Students Gain Insights Abroad: Ireland and Greece

Mackenzie Seymour ’20 studied abroad in Ireland.

Chelsy Popo ’19 studied abroad in Greece.

Eastern Connecticut State University students Chelsy Popo ’19 and Mackenzie Seymour ’20 recently completed semesters abroad this fall. They studied in Greece and Ireland, respectively.

Popo, who majors in political science, believes that studying abroad is invaluable because it allows students the opportunity to see the world. “My coursework at Hellenic American University in Athens included a class called ‘Athens Across the Ages.’ Each session was held at a different location in Athens, so I was able to visit and learn about many of the ancient sites and museums, in addition to more modern locations in the city.”

The destinations Popo found most memorable were the Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens, as well as the island of Crete. She also enjoyed visiting Meteora, a rock formation in central Greece that hosts one of the largest, most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. She took side trips to London, Paris, Budapest and Amsterdam.

Mackenzie Seymour

“I never expected to study in Ireland, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Seymour, an accounting major. Like Popo, she visited nearby countries, such as Spain, England, the Netherlands and Italy, while exploring Ireland itself. “I had the most fun traveling within Ireland, to Galway, Dublin, Cork and the Ring of Kerry, a scenic route in southwest Ireland. It looked like a breathtaking painting — and has become my favorite place.” Seymour noted her appreciation for learning about unfamiliar cultures along the way.

Popo similarly found herself intrigued by the environment she lived in. “It was interesting to study in Greece as a political science major, since Athens is known as the birthplace of democracy and because of the current political climate.” Popo also enjoyed the Mediterranean climate and the warm, welcoming people she encountered.

Seymour said study abroad programs help students step out of their normal lives. “Many of us are used to a normal routine — it can be hard to change things,” she said. “I believe that it’s important to explore life and experience new things. I became more independent and mature because of my trip. I have returned to America a much stronger person.”

Chelsy Popo

Popo concurred: “Once I made up my mind to step outside my comfort zone, I learned so much about the world and myself. The experiences and connections have helped me become a global citizen.” She plans to study international or criminal law after graduating.

“I have become extremely grateful for my time at Eastern and am excited about returning to continue with my classes,” concluded Seymour, who wants to attend graduate school to become a certified public accountant. “The professors go above and beyond to assist students in understanding the subjects we are studying, and after studying abroad, I can say for sure that my favorite part of Eastern is the academics.”

Written by Jordan Corey

 

For Lynda Petrides, Dreams Really Do Come True

Lynda Petrides now holds an IT position at SPIROL International Corporation.

Lynda Petrides ’17 is living her dream these days. After years of working at part-time jobs, the 59-year-old Eastern graduate is finally working full time in her chosen career field of information technology, recently landing a position as a systems analyst at Danielson, CT-based SPIROL International Corp., a leading manufacturer of engineered fasteners and components used primarily in automotive and aerospace applications.

The position is the culmination of a long journey. Instead of going to college right after high school, Petrides decided to join the workforce. She took a job as a cashier in a grocery store and quickly learned she wanted a better job with better hours, enrolling in Hagerstown (PA) Community College. Her classes in accounting and business administration paid off, as she was promoted to the accounting office with better work hours.

The college experience had another benefit; she met her husband! He was in the Army, and life happened. “We got married, moved to Georgia, then to Germany, back to Georgia, and finally, to eastern Connecticut. We had four children and I became a stay-at-home mom for many years. Eventually, I worked part time at my children’s elementary school as a library aide and later as an assistant computer instructor. This work supported the school and fed my interest in technology.”

Petrides and Professor Kunene at the national EDSIGCON conference in Austin, TX.

In 2010, Petrides found a part-time job as an administrative assistant for Loos & Co. in Pomfret, which manufactures aircraft cable and other stainless-steel products. “This job supported my interests in computer technology and increased my desire to expand my horizons in information systems,” said Petrides. “When my youngest child graduated from high school in 2013, my new dream was to complete my associate degree at Quinebaug Valley Community College.

