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.

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Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

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

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

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

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

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

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

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

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

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

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

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

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

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

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

Eastern Hosts Annual Bowlathon

Christina Rossamondo

More and more people are signing up every year to participate in the bowlathon

More and more people are signing up every year to participate in the bowlathon

Willimantic, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its annual Bowlathon on March 4 at Willi Bowl in Windham. This annual tradition brings together Eastern students, alumni, faculty, local businesses and community residents to support student scholarships.

Eastern’s Center of Community Engagement (CCE) and Office of Alumni Affairs work together to organize the event. “The CCE is a fantastic organization,” said Ryan Rose, associate director of alumni affairs. “We have created a great partnership over the years and found great ways to involve the community in our campus events. It’s a way to bring community members and the Eastern campus together.”

Students in Laurel and Nutmeg Residence Halls had loads of fun at this year's bowlathon.

Students in Laurel and Nutmeg Residence Halls had loads of fun at this year’s bowlathon.

The CCE pairs students from Windham Middle School with Eastern students, who take the role of mentors for the middle school students at the event. “It was really awesome to see all the young kids so excited,” said Nicolette D’Anna-Fierko, CCE volunteer. “The event was so much more rewarding knowing that these children had us to look up to even for something like bowling. They were so excited and worked really hard to improve their skills as the game progressed.”

Teams were formed by a number of different Eastern groups, including the men’s soccer team, the Honors program, various residence halls and more. Each team raised money for the event, with donated funds split between the Community Youth Scholarship and the CCE. The Community Youth Scholarship is a fund that helps local students attend Eastern.

“The event was well attended,” said Rose. “Each resident hall was represented and we ended up raising a lot of money toward the scholarship.” The event had 134 participants and more than $6,000 was raised.

The Eastern Warriors Raise $3,300 for Connecticut Cancer Patients

Left to right: Angelo Simoni, director of Judicial Affairs; Mark Ojakian, president of CSCU system; students Taylor Hemphill, Riley DiNoia and Yuberki Delgadillo; Monica Chudy, university assistant with Judicial Affairs; students Miguel Restrepo and Mariana Vega

Left to right: Angelo Simoni, director of Judicial Affairs; Mark Ojakian, president of CSCU system; students Taylor Hemphill, Riley DiNoia and Yuberki Delgadillo; Monica Chudy, university assistant with Judicial Affairs; students Miguel Restrepo and Mariana Vega

Written by Michael Rouleau

West Hartford, CT — Eight members of the Eastern community raised an event-high $3,300 on Oct. 22 for Connecticut cancer patients during the Cycle Against Cancer fundraiser in West Hartford. The Eastern Warriors spent four hours at Tribe, an indoor cycling facility, spinning for the fundraiser, which raised more than $18,000 to assist cancer patients with hospital bills and life expenses.

Organized by the Connecticut Sports Foundation (CSF), the event’s ambassador was Michael, a Connecticut 2-year-old who is battling cancer. As a result, Michael’s family will receive a larger grant than usual through the CSF’s Cancer Patient Assistance program.

The Eastern Warriors dressed in blue Eastern attire spinning at the Cycle Against Cancer this past Saturday

The Eastern Warriors dressed in blue Eastern attire spinning at the Cycle Against Cancer this past Saturday

“Cancer creates such financial hardship for families,” said Terri Eickel, director of development and special events for the CSF. That hardship is magnified for families with pediatric patients. “The same type of cancer is different depending on the age of the person,” added Eickel. “Pediatric patients tend to have more side effects, more complications and spend more time in the hospital.”

The Eastern Warriors were led by Angelo Simoni, director of Judicial Affairs, and featured special recruit Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. Resident assistants (RAs) from Eastern formed a student subgroup called the “Dream Chasers” and raised $1,000, largely with $10-dollar donations by friends and family.

The Connecticut Sports Foundation provides financial support for cancer patients and families, and funds cancer research. On March 18, 2017, Cycle Against Cancer events will occur simultaneously across the state, with locations as near as Mystic.

More than 100 Students Partake in Relay for Life

Students from Burr Hall at the Relay

Students from Burr Hall at the Relay

Willimantic, CT — Students from Eastern Connecticut State University came out in force for the 20th year of the Greater Windham Relay for Life, held at Eastern’s Athletic Complex on Oct. 15 and 16. More than 125 students participated alongside 44 community teams and 650 walkers. More than $82,000 was raised by the event for the American Cancer Society.

Students Goy Voladate, Mariana Vega and Justin DeVellis pose during the late hours of the Relay.

Students Goy Voladate, Mariana Vega and Justin DeVellis pose during the late hours of the Relay.

