The Courant Names Eastern a 2016 Top Workplace

Written by Michael Rouleau

Top Places LogoWillimantic, CT — For the fifth time in the past six years, the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With 961 employees, Eastern ranked fourth in the “large” category, and was the only higher education institution to be recognized among 61 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 18 in the Hartford Courant.

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by WorkplaceDynamics LLP, a research and consulting firm that has compiled top employer lists for some of the nation’s largest media outlets. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations.
The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.
Survey statements included: “This company operates by strong values and ethics”; “I have confidence in the leader of this company”; “I have the flexibility I need to balance my work and personal life”; for example.

“We are honored to be recognized as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “While Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our campus has always prided itself on its sense of community and for being a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, their families and the community-at-large. This announcement is a wonderful reminder that Eastern is a great workplace for our faculty and staff and I am delighted that we were among those recognized.”

Eastern Jumps Seven Places in U.S. News and World Report Rankings

Written by Ed Osborn
US News and World Report-FlagsEastern Connecticut State University moved up seven places among regional universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 edition of “Best Colleges” to 85th overall; Eastern was also tied for 26th place among public universities on the list. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 13.

Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities, and this year’s ranking was Eastern’s best ever.

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.

US News and World Report-Campus Scene“I am gratified to see Eastern achieve its highest ranking ever in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to academic excellence, our focus on student engagement and the introduction of new majors have resulted in strong scores for such criteria as academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources and alumni giving. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These new rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a quality, affordable liberal arts education on our beautiful residential campus.”
US News and World Report- Residential Halls ExteriorThis year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,374 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 4.

Eastern a 2016 ‘Great College to Work For’

Facilities staff members Nicole Balkus and Will Rivera, who work in Shipping and Receiving.

Facilities staff members Nicole Balkus and Will Rivera

Willimantic, CT — The Chronicle of Higher Education announced on July 18 that Eastern Connecticut State University has been named one of the nation’s “Great Colleges to Work For.” Of the 281 institutions participating in the survey this year, Eastern was one of only 42 named to the program’s “Honor Roll.”

Eastern is the only school in Connecticut to make the honor roll and the only public four-year institution in New England to be named a “Great College to Work For.” This marks the seventh time that Eastern has been recognized since the recognition program began in 2009.  This year, Eastern was given high grades for collaborative governance; compensation and benefits; confidence in senior leadership; facilities, workspace and security; and tenure process for faculty.

Tao Chen, digital art and design professor, mentors a student during class.

Tao Chen, digital art and design professor, mentors a student during class.

“We are very pleased to be a member of the ‘Great Colleges to Work for’ Honor Roll for the second year in a row,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “It is an honor to again be recognized as one of the nation’s top higher education workplaces. The shared values and spirit of teamwork that exists on our campus is a strength that helps us better serve our students and the state of Connecticut. Receiving this national recognition for the seventh time from the Chronicle of Higher Education is very gratifying, as is our high ranking on six of the program’s 12 criteria.”

 

“Nine years in, The Chronicle’s ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ program is well known as a mark of a college or university that puts thought and effort into serving the needs of its faculty and staff,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle. “The colleges and universities that make the list are highly rated by their employees for creating great working environments, an important achievement that helps them recruit top academic and administrative talent.”

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was the employee feedback.

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide.

“It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, the firm’s principal and managing partner. “And those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

Great Colleges to Work For is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country. For more information and to view all the results of the survey, visit http://chronicle.com/AW16.

Eastern Receives National Recognition as an Outstanding Workplace

Written by Michael Rouleau
Willimantic, Conn. – For the sixth time in the past seven years, Eastern Connecticut State University is one of the nation’s “Great Colleges to Work For,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Of the 281 institutions participating this year, Eastern was one of only 42 schools that was named to the program’s “Honor Roll.”
Eastern is the only four-year institution in Connecticut to earn this accolade, and the only public four-year institution in New England. Recognized in nine of the program’s 12 job satisfaction categories, this is the best Eastern has fared in the prestigious program.

