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Project 562 aims to not only replace outdated, stereotyped representations that are found about Indigenous people in online searches, but to provide an accurate visualization of Native Americans overall in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.

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.

Getting Healthy Naturally at Eastern

‘Our Bodies Naturally Want to be Healthy’

Tonya Pasternak

Tonya Pasternak

Written by Jordan Corey

To discuss naturopathic medicine and its role in the realm of health care, Dr. Tonya Pasternak was featured as part of Eastern Connecticut State University’s “University Hour” series on Sept. 27. Ultimately, the field aims to promote internal and external well-being, its practitioners emphasizing the significance of getting to know a patient in detail. “We fill in the cracks of things that may not be paid attention to otherwise,” said Pasternak, who works for Collaborative Natural Health Services.

Pasternak compared naturopathic medicine to conventional medicine, the training required to become a naturopathic doctor, and closed with a brief look at treating fatigue – one of the most common complaints patients seek medical attention for.

Naturopathic medicine, explained Pasternak, largely focuses on the body’s ability and inherent desire to heal itself. Rather than revolving around the importance of pharmaceuticals, naturopaths approach patient care with more natural substances and therapies. The practice is a type of holistic medicine, which means in order to find the right treatment, doctors examine a patient’s body, mind and spirit functioning together. “We take the whole person into consideration,” she noted.

The doctor gave the audience a rundown of six guidelines that naturopathic doctors follow: to do no harm; to identify and treat the cause; to advocate for the healing power of nature; to not only be a doctor but a teacher; to treat the whole person; and to prioritize prevention. With these principles in mind, naturopaths try to find the least invasive, least toxic means of discovering root causes of health issues and resolving them.

Pasternak pointed out that while naturopathic medicine has many benefits, it does have its limitations and there is only so much that can be done on that level. “Thank God for pharmaceuticals and things like antibiotics and surgery,” she stated, in reference to treating more serious conditions. Pasternak highlighted that the practice is strong in areas where conventional medicine – and its health care system – falls short.

Because of pressure from insurance companies, Pasternak argued, patients are rushed in and out of visits with their primary care doctors, and “people are just left suffering” as a result. “People’s bodies are being subdivided,” she said, raising concerns about the use of multiple specialists to treat one person’s health problems – a stark contrast to the holistic naturopathic approach.

“The medical system doesn’t really allow people to be heard,” said the doctor, touching on her time spent volunteering in Seattle tent cities, one of the first homeless tent communities to be sponsored and accepted by local governments. Seeing and treating those with extremely limited resources, restricted access to food, and no money for health care products pushed Pasternak as a student and made her a better naturopathic doctor. Asking herself early in her career, “What do I possibly have to offer that could make them better?” she now continuously keeps in mind the magnitude of meeting people where they’re at.

Bolivian Ambassador Speaks at Eastern: ‘The Human Race is a Family’

Written by Jordan Corey

Sacha Llorenti, Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations

Sacha Llorenti, Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations

Sacha Llorenti, Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations, visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Sept. 13 as part of its University Hour event series. Llorenti provided insight on the past and current state of Bolivia, and then spoke more broadly on global relations.

The ambassador was introduced by friend Martin Mendoza-Botelho, a professor of political science at Eastern, who noted that Llorenti has always had a “natural appetite to serve society.”

Llorenti began by describing the world from Bolivia’s perspective. He informed listeners that, while Bolivia is a highly indigenous country, it took almost 200 years to elect its first indigenous president, who took office in 2006.

In addition to social backlash against indigenous cultures in Bolivia, the country was once very poor, with 40 percent of its population living in extreme poverty. With the election of President Evo Morales, Llorenti said, came a “democratic revolution” that has since turned Bolivia into South America’s fastest-growing economy, reducing the poverty level to its current 16 percent.

“That’s why leadership is so important,” Llorenti stressed, using Morales as a jumping-off point to address crises that are going unsolved globally. “We are facing the worst humanitarian crises since 1945,” he said, naming war, poverty, finance, energy usage and climate change among the glaring issues. “Things are getting worse and worse.”

The ambassador called the human race a “family” that must work together to fix the world’s problems. Because the modern world is so interlinked, he argued, what happens in one place has an impact everywhere else.

