College Democrats Bring Ned Lamont to Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont visited Eastern on Oct. 30 for a meet-and-greet organized by the student organization College Democrats. To a large audience in the Student Center Café, Lamont discussed his platform and fielded questions by students. 

Club president Alex Thompson ’20 opened the event by reminding the audience that Eastern is a non-partisan institution that does not endorse any political candidate. The mission of College Democrats is to inform students about the democratic process and to promote intelligent political discourse.

Lamont opened by listing his support for gun-law reform, Obamacare, public transportation and the state’s public university system. He emphasized his goals to retain Connecticut residents and to foster a strong job market for young people entering the workforce.

“There are a lot of great jobs in Connecticut right now,” assured Lamont. “Identify what you want and put your shoulder to the wheel. It’s a great time to be in Connecticut.”

During the Q&A portion of the event, students asked Lamont’s take on the opioid epidemic, renewable energy and support for undocumented students. Lamont answered that Connecticut should be a leader in creative tactics to address opioid abuse; that the state’s Energy Efficiency Fund should be restored; and that he sympathizes with the plight of undocumented families.

Members of College Democrats pose for a photo with Ned Lamont.

One student asked about the government’s role in creating jobs, to which Lamont answered: “The government doesn’t create jobs; it creates an environment where jobs can grow.”

Lamont claims he will foster this environment by enabling a highly skilled and educated workforce and by “bringing all stakeholders to the table, including business and labor, democrats and republicans.”

Another student asked about STEM jobs — science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Lamont agreed that Connecticut’s workforce needs to possess STEM skills, but also that the liberal arts are important.

“We need to learn how to continue learning,” he said of the soft skills developed through the liberal arts. “Your job will change over the course of your career. You need to be able to change with the industry.”

Lamont was brought to campus via the outreach efforts of the College Democrats. “A lot of young people in college assume that politicians don’t care about them,” said club member Demitra Kourtzidis ’19, a political science major and Spanish minor. “This has shown us that when you reach out to them, they’ll follow through, especially if they’re trying to get your votes.”

Another club member, Jackson DeLaney ’21, mentioned that some of the important issues for college-aged people include paying off student debt and getting a good job — better yet, a good job in the state.

A political science major and communication minor, DeLaney is interested in working on political campaigns after college. “It would be great to help elect officials in the state that I grew up in.” 

For the past several months, College Democrats have been canvassing the Eastern campus, encouraging students to vote. “We’ve gone to all the residence halls, all the busy buildings on campus,” said Kourtzidis. “Our goal is to get every Eastern student to turn out and vote.”

Lamont closed with, “It’s said that 80 percent of 80-year-olds vote and 20 percent of 20-year-olds vote. Get out there and vote!”

Students Dispatch Across Windham for ‘Day of Caring’

Eastern and UConn students pose for a group photo at the event’s kickoff at Windham High School.

Written by Raven Dillon

More than 200 students from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut volunteered across Windham on Sept. 28 for the third annual Day of Caring. The event was a collaboration with United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

Students from all background and academic interests volunteered hundreds of hours in 13 locations across Willimantic and the surrounding area. Volunteer sites included the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry (WAIM), CT Railroad Museum, Habitat for Humanity, Willimantic Housing Authority, Horizons and more.

At the Abundant Life Church, overseen by Pastor Tim Tracy, students clad in gloves and smiles disinfected nursery toys. “We love this event,” said Pastor Tracy. “Every year, we get different students, and they all work so hard. Usually we only get three or four students at this site, but this year we have eight, so the numbers are going up every year. It’s amazing.”

Students disinfect nursery toys at Abundant Life Church.

Some of the volunteers heard of the event through professors or residence halls. Others were student leaders involved in club life, such as Eastern’s Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), which had several volunteers at the event. Many more were repeat volunteers from previous Day of Caring events.

