Education for Democracy at Eastern

•Rick Battistoni leads the conference's keynote discussion

Rick Battistoni leads the conference’s keynote discussion

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its second annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 8. to dissect the practice of “service learning” and its impact on students and society. Service learning is a mutually beneficial teaching strategy that aligns classroom learning with community efforts. Organized by the Center for Community Engagement, the conference featured insights from Eastern faculty and students – Rick Battistoni, who teaches public/community service studies at Providence College, was the keynote speaker.

•Professor Terry Lennox presents on her class's service learning work with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

Professor Terry Lennox presents on her class’s service learning work with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

“Why connect classroom to community?” asked Terry Lennox, digital art and design professor. She had three answers: Working in the real world accelerates the learning process. Secondly, when students can see their impact, they realize the value of their work. Thirdly, service learning is great for portfolios and resumes.

For several years, Lennox has led the Eastern Design Group (a capstone course for seniors) on digital design projects with local nonprofits and community organizations. Among their endeavors, students have designed a permanent exhibit at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, as well as created designs for a gala at Windham Hospital and the nonprofit Grow Windham.

•An Eastern student presents on her service learning work with the Windham Region No Freeze shelter.

•An Eastern student presents on her service learning work with the Windham Region No Freeze shelter.

Speaking to service learning in general, Lennox added, “students benefit by increasing their depth of pre-professional experiences, as well as gaining the reward of successfully working together and seeing their individual talents bring about positive change.”

Communication Professor Denise Matthews has taught a video field production course for 14 years, in which students produce videos for local organizations. “While the quality of the work is very important,” she says, “the experience that students acquire in the process of working as a professional with a client may be the most important component of their learning experience.”

Business Administration Professor Fatma Pakdil brings her students to collaborate with local businesses to analyze operations management topics. “We focus on their business problems and projects so students can see the real-life application of topics covered in the classroom,” she said. “Having a real case with various topics to work on is more challenging and informative, and shows students what they can expect after graduation.”

Keynote speaker Rick Battistoni took the stage for his talk, “Community or Political Engagement? Educating for Democracy in Troubled Times.” “Our current political landscape is full of craters and our discourse has become more polarized,” he said, adding that “voter turnout is abysmally low, especially among college-aged people, for a country that I like to think of as a democracy.”

Battistoni is confident that well-implemented service learning in higher education can counter this civic disengagement, saying that “community engagement is indeed education for democracy.”

In order for this to come to fruition, however, Battistoni says service learning must satisfy three things: purpose, accountability and time.

He explained that classroom goals must clearly align with the goals of the community partner (purpose); the impact must be measured (accountability); and the programs must be long enough to develop meaningful relationships and knowledge (time). “It must be sustained and developmental,” he said, “not just a one-and-done.”

This concept of “time” aligned with the conference’s opening presentation on Eastern’s soon-to-be-formalized Civic Action Plan, which aims to “institutionalize” the practice of service learning. The plan will expand service learning and community engagement opportunities at Eastern; create an academic minor in civic engagement; develop a committee on community-engaged teaching and learning; and reinforce the practice by recognizing and rewarding service learning achievements.

“Eastern has always had a longstanding relationship with the community; it just hasn’t always been organized,” said Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement, which acts as a bridge between the campus and the surrounding community. “This plan broadens and refines the work that’s already been happening on campus.”

 

Eastern’s Day of Giving is Nov. 22

DAY OF GIVING 2017-FILEEastern Connecticut State University’s 11th annual Day of Giving will occur on Nov. 22 in Hurley Hall. The event is open to Willimantic residents who might not otherwise enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. The meal will be served from 12-2 p.m.

The major community event-which served more than 700 guests last year-is a collaboration between Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the Office of Institutional Advancement and Chartwells, Eastern’s food service provider.