Several residence halls used this event as their Day of Service, a new initiative of the Office of Housing and Residential Life that challenges residence halls to spearhead a community service event of their choice. Teams from Constitution, Burr, Niejadlik and Winthrop Halls came out to have fun for a good cause.

“We were thrilled to have so many students come to the Relay for Life,” said Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement. “We hope to build on this effort for next year and have a big impact on the overall fundraising.”

Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Staffed and coordinated by volunteers, it is a team event where team members take turns walking around a track or designated path. Each event is 6-24 hours in length and each team is asked to have a member on the track at all times to signify that cancer never sleeps.

Eastern’s Eighth Annual Poverty Awareness Marathon

Written by Michael Rouleau

Lap number one of the marathon, with Charlie Chatterton leading the pack

Lap number one of the marathon, with Charlie Chatterton leading the pack.

Willimantic, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University held its eighth annual Poverty Awareness Marathon on Sept. 23. More than 400 food items were donated to the Covenant Soup Kitchen and Windham Area Interfaith Ministry as more than 350 members of the Eastern community ran, walked or pledged to alleviate poverty.

The group of students who made it to the marathon’s 7 a.m. start time.

The group of students who made it to the marathon’s 7 a.m. start time.

The awareness-raising event is inspired by the sustained efforts of Charlie Chatterton, professor of kinesiology and physical education, who has completed 63 poverty-related marathons. The 26-mile run took about five-and-a-half hours and 22 laps around campus for Chatterton to complete.

Throughout the day, runners and walkers dropped in as their schedules permitted, some for a lap or two, others for a half-marathon. “It’s not about finishing,” said Chatterton, “It’s about challenging students to make a positive difference in any way they can.”

This year the marathon was organized by the Low Rise Apartments, a residence hall that used the marathon as its “Day of Service,” a new initiative of the Office of Housing and Residential Life that challenges residence halls to spearhead a community service event of their choice.

English and communication double-major Catherine Allegretti ’16 pledges to be poverty-aware

English and communication double-major Catherine Allegretti ’16 pledges to be poverty-aware

“The marathon’s been going on for years, but we tried to make it our own,” said economics student Gina Denicolo ’17, a resident assistant in Low Rise. New this year, marathon participants used wipe boards to write how they’d alleviate poverty, and then shared their photo and pledge on social media.

Some students pledged to volunteer, others to talk about issues of poverty with their family and friends. “Sharing it on social media is meant to encourage students to follow through with their pledge,” said Denicolo, “and to give them a memory to look back on.”

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.

Eastern Recognizes Latino Leaders

Written by Dwight Bachman

Left to right, Winners of Eastern’s 2016 Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Award are Reverend Aracelis Vázquez-Haye, Yisel-De-Oleo Gregory and Leopoldo Navarro.

Left to right, Winners of Eastern’s 2016 Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Award are Reverend Aracelis Vázquez-Haye, Yisel-De-Oleo Gregory and Leopoldo Navarro.

Willimantic, CT – Leopoldo Navarro, resident assistant at Eastern Connecticut State University; The Rev. Aracelis Vázquez-Haye, an associate pastor in New London; and Yisel De Oleo-Gregory, an admissions counselor at Eastern, received the University’s 2016 Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Awards on April 27. The ceremony took place in the Student Center Theatre.

The Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who best exemplify the teachings and example of Chavez, the late labor leader and human rights advocate who was committed to fairness, equity and justice for all people.

Each spring, the University selects individuals who have performed extraordinary service in support of the Latin-American community by either developing or contributing to programs or activities that focus on positive development of minority youth and/or foster minority educational opportunities and advancement.

Dimitrios Pachis

Dimitrios Pachis

Dimitrios Pachis, Eastern’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said Chavez never had a formal education but often said that a real education comes from the heart. “An education cannot be imparted through books; it can only be imparted through the loving touch of the teacher,” Chavez once said. “What better books can there be than the book of humanity? The end of all education should surely be service to others.”

“Our three honorees have demonstrated exemplary leadership in service to the Latin American community, the Eastern campus and the community at large,” said Pachis. “They exemplify the values and beliefs of Cesar Chavez, and are a reaffirmation of the Latin American culture that has enriched this community for generations.”

Awards were presented in three categories: student, faculty/staff and community. Navarro, who won in the student category, is a senior majoring in Spanish. He migrated to the United States in 2009 from the Dominican Republic and graduated from Three Rivers Community College before transferring to Eastern in 2014. Navarro serves as a resident assistant at Eastern and has been involved in organizations such as MALES (Man Achieving Leadership Excellence and Success), OLAS (Organization of Latin American Students) and the SGA (Student Government Association). He has earned Dean’s List honors several times and was also inducted to the National Spanish Major Honor Society. He plans to teach Spanish in New London and one day own a dance studio.