Others, like Dilan Mendoza, a psychology major at Eastern, attended for the first time. “I’d definitely do it again next year,” said Mendoza, brushing dirt off his hands. “It’s a great way to give back to the local community, and to get to know other students.”

Mendoza was a part of a small group of students who were planting flowers and weeding dead plants in Jillson Square. Supervised by the Windham Gardening Club, students pruned bushes, raked leaves and planted flowers.

An Eastern student picks up garbage along Main Street.

David Annecchiarico, a music major from Eastern, led a group of students down Main Street, armed with garbage bags and garden tools. They raked and tended to small gardens on both sides of the street and swept sidewalks while collecting discarded trash and litter. This was Annecchiarico’s second year volunteering for Day of Caring; he hopes to return next year.

Aside from outdoor beautification, volunteers worked on projects indoors. Some UConn students sorted through donated school supplies, while others created literacy kits. The literacy kits consisted of a book and reading activity designed to make reading fun for local schoolchildren. These kits will be distributed in the Windham Public Schools.

At the end of the day, students were given lunch and an opportunity to socialize with community leaders and student organizations. Afterwards, they reflected on the importance of volunteering and the work they had accomplished that morning.

Day of Caring is a year-long global program designed by United Way to promote volunteerism. Eastern and UConn students will return next year to continue their dedicated work in the Windham community.

Eastern Hosts Annual Fall Graduate School Fair

Written by Jolene Potter

Hundreds of Eastern Connecticut State University students met with representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities at Eastern’s annual Graduate School Fair on Sept. 25 in the Student Center. The fair presents an opportunity for undergraduates to learn about graduate and professional education, receive detailed information about various schools and network with professionals in their desired field of study.

Representatives from a variety of schools attended the fair to recruit students for programs in psychology, education, law, business, accounting, engineering, medicine and more.

Graduate schools represented at the fair included such Connecticut institutions as Southern Connecticut State University, the University of Connecticut and Sacred Heart University. The fair also hosted representatives from Boston University, Northeastern University, Bay Path University and Assumption College.

“The graduate fair is a great opportunity for students who are exploring their future career and education path,” said senior communication major Kate Cobb. “As a student who works full-time, this gave me an idea of how to describe the skills I have gained, by working on my résumé and applications for graduate school.”

The interaction with representatives also reassured some students who have already decided on their career path. “Speaking with representatives from programs I am interested in has affirmed my chosen career path and helped solidified my decision to apply directly to Ph.D. programs,” said senior psychology major Kelly Bielonko.

Eastern Music Program to Host 6 September-October Events

The Eastern Wind Ensemble will be joined by members of Eastern Opera Workshop on Oct. 13 in their fall concert “Art of Song.”

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will offer six performances in late September and October. Ranging from jazz to opera, there will be something for everyone! All events will be held in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission for all concerts is free; donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

On Sept. 26 at 3 p.m., internationally acclaimed soprano Carmen Balthrop will present a public voice masterclass as part of Eastern’s University Hour Series. Balthrop has appeared with major opera companies throughout North America including The Metropolitan, Canadian, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, Seattle and Houston, as well as making her Broadway debut in the Palace Theater in Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha.” As a sought-after voice pedagogue, she will guide students through a discovery of their own vocal and expressive potential.

On Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m., the Music Program will open the 2018-2019 Faculty Recital Series with a recital by the percussion duo “Confluence.” Faculty members Jeff Calissi and Matt Bronson will collaborate on a diverse program for percussion duo, including the premiere of Calissi’s new work “Modus Vivendi” for mallet and world percussion. The concert will also include Eastern percussion students on an arrangement of “Big Country” by Béla Fleck. 

On Oct. 6 at 7 p.m., guest ensemble Ensemble/Parallax will return to Eastern to perform a series of contemporary works, including a new composition by Professor Anthony Cornicello.  Ensemble/Parallax is renowned for their diverse performance repertoire including 20th- and 21st-century masterworks and European avant-garde music, often presented alongside multimedia and video art from artists around the world. This event is co-sponsored by the Music Society and New England Foundation for the Arts.

