work closely with local community members and agencies to leave their mark on Willimantic. The event is a collaboration between the CCE and the Town of Windham.

“Every year there will always be more weeds to pull, more flowers to plant and more mulch to spread, but the bonds and relationships that are built throughout the community last a lifetime,” said CCE Director Kim Silcox. “Town Pride, Town Wide offers Eastern students and local community members alike the unique opportunity to take pride and ownership in our community.”

“Town Pride, Town Wide is exceptional in the way that it creates a truly special partnership between Eastern and the Willimantic community through beautifying the area in which we live,” said Sarah Tricarico ’18, special events coordinator for the CCE and a recent Eastern graduate. “It could not be possible without the willingness and enthusiasm of our community partners and students.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Biology Students Present at Annual ECSC Conference

Fourteen biology students from Eastern presented independent research at the 73rd Annual Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC) on April 6 at Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY. The students presented in oral and poster formats on topics spanning medicine and the microbiome. Professors Vijay Veerappan and Barbara Murdoch accompanied the Eastern group.

The conference featured approximately 150 students from institutions across New England. Two Eastern students—Lauren Atkinson ’19 and Haley Grimason ’19—won awards for best oral presentations.

Brieanna Fuentes, mentored by Professor Jonathan Hulvey, presents "Evidence for horizontal gene transfer of xenobiotic detoxification genes in a plant pathogenic fungus."
Lauren Atkinson, mentored by Professor Barbara Murdoch, won an award for best oral presentation for her research titled "Evaluating the scorpion gut microbiome for diversity and antibiotic production."
Haley Grimason, mentored by Professors Barbara Murdoch and Garrett Dancik, won an award for best oral presentation for her research titled "Development of Jupyter notebooks to facilitate Operational Taxonomic Unit identification and analysis of 16S rRNA sequencing data."
Anayancy Ramos, mentored by Professor Garrett Dancik, presents "Development of a PubMed Central citation collection tool and network analysis of cancer-related genes."
Stefanos Stravoravdis, mentored by Professor Jonathan Hulvey, presents "Analysis of the CYP51 paralogs and their potential role in differential sensitivity to fungicides in Calonectria pseudonaviculataandC. henricotiae."
Samuel Pallis, mentored by Professor Kristen Epp, presents "An analysis of the efficacy of varying sampling protocols for Necturus maculosus."
Roshani Budhathoki, mentored by Professor Vijay Veerappan, presents "Characterization of white and black seed mutants in the model legume plant Medicago truncatula."
Rebecca Laguerre, mentored by Professor Amy Groth, presents "Do ODD-skipped genes regulate ELT-2 expression in Caenorhabditis elegans?"
John Meade, mentored by Professor Barbara Murdoch, presents "The effect of simulated microgravity on the ability of primary cortical cells to produce neurons."
Greg Carlson, mentored by Professor Amy Groth, presents "Does the ODD-2 transcription factor regulate the Wnt signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans?"
David Junga, mentored by Professor Kristen Epp, presents "The effects of turbidity on respiration rate of bridle shiner Notropis bifrenatus."
Christopher Shimwell, mentored by Professor Barbara Murdoch, presents "Molecular identification of scorpion telson microbiome."

 

Speaking to these award-winning students and faculty mentorship, Veerappan added, “It took three years for the faculty to invest their intellect and time to nurture these students to win those competitive awards.”

The ECSC is an association that encourages undergraduate research within the sciences and engineering fields and provides a platform for students to showcase their findings and research papers.

Eastern Receives High Sustainability Rating by AASHE

In recognition of its sustainability achievements, Eastern Connecticut State University has earned a STARS Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) measures and supports sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

More than 10 years ago, Eastern made a commitment to become a carbon neutral campus by the middle of the 21st century. Eastern has worked steadily to reduce its carbon footprint and integrate sustainability into university operations, with five “LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings; the state’s largest geothermal system; a Sustainable Energy Studies Program; and opportunities for on- and off-campus sustainability internships.

In recent years, Eastern and Chartwells Dining Services have taken strong action to promote sustainability practices in the university dining hall by buying local foods, removing trays from the dining hall to reduce food waste, replacing all disposable take-out containers with reusable containers, donating excess food to the Covenant Food Kitchen, and converting food waste to biofuel and compost.