Consequently, Llorenti advocated for a rules-based international power system in which all members share common goals and responsibilities – components he claimed the global society is lacking. He also pointed out that, in light of this, what is done on a local level matters. “It’s really up to us to do our share,” the ambassador concluded.

Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,389 schools nationwide and are available at They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 10.

For the past 33 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Eastern Announces Fall ‘University Hour’ Schedule

Written by Jordan Corey

campus quad nice wide shotWILLIMANTIC, CT (09/12/2017) This fall 2017 semester, Eastern Connecticut State University is again hosting University Hour, a free and open-to-the-public series of cultural events that occurs every Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. in locations across campus. Upcoming events include:

On Sept. 13 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center Concert Hall, Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations Sacha Llorenti will discuss global security. He will be speaking about the ideological gaps that lie between developing and developed countries, among other foreign policy issues.

On Sept. 20 in the Student Center Theatre, “Hostage of Empire: Constitutional Dimensions of Puerto Rican Birthright Citizenship” will showcase the history of America’s extension of citizenship to Puerto Rico, and resulting debates over constitutional status of Puerto Ricans.

On Sept. 27 in the Student Center Theatre, “The Role of Naturopathic Medicine in the Health Care System” will feature a lecture by Dr. Tonya Pasternak, who will talk about naturopathic medicine and discuss her medical approaches to common conditions.

On Oct. 4 in the Student Center Theatre, “Dear Woke Brown Girl” will feature “Latina Rebels” founder Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez, who will speak about the concept and process of being “woke,” along with the personal tolls that often come with it.

On Oct. 11 in the Student Center Theatre, Cambodian scholar and poet Heng Sreang will discuss his research on the Cambodian (Khmer) diaspora in New England and California, in addition to doing a poetry reading.

On Oct. 18 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center Concert Hall, Eastern will host the Providence-based music group Ensemble/Parallax. The ensemble will give a performance featuring several of their pieces, with a follow-up discussion on performance techniques, the aesthetics of new music and historical content on the music presented.

On Oct. 25 in the Student Center Theatre, “Alcohol Monologues” will take place, a show mimicking the style of the “Vagina Monologues.” A cast of student volunteers will read candid accounts of their experiences in order for the audience to consider the impacts of alcohol usage.

On Nov. 1 in the Student Center Theatre, Matika Wilbur, an acclaimed photographer from the Tulalip and Swinomish tribes, will give a presentation that encourages citizens of the United States to move past appropriating and neglecting indigenous images and traditions. This will be done through photographic representation and direct narratives of Native American lives.

On Nov. 15 in the Student Center Theatre, “Living Intersex: Walking the Line” – the final event of the semester – will feature Saifa Wall, an intersex man of African descent. Having overcome emotional and political hardships, Wall aims to develop strong relationships between ethical, responsible research and community empowerment.

Bolivian Ambassador to Speak on Global Security at Eastern

Bolivian Ambassador_LlorentiWritten by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (09/07/2017) On Sept. 13, Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations Sacha Llorenti will be making an appearance at Eastern Connecticut State University’s “University Hour” to discuss global security. The event takes place from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

During his presentation, Llorenti will address the ideological gaps between developing and developed countries. This year, Bolivia joined the Security Council of the United Nations as a non-permanent member. The ambassador’s “University Hour” speech will center on foreign policy and is free to attend.

‘Colleges of Distinction’ Recognizes Eastern’s Business and Education Programs

colleges of distinction badges

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (08/09/2017) The School of Education and Professional Studies at Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized by Colleges of Distinction for its expert blending of the liberal arts with professional programing in business and education. This honor is in addition to Eastern being named a 2017-18 College of Distinction by the same organization, which is a trusted guide for college-bound students.

In acknowledging the recognition, Jacob Easley, dean of Eastern’s School of Education and Professional Studies, said: “The marriage of liberal arts outcomes with those of professional studies contributes to the unique value and distinction of our programs. Furthermore, our commitment to inquiry, social responsibility, lifelong learning and diversity enriches the lives of students.”

“The 21st-century job market now demands employees who are both stellar communicators and critical-thinkers, and it is with the School of Education and Professional Studies’ well-rounded approach to career development that its students are especially prepared to take on the postgraduate world,” wrote Colleges of Distinction in a recent news release.

“We are ecstatic to celebrate Eastern Connecticut State University for its exceptional commitment to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, chief operating officer for Colleges of Distinction. “Building upon its extensive liberal arts curriculum, as well as its impressive engagement of high-impact practices, Eastern continues to stand out through its stance as a leader in professional education.”

