‘College Consensus’ Ranks Eastern Among Best Colleges

College Consensus, a college review aggregator that combines the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with actual reviews of college students, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University for the second year in a row. Eastern has been ranked among the “Best Colleges and Universities in Connecticut for 2019” and the “Best Regional Universities in the North for 2019.”

“Congratulations on making the Best Regional Universities in the North for 2019 and Best Colleges and Universities in Connecticut for 2019,” said Carole Taylor, marketing director for the College Consensus. “Your inclusion in the lists shows that you are making an impact on students that will have a transformative effect on their lives and the lives of others.”

Eastern began in 1889 as a normal school preparing teachers for careers in Connecticut’s elementary schools. Today it is known as Connecticut’s public liberal arts university. Eastern is home to 5,200 students, with more than 90 percent of them coming from Connecticut.

To identify standout colleges, College Consensus averages the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report, along with student reviews to produce a unique rating for each school. Read more about the organization’s methodology at: https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

Written by Vania Galicia

SOAR Helps Incoming Students Transition to Eastern

Student orientation counselor (SOC) Tiffany Johnson (middle) guides a group of incoming students through the SOAR program.

SOC Lauryn White works with her SOAR group of incoming students.

Incoming students are getting their first taste of life at Eastern through the Summer Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) program. From June 24–July 12, multiple SOAR sessions have been helping new students transition to college life, informing them of campus services and resources.

During the two-day sessions, students break up into groups and are guided through the SOAR orientation program by student orientation counselors (SOCs). SOCs are student leaders who have served as peer mentors, advisors and resident assistants. They’re well-informed members of the campus community who have the “inside scoop” of life at Eastern.

During SOAR, incoming students tour campus facilities and participate in group sessions. They also attend a presentation by a motivational speaker, stay overnight in a residence hall and dine on campus.

A key part of the SOAR program is informing new students of advising resources and the registration process for classes. SOAR participants meet with academic and student affairs staff and talk about the classes they’d like to take during the semester.

This summer’s SOCs, including head SOCs Kelsey Cunningham and Jaye Mendoza (red shirts), pose for a group photo.

SOAR helps incoming students with the academic as well as social aspects of college life. Past students often attribute many of their friendships and successes to the people they met and the guidance they received during the program.

“I absolutely loved my SOC,” said Kelsey Cunningham, who is serving as a head SOC this summer. “I still talk with her about my future; she continues to provide me guidance.” Jaye Mendoza, another head SOC, added, “My first friends were those I met in my SOAR group. In my new role, I continue to build friendships.” 

Written by Vania Galicia

Health Sciences Major Responds to Nation’s Healthcare Needs

With more than 360 students enrolled this past spring, Eastern Connecticut State University’s Health Sciences major is the fastest program on campus and unique among Connecticut’s four state universities. To better respond to healthcare industry needs, the faculty recently revised the curriculum, focusing on two concentrations in public health and allied health to provide a broader preparation for professional/graduate schools or entry-level positions.

In 2017, 37 Eastern students graduated with a health sciences degree; in May 2019, that number had increased to 70. Career opportunities for these graduates abound, as jobs in the healthcare field are projected to increase 18 percent through 2026, generating 2.4 million new jobs nationally. In Connecticut, healthcare jobs will increase 10 percent in that time, outpacing the overall rate of economic growth.

Health Sciences Professor Anita Lee received a certificate of merit from the National Academic Advising Association for her work in academic advising.

“We are preparing students for careers in nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistants, pharmacy, public health and other allied health and public health fields,” said Anita Lee, one of the program’s faculty members, “with strong, transferable intellectual and practical skills.”

All students take core courses such as medical terminology, genetics and healthcare informatics, while the allied health concentration includes additional courses such as microbiology and anatomy & physiology, and public health students take courses that include epidemiology, nutrition and a field internship.

“Our goal is that our students have a solid knowledge base in health sciences and public health, and top-notch skills in scientific inquiry,” said Health Sciences Department Chair Yaw Nsiah. “We also want them to learn ethical and social responsibility in a diverse world, communicate health information accurately and continue their pre-professional development.”

