Eastern Named to Princeton Review’s 2020 ‘Best Colleges’ Guide

Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized by in the Princeton Review in its “2020 Best Colleges” guide for the Northeast region. Featured schools were chosen based on survey results from 140,000 students across the country. Eastern was praised for its small class sizes, close-knit campus community and affordability. 

Home to 5,200 students annually, Eastern students come from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, along with 29 other states and 20 other countries. The 16:1 student to faculty ratio encourages group discussions and teamwork. Eastern offers 41 majors and 59 minors, with a liberal arts curriculum that’s rooted deep in the school’s mission to provide students with a well-rounded education. Eastern was also ranked among the top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2020 Best College ratings.

Eastern also offers 18 NCAA Division III sports teams, more than 90 registered student organizations and 17 honors societies. Eastern’s athletic mission is to emphasize values such as diversity, sportsmanship, health, wellbeing and equity. Eastern hosted its annual President’s Picnic and Student-Club Fair. In spring of 2019, more than 50 percent of Eastern students participated in at least one club. Clubs with the highest membership last semester were Eastern Outdoors Club, Freedom at Eastern and People Helping People. Eastern is also home to student services such as the Womens Center, LGBT support groups and minority support groups. Eastern was awarded the ‘Green Campus’ Status by Princeton Review for the ninth year in a row in fall 2018.

Written by Molly Boucher

Courant Names Eastern a ‘Top Workplace’

For the eighth time the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With almost 1,000 employees, Eastern ranked 10th in the “large” category, and was the only public higher education institution recognized among 60 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 22 in the Hartford Courant.

“We are honored to be recognized once again as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern’s President Elsa Núñez. “Even though Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our university has always prided itself on being a close-knit community and a welcoming, inclusive campus for students, faculty and staff. The Courant’s announcement reminds us that Eastern is a stable, inspiring place for our faculty and staff to come to work each day, and a supportive learning environment for our students. I am very pleased that we were among those recognized.”

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by Energage, LLC, a research and consulting firm that has conducted employee surveys for more than 50,000 organizations. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations. This year’s Courant survey surveyed 29,000 employees across the state.

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.

To honor all “Top Workplaces,” The Hartford Courant held its annual awards program on Sept. 19 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, CT, where it announced the top workplaces in each category.

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern a Top 25 Public Regional University in U.S. News and World Report

The class of 2023 gathered for a group photo during the Fall 2019 Warrior Welcome weekend–Eastern draws students from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns

 Eastern Connecticut State University is again the highest ranked institution among Connecticut’s four state universities in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s edition of “Best Colleges.” The 2020 rankings were released on Sept. 9.

This is Eastern’s highest ranking ever as it was ranked 21st among public universities in the North Region. Eastern moved up five spots among public institutions over last year’s rankings and moved up 13 spots when both public and private institutions were considered.

Under the mentorship of Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan, Roshani Budhathoki ’19 was selected for an undergraduate fellowship by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB).

.The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, and is known as the most competitive among the four regions that make up the U.S. News and World Report ranking system.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked based on 15 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, class size, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

“Given the uncertain times facing the higher education community, I am delighted to see Eastern achieving its highest ranking ever,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “This is a testament to our commitment to high standards and the faculty and staff’s focus on providing students with personal attention. Our improved ranking this year is due to our rising graduation and retention rates as well as the continued quality of our incoming classes.

 Environmental earth science students traveled to the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho this summer for a geology field course led by Eastern faculty.:

“Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college. These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high-quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of upwards of 1,400 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2020 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 15.

For the past 35 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Written by Ed Osborn

Psychology Researchers Publish on Human, Pigeon Suboptimal Choice

James Diller

Eastern Connecticut State University Psychology Professor James Diller and recent graduate Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19 were published in Springer’s “Learning and Behavior Journal” on Aug. 19 for their research titled “Human and Pigeon Suboptimal Choice.” The research looked at the completion of similar tasks by humans and pigeons to determine whether non-human performance can serve as a model for human gambling research.

The project was designed by Diller’s undergraduate mentor, Maggie McDevitt of McDaniel College, who ran the pigeon component of the experiment. Pietrzykowski, a former student of Diller’s, ran the human subject experiment. Students from McDaniel College’s psychology department also assisted with data collection.

To determine whether pigeons could serve as a model to observe the way humans behave when gambling, the researchers carried out two sets of experiments that evaluated both human and pigeon behavior. The task for pigeon subjects involved each pigeon choosing between two different color-lit keys by pecking at them. Each key allowed the pigeons to access food for a certain amount of time depending on the color—blue for 10 seconds; red for 0. Two other colors consistently allowed the pigeons to access food for three seconds.

