FBI, Military, Social Work: 3 New Eastern Fellows Inducted


Charlotte Braziel, Shawn Meaike and Raymond Hill sit on a panel moderated by Interim Provost for Academic Affairs William Salka

Written by Jolene Potter

Three distinguished alumni from Eastern Connecticut State University were inducted into the Eastern Fellows Program on Oct. 19. In addition to joining the ranks of the University’s most successful alumni, Charlotte Braziel ’80, Raymond Hill Jr. ’83 and Shawn Meaike ’95 returned to campus to meet with students and share career advice during a panel discussion.

Braziel is a retired FBI agent who now leads an investigative consulting firm; Hill is a professor at the Air Force Institute of Technology with an extensive military background; and Meaike is a former social worker-turned-entrepreneur who leads the multi-million dollar organization Family First Life.

A public policy and government major at Eastern, Braziel served 26 years as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). She specialized in organized crime, domestic and foreign terrorism, and bank and healthcare fraud.

“My father saw an advertisement in the paper for the FBI, recruiting women,” reflected Braziel on her life three decades ago. “When he told me he thought I’d be a good candidate, I laughed and said I would never get in. His response was, ‘Not with an attitude like that.’ But after a two-and-a-half-year application process, I got hired as an agent in December 1987 and had the career of a lifetime.”

Braziel continued, “As a young student at Eastern I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I’d make it to the FBI. I didn’t even know that women were FBI agents. The lesson I learned was to listen to people who have suggestions and encouragement for you. They may see talent in you that you don’t see yourself.”

In her current occupation as head of Braziel & Associates, LLC, Braziel advises defense attorneys as an investigative consultant. She also teaches courses in crime scene investigation and criminal justice ethics at St. Leo University in Florida.

“Because of what started at Eastern,” concluded Braziel, “I went from being a wallflower to an FBI agent who teaches internationally.”

Hill graduated from Eastern in 1983 with a degree in mathematics, went on to earn a Ph.D in industrial/systems engineering from The Ohio State University, and served as an active-duty lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force for 23 years. He continues to have a decorated career in the air force and academia.

Currently a professor of operations research at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Hill conducts research to support the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense, advises air force and army graduate students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, and teaches graduate-level courses in statistics and mathematical modeling.

 The new Eastern Fellows pose for a photo with President Elsa Nunez

“When I started thinking about the type of professor I wanted to be, I thought back to Eastern,” said Hill. “My professors’ doors were never closed. I could go to any of their offices for help both academically and personally. I’ve adopted that same philosophy.”

Hill has published nearly 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and more than 250 technical works. He has advised more than 150 graduate projects at the master’s and doctoral levels, and been involved in another 125 projects. His extensive research background led to his management of more than $7.9 million in research funding. He is the principal lead investigator for an eight-university research consortium, as well as an associate editor for six journals and co-editor for the Journal of Defense Analytics and Logistics.

In advising Eastern students, Hill said, “Make the best of your current situation, always keep an ear out for other opportunities and move to something new when it feels right.”

Meaike graduated from Eastern with a degree in sociology/applied social relation in 1995 and then worked for the Department of Children and Families for 13 years as a social worker. “My social work experience here was raw and real,” he said. “We were challenged to speak and work with passion; it helped shape who I am today.”

In 2013, Meaike launched Family First Life, a multi-million dollar independent marketing organization located in Uncasville, CT, that generated more than $10 million in sales in its first year. The company is a network of agencies represented by 6,000 licensed agents around the country that markets life insurance, retirement planning and investments. After five years of continuous growth, the company is posited to finish 2018 with more than $175 million in paid life and annuity business and expects to reach more than $200 million in sales in 2019.

With an abiding desire to give back, Meaike launched the Family First Life Scholarship in 2014, which is aimed at helping students from New London County who have good academic standing as well as financial need. Meaike is also the founder of CT Affordable Waste. Since launching in August of 2018, the company is providing local Connecticut businesses and residential homeowners with an easier and more affordable way of completing renovations.

The Eastern Fellows Program was established in the 2008-09 academic year to recognize and engage distinguished alumni in the life of the campus community. Including the three newest honorees, 32 Eastern alumni have been inducted into the program.

