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 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.”


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

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.

The Courant Names Eastern a 2016 Top Workplace

Written by Michael Rouleau

Top Places LogoWillimantic, CT — For the fifth time in the past six years, the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With 961 employees, Eastern ranked fourth in the “large” category, and was the only higher education institution to be recognized among 61 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 18 in the Hartford Courant.

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by WorkplaceDynamics LLP, a research and consulting firm that has compiled top employer lists for some of the nation’s largest media outlets. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations.
The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.
Survey statements included: “This company operates by strong values and ethics”; “I have confidence in the leader of this company”; “I have the flexibility I need to balance my work and personal life”; for example.

“We are honored to be recognized as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “While Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our campus has always prided itself on its sense of community and for being a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, their families and the community-at-large. This announcement is a wonderful reminder that Eastern is a great workplace for our faculty and staff and I am delighted that we were among those recognized.”

Eastern Jumps Seven Places in U.S. News and World Report Rankings

Written by Ed Osborn
US News and World Report-FlagsEastern Connecticut State University moved up seven places among regional universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 edition of “Best Colleges” to 85th overall; Eastern was also tied for 26th place among public universities on the list. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 13.

Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities, and this year’s ranking was Eastern’s best ever.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

US News and World Report-Campus Scene“I am gratified to see Eastern achieve its highest ranking ever in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to academic excellence, our focus on student engagement and the introduction of new majors have resulted in strong scores for such criteria as academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources and alumni giving. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These new rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a quality, affordable liberal arts education on our beautiful residential campus.”
US News and World Report- Residential Halls ExteriorThis year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,374 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 4.

Governor Malloy and TheDream.US Announces Unprecedented ‘Opportunity Scholarship’ for Undocumented Students to Attend Eastern Connecticut State University

Written by Ed Osborn   

Scholarship will give DREAMers who live in ‘locked out’ states the chance to earn a college degree

Governor Malloy

Governor Malloy

Willimantic, CT– Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and representatives of TheDream.US, the nation’s largest scholarship program for DREAMers — immigrant youth who came to the United States without documentation — today announced a new groundbreaking scholarship program at Eastern Connecticut State University for DREAMers who are “locked out” of access to a college education in their home states. Eastern and Delaware State University are the only two partner colleges in the country selected by TheDream.US organization and their respective governors to participate in the program. “We’re pleased to take part in this program and do what we can to give hardworking students the change to succeed,” said Gov. Malloy. “Our state stands to benefit from welcoming them — along with their talents and potential — to our communities and to our schools.”

TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship will provide a pathway to higherOPPORTUNITY LOGO education for highly-motivated immigrant students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protective Status (TPS) who live in states where they are “locked out” of access to a college education because they are required to pay out-of-state tuition or prohibited from enrolling in the state’s colleges and universities all together. Not only will no state funds be spent on this program, the scholarship program has the potential to generate substantial revenue for Eastern.

“For hundreds of thousands of kids, the door to higher education is closed just because of where they were born.

Gaby Pacheco

Gaby Pacheco

These are the DREAMers,” said Maria Pacheco, program director of TheDream.US. “It doesn’t matter how hard they’ve worked; these students just can’t get access to higher education. You will find them to be modest, hardworking and extremely motivated students. Some have been waiting years for this opportunity; others are right out of high school.”

Both Eastern and Delaware State University have the capacity to admit DREAMer Scholars without depriving Connecticut or Delaware state students of the opportunity to attend these colleges. TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship — which is privately funded — will pay up to $80,000 to help fund the costs of tuition, fees, on-campus housing and meals for each DREAMer to earn a bachelor’s degree. As many as 50 students from locked-out states will enroll at Eastern this fall to begin their college education.

“Education is an American value; we should help every student who has worked hard,” said Donald E. Graham, co-founder of The.Dream.US. “TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship will help immigrant students fulfill their dreams of obtaining a college education so they can better the lives of their families, communities and our nation. We are proud to partner with Eastern Connecticut State University and Delaware State University, with the incredible leadership of Governor Malloy and Governor Markell, to give deserving students the opportunity for an affordable college education.”

Opportunity - Press Coverage

Mark Ojakian

Mark Ojakian

In addition to funding more than 500 out-of-state DREAMers over the next few years, TheDream.US will provide 100 scholarships of up to $7,250 each to in-state DREAMers attending Eastern Connecticut State University or Delaware State University. TheDream.US founders are also working with local philanthropists to raise additional funds for scholarships for Connecticut and Delaware state students who also struggle to pay for a college education.

“I am extremely proud TheDream.US chose Eastern,” said Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. “I would like to congratulate Eastern and President Elsa Núñez for fostering a climate of diversity and inclusion. These undocumented young people are untapped talent, and we can’t afford to leave them behind.” Ojakian assured the audience, “This is not a handout. To obtain a scholarship, students must meet standards for academic merit and satisfy enrollment requirements.”