Petrides graduated summa cum laude from the community college in 2015 and set her sights on her next goal — obtaining her bachelor’s degree. Unsure of what to major in but still interested in technology and business, Petrides learned about Eastern’s business information systems (BIS) major. In summer 2015, she took her first foundation class at Eastern with Sukeshini Grandhi, associate professor of business information systems.

“Life was good! In the spring semester of 2016, I was offered an internship through Cigna’s Technology Early Career Development Program. My role was in project management and I learned valuable skills working with large datasets. This was a great experience for me.”

In her senior year, Petrides worked with Nikki Kunene, assistant professor of business information systems and health information management, on a research project that culminated with Petrides co-presenting at a national conference.

Lynda Petrides on graduation day.

“Our project was on the usability of the Blackboard interface from the instructor’s perspective. Dr. Kunene and I worked on the project throughout 2017 with research, lab testing, data analysis, surveys and write-ups. Our research paper was accepted for inclusion at the EDSIGCON Conference (Information Systems and Computing Education) in Austin, TX.”

“To meaningfully contribute in a research project a student must be able to think, be ready to learn the research skills needed, write well, and quickly learn the technologies we use,” said Kunene. “Lynda had all those qualities. She worked hard, thought critically, and learned new skills readily. She was the ideal student in a STEM major with a liberal arts grounding.”

Crediting her position at SPIROL to her internships, research experiences and BIS classes, Petrides says, “I thank all the great professors at Eastern for providing wonderful learning experiences to students, especially part-time students like myself.”

Petrides’ job at SPIROL challenges her on many levels, “but I’m learning something new every single day. I’m probably the oldest person ever to major in Business Information Systems at Eastern. I hope I broke some gender and age stereotypes along the way! Just know this — dreams really do come true no matter what your age. You just need to take that first step.”

by Dwight Bachman

Eastern Holds Third Civic Action Conference

Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern students have a reputation of service to community that goes back decades. But at the Third Annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 14, it was demonstrated how much students actually learn as a result of their service.

Eastern President Elsa Nunez introduced the idea of structured service learning in 2009, when she established the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), directed by Kim Silcox.

Nunez celebrated Eastern’s faculty for its commitment to organized, systematic service learning. “Students need to ask why people are suffering, and truly reflect on what they can do,” she said. “Getting faculty involved by connecting class curriculum to community needs will increase civic action in a meaningful way. It is so gratifying to see our students embrace this, as it reflects Eastern’s core values”

A wide range of speakers focused on four themes at the conference: 1.) writing assignments to promote civic action; 2.) employability and community engagement; 3.) higher education as a public good; and 4.) community engagement research.

“The conference highlights the amazing work Eastern faculty have achieved in engaging students in the community,” said Silcox, who organized the conference along with Nicolas Simon, assistant professor of sociology. “Students participating in service learning projects are engaging in research, thinking critically and expressing themselves as they reflect on the experiences. These are key marketable skills in today’s job market.”

Part-time lecturer Lucy Hurston and Nicholas Simon, assistant professor of sociology.

Part-time lecturer Lucy Hurston focuses on learning outcomes rather than just the student-volunteer experience. She had students conduct research on numerous issues, including homelessness and poverty. Students volunteered on a Habitat for Humanity housing project. The activity helped students change their perceptions of lower-income populations.

Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch

Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch’s intensive writing course requires students to focus on social inequalities and to identify solutions. “Students then develop a research project through a sociological lens and write a research paper,” said Bergstrom-Lynch.

English Professor Miriam Chirico

English Professor Miriam Chirico’s students focused on urban revitalization. “The goal,” she said, “is to have students come together to create a social network that helps enhance writing about tourism and increase pride in community.” Through the experience, students reinforced their civic commitment and simultaneously developed writing and rhetorical skills.

