Award-Winning Illustrator Raúl Colón Visits Eastern

Illustrator Raúl Colón spoke with students from two classes during his visit to Eastern.
During an evening talk in Webb Hall, Colón spoke on his career and artistic process.
Colón poses for a group photo in Professor Allison Speicher's "Children's Literature" course.

 

Award-winning illustrator and picture book creator Raúl Colón visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 21 to speak about his journey as an artist and his process for creating books for youth. Prior to his evening talk in the Webb Hall auditorium, Colón met with students in English Professor Allison Speicher’s course on children’s literature and Art Lecturer Carol Schwartz’s course on illustration.

Colón has illustrated more than 30 children’s books, including the wordless picture books “Draw!” and “Imagine!”; the New York Times bestseller “Angela and the Baby Jesus” by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s “José! Born to Dance”; and many others. He has also illustrated covers for the New Yorker, published in the New York Times and completed numerous other high-profile jobs, including illustrating an album cover for Luther Vandross and a mural for the Manhattan subway station at 191st Street.

Education Professor Susannah Richards moderated the evening talk. When asked how he got started, Colón replied, “Like all artists, I stuck to it. As we get older, we get self-conscious and ‘grow up.’ But I stuck to it and tried to remain a little kid; to look at the world like a child.”

Growing up in New York City, Colón was often sick with chronic asthma. “I was always inside, drawing constantly.” With more than three decades of professional experience, Colón’s passion hasn’t wavered, but his process has refined—although his workspace continues to be a frenzied mess, he joked.

His preferred mediums are water colors and pencils. “I’m always studying, experimenting with color, taking notes,” he said. A defining technique of his style involves the use of a “scratcher,” a comb-like tool he uses to create texture. “It was an experiment, an accident. You should always keep your eyes open,” he said, referring to things that don’t seem like they can be used for art.  

As a freelance artist, Colón has worked many corporate and editorial gigs—projects that must meet the needs of his clients and may diverge from his personal tastes. “A lot of time there is no inspiration,” he admitted. “A lot of the time you just have to drag it out, but then you get in the zone and start flowing.”

When creating a new book, Colón says that visuals and pictures guide the plot, rather than a written narrative. He passed around the auditorium one of his sketchbooks. “This is how I start,” pointing to scratchy sketches and squiggles. “It doesn’t start elaborate—what happens if they don’t like it?” he said, referring to editors.

“Draw!” was the first book he wrote as well as illustrated. Similar to Charlie Chapman-era silent films, the book contains no words. “The pictures tell the story.” Colón is delighted when he hears children’s interpretations of his stories, which are often drastically different from his intentions. His wordless picture books—and visual stories in general—foster something that he fears is being lost in today’s world: critical thinking.

Colón was brought to campus with the support of the Departments of English and Education, the Office of Equity and Diversity and the School of Education and Professional Studies/Graduate Division.

Written by Michael Rouleau

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

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

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

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

Written by Molly Boucher

Courant Names Eastern a ‘Top Workplace’

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

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

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

The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.

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

Written by Vania Galicia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Osborn

Young Writers Inspired by Month Abroad in Italy

The Eastern group poses for a photo at Florence’s Uffizi art gallery.

Fifteen students from Eastern Connecticut State University spent the month of July in Italy, writing short stories inspired by Italian culture and history. English Professor Chris Torockio led the group of young writers through the five-week field course titled “Creative Writing Abroad.”  Based in Florence, the students met for writing workshops at Studio Arts College International (SACI) and wrote stories based on their explorations of Tuscany and beyond.

“Studying abroad in Italy for five weeks was one of the greatest experiences of my educational career,” said English major Ashlee Shafer ’19. “I worked on a short story about a college student who’s studying art history in Florence, struggling with family issues and her own sexuality. I used landmarks and scenery to describe the setting. Being able to actually live in and explore Florence helped immensely with the setting and art-history information for my story.”