Eastern graduate Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19 presents the project’s research poster at the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conference.

The task assigned to the human subjects consisted of humans playing a computer game that awarded points depending on the color they chose. Like the pigeon experiment, each color had a set point value and subjects had to choose a color to earn points.

The results of the experiments showed that the pigeon subjects chose to “gamble,” or test their luck, more often than humans and that humans did share some patterns with pigeons when it came to “gambling.” However, although the results of the experiments suggest that humans and pigeons can behave similarly when assigned tasks that include a suboptimal choice, Diller concluded that more research must be done to truly determine whether pigeons are good subjects to test in comparison to human gambling behavior.

Diller commented on the experience, “It has been a lot of fun working across ‘academic generations’ on this project. I think this type of thing underscores the value of research experience and mentorship for students.” Speaking to his mentor and research colleague, he added, “If it weren’t for Maggie, I know I wouldn’t be at Eastern, and I’m proud to pass that type of experience on to Malvina and my other students.”

To see the full paper, see Springer’s website at https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13420-019-00391-8. 

Written by Vania Galicia

Student-Professor Duo Presents at Symbolic Interaction Conference

Sociology Professor Nicolas Simon and student Tara Nguyen presented at the annual Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction Conference this past August.

Eastern Connecticut State University Sociology Professor Nicolas Simon and student Tara Nguyen ’21 presented and organized a session at the 2019 annual Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) Conference on August 9–11 in New York City.

They organized a session titled “‘The Next Generation’: Outstanding Symbolic Interactionist Undergraduate Papers,” which highlighted undergraduate research on the topic of symbolic interactionism — a theory that examines how humans impose their subjective meanings on objects, events and behaviors. To organize the session, Simon and Nguyen reached out to faculty members and students from colleges and universities in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. They also reviewed student applications and abstracts to determine who to invite to the session. The SSSI primarily features research by Ph.D. students and professors, so Simon and Nguyen’s session was a rare opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in the conference.

Nguyen, a sociology major, was among the undergraduate presenters. Her presentation was titled “Communities Unite: An Autoethnography of the Resistance to Gentrification in Chinatown, Boston.” Gentrification is a topic that Nguyen has been studying with Simon, her faculty mentor.

Nguyen’s research focused on social inequalities within the Asian American community through the lens of intersectionality and critical race theory—which consider how various social identities overlap in the context of race, law and power. She addressed the issue of gentrification in Boston’s Chinatown and discussed what activists are doing to fight it.

Professor Simon also presented at the conference during a session titled “Self and Object.” His presentation was titled “What are you wearing? The Symbolic Value of a School Logo.” His research focused on the concept of “symbolic value” and the relationships that individuals, groups and societies have with symbols.

Simon has been a member of the SSSI since 2011 and has organized other sessions for undergraduate students in the past. He noted that he wants to continue to promote the next generation of symbolic interactionist researchers and help other students as professors have done for him in the past.

“I think it is important to encourage students who want to go to graduate school to present their work at a professional conference,” he said. “The first time I went to the SSSI annual conference in 2011, I was invited by my professor, Dr. Clint Sanders at the University of Connecticut. I was his teaching assistant and took a course with him in the fall of 2010. He invited all of us to present our work at the SSSI annual conference. It was a terrific experience!”

Nguyen commented on her own experience at the conference. “The experience was intense, but very rewarding. I was glad to help give other undergraduate students the opportunity to present their research at a conference filled with Ph.D. students and professors.”

 She plans on continuing to research other topics related to social inequalities in the Asian American community and pursue a Ph.D. program in either education or social policy.

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern Psychology Researchers Analyze Mate-Guarding Scale

Professor Alita Cousins and student Lauren Beverage present at Human Behavior and Evolution Society Annual Meeting.

A team of researchers from Eastern Connecticut State University’s Psychology Department presented at the 31st annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society on May 29–June 1 in Boston. Professor Alita Cousins and psychology major Lauren Beverage ’20 presented “Validity of the mate-guarding scale in women.” Professor Madeleine Fugère was a collaborator on the project as well.

The act of “mate guarding” aims to preserve access to a mate by keeping rivals away and keeping partners from leaving the relationship. “Mate guarding is about controlling a partner and keeping access to them,” explained Beverage. “It encompasses intrasexual (partner-directed) and intersexual (competitor-directed) tactics.”