Education Professor David Stoloff

Addressing the theme of employability and civic engagement, Art and Art History Professor Terry Lennox’s students creatively design with the intent “to advance the communication and marketing outcomes of non-profit organizations. It is a collaborative, guided effort designed to learn the value of art and also show what we all can do, working together,” she said. Through these projects, students build portfolios, which contributes to their employability upon graduating.

Fatma Pakdil, associate professor of business administration, examined employability from a market perspective. She presented statistics showing that “only 11 percent of business leaders agree that today’s college graduates have the skills and competencies their businesses need, while 96 percent of chief academic officers say their institutions are very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the world of work.” Pakdil proposed affording students courses that enable students “to study on projects analyzing real problems, issues and bottlenecks faced by business organizations,” which she believes will better prepare students for the work place.

Associate Professor of Business Information Systems (BIS) Alex Citurs and student Rebekah Brancato, a BIS major, with a minor in Healthcare Informatics, showed how community-based projects help students gain practical experience and make meaningful contributions to communities. Students also gain insight into new ways of doing things and building relationships for future collaborations. The work in information systems that he and his students do, which many organizations cannot afford from professional consultants, improves the operations of non-profit organizations.

Education Professor David Stoloff examined pre-service education as a positive dimension of civic engagement. His students participate in projects in local school and community centers. They write reflections on these experiences at mid-term and at the end of the semester. Stoloff said the goal is to teach students “knowledge, skills, responsibility and commitment within social justice views of civic engagement.”

John Murphy, lecturer in the Department of Communication

John Murphy, lecturer in the Department of Communication, uses local radio, television, web sites, social and print media to demonstrate the value of service learning. Students use various media — digital platforms included — to share stories about the important assets of organizations and people served. This creates opportunities for students to build portfolios and provides information to the community on valuable, underutilized resources available in the community.

Geography Professor Patrick Vitale’s “Geography of Food” class made community-engagement research a campus project. Their results suggest that many students on campus experience food insecurity. The students examined the impact of food insecurity, the resources that are available to support students, and what other universities are doing to address this crisis. “Their research shows the political and educational potential of a class that engages students to take on a pressing concern in their community,” said Vitale.

Yolanda Bergstrom-Lynch, a campus librarian, said “It is vital that librarians have a seat at the table as service learning partners.” She introduced a “Service Learning and Community Engagement” library research guide that was created in collaboration with the Center for Community Engagement. The publication serves as a resource guide of the various ways in which librarians promote community engagement. “Librarians serve as bridges, connecting the library to other campus organizations and the campus community to service learning resources in the library.”

Eastern to Host Third Annual Civic Action Conference

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/02/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its third annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 14 from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Johnson Community Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library. The conference is free and open to the public. Registration begins at 9 a.m.

The conference is organized into four overarching themes, each featuring a variety of subtopics, such as the role of service learning in urban revival and career-readiness via community-based projects. At lunch, keynote speaker Thomas Piñeros-Shields of University of Massachusetts-Lowell will discuss his sociological research about immigration policy, youth civic engagement and social movements.

The first theme, “Writing Assignments to Promote Civic Action,” begins at 10 a.m. Eastern sociology professors Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, Lucy Hurston and Nicolas Simon, along with English professor Miriam Chirico, will discuss social justice and service learning through writing.

The second theme, “Employability and Civic Engagement,” begins at 11 a.m. and will explore undergraduate student career readiness. Featured Eastern professors for this segment are Terry Lennox (Art and Art History), Fatma Pakdil (Business Administration) and Alex Citurs (Business Information Systems).

Following theme two is Piñeros-Shields’ luncheon keynote presentation from noon-1 p.m.

The third theme, “Higher Education as a Public Good: Dimensions of Civic Engagement,” begins at 1 p.m. Several presenters from the University of Connecticut will discuss the development and enactment of community-engaged critical conversations through a graduate level course.

The fourth theme, “Community Engagement Research,” will include presentations from Eastern professors Nicolas Simon (Sociology) and Patrick Vitale (Geography), in addition to Yolanda Bergstrom-Lynch, who is a public services librarian and reference lecturer with the J. Eugene Smith Library.

