Eastern’s Chris Drewry Among the Best Academic Advisors in Northeast

Chris Drewry, assistant director of the Academic Services Center, has worked at Eastern since 2011.

Chris Drewry, assistant director of the Academic Services Center, has worked at Eastern since 2011.

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) has selected Chris Drewry, assistant director of the Academic Services Center at Eastern Connecticut State University, for its 2017 Excellence in Advising award. Drewry was the sole recipient in Region 1 for the “Advisor Primary Role” category, standing out among thousands of NACADA members from numerous colleges and universities in New York, New England, Quebec and the eastern provinces of Canada.

“There are different types of academic advising,” explained Drewry. “The advising we offer at Eastern is holistic. Only a small part of our time is spent prescribing classes and building students’ schedules. Instead we use our time to troubleshoot other issues the student may be facing.

“Everything is connected,” he continued, acknowledging the myriad factors that influence academic performance. “We look at the big picture and consider all aspects of their experience at the university.”

Explaining that students who are involved with athletics, clubs and other campus organizations tend to perform better academically, Drewry said, “We want to make sure students feel connected. So a lot of what we do is connect students with other departments to help them become more engaged on campus.”

Professional academic advisors at Eastern carry caseloads of approximately 250 students per semester. “The ultimate goal is to develop as many good relationships with as many students as possible,” said Drewry. “Being relatable and getting the students to be honest and open with you may be the most important quality of being an advisor here.”

In his nomination letter, William Bisese, director of Eastern’s Academic Services Center, said of Drewry: “I’ve worked at six institutions throughout my career, and Chris stands out as a perfect example of what it means to be a committed, student-centered academic advisor.” Regarding the Excellence in Advising award, he added: “This is one of the most prestigious awards our professional association bestows on its members in the field of academic advising.”

NACADA promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education to enhance the educational development of students. The association has more than 11,000 members representing colleges and universities from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and several other international countries.

President Obama’s Community Service Honor Roll Recognizes Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

Honor Roll logo WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — For the sixth time in the past seven years, Eastern Connecticut State University has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). These results, for the 2013-14 academic year, were announced this fall.

Eastern was selected for the General Community Service category, which recognizes institutions that address local issues — particularly those affecting low-income individuals — such as education, health, economic opportunity, the environment and other human needs. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, and measurable outcomes as a result of the service.

Two Eastern students play games and socialize with a resident of High Chase

Two Eastern students play games and socialize with a resident of High Chase

“One of the projects that our application highlighted was the great work of the student club People Helping People (PHP),” said Kim Silcox, director of Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE). For the past 10 years, PHP has organized students to visit the High Chase residential care facility in Willington, CT, a home for 30 adult residents who are unable to live independently due to physical and mental disabilities.

Amy Greika, director of High Chase, said of the students: “The residents look forward to the students coming every week. The visits help the residents gain more social experience and teach them to better handle outside society’s circumstances.”

With a student population of approximately 5,300, in Eastern’s 2013-14 academic year nearly 1,900 students engaged in general community service or “service learning,” academic work that directly involves them in community efforts. Six hundred students volunteered more than 20 hours. In total, Eastern students completed 91,813 hours of community service.

The Center for Community Engagement

The Center for Community Engagement

“We are fortunate to have passionate students and community partners who are open to having our students volunteer,” added Silcox. Created in 2009, the CCE coordinates dozens of special events and long-term community programs. Favorites include the Day of Giving, a Thanksgiving celebration that feeds hundreds of community members, and afterschool programs with Windham Public Schools.

College students across the country make a huge impact in terms of community service. According to statistics compiled by the CNCS in 2013, 3.1 million students volunteered 118 million hours of community service; a value of $2.5 billion. The CNCS has administered the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll since 2006, recognizing colleges and universities that demonstrate a commitment to community and achieve meaningful, measurable outcomes through service.

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 Named a 2017 Best College in the Northeast by Princeton Review

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The Princeton Review named Eastern Connecticut State University as one of the “Best Colleges in the Northeast” in its 2017 edition of “Best Colleges: Region By Region.” In the 11-state region, 227 colleges were recognized in the report, which was released in August 2016.