Eastern’s Larose Presents “Real World Analytics” in British Columbia, Canada

From July 28-Aug. 2, Chantal Larose, assistant professor of statistics and data science in the Mathematical Sciences Department, was among more than 6,500 people who descended upon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to attend the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), one of the biggest statistical conferences of the year. At the conference, before peers from academia and industry, Larose presented her latest research project titled, “Real-World Learning Analytics: Modeling Student Academic Practices and Performance,” research she and Kim Ward, associate professor of developmental mathematics, conducted to uncover statistical patterns that could help students succeed in their Math Foundations courses.  Larose has been attending JSM since 2013, and credits the conference for sending her into each new academic year re-energized and full of new research and pedagogical ideas. For more information about the Joint Statistical Meetings, visit: http://ww2.amstat.org/meetings/jsm/2018/

Eastern’s Larose Presents in British Columbia

From July 28-Aug. 2, Chantal Larose, assistant professor of statistics and data science in the Mathematical Sciences Department, was among more than 6,500 people who descended upon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to attend the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), one of the biggest statistical conferences of the year. At the conference, before peers from academia and industry, Larose presented her latest research project titled, “Real-World Learning Analytics: Modeling Student Academic Practices and Performance,” research she and Kim Ward, associate professor of developmental mathematics, conducted to uncover statistical patterns that could help students succeed in their Math Foundations courses.  Larose has been attending JSM since 2013, and credits the conference for sending her into each new academic year re-energized and full of new research and pedagogical ideas. For more information about the Joint Statistical Meetings, visit: http://ww2.amstat.org/meetings/jsm/2018/

Students Study within Jungles of Costa Rica

Student group near the continental divide in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Written by Dwight Bachman

On May 20, 14 Eastern Biology students and professors Patricia Szczys and Matthew Graham travelled to Costa Rica to conduct research in that country’s tropical forests.

The group hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park, the ceiba tree is estimated to be 300 years old and sporting iconic rainforest tree butresses.

The group had been planning the 12-day trip since January, using the spring semester to read scientific literature and prepare research proposals for studies they would conduct while in Costa Rica.

Male (left) and Female (right) Green and Black Poison Dart frog Dendrobates auratus, the focus of two student research projects this year.

During six days in the humid lowland rainforest at Selva Verde, the students completed experiments on leaf-cutter ant foraging strategies; individual recognition cues by the strawberry poison-dart frog; effectiveness of aposematic warning colors and patterns in snakes; population density and sex ratio of the green and black poison-dart frog; and avian predator avoidance behavior by poison frogs. Several of these experiments will be presented at undergraduate research conferences during this coming academic year.

“The experiences and knowledge that I have gained during my eleven days in Costa Rica on Eastern’s Tropical Biology Global Field Course were invaluable,” said Murphy’ 20. “Not only did the trip allow me to see and explore places I’d never imagined seeing, but it also allowed our whole class to perform scientific research projects that involved real world data collection and experimentation that would not be possible in the United States.”

Students stand near a tree recently cleared from the trail. On Saturday, May 19, tornado-like winds damaged the forest at the La Selva Research Station in Costa Rica, toppling hundreds of trees, several canopy research platforms, and changing the forest for 100 years or more. This tree is probably more than 200 years old.

“The Costa Rica trip was absolutely unforgettable, not only for the invaluable in-field experience gained, but, additionally, for the mutually shared memories that I made with my classmates and professors that I’ll remember forever, said Kukla ’19. “I am grateful to Eastern, as this opportunity has definitely sparked a permanent interest in Rain Forest Biology. The biggest thank you must be given to Dr. Szczys and Dr. Graham for constantly answering all of our questions, pointing out small details that could easily be missed, and lastly, just being amazing professors who inspired us as students throughout the entire trip.” 

In addition to their research, the group spent time hiking, observing animals and identifying plants that interact to produce the rich biodiversity of the tropical rainforest. The group visited the world-renowned La Selva Biological Research Station; toured an organic export-oriented pineapple plantation; hiked the lava fields at Arenal Volcano National Park; toured the Don Juan coffee plantation; and hiked to the Continental Divide in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

“This trip was so valuable to me because it forced me to come out of my comfort zone in all the best ways,” said Pinto’19. “It’s not every day that you can say you conducted your own research in such a beautiful place filled with amazing biodiversity!”