The Civic Action Conference is sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement. For more information, contact Kim Silcox at silcoxk@easternct.edu, John Murphy at murphyjo@easternct.edu or Nicolas Simon at simonn@easternct.edu.

Visiting Professor Discusses VR Technology for Students with Autism

Written by Jordan Corey

Visiting professor James Lawler of Pace University came to Eastern on Oct. 17 to discuss the use of virtual reality as a tool to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). At Pace’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Lawler has been conducting a study centered on young adults with developmental intellectual disabilities.

“What we’re attempting to do is determine the benefits of virtual reality for high school students with autism spectrum disorders,” said Lawler. “Does this technology help them to learn? Does it help them to socialize?” Lawler’s focus is on students with mid-spectrum ASD. He has worked with a number of special education high schools in New York City. “Those students come to my course every Tuesday,” he said. “They’re mentored by my students on different technologies.”

For the study, Lawler and his team first identified the best class of virtual reality headsets, deciding on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift systems. Then, they determined three particular applications (apps) to use for testing — 3D Organon VR Anatomy, Ocean Rift and Star Chart. His study subjects then come to Pace each week over the course of a month and spend two-hour sessions using the devices. Lawler and his group of information-systems student researchers use a survey to gauge the effectiveness of each app and system.

“The idea is to make the subject matter more engaging for those students who may not benefit from traditional lecture-style teaching.” Lawler admits that at this time — in the beginning stages of the study — that what they have is a descriptive study. Descriptive studies attempt to gather quantifiable information that can be used to statistically analyze a target audience or a particular subject. He poses the questions, “How do we apply virtual reality to this particular population? How do we apply augmented reality to help children with autism become focused? How do we apply technology to help students with developmental disabilities?”

Lawler’s study, while still progressing, has evoked clear enthusiasm from students with disabilities that suggests a positive impact in using virtual reality for both academic and social learning. “For kids with disabilities, virtual reality is not a game,” he concluded. In 2010, Lawler was the recipient of a national Jefferson Award for Community Service. He has been with Pace University for more than 35 years.

Lawler was invited to campus by the business information systems (BIS) program as part of Eastern’s University Hour series. Many BIS students and club members of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) attended the event. 

 

Travelers Employees Offer Interview Advice

Travelers Insurance employees (left to right) Tiana Correa, Freddy Cruz, Chance Foster, Anthony Peterson and Tyler Stebbins offer advice about the job-application process.

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (10/10/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a panel of Travelers Insurance employees on Oct. 3 who spoke with students about interviews, résumés and corporate leadership. The event was organized by the Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD).

Three of the five panelists are Eastern alumni. Freddy Cruz ’18 (double major in business administration and business information systems) works in Travelers’ Technology Foundational Development Program; Tyler Stebbins ’16 (business information systems) works in business insurance IT; and Anthony Peterson ’14 (business administration) is a pricing analyst.

The panelists fielded questions about their paths from college to the corporate world and offered tips on how to succeed in the job-application process. Students were advised to dress well for interviews, to do research on the company and to ask follow-up questions.

Students were also encouraged to bolster their résumés and interviewing skills through workshops offered at Eastern’s CICD, regardless of major or career aspirations. The panelists stressed the importance of being able to ask uncomfortable questions and to stop thinking of their majors as fields, but rather as skillsets.

“Never stop learning,” urged one panelist. “When you transition from college to career, it’s just another step. Take the same lessons you learn from here to your job.”

 

Cigna Holds Info Session about TECDP Program

Eastern grad Brittany Noonan ’17, a business analyst at Cigna, addresses a crowd of Eastern students interested in IT fields.

Cigna representatives who previously attended Eastern came to campus on Sept. 18 to host an information session about the Technology Early Career Development Program (TECDP), an on-campus collaboration between Eastern and Cigna that often serves as a pipeline to full-time employment. Assistance was provided by the Business Information Systems — Association of Information Technology Professionals Student Chapter.

