President Núñez Supports New Haven Promise

President Elsa Núñez

Eastern Connecticut State University President Elsa Núñez joined five other Connecticut university and college presidents on Feb. 1 to support the Fair Haven School, a neighborhood K-8 school on the east side of New Haven, CT.

“I am pleased to be able to attend the Fair Haven School Snowball event in support of college-bound students from New Haven,” said Núñez. “A number of students receiving New Haven Promise scholarships have chosen Eastern as their college of choice, and we are delighted to welcome them to our campus.  Expanding access to first-generation students is part of Eastern’s mission, and being an active partner in supporting New Haven Promise’s fund-raising efforts is a natural expression of our commitment.”

In addition to Núñez, other presidents who attended the event included Peter Salovey, president of Yale University; President Paul Broadie of Gateway Community College; Joe Bertolino, president of Southern Connecticut State University; President Judy Olian of Quinnipiac University; and President Zulma Toro of Central Connecticut State University.  U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro delivered remarks.

For more than a decade, the Fair Haven School has been encouraging neighborhood students to attend college through its annual Snowball celebration.  “Snowball focuses the students on college going through dance and movement and the universities throughout the state have participated by providing t-shirts, cheerleaders and mascots,’’ said New Haven Promise President Patricia Melton. “The participation of so many college presidents is new and exciting.”

Eastern Helps Hartford Deltas Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Eastern’s delegation (left to right): Dwight Bachman, public relations officer; Kayla Rose Thomas ’19 a communication major from Windsor; Morgan Russell ’19 a political science major from Hartford; Gov. Lamont; Stacey Close, associate vice president for equity and diversity; Katherine Atkinson, administrative assistant to Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Chelsy Popo ’19, a political science major from Manchester; Hanna Antoine ’22, a health sciences major from East Hartford; and Alyssa Lawrence ’22, a sociology major from East Hartford

Several Eastern staff and students attended the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast at the Connecticut Convention Center on Jan. 21. Dr. King would have been 90 years old this year. 

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, State Treasurer Shawn Wooden, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, and Johana Hayes, the first African American woman elected to Congress from Connecticut, were among the many dignitaries in attendance.  Lamont promised the packed ballroom that he would create a diverse cabinet and state government that would work to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.

Since 1984, the Deltas have provided scholarships totaling $365,000 to upwards of 150 African American female high school students to support their college education.

Eastern’s New PASS Program Offers ‘Academic Reset’ for Students

Academic advisors and study-skills specialists in Easterm’s Advising Center help students develop individualized action plans.

Eastern Connecticut State University is going the extra mile to ensure that African American and Hispanic students who end up on academic probation are provided the support they need to succeed. The new PASS (Promoting Academically Successful Students) program is funded through a $75,000 grant from the Connecticut State Office of Higher Education.

PASS recognizes that African American and Hispanic college students are often first-generation college students without college-educated parents to provide support and personal knowledge of what it is like to attend college. Trying to juggle supporting a family, working to pay for tuition, room and board, and books, and studying can be stressful. Adjusting to campus life is also a challenge. The result can be academic probation and can even lead to dropping out.

PASS is managed by Eastern’s Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning (CSEL) in collaboration with the Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD) and Eastern’s Advising Center. The program uses a hands-on advising model and an active career development program to inform students of available support services.

“While the PASS Program’s immediate goal is to return participants to good academic standing by the end of the semester, its ultimate goal is to reset how students perceive themselves academically and professionally so they put in place learning practices that will sustain them through to graduation,” said June Dunn, assistant dean in the Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning. 

Dunn says PASS helps students take charge of their own learning. “This is particularly crucial for first-generation students on probation who may not have family members or mentors who are college graduates to prepare them for college success. They have repeatedly heard it’s important to get good grades, and they will tell anyone who asks that their intention is to get good grades. What’s unique about Eastern’s PASS program is that we are putting in place the infrastructure that helps students internalize the connection between their education and career goals,” said Dunn.

PASS requires weekly mandatory advising sessions, skill development workshops, and group meetings for all participating students to review their schedules and make any necessary adjustments. Academic advisors and study skills specialists help students develop individualized action plans that may include more appropriate course selection and/or majors Students must show how they plan to keep up with coursework and meet professor expectations.

Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development helps students internalize the connection between their education and career goals.

