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

Career Fair Links Eastern Students to Employers

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Internship and Career Development (CICD) hosted its spring Career and Internship Fair on April 3 in the Sports Center Gymnasium. The fair hosted more than 90 employers for students to explore future internship and job opportunities.

The companies in attendance ranged from the U.S. Army to educational institutions, health services, financial groups and many more – all providing information while seeking future employees.

Students came prepared with résumés, networking strategies and background information about companies of interest. Prior to the fair, students engaged in a career fair boot camp, where CICD staff members provided tips on how to network and keep in touch with employers, improve LinkedIn profiles, participate in mock interviews and much more. The fair on-campus provided students with an easily accessible career exploration opportunity. Lacoy Brown, a junior who majors in health sciences, said the career fair was very convenient for a full-time student.

Clifford Marrett, director of the CICD, said students gain internship opportunities, full-time jobs and garner experience talking to employers and showcasing their abilities. “It’s a nervous process for many students, but the more practice you do, the better you become.”

Many students said the fair gave them a clearer understanding of their potential career path. Senior Taylor Day’19, an English major said, “The career fair opened-up my eyes to a lot of opportunities I wasn’t thinking of.” Day aspires to have a career helping people and feels confident about her future and the connections she’s made. Sadie Wood, a senior who majors in physical education said, “The best experience is being able to build relationships with employers. Developing a rapport with them that you can use when you get out of school.”

The CICD works to prepare students for the professional world by providing résumé help, teaching interview skills and connecting them to opportunities that provide real-world experiences.

Written by Bobbi Brown

PASS Students Participate in Job Shadow Day

Eight students from Eastern Connecticut State University’s PASS program took a trip to Hartford on March 11 for a career shadow day at the United Bank headquarters and Hartford Yard Goats baseball stadium. PASS stands for, “Promoting Academically Successful Students” and is intended for students who are placed on academic probation, especially students of color. This opportunity was provided by The Center for Internship and Career Development (CICD).

Job shadow events give students an inside look at potential career paths. Eight students ranging in majors from business to communication participated in the event. They learned LinkedIn tips, underwent training for proper interview etiquette and learned what United Bank’s Human Resources Department seeks in potential employees.

The PASS program has an emphasis on supporting students of color who face unique challenges in higher education. PASS pays close attention to these students, providing them with the extra support and resources needed to help them earn an Eastern degree.

The CICD’s partnership with PASS supplies students with real-world experiences by pinpointing what their future career goals are and giving them opportunities to gain exposure in those fields. The CICD offers résumé help, proper interviewing skills, volunteering opportunities, and even hosts a career fair every semester for students to explore and start networking for future employment.

At the Yard Goats stadium, students gathered information about the various departments at the facility, including Community Partnerships, Tickets and Hospitality, Operations and Business Development — showing Eastern students the many options they have once they enter the workforce.

Written by Bobbi Brown

Eastern’s New PASS Program Offers ‘Academic Reset’ for Students

Academic advisors and study-skills specialists in Easterm’s Advising Center help students develop individualized action plans.

Eastern Connecticut State University is going the extra mile to ensure that African American and Hispanic students who end up on academic probation are provided the support they need to succeed. The new PASS (Promoting Academically Successful Students) program is funded through a $75,000 grant from the Connecticut State Office of Higher Education.

PASS recognizes that African American and Hispanic college students are often first-generation college students without college-educated parents to provide support and personal knowledge of what it is like to attend college. Trying to juggle supporting a family, working to pay for tuition, room and board, and books, and studying can be stressful. Adjusting to campus life is also a challenge. The result can be academic probation and can even lead to dropping out.

PASS is managed by Eastern’s Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning (CSEL) in collaboration with the Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD) and Eastern’s Advising Center. The program uses a hands-on advising model and an active career development program to inform students of available support services.

“While the PASS Program’s immediate goal is to return participants to good academic standing by the end of the semester, its ultimate goal is to reset how students perceive themselves academically and professionally so they put in place learning practices that will sustain them through to graduation,” said June Dunn, assistant dean in the Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning. 

