Eastern’s Mama Authors Miracle Stories

mama

Raouf Mama, professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, has recently authored “It was a Beautiful Day and Other Personal Quiet Miracle Stories,” an e-book published by WestBow Press.

The collection of powerful, inspirational stories captures personal, life-changing moments as it celebrates “the transmutation of sorrow into joy, of fear, despair and grief into a song of thanksgiving,” in the words of the author.  The book transcends Mama’s personal sense of gratitude for unexpected moments of grace in his life as it reaffirms the possibility of miracles in people’s daily lives.

The book taps into the universal appeal of miracles and invites readers to recognize and celebrate their own personal miracles, events that may otherwise pass unnoticed in their daily lives.

“In an era of widespread unbelief and skepticism, this book is an attempt to awaken the reader to a sense of the miraculous and the mysterious in the world and sounds a warning about the insufficiency of our senses as the exclusive basis for our judgment and our conclusions,” Mama adds.

Mama’s viewpoint on the issue of miracles is best expressed by an excerpt from his book:  “Dressed in my Sunday best, my car washed and waxed to a dazzling sheen, I set out to fetch my son. The sky was just as clear as it was two weeks earlier on Father’s Day, the air just as sweet, the day brighter still; but the joy that lifted and brightened my heart on that day, poetry and oratory will labor in vain to capture. One would have to envision the ecstasy the apostles must have felt after the agony of Good Friday, to get the full measure of my felicity.”

Mama is a distinguished professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University and an award-winning storyteller of international renown, the only one in the world today who tells in English, French, Yoruba and Fon folktales from his native Benin and other parts of the world.

Mama’s style of presentation blends stories with poetry, music and dance, and his publications include his memoir titled “Fortune’s Favored Child”, “Why Goats Smell Bad,” “Tropical Tales,” “Pearls of Wisdom” and “Why Monkeys Live In Trees,” winner of the 2008 National Multicultural Children’s Book Award.

Eastern’s Donaghy Launches ‘Here’

                                                Poetry Journal Touches on Rawness of Life

Written by Jordan Corey

Here_coverDaniel Donaghy, English professor at Eastern Connecticut State University and published author of five poetry collections, has always hoped to launch a national poetry magazine at Eastern. And now, it’s here, literally.

“Here” features 18 contributors, and to celebrate its first issue, Donaghy orchestrated two release readings. Speaking to the piece as a whole, he said, “‘Here’ bears witness to the human experience in all of its sorrows and glories.”

In addition to several Eastern students, seven “Here” poets partook in the first reading on Sept. 28, including Harry Humes, Jonathan Andersen, Charles Fort, Kileen Gilory, John Stanizzi, Joan Seliger Sidney and Pegi Deitz Shea. Their poems covered varying facets of their personal lives, incorporating genuine experiences and providing real-world commentary in the process. Many of the writers delivered thoughtful stories to give the audience insight, strengthening the meaning behind each piece. Fort, for instance, revealed something that changed his life forever – the sudden death of his wife.

•English Professor Daniel Donaghy presents at another poetry reading

English Professor Daniel Donaghy presents at another poetry reading

Fort’s wife was a dancer, he explained, and the two of them had always collaborated on artistic pieces, with her choreographing dances to his poetry. She was diagnosed only 40 minutes before the last performance she ever gave. Her absence became a focal point of Fort’s writing. “I remember waking up in the night thinking she was next to me,” he said, introducing his poem “Pathétique.”

Sidney is another writer who draws on details from her life in her writing. She is known for addressing the Holocaust, which her parents survived, and writing about living with multiple sclerosis. At the reading, Sidney talked about her time spent in Grenoble, France, and witnessing a girl named Anne Ruaud, the namesake for one of the poems she chose to read. Sidney told the audience that Ruaud went to school with her children and long suffered as a result of the societal pressure put on women to look a certain way. The poem describes her eating disorder and eventual deterioration.

•"Here" contributor Joan Seliger Sidney presents her poetry at a release reading

“Here” contributor Joan Seliger Sidney presents her poetry at a release reading

On the night of the second release reading on Oct. 5, students, poets and poetry lovers alike united once again to commemorate “Here.” Contributors in attendance included Sidney, Steve Straight, Fort and Stanizzi. While that evening the same rawness seen the first time around was present, the poets touched more deeply on today’s intense social and political climate.