The team’s study set out to assess the psychological measurements (psychometrics) of the Mate Guarding Scale (MGS)—as the scales for measurement are few and their psychometric properties are largely unknown. Previous analyses focus on the following six MGS subscales: confronting rivals, publicizing the relationship, escorting the partner, covert tactics, monopolization and aggression.

The Eastern team surveyed 1,069 women. Results showed that women who self-reported more overall mate guarding toward their partner had in turn experienced more mate guarding by their partner; were more invested and controlling in their relationship; and felt their relationship had more costs.

The team’s project abstract reads: “Results showed that the more controlling and invested the women were, the more they engaged in mate guarding, as well as confronted rivals, publicized their relationship, escorted their partner, used covert tactics, monopolized and were aggressive.”

Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that the MGS has high validity.

Speaking to her experience as an undergraduate research assistant, Beverage said: “Working with, and getting input from, multiple professors helped to problem-solve issues as well as creatively expand on the scale and discussions on factors that play a role in mate guarding.

“I had also never presented at a conference before, let alone an international one,” she added. “I had the pleasure of explaining our project to people from all over the world, including Germany, Norway and Australia, in addition to learning about their research. I’m grateful for the experience and to have worked with wonderful people!”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Professors Davis and Graham Wrap up Spring Faculty Forum Series

Davis Presents on “An Elephant’s Eye View: Megafauna and Dominion in Southeast Asia.”

During the Punic Wars, Hannibal famously led an army of war elephants across the Alps.
Elephants at Hai Ba Tung Celebration in Vietnam 1957.
Elephants during military conflict in Vietman and Laos 1970s.

 

On April 17, Bradley Davis, associate professor of history, presented a talk titled “An Elephant’s Eye View: Megafauna and Dominion in Southeast Asia.” As a member of a multi-disciplinary team working on the history of elephant populations in Africa, Europe and Asia, Davis has worked with anthropologists, forest ecologists, and biologists to reexamine the cultural history of large animals and their relationships with plants and humans.

He said the more than 3,200 elephants in Southeast Asia over the years have been the center of tourism in the region and are also used for transportation. “Throughout the region, elephants are still the best source of transportation, often called “tractors that poop.”

Davis’ talk covered findings from recent archival research in Vietnam, including a case of death by elephant from the 1830s. He also cited the unique role of elephants throughout history when they served as “war machines” around the world. He and his colleagues, who began their interdisciplinary investigation in Singapore this past November, will continue with a meeting in Paris this summer. His work on elephants is part of his second book project, an environmental history of Vietnam, which he will complete during his sabbatical leave as a visiting fellow in the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University this fall.

Graham Discusses “The Roles of Evolving Landscapes, Ancient Waterways and Shifting Climates in Structuring Desert Arachnofaunas.”

 

Matthew Graham, assistant professor of biology, discussed “The Roles of Evolving Landscapes, Ancient Waterways and Shifting Climates in Structuring Desert Arachnofaunas” on May 1, wrapping up the Spring Faculty Forum Series.

Normally when one thinks of deserts, sand, cactuses and camels come to mind. Maybe, a rattlesnake too. But for Graham, it is scorpions and spiders. He has travelled to the American Southwest, to research these ancient species for years. It is why students, who have learned much about not only scorpions but big camel spiders and tarantulas too, affectionately call him “The Scorpion Man.”Graham said the rugged and varied landscapes of the American Southwest were shaped by a dynamic history of Neogene tectonics and Pleistocene climates. Mountains uplifted, rivers changed course, and climates fluctuated between the ice ages and warmer interglacial periods.

Graham’s talk summarized genetic data from scorpions, tarantulas and camel spiders to evaluate the impact of their history on shaping modern compositions and distributions of arachnids in our southwestern deserts.

Graham said scorpions have been around for nearly 400 million years. They can live in the hot, arid desert by secreting a wax over their exoskeleton that lets them live in dry environments. Some can construct burrow holes up to six feet deep.

Mitochondrial and nuclear data from scorpions and tarantulas suggest that arachnids diversified in response to changing landscapes and waterways. Shifting climates during the Pleistocene significantly altered the abundance and distributions of arid-adapted arachnid species.

Graham finished by presenting new genomic data that highlight the profound effects of recent climatic warming on arachnid distributions, especially in the Great Basin Desert.

Written by Dwight Bachman

CREATE Conference Highlights Student Research, Art

Displays of research and creativity dominated the Eastern Connecticut State University campus on April 12 for the annual CREATE conference. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the university’s premier undergraduate conference.

