MEDIA ADVISORY: 300 Students to Participate in Eastern Research Conference

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The Third Annual CREATE Conference at Eastern Connecticut State University will take place this Friday, April 21, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier conference showcasing student research and creative activity.

All activities take place in the Student Center except for an exhibit of student art taking place in room 223 of the Wood Support Services Center from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

From art to zoology, Shakespeare to social media, tax law to terrorism, Eastern students of all majors explore important concepts and produce exemplary research and creative work; the culmination of their work this academic year will be on display at CREATE. The one-day conference will feature more than 300 Eastern undergraduates, who will present talks, professional posters, live music, dance performances, art and photography exhibits, documentary films and panel discussions.

“CREATE is a reaffirmation of Eastern’s commitment to undergraduate research as Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Niti Pandey, business administration professor and conference co-chair. Reflecting on this year’s record number of participants, she added, “There is a wonderful variety of presentations and performances for people to see. CREATE 2017 showcases the hard work and talent of our students and demonstrates the dedication of their faculty mentors. We look forward to an excellent event!”

Members of the Eastern campus and surrounding communities are invited to browse the conference’s many cultural and academic offerings. “CREATE will be a superb learning experience for all who participate and a true celebration of our student’s achievements,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and conference co-chair.

Registration takes place at 8:15 a.m. in the Student Center Café, and the opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Those interested in the event but unable to attend the whole conference can view the schedule and presentation details at Ample parking is available in the University’s two parking garages.

NOTE TO NEWS MEDIA:  The news media is invited to attend and cover the conference. This event is a marvelous collection of academic presentations, plays, musical performances, art on exhibit, and other student work — more than 300 students in all. Students and faculty mentors are available for interviews, and there will be host of photography opportunities. Come and see how undergraduates at Eastern are doing research commonly found only in graduate programs at larger institutions!

‘Pedro, The Great Pretender’ Opens New Proscenium Theatre

Written by Michael Rouleau

The entire cast

The entire cast of “Pedro, The Great Pretender”

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — November 2016 will go down in history for Eastern’s Theatre Program, as its first Main Stage production in the new Proscenium Theatre premiered. “Cervantes’ Pedro, The Great Pretender” christened the new theatre from Nov. 8-13.

Pedro, played by Sinque Tavares ’17, a theatre major from West Haven

Sinque Tavares ’17 as Pedro

The classic play by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, who is regarded as Spain’s greatest writer, follows the tricks of Pedro, a master pretender whose escapades involve him with a host of characters and careers as he struggles to find his true vocation in life.

“Our first production in our new Proscenium Theatre hopes to honor Cervantes’ timeless subversive satire by connecting the centuries of his day with ours,” said Ellen Faith Brodie, director and theatre professor at Eastern, in advance of the production. “The costumes evoke the Spanish Golden Age paintings of Velasquez and his contemporaries. The scenic design was inspired by the 20th-century Spanish artist Jean Miro.”

Situated in the Fine Arts Instructional Center, the 250-seat Proscenium Theatre features tiered and balcony seating; an orchestra pit for live music; a backstage with wing space and fly space, enabling equipment and scenery to be hoisted; and high-tech lighting and sound equipment.

Lucy Shea ’17 (Belica) and Hannah Madler ’17 (Ines)

Lucy Shea ’17 as Belica and Hannah Madler ’17 as Ines

Gabriella Robertson ’20 (Marina), a biology major from New Britain

Gabriella Robertson ’20 as Marina

“Performing in this first play means the world to me because we are starting a new legacy as well as setting the bar for every other show that will be in this theatre,” said theatre major Sinque Tavares ’17, who played Pedro. “Eastern’s rendition of ‘Pedro’ was beautifully done, from the set down to the costumes, lights, acting and everything in between.”

Another senior in the program reflected on the honor of opening the theatre. “Having performed in the Harry Hope Theatre for the majority of my college career, opening this new theatre was like a dream come true,” said actress Hannah Madler, reflecting on the recently-retired venue in Shafer Hall that the theatre program called home for decades. “The university is incredibly lucky for this new space and technology.”

The cast and creative team for “Pedro, The Great Pretender” were composed of performing arts students and staff who played important roles both on and off stage — ranging from actors to stage managers, choreographers to costume designers, set designers to lighting technicians.

Corey Lorraine ’17 (Maldonado), a theatre and mathematics double major from Oakdale

Corey Lorraine ’17 as Maldonado

“Performing in this play taught me firsthand the importance of being a committed supporting character,” said English and theatre double major Matthew Bessette ’19, who played Silerio. “Even if an actor has no lines in a scene, they must dedicate themselves to consistency in terms of living in the moment and reacting to everything going on around them.”

