Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education Reaches 1 Million on YouTube

Julia DeLapp (standing, left) and Niloufar Rezai (right) show a video to preschool children that recaps the various videos produced by the CECE over the years, many of which contain footage from Eastern’s own preschool classroom located at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC). DeLapp is the director of the CECE and Rezai is the director of the CFDRC.

Written by Casey Collins

WILLIMANTIC, CT (02/22/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) has reached a milestone on its YouTube account- passing one million views this February. The YouTube channel, “EarlyChildhoodVideos,” has been active since Jan. 29, 2013, and has posted more than 125 videos produced by communication students, research assistants and CECE faculty.
The CECE first began producing video content independently from the Internet, beginning with, “Guiding Young Children’s Behavior” in 2006. The video, which was developed in part with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, was intended for preschool teachers in U.S. Navy child development centers. Eventually the CECE made the move to the web, creating its own site in 2008 and simultaneously releasing one of it’s most popular videos to date, “Five Predictors of Early Literacy.” The center has since seen its videos aired in more than 200 countries, and have received six Telly Awards for technical excellence in video production. The Telly’s have been giving out awards to the most outstanding producers in film and television for 39 years.
“Knowing that our videos are being used to train teachers around the world is amazing,” said CECE Director Julia Delapp. “We have viewers in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and Kenya. That is what I’m most proud of.” When asked about the future of EarlyChildhoodVideos, Delapp responded, “We really want to make more videos about the arts, music, social-emotional development… There’s just so many topics I would love to cover.”
The Center for Early Childhood Education is a multidisciplinary research and training institute at Eastern. Opened in 2007, the center is housed in a high-tech facility connected to Eastern’s model early care and education program. The center works to enhance the quality of early care and education by conducting innovative research, disseminating findings, providing professional development opportunities and developing training videos.

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 Reveals 2017 TIMPANI Winner

•The Animal Kingdom Mega Pack by Animal Planet has been named the 2017 TIMPANI toy of the year.

• The Animal Kingdom Mega Pack by Animal Planet has been named the 2017 TIMPANI toy of the year.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education announced on Dec. 6 that “Animal Kingdom Mega Pack” by Animal Planet has been named the 2017 TIMPANI (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination) Toy.

Now in its eighth year, the annual study investigates how young children learn as they play with a variety of toys in natural settings. Ten toys were selected this year for the study by teachers, faculty and student researchers. The toys were placed in preschool classrooms at the University’s Child and Family Development Resource Center, and student researchers used hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys. Researchers then coded the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization. For this year’s study, researchers coded nearly 8,000 five-minute observations.

•Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, discusses the study during the TIMPANI press conference.:

• Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, discusses the study during the TIMPANI press conference.:

“Undergraduate research is a strength of Eastern’s liberal arts education,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez, “and the TIMPANI toy study is an outstanding example of students conducting faculty-sponsored research of the highest level on our campus. For the past eight years, our early childhood education students have observed children at play with a variety of toys, and have developed an annual criteria-based evaluation of what toys are best for the cognitive, social, and creative development of young children. Parents, preschool educators and others across the globe are turning to Eastern for guidance on how best to support children’s play. In the process, our early childhood education students are learning to conduct empirical research of the highest quality.”

The Animal Kingdom Mega Pack received the highest overall score in this year’s study. It also scored the highest in three of the four subscales: creativity and imagination, social interaction, and verbalization. It was the highest-scoring toy for both boys and girls. It also scored highly for children from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. “This was a toy that inspired high-quality play by children of all different backgrounds,” said Julia DeLapp, director of the Center for Early Childhood Education and co-investigator of the study.

•Children enrolled at Eastern's Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) play with the tool in the preschool classroom

• Children enrolled at Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) play with the tool in the preschool classroom

DeLapp noted that research studies such as the TIMPANI toy study are not available to undergraduate students at most colleges universities, but are essential elements of an Eastern education. The result, as she explained, was that early childhood education students are well prepared for graduate school and the workforce because of the professional experience that research projects provide.

The 2017 TIMPANI Toy, which includes plastic animals from a variety of habitats, is an example of a “replica play toy.” According to Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, replica play toys provide important opportunities for children to engage in symbolic, make-believe play. “When children are playing with these kinds of toys, they have to do something beyond just becoming a make-believe character themselves. They actually have to project themselves into the role of an animal. This takes what some researchers call a ‘greater symbolic leap’ from reality to the make-believe play theme.”

Trawick-Smith said toys such as the “Animal Kingdom Mega Pack” have been played with for centuries. “Even children in Ancient Rome have been recorded playing with little replicas of animals and people.”

As Dominique McLean, a psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study, noted, “The animals were an open-ended toy that allowed children to bring their prior knowledge into their play narratives. They collaborated with their peers to create habitats and to sort the animals.”