Dunn says PASS helps students take charge of their own learning. “This is particularly crucial for first-generation students on probation who may not have family members or mentors who are college graduates to prepare them for college success. They have repeatedly heard it’s important to get good grades, and they will tell anyone who asks that their intention is to get good grades. What’s unique about Eastern’s PASS program is that we are putting in place the infrastructure that helps students internalize the connection between their education and career goals,” said Dunn.

PASS requires weekly mandatory advising sessions, skill development workshops, and group meetings for all participating students to review their schedules and make any necessary adjustments. Academic advisors and study skills specialists help students develop individualized action plans that may include more appropriate course selection and/or majors Students must show how they plan to keep up with coursework and meet professor expectations.

Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development helps students internalize the connection between their education and career goals.

The CICD also has an important role. “Participating students have to take the FOCUS 2 assessment, and then come into the office to meet with a career advisor to assess results,” said Cliff Marrett, CIDC director. “The assessment helps each students identify a major and explore career clusters that align with their interests. Students work with their career advisor and check in weekly after they complete their career development assigned tasks.”

Participating students also attend workshops on resume development, interviewing skills and dressing for success, and use interactive online job search tools and mentoring programs to connect to potential employers and alumni mentors.  “We believe this rigorous academic/career routine will ensure the motivation needed for students to come off and remain off academic probation,” said Dunn.

by Dwight Bachman

Fall Career Fair Helps Students Find Career Connections

Written by Raven Dillon

More than 400 students browsed the career options of 90 employers on Oct. 24 at Eastern Connecticut State University’s fall career and internship fair. The fair was a chance for students to explore employment and internship opportunities, as well as to pitch résumés and network with business representatives.

Companies in attendance spanned many industries, from Mohegan Sun casino and resort to Travelers Insurance. The fair was organized into categories, such as education, finance, medical and the armed services. Students were given packets with résumé and interview tips, as well as an opportunity to take professional headshots for their LinkedIn profiles.

Students were encouraged to dress well for good first impressions with potential employers, and to bring plenty of résumés. Those who had attended the career-fair boot camp the previous week were advised to research the companies that interested them and to ask employer representatives plenty of questions.

“We really try to prepare students,” said Lana O’Conner, administrative assistant for the Center of Internships and Career Development, the fair’s organizing department. “Everyone gets a packet with a list of employers and floorplan of the fair, as well as contact information for the companies. We also emphasize how to practice your ‘pitch’ when meeting potential employers; making a strong introduction is key.”

Jhanvi Shah ’20, a junior business administration major, has attended several career fairs in the past, but as graduation approaches next academic year, she now finds them to be more valuable. “Don’t remind me,” she laughed. “I’m getting close to graduating, and I don’t want to think about it. But these events are really helpful for making connections. I talked with a lot of people in my field. Maybe I’ll find an internship that can help me get a job after I graduate.”

‘English at Work’ Panel Spotlights Alumni Working in Higher Ed

Left to right: English alumni Melissa Dwelley ’12, Reece D’Angelo ’11, Megan Vo ’13 and Monica Mordowanec ’17 discuss their current jobs in higher education.

Written by Jordan Corey

The English Department at Eastern Connecticut State University welcomed four alumni on Oct. 22 to discuss their experiences working in higher education student affairs. The event was part of the “English at Work” series, which highlights the universal nature of an English degree.

The panel consisted of Reece D’Angelo ’11, Melissa Dwelley ’12, Megan Vo ’13 and Monica Mordowanec ’17. They covered a range of topics, including extracurricular engagement at the undergraduate level, going to graduate school and occupational responsibilities.

Panelists highlighted the importance of getting involved on campus. “I was considering a lot of different options as an undergraduate,” said Dwelley, who works as a communications officer for the Young Global Scholars Program at Yale University. During her time at Eastern, she worked as a tutor and peer advisor. “I enjoyed the administrative side of it.” Dwelley now has a Master of Education degree in student personnel administration.

Other panelists cited working in the Student Center, taking leadership roles in clubs and working as a resident assistant (RA) as gateways to deciding their career path. However, as former president of Eastern’s Education Club, D’Angelo noted that students must be careful not to overextend themselves. “Pick one or two things.” With a Master of Science degree in counseling and higher education, she is an academic specialist at Quinnipiac University.