Health Sciences Department Chair Yaw Nsiah of Ghana, West Africa, founded Withrow University College in 2012 to educate healthcare professionals in his home country.

A native of Ghana, West Africa, Nsiah founded Withrow University College in 2012 to educate healthcare professionals in his home country. For the past four summers, Health Sciences students and faculty have visited the college and other health facilities in Ghana for what has been a life-changing internship. They spend time in hospitals, orphanages, health clinics and other public health facilities, while also touring local communities and cultural sites.

Rachel DiNatalie ’18 is pursuing a master’s degree in occupational therapy at Sacred Heart University. She went on the internship trip to Ghana in 2016. “It was during this life-changing experience that I learned about another culture and experienced a healthcare system in a developing country. . . The opportunities I’ve had at Eastern have affirmed my decision to pursue a career in the healthcare industry and prepared me for graduate school to become an occupational therapist.”

Students from the Health Sciences Program take an annual trip to Ghana, volunteering in hospitals, orphanages, health clinics and other public facilities.

Other off-campus health sciences internships take place at Windham and Backus Hospitals, municipal health departments, Planned Parenthood and other healthcare organizations in Connecticut.

Looking beyond the University to enhance graduates’ success, Eastern has articulation agreements with nursing programs at the University of Connecticut, Fairfield University and Southern Connecticut State University, and is pursuing similar agreements in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other public and allied health programs.

Back on campus, students use state-of-the-art equipment to learn laboratory techniques as well as various therapies and other healthcare procedures. For instance, using an Anatomage virtual dissection table, students visualize and explore anatomy in 3-D without having to work with cadavers. “This technology allows students to discover the depth of the human body and apply that knowledge to relevant clinical studies,” said Professor Amy Bataille. “Our students exhibit better performance because of this wonderful equipment.”

Using an Anatomage virtual dissection table, students visualize and explore anatomy in 3-D without having to work with cadavers.

Bataille is also the faculty advisor for the Pre-Health Society, the Health Sciences student organization. Club activities include community awareness programs that range from skin cancer to diabetics.

In addition to Nsiah and Bataille, the Health Sciences program is blessed with other outstanding faculty members. Lee recently received a certificate of merit from the National Academic Advising Association for her work in academic advising. Mitchell Doucette’s study of firearm safety was recognized by the American Journal of Public Health as one of the “Best Papers of the Year” in 2018 and Paul Canavan led a team of student researchers in October 2018 that analyzed the biomechanics of baseball pitching, using Eastern athletes to analyze proper mechanics and how to avoid elbow and shoulder injuries. In addition to full-time faculty, part-time lecturers provide additional staffing for the Health Sciences Department. In addition, the interdisciplinary major draws on the expertise of professors in Biology, Psychology, Mathematics and Business Information Systems.

Rachel DiNatalie ’18 is pursuing a master’s degree in occupational therapy at Sacred Heart University.

Only five years old, the Health Sciences program is graduating students who are quickly making their mark in the world. Emmanuel Caicedo ’17, Alejandro Tobon ’17, Timothy Peterson ’18 and McKenzie Reimondo ’18 are studying for their Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at the University of Hartford. Kelsey Sullivan ’18 and Kaley Kennedy ’18 are attending Doctor of Occupational Therapy programs at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions and Western New England University respectively. Augmenting her laboratory experiences at Eastern, Kennedy also worked in the special education department in the East Windsor public school system, as well as at Strong Foundations in Vernon to assist children diagnosed with autism, Asperger Syndrome, social communication disorder and other related disabilities.

Sullivan gained hands-on experience in Eastern’s Office of AccessAbility Services, as well as her local chiropractor. “My favorite thing about occupational therapy is not only the opportunity to help change someone’s life by helping them adapt to the world around them, but the opportunity for them to change my life as well,” said Sullivan. “This career, like the major at Eastern, is constantly adapting to best serve its clients, professionals, staff and students.”

Precious Baker ’17 is enrolled in the master’s degree in public health at the University of Connecticut, following a fellowship she received in 2016 from the Connecticut Children’s Injury Center as one of only six students to receive the honor. “I have a desire to continue working in the emergency medical environment,” said Baker, “and have a strong interest in environmental health and its relationship to health disparities.”