“We are delighted to be included on the ‘Great Colleges to Work for’ Honor Roll,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez, “and honored to again be recognized as one of the nation’s top higher education workplaces. The spirit of collaboration and unity that exists on our campus is a strength that helps us better serve our students and the state of Connecticut. Receiving this national recognition once again from the Chronicle of Higher Education is very gratifying, especially given our high ranking on nine of the program’s 12 criteria.”

Eastern was recognized for its collaborative governance; professional/career development programs; compensation and benefits; facilities, workplace and security; job satisfaction and support; confidence in senior leadership; supervisor/department chair relationships; employee respect and appreciation; and tenure process for faculty.
The survey included a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured workplace demographics, policies and practices, and a survey administered randomly to employees by an independent third party (ModernThink LLC).

“The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For program shows how the colleges and universities on the list are getting it right: They’re leaders in creating environments where smart people enjoy their work,” said Liz McMillen, editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education. “The selection process is rigorous and being named to the list is a tremendous accomplishment, but it also positions colleges and universities well to recruit the people that make them a success.”

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country. Now in its eighth year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies. For more information and to view all the results of the survey, visit The Chronicle’s website at http://chronicle.com/AW15.

Eastern Student and Parent Orientation this June and July

Written by Michael Rouleau

Willimantic, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University’s premier orientation program for incoming freshmen will take place this June and July. The Student Orientation, Advising and Registration Program (SOAR) consists of six, two-day sessions during which new students and their parents get an informational tour of Eastern’s campus and learn about various student resources and services. Incoming freshmen will also get a taste of college life when they spend the night in a residence hall, meet other incoming students and participate in a number of informational and social activities. The first session runs from June 23-24.
A parent orientation program will occur at the start of each two-day session as well. The dates for the parent orientations are June 23, 26 and 30, and July 2, 7 and 10 — activities will start at 10:30 a.m. on each of these days.

 Parent orientations will include a presentation on parent involvement for student success; information on academic support services, advising and policies; lunch on campus; question and answer sessions with various Eastern departments; financial aid, student activities, housing and public safety sessions; and an optional campus tour. The parent orientation will conclude at 3 p.m.

 SOAR two-day sessions are June 23-24, June 26-27, June 30-July 1, July 2-3, July 7-8 and July 10-11. SOAR student check-out will be at 4:30 p.m. on the second day at Constitution Hall. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Orientation staff at (860) 465-0032.

Eastern Graduates 1,227 at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn


Willimantic, Conn. – More than 12,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 13, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,162 undergraduates and 65 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 124th Commencement exercises.

Nicholas Lawson, director of field human resources for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of his honorary degree.

Commencement Speaker Nicholas Lawson

Lawson has worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for the past 17 years, a group he proudly describes as the “preeminent emergency medical humanitarian organization in the world.” As Director of Field Human Resources for MSF since 2007, Lawson is responsible for the oversight of 35,000 staff across the globe, and leads the development and implementation of MSF’s vision as a member of the MSF Executive Management team. Over the years, he has traveled to and coordinated humanitarian and medical relief efforts in Uganda, Pakistan, Burundi, East Timor, South Sudan and Afghanistan.

Lawson spoke of the organization’s core principles of service, independence, impartiality, neutrality, ethics and engagement, and described his early years with MSF, when he faced the challenge of bringing medical supplies to civilians in Afghanistan caught in the crossfire of that nation’s civil war.  In the end, he said MSF’s focus was simple: to “alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people in crisis.”

His charge to Eastern’s 2014 graduating class was equally simple:  “What place does service and engagement in the public realm have in the careers we dream for ourselves? Is that activism? Is it volunteerism? Is it civics? Will it be a lifelong professional choice? . . . You will be richer than you can possibly imagine if you do actually make that choice.”

    Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Zachary Yeager; and Brittany Lane ’14, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Gregory Gray, president of the Board of Regents; Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; and other Eastern officials.

Nunez gave her traditional charge to the graduates, telling them, “I hope you look forward to the next chapter in your lives with optimism and expectation, knowing that the faculty and staff on our campus have done their utmost to prepare you for this day.”