The CICD also has an important role. “Participating students have to take the FOCUS 2 assessment, and then come into the office to meet with a career advisor to assess results,” said Cliff Marrett, CIDC director. “The assessment helps each students identify a major and explore career clusters that align with their interests. Students work with their career advisor and check in weekly after they complete their career development assigned tasks.”

Participating students also attend workshops on resume development, interviewing skills and dressing for success, and use interactive online job search tools and mentoring programs to connect to potential employers and alumni mentors.  “We believe this rigorous academic/career routine will ensure the motivation needed for students to come off and remain off academic probation,” said Dunn.

by Dwight Bachman

Bacholle and He Wrap up Fall Faculty Scholars Forum

French Professor Michèle Bacholle                                                                        Gary Bozylinsky Photography

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern faculty continue to showcase their scholarship on a wide range of research topics, which they share during lunch presentations at the Faculty Scholars Forum.

On Dec. 5, French Professor Michèle Bacholle ended the fall series of presentations by creating an interactive discussion on “Suicide Survivors or Captivating Your Audience with Counter-Presentations.” Bacholle asked audience members to play her version of the television of “Family Feud.”

Bacholle, as an activist from the feminist “Party of the Circle,” in her counter-presentation on Chloé Delaume’s “The Republic’s Witches,” U. of Guelph, Canada, April 2018

Questions focused on suicide and suicide loss, a topic Bacholle has been writing on for the past five years. Bacholle then explained that “counter-presentations” are performances based on serious research, the goal of which is to keep the audience engaged and more likely to retain information. Bacholle showed how counter-presentations can be effective at conferences and in the classroom.

Kedan He

On Nov.14, Kedan He, assistant professor of physical sciences, gave a presentation titled “From Quantum to Classical Mechanics, the Application of Computational Chemistry to Understand, Predict, and Design.” She presented on computational chemistry and how it could be applied to understand, predict and design chemical systems. Computational chemistry is a branch of chemistry that uses computer simulation to assist in solving chemical problems.

This is an interdisciplinary field that merges chemistry and physics, theoretical chemistry, computer science, as well as data science, and uses efficient computer programs to calculate the structures and properties of molecules and solids.

Professor He explained the difference between classical and quantum mechanics, how each physics law is used in answering chemistry-related questions, and the advantages and disadvantages of both methods. She then demonstrated the application of using Ab Initio electronic computation in illustrating the difference between the thermodynamics vs. kinetic control of a chemical reaction. She demonstrated how high-accuracy computation, in conjunction with cutting-edge experimental techniques, discovers the third reaction mechanism – “Tunneling control.” Under this mechanism, she said, the reactant with extremely low thermal energy can penetrate a narrow activation barrier and produce the unexpected product.

The second half of her talk focused on molecular docking, one of the most commonly used methods of the computer-aided drug design. The computer-aided drug design takes advantage of the freely available database on protein structures and drug-like small molecules, using a fast screening process to help identify possible drug candidate, and reduces the time required in developing new drugs. In the structure-based drug design approach, she said, the structure of a target protein is well characterized. The target protein and small drug molecule candidates are docked to simulate the interaction pose. The interaction binding affinity between the protein and small molecules are also calculated using molecular-docking software to identify the best performing drug molecule candidates. 

Visiting Professor Discusses Animal Rights

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Eastern Connecticut State University welcomed S.P. Morris, a professor at Miami University in Ohio, on Nov. 28 for the final University Hour event of the semester. Morris discussed his latest research surrounding the ethics of interspecies sport, prompting audience members to contemplate the value of non-human life.

Morris began by examining a “second world” humans have created — the world of gaming — where they engage in “voluntary attempts to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” He said that non-human animals are often brought into this second world.

“We make them objects in a game,” he said. “But they are not just objects, they are subjects as well.” Morris explored different ways in which animals are utilized for entertainment, including big-game hunting, whaling and bullfighting. In exploring the issue of ethics, he noted that identifying the motive behind these actions is significant. “This is not about sustenance. This is about culture.”

Morris added: “The human ability to think and reason remains unparalleled.” He raised questions about how much objectification should be considered too much, along with questions of consent when it comes to incorporating animals into sports and games. “Most things exist on a spectrum,” he said. “How do you decide? It depends.”

Morris argued that humans reach for cognitive dissonance — psychological stress experienced by someone who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values — and find it through pretending that animals are less of a subject of a life than they are. “Harm in the context of a game is always optional,” he concluded.