The session began with an introduction of representatives, all of whom interned at Cigna while at Eastern. The event proceeded with a short presentation about Cigna, detailing the company’s goals, employee benefits, community engagement and the company’s hopes for the future.

TECDP offers many opportunities to students and young professionals looking to get into the biz-tech fields of IT. They brought out the five current TECDP areas of focus: digital, security, agile, analytics and networking.

The session was a special opportunity for Eastern students to learn more about the career options available to them at Cigna in Connecticut, with potential rotations around the globe. Cigna provided pizza and soda for the event, along with merchandise such as water bottles, band aids and pencils.

Eastern Welcomes New Full-Time Faculty, Staff

Eastern Connecticut State University welcomed several new full-time faculty and administrative staff to the campus community this fall. They include Eastern alumni, former adjunct professors and scholars from across the country and beyond. Their knowledge and expertise will benefit students and the University as a whole as they settle into departments across campus. Eastern’s new hires include:

Academic faculty

Education

Caitlin Tenney

Caitlin Tenney is a new assistant professor in the Department of Education.  She is interested in working on projects that advocate for women and minorities in science and science education. Tenney has taught science at the high school level and served as an adjunct instructor in Eastern’s Biology Department. She has a master’s degree in secondary science education from the University of Massachusetts.

“Eastern is a special place and teaching here is a privilege,” said Tenney, who enjoys working with students of different backgrounds as well as her passionate and supportive colleagues. “I hope to bring a powerful energy and love of learning to my students. I want to prepare them to be great teachers who will make a positive and lasting impact in this world.”

Outside of academia, Tenney loves to travel and enjoys outdoor activities such as snowboarding and swimming in the ocean. She also loves spending time with her four-year-old twins and cheering on her husband’s hockey team.

Heather Bassett

Heather Bassett ’09 is a new assistant professor in the Department of Education. A graduate of Eastern’s early childhood education program, she is currently working on her doctoral degree in early childhood special education at the University of Connecticut. She is interested in family-centered practices and the infusion of creativity into the classroom.

“I hope to bring out my students’ unique talents and strengths,” said Bassett. “It is my mission to empower students so they have what it takes to teach in the ever-changing 21st century.”

Outside of work, Bassett enjoys spending time with her husband and two young sons. She and her husband are also licensed real estate agents who buy, sell and renovate properties. 

Matthew Puhlick is a new assistant professor in the Department of Education. A two-time graduate of Eastern (undergraduate degree in 1993; master’s degree in 2001), he has a doctoral degree in curriculum, teaching, learning and leadership from Northeastern University. Puhlick has taught at the elementary school level and has expertise with educational technology for curricular planning and delivery.

“I am thrilled to return to the campus that has provided me with so many opportunities,” said Puhlick. “I hope my many years of experience in education allow me to help prospective teachers challenge their assumptions, learn new skills and think critically about the world of education.”

Puhlick also enjoys cooking, traveling and exploring the world with his wife and three children.

Biology

Derek Laux is a new assistant professor in the Department of Biology, specializing in cell biology. Laux earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh. His research has focused on the role of innate immune cells in early cancer development.

“I am excited to help Eastern students grow and to train the next generation of biological scientists,” said Laux. “I love the field of biology. I hope my students develop a love of science, an appetite for discovery, a passion for hard work, and learn that all of us can contribute a verse to the records of life and learning.”

Outside of the lab, Laux enjoys being outdoors, surfing, reading and playing the piano.

Performing Arts

DeRon Williams

DeRon Williams is a new assistant professor for the Theatre Program, specializing in directing. Williams received his master’s in arts administration from Eastern Michigan University and his Ph.D. in Fine Arts-Theatre at Texas Tech University. He is a director, arts administrator and scholar of 20th– and 21st-century American drama and Black expressive culture.

“Eastern is student-centered and committed to diverse perspectives, which I believe is the purpose of higher education and imperative for future leaders, arts supporters and global citizens,” said Williams. “It is my hope to engage students in diverse perspectives of the arts, imparting my knowledge and love for Black theatre and performance through seminar and practical courses.”