The massive Duomo cathedral in Florence-- Chris Torockio
Pompeii-- Jordan Corey
Capri, Amalfi Coast-- Jordan Corey
Students tour the Uffizi-- Chris Torockio
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre-- Jordan Corey
Vernazza, Cinque Terre-- Joyce Figueroa
Piazzale Michelangelo

 

Jordan Corey, an English major and spring 2019 graduate, wrote a story centered around the historical figure Girolamo Savonarola, an Italian-Dominican monk who was executed in Florence in 1498. “I did a bit of research to produce this story,” said Corey, “from reading up on Savonarola’s extensive history to visiting his statue in person.”

Reflecting on her extended stay abroad, Corey said, “I think it’s impossible to go on a trip of this magnitude and not come back changed in some way. There’s an undeniable element of exploration attached to living in a new country for more than a month. I have a better understanding of my goals as a writer, of my connections with people, and of the steps I need to take to fulfill my plans. A momentary switch in culture does wonders for a recent college graduate.”

Art major Julianna Tigeleiro ’21 wrote a story that deals with grief and the emotional impact of travel on a person’s life. “There’s a big emphasis on how actions in the past can affect the future,” she said, “and the impact that different experiences can have on how someone perceives events in their life.”

Speaking to the writing workshops, she said, “Being in Italy with amazing writers my age who take writing seriously and care about improving their work as well as giving feedback was a great inspiration.”

The sun sets behind the mountains at Vernazza, Cinque Terre. Photo courtesy of Joyce Figueroa.

Communication and English double-major Joyce Figueroa ’21 wrote a story that follows a day in the life of a girl who lives in Cinque Terre, a string of seaside villages along Italy’s rugged northwestern coast. “We interacted with many locals who helped us to experience Vernazza authentically,” she said of her visit to one of Cinque Terre’s five villages. “The people were very inviting, pointing out fun activities and their favorite restaurants. It’s because of this experience that I chose Vernazza as the setting of my story.”

“Traveling abroad is such a valuable experience for students, especially those in creative fields,” Figueroa added. “It allows us to step out of our comfort zone and experience new things. That kind of learning is not something we get to experience in the classroom. These lessons will stay with me for years.”

Other highlights of the trip included tours of art galleries and landmarks, such as Florence’s Duomo cathedral and Uffizi art gallery, and trips to the towered Tuscan village of San Gimignano, the beachy city Viareggio and the picturesque coastal villages of Cinque Terre.  

Written by Michael Rouleau

Research Institutes Help Young Students to Identify as Scholars

David Porter ’20 presents “Overlooking How to Fish: How Chris Yates’ Contributions to Modern Day Transcendentalism Have Yet to be Recognized” in the English SRI.

Summer vacation was delayed for four groups of Eastern students who immediately followed the end of the school year with intensive, weeklong research programs on campus. From May 20–24, four Summer Research Institutes (SRIs) engaged select, up-and-coming students in projects pertaining to the fields of psychology, English, political science and network science.

Speaking to the goal of the SRIs, Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious said, “We want to engage students earlier in their academic careers. We want to immerse them in applied research at a younger age and help them to think of themselves as scholars.”

Political science SRI students and faculty pose for a group photo outside of Webb Hall.

Led by Broscious and Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas, the political science SRI challenged first- and second-year students to develop research proposals for projects they will carry out during the academic year. Using applied research methods, the students determined individual topics of inquiry, conducted preliminary research and wrote proposals.

Sophomore Griffin Cox’s research proposal concerns the campaign rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election and how President Trump’s language compares to that of former Presidents Regan and Nixon. “How does he compare to previous galvanizing figures in conservative politics?” questioned Cox.

Sophomore Luc Poirier’s proposal concerns male participation in, and identification with, the feminist movement. “I believe the issue with gaining the support of men in the feminist movement is in part rooted in the word ‘feminist’ itself,” said Poirier. “The term is synonymous with ‘feminine,’ which doesn’t appeal to the ‘macho culture’ that is still alive today.”