“I am proud of Eastern’s sustainability progress and the many initiatives led by our staff, faculty and students to earn the Silver STARS rating,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “In addition to the recognition, STARS helps us assess where we are with our sustainability efforts, how we compare to our peers and where the next opportunities lie.”

With more than 800 participants in 30 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Eastern has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Silver Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education, and the criteria that determine a STARS rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.

Eastern’s STARS report is available at https://reports.aashe.org/institutions/eastern-connecticut-state-university-ct/report/2018-12-31/. To learn more about sustainability at Eastern, visit www.easternct.edu/sustainability.

Written by Ed Osborn

Bio Department Hosts ‘Tiny Earth Day,’ Welcomes Local High School

Ellis Technical High School students listen to an Eastern biology major explain the process of isolating bacteria.

The Biology Department hosted a mini-symposium on Earth Day, April 22, to showcase its ongoing work with the Tiny Earth project, an international network of young scientists who are combatting the global threat of antibiotic resistance. The symposium welcomed students from Ellis Technical High School in Danielson and featured research presentations by biology majors.

The United Nations has named antibiotic resistance a global priority. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia. However, as antibiotics are misused – and new ones are slowly discovered – harmful bacteria develop resistances against them, rendering the medications ineffective.

An estimated 25,000 people in the United States die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, with an approximate 700,000 annual deaths worldwide. Researchers predict the death toll to rise to 10 million per year by 2050.

Through Professor Jonathan Hulvey’s General Microbiology class, Eastern students have joined scientists worldwide in the pursuit of new antibiotics by examining microorganisms found in soil. Why soil? Many of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics were discovered from “dirt,” including penicillin and vancomycin.

Highschool students from Ellis Tech have assisted in the effort by providing soil samples from locations across their high school campus. To date, Eastern students have cultured more than 60 antibiotic-producing bacteria from Ellis Tech as well as Eastern’s Church Farm property in Ashford. Hulvey and students are working on biochemical and genetic characterization of the bacteria before sending them to the Tiny Earth headquarters at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Eastern students are carrying out research to tackle the global problem of antibiotic resistance,” said Hulvey, “and this discovery-based learning approach has been an exciting and engaging framework for imparting marketable microbiology skills. Over the course of the semester, my students have worked on these soil samples, and their grasp of the techniques was on display during their lab demonstrations for the Ellis Tech students.”

The Ellis Tech participants are from the honors biology class of teacher Brooke DiFormato, a 2007 Eastern graduate. She mentioned how technical high school students are often expected to go into the trades, but this experience—and the experience of visiting Eastern—has shown some of her students that college is an option.

Stefanos Stravoravdis
Lauren Atkinson
Chris Shimwell

 

The event featured presentations by three biology majors. Stefanos Stravoravdis presented on fungicide resistance—a research interest of Hulvey’s with many parallels to antibiotic resistance. Lauren Atkinson presented on the scorpion microbiome, an ancient lineage (450 million years old) of microorganisms that has been exposed to many pathogens over the ages and likely contains antibiotic-producing bacteria. Chris Shimwell’s research has investigated the molecular ID of the scorpion telson microbiome — the telson is the segment of the tail nearest to the stinger.

The student-sourcing approach of Tiny Earth was first brought to Eastern’s campus in 2013 by Biology Professor Barbara Murdoch, who piloted the program via independent study. “I wanted to link my research to a larger global problem,” she said, “and to enhance the critical thinking, research and communication skills of our students.”

The goals of Tiny Earth include increasing public awareness of the antibiotic-resistance crisis, inspiring students to pursue careers in the sciences, and engaging them in the global priority of discovering new antibiotics. The program started in 2013 and now utilizes more than 10,000 students from 41 states and 14 countries.

Written by Michael Rouleau

‘Why,’ not ‘What’: Service Expo Honors Community Partnerships

CCE student leaders and staff at the Service Expo and Awards.

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its annual Service Expo and Awards on April 18. The event showcased the numerous service projects being spearheaded by Eastern students in the Windham community and featured a keynote address by Ryan Matthews, director of community programs for Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and executive director of the Susie Foundation. The event concluded with an award ceremony for outstanding projects and individuals.

Hundreds of Eastern students volunteer thousands of hours in the Windham area every academic year. At the expo, student leaders staffed posters describing more than 50 community programs spanning a variety of causes — working with children in afterschool programs, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, assisting the elderly at a rehabilitation center and more. Judges perused the displays, questioning students and ranking the projects according to different criteria.

