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 to Host First Ever Astronomy Day

Written by Christina Rossomando

planetarium_outside

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/26/2017) Russell Sampson, co-director of Eastern Connecticut State University’s Wickware planetarium, will host “Astronomy Day,” on May 5 from 7:30-10 p.m. Sampson teamed up with three of his current interns to put together this event. “This is a small event to celebrate astronomy,” said Sampson. Astronomy Day was proposed about 20 years ago and happens two times a year. This is our first time doing something like this at Eastern.”

The event consists of four star shows in the campus planetarium led by each of the interns. Guests will also have a chance to view Jupiter through several telescopes and view a “pretty picture” show in Goddard.

Students, faculty, staff and community members are welcome to come. The event is free of charge although star shows are first come, first served.

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 www.easternct.edu/create. 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!

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.

Wickware Planetarium Presents Last Star Show for Fall Semester

Written by Christina Rossomando

Willimantic, CT. – The Wickware Planetarium at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its final show for the fall semester on Dec. 7. All planetarium shows are free of charge and open to the public. “Art and Astronomy” was designed to educate the audience on how artists, such as Hemingway and van Gogh, were inspired and instructed by the sky.

“Our last event was the most successful yet, we gave away all the tickets more than a month ago and had to turn interested people away,” said Russell Sampson, professor of astronomy and assistant planetarium director. “Many people stayed after the show to ask questions. The last person didn’t leave until around 8 p.m., an hour after the end of the show.”
Sampson used Hemingway’s novel “The Old Man and the Sea” to show his audience a connection between art and astronomy. Hemingway used the star “Rigel” and the constellation “Orion” to connect the sky with his story. Orion is a mighty hunter in mythology and so was the hero of Hemingway’s novel.

Sampson also used The Big Dipper in van Gogh’s painting the “Starry Night over the Rhone” to connect electric lighting to the stellar wonders in the heavens. “A lot of artists find inspiration through the outside and sky, that’s where you see the collision of galaxies,” said Sophomore Tyrent Mitchell. “I’ve spent a ton of time over the summer looking at the sky and watching the constellations move, which is fascinating.”

The Spitz System 512 star projector launched the stars and constellations onto the dome for the audience to see how artists use astronomy in their artwork. The purpose of the planetarium at Eastern is to educate individuals on the Milky Way galaxy. Eastern holds classes in the planetarium for students who show an interest in astronomy, chemistry, physics and physical science.

The planetarium has an important agenda for next semester. In 2016 there is a rare celestial event on May 9, “Transit of Mercury,” where the planet of Mercury passes in front of the sun. “I am really looking forward to next semester’s shows. I hope to talk about the ‘Transit of Mercury,’” said Sampson. “If it is clear that day, I hope to have a solar-telescope set up on campus for people to see the event.”

The fall semester at the planetarium educated many individuals and was deemed successful in its goals. “The audience is always so fun, intelligent and curious, especially the children,” said Sampson. “It’s a great way to connect with the community since a lot of our audience are not students, staff or faculty of the school.”

Star Gazers Gather in the Wickware Planetarium

Written by Christina Rossmando

Professor Sampson uses the Spitz System 512 star projector to give audience an informative presentation.

Willimantic, Conn. – The Wickware Planetarium at Eastern Connecticut State University hosts educational shows three to four times during the fall semester. The events are free of charge and open to the public. The Spitz System 512 star projector launches stars, constellations and planets onto the ceiling, with hopes of educating guests on the latest discoveries and changes in the galaxy.

The planetarium’s central purpose is to educate individuals on the Milky Way Galaxy. The University hosts classes in the planetarium for Eastern students who take part in astronomy, chemistry, physics and physical science classes.

On Sept. 21, Eastern’s students and staff, as well as members of the public, enjoyed the first of the star shows that the Wickware Planetarium will host this semester. “Fall Skies and Space Update” was an informative event designed to teach audience about constellations, stars and planets that are visible, as well as the latest discoveries in the astronomy world.

Russell Sampson, professor of astronomy and assistant planetarium director said, “The show was everything I wanted it to be; both informative and entertaining.  We shared some laughs and at the same time explored some of the fascinating stories of this wonderful universe we all live in.” The show included events such as the total lunar eclipse that takes place on Sept. 27. Sampson used the projector to demonstrate what the eclipse will look like. “I really think the show went very well; the best part was the question and answer.  There were so many great questions from the adults and the children who came,” said Sampson.

