History Students Visit Gettysburg National Park

Written by Anne Pappalardo

A group of history students from Eastern visited Gettysburg National Military Park on Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 10-11. Students enrolled in Professor Barbara Tucker’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” course and Professor Thomas Balcerski’s “Antebellum America” course went on the trip. The park is the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg, the event that inspired President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

After an orientation at the museum’s visitor center, the group proceeded to Little Round Top, the site of one of the most well-known Civil War actions at Gettysburg, where Confederate troops waged an unsuccessful assault against Union forces on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863.

They also visited Devil’s Den, a section of the Gettysburg battlefield dominated by terrain challenges and intense infantry and artillery fighting. The location is the site where many famous post-battle photographs were taken by well-known Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner.

Wheatfield, often described as the bloodiest square mile of fighting in American history, was another stop on the group’s itinerary. More than 6,000 of 20,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed, wounded or captured at the location.

Culp’s Hill, another location the group visited, was a critical part of the Union Army’s defensive line and the scene of fierce fighting. Over 22,000 Americans fought for seven hours under sustained close combat conditions that concluded with Confederate surrender.

“The students and faculty that attended the trip were able to experience one of the most famous theaters of war in United States history, while paying tribute to Connecticut soldiers who died in the Civil War,” said History Department Chair and Professor Joan Meznar. “As they recalled President Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent eulogy to those whose blood had consecrated the battlefield, and whose sacrifice ensured that the states would remain united, they also honored the countless men and women who have offered their all for the cause of freedom in battlefields all over the world.”

The group also paid tribute to various Connecticut regiments that fought in the battle by laying flowers at their respective monuments. They visited the Soldier’s National Cemetery, the site of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” before returning to Eastern.

History Professor Authors Timely Book on Walls

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/16/2018) Although they have shaped human civilization, little research has been published about walls. David Frye, a history professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, has changed that with his new book, “Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick.” On Nov. 14, Frye discussed “Walls” at a book talk and signing event with the university community.

“We have histories of water, we have histories of salt, we have dozens of histories of chocolate,” said Frye during his presentation. “What about these walls that no one’s written anything about?”

Even Frye’s own research did not begin with walls, but rather with Roman history, which is his primary field of study. In the process, he dedicated several weeks to researching city layouts and walls, searching how these structures impacted the societies on either side.

While in discussion with a fellow professor, Frye lamented the lack of books or academic research published about walls and the reasons behind their creation. Why, he wondered, had no one written a book about walls?

“He told me, ‘You know the reason why nobody wrote a book about walls? Because no one gives a flip,'” Frye said ruefully.

However, the 2016 election suddenly brought the talk of walls back into the spotlight. “Now,” Frye recalls, “You have auditoriums full of people chanting ‘Build that wall!'” Within a very short time frame, people began caring about walls.

While walls are an often contested topic in today’s political climate, Frye says that walls were rarely controversial in ancient times. For thousands of years, civilizations spent time building and assaulting walls, and throughout history there are walls found on every continent. From the Persians, Romans and the Chinese to the Inca, the Ukrainians and dozens more, walls have been built by societies across the globe.

Frye’s book, which Kirkus Reviews called “provocative” and “timely,” delves into the people who live on either side of walls. Between entertaining narratives of his own archeological digs and his research as a historian, Frye’s book manages to tell 4,000 years of history in less than 300 pages. Although he writes briefly on modern walls such as the Berlin Wall, the majority of his book is dedicated to the walls of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Greece, China, Rome and others.

These walls serve as the main characters of the narrative, which often feels more like a novel than academic literature. Frye asks several important questions in his book that resonate long after finishing. Did walls make civilization possible? And can we live without them?

Eastern Holds Third Civic Action Conference

Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Dwight Bachman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch

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

English Professor Miriam Chirico

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

Education Professor David Stoloff

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

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

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

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

John Murphy, lecturer in the Department of Communication

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

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

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

Scholar-Activist Speaks on ‘Forgotten’ Bangladesh Genocide

Mofidul Hoque is an author and activist who has written 15 books on history, liberation and genocide studies. In 1996 he and seven trustees established the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh.

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. —Mofidul Hoque, acclaimed scholar and founder of the Liberation War Museum, came to Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 7 to give a presentation titled “The Forgotten Genocide of Bangladesh in 1971: Lessons for the Future.” Hoque spoke on the atrocities committed in 1971 by the Pakistani government, which resulted in the death of some three million Bangladeshi people, and how his activism efforts have culminated in the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh.

“The more we talk about it, the more it enters the public domain,” said Hoque of the genocide. “And we must talk about it, because if we are to say ‘never again,’ we need to know how it began.”