Brodie concluded, “Cervantes lives on in Pedro and we live on through the hopes and dreams of both the author and his creations. We are all Pedro: pretenders in many costumes wearing many masks and dreaming of a better life and a better world.”

Remaining main stage productions for the 2016-17 academic year include “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” a musical based on a play by William Shakespeare, showing from Feb. 23 to March 5; and “Cantilever,” showing from April 25-30.

Other performance venues in the Fine Arts Instructional Center include a 400-seat Concert Hall tailored to music performances and a flexible 125-seat Studio/Black Box theatre that can be arranged in multiple seating configurations.

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.

Cuban Educator to Discuss United States-Cuba Relations

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, CT — Prominent Cuban educator Ariel Dacal Diaz will present a talk titled, “The New Normal: Towards Normalization of United States – Cuba Relations,” on Oct. 16 at 9 a.m. in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library at Eastern Connecticut State University. The public is invited. Admission is free.

Dacal Díaz was born in Camagüey, Cuba. He earned his doctorate in historical sciences, his master’s degree in contemporary history, and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Havana. He will discuss past and present U.S-Cuban relations; the process of change; and what revolutionary aspects of the Cuban economy and society Cubans will work hard to preserve.

Since 2008, Dacal Diaz has been part of the popular education team at El Centro Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr. (the Martín Luther King Jr. Memorial Center (CMMLK) in Havana. He designs, coordinates and systematizes training for social activists in Cuba and abroad. He trains specifically in the areas of participation, politics and power, community work, communications, gender, group work and group coordination.

In 2014, Dacal Diaz participated in the design and coordination of a popular education workshop on cooperative models for which he authored various publications on popular education and social movements. He has traveled to 22 countries throughout Europe, Africa and Latin America to conduct research and to facilitate popular education workshops.

El Centro Memorial Martin Luther King (CMMLK) was founded by Rev. Raul Suarez, an ordained Baptist minister, who is now a representative in the Cuban National Assembly and a leader of the Council of Churches of Cuba. CMMLK serves the needs of the primarily Afro-Cuban community of Marianao, Havana. The centre is also a regional, national and international center for popular education.

Dacal Diaz’s presentation is part of the “Witness for Peace New England Tour.” “We brings speakers from, and North Americans to, Latin America to learn about U.S. policies and corporation practices that lead to injustice and militarization,” said Susan Letendre, who organized Dacal Diaz’s visit to Eastern. “An equally important goal with these encounters is to provide U.S. residents opportunities to learn from other cultures and societies. Cuba is one such culture and society. It has been growing, changing, evolving and surviving against great odds. We have much to learn from them.”

Dacal Diaz’s presentation is sponsored by Eastern’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, the Department Sociology; the Anthropology and Social Work Department; the School of Arts and Sciences; the Division of Student Affairs and the Intercultural Center.
For more information, contact Ricardo Pérez, associate professor of anthropology (860)-465-0191 or



Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Hartford, CT — More than 13,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 12, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,130 undergraduates and 70 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 125th Commencement exercises.

Award-winning author and distinguished Eastern alumna Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’01 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of her honorary degree. Adichie graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001 with a degree in Communication. She was also awarded Eastern’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.

Adichie is the author of a collection of short stories, “The Thing around Your Neck,” and three novels. Her latest novel, “Americanah,” was published in 2013, earning recognition as one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. Last month, Ms. Adichie was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

In her remarks, she told the graduates that she cherished the bachelor’s degree she received at Eastern. “You are very fortunate to have received your education at Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, where professors are keen to see you succeed.”

Adichie recalled that when she graduated 14 years ago, “I had doubts and worries. ‘What next?’ was the question on my mind. You are worried today just as I was. You should be worried, because it shows that you care.  It is okay not to have all the answers.”
In concluding her remarks, Adichie encouraged the graduates to “make an effort and speak the truth.  It is okay to say, “‘I am wrong’ or ‘I don’t know.’  Life on Earth is short.  Each moment that we are not truthful to ourselves, we are wasting our time on Earth.”

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; attorney David Jimenez, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles; and Matthew Hicks ’15, 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.
Nunez told the audience that this year’s event was Eastern’s 125th Commencement Exercises. “Our campus has grown from four rooms to more than 50 buildings on 82 acres and a campus footprint of almost two million square feet.  In 1891, we graduated 22 students; today we have almost 1,200 graduates, and we are closing in on 30,000 alumni.”

