Eastern Presents Pedro Noguera

Noguera by TOMWritten by Dwight Bachman

“If we want to create a more equitable society, we must transform the way we teach our children.” That was the message that Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), drove home during his lecture to a packed house on Nov. 14 at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Speaking in the beautiful Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, Noguera was introduced by Jacob Easley, dean of Eastern’s School of Education and Professional Studies. “Dr. Noguera’s advocacy for educational equity is timely. We are delighted that community members and future educators alike are energized by his message. It is clear that sound pedagogy alone will not tip the scale to ensure that educational excellence is afforded to all children and youth. Advocacy, policy and practice have to work together.”

Noting that family income is the best predictor of student success, Noguera reiterated a point found in many of his published writings – if we want to see student academic performance improve, our society must deal with the root causes of poverty at the same time that we attempt to implement classroom reform.

Nogueara_Wide_shot_in_FAICPolicies such as “No Child Left Behind” still leave far too many children behind, said Noguera, especially children with the greatest needs. He offered numerous ways to close the achievement gap, arguing that equity is recognizing that not all students are the same; some need more time and help due to disadvantages. Equity is about fairness, giving all children the same opportunities.

Noguera also said schools should stop blaming students and accept responsibility for raising achievement in all students, not just the privileged. He called for an “equity lens” in addressing the challenge. “We are supposed to make sure all kids have a chance. Throughout the country, educating kids is a major challenge. School reform has been insufficient in paying attention to teaching and learning.”

The nationally recognized scholar lamented that, “Teachers today focus on control and passive learning, covering material, memorization, when they should be emphasizing engaged learning.” He encouraged the audience of students, faculty and staff from Eastern as well as those from area schools, to seek ways to recognize and develop excellence in students. “We must raise their confidence, competence and resilience . . . If we feed their curiosity, they become life-long learners and problem solvers.”

In sharing a variety of strategies he has observed in schools across the nation that can empower students to learn, Noguera said, “We have to stop treating the kids like inmates.” Innovations he endorsed included personalized lesson plans, team projects, simulations and other engaging teaching methods.

During a lively question and answer period, Noguera said society should reverse what is Noguera_in_FAIC_verticalcurrently happening – spending more money to keep young students in jail than to educate them. “We need to focus on student strengths rather than their deficits.”

He said it is in society’s own interests to invest in education, and he encouraged students to go into teaching “to make a difference, not to make money. Becoming an educator is to become a role model. To become a teacher is to become a life-long learner. We must be committed. We must have the passion for this work.”

Noguera recalled the 19th-century New England educator Horace Mann, who famously said, “Education is “is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery,” and said that we must continue to invest in teaching our children if we want social equity and a prosperous nation.

“Education is the solution to so many of the problems we face. If we invest in the education of kids, we will secure democracy in this country. The goal is to make sure everyone with different learning skills is getting a quality education. We must meet the needs of all kids. The cost of failure is simply too great.”

Prior to his current position at UCLA, Noguera served as the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University and the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools; the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and as professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also the director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change.

He began his career as a classroom teacher in Providence, RI, where he attended Brown University. Among Noguera’s published writings are the books “City Schools and the American Dream”, “Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation’s Schools” and “The Trouble With Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education.”

Noguera’s presentation celebrated the 10th year anniversary of Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education. The event was sponsored by Eastern’s School of Education and Graduate Studies, Office of Equity and Diversity, Windham Public School and Eastern’s Multicultural Leadership Council.


Eastern Shack-a-thon for Homelessness

•Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of Eastern Connecticut State University students emerged from frost-covered cardboard boxes on Thursday morning, Nov. 9, after spending a freezing night sleeping outside. The temperatures dipped into the 20s for the annual “Shack-a-thon,” a fundraising event for the Habitat for Humanity club that aims to raise awareness of substandard housing.

Duct-taped boxes, plastic lining and tarps littered Eastern’s main courtyard for the 24-hour event, which challenged club members to weather the elements like homeless people do.

“I was very glad to have layers,” said sophomore Bryan Duffy. Besides lacking warm clothing, he added, “A homeless person might not even have access to the supplies we had. Someone could easily die of hypothermia in their sleep.”

The students learned some tricks to keeping warm. “You want a small box, rather than a large one,” said Duffy, “as your body acts like a furnace and heats up the space.” A tarp on the ground and plastic coverings were key for keeping dry, and duct-taped edges helped to seal in the warmth and reinforce the structure.

Another challenge for Shack-a-thon participants was to eat only food that was donated. Luckily the students had the support of members of the Eastern community, who chipped in with snacks and pizza. But they recognized that if not for a few generous souls, their hunger levels would have been drastically different-another insight into the life of being homeless.