His presentation detailed how the people of Bangladesh became liberated after long struggling to obtain democratic and national rights, but at the expense of millions of lives. Initially many western countries were outraged at these acts of violence, however, interest in Bangladesh quickly faded. Now, Hoque says, it is considered the forgotten, or “lost,” genocide.

From 1975 to 1996, information regarding the Bangladesh genocide was suppressed, in a period academics refer to as “The Dark Era.” Hoque and other activists have taken steps to correct the misinformation and propaganda spread during this period.

Hoque and seven trustees established the Liberation War Museum in 1996 to commemorate the heroism of the Bangladeshi people as well as reestablish the facts and reality of the Bangladesh genocide. The Liberation War Museum, with its team of researchers, has collected more than 50,000 stories of recorded oral history.

Once a mobile museum contained within a bus, the Liberation War Museum now has a permanent location in Bangladesh. Hoque hopes to partner with other researchers and scholars who are interested in the historical events surrounding the Bangladeshi genocide, as well as other genocides which go largely ignored or unreported, such as the Rohingya persecution in 2016. In 2017, the Liberation War Museum sent researchers to interview Rohingya refugees to add to their oral history collections, and published a paper titled “The Rohingya Genocide: Compilation and Analysis of Survivor’s Testimonies.”

Although the museum collects artifacts from some of the worst atrocities in humanity’s history, Hoque still has a message of inspiration: “When we tell this story, it is not a story of victimization,” he said. “We talk about the struggle and the resilience of our people. That is what we wish to commemorate in this museum.”

This event was organized by the Office of Equity and Diversity and the Departments of Computer Science; History; and Political Science, Philosophy and Geography.

Conference Lends ‘Parrot’s-Eye View’ into Latin America and Caribbean

Three Eastern students present “Media Narratives and their Impact on the Immigrant Rights Movement.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

On the 526-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World, on Oct. 12, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its third Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Conference. The symposium featured research presentations and panel discussions by Eastern faculty and students, as well as a keynote presentation by visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College.

“The date of this conference is significant,” said Anthropology Professor Ricardo Pérez, conference co-organizer. “It’s on this day in 1492 that Columbus spotted an island in the Caribbean and ‘discovered the New World,’ an event that resulted in a number of circumstances still felt today.”

The LACS Conference explored some of those circumstances, from the maroon communities of descendants of African slaves in Brazil, to the media portrayals of undocumented youth in the U.S., to the perils of Puerto Rican parrots after Hurricane Maria – and colonialism.

Anthropology Professor Mary Kenny opened the first panel with a discussion of her new book, “Deeply Rooted in the Present: Heritage, Memory, and Identity of Brazilian Quilombos.” Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country, and was the last to abolish slavery (1888). Presently there are more than 4,000 estimated maroon communities (known as Quilombos) in Brazil, many of which are in remote locations disconnected from mainstream society.

English Professor Miriam Chirico presents “John Leguizamo’s Comic Frame and Search for Identity.”

Among the problems facing the Quilombos is their status. Without federal recognition – or land acquisition rights – they are seen as squatters and sometimes forcibly moved to make way for development. According to Kenny, less than 10 percent of the Quilombos have federal status, yet some have existed for hundreds of years.

The third panel opened with English Professor Miriam Chirico’s research “John Leguizamo’s Comic Frame and Search for Identity.” Her research explores the tendency for Latino men to be typecast as gangsters and drug dealers in movies and television, which only reinforces negative stereotypes. “It’s hard to underestimate the effect this has on the public mind,” said Chirico.

A longtime actor-activist from Colombia, Leguizamo has made a career in white-dominated Hollywood by playing to the stereotypes of Latin American men, while also attempting to retain his ethnic identity.

Social Work Professor Isabelle Logan closed panel three with her presentation “Microaggressions and Bilingual Latino Professionals in the Court System.” Prior to coming to Eastern, Logan worked in the court system for 20 years. “When I started I was the only bilingual social worker in the public defender’s office,” she said. “I soon realized I was being asked to fulfill certain tasks that my colleagues were not.”

Social Work Professor Isabelle Logan presented “Microaggressions and Bilingual Latino Professionals in the Court System.”

Many of these tasks included serving as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking clients, however this added workload resulted in her being unable to complete her other work. When she asked for support, her plight was dismissed with statements such as, “Isn’t this the reason you were hired?”

Microagressions are subtle forms of discrimination. Logan’s research shows that they affect bilingual professionals in the hiring process and work environment, as well as their work performance and professional development.

Panel four consisted of students Vania Galicia (English), Monica Torrijos Ronquillo (psychology and criminology) and Juan Matiz (computer science) who spoke on the experience of undocumented students in a presentation titled “Media Narratives and their Impact on the Immigrant Rights Movement.”