Outside of academia, Williams enjoys going to the theatre, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

David Ballena

David Ballena is a new assistant professor for the Music Program, specializing in piano. A native of Peru, he received his early training at the Conservatorio Nacional de Musica before traveling to the United States where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Collaborative Piano from the University of Maryland-College Park.

“I am excited to be more involved in the life of the campus community,” said Ballena, who has taught at Eastern for the past five years as an adjunct professor for the Music Program. “I look forward to sharing with my students the many things I’ve learned from my own teachers and professional experience—I hope to help them understand the resilience and work ethic required to succeed in a career in music.”

Outside of work, Ballena and his wife enjoy playing tennis and attending tournaments. They drive every summer to Colorado, where he works at the Aspen Music Festival.

Business Administration

Jean Cooley

Jean Cooley is a new assistant professor in the Department of Business Administration, specializing in accounting. Cooley earned master’s degrees in business administration and accounting at Northeastern University, and has more than 20 years of experience as a certified public accountant.

“I hope to encourage students to use their time at Eastern to truly discover their passions,” said Cooley. “I want to get them excited about their futures and learn to use their talents to impact others’ lives.”

Cooley also enjoys listening to music, riding roller coasters, traveling and spending time with family.

Erik Christensen ’07 is a new assistant professor in the Department of Business Administration, specializing in accounting. An Eastern graduate, he also holds a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Connecticut. Christensen is a certified public accountant who has served as the finance director for the Town of Griswold.

“I hope to impart in students the knowledge students will need to be successful,” said Christensen. “I hope to bring my industry experience into the classroom and share some of the experiences I’ve had as a CPA.”

Outside of work, Christensen enjoys watching and playing sports, traveling and being on the ocean.

Computer Science

Tim Hartley is a new assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science. He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in linguistics from the University of Connecticut, as well as a diploma in Mandarin Chinese from the Defense Language Institute, which he earned while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Hartley has held full-time appointments as an assistant professor at the University of Hartford and as an associate professor at Rensselaer at Hartford. He has also co-authored three textbooks on database technology.

Health Science

Paul Canavan is a new assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences. An expert on the lower extremity of the body, Canavan earned a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Connecticut as well as a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Northeastern University.

“I’m excited to join Eastern full time,” said Canavan, who has taught at Eastern as an adjunct professor for three years. “I hope to bring to students a desire to learn and provide opportunities for them to practically apply class information.”

Outside of academia, Canavan enjoys hiking, fishing, reading and spending time with his wife and son.

Mitchell Doucette is a new assistant professor in the Department of Health Science. He received his Ph.D. in Health Policy and Management from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and was selected as the 2017-18 William Haddon Jr. Fellow in Injury Prevention. Doucette’s research interests include injury prevention and control and longitudinal panel analysis.

Sociology

Rachael Pesta is a new assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work, specializing in criminology. She received her master’s degree in criminal justice from Youngstown State University and her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Akron. Pesta’s teaching interests include criminological theory, research methods and social inequalities in the criminal justice system.

“I am excited to join an institution that provide students with a top-quality liberal arts education that extends beyond the classroom and brings ‘textbook learning’ to life,” said Pesta. “I am eager to engage students in critical and abstract thinking by using active learning. It’s important that students see how theory impacts the world around us and informs our everyday life.”

Pesta enjoys reading, hiking the beautiful trails around Connecticut, and listening to podcasts. 

Administrative faculty

Admissions

Dempsey Schott

Dempsey Schott is the newest admissions counselor for the Office of Admissions. She graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing, and has experience as a head tour guide with Muhlenberg’s admissions office during her undergraduate career. This fall, Schott will be travelling to Fairfield County and Long Island to recruit students.

“I am excited to be a part of a community that cares about shaping graduates who are informed and successful global citizens,” said Schott, who is attracted to Eastern’s public liberal arts mission. “I hope to showcase the institution to prospective students who otherwise might not have considered Eastern.”