Shack-a-thon and the club’s other activities lead toward its yearly highlight: a spring break trip to the Carolinas where the students build houses with other Habitat for Humanity chapters. Club members have been honing their skills locally in preparation for the trip. They’ve been helping to construct a house on Ivan Hill Street in Willimantic throughout the fall semester.

As part of the Habitat for Humanity policy, the to-be homeowner has been building the house alongside the volunteers in what is called “sweat equity.” “It’s really heartwarming to see him and his kids walk around the rooms that I built,” said sophomore Genna Fritsch. “It’s amazing to see the kids excitedly say ‘this is going to be my room!'”

Habitat for Humanity partners with community members all over the world to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. With volunteer support, Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families.

Eastern’s Mama Authors Miracle Stories


Raouf Mama, professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, has recently authored “It was a Beautiful Day and Other Personal Quiet Miracle Stories,” an e-book published by WestBow Press.

The collection of powerful, inspirational stories captures personal, life-changing moments as it celebrates “the transmutation of sorrow into joy, of fear, despair and grief into a song of thanksgiving,” in the words of the author.  The book transcends Mama’s personal sense of gratitude for unexpected moments of grace in his life as it reaffirms the possibility of miracles in people’s daily lives.

The book taps into the universal appeal of miracles and invites readers to recognize and celebrate their own personal miracles, events that may otherwise pass unnoticed in their daily lives.

“In an era of widespread unbelief and skepticism, this book is an attempt to awaken the reader to a sense of the miraculous and the mysterious in the world and sounds a warning about the insufficiency of our senses as the exclusive basis for our judgment and our conclusions,” Mama adds.

Mama’s viewpoint on the issue of miracles is best expressed by an excerpt from his book:  “Dressed in my Sunday best, my car washed and waxed to a dazzling sheen, I set out to fetch my son. The sky was just as clear as it was two weeks earlier on Father’s Day, the air just as sweet, the day brighter still; but the joy that lifted and brightened my heart on that day, poetry and oratory will labor in vain to capture. One would have to envision the ecstasy the apostles must have felt after the agony of Good Friday, to get the full measure of my felicity.”

Mama is a distinguished professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University and an award-winning storyteller of international renown, the only one in the world today who tells in English, French, Yoruba and Fon folktales from his native Benin and other parts of the world.

Mama’s style of presentation blends stories with poetry, music and dance, and his publications include his memoir titled “Fortune’s Favored Child”, “Why Goats Smell Bad,” “Tropical Tales,” “Pearls of Wisdom” and “Why Monkeys Live In Trees,” winner of the 2008 National Multicultural Children’s Book Award.

Eastern’s Civic Action Conference

civic_action_conferenceWritten by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its second annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Center. The conference will focus on “service learning,” an educational strategy that aligns classroom learning with community efforts. Presentations will be delivered by service learning experts, including Eastern faculty and keynote speaker Rick Battistoni, who teaches public/community service studies at Providence College.

Morning presentations will occur in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center; afternoon presentations take place in the Student Center Theatre. The program schedule is as follows:

Registration is at 8:30 a.m. The conference will begin at 9 a.m. with a presentation on Eastern’s Civic Action Plan, followed from 9:30 to 11 a.m. by a presentation on “The Pedagogies of Service Learning.” A presentation on “The Collaborative Practice of Service Learning” will go from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by a break for lunch

From 1:30 to 3 p.m., “The Research and Creation of Service Learning” will be presented, followed by Battistoni’s keynote speech, “Community or Political Engagement? Education for Democracy in Troubled Times,” from 3 to 4 p.m.

The conference is free and open to the public, with attendees encouraged to come and go as their schedules permit. Advanced registration, which will include lunch, can be completed online at http://www.questionpro.com/a/TakeSurvey?tt=bu4pQryePUM%3D. Please register by Friday, Nov. 3. The Civic Action Conference is organized by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement.

Eastern’s Donaghy Launches ‘Here’

                                                Poetry Journal Touches on Rawness of Life

Written by Jordan Corey

Here_coverDaniel Donaghy, English professor at Eastern Connecticut State University and published author of five poetry collections, has always hoped to launch a national poetry magazine at Eastern. And now, it’s here, literally.

“Here” features 18 contributors, and to celebrate its first issue, Donaghy orchestrated two release readings. Speaking to the piece as a whole, he said, “‘Here’ bears witness to the human experience in all of its sorrows and glories.”