Eastern student Robert Diaz ’16, who has DACA status, also offered

Robert Diaz

Robert Diaz

comments. Born in the Dominican Republic, Diaz moved to the New London area when he was 11 years old, eventually graduating from Grasso Technical High School in Groton. After attending Three Rivers Community College, Diaz enrolled at Eastern as an Environmental Earth Science major, and will attend Rhode Island School of Design this fall to learn how to design sustainable buildings.

“If it wasn’t for Eastern, I wouldn’t be here talking with you today. The faculty and the staff have been wonderful. Everyone has been there for me every step of the way.  I know that in the future, other students like me will be able to fulfill their dreams with the DREAM.US Opportunity Scholarship. I am proud of Eastern, and I am happy to see this scholarship program put into place.”

The Opportunity Scholarship is available to DREAMers in 16 targeted locked-out states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The deadline for applications is June 9, and scholarship recipients will be announced at the end of June. For a full list of eligibility requirements and for information about how to apply, please visit: http://www.thedream.us/opportunityscholarship/.

About TheDream.US

TheDream.US is a national college access and success program for immigrant youths who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protective Status (TPS) and want to obtain a college education to give back to their communities. TheDream.US currently provides scholarships to more than 900 DREAMers – immigrant students who came to the U.S. as children without documentation – at 70 partner colleges in states that offer in-state tuition to DREAMers, and is a project of New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3).

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 158 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 20 other states and 63 other countries.  A residential campus offering 38 majors and 55 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 27th top public university in the North Region, by U.S. News and World Report in its 2016 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council six years in a row.  For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

Hartford Promise Establishes Scholarships for Eastern Students

Written by Ed Osborn

Eligible students from Hartford who attend Eastern Connecticut State University can now receive $5,000 scholarships through the generosity of the Hartford Promise Foundation. The scholarships are renewable for four years based on the students maintaining full-time status and satisfactory academic progress. Students must also live on campus.

The $5,000 scholarships from Hartford Promise will be augmented by Eastern, with the University making up the difference between the direct cost of attendance and all other financial aid, including any family contributions, Pell Grants, Stafford loans and other aid.

Recipients of the scholarships are known as “Promise Scholars.” To be eligible, they must have continuously attended a high school in Hartford since ninth grade, been a Hartford resident throughout that time, have a 3.0 GPA or better and have a 93 percent or better high school attendance record. “We are grateful to the Hartford Promise Foundation for their leadership in supporting Hartford students who are attending our university,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “These are students who most likely would not be able to afford to attend college on their own, yet they have the same potential to succeed and the desire to achieve the American Dream. This level of support will change the lives of these young people. I cannot thank the Hartford Promise Foundation enough for their generosity, and for their commitment to educating our young people in Connecticut.”

“I love what I see happening at Eastern for Hartford students,” said Richard Sugarman, executive director of Hartford Promise. “Through Eastern’s initiatives in Hartford, we are seeing first-generation and underrepresented students transition to college and be successful in their studies. The work that Dr. Núñez and her team are doing is a model for Connecticut and beyond.”

Several Eastern programs have been created over the past decade under Núñez’s leadership to support student success and increase student retention and graduation rates. In 2008, with funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, Eastern set about enhancing its academic support services. A one-stop-shop “Academic Services Center” was established, with tutoring services, advising, and supplementary math and writing instruction. Additional advisors were hired, an early warning system was implemented to identify and support students who were at risk academically, and other services were improved.

In addition to the need for effective support services, national data also shows that minority students are retained at higher levels when institutions support diversity among their faculty. Eastern has worked diligently to recruit more minority faculty members, and now has the highest percentage of minority faculty of any college or university in Connecticut.

As a result of these various efforts and programs, minority retention and graduation rates have improved dramatically at Eastern.  For instance, a 2012 report by the Education Trust in Washington, D.C., found that the six-year graduation rate of Hispanic students at Eastern showed the largest rate of improvement from 2004 to 2010 in the nation. While the six-year graduation rate of Hispanic students at Eastern was only 20 percent in 2004, it tripled to 57.8 percent in 2010. This 37.8 percent rate of improvement was 10-fold that of all institutions included in the study, which averaged only a 3.5 percent rate of improvement over the six-year period.

Sugarman points to the progress that Eastern has made and says he hopes to help the University build on this success. “Our goal is to make sure all these students are successful in college and in the rest of their lives,” he said. “Hartford Promise is thrilled to partner with Eastern on this project; the Promise Scholars there will be in very good hands.”

Three Top Alumni Named Eastern Fellows

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern’s 2015 Fellows inductees, Endler, Hughes and Deskus, with President Elsa Núñez.