On Oct. 13 at 2:30 p.m., the Eastern Wind Ensemble will be joined by members of Eastern Opera Workshop in their fall concert “Art of Song.” The concert will feature works by influential composers including Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The program will feature several collaborations between Eastern students, faculty and guest artists, including a performance of Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” with soprano Emily Riggs. 

On Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Concert Band will celebrate the life and music of iconic American composer, conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein with their concert “Bernstein at 100.”

On Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m., YouTube sensation Derek Brown will present a concert featuring his unique performance style that combines his classical training as a saxophonist with beat boxing and vocals. The following day, Oct. 26, Brown will present a public masterclass as part of the Music Program’s Colloquium Series.

Written by Jolene Potter

Eastern to Host September-October University Hour Events

Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo is a past University Hour guest, who spoke on “being out” in politics as a gay man.

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting a variety of University Hour events this fall 2018 semester. This free and open-to-the-public series of guest lectures and performances occurs on Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m. in locations across campus. Upcoming University Hours for late September and October include:

On Sept. 26 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall, Carmen Balthrop-Metropolitan Opera alumna and first-place winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Competition-will share her experience as an international opera singer and highly sought-after voice pedagogue. Balthrop will select five students for participation in a public masterclass during which she will address issues of vocal technique and presentation.

On Oct. 3 in the Student Center Theatre, veteran Bruce Weigl will discuss his latest book of poetry, “On the Shores of the Welcome Home.” His previous collection, “The Abundance of Nothing,” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Weigl’s Vietnam War experiences inspire much of his work. “The paradox of my life as a writer,” he has said, “is that the war ruined my life and in return gave me my voice.”

On Oct. 17 in the Student Center Theatre, Professor James Lawler of Pace University will share a recent project that uses augmented reality (AR) to improve the performance of students with developmental and learning disabilities, including several videos he produced to document the process. AR is a view of a real-world environment with elements that are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptions.

On Oct. 24 in the Student Center Theatre, a presentation will advocate for a transformation of Puerto Rico’s electric grid, with rooftop solar communities that pool available resources to operate as microgrids. The human suffering caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has been immense. The catastrophe exposed the lack of maintenance to the grid and the lack of environmental planning.

On Oct. 31 in the Student Center Threatre, Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe tribe-an internationally renowned environmentalist, Native rights advocate, author and former vice-presidential candidate for the Green Party in the United States-will discuss restoring systems that have long been considered sacred. LaDuke works on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable development, food systems and environmental justice.

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

WILLIMANTIC, CT (06/18/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized as a 2018-19 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction.

The organization praised Eastern for its student-centered approaches and high-impact educational practices. High-impact practices of note include Eastern’s community-based learning programs, intensive writing courses, living-learning communities for residents, undergraduate research, internships and other hands-on learning experiences.

“We are absolutely thrilled to recognize Eastern Connecticut State University as a College of Distinction for its effective dedication to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, CEO for Colleges of Distinction. “Colleges of Distinction is so impressed with Eastern’s curriculum, which is enriched with the kind of high-impact educational practices that are most crucial for student development. Such innovative engagement is preparing the next generation of young adults to thrive after college.”

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction is far more than a ranking list of colleges and universities,” said Schritter. “We seek out the schools that are wholly focused on the student experience, constantly working to produce graduates who are prepared for a rapidly changing global society. Again recognized as a College of Distinction, Eastern Connecticut State University stands out in the way it strives to help its students to learn, grow and succeed.”

Eastern Repeats as LEC Commissioner’s Cup Winner

The women’s cross country team captured its first-ever LEC title in fall 2017 and was a major contributor to Eastern winning the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup.

PAWTUCKET, R.I. – For the second straight year, Eastern Connecticut State University has claimed the Little East Conference (LEC) Commissioner’s Cup, the league’s top honor for overall institutional athletic performance among the LEC’s eight primary member institutions in its 19 sponsored sports. The Warriors captured the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup after accumulating a point average of 5.62 among their 17 programs that compete in the LEC.