The day-long showcase featured more than 250 students from all majors who led oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, music and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, new-media demonstrations and more.

Research questions probed the effects of “fake news” on the economy, the influence of climate change on Northeastern coastlines, the use of virtual reality gaming compared to traditional exercise, and much more. Artistic attractions included a dance “inform-ance” in homage to African migration, operatic duets, a gallery of student artwork and more.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez says CREATE is one of her favorite days of the academic year. “Some of these projects represent three of four years of work,” she said. “Being able to recognize their work is not only a source of pride, but a validation of Eastern’s mission.”

Dance performance "Diasporic Distillations" presented by Jackie Verian, Tayla Bogle, Gabbie Robertson, Ishah Azeez and Erika Moore.
Matt Bessette presents "Decedus," part one of "The Duritia Trilogy," a series of original plays.
Patrice Eugene presents "Literacy Warriors: Identifying Inequalities and Maximizing Literacies Comprehension in a Mixed-Income Community" during the CREATE poster session.
Martha Ennis presents "Mexican Migration in Connecticut: Braceros and Beyond" to a packed meeting room in the Student Center.
Patrons peruse the CREATE art gallery in the Wood Support Center.

 

“CREATE really shows the breadth and depth of what’s happening on this campus in terms of research and artistic endeavors,” added Environmental Earth Science Professor Bryan Oakley, conference co-chair. “This is the culmination of many hours in and outside of the classroom.”

Midway through the day, CREATE participants gathered for an award ceremony in the Student Center. Two outstanding undergraduate researchers and two faculty mentors were awarded. Research awards went to biology major Lauren Atkinson and psychology major Kelly Bielonko.

Atkinson’s research on antimicrobial resistance has landed her several grants and numerous presentation opportunities. “I’m very appreciative to how much Eastern provides and supports our research,” said Atkinson, who praised her mentor Barbara Murdoch and the Biology Department. “This certainly wouldn’t have been possible without you.”

Bielonko’s research has spanned organizational psychology and underserved native communities, landing her grants and summer fellowships. “Eastern is an incredible place,” she said. “The experiences I’ve had, the great group of professors here.”

Angel Bleggi presents "Music Video as Performance Art."
Andrew Hoffman presents "Arduino Motor Manipulation."
Kayla Santos presents "Mood Alterations as a Result of Participation in 'Beat Saber' Virtual Reality Game."
Christiana Montalbano and Christian Fronckowiak present scenes from the operetta "The Mikado."

 

CREATE is as much a celebration of faculty mentorship as it is undergraduate success. Provost William Salka presented two awards to outstanding faculty mentors. “The many nominations we received detail how faculty have gone above and beyond expectations,” he said, “not only helping with research, but teaching students the skills they’ll need for their careers.”

Awards went to Biology Professor Amy Groth, nominated by her student Jonathan Rappi, and History Professor Scott Moore, nominated by his student Cassaundra Epes.

Groth’s mentorship of Rappi refined his honors thesis on cancer-gene interaction and contributed to his acceptance to present at the World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WCUR) this summer in Germany. Moore’s mentorship of Epes was a big reason her research — “The Ideal Woman: Sexology, Sex Reform and Engineering Marriage in Weimar Germany” — was accepted for publication and gained entry to the American Historical Association Annual Meeting this past January.

“There’s nothing like seeing your students grow intellectually, exploring a topic, solving a problem or following a creative muse,” said Núñez of mentoring students.

The CREATE conference reinforces high-impact practices such as mentored research and creative projects; increases the percentage of students who present their work, developing their communication and presentation skills; and contributes to the intellectual richness of the campus community.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Paul Canavan Presents at Sports Medicine Symposium

Paul Canavan, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented at the 31st Sports Medicine Symposium in Wisconsin on March 14. Canavan gave three presentations and was also a guest speaker at the symposium.

 Canavan’s first presentation was titled “Preventing Groin Injuries,” and used evidence from research literature as well as Canavan’s own real-life experience with the Northeastern University ice hockey team. He spoke on the importance of providing specific screening and interventions to prevent such injuries in sports.

His second presentation was called “Efficient and Effective Functional Examination and Exercise Prescription for the Lower Extremity” and was directed towards physicians and physical therapists to advocate the use of tests that screen for strength, flexibility and control, as well as provide specific therapeutic exercises.