Willimantic, Conn. – Three distinguished alumni from Eastern Connecticut State University were inducted into the Eastern Fellows Program on Oct. 21. Following the induction, Michael Endler ’81, Janice Deskus ’88 and Frederick Hughes ’87 shared career advice with Eastern students during an afternoon panel discussion held in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room.

Endler, a former public policy/government and communication double major, is among Eastern’s most distinguished alumni attorneys. Specializing in complex commercial litigation, he is a top government lawyer and partner in the Albany, NY, office of Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP. “I’m here to tell you that none of my friends who went to fancy schools were any better off than I was,” said Endler, reflecting on his time at Georgetown University during law school. “In many ways, I felt I had an advantage, coming from a small school with lots of opportunities to be involved.”

Alumni Frederick Hughes, Janice Deskus and Michael Endler speaking before Eastern students for the Fellows Program.

Deskus, who earned a degree in psychology, has forged a successful career in human resources. Currently the group vice president of human resources at Medtronic, she previously managed human resources programs for insurance giants Aetna and Cigna. “I feel I should be recognizing Eastern for all it’s given me,” said Deskus, reflecting on her humble upbringing in Woodstock, CT. “Eastern provided me access to so many things; I encourage students to take advantage of all that is here.”

Hughes, an alumnus of the business administration program, is a certified public accountant (CPA) and fraud examiner with BlumShapiro, the largest firm of its kind based in New England. Hughes does not have a degree in accounting, yet his education at Eastern prepared him for a successful career in that field. “There was nothing on the CPA exam I didn’t recognize,” he said. “A liberal arts education produces a well-rounded individual.”

When reflecting on his Eastern experiences, Endler recalled one of his sociology professors. “She decided she’d make my life miserable,” he said fondly, noting that when he came to Eastern he lacked good study skills because high school came easily to him. “I realized in order to do well, I’d have to put forth the effort. I had the capacity; I just needed a little prodding.” This work ethic led him to obtaining an internship with a congressman, which sparked his interest in law. The rest is history. “I got the grounding I needed here.”

For Deskus, an internship at a naval base helped her realize that she did not want to do research, and inspired her to pursue another field. She encourages students to be critical about what they are doing. “Don’t just accept what’s in front of you,” she said. “Explore, ask questions.”

Eastern’s small size was the dealmaker for Hughes. “I wanted to get to know the professors,” he said. Hughes also obtained an internship. “Eastern brought the real world to the classroom; it allowed me to come out of my comfort zone.”

Endler cherishes his Eastern education because of the writing and speaking skills it helped him develop. “In my own industry, it’s amazing seeing people who aren’t comfortable speaking. There are a lot of really bad writers, too.” But his greatest bit of advice is for students — and professionals — to stay flexible and to continue learning.

“Thirty years from now, what are the things that will no longer be a part of our lives?” asked Endler. “You need to be able to roll with the changes. You could be in a field that no longer exists. Those who know how to repurpose and transfer skills do well. Continue to be a learner. If you don’t, you’ll get left behind.”

Deskus focused her advice on being practical. “When going into the world, what are you driving toward?” she asked. “Be honest with yourself. Consider work-life balance, and design your career around that goal. Get really clear on what you want and are willing to do.”
The Eastern Fellows Program was established in 2008 to recognize and engage distinguished alumni in the life of the university. The program is a means of enriching the educational experience of current Eastern students by exposing them to alumni who are able to share their work experiences in realistic terms.


Three Students from New London Earn Hispanic Alliance Scholarships

Written by Michael Rouleau

Left to right: Luis A. Rodríguez, assistant director of Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement; students Leopoldo Navarro ’15, Katherine Burgos ’16 and Robert Díaz ’16; and Alejandro Meléndez-Cooper, founder and former president of Hispanic Alliance.

Willimantic, Conn. – Three Eastern Connecticut State University students from New London received scholarships at the Hispanic Alliance’s 15th annual “Noche de Gala” (Night of Celebration) this past June. Sixteen scholarships were awarded in total at the New London event, mostly to high school students—Eastern was the most represented university in Connecticut.

Based on their Latino heritage, academic pursuits and community involvement, biology major Katherine Burgos ’16, environmental earth science major Robert Diaz ’16 and Spanish major Leopoldo Navarro ’15 earned the scholarships. Their extracurricular activities ranged from interning in a hospital in the Dominican Republic, to working as camp counselors, to volunteering at local soup kitchens, to serving as teaching assistants.

All three Eastern recipients are graduates of Higher Edge, a New London-based organization that prepares low income and first-generation high school students for college. Eastern has a strong partnership with Higher Edge, which plans to open a satellite location in Willimantic this year.

“Success in college is a team effort. At Higher Edge, we do our best to prepare students, but it’s good to have a partner like Eastern that’s committed to student success and attention,” said Chris Soto, founding director of Higher Edge. “The majority of Higher Edge students go to Eastern, and we feel confident sending them there.