The festive spread of Turkey, stuffing and all the traditional fixings will be donated by the ECSU Foundation and Chartwells. Chartwells staff will donate their time to prepare the food and decorate the dining hall. More than 50 volunteers from the Eastern community-students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university-will serve food, provide transportation, welcome guests, lead children’s activities and clean up.

During the four weeks leading up to the Day of Giving, the CCE will conduct food drives at area grocery stores. Donations will go to the Covenant Soup Kitchen and other local food pantries. Upcoming drives include the Willimantic Food Co-op on Nov. 4 and 5; Bob’s IGA in South Windham on Nov. 11; Stop & Shop in East Hampton on Nov. 12; and Stop & Shop in Uncasville on Nov. 18 and 19. Volunteers will collect items from 10am to 2pm on each day.

Last weekend’s food drive, which took place at the Canterbury Better Value Super Market, 575 food items totaling 702 pounds were collected, along with $96 in cash donations.

Additionally, collection boxes have been placed throughout the Eastern campus in residence halls, classroom buildings and administration buildings. Last year, 859 food items were donated on campus; the goal for this year is 1,000 items.

‘Thread City’ Takes the Stage

A Tale of Immigrants and Community Love

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

The ever-relevant topic of immigration was on dramatic display from Oct. 11-15 when Eastern Connecticut State University premiered “Thread City,” a unique performance that “told” stories of the immigrants who came to Willimantic to work in its historic thread mills. The dialogue-free play blended choreographed movement, visual projections and folky-electronic soundscapes to convey a heartfelt and historically representative tale of immigration in America.

In their 19th- and 20th-century heyday, Willimantic’s thread mills were among the largest producers of textiles in the world. They were major employers in northeastern Connecticut, drawing workers from New England and beyond. Willimantic became a hotbed of immigration. According to U.S. Census data, 29 percent of Windham residents were foreign born in 1910, with people from 26 different nations living in town.

“Thread City” opens with a stage that represents many different countries and eras. Multiple scenes that happen simultaneously fade in and out of action as a spotlight moves about the stage. As the setting shifts to a turbulent transcontinental boat ride, the performance space eventually comes to represent Willimantic exclusively – including its homes and the hazardous work environment of the mills.

Due to the multicultural theme of “Thread City,” it was important to the creators to devise a play that would transcend language. Using “moment work” – a theatrical technique in which individual moments are dissected and explored – actors conveyed the stories of immigrants without the use of words.

Several years of research and preparation went into “Thread City,” which involved visiting historical sites, researching testimonies of past residents and interviewing current Willimantic residents. Theatre Professors Kristen Morgan and Alycia Bright-Holland, co-creators of the production, traveled to Quebec and Puerto Rico – the origins of two of the largest ethnic groups to migrate to Willimantic – and led a class trip Ellis Island in New York City.

“Wandering through the beautifully curated exhibits at the Ellis Island museum inspired our students to create all sorts of new ‘moments’ when we returned to campus,” wrote Morgan and Bright-Holland, who led moment-work workshops and co-taught two upper-level theatre courses to prepare for “Thread City.”

Intimate scenes of the immigrant experience – from leaving heartbroken family members, to being inspected by immigration officers who bark orders in an unfamiliar tongue, to being reunited with family in their new home – were conveyed with precise gestures and emotion-filled facial expressions.

“The method of storytelling in ‘Thread City’ was an attempt at universal communication,” said student Matt Bessette ’19, the play’s dramaturge. “Its characters were direct portrayals of historical individuals of various backgrounds and time periods. The overall spectacle demonstrates the thematic elements of individuality and unity – the idea of being alone and yet, at the same time, together.”

 

While “Thread City” would not fall under the genre of “musical,” rhythm and soundscapes play a star role in advancing the story. “This project drove me to immerse myself in the folk music of the major immigrant groups of Willimantic,” said composer Travis Houldcroft, media specialist at Eastern. “I strove to develop music that fit the show but was also exemplary of my own style.”