Eastern’s Bergstrom-Lynch Runs in Honor of Domestic Violence Survivors

Despite the rainy weather, thousands of runners participated in the Hot Chocolate Run on Dec. 2, with Eastern’s Cara Bergstrom-Lynch among the top 10 fundraisers event wide.

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (12/05/2018) Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, sociology professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, participated in a road race on Dec. 2 to honor the late Alyssiah Wiley, an Eastern sophomore who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2013. The Hot Chocolate Run is an annual fundraiser in Northampton, MA, to benefit Safe Passage, an organization dedicated to providing support for victims of domestic violence or relationship abuse.

This year marks the sixth consecutive year that Bergstrom-Lynch has participated in the Hot Chocolate Run to help raise awareness of intimate partner violence. This year, she raised $1,815, making her the 10th highest fundraiser out of a pool of more than 6,300 participants. She has raised more than $8,000 for Safe Passage in the past six years, thanks to the generosity of friends, family and dozens of Eastern faculty, staff and alumni.

Alyssiah Wiley

Wiley’s murder at the hands of her ex-boyfriend not only impacted Bergstrom-Lynch, but the entire Eastern community. “All of us know someone who has been impacted by intimate partner violence, and many of us have experienced it ourselves,” she said.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence and stalking.

Bergstrom-Lynch hopes to continue honoring Wiley’s memory for years to come at the Hot Chocolate Run. “It’s a wonderful event that raises money to provide peace, safety and justice for survivors of domestic violence,” she said. “I am honored to participate.”

This year’s Hot Chocolate Run raised more than $628,000 for Safe Passage. The organization provides shelters, legal assistance and counseling services for adults and children who have experienced violence in their homes. Since 1977, they’ve helped thousands of women and families achieve safety, build justice, and rebuild their lives in the wake of domestic violence.

For Eastern students who are seeking assistance or support, please contact Eastern’s Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT). Additionally, the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) has a 24/7 telephone line at 888-774-2900.

Governor-Elect’s Policy Summit Hosted at Eastern

Governor-elect Ned Lamont

Written by Michael Rouleau

Nearly 500 people convened on Eastern’s campus on Nov. 27 for Governor-elect Ned Lamont’s public policy summit. The gathering consisted of the incoming administration’s transition team as well as concerned citizens from a range of economic sectors and political affiliations. Fifteen policy committees met across campus with the goal of establishing a roadmap for the incoming governor.

President Elsa Núñez welcomed Lamont and gave the opening remarks. “’Public’ is the most important aspect of our mission,” she said to the Betty R. Tipton Room audience in the Student Center. “We at Eastern build a middle class for Connecticut; that’s really the business we’re in.”          

Núñez applauded Lamont’s emphasis on jobs, workforce and economic development, and cited Eastern’s partnership with Cigna — in which students work a paid on-campus internship that often leads to full-time employment — as a prime example of how higher education and industry can work together.    

Lt. Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz

Speaking of the transition team, Lt. Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz said, “We’ve brought together smart, competent, experienced people. You’re here to help us develop a roadmap to move our state forward.”

“This is a fresh start for Connecticut,” said Lamont. “I hope the outcome of today’s work is not just a nice report that gathers dust on a bookshelf.”

The policy committees concerned a range of issues, including transportation, energy, education, health care, human services, criminal justice, jobs/economy, women, environment, digital strategy, agriculture, shared services, arts/culture/tourism, housing and public safety.

The policy summit recommendations and transition memos from various commissioners in the current administration will be used by Lamont and his team to craft a plan of action in the coming weeks. “I’m looking like a laser beam at ways we can impact economic development in Connecticut,” Lamont said.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Faculty Present in 3 October Scholars Forums

Ari de Wilde

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern faculty continue to share their prolific scholarship with the campus community during the University’s Faculty Scholars Forum. In the month of October, three professors shared fascinating research on the underworld of professional bike racing, how service to community can enhance faculty scholarship, and the evolving artistic work of how women are now depicted in Persian art.

On Oct. 31, Ari de Wilde, associate professor of kinesiology and physical education, presented “Splinters, Snake Oil and Six Days: Collusion and Underworld Politics in Early 20th Century Professional Bicycle Racing.”