Nunez cited examples of applied learning experiences ranging from internships at ESPN and Cigna to study abroad trips to Costa Rica and Switzerland, to undergraduate research into genetics and emotional health among senior citizens, to working in South Carolina on anti-hunger efforts, as examples of the hands-on experiences that Eastern students receive in applying their liberal arts education.

“Never be satisfied with a half-hearted effort, never assume that the way things have been done is the way we should do things in the future. Intellectual curiosity and a moral commitment to a better life for all people are hallmarks of a liberal arts university in our democracy. The best way to honor Eastern and our faculty is to remain true to what you have learned here.”

Nunez closed her remarks with a quote from the 19th-century Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda:  “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

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 164 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 90 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Zachary Yeager presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez–an annual Class of 2014 scholarship–and said, “College has been the time to make mistakes and learn from them, a time to challenge ourselves, and a time to step out of our comfort zone . . . We will carry the memories that we have made in the past few years at Eastern with us for a lifetime.”

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, offered remarks on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  “I want you to know how deeply moved and excited we are about the great work you have done to earn your degree tonight,” said Smith. “This is a significant milestone, and you should be very proud. The journey isn’t easy, and there are no shortcuts to earning an undergraduate degree, but the benefits are enormous. Eastern has prepared you well for all the challenges you will face as the 21st century-economy continues to change. Pursue your career with the same dedication that has brought you to this fabulous day.”

In her Senior Class Address, Brittany Lane urged the graduates to “pack your bags” and get ready for a new journey. She listed five items to include on the trip. First on the list: a belief that “every day is a great day to be alive,” something she learned from one of her professors, Dan Switchenko. Second on her list was a commitment to helping others. “Volunteer; give back to your community; give back to your school. It is far more rewarding than a paycheck.”

The third item on her list was to live life with kindness. “You never know the impact that your kind words could have on someone’s day or even their life. Make your mark.” Lane told her peers to also “remember to take the memories you have made at Eastern with you . . .  These are the moments that stand the test of time.”

Finally, Lane reminded her classmates that “there is no place like home. For your duration of time spent here at Eastern, it has become a second home . . . a close community of students from different walks of life coming together to live and learn in harmony . . . No matter where your journey takes you after today, no matter how many bumps in the road you may hit, always remember that we all have a place here at Eastern. You are all important. You will all accomplish incredible things; and our journey starts today.”

From the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive 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 again reflected the University’s Commencement traditions of dignity and grace. University Senate President Gregory Kane presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Emily Chuber, Rachel Jung and Emma Kuehnle sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Mame Fatou Diop gave the invocation; and History Professor Anna Kirchmann was recognized as the 2014 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

 

Chief Justice Rogers and Judge Kahn to Speak at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau


Willimantic, Conn. – Two high-level Connecticut court officials will speak at Eastern Connecticut State University on March 26 for Eastern’s University Hour series. At 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and Superior Court Judge Maria Kahn will speak with the Eastern community about justice and the judicial system in today’s world. 

Born and raised in Angola, Africa, Kahn was appointed a Superior Court Judge in 2006 and currently is assigned to hear criminal matters in the Fairfield Judicial District Courthouse. She moved to the United States at 10 years of age, is fluent in three languages and serves on a number state and national Bars. 

Rogers, a Connecticut native, was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2007–the second woman ever to reach this designation in Connecticut. She was also appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the State Justice Institute’s Board of Directors. In addition to serving on a number of prestigious Bars and committees, Rogers is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

“The event is open to the public and will be organized in a question-and-answer format,” said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of the Women’s Center. “Arrive early at the Student Center Theatre to ensure a good seat.”

“Eastern in 4,” Eastern’s Revamped Academic Plan

Written by Michael Rouleau

Willimantic, Conn. – As part of Eastern Connecticut State University’s 2013-18 Strategic Plan, “Eastern in 4” is now a requirement for current students and incoming freshmen. The goal of “Eastern in 4” is to lay out a tight and comprehensive plan–including academic and career goals–that will lead students to their bachelor’s degrees in four years.