In addition to several Eastern students, seven “Here” poets partook in the first reading on Sept. 28, including Harry Humes, Jonathan Andersen, Charles Fort, Kileen Gilory, John Stanizzi, Joan Seliger Sidney and Pegi Deitz Shea. Their poems covered varying facets of their personal lives, incorporating genuine experiences and providing real-world commentary in the process. Many of the writers delivered thoughtful stories to give the audience insight, strengthening the meaning behind each piece. Fort, for instance, revealed something that changed his life forever – the sudden death of his wife.

•English Professor Daniel Donaghy presents at another poetry reading

English Professor Daniel Donaghy presents at another poetry reading

Fort’s wife was a dancer, he explained, and the two of them had always collaborated on artistic pieces, with her choreographing dances to his poetry. She was diagnosed only 40 minutes before the last performance she ever gave. Her absence became a focal point of Fort’s writing. “I remember waking up in the night thinking she was next to me,” he said, introducing his poem “Pathétique.”

Sidney is another writer who draws on details from her life in her writing. She is known for addressing the Holocaust, which her parents survived, and writing about living with multiple sclerosis. At the reading, Sidney talked about her time spent in Grenoble, France, and witnessing a girl named Anne Ruaud, the namesake for one of the poems she chose to read. Sidney told the audience that Ruaud went to school with her children and long suffered as a result of the societal pressure put on women to look a certain way. The poem describes her eating disorder and eventual deterioration.

•"Here" contributor Joan Seliger Sidney presents her poetry at a release reading

“Here” contributor Joan Seliger Sidney presents her poetry at a release reading

On the night of the second release reading on Oct. 5, students, poets and poetry lovers alike united once again to commemorate “Here.” Contributors in attendance included Sidney, Steve Straight, Fort and Stanizzi. While that evening the same rawness seen the first time around was present, the poets touched more deeply on today’s intense social and political climate.

Straight spoke on current affairs, saying, “I think the future of the world really depends on the individual actions of people … how people treat each other.” His poem, “The Future of the World, Part 2: Youth,” confronts this idea and the conflicted nature of someone who is unsure whether or not to have faith in society.

Both “Here” readings ultimately emphasized the importance of human connectedness, staying attuned to what is happening in the world and reworking heartfelt emotions into poetry, which have the power to resonate with people on personal levels – as the journal itself does.

Eastern Alumnus Wins NIH Award

Written by Jolene Potter

Staff portraits. Justin Brown, PhD.

Staff portraits. Justin Brown, PhD.

WILLIMANTIC, CT (10/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University alumnus Justin Brown ’09 was awarded the prestigious Early-Investigator Award by the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Office of Disease Prevention earlier this year for his innovative cancer prevention research. The award is made to an early-career prevention scientist who has made significant research contributions and is poised to become a leader in prevention research.

Brown is currently a research fellow in population sciences at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. The overarching mission of his research is to identify the biological pathways through which lifestyle factors – including physical activity, diet and body composition – influence cancer prognoses.

Consideration for the competitive Early-Investigator Award requires innovative and significant research accomplishments in applied prevention research, evidence of highly collaborative research projects, especially those that bridge disciplines to offer new approaches and ways of thinking in disease prevention research, and a track record of career advancement and evidence of leadership roles.

“It is an incredible honor for Justin to be recognized by the Office of Disease Prevention (ODP) as a 2017 Winner of the ODP Early Stage Investigator Award,” said Charles Chatterton, professor of kinesiology and physical education at Eastern. “We are all very proud of him and truly value the important, meaningful work he is doing. His dedication to this area of medicine inspires all of us.”

His research study, “A Phase II Randomized Clinic Trial to Evaluate the Dose-Response Effects of Exercise on Prognostic Biomarkers among Colon Cancer Survivors,” is among his publications in the area of cancer prevention. He has published more than 45 peer-reviewed papers in leading scientific journals, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and is an editorial board member of BMC Cancer, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on all aspects of cancer research, including the pathophysiology, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancers. In 2013, he received the citation award for authoring the most frequently cited paper in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Since receiving his bachelor’s degree in sport and leisure management from Eastern in 2009, Brown earned a master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Art Contest for Renewable Energy

Blending Public Artwork with Renewable Energy

Willimantic, CT —  The Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University is partnering with the Willimantic Whitewater Partnership (WWP), the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Office of the Arts and the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) to sponsor a design competition to create a new work of public art along the Willimantic River. The art piece must generate clean energy and will be built on the newly remediated plot of land adjacent to the river owned by WWP.

WWP envisions the site functioning as an urban green space connecting residents and visitors to the river and trails for recreational use. According to WWP President Jim Turner, “After the successful completion of a long remediation process, the site is now ready for the next step toward becoming a community asset. We are thrilled about the partnership we’ve formed with ISE, the state Office of the Arts and LAGI, and about the support we’re received from the town of Windham.