The Psychology Department hosted a SRI for 10 students who conducted psychological research on topics related to prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes. Led by Professors Alita Cousins and Jennifer Leszczynski, the students’ inquiry covered such topics as gender and criminality, the effects of physical attractiveness on perceived characteristics, parenting influences on gender and more.

Shirley Holloway ’21 presents “The Association Between Feminism and Gender Roles” at the psychology SRI.

Freshman Sierra Nastasi’s project on gender stereotypes in sports was inspired by her experience as a female hockey player. She said: “Playing on both men’s and women’s teams, I’ve noticed how perceptions of female hockey players differ from those of their male counterparts. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the perceptions that arise in cross-gendered sports.”

The English Department brought together 10 first-year and transfer students for a SRI titled “Finding your Scholarly Voice,” which focused on developing scholarly projects on texts of students’ choice. 

“The workshop aimed to help students dive into the scholarly conversation surrounding their texts and find their own ways to contribute to that conversation,” said Professor Allison Speicher, who led the workshop. “Students completed extensive research, synthesizing a wide variety of sources, including literary scholarship, histories, authors’ journals and letters, book reviews and theoretical perspectives, to craft project plans and abstracts for their own scholarly articles.”

Network science SRI students and faculty pose for a group photo.

Freshman Bailey Hosko’s project investigated the minor role of the teacher in the book “Push” by the author Sapphire. The teacher was a “change agent” for the main character, an illiterate 16-year-old girl from Harlem. “The research institute gave me a head start on my senior seminar, but more importantly it gave me a desire to further investigate a topic that I’m interested in as a career,” said Hosko, who aspires for a career as an educator with a focus on literacy.

Mathematics Professor Megan Heenehan and Computer Science Professor Garrett Dancik collaborated on a SRI that introduced students to the field of network science. The week-long program utilized techniques in graph theory, computer programming and network analysis to collected data from movie scripts. Broken into groups, the students used the information to analyze the social structure and sentiment of “Mean Girls, “The Dark Knight” and “Batman and Robin.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Professor Dan Donaghy Receives 2019 Paterson Poetry Prize

Daniel Donaghy, English professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been named the 2019 Paterson Poetry Prize recipient for his book of poetry “Somerset.” The annual award, sponsored by the Passaic Community College Poetry Center, honors what judges deem the strongest collection of poems published in the previous year.

Drawing from authentic experiences and the growth surrounding them, “Somerset” is the third part in a series centering on Donaghy’s upbringing in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. The collection was his most difficult to create thus far, requiring newfound intellectual and emotional energy as he navigated delicate spaces.

“I went all in to examine what life is and was like in Kensington, with all of its complexities, and make art out of it,” said Donaghy. “I was not going to try to write funny poems just to soften the edges of the book, which, I admit, I did in my earlier books. There were times during the course of writing ‘Somerset’ when I knew I was in uncharted territory, pushing further into heavy issues such as the conditions that our family and neighbors lived under.”

Through his poetry, Donaghy touches on racism, poverty and chronic violence. He praised Paterson co-winner Sean Thomas Dougherty for being another writer who has strived to address more difficult subjects.

“There were poets before him and me, too, who broke down the door in regard to writing honestly about class and place,” Donaghy said, crediting Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and James Wright among them. “Those writers, and many others, continue to show me how to write about and explore big, tough questions related to where you live or grew up. You never run out of questions about where you come from and how it’s impacted you.”

He continued: “Some of these poems were incredibly draining to write and are still hard to read. Seeing how people respond to them reminds me that I’m not alone in the world. That sense of connection is one of the great gifts writing and reading can give us.”

In addition to focusing on broader social issues, Donaghy gets unquestionably personal with “Somerset,” particularly when confronting the death of his mother.

“Writing about her brings her back to me, though, so with the pain come waves of her love, which was endless,” he stated. “There’s a line in the book from ‘Birthday Poem for My Mother’ that says, ‘how close we can get to the dead sometimes.’ That’s as good a reason as any I can think of to write: to bring back the dead and talk with them, be with them again.”