Straight spoke on current affairs, saying, “I think the future of the world really depends on the individual actions of people … how people treat each other.” His poem, “The Future of the World, Part 2: Youth,” confronts this idea and the conflicted nature of someone who is unsure whether or not to have faith in society.

Both “Here” readings ultimately emphasized the importance of human connectedness, staying attuned to what is happening in the world and reworking heartfelt emotions into poetry, which have the power to resonate with people on personal levels – as the journal itself does.

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.

Students Write Fiction in Italy

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Fourteen students from Eastern Connecticut State University spent a month this summer in Florence, Italy, in a global field course called “Creative Writing Abroad.” The region of Tuscany’s rich culture and picturesque landscapes inspired students’ literary senses as they wrote, critiqued and edited original works of fiction.

“While my story had an element of fantasy, other students in the class wrote about realistic scenarios,” explained Victoria Randazzo ’18. “One thing everyone’s story shared was a touch of Florence. Whether characters or places, everyone drew from our daily experiences. I was happy to get more in touch with my creative side; the beauty of Florence was an inspiration.”

“I was able to put a lot of detailed description into my story that I wouldn’t have been able to had I not been there firsthand to see how the city looked, how the people interacted, and the feeling of being away for an extended period of time adapting to another culture,” said McKenzie Fayne ’17. “Being in Italy as a creative writing student gave me the tools I needed to step out of my comfort zone in terms of writing style. I enjoyed writing this piece on my own terms and being able to perfect it while in such a beautiful city.”

Led by English Professor Christopher Torockio, the students gathered for writing workshops at SACI—Studio Arts College International (in Florence)—and immersed themselves in Italian culture as they visited the famed cities of Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and Pisa.

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.

Eastern Presents Inclusive Excellence Awards to ALANA Students

Written by Dwight Bachman

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

 Eastern Connecticut State University recognized the academic achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students on May 5 during its Fifth Annual Inclusive Excellence Awards ceremony. Nine awards were given and 165 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.5 or higher.

Eastern presented Melat Assefa and Christina Perez the Advisor’s Choice Award; Deja Seawright the Inspirational Leadership Award; and Chisolm Sunny Uduputa the International Student Award. The Resilient Warrior Award to AnnRichelle Akko, Daniel Costillo, Adrian Lopez Diaz and Yineira Lopez. Taylor Hemphill was named recipient of the Social Justice Advocacy Award, and the Volunteer Service Award went to Destiny Hartmann.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez told those in attendance that the awards ceremony was not just about inclusion. “It also speaks to Eastern’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, Social Responsibility, Engagement, and Empowerment. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  We are very proud of you! We are doing everything we can to promote the success of students of color. We know that having an inclusive, diverse, and culturally rich campus is good for all our students — in the end, we all must learn to live together in today’s global society.”

Natasha Stephens

Natasha Stephens

Alumna Natasha Stephens, who graduated from Eastern in 2003 and is the Title IX Coordinator at Wichita State University in Kansas, delivered the keynote address. She told the honorees she was honored to come back to campus. “While you have breath in your body, thank those who helped you, took time to meet with you, who gave you an opportunity and took a chance on you.  Never forget your roots and where you came from — no matter how high you go in life, give back of your time to someone else.”

She concluded by telling students that they can always change their plans. “Don’t limit yourself or your abilities — challenge yourself to new things. Believe in yourself, and give someone the wings to fly.”

Award-Winning Author ‘Speaks’ at Eastern

 Written by Michael Rouleau

 Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson

New York Times-bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson visited Eastern on April 27 and April 28 for a Q&A and book signing, as well as to speak with students in two English classes. Anderson is the author of highly acclaimed young adult books, known for tackling tough subjects.

Published almost 20 years ago, her book “Speak,” a National Book Award Finalist, shares the story of Melinda Sordino, who was raped at an end-of-the-summer party and is trying to move on with her life. “I was the victim of sexual violence when I was 13 years old,” said Anderson, who said she wrote the book as a way to process her own experience. She also wrote it during the time when her daughter was becoming a teenager, when Anderson was daunted by her evolving role as a mother.