Though it has never been passed, the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 as a way to grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. In an effort to protect these youth from deportation, the Obama Administration passed DACA in 2012 — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“Growing up, we began to realize the effects of our undocumented status, particularly the lack of economic mobility and access to higher education,” said Matiz. Galicia agreed: “When I was a kid, I wondered if I’d ever be able to go to college, or if I could even get a job.”

The students’ presentation focused on the media’s role in crafting the DREAMer narrative – “DREAMer” is a term used to describe undocumented youth with high hopes in America. The students explained that this narrative is an example of “American exceptionalism,” as DREAMers are often depicted as highly educated young people with impressive career trajectories – an idealized notion of the “right immigrant.”

Student Monica Torrijos Ronquillo discusses the media’s portrayal of the immigrant-rights movement.

“If you’re undocumented, you’re either perfect (a DREAMer) or a criminal,” said Torrijos Ronquillo. “You can’t be anywhere in the middle. You can’t just be normal.” The students indicated that this societal pressure, coupled with their uncertain futures, breeds anxiety and depression.

The conference closed with visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College, who presented “The Great Silence: A Parrot’s Eye View of the Forests of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.”

“Imagine a Caribbean region with thousands of parrots flying overhead. Columbus described such a flock darkening the sky. This display is unimaginable today,” said Paravisini-Gebert, explaining that there has been a steady decline in parrot populations due to human and environmental events.

Visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College presents her research about the perils of Puerto Rican parrots after Hurricane Maria.

Many endemic species of parrot and macaw have gone extinct throughout the Caribbean due to habitat destruction/deforestation and hunting.

“If you’ve been around a long time, you become picky,” said Paravisini-Gebert. “This is true of the parrots, who commanded the forest a long time. They need certain habitats to be just so.”

Parrots have been slow to adapt to the changes brought after colonization. With diminished habitats from human development, parrot populations have declined to the point where, now, a direct hit on their range – such as by a hurricane – could bring a localized population to extinction.

To boost populations, some parrots in Puerto Rico are bred in captivity and reintroduced to the wild in the island’s more remote regions. The problem with this has to do with loss of language. Parrots have complex vocalizations that differ among species and regions.

“Those from captivity don’t speak Puerto Rican parrot,” joked Paravisini-Gebert, “like their wild counterparts in other parts of the island.”

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference also featured presentations by Sociology Professor Dennis Canterburgy, who recently authored “Neoextractivism and Capitalist Development”; Geography Professor Patrick Vitale’s presentation “From McKeesport to Mexico City: How American Suburbs Fought the Cold War”; and History Professor Joan Meznar’s presentation “Saving Brazil from Communism: Our Lady Aparecida and the Military Regime, 1964-85.”

 

Eastern to Host Third Latin American and Caribbean Conference

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (10/03/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its third Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Conference on Oct. 12 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre. The conference is free and open to the public. Registration will occur at 8:30 a.m.

The conference will consist of four panels discussing a variety of topics, from military regimes during the Cold War to modern day media portrayals of immigration. The event will culminate with a keynote presentation by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College, who will speak on the recovery of the forests of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

“The LACS Conference provides an opportunity for Eastern faculty to share their research on themes related to Latin America, the Caribbean and the experience of Hispanics in the United States,” said Anthropology Professor Ricardo Pérez, conference co-organizer and coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.

The first panel includes book talks by Eastern Professors Mary Kenny (anthropology) and Dennis Canterbury (sociology), who recently authored books on Brazilian Quilombos (Afro-Brazilian settlements) and “Neoextractivism,” respectively. The second panel, starting at 10 a.m., is titled “Cold War Politics: Latin America and Beyond” and feature presentations by professors Patrick Vitale (geography) and Joan Meznar (history).

The third panel, starting at 11 a.m., is titled “The Comical and the Serious: On Latino Identities in the United States” and features presentations by professors Miriam Chirico (English) and Isabel Logan (social work). The fourth panel, starting at 12 p.m., features Eastern students in a presentation titled “The DREAMER’s Dream: Media Narratives and their Impact on the Immigrant Rights Movement.”

The keynote presentation by visiting professor Paravisini-Gebert will begin at 1 p.m. Each panel will conclude with a Q&A session where the conference’s many scholars and presenters may be addressed.

“The LACS Conference supports the curriculum of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies minor,” said Pérez. “It expands the scope of the lessons that faculty cover in the classroom and sheds light on important developments occurring in the Latin American and the Caribbean region.”

