Scholar shines light on unsung civil-rights hero Constance Baker Motley

Gary L. Ford Jr. visited Eastern on Feb. 14

WILLIMANTIC, CT (02/26/2018) Scholar and award-winning film producer Gary L. Ford Jr. examined black history triumphs and shared his insight on jurist and civil rights champion Constance Baker Motley as part of Black History Month at Eastern Connecticut State University on Feb. 14.

Ford crossed paths with Motley – a fellow native of New Haven, CT – early on in his life. A member of a family of lawyers and a graduate of Columbia University, Ford has felt compelled to share Motley’s story ever since. The more he learned of the activist’s feats, the more he realized that she had been overlooked not only in textbooks, but on other platforms as well.

While some people from the civil rights movement have been highlighted for their efforts, many groundbreakers like Motley have disappeared into the background. “We need to make sure we talk about these other hidden figures,” said Ford. “Our history is not really complete. Without these grassroots leaders, without these women, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Ford opened his presentation by giving the audience an overview of the extensive research that went into his dissertation-guided novel, “Constance Baker Motley: One Woman’s Fight for Civil Rights and Equal Justice under Law” and the subsequent documentary, “Justice is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley.” Motley was the first African-American woman to become a federal judge, and a key component in landmark cases such as Meredith v. Fair and Brown v. Board of Education.

Ford’s documentary, which debuted in 2012, opens with Maya Angelou reading her poem “Still I Rise,” and accurately captures Motley as an established crusader. With notable commentators – President Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Joel Motley III, members of the Little Rock Nine and Dr. Bernard Lafayette among them – and a thoughtful assessment of Motley’s historical accomplishments, the film aims to give her the credit she deserves.

Contributors called attention to Motley’s upbringing with immigrant parents from the Caribbean island of Nevis, her ability to excel academically despite external setbacks and her unwavering persistence during a professional career actively combatting racism. She was the only woman attorney at the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Legal Defense and Educational Fund during the bulk of the civil rights movement.Motley won cases that ended de facto segregation in white-only restaurant spaces, protected the rights of protestors and secured the right for black people to register, vote and have general access to the political power structure. During this time, she worked closely with Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Justice is a Black Woman,” in collaboration with Ford’s other studies, successfully humanizes one of history’s strongest characters, not only by showcasing the monumental services that Motley provided through her involvement with the law, but also by evaluating the life she constructed around these achievements. “From a very young age, she was always one to speak the truth to power,” said Ford.

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit

Constance Motley Expert at Eastern

Written by Dwight Bachman

Willimantic, CT — Gary Ford Jr., assistant professor of Africana Studies at Lehman College and author of the book, “Constance Baker Motley, One Woman’s Fight for Civil Rights and Equal Justice under Law,” will speak on Feb. 14, at 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre on Eastern Connecticut State University campus.

Born in New Haven in 1921 as the daughter of immigrants from Nevis, British West Indies, Motley attended Fisk University before transferring to New York University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in economics. She subsequently became the first black woman accepted to Columbia Law School. A wife and mother who became a pioneer and trailblazer in the legal profession, she broke down barriers, overcame gender constraints, and operated outside the feminine role assigned to women by society and the civil rights movement.

Motley met Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and became the only female attorney to work for the fund, arguing desegregation cases in court during much of the civil rights movement. From 1946 through 1964, she was a key litigator and legal strategist for landmark civil rights cases that included the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the desegregation of the universities of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. She represented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others jailed for their participation in sit-ins, marches and freedom rides.

“Gary Ford’s well-researched book is more than a biography of Motley’s extraordinary life,” said Henry Louis Gates, Endowed Alphonse Fletcher Professor of History and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. “It is an argument for recognizing the tenacious, courageous role African American women like her played in advancing the cause of civil rights and equal justice for all. To witness Judge Motley in action was to be fortified and astounded. Now, thanks to Ford, a new generation can bear witness to her immense talents.”

“Dr. Ford’s book has sold out three times already this year,” said Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity at Eastern, whose office invited Ford to campus. The Offices of the President, Provost and Academic Affairs, Education Professional Studies and the Graduate Division, and Departments of History, Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work are co-sponsors for Ford’s appearance at Eastern.

“The narrative of the civil rights movement is fundamentally and irrevocably altered by the inclusion of Constance Baker Motley,” said Ford. “Her story is like a breath of fresh air that only strengthens the legacy of the movement as a whole. Her contribution expands the view of history from the model of leadership by charismatic men to a more complex model that is inclusive of female change agents and leaders. Judge Motley broke down barriers for other women of color, attorneys and women in general.”

Ford earned a bachelor of arts in African American history from Harvard University; a law degree from Columbia University; a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the New School; and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland. In addition to his writing and teaching, Ford helped produce the 2012 award-winning documentary film “Justice is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley” with director/producer Professor Michael Calia, director of the Quinnipiac University Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center and scriptwriter Susan Bailey.