Precious Baker ’17 is enrolled in the master’s degree in public health at the University of Connecticut.

Another graduate, Marianna Serrano ’18, received a $7,500 scholarship from the Biomedical Science Careers Program at Harvard University to support her studies at Eastern. The scholarship, presented in April 2017, followed a summer 2016 internship at Harvard Medical School. “Being a Health Science major at Eastern has prepared me for seeing the health issues that are in our communities and has provided me with the tools I need to improve care for all that we serve,” said Serrano, who is currently working at Love146, a global anti-human trafficking agency.

Brendan Cullinane ’19 also went on the Ghana field trip and was active in other aspects of the program – as a peer mentor, as co-president of the Pre-Health Society and conducting undergraduate research. He recently was accepted into the prestigious Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Delaware. “This program has provided me many experiences that I don’t think I would have been able to get anywhere else,” said Cullinane. “My greatest learning experiences while studying health sciences are the research I conducted and the global field course to Ghana. They both provided me with hands-on experience and allowed me to develop skills that I otherwise would not have.”

With an outstanding group of dedicated faculty members, modern facilities, and an urgent need for health care professionals in our nation, Eastern’s Health Sciences major is poised to continue its track record of progress and achievement. Graduates of the program are confident they are well prepared to excel in a variety of high-demand healthcare professions.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Graduates 1,250 Students at XL Center

Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba

Hartford, CT — Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, told the 1,259 graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement to “Allow yourself the faith to ‘dream ahead’ as you embrace the next chapter in your journey.” Noting that college graduates have greater job security, live longer and have greater social mobility, Malerba told the graduates that they had made “a smart decision” in pursuing their educational dreams.

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 21, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,175 undergraduates and 84 graduate students received their diplomas.

Malerba told the graduates “Your education has just begun, as you have ‘birthed’ a career that will only grow and mature over time.” She also reminded graduates to set aside time for the “keepers of your heart” — family and friends who share life’s challenges. “When you meet others on the path of life, offer a kind word, encourage someone, comfort someone, and celebrate someone’s joy.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. 

Malerba was appointed the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe in August 2010, becoming the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. She previously was chair of the tribal council and executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her leadership roles in the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University and her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

In addition to a distinguished career as a registered nurse and her leadership positions with the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba is also a national advocate of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She serves in a number of national roles, including positions with the Federal Indian Health Services; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the National Institutes of Health.

Other speakers at the Commencement exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Merle Harris, vice-chair of the

President Elsa Núñez

Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

“The most important lesson I hope you have learned at Eastern is the knowledge that our great American democracy is only great because of the involvement and participation of our citizens,” said Núñez. “Being a citizen means debating the issues with your friends and in public forums — wherever you get a chance to voice your opinion. Most importantly, be willing to say no to whatever doesn’t feel right.

“You have learned how to think critically on our campus. You have learned how to ask questions, conduct research and analyze the results.  Do this in your workplace, in your community, and as a citizen of our great country.  I know you can do it . . . and I am counting on you to do so.  We need your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge more than ever.”

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 160 of the state’s 169 towns, with approximately 85 percent of graduates staying in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Michael Theriault (right)

Senior Class President Michael Theriault presented the Senior Class Gift to President Núñez — an annual Class of 2019 scholarship — and thanked his classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. He recalled registering for classes in the early morning hours, “trying to stay silent on the third floor of the library” and Thursday night pancakes. Looking to the future, Theriault said the arena floor was a sea of graduation caps, but “While they may look the same from the outside, the reality is that we all will wear different hats. Some of us will go on to be future educators and make differences in the lives of students. Others will become journalists, historians, psychologists, broadcasters and so much more. No matter what hat you will wear, we will all be Eastern Warriors now and forever.”

In speaking on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, Vice-Chair Merle Harris reminded the audience that “commencement” means “beginning.” She told the graduates they “have gained the skills needed to make wise decisions. . .” and were ready to “make your community, our state, and our nation a better place. I am gratified that I can greet you tonight as you begin the next phase of your life’s journey.”