The Tropical Biology course and field trip to Costa Rica is offered in alternating spring semesters and fulfills an upper-level course requirement for Biology majors. In other years, biology students travel to San Salvador, Bahamas, continuing the Biology Department’s tradition of offering the Tropical Biology course every year since 1968. Professor Szczys has been leading groups to Costa Rica since it replaced Belize as the course location in 2008 and Professor Graham joined in 2016. “This year’s students were especially excited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tropical Biology program at Eastern,” said Szczys

English Students Study in Italy

Eastern’s Creative Writing Abroad group at Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence.

Written by Dwight Bachman

A group of Eastern students, under the guidance of Professor Christopher Torockio, recently traveled to Italy to participate in the Creative Writing Abroad course. The students spent five weeks, from June 25 to July 31, writing fiction stories inspired by their travels and experiences at the Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence.

A quick break from one of our class workshops, which were held in the beautiful garden of Studio Art College-Florence’s main building, Palazzo dei Cartelloni, a Renaissance-era palazzo that was remodeled in the 17th Century as a residence for the mathematician Vincenzo Viviani, who had been a pupil of the astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei.

 Michael Merrow, a junior majoring in Communications, was one of the students who used Italy’s Tuscan views, scenery, art and architecture to inspire their writing. “The creative writing study aborad course is an amazing way to gain cultural perspective,” said Merrow. “The art and lifestyle of Florecne provided great inspiration. This was truly a life changing experience.”

Colleen Deely, a junior majoring in Psychology, agreed: “Since taking this creative writing course, I’ve explored not only a new and beautiful place, but a different, more creative side of myself. Through my classmate’s inspiring stories and breathtaking surroundings, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and greater knowledge for Italian culture. This trip has really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and travel more!”

The group took intensive, creative writing workshops in the lovely Renaissance-era palazzo garden at SACI, where they also critiqued and edited each other’s original works of short fiction.

Somewhere in Tuscany.

“Florence is a great location for creative writers, as it’s not only a beautiful, historic and artistically rich city,” said Torockio. “Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is also centrally located in Italy, allowing the students to take lots of day trips almost anywhere throughout Italy.”

Abby Murren, a junior majoring in English, said the course was the one of the best adventures she will ever take: “As an English major with a concentration in creative writing, this course gave me the perfect opportunity to improve my writing while experiencing one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The amount of inspiration I had from experiencing Florence’s people, culture, and history only strengthened my love for writing, and I’m beyond grateful to have had that opportunity.”


Hiking-from-Vernazza-to-Monterosso

Guided by SACI art historians, the students also visited Italian destinations ranging from Fiesole to Siena, Venice, San

Gimignano, Lucca, Pisa the Amalfi Coast and the Colosseum in Rome. Trips to other European destinations included Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam and more, where the students visited museums, galleries and other cultural landmarks.

Students Sample the ‘Real World’ through Summer Internships

Samantha Honeywell is interning at Fox 17 News in Nashville–an opportunity she learned of thanks to Eastern alumnus Adam Wurtzel (right).

From radio stations to baseball stadiums, the efforts of Eastern students to enter the working world are evident this summer. With the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing an internship at the undergraduate level comes other benefits, such as resume enhancement, network building and skills development. Following are just a few of those students who are seizing their summer with an internship.

Business Administration major Joshua Lamoureux ’18 interns for The Nutmeg Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of Hall Communications Radio Group, at WILI radio station in Willimantic, CT. “I write scripts for ads in addition to recording radio voice promotions and advertisements for the AM and FM stations,” he said. “I also attend to marketing, research and copywriting tasks.”

Lamoureux’s favorite part of the internship is creating his own recordings and adding personal touches to them, like music selections and sound effects. “The skills I’m utilizing are important because I’m interested in pursuing a career in the same field.”

Samantha Honeywell ’20 is another student finding her place in broadcasting. A Communication major, she was introduced to her internship at Fox 17 News in Nashville, TN, by Eastern alumnus Adam Wurtzel ’07, a reporter on “Nashville Insider” and host of “The Nashouse.”