Today, professional cycling is marred by doping scandals and corruption, scenarios that de Wilde says are portrayed as new by the popular media. He argues that these realities are not new behaviors and could be found in the thriving, professional racing circuit of America’s early 20th century, noting that “while underworld-related actives are rarely formally recorded, close reading of autobiographies, newspaper accounts and other descriptions can yield tremendous insight into this world.” 

On Oct. 17, John Murphy, lecturer in the Communication Department; Nicolas Simon, sociology lecturer; Art Professor Terry Lennox; and Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement, examined “Community Engagement as a Path to Faculty Development.” Topics ranged from Simon’s discussion of his scholarly research based on community engagement to Silcox’s overview of the Center for Community Engagement and how the center supports faculty through service learning course development. Faculty interested in learning more are encouraged to contact the center at (860) 465-4426.

On Oct. 3, Afarin Rahmanifar, lecturer in the Art and Art History Department, shared her work on “Women in Persian Poetry, Storytelling and Painting.” Rahmanifar said to understand her work, one must understand Iranian history. Until the 20th century, traditional painting, art, poetry and writing in Iran were dominated by men. Women were often portrayed in art without power or authority.

Afarin Rahmanifar

In 1932, Reza Shah, the first Shah of Iran and father of Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, passed a law that forced women to take off their veils. From 1945-1979, Rahmanifar says there were a huge effort to modernize the country and create an educational system.  After the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini made it mandatory for women to wear the hejab again.

Rahmanifar’s work primarily reflects her experience living in exile from Tehran, where she grew up in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution. Her art reflects an interest in telling stories about women in repressed societies who are involved in politics, culture and religion. Rahmanifar’s most recent project is “Women of the Shahnameh,” which is a result of her reading “The Book of Kings (“Shahnameh”) by Persian poet Ferdowsi, who lived 1,000 years ago.

“His epic stories shape women as active and who play participatory and even leading roles in leadership and decision making in Iranian society,” said Rahmanifar.  “Women are presented as lively figures, warm, with intellect who dare to exercise liberties and do not fear death. . . Within my work, I’ve attempted to not only create images from my inspired reading of (Ferdowsi’s) stories, but also to break the conventional wisdom and messages of earlier historical miniature paintings.”

Eastern Students ‘Take Back the Night’ Against Sexual Assault

Take Back the Night keynote speaker Michael Bidwell of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut spoke with students about using their voices to take a stand against sexual assault.

Written by Jolene Potter

Eastern Connecticut State University students, faculty and staff took a stand against sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of interpersonal violence in October with a series of events focused on increasing awareness and response to survivors.

The events were hosted in collaboration with the Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, Women’s Center and Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT), illustrating the collective approach of Eastern in addressing interpersonal violence.

Sexual violence and domestic violence are major public health concerns that plague communities and families across the nation and the globe. The statistics are staggering – every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

On Oct. 23, Eastern hosted 2, 90-minute sessions of Students Fight Back, a program that teaches tools for bystander intervention, awareness, personal safety, intuition and the basics of self-defense. The motto for the program was “The best fight is the one never fought.” Acknowledging survivors attending the program, keynote speaker Nicole Snell said, “We want to help survivors work through their trauma and reclaim their personal power.”

Nicole Snell of Girls Fight Back presented “Students Fight Back,” a gender-neutral class about using you intuition, being an active bystander and consent.

The program also provided an in-depth discussion of consent, including how consent is clear, unambiguous and verbal. “Firstly, silence is not consent,” said Snell. “‘No’ is a complete sentence. Anything said afterwards is a negotiation and there is no negotiation with people who don’t respect our boundaries.” Students gained a clear understanding of consent as ongoing, verbal, coherent and retractable at any time.

Students Fight Back encourages students to define their own personal boundaries and safety. “You are the expert of your own personal safety,” said Snell. “Who better than you to make decisions about your safety?”

On Oct. 29 from 6-8 p.m., Eastern held Take Back the Night, a march, rally and speak-out for survivors and allies of sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence. Take Back the Night is an international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence.  

“Intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking are a huge problem in this country, causing victims, as well as witnesses and bystanders, in every community to suffer incalculable pain and loss,” said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of Eastern’s Unity Wing and SAIV-RT. “It is important that we come together and take action on spreading the word and educating each other about these issues.”

The event has grown significantly from prior years, with a line of students outside of the Student Center Theatre wanting to support survivors and share their stories. “It is incredibly moving to see so many people show up to support survivors of violence,” said a student who shared her experience with the crowd. “When survivors speak out, even despite immense fear, they put a face and a story behind issues that are often shrouded in statistics or silenced altogether. It is an extremely courageous thing for anyone to do.” 