Nicole Green, an English and elementary education student involved in the study, said that the study made clear to her how important play is for children’s learning. “I saw many important life skills that were being taught as children were playing with each other, and I think that those need to be fostered even as they get a little older and move into elementary school.”

Other students involved in this year’s study were researchers Amanda Terenzi, a social work student, and Stefanie Dominguez, a communication and early childhood education student. Ayla Heald was the student editor for this year’s video, with student Emily Parsons providing additional support for the study.

The results of the study were first announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Atlanta, GA, on Nov. 15. Findings will be disseminated to preschool teachers nationally to inform their decisions about the toys to include in their classroom. Findings will also be shared with families.

To see today’s press conference on the TIMPANI Toy of the Year, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRHzF_sUnP4

For more information on the 2017 TIMPANI Toy of the Year, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/, or contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687 or visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/.

Previous TIMPANI toys include Plus-Plus® by Plus-Plus® (2016), Wooden Cash Register by Hape (2015); Paint and Easel (easel by Community Playthings), and Hot Wheels Cars by Mattel (2014); Magna-Tiles by Valtech!, and My First Railway by Brio (2013); Duplo Blocks by LEGO (2012); Tinker Toys by Hasbro (2011); Wooden Vehicles and Signs by Melissa and Doug (2010).

* * * * *

Disclaimer: The TIMPANI toy study does not consider, nor does it test, the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy studied. Neither the Center for Early Childhood Education nor Eastern Connecticut State University is liable for any mishaps related to the use of toys mentioned in study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Eastern to Reveal Toy of the Year

Written by Michael Rouleau

TIMPANIlogo-150x150Just in time for the holiday season, Eastern Connecticut State University will reveal its 2017 TIMPANI toy of the year on Dec. 6 during a 10 a.m. press conference in the Joinery of the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE). TIMPANI stands for “Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination,” and is an internationally acclaimed study conducted by Eastern faculty and undergraduate students. Following the press conference, members of the media will be invited to tour the University’s childcare center and observe the toys in action.

Now in its eighth year, the annual study investigates how young children play with a variety of toys in natural settings. Ten toys were selected this year for the study by teachers, faculty and student researchers of the CECE.

The toys were placed in preschool classrooms at the University’s Child and Family Development Resource Center, and student researchers used hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys. Researchers then coded the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization. For this year’s study, researchers coded nearly 8,000 five-minute observations.

Previous TIMPANI toys include Plus-Plus® by Plus-Plus® (2016), Wooden Cash Register by Hape (2015); Paint and Easel by Community Playthings and Hot Wheels Cars by Mattel (2014); Magna-Tiles by Valtech and My First Railway by Brio (2013); Duplo Blocks by LEGO (2012); Tinker Toys by Hasbro (2011); Wooden Vehicles and Signs by Melissa and Doug (2010).

TIMPANI results have been widely reported, including by sources such as International Business Times, All-Jazeera America and television news programs across the country. The instrument used in the study has been shared by request with researchers all over the world, including Turkey.

Note to news media: Come to the Dec. 6 press conference to find out the identity of the 2017 TIMPANI toy. For more information, contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687 or visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/.

Eastern’s CFDRC Reaccredited!

cfdrc image-2Written by Anne Pappalardo

Willimantic, Conn. – The Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) at Eastern Connecticut State University was recently notified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) that the organization has reviewed the center’s Annual Report and that it is maintaining the center’s accreditation, reflecting continued excellence in their programming.

The CFDRC achieved a five-year term of accreditation with the NAEYC in 2014. The accreditation – recognized as “the mark of quality in early childhood education” – is valid until Oct. 1, 2019.

“Accreditation from the NAEYC is the most prestigious stamp of excellence for childhood programs – staff work hard to maintain NAEYC accreditation annually. As a result, children and families gain from a high quality program and in turn, we model best practices for Eastern’s pre-service teacher candidates,” said Niloufar Rezai, director of the CFDRC.

Among the tasks of becoming NAEYC-accredited, programs must score at least 80 percent on each of the association’s 10 program standards. Scores are based on a site visit, which includes an observation of classroom sessions and an overall environmental assessment, as well as a review of the program’s portfolios. The CFDRC scored 100 percent on every standard.

The 10 program standards evaluated include promoting positive relationships and personal health; utilizing relevant curriculum and effective teaching and assessment approaches; employing qualified and committed staff and management; interacting with families, communities and outside agencies; and providing indoor and outdoor environments that foster growth and development.

The NAEYC is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on improving the well-being of young children, with particular emphasis on the quality of educational and developmental services for children from birth through age eight.

Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

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.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,389 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. 10.

For the past 33 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

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 employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

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, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “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.”

