Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

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.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. 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 1,389 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. 10.

For the past 33 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.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

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About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

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.

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 a 2016 ‘Great College to Work For’

Facilities staff members Nicole Balkus and Will Rivera, who work in Shipping and Receiving.

Facilities staff members Nicole Balkus and Will Rivera

Willimantic, CT — The Chronicle of Higher Education announced on July 18 that Eastern Connecticut State University has been named one of the nation’s “Great Colleges to Work For.” Of the 281 institutions participating in the survey this year, Eastern was one of only 42 named to the program’s “Honor Roll.”

Eastern is the only school in Connecticut to make the honor roll and the only public four-year institution in New England to be named a “Great College to Work For.” This marks the seventh time that Eastern has been recognized since the recognition program began in 2009.  This year, Eastern was given high grades for collaborative governance; compensation and benefits; confidence in senior leadership; facilities, workspace and security; and tenure process for faculty.

Tao Chen, digital art and design professor, mentors a student during class.

Tao Chen, digital art and design professor, mentors a student during class.

“We are very pleased to be a member of the ‘Great Colleges to Work for’ Honor Roll for the second year in a row,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “It is an honor to again be recognized as one of the nation’s top higher education workplaces. The shared values and spirit of teamwork that exists on our campus is a strength that helps us better serve our students and the state of Connecticut. Receiving this national recognition for the seventh time from the Chronicle of Higher Education is very gratifying, as is our high ranking on six of the program’s 12 criteria.”

 

“Nine years in, The Chronicle’s ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ program is well known as a mark of a college or university that puts thought and effort into serving the needs of its faculty and staff,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle. “The colleges and universities that make the list are highly rated by their employees for creating great working environments, an important achievement that helps them recruit top academic and administrative talent.”

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was the employee feedback.

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide.

“It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, the firm’s principal and managing partner. “And those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

Great Colleges to Work For is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country. For more information and to view all the results of the survey, visit http://chronicle.com/AW16.

Eastern Named a 2016-17 College of Distinction

CoD_Yearly_Badge_16_17_500px

Innovative application of high impact educational practices at Eastern Connecticut State University has earned the school recognition among the nation’s Colleges of Distinction. Eastern students earned college credit and valuable life experience while participating in study abroad programs in 17 countries, as well as through service learning, undergraduate research, and internships.

“We’re so happy to recognize Eastern for developing skills relevant to graduates’ lives,” said Tyson Schritter, executive editor for Colleges of Distinction. “High student engagement in college is one of the keys to a successful undergraduate education. With an increasing emphasis on hands-on learning techniques, Colleges of Distinction applauds Eastern for practicing methodologies that prepare students for their futures.”

Schools must demonstrate results across four distinctions—Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community, and Successful Outcomes. High school counselors and educators make nominations, and each school is evaluated on key indicators including student engagement, student empowerment and curricular innovation. Colleges that have distinguished themselves in each of the four distinctions and that have demonstrated dedication to enriching student outcomes through innovative learning opportunities are then invited to join Colleges of Distinction.

The annual process to select the nation’s Colleges of Distinction also includes a review of each institution’s freshman experience, as well as its general education program, strategic plan, and alumni success and satisfaction measures.

“Colleges of Distinction is more than an annual ranking of colleges and universities. We only include colleges that offer every student a holistic and valuable experience,” said Schritter. “The Colleges of Distinction have earned solid reputations for serving their students and nurturing success. Like Eastern, our member schools provide the affirming undergraduate experience every student deserves.”

To view Eastern’s profile or to find more information about the innovative learning experiences it offers, visit CollegesofDistinction.com.

 

 

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.”

White House Official Julie Rodriguez to Speak at Eastern Awards

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, CT — Julie Chavez Rodriguez, deputy director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, will deliver the keynote address when Eastern Connecticut State University presents its Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Awards on April 1. The awards ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center. The ceremony is open to the public. Admission is free.

The Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Awards recognize individuals whose actions demonstrate distinguished service in promoting the ideals of legendary Farm Workers of America union leader Cesar Chavez. Since 2003, Eastern has presented Latin American Distinguished Service Awards to 36 individuals; in 2013, the program was renamed in honor of the late union leader.