Only schools that permit the Princeton Review to independently survey students are eligible to be considered for the regional “best” list, and only schools with a strong level of student satisfaction make it on the final list. The survey asks students to rate their colleges on several issues — from the accessibility of their professors to the quality of their science lab facilities — and answer questions about themselves, their fellow students and their campus life.

Among the four regions the report looks at — Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, West — 649 colleges made it on The Princeton Review’s “regional best” lists, constituting about 25 percent of the nation’s 2,500 four-year colleges.

The 225 colleges that The Princeton Review chose for its “Best in the Northeast” 2017 list are located in: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont—and the District of Columbia.

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 Named a 2016-17 College of Distinction

CoD_Yearly_Badge_16_17_500px

Innovative application of high impact educational practices at Eastern Connecticut State University has earned the school recognition among the nation’s Colleges of Distinction. Eastern students earned college credit and valuable life experience while participating in study abroad programs in 17 countries, as well as through service learning, undergraduate research, and internships.

“We’re so happy to recognize Eastern for developing skills relevant to graduates’ lives,” said Tyson Schritter, executive editor for Colleges of Distinction. “High student engagement in college is one of the keys to a successful undergraduate education. With an increasing emphasis on hands-on learning techniques, Colleges of Distinction applauds Eastern for practicing methodologies that prepare students for their futures.”

Schools must demonstrate results across four distinctions—Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community, and Successful Outcomes. High school counselors and educators make nominations, and each school is evaluated on key indicators including student engagement, student empowerment and curricular innovation. Colleges that have distinguished themselves in each of the four distinctions and that have demonstrated dedication to enriching student outcomes through innovative learning opportunities are then invited to join Colleges of Distinction.

The annual process to select the nation’s Colleges of Distinction also includes a review of each institution’s freshman experience, as well as its general education program, strategic plan, and alumni success and satisfaction measures.

“Colleges of Distinction is more than an annual ranking of colleges and universities. We only include colleges that offer every student a holistic and valuable experience,” said Schritter. “The Colleges of Distinction have earned solid reputations for serving their students and nurturing success. Like Eastern, our member schools provide the affirming undergraduate experience every student deserves.”

To view Eastern’s profile or to find more information about the innovative learning experiences it offers, visit CollegesofDistinction.com.

 

 

Eastern Recognizes Latino Leaders

Written by Dwight Bachman

Left to right, Winners of Eastern’s 2016 Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Award are Reverend Aracelis Vázquez-Haye, Yisel-De-Oleo Gregory and Leopoldo Navarro.

Left to right, Winners of Eastern’s 2016 Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Award are Reverend Aracelis Vázquez-Haye, Yisel-De-Oleo Gregory and Leopoldo Navarro.

Willimantic, CT – Leopoldo Navarro, resident assistant at Eastern Connecticut State University; The Rev. Aracelis Vázquez-Haye, an associate pastor in New London; and Yisel De Oleo-Gregory, an admissions counselor at Eastern, received the University’s 2016 Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Awards on April 27. The ceremony took place in the Student Center Theatre.

The Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who best exemplify the teachings and example of Chavez, the late labor leader and human rights advocate who was committed to fairness, equity and justice for all people.

Each spring, the University selects individuals who have performed extraordinary service in support of the Latin-American community by either developing or contributing to programs or activities that focus on positive development of minority youth and/or foster minority educational opportunities and advancement.

Dimitrios Pachis

Dimitrios Pachis

Dimitrios Pachis, Eastern’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said Chavez never had a formal education but often said that a real education comes from the heart. “An education cannot be imparted through books; it can only be imparted through the loving touch of the teacher,” Chavez once said. “What better books can there be than the book of humanity? The end of all education should surely be service to others.”

“Our three honorees have demonstrated exemplary leadership in service to the Latin American community, the Eastern campus and the community at large,” said Pachis. “They exemplify the values and beliefs of Cesar Chavez, and are a reaffirmation of the Latin American culture that has enriched this community for generations.”

Awards were presented in three categories: student, faculty/staff and community. Navarro, who won in the student category, is a senior majoring in Spanish. He migrated to the United States in 2009 from the Dominican Republic and graduated from Three Rivers Community College before transferring to Eastern in 2014. Navarro serves as a resident assistant at Eastern and has been involved in organizations such as MALES (Man Achieving Leadership Excellence and Success), OLAS (Organization of Latin American Students) and the SGA (Student Government Association). He has earned Dean’s List honors several times and was also inducted to the National Spanish Major Honor Society. He plans to teach Spanish in New London and one day own a dance studio.

