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 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:

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

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.

Two Local Foundations Establish Scholarship in Memory of Chronicle Publisher

Written by Ed Osborn

(left to right) Kenneth DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement at Eastern; Eileen Ossen; Eastern President Elsa Nunez; David Foster; Marilyn Foster; and Pat Crosbie, widow of Kevin Crosbie

Willimantic, CT — The Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation has partnered with local philanthropist David Foster and his wife Marilyn to create a scholarship program in memory of the late Kevin Crosbie, long-time publisher of the Willimantic Chronicle.

The $50,000 scholarship, funded by a joint contribution from the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation and the Foster Family Foundation, will support Windham High School graduates attending Eastern.  Priority will be given to students interested in music or communications; four students will receive four-year scholarships in the amount of $3,000 a year. Mrs. Crosbie has also started a fund that will support a future endowment.

Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser

Written by Kathryn Shpak

Willimantic, Conn – The ECSU Foundation, Inc., held its annual Bowl-a-thon in support of Eastern Connecticut State University on March 7 at WilliBowl in North Windham. Almost $10,000 was raised for Foundation scholarships by the 183 bowlers; 123 of them were Eastern students. In addition to Eastern faculty, staff and students, local businesses and alumni participate in the Bowl-a-thon to raise funds.

Three Distinguished Alumni Named Eastern Fellows

Written by Michael Rouleau

Left to right, David Whtiehead, Eastern President Elsa Nunez, Brian Bohling and Michael Johnson

Willimantic, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University inducted three highly decorated alumni into the seventh class of the Eastern Fellows Program on March 4. As part of their induction, Brian Bohling ’83, Michael Johnson ’97 and David Whitehead ’84 offered professional advice and discussed their Eastern experiences and distinguished careers with a packed house of students in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room. “We all went to Eastern and we made it, so you can make it, too,” opened Bohling. “Be proud of where you come from and go for it.”

A former business administration student, Bohling has advanced to the highest levels of human resources management over a 29-year career in the corporate world. After working in high-level positions at Trane, Campell Soup and Honeywell, and as senior vice president for human resources for the Hess Corp. for six years, Bohling now owns his own corporate coaching and recruitment business, Pine Valley Resources.

Johnson, a former biology student in Eastner’s Honor’s Program, is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has appeared on Connecticut Magazine’s annual list of Top Dentists for the past seven years and is now a full time instructor at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Whitehead, a graduate of Eastern’s business administration program, is the president and CEO of William W. Backus Hospital and Windham Hospital, as well as the former publisher of the Norwich Bulletin. Active in his hometown community of Norwich, Whitehead was named Eastern Connecticut Citizen of the year in 2003.

The fellows were asked about the importance of developing mentors. “Mentors are a key ingredient to success,” said Whitehead. “Caring faculty kept me on track as a student. Be proactive, create those relationships; it will help you here and in your career.” Johnson added, “At Eastern, I was fortunate to be part of an exceptional department with accessible and enthusiastic faculty.”

When asked about his thoughts on Eastern’s liberal arts curriculum, which requires taking courses outside of a chosen major, Johnson said, “Being well-rounded is critical. You’re going to interact with a lot of different types of people, so a wide knowledge base and broad perspective are important.” Adding to the importance of skills such as writing and communication, Bohling said, “Critical thinking and problem solving are necessary in this complex world; I look for people who can take the complexity, sift through it and know what to do.”

When asked how he has been able to work in a variety professional sectors, Whitehead said the ability to lead and learn has made all the difference. “Leadership is being able to envision a value set, and then communicate it.”

With more bits of advice, Whitehead said, “Find your mirror and use it often — sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. Take time and ask yourself how you’re performing; be self-aware.” Johnson added, “Perception is reality; what people think of you is huge, so pay attention to how you are perceived.” Bohling said, “Be a sponge of information, learn from others and be yourself.”

Speaking to the importance of work ethic, Bohling said, “People that do what they like to do are really good at it, compared to those who are only there for a paycheck.” Johnson added, “If you truly care, it shows; you can’t fake it.” Whitehead said, “Be in the moment; don’t work on autopilot.”

The Eastern Fellows Program was established in the 2008-09 academic year to recognize and engage distinguished Eastern alumni in the life of the university. 20 alumni have been honored in the years since the program’s inception. This program is a means of enriching the education experience of current Eastern undergraduates by exposing them to alumni who are able to share their work experiences with students in realist terms. The program is an exciting and stimulating way for students and faculty to benefit from the knowledge of accomplished professionals.

Chmielewski Brothers Awarded Scholarships

Written by Kathryn Shypak

Scholarship winners Sean Chmielewski and his younger brother Mark.

Willimantic, Conn – Eastern Connecticut State University junior Sean Chmielewski and his younger brother Mark, a freshman, received scholarships on Nov. 20 at the Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CTAHPERD) Banquet at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, CT.

Sean received the Gibson-Laemel scholarship, which is awarded to a junior or senior health, physical education, recreation, or dance major who maintains a 2.7 GPA and is a member of CTAHPERD.  Mark was awarded the Mary Benevento/CTAHPERD scholarship, given to a student in the graduating class of a high school or preparatory school who is a U.S. citizen and a resident of Connecticut. This student must plan to engage in the studies of health education, physical education, recreation or dance and plan to pursue a certified program of study in a collegiate institution within Connecticut that offers a bachelor’s degree in that field.

Sean, along with Erin Leduc, was also nominated by the HPE Department as Outstanding Future Professionals.