Support persons from Eastern’s SAIV-RT, Women’s Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Police Department attended the event to inform students of available resources and stand in solidarity with survivors of trauma.

For the Clothesline Project, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence made t-shirts to show support for those impacted by interpersonal violence.

Eastern also collaborated with multiple local organizations and non-profits to increase the network of support for students. Sexual assault crisis counselors and advocates from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut (SACCEC) were also in attendance, including college advocate Allison Occhialini, who offered support to survivors who shared their stories.

SACCEC is a private, non-profit agency offering free and confidential services to victims of sexual assault and abuse through crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling and prevention, and community education.

Representatives from the United Services Domestic Violence Program also attended to offer services and words of encouragement to students who may be struggling with or know someone in a domestic violence situation.

United Services provides the only domestic violence shelters and services in Northeastern Connecticut. They offer a wide array of services designed to respond to the needs of domestic violence victims and their children throughout their journey to become free of abuse.

Although Take Back the Night is usually an annual program held in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Eastern’s community united to offer the event in October as well in commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “We wanted to offer the program again this fall because we all have a role in hearing survivors and ending interpersonal violence on campus,” said Byrum.

As a visual display of survivor support, Eastern also launched the Clothesline Project. Displayed from Oct. 25-31, the project displays shirts with messages and illustrations designed by survivors of sexual assault, dating violence and domestic violence. The purpose of the project is to increase awareness, destabilize stereotypes about “victims,” celebrate survivor strength and to provide another avenue to courageously break the silence that often surrounds these experiences.

College Democrats Bring Ned Lamont to Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont visited Eastern on Oct. 30 for a meet-and-greet organized by the student organization College Democrats. To a large audience in the Student Center Café, Lamont discussed his platform and fielded questions by students. 

Club president Alex Thompson ’20 opened the event by reminding the audience that Eastern is a non-partisan institution that does not endorse any political candidate. The mission of College Democrats is to inform students about the democratic process and to promote intelligent political discourse.

Lamont opened by listing his support for gun-law reform, Obamacare, public transportation and the state’s public university system. He emphasized his goals to retain Connecticut residents and to foster a strong job market for young people entering the workforce.

“There are a lot of great jobs in Connecticut right now,” assured Lamont. “Identify what you want and put your shoulder to the wheel. It’s a great time to be in Connecticut.”

During the Q&A portion of the event, students asked Lamont’s take on the opioid epidemic, renewable energy and support for undocumented students. Lamont answered that Connecticut should be a leader in creative tactics to address opioid abuse; that the state’s Energy Efficiency Fund should be restored; and that he sympathizes with the plight of undocumented families.

Members of College Democrats pose for a photo with Ned Lamont.

One student asked about the government’s role in creating jobs, to which Lamont answered: “The government doesn’t create jobs; it creates an environment where jobs can grow.”

Lamont claims he will foster this environment by enabling a highly skilled and educated workforce and by “bringing all stakeholders to the table, including business and labor, democrats and republicans.”

Another student asked about STEM jobs — science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Lamont agreed that Connecticut’s workforce needs to possess STEM skills, but also that the liberal arts are important.

“We need to learn how to continue learning,” he said of the soft skills developed through the liberal arts. “Your job will change over the course of your career. You need to be able to change with the industry.”

Lamont was brought to campus via the outreach efforts of the College Democrats. “A lot of young people in college assume that politicians don’t care about them,” said club member Demitra Kourtzidis ’19, a political science major and Spanish minor. “This has shown us that when you reach out to them, they’ll follow through, especially if they’re trying to get your votes.”

Another club member, Jackson DeLaney ’21, mentioned that some of the important issues for college-aged people include paying off student debt and getting a good job — better yet, a good job in the state.

A political science major and communication minor, DeLaney is interested in working on political campaigns after college. “It would be great to help elect officials in the state that I grew up in.” 

For the past several months, College Democrats have been canvassing the Eastern campus, encouraging students to vote. “We’ve gone to all the residence halls, all the busy buildings on campus,” said Kourtzidis. “Our goal is to get every Eastern student to turn out and vote.”

Lamont closed with, “It’s said that 80 percent of 80-year-olds vote and 20 percent of 20-year-olds vote. Get out there and vote!”