Jenna Petitti volunteers at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), helping to lead all-recovery meetings. “Working with an adult population is totally different from what I’m used to,” said Petitti, who majors in secondary education. “It’s been an amazing experience. We form connections with the guests that are there, which gives us a new perspective on their part, as well as for them on our part. It’s a great way to break down barriers and stigmas between the two groups. We’re like one big family.”

 

Katelyn Root and Ryan McCarthy led a community-based project on problem gambling. “Problem gambling is something that’s not obvious,” explained Root, comparing it to other types of addictions that have physical symptoms. “Lower-income areas with less resources are heavily affected by gambling because they’re targeted by advertising. They want to trick you into thinking you’ll be the next big winner. A lot of people don’t realize this; it’s important to make the community aware.”

McCarthy focused on sports gambling—a topic he’s drawn to for personal reasons. “I know a former student who gambled his tuition money away, thinking he’d be able to double or triple it. He ended up dropping out,” said McCarthy. “And I have another friend with a gambling addiction. This project has helped me cope because if I can help someone… I don’t want to see them go through what I’ve witnessed two of my friends go through.”

Jessica Saffiotti volunteers with the Sweeny Girl’s Club, an afterschool program for girls between third and fifth grade that emphasizes self-confidence and self-advocacy. “This program has helped me solidify that I want to be a teacher,” said Saffioti, who’s helped the girls deal with bullying and the stresses of having divorced parents. “It’s helped me realize how important it is to help these girls find themselves, find their voices, stand up for themselves. I never had that growing up, so giving it to them… I’ve seen a big change over the year, in how much more confident they are.”

Rafael Aragon volunteers with the Sweeney Elementary Afterschool Program. During his presentation he explained thermochromic slime. “It changes colors based on temperature,” he said. “It’s like magic to the kids, their eyes glow. Then we have the opportunity to explain it to them, how and why it works. This leaves them with an understanding; there’s science behind it. They realize that they can learn this and do things that are cool and interesting. Actively participating in the world triggers a change in their perspective of education.”

Keynote speaker Ryan Matthews

Keynote speaker Ryan Matthews followed the poster session. He is the director of community programs for Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and executive director of the Susie Foundation, an agency that assists people impacted by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

In regard to determining a career path, Matthews emphasized the importance of identifying the “why,” rather than “what,” that leads to future actions. “My ‘why’ is my mom,” he shared. His mother died of ALS when he was 23. ALS is an immobilizing disease that destroys neurons controlling voluntary muscles.

At the time, Matthews and his father were full-time caretakers for his mother, an emotionally and physically taxing role. He recalled the fateful night when he grew impatient with his ailing mother, who was struggling to communicate something to him. Instead of waiting for her message, “I walked away without saying goodnight, without saying I love you,” he said. The next day, his mother was in a coma, and passed away soon after.

Matthews has used this emotionally draining experience to guide his professional journey. “I’m enormously grateful for that failure. It’s provided me a well of resiliency. It’s that well, that purpose, that ‘why’ which drives my work forward.”

The Susie Foundation, named after his mother Susan, was launched with the goal of directly supporting ALS patients, families and caregivers in Connecticut, while also contributing to the eventual eradication of the disease.

The Outstanding Student of the Year award went to Jocelyn Santiago.
The Rookie of the Year award went to Lexie Mastroianni (left).
A Community Engagement Award went to student Shawn Dousis (middle).
The Service Learning Award went to Professor Terry Lennox (middle).
Community partner Carolyn Stearns (middle) received a Community Engagement Award.
A Community Engagement Award went to Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch (right).
The Outstanding Community Event Award went to CCAR.

 

An award ceremony concluded the event. The Support Our Schools award went to United Way Readers/Natchaug Elementary School; the Best New Program award went to the Women’s Meeting at CCAR; the Broadening Horizons award went to the Puentes Al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program; the Leadership Development award went to the Ashford School Girls Mentoring Program; the Strengthening Communities award went to the CCAR Problem Gambling program; the Putting Liberal Arts Into Action award went to the Windham Technical High School Tutoring Program; the Kids First award went to the Windham Heights After School Program; the Liberal Education Practically Applied award went to the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program; and the Community Choice award went to the United Way Readers/Natchaug Elementary School.