Donaghy has noticed, however, the poems that were the hardest to write are the poems that people respond best to at readings. “I took a chance and claimed my truth, and I wrote my heart out, and I cried sometimes while I wrote, and I am glad now that those poems are in the world,” he said. “I hope my stories will inspire others to go out and tell their stories, as well as to listen with empathy and openness to the stories of others.”

Donaghy feels “tremendous freedom” at Eastern to seize creative opportunities, and thanks President Elsa Núñez, his students and colleagues including Chris Torockio, Raouf Mama and Susan DeRosa for their support along the way. On sabbatical this semester, Donaghy has several projects in the works, from poetry to short stories. “I’m just thankful that the words are coming. I hope I can revise them into things that I can be proud of, that can be valuable in people’s lives and that further Eastern’s mission as Connecticut’s public liberal arts university.”

A scholar in contemporary British and American poetry, Donaghy has been published in some of the most widely read literary publications in the country. He was Windham County’s first-ever poet laureate and is responsible for launching “Here,” a national poetry magazine.

Written by Jordan Corey

43 Strong, Eastern Represents in Georgia at National Conference

With 43 student presenters, Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation, and the only school from New England to make the list.

Forty-three students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Georgia on April 11-13 to present original research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The 2019 conference occurred at Kennesaw State University and featured hundreds of undergraduate students from across the country.

Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation this year – the only school from New England to make the list – and one of the few with a student population of less than 6,000.

Eastern students from a range of majors presented artwork, music performances and oral/poster presentations. Research questions probed topics such as the microbiome of scorpions, the link between casual sex and online dating, pop-culture glamorization of eating disorders, and much more.

Adella Dzitko-Carlson presents “Finding Faith in the 21st Century: The Search for the Sacred in John Luther Adams’ “In the Name of the Earth.”

Music major Esther Jones ’20 commented on the experience of performing a lecture-recital. “This experience at NCUR was a milestone in my life because I didn’t think that I could actually do it when the time finally came around. I thought that I would be trembling so badly that my mind would go blank.”

Jones’ piano performance was titled “‘Theme and Variations on an Egyptian Folksong’ by Gamal Abdel-Rahim.” She added, “This experience helped to boost my confidence and has given me courage to face new challenges.”

“One of my greatest takeaways from this conference is how it pushes you and makes you a better academic,” said Michael Tuttle ’19, who majors in psychology and mathematics.

“Presenting at a conference subjects your research to a higher level of scrutiny, challenging your thoughts and ideas. When audience members ask questions and offer suggestions, it pushes you to think critically and creatively.” Tuttle’s presentation was titled “Overconfidence and Impulsivity of College Students in a Cognitive Reflection Task.”

Theresa Parker presents “Echo Chambers in Social Media: Why do People Seek or Reject Opposing Viewpoints.”

Biology major Chris Shimwell ’20 presented “Molecular Identification of the Scorpion Telson Microbiome.” He said, “Presenting at a national conference is a valuable experience because it allows you to synthesize information into an audio-visual format and present it to others who are highly educated and knowledgeable about your field.”

Jacob Dayton ’19, a biology major who presented two projects – one on the genetic diversity of a migratory bird group and one on the behaviors of strawberry poison-dart frogs – added that the value of presenting at national conferences is threefold.

“One, it provides students with the opportunity to practice communicating their research to a diverse audience. Two, questions and comments from audience members challenge students to defend and/or expand their thinking. And three, it provides the opportunity to publicize Eastern and the quality research that its students are conducting.”

Students also cited being exposed to new research questions during others’ presentations, interacting with peers from across the country, and sharing the NCUR experience with their Eastern friends as highlights of the conference. Psychology Professors Carlos Escoto and James Diller and Biology Professor Patricia Szczys accompanied the Eastern group.

NCUR was established in 1987. From a pool of several thousand applicants, students are accepted into the conference if their research demonstrates a unique contribution to their field of study. NCUR offers undergraduates the opportunity to present their research findings to peers, faculty and staff from colleges and universities across the nation, providing a unique networking and learning opportunity.

