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

Field Courses Bring Students to Bahamas, Western U.S., Italy

Eastern biology students on the North Point of San Salvador Island, Bahamas.
Biology students on San Salvador Island, Bahamas.
EES students study geology in the American West.
EES students study geology in the American West.
EES students study geology in the American West.
Business students at the United Nations in Rome, Italy.
Business students at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

 

In the weeks following Commencement, three groups of Eastern students traveled to San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, Italy, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming to engage in exciting Global Field Courses. 

Tropical Biology in the Bahamas

On San Salvador Island and surrounding waters 19 students accompanied by Biology professors Kristen Epp, Brett Mattingly and Josh Idjadi, examined the ecology of marine and terrestrial organisms from May 14-25. The 10-day field experience was headquartered at Gerace Research Centre (GRC) from which students ventured daily; nightly lab sessions and discussions supplemented each day’s field observations.

Marine studies focused on coral reef, sea grass bed, mangrove, beach and rocky shore communities, while terrestrial studies examined cave, mud flat, and sand dune and upland shrub communities. On a visit to Oyster Pond, some students swam across the pond (about a half-mile) to arrive at a vent through which the water in the pond communicates tidally with the ocean. Students also visited a very large cave to see native bats and other cave-dwelling creatures including an endemic isopod.

Environmental Earth Science in the Wild West

EES students study geology in the American West.

Geology came to life in the field, as the Environmental Earth Science (EES) field course to Wyoming and Idaho from May 24-June 3 introduced 23 EES majors to concepts in geology and environmental earth science. The course included a lecture course prior to the trip that provided background knowledge and a regional geological context for the field excursion.

During the field course, students placed emphasis on group observations and discussions. At each location, faculty and students spent time collecting observations and drawing conclusions about the geological features, earth processes and environmental issues relevant to that location. In the evenings, everyone met and reviewed what we saw that day, to reinforce and expand on key concepts and learning points. 

Highlights included seeing the vast geothermal features and beautiful landscapes of Yellowstone, the stunning beauty of the Grand Tetons, the bleak lava plains and diverse volcanic landforms of Craters of the Moon National Monument, and the high alpine zone of the Idaho Rockies.  In addition, students saw wonderful wildlife including grizzly and black bears, moose, elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, bald eagles and many bison, including newborn calves.  A rafting excursion down the Snake River, a tram ride to 10,500 feet elevations in Jackson Hole, WY, and fossil fish collecting in the Green River Basin rounded out the trip.   The excursion was a marvelous experience for students and faculty.  The EES extended field course has now become an annual highlight in the EES department.

Business students at the United Nations in Rome, Italy.

How Business is Conducted in Italy

From May 22–June 3, Professor Emiliano Villanueva, associate professor business administration, led 18 students on a trip to Rome and Perugia, Italy, or the seminar “International Business in an International Setting.” Prior to their departure for Italy, the students researched a range of topics related to business in Italy and gave 30-minute presentations to their class.

Upon their return, students submitted in-depth, 20-page reports reflecting on their experiences in Italy. Topics included the “History and Geography of Italy, “History of Rome,” “Government and Politics in Italy,; “Culture in Italy,” “GDP and the Economy of Italy,” “Business Opportunities in Italy,” “Business Rtiquette and the Italian Language” and “Rome and Vatican Sightseeing.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

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

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

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

 

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/08/2019) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Students present research during the poster session of the 2018 CREATE conference.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Halladay, Canavan, Torcellini Present a Range of Research

Halladay Discusses Gender Stereotypes on Confidence

By Dwight Bachman

Brianna Halladay, assistant professor of economics, addressed the topic “Perception Matters: The Role of Task Gender Stereotype on Confidence and Tournament Selection” at the Faculty Scholars Forum on March 20.

Halladay said extensive research suggests that women avoid competition even when they can be benefit from potential rewards. Researchers conclude that women differ in their preference for competition compared to men.

Halladay’s own research explores the potential that another channel may be yielding the observed gender gap in tournament selection: a gender difference in beliefs about future performance reflecting gender stereotypes.

Using a laboratory experiment, she analyzed differences in tournament entry, using a male-stereotype task and a female-stereotype task. Her findings suggest that the observed difference in behavioral responses to competition among men and women is not due to a difference in preference for competition, but rather a difference in beliefs about future performance task (an environment where women would carry lower beliefs about future performance), and that more women than men enter the tournament under the female-stereotype task.

“In other words, it appears an increase in female confidence and decrease in male confidence is driving this result,” said Halladay. “This suggests the effect of competitiveness on gender is not exclusively about a difference in preference for competition, but consistent with a difference in beliefs about future performance.”

Canavan Presents at Sports Medicine Symposium

By Raven Dillon

Paul Canavan, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented at the 31st Sports Medicine Symposium in Wisconsin on March 14. Canavan gave three presentations and was also a guest speaker at the symposium.

Canavan’s first presentation was titled “Preventing Groin Injuries,” and used evidence from research literature as well as Canavan’s own real-life experience with the Northeastern University ice hockey team. He spoke on the importance of providing specific screening and interventions to prevent such injuries in sports.

His second presentation was called “Efficient and Effective Functional Examination and Exercise Prescription for the Lower Extremity” and was directed towards physicians and physical therapists to advocate the use of tests that screen for strength, flexibility and control, as well as provide specific therapeutic exercises.