“We are thrilled and honored to win the Commissioner’s Cup again as the top performing school in our conference,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Eastern’s student-athletes work hard in the classroom to prepare themselves for rewarding professional careers, and they compete with the same commitment and enthusiasm on the playing field. For Eastern athletes to perform at a consistently high level across all varsity sports in the Conference is a tribute to them, their coaches and our Athletic Department staff. Well done Warriors!”

Lori Runksmeier, Eastern’s athletics director, added, “We are very proud to receive the Commissioner’s Cup for the second straight year. The LEC has proud athletic traditions and earning the Commissioner’s Cup is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes and coaches.”

Eastern’s women’s cross country team captured its first-ever LEC title in the fall, while the men’s basketball team won the outright regular season title and the women’s soccer team finished tied for first place in the final regular season standings. The Warriors recorded a second-place finish in five sports, all during the spring season—baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, women’s outdoor track & field—and finished third in field hockey, women’s volleyball and women’s swimming & diving.

“Congratulations to the Eastern Connecticut State University administration, coaches and student-athletes on earning back-to-back Commissioner’s Cups,” said LEC Commissioner Cora H. Brumley. “The Warriors exemplify the NCAA Division III philosophy by excelling both on and off the field of play and are continuing to usher in a new era of competitive parity across the LEC!” 

Second place for the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup was UMass Boston with a point average of 5.34, while 16-time LEC Commissioner’s Cup winner Keene State College finished third with a point average of 5.18. Rounding out this year’s Commissioner’s Cup standings were the University of Southern Maine (fourth, 4.89 points), UMass Dartmouth (fifth, 4.71 points), Plymouth State University (sixth, 4.67 points), Western Connecticut State University (eighth, 4.31 points) and Rhode Island College (eighth, 4.26 points).

For sports in which the LEC conducts in-season play (baseball, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball), points are determined by the ranked order of finish in the final regular season standings. For sports that do not conduct in-season play (cross country, swimming & diving, track & field), points are awarded based on the order of finish at the LEC championship meet.

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The Little East Conference (LEC) was formed in 1986 when six public institutions gathered to create a single sport athletic conference and has expanded into what is now New England’s premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. The LEC features 19 Championship Sports and sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes while following the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.

Top U.S. Mental Health Official Speaks at Eastern’s 128th Commencement

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

More 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.

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, 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. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Eastern Service Expo Honors Community Servants

Italo Bucca presents on his volunteer work with the Windham High School ESOL program

Written by Michael Rouleau

More than 1,000 Eastern Connecticut State University students volunteered more than 17,000 hours in the Windham area in the past academic year. On April 19, these students—and the projects and community partners they represent—were honored at the annual Service Expo and Awards, sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement.

The expo showcased more than 30 student-led community service projects, followed by an award ceremony and keynote address by Erin Corbett of the Second Chance ex-offender educational program. Projects spanned a variety of causes and organizations, including working with the elderly at a rehabilitation center, mentoring high school students at afterschool programs, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, addiction center, and more.

Italo Bucca ’19, a sociology major, volunteers with the Windham High School ESOL, an English language-learning program that benefits Spanish-speaking youth in Willimantic. ESOL stands for “English for Speakers of Other Languages.”

“Growing up, I was an ESOL student,” he said. “I can speak from my own experience and assure them that it’s possible for them to learn English. I, too, only spoke Spanish, so it gives them hope.”

 

Alyssa Law ’19, a health sciences major, volunteers at the High Chase Residential Care Home, a facility in Willington that cares for people with intellectual disabilities. “They don’t often get to socialize outside of the facility,” said Law, who visits every Tuesday with other Eastern volunteers to play games and interact with residents.