De Oleo-Gregory was honored in the faculty/staff category. A native of the Dominican Republic, she serves as a counselor in Eastern’s Admissions Office. De Oleo-Gregory has also worked at Windham High School as an ELL Tutor for non-English speaking students, and is pursuing a Master of Science degree in communication at Central Connecticut State University. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Naugatuck Valley Community College, and was chosen as a distinguished student in her graduating class. De Oleo-Gregory then transferred to Eastern and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Communication and Spanish in 2013.

Vázquez-Haye was recognized in the community category. She serves as associate pastor of the Church of the City in New London and Protestant Chaplain at Connecticut College and The Waterford Country School.  She has served in several student development areas primarily in higher education, including as associate director of Unity House and Multicultural Center at Connecticut College. Vásquez-Haye has also served as an adjunct professor at Connecticut College, St. John’s University in New York City and Yale Divinity School.

Vázquez-Haye obtained a Master of Divinity from Yale University, with emphasis in Christian Education focusing on youth and young adult ministry. Her Bachelor of Arts is from Eastern Connecticut State University and her Master of Education from Loyola University Chicago, IL.

José Gavez

José Gavez

José Gavez, who has used black and white film to create a powerful historical record of the Latino experience in America for more than 40 years, delivered the keynote address, saying the nation was blessed to have Chavez in the early days of the Chicano Movement to teach people how to organize and protest. “I am here today because I’m worried that we no longer know why Cesar Chavez was so important.” said Gavez. “Today, we carry the seeds of justice that Cesar Chavez planted into our workplaces, the voting booths, our families and into our volunteer work. We can honor our diverse heritages while including everyone. We can stand for justice, giving our voices to the voiceless.”

 

Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Hartford, CT — More than 13,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 12, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,130 undergraduates and 70 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 125th Commencement exercises.

Award-winning author and distinguished Eastern alumna Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’01 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of her honorary degree. Adichie graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001 with a degree in Communication. She was also awarded Eastern’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.

Adichie is the author of a collection of short stories, “The Thing around Your Neck,” and three novels. Her latest novel, “Americanah,” was published in 2013, earning recognition as one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. Last month, Ms. Adichie was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

In her remarks, she told the graduates that she cherished the bachelor’s degree she received at Eastern. “You are very fortunate to have received your education at Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, where professors are keen to see you succeed.”

Adichie recalled that when she graduated 14 years ago, “I had doubts and worries. ‘What next?’ was the question on my mind. You are worried today just as I was. You should be worried, because it shows that you care.  It is okay not to have all the answers.”
In concluding her remarks, Adichie encouraged the graduates to “make an effort and speak the truth.  It is okay to say, “‘I am wrong’ or ‘I don’t know.’  Life on Earth is short.  Each moment that we are not truthful to ourselves, we are wasting our time on Earth.”

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; attorney David Jimenez, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles; and Matthew Hicks ’15, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ‘’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ‘’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.
Nunez told the audience that this year’s event was Eastern’s 125th Commencement Exercises. “Our campus has grown from four rooms to more than 50 buildings on 82 acres and a campus footprint of almost two million square feet.  In 1891, we graduated 22 students; today we have almost 1,200 graduates, and we are closing in on 30,000 alumni.”

Turning to the graduates, Nunez told them, “Our nation and the global society we live in are looking to you for leadership.  As you embark on your career, take care of yourself, take care of your families, but make sure that you take time to help others when you can. You will find that supporting and helping others strengthens you.  As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “‘From caring comes courage.’”

“Amidst your joy and celebration, I ask you to spend some time today in reflection—please step back for a moment to think about your past four years, what you have learned, and what you are taking from Eastern as you continue your journey.”

Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez—an annual Class of 2015 scholarship—and said the Commencement ceremony “symbolizes more than just earning a degree. It exemplifies the goals we have accomplished through personal growth, strength and ambition.”

David Jimenez spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  “Today is a significant milestone in your life,” he said, “for which you should be incredibly proud. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference. Pursue your goals with the same dedication that brought you to this day.”