The final presentation, “Knee Varus and Knee Valgus: Considerations for Therapeutic Exercise Intervention,” examined Canavan’s prior research related to the stresses upon the knee for individuals with knee valgus (knock-kneed) and knee varus (bow-legged). This presentation helped attendees understand various exercises that may help these individuals and potentially slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

The Sports Medicine Symposium was primarily attended by physicians and physical therapists throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Nearly 250 attendees included primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nurses, coaches, athletic directors and others who were interested and involved in the care of athletes of all ages and abilities.

Written by Raven Dillon

Halladay, Canavan, Torcellini Present a Range of Research

Halladay Discusses Gender Stereotypes on Confidence

By Dwight Bachman

Brianna Halladay, assistant professor of economics, addressed the topic “Perception Matters: The Role of Task Gender Stereotype on Confidence and Tournament Selection” at the Faculty Scholars Forum on March 20.

Halladay said extensive research suggests that women avoid competition even when they can be benefit from potential rewards. Researchers conclude that women differ in their preference for competition compared to men.

Halladay’s own research explores the potential that another channel may be yielding the observed gender gap in tournament selection: a gender difference in beliefs about future performance reflecting gender stereotypes.

Using a laboratory experiment, she analyzed differences in tournament entry, using a male-stereotype task and a female-stereotype task. Her findings suggest that the observed difference in behavioral responses to competition among men and women is not due to a difference in preference for competition, but rather a difference in beliefs about future performance task (an environment where women would carry lower beliefs about future performance), and that more women than men enter the tournament under the female-stereotype task.

“In other words, it appears an increase in female confidence and decrease in male confidence is driving this result,” said Halladay. “This suggests the effect of competitiveness on gender is not exclusively about a difference in preference for competition, but consistent with a difference in beliefs about future performance.”

Canavan Presents at Sports Medicine Symposium

By Raven Dillon

Paul Canavan, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented at the 31st Sports Medicine Symposium in Wisconsin on March 14. Canavan gave three presentations and was also a guest speaker at the symposium.

Canavan’s first presentation was titled “Preventing Groin Injuries,” and used evidence from research literature as well as Canavan’s own real-life experience with the Northeastern University ice hockey team. He spoke on the importance of providing specific screening and interventions to prevent such injuries in sports.

His second presentation was called “Efficient and Effective Functional Examination and Exercise Prescription for the Lower Extremity” and was directed towards physicians and physical therapists to advocate the use of tests that screen for strength, flexibility and control, as well as provide specific therapeutic exercises.

The final presentation, “Knee Varus and Knee Valgus: Considerations for Therapeutic Exercise Intervention,” examined Canavan’s prior research related to the stresses upon the knee for individuals with knee valgus (knock-kneed) and knee varus (bow-legged). This presentation helped attendees understand various exercises that may help these individuals and potentially slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

The Sports Medicine Symposium was primarily attended by physicians and physical therapists throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Nearly 250 attendees included primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nurses, coaches, athletic directors and others who were interested and involved in the care of athletes of all ages and abilities.

Torcellini: ‘Buildings Mortgage the Energy Futures of the World’

By Dwight Bachman

Paul Torcellini, endowed chair of sustainable energy studies and professor of environmental earth science, kicked off the Spring Faculty Scholars Forum on Feb. 13 with a fascinating presentation on “Living at Zero: Experiences in Moving Towards an All Renewable Energy Lifestyle.”

Torcellini, who has been researching energy efficiency since he was in high school, said buildings that use electricity and natural gas to stay warm, cool and lighted are the largest consumer of energy in America. Unfortunately, the growth of new facilities is taking place more quickly than measures to impact energy efficiency. “Buildings mortgage the energy futures of the world,” said Torcellini.

He used the construction of his own family home to encourage others to strive to live at what he called “net zero or zero net.” For sure, it is net positive. He described the process as “building on a diet.” Together, he and his family decided to evaluate and examine the cost and value of how they would light, heat the space, use hot water, appliances and electronics in their new home.

The family started building the home in 2014 and finished in 2016. Through a series of measures including a great deal of insulation, heat pumps, energy efficient windows and efficient LED lighting, the house uses so little energy that solar photovoltaic panels generate enough electricity to cover all the loads. The solar panels also produce enough electricity to partially power a new electric vehicle.

In addition, the construction of the house minimized the introduction of chemicals that outgas during the life of the house. Mineral-based paints, linoleum with cork backing and tongue oil on native wood floors were used.

Another sustainability measure is the Torcellini family’s commitment to raising much of their own food, including organically fed meat from turkeys, chickens, sheep and pigs, as well as producing eggs.