“Eastern in 4” has existed as an informal objective for several years now, but recent data supporting the need for college-career planning has caused the University to revamp and mandate the program. “There are so many options and requirements in a college setting,” said Alison Garewski, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. “Students unknowingly taking courses they don’t need–costing them more money and prolonging their time in college–is an issue nationwide.”

With nearly 1,000 freshman at Eastern this year, approximately 650 have completed their academic plans. Though the plans are designed in group sessions of five to 20 students, each four-year plan is individualized according to a student’s degree requirements and preferences–taking into consideration which liberal arts courses to take, internships and study abroad opportunities.

“Every semester when registering for classes I use my four-year plan to aid in my selection,” said Christina Harmon, a sophomore majoring in psychology. “‘Eastern in 4’ was a great way for me to learn what classes I need to take and how to stay on track in order to graduate on time.”

While “Eastern in 4” is available to all students and majors, it is especially useful to transfer students, continuing education students and those switching majors. “This program is ideal at Eastern because we’re a liberal arts school,” said Chris Drewry, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. “Students are required and encouraged to take courses outside of their major, so having this direction is really helpful.”

“Before making my ‘Eastern in 4’ plan, I had no idea if I could fit a double major’s worth of classes into my schedule,” said Thomas Hacker, a freshman with a double major. “Now I have a roadmap to double major in music and communication in four years.”

21st Annual Health, Wellness and Benefits Expo at Eastern

Written by Danielle Couture

More than 50 health agencies, vendors and representatives convened on Oct. 15 in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center for the 21st Annual Health, Wellness and Benefits Expo. The theme this year was “Balancing Your Mind, Body and Soul.” The program included demonstrations, performances and free health screenings throughout the day.

Free chair massages, free HIV and STD testing, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, body fat analysis and free health food samples were some of the offerings at this year’s event. Among the day’s activities were a variety of demonstrations, descriptions and performances including yoga; accupuncture; massage therapy; and CPR training offered by Windham Hospital’s Emergency Medical Services. In addition, representatives were on hand with information about retirement, finances, health insurance and cancer prevention.

The Health Expo was sponsored by Student Health Services and the Office of Human Resources.

Board of Regents President Gray Visits Eastern’s Campus

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, Conn — Eastern President Elsa Núñez, along with more than 100 students, faculty and staff, greeted Connecticut State Universities and Colleges (ConnSCU) Board of Regents President  Gregory Gray to campus on Sept. 18. The new president of Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Educatonis in the midst of touring the 17 schools that make up the state’s public higher education system. Gray took over as president on July . He oversees the Board of Regents, which governs 12 community colleges, four state universities, and Charter Oak College,  the state’s on-line institution.

Nunez praised Gray for his vision; his goal of restoring integrity to the system and for finding opportunities for more collaboration between community colleges and the four-year universities.

Gray, noting that Eastern students were already fortunate to have a beautiful, physical setting, said, “Pristine is all around you here. Knowing that you were so dedicated to having such a beautiful campus tells me this same dedication must be taking place in the classroom as well.”  He said his primary goal is to improve the learning environment on campuses, “making it go from very good to great.”

Gray said he believes that by working together with faculty members who have a deep-rooted passion for excellence, ConnSCU will become a world-class system of higher education. To achieve this long-range goal, Gray wants to (1) restore trust and integrity to the system; (2) make the system more efficient and productive; (3) develop a plan to benefit current and future students.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we have to get it right. I want to develop a plan that will positively impact student 25 years from now.” He said online education courses; a unified calendar for all system colleges and universities; and seamless transfer of credits will better serve students. “Saving money is important, but that is not the primary goal. We want to provide access and focus on what we should focus on a student’s purpose for being here, which is to learn.  We then, want tell the world about it.”

Gray said he wants board meetings to focus on student presentations about their achievements, and to see more scholarship celebrated on campus through academic fairs showcasing faculty books and student-published articles. He believes his plan will identify areas of efficiency, producing a more clearly-defined niche for each university.

During a question and answer period, Gray told students who want to be assured their voices are heard to “speak up, but get your facts straight. I assure you I will do all I can to support the integration of teaching, learning and service to our students. I say let’s improve the overall efficiency of the system; improve the learning environment; give the governor and the legislature a good plan; and get it funded.”