De Oleo-Gregory was honored in the faculty/staff category. A native of the Dominican Republic, she serves as a counselor in Eastern’s Admissions Office. De Oleo-Gregory has also worked at Windham High School as an ELL Tutor for non-English speaking students, and is pursuing a Master of Science degree in communication at Central Connecticut State University. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Naugatuck Valley Community College, and was chosen as a distinguished student in her graduating class. De Oleo-Gregory then transferred to Eastern and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Communication and Spanish in 2013.

Vázquez-Haye was recognized in the community category. She serves as associate pastor of the Church of the City in New London and Protestant Chaplain at Connecticut College and The Waterford Country School.  She has served in several student development areas primarily in higher education, including as associate director of Unity House and Multicultural Center at Connecticut College. Vásquez-Haye has also served as an adjunct professor at Connecticut College, St. John’s University in New York City and Yale Divinity School.

Vázquez-Haye obtained a Master of Divinity from Yale University, with emphasis in Christian Education focusing on youth and young adult ministry. Her Bachelor of Arts is from Eastern Connecticut State University and her Master of Education from Loyola University Chicago, IL.

José Gavez

José Gavez

José Gavez, who has used black and white film to create a powerful historical record of the Latino experience in America for more than 40 years, delivered the keynote address, saying the nation was blessed to have Chavez in the early days of the Chicano Movement to teach people how to organize and protest. “I am here today because I’m worried that we no longer know why Cesar Chavez was so important.” said Gavez. “Today, we carry the seeds of justice that Cesar Chavez planted into our workplaces, the voting booths, our families and into our volunteer work. We can honor our diverse heritages while including everyone. We can stand for justice, giving our voices to the voiceless.”


Students Participate in Themed Housing Across Campus

Christina Rossomando

Eastern Connecticut State University students are given unique opportunities to live, work and socialize with fellow students who share common interests.

Willimantic, CT. – There is no doubt that on-campus housing has changed in recent years on college campuses. Compare the days when same-sex hallways, buildings and community bathrooms were the norm to today when apartment-style rooms are commonplace.  Eastern Connecticut State University has taken on-campus housing a step further with “themed housing” communities.

Themed housing allows students who want to live with other students who share similar interests to form housing communities.  The motto is, “Work Together, Play Together, Live Together.” Students pick a theme that interests them and then live with individuals who share that same interest. “I love having a community of like-minded thinkers with whom I can live, and to be surrounded by students who share the same values that I do,” said Emma Avery, environmental earth science major and a member of the Honors Themed Housing group.

In 2015-16, 218 students are participating in the 18 themes available. Students participating in themed housing gain leadership, academic and social skills. “Themed housing is a positive way for students to get involved because it brings together students with similar interests and ambitions while allowing them to live together,” said Lamar Coleman, director of housing and residential life. Students are required to participate in meetings, and run programs all while working with the larger community. Themed housing is a positive way for first-year and transfer students to find individuals on campus who share similar interests and develop lifelong friendships. “Engagement with the campus is directly tied to feelings of belongingness and student satisfaction,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Themed housing communities bring students together and involve them in fulfilling activities on-and-off campus.”

The 18 themes offered at Eastern range from “Fun and Gamers” to themes that have to do with real-world issues like the “Green Theme.” There is a variety of themes for students to choose from, giving every type of personality a chance to participate.

“The Math and Education Theme Housing community is in its second year and has 16 active members,” said Anthony Gleason, Laurel Hall director. “The members excel in the classroom and outside of class by being involved in clubs and organizations on campus and participating in community service and outreach in the local community.”

Civic and Community Engagement is the theme that has the most participants. 18 students live in Constitution and Laurel hall. The Civic and Community Engagement group is responsible for bringing students with an interest in community engagement and social justice together. These students examine global and local issues. They are required to develop and implement programs throughout the semester that address the needs of the Willimantic community.

“I feel themed housing is an incredible opportunity for students, especially those looking to make friends, create change and get more involved on campus,” said Garland Mann-Lamb ’16, a double major in sociology and women’s and gender studies.
Each theme gets a budget that they use for appropriate activities. For example, the “Fun and Gamers” group went to Comic-Con, which is a convention for comic fans. The budget gives each theme the ability to accommodate members so they are able to participate in activities of interest.

Eastern has taken a giant step toward getting students involved on campus and Themed Housing is an advancement that makes Eastern unique with one of the best on-campus residential housing programs in Connecticut.
“When I come home from class, I know I can knock on the doors of my fellow Leadership friends and be welcomed with a smile,” said Mann-Lamb. “We regularly have game nights, watch movies or have study parties. Although we all come from different majors and experiences, themed housing has brought us together to form lasting bonds.”