Written by Michael Rouleau

‘Opportunity Comes in Weird Ways’: English Alumni Speak on Career Paths

Eastern English alumni, left to right: Ryan Bahan ’15, Angela DiLella ’14, Jennifer Kuhn ’08 and Chris Morris ’18

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/11/2019) A long-lived question that has followed the English major is, “What will you do with that degree?” In response, the English Department at Eastern Connecticut State University has hosted “English at Work” panels, combatting stereotypes and emphasizing the complexity of the field. Alumni gathered on April 8 to discuss their careers in writing, editing and publishing.

Panelists included Ryan Bahan ’15, Angela DiLella ’14, Jennifer Kuhn ’08 and Christopher Morris ’18. With an impressive turnout for the event, they spoke on establishing themselves professionally and finding the right path after graduation.

Bahan explained that post-undergraduate employment is “a mix of what you want to do and what your first job is going to be.” After graduating from Eastern, he received a fellowship at the Champlain College Emergent Media Center to manage digital projects while obtaining a master’s degree in digital media.

Completing his master’s in 2016, Bahan initially worked as a website designer and podcast producer. He also explored blogging and other side jobs before joining Stagecoach Digital as a content strategist in 2017. Now, he produces content and provides strategic direction for North America’s leading nonprofit organizations.

DiLella and Kuhn echoed sentiments about unexpected placement, landing job roles that they did not necessarily see themselves in as undergraduate students. DiLella went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing from the New School, which she feels granted new creative opportunities. In addition to finishing her graphic novel, DiLella is employed by N3rdabl3 (Nerdable), a gaming and pop culture website. She ghostwrites novellas and larger projects as well.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do with my English degree,” said Kuhn, who called her professional journey “a series of lucky breaks and happy accidents.” She received a Master of Professional Studies from George Washington University and has held several leadership positions working on scientific, technical and medical publications.

Kuhn is the editorial director at Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a division of Wolters Kluwer health-information services based in Philadelphia. Further, she owns and operates the world’s only print periodical for childcare workers, Nanny Magazine. “I never knew when I was at Eastern that I was going to love this.”

Morris is the editorial assistant at the award-winning, independent press Elephant Rock Books, where he interned as an Eastern student. His responsibilities involve editorial work on all manuscripts approved for publication, designing and executing marketing campaigns and assisting in organizing events. “I have my hands in most components of what we do,” he said. Morris is in the process of meeting with literary agents about his first novel, “The Kids Who Killed on Church Street,” and plans to pursue a MFA at the University of Mississippi this fall.

Throughout the event, the panelists addressed different ways in which being an English major prepared them for professional endeavors. One significant skill they picked up at Eastern is the ability to recognize audience. Another is learning to not only accept, but constructively utilize criticism. Collectively, they agreed that the mentors they had access to were a great benefit.

“Get involved on campus in whatever capacity makes sense to you,” Kuhn advised to undergraduates. “Always be hungry to learn something more.” As recommended by the group, some on-campus resources for English majors are the Campus Lantern, the Writing Center, the University Relations office and the Creative Writing Club. “Eastern is so flexible in terms of what you can do,” said Bahan.

“Opportunity comes in weird ways,” continued DiLella. “Don’t be afraid to step outside your major.” Morris, who double-majored, commended his experiences with the History Department. Taking history classes required him to increase his attention to detail and ultimately provided useful context for writing and literature. Moreover, he noted the importance of writing regularly, which was guaranteed in his chosen academic realms. “Writing is like an instrument,” he said, regarding the need to put in consistent work in order to master the craft.

Despite advocating for seizing a variety of chances, Bahan suggested, “Don’t work for free. If you don’t value yourself, people never will.” He pointed out the rise in remote employment as a means of entering the paid job force. “It’s easier than ever to work for companies all over the world.” Similarly, panelists highlighted the advantages of networking, building a solid support system and understanding time management. “Find your balance,” said DiLella.

Written by Jordan Corey