Professor Sampson calls on audience member during question and answer portion of the star show. WILI Radio’s Wayne Norman listens attentively.

Sampson used humor and jokes to keep his audience engaged. “Although I was required to come here for class, I enjoyed this event as it was a fun way to learn about the stars in our sky and things that are going on with our planets today. Dr. Sampson is a wonderful teacher who uses humor to teach his students, which keeps us intrigued,” said Biology major Heaven Caristo-Mobley.

The Planetarium will host two more shows this semester on Oct. 26 and Dec. 7.

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.”

Last Planetarium Show of the Semester at Eastern

Written by Kelsey Tuller

Willimantic, Conn— Sky watchers from Eastern Connecticut State University’s student body and staff, as well as members of the public, enjoyed the last of the entertaining and educational star shows that the Eastern Planetarium will host this semester. Professor Russell Sampson, with the help of one of his astronomy students, gave a presentation on the history of the discovery of our solar system as well as former planet Pluto. As always, the question and answer session at the end lent itself to an engaging and in-depth discussion.

There will be more shows next semester at the Robert K. Wickware Planetarium, Eastern’s teaching and presentation planetarium. Shows are free to everyone. Seating is limited so those wishing to attend should reserve their seat by calling the Planetarium at (860) 465-5300. More information can be found at http://www.easternct.edu/physicalscience/planetarium/.

First Annual CREATE Conference a Success

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern students present undergraduate research projects at recent CREATE conference.

Willimantic, Conn. – CREATE (Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern), the premier undergraduate research and art conference at Eastern Connecticut State University, held its inaugural event on April 17 and 18. By providing exemplary students of all majors an on-campus venue to present their research and creative work, CREATE was the culmination of the 2014–15 academic year, as well as the beginning of a new era.  “This is a very dynamic and action-packed event, balanced in subject matter, presentation type and departments represented,” said Professor Dickson Cunningham, co-chair of CREATE, during the opening remarks. “It’s an interdisciplinary forum where we can all learn from each other, so we encourage everyone to attend multiple presentations and see what your classmates and colleagues have been up to.”

The two-day event showcased approximately 170 student projects, including oral and poster presentations, art and photography exhibits, video and documentary viewings, and live music and dance performances.

“Why is CREATE important?” asked Cunningham. In addition to contributing to the intellectual richness of campus and raising external perceptions of Eastern, he pointed out that for some students, CREATE is “the culmination of their undergraduate career,” and that they should “feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.”“Hopefully this will inspire other students to present and to develop mentor relationships with faculty,” Cunningham concluded.

Attendees peruse the undergraduate art exhibition at recent CREATE conference.

The CREATE conference marked the merging of Eastern’s two previous end-of-year academic conferences: the Excellence Expo and the Arts and Sciences Research Conference and Exhibition. “The merging of these two separate conferences took a lot vision, time and work,” said Provost Rhona Free, pointing out the campus-wide efforts that led to the creation of CREATE, and the hard work of the conference’s organizational committee. “It takes a very strong and dedicated student to produce this quality of work, and it’s important for other students to see this output,” said Free. “It takes a committed and skillful mentor to guide students to the work that is on display.”

Free concluded the opening remarks with presentations of this year’s two Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Mentor Awards. Meredith Metcalf, environmental earth science professor and mentor to graduating senior Laura Markley, was the first recipient. In her nomination, Markley mentioned how Metcalf provides guidance that makes her students’ research valid, while still allowing them to maintain ownership over their project.

Miriam Chirico, English professor and mentor to graduating senior Renee Drouin, received the second award. “A good mentor teaches others to mentor as well,” said Chirico. “Another aspect of mentoring is pushing students to be their best.”

For the following two days, students, family and members of the Eastern community at large browsed the conference’s many presentations in the Science Building and Student Center, and enjoyed a reception and catered breakfast and lunch. From presentations on forensic accounting and cyber security, to West African dance and opera performances, to eclectic artwork and photography exhibits, all sectors of Eastern academics were on display.