CSCU President Ojakian also offered remarks. Pointing to the “transformational academic journey you have just completed,” he called the graduates “change agents for the future and the next generation of leaders.” Ojakian went on to say, “Connecticut needs bright, talented individuals to stay here, fill the jobs of the 21st century, purchase homes, and raise their families here in the state. Connecticut needs your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit and your ingenuity. You are the future of Connecticut — and because of that, Connecticut’s future is bright.”

From the colorful Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the piercing sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies reflected Eastern’s longstanding Commencement traditions.

University Senate President Andrew Utterback presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Andrew Hofmann, Tiara Lussier, Austin Stone, Ryan Michaud and Sara Ann Vega sang “America the Beautiful”; senior Shawn Ray Dousis gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Dickson Cunningham was recognized as the 2019 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Written by Ed Osborn

Mohegan Tribal Chief Named Eastern’s Commencement Speaker

 Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the Commencement Speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford. Malerba will also receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremonies.

Malerba has achieved an exemplary career in the health care and tribal governance fields. Not only has she served her community with distinction, she has brought national recognition to the State of Connecticut.

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. The position is a lifetime appointment made by the tribe’s council of elders. She previously served as chairwoman of the tribal council and was also executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her work for the Mohegan Tribe, Chief Malerba had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

Chief Malerba has achieved a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services; is a member of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council; serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health; is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee; and serves as a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She also serves as the United South and Eastern Tribes board of directors secretary, and is a member of the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Chief Malerba serves as a trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member for the Harvard University Native American Program and served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 11 years.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s graduation exercises on May 21, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to Malerba, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Written by Ed Osborn

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

 

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/08/2019) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Students present research during the poster session of the 2018 CREATE conference.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Faculty Present in 3 October Scholars Forums

Ari de Wilde

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern faculty continue to share their prolific scholarship with the campus community during the University’s Faculty Scholars Forum. In the month of October, three professors shared fascinating research on the underworld of professional bike racing, how service to community can enhance faculty scholarship, and the evolving artistic work of how women are now depicted in Persian art.

On Oct. 31, Ari de Wilde, associate professor of kinesiology and physical education, presented “Splinters, Snake Oil and Six Days: Collusion and Underworld Politics in Early 20th Century Professional Bicycle Racing.”

Today, professional cycling is marred by doping scandals and corruption, scenarios that de Wilde says are portrayed as new by the popular media. He argues that these realities are not new behaviors and could be found in the thriving, professional racing circuit of America’s early 20th century, noting that “while underworld-related actives are rarely formally recorded, close reading of autobiographies, newspaper accounts and other descriptions can yield tremendous insight into this world.” 

On Oct. 17, John Murphy, lecturer in the Communication Department; Nicolas Simon, sociology lecturer; Art Professor Terry Lennox; and Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement, examined “Community Engagement as a Path to Faculty Development.” Topics ranged from Simon’s discussion of his scholarly research based on community engagement to Silcox’s overview of the Center for Community Engagement and how the center supports faculty through service learning course development. Faculty interested in learning more are encouraged to contact the center at (860) 465-4426.

On Oct. 3, Afarin Rahmanifar, lecturer in the Art and Art History Department, shared her work on “Women in Persian Poetry, Storytelling and Painting.” Rahmanifar said to understand her work, one must understand Iranian history. Until the 20th century, traditional painting, art, poetry and writing in Iran were dominated by men. Women were often portrayed in art without power or authority.

Afarin Rahmanifar

In 1932, Reza Shah, the first Shah of Iran and father of Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, passed a law that forced women to take off their veils. From 1945-1979, Rahmanifar says there were a huge effort to modernize the country and create an educational system.  After the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini made it mandatory for women to wear the hejab again.

Rahmanifar’s work primarily reflects her experience living in exile from Tehran, where she grew up in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution. Her art reflects an interest in telling stories about women in repressed societies who are involved in politics, culture and religion. Rahmanifar’s most recent project is “Women of the Shahnameh,” which is a result of her reading “The Book of Kings (“Shahnameh”) by Persian poet Ferdowsi, who lived 1,000 years ago.

“His epic stories shape women as active and who play participatory and even leading roles in leadership and decision making in Iranian society,” said Rahmanifar.  “Women are presented as lively figures, warm, with intellect who dare to exercise liberties and do not fear death. . . Within my work, I’ve attempted to not only create images from my inspired reading of (Ferdowsi’s) stories, but also to break the conventional wisdom and messages of earlier historical miniature paintings.”