Three awards will be presented, one each to a member of the faculty or staff; a student; and a member of the community-at-large. The awards will recognize distinguished service in one or more of the following areas: 1) demonstrated act that represent a commitment to positive Latino youth development, activities that go beyond one’s work obligations; 2) demonstrated leadership in a program serving the needs of the Latino community; and 3) demonstrated activity to promote educational opportunities and/or advancement for members of Latino groups.

Rodriguez, the granddaughter of Cesar Chavez, joined President Barack Obama’s administration in 2011, where she serves as the White House’s primary liaison to the Latino community on immigration-related issues, the Affordable Care Act, jobs, the economy, education reform and other Presidential domestic priorities.

Prior to her current White House role, Rodriguez, who earned her degree in Latino Studies at the University of California, served as director of programs at the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation in California; director of youth employment at the Department of Interior; and deputy press secretary to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Rodriguez also has participated as a fellow in the National Service Learning Emerging Leaders Initiative, the National Service Learning Partnership and the National Youth Leadership Council.

In 1962, Cesar Chavez turned down an offer from President John F. Kennedy to head up the Peace Corps, opting instead to organize the United Farm Workers of America. He died in 1993 at the age of 66. “My grandfather didn’t just start a union; he galvanized a movement,” said Rodriguez, leading to boycotts across the nation.

The White House Office of Public Engagement coordinates opportunities for direct dialogue between the Obama administration and the American public, while bringing new voices to the table and ensuring that everyone can inform the work of the president.

 

Undergraduate Research Gaining Traction at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

In the control room of the Center for Early Childhood Education, seniors Alyssa Zebrowski, Heather Oski and Kristen Krause observe the play of toddlers through a system of monitors and cameras for the annual TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination).

Willimantic, Conn. – Over the past several years, undergraduate research and creative activity have seen great expansion at Eastern Connecticut State University. More than ever before, students in all majors have opportunities for experiential learning — whether conducted independently or with faculty mentors, on campus or afar, with stipends or for academic credit.

“With fellowships, project grants and connections to conferences around the world, as well as extensive laboratory space and other activities on campus, Eastern is developing into a comprehensive school for undergraduate research,” said Carlos Escoto, coordinator of the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Council Advisory Board.

Environmental earth science students and faculty along the Rhode Island coast, where they researched erosion patterns due to storm damage and rising sea levels.

Eastern recognizes that undergraduate research and creative activity are best practices that yield desirable learning outcomes. According to a study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), undergraduate research has been shown to impact student retention and develop mentor relationships with faculty, as well as support critical thinking and problem solving. Long-term scholarly activity outside of the classroom has also been tied to graduate school acceptance.

“Research and creative activities take classroom experience and apply it to tangible, practical work,” said Escoto. “Research is real-world experience that develops professional skills and prepares students for the workforce.”

Biology Professor Barbara Murdoch and student researcher Manan Bhatt ’15 investigate the sense of smell by observing specialized cells through Eastern’s confocal microscope.

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines undergraduate research as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.” Through numerous presentations and publications every year, Eastern students are contributing to their respective fields.

There are research and creative activity opportunities for students in all majors at Eastern. “Research varies by discipline, and it’s not all test tubes and science related,” said Escoto. Performing arts students create costumes for theatrical productions; history majors investigate archives and historical sites; communication majors make documentaries; English students perform literary analyses; and education majors study the impact of toys on child development through the acclaimed TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination).

Simply performing research is not the end goal. “The presentation of the research is also important,” said Escoto, speaking to the communication, public speaking and organizational skills needed to articulate research during a presentation. To promote the presentation component of research, Eastern has increased its involvement in regional and national conferences and exhibitions.

Eric Cerino ’14, a recent graduate of the Psychology Department, is amid a PhD program at Oregon State University where he is continuing to study Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that affect older adults. He is also the recipient of a $30,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This past November, 17 Eastern students presented at the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) Northeast Regional Conference at Keene State College in New Hampshire. 14 students have been accepted to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), occurring this April in Washington State. NCUR is the largest conference of its kind in the country — there were 3,700 submissions nationwide this year. Posters on the Hill, a very competitive conference in Washington D.C., will also happen this April, with students learning of their acceptance later in February.