Houldcroft’s compositions, which he performed live, were played on banjo and guitar, as well as a laptop, which he used to loop sounds and manipulate effects. “This allowed me to integrate elements of string instrumentation as well as experimental electronic effects into the score. This aesthetics bleeds into the design of the soundscape.”

Adding to the overall musicality of “Thread City,” the cast of more than 20 characters – who seem to share the stage for the bulk of the show – added to the soundscapes with rhythmic knee slaps, toe taps and choreographed, dance-like movement.

To make “Thread City” a reality, Morgan and Bright-Holland partnered with members of the Eastern campus, as well as residents of several local communities. Among them, representatives of the Windham Textile and History Museum helped describe what life was like for mill workers more than a century ago. Several staff and faculty from Eastern gave insights into their own immigrant experiences, connected the production team with valuable community members, and shared knowledge of various historic migrations.

Beyond entertainment and message, “Thread City” perhaps had a nobler cause: to further unite the local community. “With the privilege of having a beautiful building dedicated to the arts,” wrote Morgan and Bright-Holland, in reference to Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center, “comes the responsibility of serving the community with that space.

“We discussed the idea of a performance created specifically for Willimantic – not something simply ‘for’ the community, but something that would engage residents so that they might see themselves truly reflected and represented on stage.

“Today more than ever, we need that physical and emotional connection to one another,” they concluded. “Theatre has the power to transform, to heal, to activate and ultimately to create social and political change.”

 

Eastern Relay for Life Impacts Many

Written by Jordan Corey

relay-for-life-logoCancer fighters, survivors and supporters came out in force on Oct. 14 for the annual Relay for Life of Greater Windham, which has generated more than $78,000 in donations. Hosted at the sports complex at Eastern Connecticut State University, the event achieved its goal of raising money and commemorating loved ones and caretakers.

Over the course of the nearly 12-hour event, Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) deployed 36 students who volunteered more than 150 hours. They helped with the overall set up and break down, basket raffle, gear store, luminaria and children’s activities like face painting.

CCE student leader Carly Perron spoke of her goal for students: “We encourage students to talk to the survivors,” she said, believing that it’s important to learn from survivors’ stories.

The Relay for Life evokes a strong sense of community in Windham. “It’s a milestone,” commented one survivor. She emphasized the fact that until somebody actually has cancer, there is no way of knowing what it’s really like, and while every experience is individualized, there is meaning behind survivors coming together as a group. She also highlighted the true significance of caregivers in the life of a cancer patient, and their consequent role in the relay. “If it wasn’t for my husband and daughter,” she said, “I would have starved.”

Eastern Relay for Life Volunteers

Eastern Relay for Life Volunteers

In addition to physical support, the aforementioned survivor addressed the need for emotional support when dealing with cancer for a plethora of reasons. One obstacle she touched on was the stigma surrounding having short hair as a middle-aged woman. At first, she felt self-conscious about it, but over time she learned to accept and even embrace how she looks. “Cancer doesn’t care, so I don’t care.”

Another survivor at last weekend’s relay, an army veteran, overcame stage-four stomach cancer and spoke about the toll that comes with undergoing chemotherapy treatment. “It almost killed me the first few rounds,” she said, revealing that she eventually turned to a shaman in Panama for answers, where she was stationed at the time. Within months, she was in remission. Though many of her family members have stopped regularly attending Relay for Life over time, this survivor has been involved in the event for 20 years. “It means everything.”

This notion of solidarity is further displayed during the luminaria ceremony. Luminaria are white paper bags with names written on them in recognition of those who have fought, are actively fighting or have lost their lives to cancer. They are lit at each Relay for Life to allow people to grieve, reflect and find hope.

Donations for the 2017 Greater Windham County Relay for Life may continue to trickle in until Dec. 30. To donate and for more information, visit www.relayforlife.org/windhamct.

Each year more than 5,000 communities and 27 countries take part in Relay for Life, the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Since its inception, Relay for Life has accumulated nearly $5 billion in donations.