For further information, contact conference organizers Christine Garcia at garciachris@easternct.edu or Ricardo Pérez at perezr@easternct.edu.

 

Eastern’s Canterbury and Frye Author New Books

Written by Dwight Bachman

Sociology Professor Dennis Canterbury and History Professor David Frye recently authored “Neoextractivism and Capitalist Development” and “Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick.”

On Sept. 12, Canterbury gave a talk on “Neoextractivism” in Room 301 of the Science Building. Canterbury, who specializes in labor, development, globalization and Caribbean social structure, says the term “neoextractivism” refers to the collection of state-private sector policies intended to utilize income from natural resource sales for development objectives and improving the lives of a country’s citizens.

Reviewers who read and commented on the manuscript have described it as “a brilliant synthesis of economic structures, class relations and state power embedded in a historical analysis,” and as “an exceptional contribution to the scholarly literature on global capitalism, and its influences on development in the Caribbean and other regions in the Global South transitioning from neoliberalism to post-neoliberalism models of capital accumulation.”

“Neoextractivism and Capitalist Development” argues that neoextractivism is merely another means of capitalist development, reinforcing the position of elites with few benefits for working people. Canterbury observes that neoextratavism is cyclical and that critics of neoextractavism view it as “the new imperialism of the 21st Century, in which the rich countries in Europe and the United States maintain their stranglehold over countries whose economic survival depends on the export of natural resources.”

Canterbury said this book, his fourth since joining Eastern in 2000, was written to help workers in his native land of Guyana get a clearer picture of what they are struggling for and against. His book also helps readers critically analyze neoextractivism and identify alternative paths for improving the human condition.

Professor Frye Publishes Book on “Walls”

“The New Yorker Magazine” has reviewed a new book by History Professor David Frye titled “Walls.”  The magazine saysThis lively history argues that there is a ‘nearly universal correlation between civilization and walls. Frye examines such societies as the Persians, the Athenians and the Romans, all of whom constructed barriers to protect against invaders, creating secure zones where citizens were freed from military duties to pursue art, culture and commerce.

“Without walls,” Frye writes, “there would have been no ‘Chinese scholars, Babylonian mathematicians or Greek philosophers. In the twentieth century, modern weaponry rendered walls ineffective for defense, and structures such as the Berlin Wall represented a ‘clash of symbols,’ separating ideologies rather than armies.”

Frye concludes that today, with some seventy border walls worldwide, we are entering the “second age of walls.”

 

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.

Eastern Student Wins Fulbright Scholarship to Study in Indonesia

Eastern Connecticut State University student Adam Murphy ’18 has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to study Indonesian language in an intensive-language program in Salatiga, Indonesia, this summer. Murphy hails from Meriden and double majors in political science and history with a minor in Asian studies.

The scholarship will fund Murphy’s travel expenses and his educational costs. The program is sponsored by the Consortium of Teaching Indonesian through the Cornell University Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Murphy follows Quanece Williams ’16, who is completing a year in the Czech Republic through the Fulbright program.

Salatiga is a city on the island of Java, the most populated island in the world and one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. Murphy will be in Indonesia from June to August, living with a host family and taking language classes at a local university. “I am honored to have been selected for such an amazing program, honored to have been awarded this prestigious scholarship, and excited to return to Indonesia. With this award I can continue to learn about Indonesia and its wonderful people.”

This is not Murphy’s first trip to Indonesia. Last year he lived for the summer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, studying in an immersive language program with funding through a fellowship from the U.S.-Indonesian Society.

In addition to taking language classes, Murphy taught English for “Stichting Jogja,” which offers free English classes to people living in poverty. He also met with national leaders and scholars, including the Minister of State, the Princess of Yogyakarta, the Speaker of the House and the Deputy U.S. Ambassador.

“I am ecstatic to return to Indonesia to continue my language studies,” said Murphy. I am excited to try new foods, meet new people, live in a different area of the country, and visit friends I met during my past trip there. I am honored to be accepted to this program and awarded the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship.”

“Adam exemplifies Eastern’s emphasis on a practically applied liberal arts education,” said History Professor Bradley Davis, Murphy’s faculty mentor. “While completing a double major in history and political science and a minor in Asian studies, Adam has produced compelling original scholarship on the role of U.S. agricultural development specialists in Indonesia during the Cold War.”

Murphy is also active on Eastern’s campus, currently working as a resident assistant, and previously as a tutor and student ambassador in the Pride Center. He has been involved with the Student Government Association, the International Student Association and as president of the College Democrats.

This coming fall, Murphy will begin a master’s program in Southeast Asia Studies at the University of Wisconsin. He intends to go on to earn a doctorate in political science and foreign policy.

Written by Ed Osborn