Eastern Students ‘Take Back the Night’ Against Sexual Assault

Take Back the Night keynote speaker Michael Bidwell of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut spoke with students about using their voices to take a stand against sexual assault.

Written by Jolene Potter

Eastern Connecticut State University students, faculty and staff took a stand against sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of interpersonal violence in October with a series of events focused on increasing awareness and response to survivors.

The events were hosted in collaboration with the Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, Women’s Center and Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT), illustrating the collective approach of Eastern in addressing interpersonal violence.

Sexual violence and domestic violence are major public health concerns that plague communities and families across the nation and the globe. The statistics are staggering – every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

On Oct. 23, Eastern hosted 2, 90-minute sessions of Students Fight Back, a program that teaches tools for bystander intervention, awareness, personal safety, intuition and the basics of self-defense. The motto for the program was “The best fight is the one never fought.” Acknowledging survivors attending the program, keynote speaker Nicole Snell said, “We want to help survivors work through their trauma and reclaim their personal power.”

Nicole Snell of Girls Fight Back presented “Students Fight Back,” a gender-neutral class about using you intuition, being an active bystander and consent.

The program also provided an in-depth discussion of consent, including how consent is clear, unambiguous and verbal. “Firstly, silence is not consent,” said Snell. “‘No’ is a complete sentence. Anything said afterwards is a negotiation and there is no negotiation with people who don’t respect our boundaries.” Students gained a clear understanding of consent as ongoing, verbal, coherent and retractable at any time.

Students Fight Back encourages students to define their own personal boundaries and safety. “You are the expert of your own personal safety,” said Snell. “Who better than you to make decisions about your safety?”

On Oct. 29 from 6-8 p.m., Eastern held Take Back the Night, a march, rally and speak-out for survivors and allies of sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence. Take Back the Night is an international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence.  

“Intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking are a huge problem in this country, causing victims, as well as witnesses and bystanders, in every community to suffer incalculable pain and loss,” said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of Eastern’s Unity Wing and SAIV-RT. “It is important that we come together and take action on spreading the word and educating each other about these issues.”

The event has grown significantly from prior years, with a line of students outside of the Student Center Theatre wanting to support survivors and share their stories. “It is incredibly moving to see so many people show up to support survivors of violence,” said a student who shared her experience with the crowd. “When survivors speak out, even despite immense fear, they put a face and a story behind issues that are often shrouded in statistics or silenced altogether. It is an extremely courageous thing for anyone to do.” 

Support persons from Eastern’s SAIV-RT, Women’s Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Police Department attended the event to inform students of available resources and stand in solidarity with survivors of trauma.

For the Clothesline Project, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence made t-shirts to show support for those impacted by interpersonal violence.

Eastern also collaborated with multiple local organizations and non-profits to increase the network of support for students. Sexual assault crisis counselors and advocates from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut (SACCEC) were also in attendance, including college advocate Allison Occhialini, who offered support to survivors who shared their stories.

SACCEC is a private, non-profit agency offering free and confidential services to victims of sexual assault and abuse through crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling and prevention, and community education.

Representatives from the United Services Domestic Violence Program also attended to offer services and words of encouragement to students who may be struggling with or know someone in a domestic violence situation.

United Services provides the only domestic violence shelters and services in Northeastern Connecticut. They offer a wide array of services designed to respond to the needs of domestic violence victims and their children throughout their journey to become free of abuse.

Although Take Back the Night is usually an annual program held in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Eastern’s community united to offer the event in October as well in commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “We wanted to offer the program again this fall because we all have a role in hearing survivors and ending interpersonal violence on campus,” said Byrum.

As a visual display of survivor support, Eastern also launched the Clothesline Project. Displayed from Oct. 25-31, the project displays shirts with messages and illustrations designed by survivors of sexual assault, dating violence and domestic violence. The purpose of the project is to increase awareness, destabilize stereotypes about “victims,” celebrate survivor strength and to provide another avenue to courageously break the silence that often surrounds these experiences.