Harvest of Hope Strengthens Safety Net

Written by Ed Osborn

harvest of hopeWillimantic, CT (10/16/2017) —The Windham Area Interfaith Ministry is bracing itself for a challenging year. Between state funding cuts and a persistent, if not growing, need for services, WAIM expects to continue to be a safety net for those who are unable to receive help elsewhere.

One of the ways WAIM raises funds to support its mission is through a variety of special events, including the upcoming Harvest of Hope on October 21 from 5-8 pm., co-hosted by Willimantic Waste Paper Co. This special evening will offer wine selections by High Spirits and tasty Cafemantic hors d’ouevres in the beautiful setting of the Spring Hill Inn, 957 Storrs Rd., Storrs. The Earl MacDonald Jazz Trio will perform and there will be a silent auction.

“So many people depend on WAIM, so we have to do all we can to assure that they get the help they need when they need it most,” says WAIM Board Chair and event organizer, Jodi Walenciewecz. “The Harvest of Hope is a fun way to support a great cause. It’s a win-win for everyone!”

Tickets are available at waimct.org or call (860) 456-7270 x11. This promises to be another outstanding evening. Please come to support the mission of WAIM.

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.

Windham Schools Partner with Eastern on Puentes al Futuro Program

Written by Ed Osborn

puentes 2017 games

For the sixth summer in a row, the Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program provided enrichment activities for Willimantic middle school students from July 5–27. The program is a collaboration between Windham Public Schools’ Office of Family and Community Partnerships and the Center for Community Engagement at Eastern Connecticut State University. The academic and cultural enrichment program was funded in part by a generous grant from Eversource, in addition to funding from Windham Public Schools.

puentes 2017 students in costume

Puentes al Futuro provides a safe space for summer fun and helps students improve their academics in advance of the next school year. The program is an extension of an after-school program in Windham schools during the academic year that has grown from only 20 students when it started six years ago to a level of more than 125 this year.

“The summer Puentes al Futuro program is a unique opportunity for Windham middle school students and Eastern Connecticut State University students to spend an intensive month together outside of the traditional school environment,” said Kimberly Armstrong Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement.

puentes 2017 in the pool“The student-led program allows the college students to develop deeper relationships with the youth through leadership development, student engagement and enrichment opportunities. We see the children develop self-confidence, respect for themselves and others, and blooming creativity that is not easily established during the school year with the pressures that children face in school. The Center for Community Engagement is always proud to partner with Windham Public Schools. This program is a terrific reflection of the commitment that Windham Public Schools has to provide resources to support their students in unique and powerful ways.”

During the three-week program, 27 students from Windham who are entering sixth and seventh grade participated in an academic component in the mornings at the middle school and then spent the afternoons at Eastern learning cultural dance, theater and swimming.

This year’s focus was on the immigration experience and the experiences of undocumented individuals and families. The students wrote essays and turned them into monologues that were performed at a “Showcase” during the final day of the program, along with dances and original theatrical pieces the students had developed. The goal was to provide the students with accurate information and to give them a safe space to express their concerns as well as to ask questions. Members of the organization “Connecticut Students for a Dream” met with the participants to provide accurate information about pathways to college for undocumented students.

puentes 2017 showcase final

Each Monday, students also visited the CLiCK (Commercially Licensed, Cooperative Kitchen) in Windham to learn about nutrition, gardening and cooking.

puentes Emiliano Gutierrez“I enjoyed being at Eastern,” said Emiliano Gutierrez, who is entering Windham Middle School this fall. “I had a lot of fun with the other students. We played games — BINGO and “Helicopter” — and also swam in Eastern’s beautiful swimming pool.  We learned about the lives of immigrants and wrote stories about them. I wrote about a young Mexican boy who had immigrated to the United States.”

Manuel Silva will be a student at the Charles H. Burrows STEM Academy this fall. “I learned how to express my creativity in the Puentes program. I wrote my story about four children whose parents had immigrated to the United States and how they are trying to come to America to find their parents.”

