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.

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

WILLIMANTIC, CT (06/18/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized as a 2018-19 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction.

The organization praised Eastern for its student-centered approaches and high-impact educational practices. High-impact practices of note include Eastern’s community-based learning programs, intensive writing courses, living-learning communities for residents, undergraduate research, internships and other hands-on learning experiences.

“We are absolutely thrilled to recognize Eastern Connecticut State University as a College of Distinction for its effective dedication to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, CEO for Colleges of Distinction. “Colleges of Distinction is so impressed with Eastern’s curriculum, which is enriched with the kind of high-impact educational practices that are most crucial for student development. Such innovative engagement is preparing the next generation of young adults to thrive after college.”

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction is far more than a ranking list of colleges and universities,” said Schritter. “We seek out the schools that are wholly focused on the student experience, constantly working to produce graduates who are prepared for a rapidly changing global society. Again recognized as a College of Distinction, Eastern Connecticut State University stands out in the way it strives to help its students to learn, grow and succeed.”

Top U.S. Mental Health Official Speaks at Eastern’s 128th Commencement

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College 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.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

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 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, 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. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Eastern’s Spring Career Fair Connects Students to Employers

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Connecticut State University held its spring semester career and internship fair on April 5 in the Geissler Gymnasium. The fair was attended by more than 300 hopeful students who browsed the career opportunities of more than 70 employers.

 Companies in attendance ranged from local police departments to Mohegan Sun Casino, and spanned a variety of industries such as education, finance, medical, and the armed services. 

“I really appreciate that Eastern gives us this chance to connect with all these companies,” said Junior Kevin Zeppieri. “It’s great to be able to talk with professionals; hopefully one of them will want to hire me.”

Senior Kyle Chung, who is graduating in May, said, “This event is great. It’s really one of the only times that students get a chance to meet employers and figure out what they really want from us, without a full interview.”

The fair was sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD), which organizes career and internships each fall and spring semester.

 

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

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

Eastern’s Day of Giving Serves 500

day of giving dinersWritten by Jordan Corey

Eastern Connecticut State University displayed its commitment to community once again on Nov. 22 during its 11th annual Day of Giving. With approximately 500 local community members in attendance, Hurley Hall was packed with positive energy and a Thanksgiving feast intended for those less fortunate.

The Day of Giving is a collaborative effort, bringing together its sponsor – Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) – with a number of outside contributors in order to make it all possible. Eastern’s food service provider, Chartwells, served a particularly important role, donating and preparing the food. Menu items included turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, biscuits – the list goes on. Guests raved about the meal’s quality.

•Nearly 100 people volunteered to make the 11th annual Day of Giving happen, including members of the Eastern and Windham communities, as well as a group from Putnam Middle School (sitting in front

• Nearly 100 people volunteered to make the 11th annual Day of Giving happen, including members of the Eastern and Windham communities, as well as a group from Putnam Middle School (sitting in front

“The vibe is great, the people are great, the food is great,” said Carlos Manguao, a longtime Willimantic resident. “You can’t ask for a better humanitarian day for people that are less fortunate. Thanks to you guys, people have a place to eat.”

Given Hurley Hall’s recent renovations, there were 344 seats available this year, which is more than in the past. People sat close-knit at round tables and countertops, a family-dinner style generating thoughtful conversation and a wholesome atmosphere. “This is one of our biggest events,” commented Ariel Thomas ’17, special events coordinator at the CCE, as the crowd continued to pour in. “It’s always a heartwarming project.”

Approximately 60 volunteers from Eastern were present, consisting of students, faculty and staff, many of whom are familiar faces. “We get the same volunteers year after year,” noted Kim Silcox, director of the CCE. “That’s what’s great about Eastern; everyone loves to pitch in and help with events like this. It’s a tradition.”

•No Thanksgiving feast is complete without pie!:

• No Thanksgiving feast is complete without pie!:

Eastern President Elsa Núñez highlighted the significance of a gathering like the Day of Giving in today’s society. “In the middle of all of our country’s division and tension, here’s a community… If you look in the dining hall, people are black, white, Hispanic, old, disabled, young, and it just shows you that a community can come together,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see everybody together in a positive way.”

One Willimantic local of 30 years spoke of the day’s worth. “I’ve been coming here since it started 11 years ago. This meal means a lot to me,” stated Deborah Bouchard. She revealed that because of a serious car accident last year, she was unable to make the occasion. “I thought of this place when I was in rehab. So this year I’m really enjoying myself and I’m making up for what I lost.”

For Amber Schlemmer ’20, Eastern sophomore and CCE student leader, this was her first Day of Giving, and

ason Budahazy '09 and Eastern President Elsa Núñez

ason Budahazy ’09 and Eastern President Elsa Núñez

its impact did not go unnoticed. “I know that what we do at the CCE is really good and we help the community out, but this just makes me realize the extent to which we do that.”

Also in attendance was Jason Budahazy ’09, the man responsible for the event’s fruition. Budahazy brainstormed the day in his junior year at Eastern, and recalled his outlook at the time: “It would be great if 10 years from now, we didn’t have anybody show up,” he had thought, hoping that the socioeconomics of the community would improve. Now, seeing that the Day of Giving is more bustling than ever, he views the event in a new light: “It’s not about where you’re from, your background, your socioeconomic status. It’s about everybody just getting together as a community.”