Turning to the graduates, Nunez told them, “Our nation and the global society we live in are looking to you for leadership.  As you embark on your career, take care of yourself, take care of your families, but make sure that you take time to help others when you can. You will find that supporting and helping others strengthens you.  As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “‘From caring comes courage.’”

“Amidst your joy and celebration, I ask you to spend some time today in reflection—please step back for a moment to think about your past four years, what you have learned, and what you are taking from Eastern as you continue your journey.”

Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez—an annual Class of 2015 scholarship—and said the Commencement ceremony “symbolizes more than just earning a degree. It exemplifies the goals we have accomplished through personal growth, strength and ambition.”

David Jimenez spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  “Today is a significant milestone in your life,” he said, “for which you should be incredibly proud. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference. Pursue your goals with the same dedication that brought you to this day.”

In his Senior Class Address, Matthew Hicks said, “To be here is no small feat, each of us has sacrificed a great deal of time and energy to walk across this stage.” Noting that he and his classmates had endured a challenging four years at Eastern and “have come out critical thinkers, determined activists, and dedicated leaders,” Hicks concluded his remarks by saying, “Let us enter this new (challenge) with our heads held high, ready to take what we have learned here and change the world, and most of all, let us never forget the amazing people and memories we have made while discovering who we are.”

Other graduates were reflective in describing their Eastern experiences.  English major Kathryn Shpak, a native of Oxford, CT, said her time interning for the English Department, as well as her student employment job in the Office of University Relations, helped develop her writing and editing skills, which she hopes to use in the fitness/nutrition industry.

Jonah Sanchez, from Newington, majored in business administration minored in accounting and business information systems. For the past three years, Sanchez served as a Benefits Finance intern with United Technologies. Sanchez says Eastern has helped him grow in many ways. “Being a part of and serving as president of the Organization of Latin American Students has opened up many doors for leadership and networking opportunities. Also, on campus job opportunities have been plentiful. I have worked as a resident assistant and a program assistant in the Intercultural Center. I like the fact that Eastern allows it’s students to be active and involved around the campus.” After graduation, Sanchez will begin full-time with United Technologies as an associate in the Financial Leadership Program at United Technologies.

Aaron Daley, from Bloomfield, majored in political science and minored in business information systems and pre-law. “My liberal education helped me to enhance my critical thinking skills, and built up my confidence; I now know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to achieve.”

First Annual Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference

Written by Kelsey Tuller

left to right, Luis Rodriguez, Rose Marie Hernandez and Kim Silcox listen to questions about the Puentes all Futuro/Bridges to the Future

Willimantic, Conn. — On April 24, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its first Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference. Many students and faculty were in attendance to learn from and engage with panels that spanned several disciplines. To kick off the conference, Kim Silcox and Luis Rodríguez of the Center for Community Engagement, David Stoloff from the Education Department, and Rose Marie Hernández, the Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program coordinator, made up a panel discussing educational experience in and about Latin America and the Caribbean. “The Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program has fostered Latino cultural education in Windham schools, as well as broadened Eastern student’s understanding of the rich cultural history of our community,” Rodríguez said. The conference hoped to deepen that understanding at Eastern, by hosting in-depth discussions and posing meaningful questions to its audience about the Latin American and Caribbean world.

Business Administration Professor Emiliano Villanueva discusses his research on the concept of Heritage Marketing in Latin America.

Other panels throughout the day discussed tourism, politics and economics in Latin America and the Caribbean. Professors that participated included Emiliano Villanueva of the Business Administration Department, Ricardo Pérez and Dennis Canterbury of the Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work Department, Martín Mendoza-Botelho of the Political Science, Philosophy and Geography Department, Joan Meznar of the History Department, and Malin Werness-Rude of the Art and Art History Department.

Kimberly Jones, assistant curator of the Ellen and Harry S. Parker Collection in the Dallas Museum of Art, discusses her work on water management and its symbolic importance to life in the early northern Andes.

The keynote address was given by Kimberly Jones, Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas at the Dallas Museum of Art. Jones discussed her work on water management and its symbolic importance to life in the early northern Andes. “The emphasis placed on water, and its physical, social and ideological appropriations within a cultural landscape, has roots in and developments from over 3,000 of water management in the Andean highlands,” Jones said.

The conference, with his breadth of coverage on an important area in the 21st century, and particularly at Eastern, will surely become an important annual event in the years to come. The conference was made possible with the support of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Faculty Board, the Department of Art and Art History, the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, as well as the Organization of Latin American Students.