“I write books about things people struggled to talk about,” said Anderson. Speaking to the variety of books she’s written and their span of subject matter. She added, “One of the things I love about children’s literature is that there’s more room to play.” She commented that readers are often surprised that she is the writer. “That’s good; it means the focus is on the books, not the author.”

The Q&A was moderated by Education Professor Susannah Richards; Anderson’s visit was sponsored by Eastern’s Education and English departments, the J. Eugene Smith Library and the Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team. The event was organized in part to help Eastern students celebrate #ReadingWithOutWalls Month, a nationwide campaign program celebrating reading and diversity.

MEDIA ADVISORY: 300 Students to Participate in Eastern Research Conference

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The Third Annual CREATE Conference at Eastern Connecticut State University will take place this Friday, April 21, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier conference showcasing student research and creative activity.

All activities take place in the Student Center except for an exhibit of student art taking place in room 223 of the Wood Support Services Center from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

From art to zoology, Shakespeare to social media, tax law to terrorism, Eastern students of all majors explore important concepts and produce exemplary research and creative work; the culmination of their work this academic year will be on display at CREATE. The one-day conference will feature more than 300 Eastern undergraduates, who will present talks, professional posters, live music, dance performances, art and photography exhibits, documentary films and panel discussions.

“CREATE is a reaffirmation of Eastern’s commitment to undergraduate research as Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Niti Pandey, business administration professor and conference co-chair. Reflecting on this year’s record number of participants, she added, “There is a wonderful variety of presentations and performances for people to see. CREATE 2017 showcases the hard work and talent of our students and demonstrates the dedication of their faculty mentors. We look forward to an excellent event!”

Members of the Eastern campus and surrounding communities are invited to browse the conference’s many cultural and academic offerings. “CREATE will be a superb learning experience for all who participate and a true celebration of our student’s achievements,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and conference co-chair.

Registration takes place at 8:15 a.m. in the Student Center Café, and the opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Those interested in the event but unable to attend the whole conference can view the schedule and presentation details at www.easternct.edu/create. Ample parking is available in the University’s two parking garages.

NOTE TO NEWS MEDIA:  The news media is invited to attend and cover the conference. This event is a marvelous collection of academic presentations, plays, musical performances, art on exhibit, and other student work — more than 300 students in all. Students and faculty mentors are available for interviews, and there will be host of photography opportunities. Come and see how undergraduates at Eastern are doing research commonly found only in graduate programs at larger institutions!

Eastern Professors Collaborate on New E-Book

Written by Christina Rossomando

Left to right, Art and Art History Professor Afair Rahmanifar, Carmen Cid, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Eglish Professor Raouf Mama

Left to right, Art and Art History Professor Afair Rahmanifar, Carmen Cid, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Eglish Professor Raouf Mama

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/10/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University’s Raouf Mama, professor of English, and Afair Rahmanifar, professor of art and art history, have collaborated on a new e-book, “Quiet Miracles.” Quiet Miracles is a collection of five short stories written by Mama with illustrations by Rahmanifar.

On March 30 in Eastern’s Student Center Theatre, the two professors came together to host a reading for the Eastern community. Students, faculty and staff listened to Mama read excerpts from the new book.

“His stories were inspirational and powerful,” said senior Brianna Faustini. “I was truly moved by what he read – I was engaged the entire time. The stories were personal, heartfelt stories representing tragedy and redemption. After listening to Professor Mama speak, it made me want to buy and read the entire book!”

Mama read from the book for about 15 minutes, capturing the audience’s attention through the personal stories. “I really am pleased with our collaborative results,” said Rahmanifar. “It was a truly rewarding experience to work together. It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of it.”

Rahmanifar then explained her thought process for the illustrations. “I wanted the illustrations to have as many interpretations as possible,” she said. “After taking a long, in-depth look at the short stories and reading them multiple times, I was moved by the creative and magical elements of the story. I started to imagine myself as part of the story and within the characters themselves. This allowed me to easily connect and illustrate his short stories.”