In his Senior Class Address, Matthew Hicks said, “To be here is no small feat, each of us has sacrificed a great deal of time and energy to walk across this stage.” Noting that he and his classmates had endured a challenging four years at Eastern and “have come out critical thinkers, determined activists, and dedicated leaders,” Hicks concluded his remarks by saying, “Let us enter this new (challenge) with our heads held high, ready to take what we have learned here and change the world, and most of all, let us never forget the amazing people and memories we have made while discovering who we are.”

Other graduates were reflective in describing their Eastern experiences.  English major Kathryn Shpak, a native of Oxford, CT, said her time interning for the English Department, as well as her student employment job in the Office of University Relations, helped develop her writing and editing skills, which she hopes to use in the fitness/nutrition industry.

Jonah Sanchez, from Newington, majored in business administration minored in accounting and business information systems. For the past three years, Sanchez served as a Benefits Finance intern with United Technologies. Sanchez says Eastern has helped him grow in many ways. “Being a part of and serving as president of the Organization of Latin American Students has opened up many doors for leadership and networking opportunities. Also, on campus job opportunities have been plentiful. I have worked as a resident assistant and a program assistant in the Intercultural Center. I like the fact that Eastern allows it’s students to be active and involved around the campus.” After graduation, Sanchez will begin full-time with United Technologies as an associate in the Financial Leadership Program at United Technologies.

Aaron Daley, from Bloomfield, majored in political science and minored in business information systems and pre-law. “My liberal education helped me to enhance my critical thinking skills, and built up my confidence; I now know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to achieve.”

First Annual CREATE Conference a Success

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern students present undergraduate research projects at recent CREATE conference.

Willimantic, Conn. – CREATE (Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern), the premier undergraduate research and art conference at Eastern Connecticut State University, held its inaugural event on April 17 and 18. By providing exemplary students of all majors an on-campus venue to present their research and creative work, CREATE was the culmination of the 2014–15 academic year, as well as the beginning of a new era.  “This is a very dynamic and action-packed event, balanced in subject matter, presentation type and departments represented,” said Professor Dickson Cunningham, co-chair of CREATE, during the opening remarks. “It’s an interdisciplinary forum where we can all learn from each other, so we encourage everyone to attend multiple presentations and see what your classmates and colleagues have been up to.”

The two-day event showcased approximately 170 student projects, including oral and poster presentations, art and photography exhibits, video and documentary viewings, and live music and dance performances.

“Why is CREATE important?” asked Cunningham. In addition to contributing to the intellectual richness of campus and raising external perceptions of Eastern, he pointed out that for some students, CREATE is “the culmination of their undergraduate career,” and that they should “feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.”“Hopefully this will inspire other students to present and to develop mentor relationships with faculty,” Cunningham concluded.

Attendees peruse the undergraduate art exhibition at recent CREATE conference.

The CREATE conference marked the merging of Eastern’s two previous end-of-year academic conferences: the Excellence Expo and the Arts and Sciences Research Conference and Exhibition. “The merging of these two separate conferences took a lot vision, time and work,” said Provost Rhona Free, pointing out the campus-wide efforts that led to the creation of CREATE, and the hard work of the conference’s organizational committee. “It takes a very strong and dedicated student to produce this quality of work, and it’s important for other students to see this output,” said Free. “It takes a committed and skillful mentor to guide students to the work that is on display.”

Free concluded the opening remarks with presentations of this year’s two Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Mentor Awards. Meredith Metcalf, environmental earth science professor and mentor to graduating senior Laura Markley, was the first recipient. In her nomination, Markley mentioned how Metcalf provides guidance that makes her students’ research valid, while still allowing them to maintain ownership over their project.

Miriam Chirico, English professor and mentor to graduating senior Renee Drouin, received the second award. “A good mentor teaches others to mentor as well,” said Chirico. “Another aspect of mentoring is pushing students to be their best.”

For the following two days, students, family and members of the Eastern community at large browsed the conference’s many presentations in the Science Building and Student Center, and enjoyed a reception and catered breakfast and lunch. From presentations on forensic accounting and cyber security, to West African dance and opera performances, to eclectic artwork and photography exhibits, all sectors of Eastern academics were on display.