“I want to be an occupational therapist,” she said, “so working at High Chase has given me insight into how to approach people with autism and other disabilities, and shown me what they’re capable of.”

Dillon Wadsworth ’20, a criminology major, volunteered at Vanderman Place Rehabilitation Center, which works with elderly people who are recovering from medical issues. “Twice a week we go there in hopes of getting the people to leave their rooms and join us in our recreation center,” he said. “Even though we come from different times, we find common ground and have meaningful interactions. Some people say it’s the highlight of their week.

“Some people are depressed,” admitted Wadsworth. “They fear this may be the end of their independence, but others have such a positive outlook; they want to make the most of their situation. I find that empowering.”

Adilsa Encarnacao ’18, a social work major, volunteers with the Barrows STEM Academy After School Program, where she tutors kids and engages them in educational activities. Encarnacao is an aspiring social worker who has worked a variety of projects during her years with the CCE.

“At first thought I wanted to work with kids, but then I fell in love with our addiction recovery program,” she said. “Then I volunteered with one of our high school programs, which is a population I never thought I’d work with, but I fell in love with them, too. Then I did a prison program, and now I can see myself working in a prison… I’m comfortable working with so many populations. The CCE has provided me with great experiences for when I become a social worker.”

Keynote speaker Erin Corbett of Second Chance Educational Alliance

A panel of 14 judges representing seven categories—composed of faculty, staff and community members—went from student to student, rating their projects.

“The range of people the students are working with is impressive,” said Patrick Doyle of United Way, a judge for the “Putting Liberal Arts Into Action” category. “They’re covering a lot of ground and completing a lot of good work in so many different places.”

United Way partners with the CCE for some of its Windham-area programs. “This partnership has enabled us to grow our own programming,” said Doyle, “not only quickly but securely. When the CCE helps us recruit and train volunteers, I know that they’ll be top notch and that we can depend on them.”

These community partnerships are the CCE’s specialty, resulting in long-term projects that address root problems and authentically connect students to the greater community. “We’re not simply picking up trash,” said CCE Director Kim Silcox. “These are meaningful, sustainable collaborations with community organizations.”

The ceremony’s keynote address was given by Erin Corbett, founder of Second Chance Educational Alliance (SCEA). Recognizing that education is a pathway to career enhancement, SCEA provides ex-offenders with access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

“There are some brilliant minds in prison,” said Corbett of her students. “My goal is for them to see the freedom that education provides, and that even in jail, your education cannot be taken, cannot be stripped from you. For higher education to be offered to the incarcerated… it means a new beginning, a new chance at life, it means chains being broken,” she continued. “A new mind produces a new day. Some of my students’ entire outlooks change.”

The awards portion of the expo included the judges’ picks for best community programs as well as awards for select individuals.

Outstanding Student Leader Award winners Carly Perron and Sarah Tricarico (middle) beside CCE Director Kim Silcox and Associate Director Kemesha Wilmot
Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award winner Nancy Brennan (right) with CCE Director Kim Silcox
Student Community Engagement Award winner Makayla Mowel
Communication Department colleague John Murphy accepted the Service-Learning Award on behalf of Professor Denise Matthews

 

For the program awards, the Girl’s Circle at Natchaug Elementary won in the Leadership Development category.  Windham High School ESOL won in two categories: Putting Liberal Arts into Action and Broadening Horizons. Windham Recovery Center Jobs 101 won in the Strengthening Communities category. Jumpstart won in the Kids First category. Warrior Food Recovery won in the Going Green category. Boy’s Circle at Natchaug Elementary won in the Best New Program category. Covenant Soup Kitchen won in the Community Choice category. 

For the individual awards, Eastern Communication Professor Denise Matthews won the Service Learning Award. She’s an accomplished documentary filmmaker who has recently increased her involvement with the CCE by working with students to produce videos for a range of local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The Student Community Engagement Award went to Makayla Mowel ’19, an elementary education and women’s and gender studies double major who volunteers with Jumpstart, a program that focuses on early childhood literacy. As a Jumpstart AmeriCorps member and team leader for three years, Mowel has spent more than 1,000 hours working directly with children and supporting other Jumpstart volunteers.