Outside of work, you can find Schott running, hiking, baking vegan desserts, singing and drinking excessive amounts of coffee.

Financial Aid

Velma Walters

Velma Walters is an assistant to the director in the Office of Financial Aid. She earned her master’s degree in public administration from American International College and has more than 20 years of experience in higher education and more than 15 years in financial aid. Among her duties, Walters will work with the STEP/CAP Program.

“I am excited to be part of a fantastic liberal arts university that is rich in diversity and producing well-rounded leaders who make their mark on society,” said Walters. “I bring to Eastern my experience, my passion for education and my commitment to helping students realize their dream of a college degree.”

Walters is also a member of the public service organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., as well as an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay Skin Care & Cosmetics.

Registrars

Mary-Francis Ricks

Mary-Francis Ricks ’11 is an assistant degree auditor in the Office of the Registrar. An Eastern graduate with a degree in communication, she earned a master’s degree in human development and family studies from the University of Rhode Island. Ricks has higher education experience in advising, career services and housing.

“Eastern is the place that sparked my passion for student affairs; I’m excited to be working at a university that aligns with my values,” said Ricks, who often interacts with graduating seniors in her new role. “I hope to be a guiding, clarifying resource for these students.”

Ricks loves to travel, and recently visited Ireland. In February she plans to explore Spain.

Academic Services Center

Carlos Castillo is a professional advisor with the Academic Services Center. He holds a master’s degree in organizational management and leadership from Springfield College and comes to Eastern after being a family and community engagement liaison with the Capitol Region Educational Council in Harford. Castillo is currently completing his dissertation for a doctorate in adult learning.

Lauren Eddy is a professional advisor with the Academic Services Center. She joins Eastern after working at the University of Maine as an athletic academic counselor. She is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University where she earned bachelor’s degrees in history and English and a master’s in counseling with a concentration in student development.

Written by Michael Rouleau

English Students Study in Italy

Eastern’s Creative Writing Abroad group at Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence.

Written by Dwight Bachman

A group of Eastern students, under the guidance of Professor Christopher Torockio, recently traveled to Italy to participate in the Creative Writing Abroad course. The students spent five weeks, from June 25 to July 31, writing fiction stories inspired by their travels and experiences at the Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence.

A quick break from one of our class workshops, which were held in the beautiful garden of Studio Art College-Florence’s main building, Palazzo dei Cartelloni, a Renaissance-era palazzo that was remodeled in the 17th Century as a residence for the mathematician Vincenzo Viviani, who had been a pupil of the astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei.

 Michael Merrow, a junior majoring in Communications, was one of the students who used Italy’s Tuscan views, scenery, art and architecture to inspire their writing. “The creative writing study aborad course is an amazing way to gain cultural perspective,” said Merrow. “The art and lifestyle of Florecne provided great inspiration. This was truly a life changing experience.”

Colleen Deely, a junior majoring in Psychology, agreed: “Since taking this creative writing course, I’ve explored not only a new and beautiful place, but a different, more creative side of myself. Through my classmate’s inspiring stories and breathtaking surroundings, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and greater knowledge for Italian culture. This trip has really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and travel more!”

The group took intensive, creative writing workshops in the lovely Renaissance-era palazzo garden at SACI, where they also critiqued and edited each other’s original works of short fiction.

Somewhere in Tuscany.

“Florence is a great location for creative writers, as it’s not only a beautiful, historic and artistically rich city,” said Torockio. “Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is also centrally located in Italy, allowing the students to take lots of day trips almost anywhere throughout Italy.”

Abby Murren, a junior majoring in English, said the course was the one of the best adventures she will ever take: “As an English major with a concentration in creative writing, this course gave me the perfect opportunity to improve my writing while experiencing one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The amount of inspiration I had from experiencing Florence’s people, culture, and history only strengthened my love for writing, and I’m beyond grateful to have had that opportunity.”