In addition to undergraduate efforts, graduate programs have allowed the panelists to gain access to higher education in different capacities. They touched on becoming familiar with unexpected components of student affairs, such as counseling, and the financial weight that can accompany pursuing further degrees. A suggestion for a manageable transition was applying to programs that provide stipends or payment for working. “There are ways to have grad school paid for, but they are competitive,” said D’Angelo.

In the realm of higher education, job descriptions vary. Mordowanec, who will receive her Master of Education degree in higher education and student affairs this May, works for residence life at Salem State University. She oversees all daily operations of a traditional-style residence hall of approximately 290 first-year students. Her favorite part, she revealed, is the conduct hearings that take place when a student gets into trouble.

“During those moments is when I really get to change students,” she said, explaining that she prefers to give constructive punishments, such as requiring the student to join a program or club, as a means of changing their behaviors.

“I have my hands in all things student affairs,” said Vo. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction and will be completing her Master of Science degree in autism and applied behavior analysis in May. She is the head of the Office of Residential Life at the University of Saint Joseph. With a smaller university, she noted, comes different responsibilities, but there is an “intersection of opportunities” seen across student affairs. “We’re all here for the students.”

Vo also noted that, with any task, the English skills she has acquired assist her in being articulate and concise. D’Angelo agreed, stating that her experience as an English major has helped her in learning how to see outside perspectives and better understand her own positions. Mordowanec utilizes the social justice qualities that she picked up from her English studies on a regular basis.

“One of the reasons I went into student affairs is because there was so much opportunity,” said Dwelley. The panelists agreed that the field is versatile and, in many cases, they discovered what they liked best or what information was most valuable along the way. While student affairs may seem daunting as a profession, the experience gained is invaluable, and success can be achieved with the right balance. “Be realistic with your expectations of yourself and others,” concluded Vo.

Travelers Employees Offer Interview Advice

Travelers Insurance employees (left to right) Tiana Correa, Freddy Cruz, Chance Foster, Anthony Peterson and Tyler Stebbins offer advice about the job-application process.

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (10/10/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a panel of Travelers Insurance employees on Oct. 3 who spoke with students about interviews, résumés and corporate leadership. The event was organized by the Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD).

Three of the five panelists are Eastern alumni. Freddy Cruz ’18 (double major in business administration and business information systems) works in Travelers’ Technology Foundational Development Program; Tyler Stebbins ’16 (business information systems) works in business insurance IT; and Anthony Peterson ’14 (business administration) is a pricing analyst.

The panelists fielded questions about their paths from college to the corporate world and offered tips on how to succeed in the job-application process. Students were advised to dress well for interviews, to do research on the company and to ask follow-up questions.

Students were also encouraged to bolster their résumés and interviewing skills through workshops offered at Eastern’s CICD, regardless of major or career aspirations. The panelists stressed the importance of being able to ask uncomfortable questions and to stop thinking of their majors as fields, but rather as skillsets.

“Never stop learning,” urged one panelist. “When you transition from college to career, it’s just another step. Take the same lessons you learn from here to your job.”

 

Eastern Hosts Annual Fall Graduate School Fair

Written by Jolene Potter

Hundreds of Eastern Connecticut State University students met with representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities at Eastern’s annual Graduate School Fair on Sept. 25 in the Student Center. The fair presents an opportunity for undergraduates to learn about graduate and professional education, receive detailed information about various schools and network with professionals in their desired field of study.

Representatives from a variety of schools attended the fair to recruit students for programs in psychology, education, law, business, accounting, engineering, medicine and more.

Graduate schools represented at the fair included such Connecticut institutions as Southern Connecticut State University, the University of Connecticut and Sacred Heart University. The fair also hosted representatives from Boston University, Northeastern University, Bay Path University and Assumption College.

“The graduate fair is a great opportunity for students who are exploring their future career and education path,” said senior communication major Kate Cobb. “As a student who works full-time, this gave me an idea of how to describe the skills I have gained, by working on my résumé and applications for graduate school.”

The interaction with representatives also reassured some students who have already decided on their career path. “Speaking with representatives from programs I am interested in has affirmed my chosen career path and helped solidified my decision to apply directly to Ph.D. programs,” said senior psychology major Kelly Bielonko.