Community Engagement Awards went to student Shawn Dousis; Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch; and community partner Carolyn Stearns. The Service Learning Award went to Professor Terry Lennox for the ACCESS Agency Poster Project. The Outstanding Community Event Award went to CCAR. The Rookie of the Year award went to Lexie Mastroianni and the Outstanding Student of the Year award went to Jocelyn Santiago.

Written by Michael Rouleau and Jordan Corey

Support Staff Honored at Administrative Professionals Breakfast

Thirty-four administrative assistants and other support staff were the honored guests at the 19th Annual Administrative Professionals Appreciation Breakfast on April 22.  The event gives administrators and other supervisors the opportunity to say “thank you” for the support and leadership provided by administrative assistants across the Eastern campus.

Ken DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement and chief human resources officer, opened the formal program by thanking those present for helping to make Eastern “a top workplace in Connecticut,” and pointed to the “healthy and positive campus culture you have helped to create.”

“How you conduct your business—our business—is what makes all of you truly special . . . if you did not do what you do and with great spirit, our effectiveness would surely be limited.”

 

Eastern President Elsa Núñez also thanked the administrative assistants in the room for their contributions to the University, explaining that the word “assistant” comes from the Latin word “assistere.”

“It means to ‘stand by,’ ‘to take one’s stand.’  Someone who will stand in for us; someone who will take a stand with us.  Someone who is committed to the same things we are. The Latin word for secretary means someone who is entrusted with our secrets — hence confidential.  I cannot think of a finer group to stand by me and share our common purpose than the people in this room. The spirit of generosity that characterizes this campus is nurtured by the people in this room today.”

Eastern Honors Three Leaders in Memory of Cesar Chavez

(left to right) Keynote speaker Angy Rivera; Emillio Estrella ’17, accepting the Cesar Chavez Award for Yanil Teron; Jessenia Montanez, accepting the Cesar Chavez Award for her mother Indira Petoskey; awardee Italo Bucca ’19; and Eastern President Elsa Nunez. 

Sociology major Italo Bucca ’19 of Hartford, Indira Petoskey, assistant dean in the Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning; and Yanil Terón, executive director of the Center For Latino Progress (CPRF), were honored at Eastern Connecticut State University’s annual Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Awards Ceremony on April 24. Angy Rivera, co-executive director of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, delivered the keynote address.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez welcomed a packed house in the Paul E. Johnson Community Room in the J. Eugene Smith Library and highlighted Chavez’s role on the long road to freedom and justice. She said Chavez believed in service, non-violent resistance to oppression and a commitment to improving the lives of the disenfranchised in this country. “Today’s award recipients are truly living the values and principles of Cesar Chavez,” said Núñez. “Because of their will and resolve, Italo, Indira and Yunil remind us of our responsibility to serve others, so that everyone may share in the American Dream.”

Bucca won in the student category. He was accepted into Eastern’s STEP/CAP Program after attending the Classical Magnet School in Hartford, where he played soccer and basketball, and where he first demonstrated his passion for helping others. At Eastern, Bucca has worked the Center for Community Engagement, the Windham Middle School after school program and the Big Brother, Big Sister program, as well as in the Study Abroad office. He has participated in several campus clubs and organizations designed to motivate young people and regularly tells students to “Always be yourself. Never follow the crowd. And remember where you came from!”

A native of St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands, Petoskey won in the faculty/staff category. For the past 22 years, she has served in a variety of capacities at different institutions, including as an adjunct professor, student development specialist, dean of distance learning, computer lab director, coordinator of the Intercultural Center and vice president of student affairs and institutional research/development. In addition to her duties at Eastern, Petoskey has served as an adjunct faculty member at Hartford-based Capital Community College and at Wilson University in Elk Grove, CA, and as a member of the board of directors for the Urshan Graduate School of Theology and Urshan College in St. Louis, MO.

Since 2007, Terón has served as executive director of the Center for Latino Progress-CPRF, the only Latino workforce development organization in Connecticut. A native of Puerto Rico now living in Windsor, Terón has expanded the center’s workforce programs, comprehensive support services and civic and leadership educational activities. She has also increased the center’s visibility by establishing agency relationships with local, statewide and national organizations. She serves as Northeast Council representative to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the regional voice of organizations serving Latinos from Pennsylvania to Maine.