Hiking-from-Vernazza-to-Monterosso

Guided by SACI art historians, the students also visited Italian destinations ranging from Fiesole to Siena, Venice, San

Gimignano, Lucca, Pisa the Amalfi Coast and the Colosseum in Rome. Trips to other European destinations included Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam and more, where the students visited museums, galleries and other cultural landmarks.

Students Sample the ‘Real World’ through Summer Internships

Samantha Honeywell is interning at Fox 17 News in Nashville–an opportunity she learned of thanks to Eastern alumnus Adam Wurtzel (right).

From radio stations to baseball stadiums, the efforts of Eastern students to enter the working world are evident this summer. With the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing an internship at the undergraduate level comes other benefits, such as resume enhancement, network building and skills development. Following are just a few of those students who are seizing their summer with an internship.

Business Administration major Joshua Lamoureux ’18 interns for The Nutmeg Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of Hall Communications Radio Group, at WILI radio station in Willimantic, CT. “I write scripts for ads in addition to recording radio voice promotions and advertisements for the AM and FM stations,” he said. “I also attend to marketing, research and copywriting tasks.”

Lamoureux’s favorite part of the internship is creating his own recordings and adding personal touches to them, like music selections and sound effects. “The skills I’m utilizing are important because I’m interested in pursuing a career in the same field.”

Samantha Honeywell ’20 is another student finding her place in broadcasting. A Communication major, she was introduced to her internship at Fox 17 News in Nashville, TN, by Eastern alumnus Adam Wurtzel ’07, a reporter on “Nashville Insider” and host of “The Nashouse.”

Honeywell assists multimedia journalists with reporting, filming and editing news packages. The fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment of the news industry has been enlightening to her. “Up until now I’ve been allowed to take my time on video editing projects. But here, there’s a completely different set up.”

Katherine O’Rourke is a housing operations intern at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Mathematics student Katherine O’Rourke ’19 also traveled out of state to fulfill her position as a housing operations intern at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Duties include managing work orders, conducting preventative maintenance by patrolling buildings, working with facilities and taking inventories.

“My favorite thing about my summer internship is exploring Philadelphia and working with new acquaintances. I also really enjoy getting to know how different schools function,” said O’Rourke. “As an aspiring student affairs professional, I think my internship is providing me with important experience in terms of the operations side of the field.”

Demitra Kourtzidis ’19, a Political Science and Economics double major, experienced similar professional growth during her time spent as an intern at the Office of Policy and Management in Hartford, CT.

“Because of my internship, I’ve learned that legislation is its own language — and I can now read and understand it,” she said. “My supervisor taught me about different political strategies and how small steps legislators take eventually end up as part of a bigger plan.”

Kourtzidis helped track legislation from early public hearings through passage in the House and Senate. She also took notes at public hearings and various agency meetings, tracked bills and amendments and attended House and Senate sessions to track bill status.

“My internship allowed me to learn about the behind-the-scenes political process,” she continued. “It taught me so much about politics and public policy, and is already proving to be useful in my academic career.” Kourtzidis is interested in a career as a public policy consultant. Moreover, she would like to pursue a doctorate in public policy so that she can become a college professor and conduct research.

Sport and Leisure Management major Madalyn Budzik ’19 is refining skills that will be useful in her potential career endeavors, as well. She is a field promotion intern for the Bristol Blues collegiate baseball organization based in Bristol, CT.

Budzik organizes all advertising sponsors and games, and works closely with the game announcer to ensure all event communications take place accurately and seamlessly. She also devises games and events for children attending games.

“It takes me out of my comfort zone in terms of public speaking because it requires me to speak in front of large groups of people,” she said. “I know this will help me in the future because I am building organizational and communication skills. Internships are important for students because they provide real-world, hands-on experience so they can decide whether they want to continue to pursue the career path they may be considering.”

Honeywell concurred, “Every student should do an internship, or more than one if possible, so that they can experience different scenarios and challenges that arise in their field.”

“Internships are invaluable for students,” concluded O’Rourke.

Written by Jordan Corey