The Faculty/Staff Award went to Nancy Brennan of the Campus Ministry, who manages Eastern’s quarterly Red Cross blood drives.

The Community Partner Award went to Erin Corbett (the keynote speaker) of Second Chance Educational Alliance.

The Outstanding Community Event Award went to Journey House Program of Natchaug Hospital, a residential treatment program for adolescent girls who have been referred from the juvenile justice system. Many have a history of trauma, domestic violence, sex trafficking, mental illness and other serious conditions. Eastern first became involved with Journey House in 2010, and it is consistently among the most popular CCE programs.

Finally, the Outstanding Student Leader Awards went to history and social science major Carly Perron ’18 and social work major Sarah Tricarico ’18. Their volunteer efforts have spanned a number of CCE programs over their Eastern tenures, including The Covenant Soup Kitchen, Sweeney Elementary After School Program, Windham Middle School Enrichment and After School Programs, Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center, and more.

The Eastern Chamber Singers Tour Post-Hurricane Puerto Rico

The Chamber Singers pose for a group photo in San Juan

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of talented vocalists from Eastern Connecticut State University embarked on a unique tour of post-hurricane Puerto Rico this spring break. From March 9–15, members of the Chamber Singers performed in concerts and worked on service projects in the slowly recovering island.

In addition to three performances in San Juan, the group volunteered in the hurricane-battered neighborhood of La Perla, just beyond the walls of Old San Juan. Divided into three work crews, they cleared away debris from the residential section of the neighborhood while others repaired roofs and restored gardens.

Eastern students repairing roofs
Eastern students sorting through rubble in La Perla

 

“We witnessed the devastation firsthand while sorting through the rubble in La Perla,” said Jenny Lindquist ’20 of Tolland, who sings alto. “Piece after piece, we picked up the left-behind memories and belongings of families.”

Hannah Bythrow ’18 of Bolton, alto, remembers seeing new electricity poles being installed along the roads—flown in by helicopters—a stark reminder that many people are still living without power. “Exploring outside the city was eye opening,” she said. “I realized how long it might take for the island to return to its former glory. It made me realize the privileges we take for granted on the mainland.”

On a lighter note, during a roofing project, Bythrow recalled, “I remember us hammering nails in the heat of the day, singing at the top of our lungs and thinking to myself, ‘This is happiness.’”

The Chamber Singers performed for enthusiastic crowds at Stella Maris Parish and Escuela Libre de Música (Music School in San Juan).

“The high school-ers were shouting and dancing in their seats the entire time, itching to get up and sing with us,” said Halie Poirier ’18 of Putnam, soprano. “I’ll never forget those amazing kids.”

The Chamber Singers perform at Escuela Libre de Musica

David Belles, conductor of the ensemble, said of the demands of the tour: “Seeing our students have to kick it up a notch and adjust immediately to a new environment, new audiences, new spaces—having music be the only language many of us had in common—was a moment when all the work preparing for this endeavor really paid off.”

“Much like the colorful buildings and landscapes of the island,” added Bythrow, “our audiences’ faces lit up when they heard us and it was clear that they were truly thankful be a part of our singing.”

For Poirier, a graduating senior, this was her final tour with the Chamber Singers. “Puerto Rico was the perfect ending to a magnificent run with these truly awesome and talented people. I have laughed and cried with them while singing many wrong notes but still making beautiful music. I’ve toured with them for three years and no matter where we go, we always have a fantastic time.”

The Chamber Singers is Eastern’s premier vocal ensemble, composed of 20-25 auditioned singers from various academic departments. Performance repertoire encompasses chamber music from more than four centuries. The annual spring tour serves to enrich the musical lives of audiences near and far, and enhance the cultural experience of members of the ensemble while studying at Eastern.