Honeywell assists multimedia journalists with reporting, filming and editing news packages. The fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment of the news industry has been enlightening to her. “Up until now I’ve been allowed to take my time on video editing projects. But here, there’s a completely different set up.”

Katherine O’Rourke is a housing operations intern at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Mathematics student Katherine O’Rourke ’19 also traveled out of state to fulfill her position as a housing operations intern at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Duties include managing work orders, conducting preventative maintenance by patrolling buildings, working with facilities and taking inventories.

“My favorite thing about my summer internship is exploring Philadelphia and working with new acquaintances. I also really enjoy getting to know how different schools function,” said O’Rourke. “As an aspiring student affairs professional, I think my internship is providing me with important experience in terms of the operations side of the field.”

Demitra Kourtzidis ’19, a Political Science and Economics double major, experienced similar professional growth during her time spent as an intern at the Office of Policy and Management in Hartford, CT.

“Because of my internship, I’ve learned that legislation is its own language — and I can now read and understand it,” she said. “My supervisor taught me about different political strategies and how small steps legislators take eventually end up as part of a bigger plan.”

Kourtzidis helped track legislation from early public hearings through passage in the House and Senate. She also took notes at public hearings and various agency meetings, tracked bills and amendments and attended House and Senate sessions to track bill status.

“My internship allowed me to learn about the behind-the-scenes political process,” she continued. “It taught me so much about politics and public policy, and is already proving to be useful in my academic career.” Kourtzidis is interested in a career as a public policy consultant. Moreover, she would like to pursue a doctorate in public policy so that she can become a college professor and conduct research.

Sport and Leisure Management major Madalyn Budzik ’19 is refining skills that will be useful in her potential career endeavors, as well. She is a field promotion intern for the Bristol Blues collegiate baseball organization based in Bristol, CT.

Budzik organizes all advertising sponsors and games, and works closely with the game announcer to ensure all event communications take place accurately and seamlessly. She also devises games and events for children attending games.

“It takes me out of my comfort zone in terms of public speaking because it requires me to speak in front of large groups of people,” she said. “I know this will help me in the future because I am building organizational and communication skills. Internships are important for students because they provide real-world, hands-on experience so they can decide whether they want to continue to pursue the career path they may be considering.”

Honeywell concurred, “Every student should do an internship, or more than one if possible, so that they can experience different scenarios and challenges that arise in their field.”

“Internships are invaluable for students,” concluded O’Rourke.

Written by Jordan Corey

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.”

Summer Research Institutes Expose Students to New Fields of Inquiry

Using motion-capture technology, the student in the background is rendered as a 3D image on the computer.

Eastern Connecticut State University held three inaugural Summer Research Institutes from May 14–18 to engage promising and high-achieving students in intensive, weeklong research programs pertaining to the fields of new media, network science and English. A fourth research institute for psychology occurred during the same time, although this has been an annual program.

The New Media Studies institute challenged seven students to develop a short film using motion-capture technology. The group made a three-minute noir-esque film that showed a 3D-rendered detective frog (the frog being a symbol of Willimantic) performing motion-captured actions such as drinking a martini, smoking a pipe and dancing.

Under the supervision of faculty members Kristen Morgan and Travis Houldcroft, as well as student mentor Zachary Parisella, students utilized a variety of motion capture equipment and animation software, including Motive, Blender, Adobe Premiere and After Effects, and Pro Tools for audio.

“In terms of the software, this project really forced me to utilize everything I know and consider solutions that I had never thought of before,” said Wasan Hayajneh ’19, who majors in new media studies and visual arts.

Students were also introduced to the fundamentals of animation post-production with an introduction to character visual design, voice-over recording, and the use of diegetic sound in an animated environment.

A student presents on his group’s network analysis of “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

The network science institute challenged nine students to perform network analyses of character interactions in a movie to evaluate a hypothesis about the movie’s social structure. Broken into three groups, the students analyzed “The Matrix Trilogy,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” and Disney’s “Mulan.” 

Under the supervision of professors Megan Heenehan (mathematics) and Garrett Dancik (computer science), and student mentor Haley Knox ’18, students found their movie’s script online, wrote code to extract information and analyze that script, then used the software Gephi to visualize their network analysis.