Silva was one of four participants who presented their stories in oral monologues during the program’s final showcase on July 27.  After practicing dancing in Eastern’s Dance Studio, the children in the program formed two teams during the final ceremony to perform a “Warrior Dance” in colorful costumes.

The program was staffed by five Eastern students and coordinated by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE). Windham Middle School staff supported the program as well, and professional dancer from New York City taught the dance classes.

Carly Perron ’18 was the Eastern student program coordinator and was assisted by fellow Eastern students Sarah Tricarico, Mariana Vega, Adilsa Encarnacao and Luis Martinez, who served as counselors.

Perron served as a counselor in the program in 2016.  A double major in political science and history who is also preparing for secondary education certification, she is a regular CCE volunteer leader, working in programs for the elderly in addition to the program for middle school students.  “Middle school is hard,” she says. “I want to make the kids’ lives and experiences a bit easier.”

Given the multi-cultural nature of Willimantic, the Puentes program is “all about culture and remembering where you come from,” says Perron. Speaking to the focus on immigration in this year’s program, she said, “I want these students to know the positive side of immigration. They are learning about the rights and opportunities for undocumented children or their undocumented parents.”

The middle school students also got to spend time on a college campus, some for the first time, and realize that going to college and getting their degree is an achievable aspiration.

In addition to the summer program, the Puentes program also includes activities throughout the school year, including several that involve Eastern students. These range from a “Arts and Culture” program for elementary schoolchildren, which focuses on learning the culture of another country — Jamaica, Ireland and Russian have been explored in the past — to the “I Love Me” program designed to build self-confidence for middle school students.

Parents can learn more about the Puentes program and register their children when school begins by visiting www.windham.k12.ct.us or by calling (860) 465-2300. You can also watch a video interview about “Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future” at www.easternct.edu/cce.

For more information about the Center for Community Engagement visit www.easternct.edu/cce or call (860) 465-0090.

 

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

Occum Hall wins Warrior Cup, Puentes al Futuro gets $4,500

Residents of Occum Hall with Rosie Hernandez, founder of Puentes al Futuro, and William Stover, director of Family and Community Partnerships (center, holding check)

Residents of Occum Hall with the Warrior Cup trophy, alongside Rosie Hernandez, founder of Puentes al Futuro, and William Stover, director of Family and Community Partnerships (center, holding check)

Written by Michael Rouleau

The Warrior Cup is an annual competition in which all 13 residence halls at Eastern Connecticut State University compete for the benefit of a local nonprofit organization or charity. Occum Hall was the 2016-17 winner of the cup, but the real winner is Puentes al Futuro (Bridges to the Future), a Windham Public Schools afterschool program, which received $4,500 from the year’s Warrior Cup activities.

Rosie Hernandez thanks Occum Hall residents for their fundraising efforts

Rosie Hernandez thanks Occum Hall residents for their support of Puentes al Futuro

Residence Halls earn points in the year-long competition through the academic achievement of their residents, as well as their participation in campus activities, fundraisers and community service events. Occum Hall, composed primarily of transfer students, finished the year with 492 points, followed by the freshman halls of Burr, Constitution and Mead. All fundraising activities among the 13 residence halls went to this year’s designated recipient, Puentes al Futuro.

“This money will help keep the program alive,” said Kim Silcox, director of Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement, which is an avid supporter of Puentes al Futuro. “Funding for afterschool programs is more uncertain now than ever.”

More than 250 Eastern students have volunteered 3,600 hours with the program since its inception six years ago. Through the program, local middle school children learn about their Hispanic heritage in a variety of cultural and academic enrichment activities. With its partnership with Eastern, children see a “bridge to the future” as they interact with college students, often times on the Eastern campus.

“This 4,500 will go to the kids; not to salaries, not to administrators,” assured Rosie Hernandez, founder of Puentes al Futuro. “This really is an incredible amount of money that will go very far for the program.”

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.