Keynote speaker Rivera said when she joined the Immigrants Rights Movement she learned that immigrant justice is more than just going to college and getting a degree. “I still felt voiceless when we started pushing for the Federal Dream Act. Being voiceless is the worst feeling ever. Organizing allowed me to take back my voice. My hope for all of us is that no matter where we are in our lives, that we work towards justice because every action we take has an impact. My hope is that we keep making space for those who are left out. We are all here because someone made space for us.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

CREATE Conference Highlights Student Research, Art

Displays of research and creativity dominated the Eastern Connecticut State University campus on April 12 for the annual CREATE conference. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the university’s premier undergraduate conference.

The day-long showcase featured more than 250 students from all majors who led oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, music and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, new-media demonstrations and more.

Research questions probed the effects of “fake news” on the economy, the influence of climate change on Northeastern coastlines, the use of virtual reality gaming compared to traditional exercise, and much more. Artistic attractions included a dance “inform-ance” in homage to African migration, operatic duets, a gallery of student artwork and more.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez says CREATE is one of her favorite days of the academic year. “Some of these projects represent three of four years of work,” she said. “Being able to recognize their work is not only a source of pride, but a validation of Eastern’s mission.”

Dance performance "Diasporic Distillations" presented by Jackie Verian, Tayla Bogle, Gabbie Robertson, Ishah Azeez and Erika Moore.
Matt Bessette presents "Decedus," part one of "The Duritia Trilogy," a series of original plays.
Patrice Eugene presents "Literacy Warriors: Identifying Inequalities and Maximizing Literacies Comprehension in a Mixed-Income Community" during the CREATE poster session.
Martha Ennis presents "Mexican Migration in Connecticut: Braceros and Beyond" to a packed meeting room in the Student Center.
Patrons peruse the CREATE art gallery in the Wood Support Center.

 

“CREATE really shows the breadth and depth of what’s happening on this campus in terms of research and artistic endeavors,” added Environmental Earth Science Professor Bryan Oakley, conference co-chair. “This is the culmination of many hours in and outside of the classroom.”

Midway through the day, CREATE participants gathered for an award ceremony in the Student Center. Two outstanding undergraduate researchers and two faculty mentors were awarded. Research awards went to biology major Lauren Atkinson and psychology major Kelly Bielonko.

Atkinson’s research on antimicrobial resistance has landed her several grants and numerous presentation opportunities. “I’m very appreciative to how much Eastern provides and supports our research,” said Atkinson, who praised her mentor Barbara Murdoch and the Biology Department. “This certainly wouldn’t have been possible without you.”

Bielonko’s research has spanned organizational psychology and underserved native communities, landing her grants and summer fellowships. “Eastern is an incredible place,” she said. “The experiences I’ve had, the great group of professors here.”

Angel Bleggi presents "Music Video as Performance Art."
Andrew Hoffman presents "Arduino Motor Manipulation."
Kayla Santos presents "Mood Alterations as a Result of Participation in 'Beat Saber' Virtual Reality Game."
Christiana Montalbano and Christian Fronckowiak present scenes from the operetta "The Mikado."

 

CREATE is as much a celebration of faculty mentorship as it is undergraduate success. Provost William Salka presented two awards to outstanding faculty mentors. “The many nominations we received detail how faculty have gone above and beyond expectations,” he said, “not only helping with research, but teaching students the skills they’ll need for their careers.”

Awards went to Biology Professor Amy Groth, nominated by her student Jonathan Rappi, and History Professor Scott Moore, nominated by his student Cassaundra Epes.

Groth’s mentorship of Rappi refined his honors thesis on cancer-gene interaction and contributed to his acceptance to present at the World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WCUR) this summer in Germany. Moore’s mentorship of Epes was a big reason her research — “The Ideal Woman: Sexology, Sex Reform and Engineering Marriage in Weimar Germany” — was accepted for publication and gained entry to the American Historical Association Annual Meeting this past January.

“There’s nothing like seeing your students grow intellectually, exploring a topic, solving a problem or following a creative muse,” said Núñez of mentoring students.

The CREATE conference reinforces high-impact practices such as mentored research and creative projects; increases the percentage of students who present their work, developing their communication and presentation skills; and contributes to the intellectual richness of the campus community.

Written by Michael Rouleau