“The increase in students submitting to these three prestigious conferences, and many others, and their acceptance into them, is proof that undergraduate research is gaining traction at Eastern,” said Escoto. Last year, Psychology Major Eric Cerino presented at Posters on the Hill, which only has a 10 percent acceptance rate. “Eastern has a great track record with Posters on the Hill,” added Escoto. “We are right up there with Yale for top participation in Connecticut.”

Communication major Emily Haggett ’15 performing the final edits to the documentary “Weir in Windham” during her independent study.

Traditionally, undergraduate research and creative activities are pursued by juniors and seniors. “Our goal is to get students involved at the ground level,” said Escoto. “We want to inspire all students to pursue research — underclassmen and upperclassmen alike.”

To facilitate this, and to foster an academic culture that encourages research, Eastern is starting an Undergraduate Research Club to help students engage in research and creative activities as early as possible. And for the first time, this semester marks the launch of the CREATE conference (Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern). Set for April 17–18, CREATE will provide an on-campus venue for all students to present their research and creative work — through oral and poster presentations and panel discussions, as well as art, photography and documentary exhibitions.

Mathematics major Richard Magnern ’15 and his mentor Professor Mizan Khan have conducted extensive research in the field of number theory, which has led to publications in academic journals and presentations at research conferences.

Students also go abroad or receive funding to pursue research. Biology major Dominique DuBois went to La Paz, Mexico this past November for the 38th Annual Meeting of the International Water Bird Society. History major Sonya Beetham received a project grant to support her research titled “Pablo Picasso in Time and Place.” Mathematics major Richard Magner, under the mentorship of Professor Mizan Khan, completed a summer fellowship dealing with concepts in number theory. Through this research, Magner also published in the academic journal “Integers.” This coming March, English majors Alexandra Rogan and Renee Drouin will travel to Albuquerque, NM, to present their research at the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta Convention. And history major Melissa Zablonski will present her research on Revolutionary War pensions for widows at Harvard University this semester.

 “Eastern’s funding for grants and travel, and our institutional focus on undergraduate research, is unique among liberal arts colleges and schools of our size,” said Escoto. “Students looking for a college should consider Eastern for its research and scholarly opportunities.”

Carnegie Selects Eastern for 2015 Community Engagement Classification

Written by Michael Rouleau

Mayor Ernie Eldridge briefing a crew of Eastern students before they head into Willimantic to perform a variety of clean up and beautification projects alongside community members for the annual event Town Pride, Town Wide.

Willimantic, Conn. – On Jan. 7, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced that Eastern Connecticut State University has received the 2015 Community Engagement Classification. Eastern is one of 240 institutions across the nation selected this year, and joins 121 other institutions that earned the classification in 2010 — in total, 361 institutions now hold the classification.

In order to be selected, Eastern had to provide descriptions and examples of institutionalized practices of community engagement that showed alignment among mission, culture, leadership and practices.

“We are thrilled to have been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for Eastern’s community engagement work,” said Kim Silcox, Eastern’s director of the Center for Community Engagement. “Our students and our community benefit from the diversity of interactions offered by Eastern faculty and staff, and we look forward to continuing to have an impact in our local community.”

The Community Engagement Classification was first offered in 2006 as part of a restructuring of The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Unlike the foundation’s other classifications, which rely on national data, this is an “elective” classification — institutions participate voluntarily by submitting materials describing their community engagement efforts and achievements, local and afar.

“The importance of this elective classification is borne out by the response of so many campuses that have demonstrated their deep engagement with local, regional, national and global communities,” said John Saltmarsh, director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education. “These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities and revitalizing their civic and academic missions.”

Central to the classification process is a “documentation framework” developed by a team of advisors to help applicants and reviewers assess the nature of an institution’s community engagement commitments. Of the 133 first-time applicants for the 2015 classification, 83 were successfully classified as community engaged institutions. Similarly, of the institutions selected in previous years, 188 were eligible for re-classification, and 157 were successfully re-classified.

Eastern’s classification is valid until 2025, at which time it will need to seek re-classification if it intends to retain its Community Engagement Classified status. Upon re-classification, Eastern will need to provide evidence of how community engagement has become deeper, more pervasive and better integrated on campus.