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About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Eastern’s Teacher Preparation Program Achieves Reaccreditation

•Education students supervise preschool children on the climbing wall of the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC)

Education students supervise preschool children on the climbing wall of the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC)

WILLIMANTIC, CT (05/30/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University recently received continued accreditation through fall 2021 from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), based on the standards of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE’s performance-based accreditation system for teacher preparation ensures that teaching candidates are prepared to make a difference in P-12 student learning.

The accreditation report indicated that Eastern has met all six standards for Initial Teacher Preparation and Advanced Preparation, including candidate knowledge and skills; unit evaluation and assessment systems; field experiences and clinical practice; diversity; faculty qualifications, performance and development; and unit governance and resources.

Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith speaks at the press conference for Eastern's renowned TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination)

Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith speaks at the press conference for Eastern’s renowned TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination)

All Eastern teacher preparation programs, including bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, elementary education, physical education, and secondary education, as well as graduate programs in early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, educational technology and reading/language arts, are covered by the continuing accreditation decree.

Eastern has been preparing Connecticut’s teaching workforce since its founding in 1889, and its educational programs continue to be recognized in various national rankings. For instance, both the elementary and secondary education undergraduate programs are ranked in the top five in New England by path2teach.org; the secondary program is ranked in the top 10 nationally by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Other noteworthy accomplishments include Eastern’s leadership role in advancing diversity among the teaching profession through its partnership with the Holmes Masters Program, and a new partnership with Norwalk Community College to enable its students to leverage their associate’s degree to earn their bachelor’s degree in the area of early childhood education.

Education faculty are also making news, with Assistant Professor of Education Mark Fabrizi named editor-in-chief of “The Leaflet,” the journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English; and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, professor and Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair for Early Childhood Education, and Sudha Swaminathan, professor of early childhood education, awarded a Spencer Foundation grant for the project “The Relationship of Teacher-Child Math Talk During Preschool Play to Young Children’s Mathematics Learning.”

Other recent initiatives include two clinical practice partnerships with local school districts that include year-long, residency-based internships for Eastern graduate students seeking master’s degrees in education.

The residency internship is designed to reshape graduate teacher education by ensuring long-term, high quality clinical experiences for professionals seeking to become classroom teachers. Each intern works in an assigned classroom for a full academic year, while completing university coursework.

Both university and school district partners collaborate on supervision and curriculum to ensure that theory and practice are integrated. Graduate students also participate in school wide initiatives and demonstrate positive impact on student learning and the school community as a program outcome.

During fall 2016, an inaugural cohort of 10 was selected for placements in Coventry School District. The program was a success. Of participating school district teachers and administrators, 85 percent indicated that interns were able to positively impact the learning experiences for P-12 students, and 100 percent of district participants supported program continuation.

“The year-long residency internship adheres to national standards for university-school district partnerships for clinical practice,” said Jacob Easley II, dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies and Graduate Division. “We are certain that the profession will be transformed by partnerships such as this; and we are excited about expanding the program in Windham Public Schools during the upcoming academic year.”

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, 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.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore 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.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Eastern Presents Inclusive Excellence Awards to ALANA Students

Written by Dwight Bachman

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

 Eastern Connecticut State University recognized the academic achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students on May 5 during its Fifth Annual Inclusive Excellence Awards ceremony. Nine awards were given and 165 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.5 or higher.

Eastern presented Melat Assefa and Christina Perez the Advisor’s Choice Award; Deja Seawright the Inspirational Leadership Award; and Chisolm Sunny Uduputa the International Student Award. The Resilient Warrior Award to AnnRichelle Akko, Daniel Costillo, Adrian Lopez Diaz and Yineira Lopez. Taylor Hemphill was named recipient of the Social Justice Advocacy Award, and the Volunteer Service Award went to Destiny Hartmann.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez told those in attendance that the awards ceremony was not just about inclusion. “It also speaks to Eastern’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, Social Responsibility, Engagement, and Empowerment. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  We are very proud of you! We are doing everything we can to promote the success of students of color. We know that having an inclusive, diverse, and culturally rich campus is good for all our students — in the end, we all must learn to live together in today’s global society.”

Natasha Stephens

Natasha Stephens

Alumna Natasha Stephens, who graduated from Eastern in 2003 and is the Title IX Coordinator at Wichita State University in Kansas, delivered the keynote address. She told the honorees she was honored to come back to campus. “While you have breath in your body, thank those who helped you, took time to meet with you, who gave you an opportunity and took a chance on you.  Never forget your roots and where you came from — no matter how high you go in life, give back of your time to someone else.”

She concluded by telling students that they can always change their plans. “Don’t limit yourself or your abilities — challenge yourself to new things. Believe in yourself, and give someone the wings to fly.”