The final presentation, “Knee Varus and Knee Valgus: Considerations for Therapeutic Exercise Intervention,” examined Canavan’s prior research related to the stresses upon the knee for individuals with knee valgus (knock-kneed) and knee varus (bow-legged). This presentation helped attendees understand various exercises that may help these individuals and potentially slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

The Sports Medicine Symposium was primarily attended by physicians and physical therapists throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Nearly 250 attendees included primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nurses, coaches, athletic directors and others who were interested and involved in the care of athletes of all ages and abilities.

Torcellini: ‘Buildings Mortgage the Energy Futures of the World’

By Dwight Bachman

Paul Torcellini, endowed chair of sustainable energy studies and professor of environmental earth science, kicked off the Spring Faculty Scholars Forum on Feb. 13 with a fascinating presentation on “Living at Zero: Experiences in Moving Towards an All Renewable Energy Lifestyle.”

Torcellini, who has been researching energy efficiency since he was in high school, said buildings that use electricity and natural gas to stay warm, cool and lighted are the largest consumer of energy in America. Unfortunately, the growth of new facilities is taking place more quickly than measures to impact energy efficiency. “Buildings mortgage the energy futures of the world,” said Torcellini.

He used the construction of his own family home to encourage others to strive to live at what he called “net zero or zero net.” For sure, it is net positive. He described the process as “building on a diet.” Together, he and his family decided to evaluate and examine the cost and value of how they would light, heat the space, use hot water, appliances and electronics in their new home.

The family started building the home in 2014 and finished in 2016. Through a series of measures including a great deal of insulation, heat pumps, energy efficient windows and efficient LED lighting, the house uses so little energy that solar photovoltaic panels generate enough electricity to cover all the loads. The solar panels also produce enough electricity to partially power a new electric vehicle.

In addition, the construction of the house minimized the introduction of chemicals that outgas during the life of the house. Mineral-based paints, linoleum with cork backing and tongue oil on native wood floors were used.

Another sustainability measure is the Torcellini family’s commitment to raising much of their own food, including organically fed meat from turkeys, chickens, sheep and pigs, as well as producing eggs.

Princeton Review Names Eastern a Green College 9 Years in a Row

Eastern’s newly renovated Communication Building features a number of sustainability improvements, aligning it with the State of Connecticut’s standards for high-efficiency buildings.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University is one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in 2018 according to The Princeton Review. Eastern is listed in the Review’s 2018 edition of “Guide to 399 Green Colleges,” published on Oct. 16 – the ninth year in a row that Eastern has made the list.

Schools were selected based on a summer 2018 survey that measured more than 25 data points related to sustainability practices and policies. Only schools with Green Rating scores of 80 or higher (out of 99) are featured in the guide.

“We are pleased to release our 2018 edition in October, as the month has been designated National Campus Sustainability Month,” said Robert Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review. “To all students wanting to study and live at a green college, we strongly recommend the outstanding schools we identify and profile in this guide.”

“We are proud to again be recognized as an environmentally friendly school by this important publication,” said Lynn Stoddard, director of Eastern’s Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE). “We’re happy that today’s college students value sustainability, and that our institutional efforts to minimize environmental impact have not gone unnoticed.”

Eastern’s commitment to sustainability is demonstrated through its use of renewable energy and strides toward carbon neutrality, the construction/renovation of “green” buildings, environmentally related academic and extracurricular offerings, and other green initiatives.

The Eastern campus boasts five LEED-certified buildings (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), including three residence halls, the Science Building and the new Fine Arts Instructional Center. These buildings feature daylight-harvesting and gray-water systems, recycled flooring, native plants and rainwater collection systems. LEED buildings can reduce energy and water costs by as much as 40 percent.

This fall 2018 semester, Eastern reopened its newly renovated Communication Building, which now meets the high-performance building standards set by the State of Connecticut. Such standards include utilizing recyclable materials for a portion of the construction, as well as materials sourced within 500 miles of the worksite. Improvements have also been made to water conservation, energy conservation and insulation.

Eastern is also home to Connecticut’s largest geothermal installation. Located at High Rise residence hall, the system draws energy from the internal heat of the earth and reduces energy use by 12 percent. Elsewhere on campus, a 400-kilowatt phosphoric-acid fuel cell provides clean energy that prevents the release of approximately 1,350 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Lining the campus’ walkways and roads are solar-powered lighting fixtures. Furthermore, commuters with electric or hybrid cars can take advantage of vehicle-charging stations as well as choice-parking spots as reward for reducing their carbon footprint.

A university’s greatest amount of waste may come from its dining hall. To reduce food waste, Eastern’s Hurley Hall and food provider, Chartwells, has a three-pronged program that involves offering students plates (rather than trays) of food, donating leftovers to the local soup kitchen, and composting discarded food.

Eastern is also home to the Institute for Sustainability Energy (ISE), the organization spearheading the statewide initiative “Sustainable CT.” With 22 municipalities certified as of this October, and more in process, Sustainable CT provides a road map for communities to become more sustainable and resilient.

Among its academic and extracurricular offerings, Eastern offers a strong environmental earth science (EES) program – with tracks in EES, general earth science, and sustainable energy science – as well as a new minor in environmental health science. The Environmental Club advocates for the importance of human impact on the environment, while promoting sustainable awareness and practices on campus.

The annual Campus Sustainability Week engages students in environmental issues and gathers volunteers for service projects. The Green Theme housing community – located in the LEED-certified Nutmeg Hall – allows environmentally minded students to live together and participate in activities related to “going green” and sustainability.

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

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

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

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

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

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

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

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

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

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

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

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.