Colleges of Distinction granted these awards in education and business programming after a comprehensive vetting process, selecting schools based on such qualities as accreditation, breadth of program and a track record of success.

Eastern’s Education programs include early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education and educational technology. “Eastern’s future educators are bolstered by an enriching liberal arts perspective, allowing them to be empathetic, creative and efficient mentors for their students,” added Colleges of Distinction.

“The fast-paced, modern world of business requires effective communication and innovative strategies,” wrote the organization. “Eastern’s programs in accounting, business administration, business information systems, finance and organizational management keep their future leaders ahead of the curve and ready to grow alongside the industry.”

About Colleges of Distinction: Colleges of Distinction has recognized and honored schools throughout the U.S. for excellence in undergraduate-focused higher education for over 15 years. The member schools within the Colleges of Distinction consortium distinguish themselves through their focus on the undergraduate experience. For more information, visit

About Eastern Connecticut State University: Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit

Eastern Receives Generous Davis Foundation Grant

Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines

Written by Michael Rouleau

•A peer mentor tutors a student in the Writing Center in Eastern's J. Eugene Smith Library:

• A peer mentor tutors a fellow student in the Writing Center in Eastern’s J. Eugene Smith Library

WILLIMANTIC, CT (07/18/2017) The Davis Educational Foundation has awarded Eastern Connecticut State University a $200,000 grant to develop its “Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines” initiative. The two-year project aims to strengthen first- and second-year students’ analytical thinking, reading and writing skills by enhancing faculty approaches to teaching critical thinking. The project also aims to improve teaching and learning assessment, as well as better link Eastern’s discussion-oriented First Year Program with its level-two Writing Program – two programs that all Eastern students pass through regardless of major.

“In the past it was assumed that students develop higher-order thinking skills as a cumulative result to degree completion,” explained David Pellegrini, project director and theatre professor. “But today, educational researchers have found that intentional instruction focused on critical reading and writing best ensures that students graduate with the skills they need in competitive and ever-evolving career landscapes. Moreover, this emphasis on critical thinking must begin at the very beginning of a student’s college experience.”

While the grant will be distributed over a two-year period, university officials plan to make the “Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines” program a sustained component of Eastern’s liberal arts curriculum.

•Psychology Professor Peter Bachiochi is one of the key faculty members involved in the Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines program. He will participate in the Critical Thinking Task Force and review curriculum

• Psychology Professor Peter Bachiochi is one of the key faculty members involved in the Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines program. He will participate in the Critical Thinking Task Force and review curriculum

Beginning in fall 2017, a faculty-led Critical Thinking Task Force will convene with expert consultants in the field of college-level critical thinking pedagogy and assessment. Faculty workshops will be developed and best practices will be shared among colleagues and with students in a process that will transform how critical thinking is taught in each academic discipline at Eastern.

“Critical Reading and Writing across the Disciplines” is connected to two longstanding Eastern programs: the First Year Liberal Arts Introduction (FYI 100) and the Writing Program. To assist them in becoming engaged in the intellectual life of the university, first-year students enroll in one of many discussion-oriented FYI courses that explore a broad, contemporary theme developed from the expertise of the instructor. From there, students take their major’s designated Writing Intensive (WI) course.

“By convening and providing training for instructors of FYI 100 and level-two WI courses, this project will forge meaningful connections between modes of instruction, evaluation and assessment to enhance the development of critical thinking competencies for students from freshman to sophomore year,” added Pellegrini.

“One advantage of a small liberal arts college is that faculty are able to come together to jointly plan programs,” said Provost Dimitrios Pachis, speaking to the collaborative nature of the project. “In line with the interdisciplinary nature of our liberal arts curriculum, this project draws on the interests and expertise of faculty from nearly all of our major programs.”

“We are honored to receive this significant grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, which is recognized for its support of innovative programs at New England colleges and universities,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “We are very grateful to the foundation’s trustees for this grant, which will strengthen the core academic skills of all Eastern students. As a liberal arts institution, we keenly understand the importance of developing strong reading and writing skills in our students, regardless of their major. This grant will allow us to significantly improve our first-year program, increasing student learning from freshman to sophomore year while improving student learning outcomes and retention and graduation rates.”

The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.