Eastern Hosts Historical Conference

Eastern faculty and alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. (L-R) Miles Wilkerson ’15, Professors Anna Kirchmann, Jamel Ostwald and Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, and Professors Scott Moore, Caitlin Carenen and Thomas Balcerski.

Eastern faculty and alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. (L-R) Miles Wilkerson ’15, Professors Anna Kirchmann, Jamel Ostwald and Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, and Professors Scott Moore, Caitlin Carenen and Thomas Balcerski.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted the New England Historical Association’s 99th Annual Fall Conference on Oct. 28 in the Betty R. Tipton Room in the Student Center.

The association is a regional affiliate of the American Historical Association and includes approximately 450 scholars who are employed in various positions related to history. It promotes scholarly interchange and seeks to enhance teaching and scholarship in history. While most of its members are college and university faculty, active participants also include graduate students, independent scholars, preservationists and museum-based scholars, historical society administrators and secondary school faculty.

Eastern History faculty who moderated or presented research included Professors Thomas Balcerski, Caitlin Carenen, Bradley C. Davis, Anna Kirchmann, Joan Meznar, Jamel Ostwald, Barbara Tucker and Scott Moore. Eastern alum Jim Loughead ’04 of Mansfield Public Schools was a discussant at a Teaching Social Studies roundtable and Miles Wilkerson ’15 presented “The Moral Treatment: On the Institutionalization of People with Disabilities in the Anglophone Atlantic, 1660-1860.”

Adam Murphy ’18 of Meriden presented “A Professor’s Experience in Indonesia: Examining the Partnership Between University of Kentucky and Bogor Agricultural College, 1957-1966.” Murphy’s major’s are Political Science and History and Social Science; he also has a minor in Asian Studies.

Brad Davis Examines Bandits in China

Written by Jolene Potter

Bradley Davis

Bradley Davis

Bradley Davis, history professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, discussed his recently published book “Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands” in a book talk on Sept. 27.

Prior to writing the book, Davis conducted extensive archival and ethnographic research for more than a decade, traveling throughout China and Southeast Asia. Drawing on Vietnamese, French and Chinese written sources and interviews with hundreds of villagers, Davis tells the story of migrants and communities in the Southeast Asian borderlands. The book also describes banditry and the culture of violence in the mountainous borderlands between China and Vietnam.

The event, sponsored by the Department of History and the Office of Equity and Diversity, served as anDavis Book Cover Imperial Bandits opportunity for readers to ask questions and gain a further understanding of Davis’ research process. One of the themes in the conversation between Davis and readers included the establishment of personal relationships with the individuals you are studying. Davis noted that although archival research has become easier over time due to the expansion of access to documents, establishing personal relationships with the individuals you are studying is the key to comprehensive research. “You have to hang out,” says Davis. “As simple as that sounds it is not easy. You have to share a meal with them. You have to prove that you are not yet another researcher they will never see again. You have to become known and trusted in the community. Personal relationships are the heart of this type of research.”

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 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.

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.”


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

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

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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.

Three Students Win Library Research Awards

Award winners Malvina Pietrzykowski '19, Kimberly Mines '17 and Isabella Rossi '17 with Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Award winners Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19, Kimberly Mines ’17 and Isabella Rossi ’17 with Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Michael Rouleau

Three Eastern students were recognized at the sixth annual Library Research Awards at the conclusion of the 2016-17 academic year. Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19, Kimberly Mines ’17 and Isabella Rossi ’17 were awarded based on their ability to conduct research that stemmed from the physical collections and online databases of Eastern’s J. Eugene Smith Library.

Pietrzykowski majors in psychology and her research project was titled “The Neuropsychological Effects of Religion and Spirituality.” Her abstract reads: “This literature review critically analyzes psychological and medical research regarding religion and spirituality. The paper begins with analyses of religion’s psychological and social appeal, as well as comparison of different types of religion. Various aspects of neuropsychology are covered, including religion’s influence on functions of the brain.”

Mines majors in labor relations/human resources management and her research project was titled “Framing Arab Americans in the Detroit News Press.” Her abstract reads: “A significant proportion of today’s Arab Americans descended from Christian immigrants, though they are often conflated with Muslims and ‘unhinged’ caricatures who do not contribute to society. This study examines the post-911 evolution of Arab-American representations within mainstream Detroit news press-a city known as ‘the capital of Arab America.'”

Rossi majors in history and her research project was titled “The Elite Opulence of the Gilded Age: Creation of an 1876 Style Evening Gown.” Her abstract reads: “In this project I researched the fashions of the American Gilded Age and created a historically accurate 1876 evening gown with this information. I also explored the historical context of these fashions and examined how clothing was used by social elites to display status.”

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.”