“Our initial hypothesis for ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ was incorrect,” said Oliver Chase, who majors in New Media Studies. “At first we thought that Edmund was the most important character, due to his connection to both sides of Narnia. However, we discovered that Peter in fact had more interactions and scenes than any other character.”

Professor Allison Speicher works with her research institute students.

The English research institute challenged 10 students to select a work of literature and then pair it with other works and sources to craft meaningful arguments. Under the mentorship of English Professor Allison Speicher and student mentor Jessica Maloney ’18, students used their pairings to devise research projects based on intertextual analyses.

English major Julia MacKinnon selected the novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, a story about the struggles of two women living in Afghanistan. She paired it with book reviews, other novels and historical texts.

“I researched people’s stereotypic views of Afghanistan and its refugees by looking at media depictions,” said MacKinnon. “I also researched the history of the country to get a better understanding of the wars and how the fighting affects civilian’s lives. Then I compared the novel to other works by Hosseini in order to understand his purpose for writing about Afghanistan. I also read critical readings about the text in order to learn what others concluded about the novel.”

Reflecting on the institute, Kaylee Blackwood ’20 said, “I realize now how deep the pursuit of research can be. You can take one topic, start simple, and fall so deep into research that you end up with 20-30 pages of knowledge and arguments to use to write an essay.”

A student presents on her project during the conclusion of the research institute.

For the psychology research institute, nine students were introduced to topics in sensation, perception and cognitive neuroscience. Students dissected cow eyeballs, explored taste by blocking perception of sweetness with the herb gymnema sylvestre, and explored visual processing by working with an eye-tracking device. They also learned how to search and review peer-reviewed literature, develop a research question and design an empirical study to answer that question. A poster presentation concluded their institute.

“My favorite part of this experience was learning to collect data from your own experiment and choosing the correct test to run the analysis,” said Genesis Ramon ’20, who researched how social media influences the eating behavior of women. “This has shown me the value of research and the hard work that goes into developing a research project.”

The institute was led by Psychology Professors Luis Cordón and Lyndsey Lanagan-Leitze, as well as student mentor Malvina Pietrzykowski ’18.

The Summer Research Institutes were born of the university’s mission to foster student success and retention through structured research and creative activity. The institutes were a product of Eastern’s Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity Council as well as the University Retention Committee.

To see all of the Summer Research Institute final projects, visit Eastern’s undergraduate research website.

Written by Michael Rouleau

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.

CREATE Conference Shows Breadth and Depth of Eastern Students

Written by Michael Rouleau

Displays of research and creativity filled the Student Center at Eastern Connecticut State University on April 13 for the annual CREATE conference. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier undergraduate conference of the academic year.

CREATE featured more than 200 students of all majors who led oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, music and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, as well as documentary viewings and new-media demonstrations.

Students give a musical performance.
A student gives an oral presentation.
Conference patrons peruse the CREATE art gallery.
Students give a theatrical performance.

 

“This conference really cements our slogan that Eastern offers a ‘liberal arts education, practically applied,’” said Brian Oakley, conference co-chair and professor of environmental earth science. “It’s evident when you look around and see the breadth and depth of the work being done by our students.”

“There is no event on campus more important than CREATE,” affirmed Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Some of the work on display represents three or four years of problem solving, testing and intellectual pursuit. This event is more than a source of pride; it’s a validation of our university’s mission.”

Midway through the conference, two students and two faculty members received awards for undergraduate research and faculty mentorship.

Julie Underhill ’18, who majors in labor relations and human resources management, and Tess Candler ’18, who double majors in political science and economics, received the undergraduate research awards. The faculty awards went to Underhill and Candler’s mentors, respectively: Business Administration Professor Niti Pandey and Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Award recipients Julie Underhill (middle) and Niti Pandey (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.
Award recipients Courtney Broscious (middle) and Tess Candler (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.

 

“Without the professors we cannot celebrate the success of the students,” reminded Provost Dimitrios Pachis, “and without the students we cannot celebrate the success of the professors. This is how the world works, the yin and the yang. With this sort of partnership, we create the future.”

The CREATE conference advances Eastern’s strategic plan by reinforcing high-impact practices such as mentored research and creative projects; increasing the percentage of students who present scholarly work; raising awareness of the accomplishments of Eastern students; and contributing to the intellectual richness of the campus community.