“The design competition promises to generate exciting new ways to think about the river and its role in town life. This project will highlight Willimantic as a place whose history and future are linked to renewable energy.”

The goals for the project include creating a striking visual place-making emblem (like the Frog Bridge) that generates its own power; providing a welcoming hub for hikers and cyclists; and drawing people and commerce to downtown Willimantic.

The design competition encourages a multi-disciplinary approach, soliciting entries from teams of architects, artists, engineers, graphic designers, scientists, landscape designers and students. Entrants have the opportunity to make innovative contributions to the ongoing recreational plans to connect the community to the river and be part of the overall economic revitalization of Willimantic.

An optional informational meeting will occur on Oct. 11, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Room of Eastern Connecticut T State University’s J. Eugene Smith Library. The meeting will also be video-recorded and posted online.

Responses to the Request for Qualifications” form are due by Nov. 10.  Three teams will be selected to submit a detailed concept design due Feb. 12. Each selected team will receive a $10,000 stipend. One of the three design concepts will be selected and built. For more information and for the Request for Qualifications form, please visit http://www.landartgenerator.org/lagi-willimantic.html.

Eastern Health Expo Set for Oct. 17

Written by Micheal Rouleau

health_expo 2017_flyerWILLIMANTIC, CT (10/06/2017) More than 50 health-related vendors will be at Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 17 for the university’s 25th Annual Health, Wellness and Benefits Expo. The expo will occur from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Attractions and health screenings will include chair massages by Changes at Hand Massage Therapy; STD tests by the Department of Public Health; demonstrations of child safety seat and “fatal vision” goggles by the Eastern police department; fitness screenings by the Hartford Healthcare Center for Healthy Aging; body posture and structural analysis by Hebron Family Chiropractic; a visit by the therapy dog known as “Bella the Pug”; and much more.

Vendors include local favorites like the Willimantic Food Co-Op and Mansfield Naturopath, as well as local hospitals, financial and insurance companies, and more.

The expo is organized by Eastern’s Student Health Services and the Office of Human Resources. For more information, contact Jane Neu, associate director of Student Health Services, at (860) 465-4528 or neuj@easternct.edu, or La Shawn McBride, coordinator of Human Resources at (860) 465-5220 or mcbridel@easternct.edu.

Eastern’s Dawson a Book Finalist

Written by Casey Collins

Dawson__Rare_LightEastern Connecticut State University Art and Art History Professor Anne Dawson has been announced as one of three non-fiction finalists for the 2017 Connecticut Book Awards. Dawson resides in Lebanon and her book, “Rare Light,” explores the life and career of American impressionist J. Alden Weir, an artist who created some of his most notable works while living in Windham.

The book is rated four-and-a-half out of five stars on Amazon, receiving numerous positive reviews from critics. Patricia McDonnell, Director of the Wichita Art Museum, had this to say: “Within a growing body of distinguished literature on American art, the volume sparkles with rich historical detail and fresh archival research. As editor and lead author, Anne Dawson makes a meaningful contribution to our knowledge of American impressionism through the lens of a finely focused study.”

“Rare Light” is one of 109 titles submitted for the Book Awards. There are awards in four categories – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young readers. Each category has been reviewed by a panel of five judges, all with substantial expertise in the literary arts. The books are reviewed over a course of three months, with each category being critiqued according to assigned criteria. Of the 109 books, only 17 were selected for the list of finalists. The final award winners will be announced on Oct. 22.

Dawson has been an Eastern faculty member for 24 years, and now serves as chair of the Art and Art History Department.

Prisca Dorcas is a Woke Brown Girl

                                                                  ‘I am a Mami’s Revolution’

Written by Jordan Corey

Prisca Dorcas

Prisca Dorcas

To be a “woke brown girl” in America is no easy task – just ask Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez, founder of the popular online platform “Latina Rebels.” Widely known as Prisca Dorcas, she is an acclaimed writer and activist from Nicaragua who focuses on the plights experienced by people of color in America. Dorcas visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 4 for a “University Hour” presentation titled “Dear Woke Brown Girl.”

Dorcas is uncompromising in her mission to protect and uphold the stories of her Latino community. With a lighthearted demeanor, she can be sharp with her language; an intentional behavior that stands in contrast to her conservative Pentecostal upbringing.

She shared that it wasn’t until graduate school when she was regularly around white people. Studying at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, she soon realized that she was not being treated the same as her peers. Dorcas recalled attending a party with a group of friends and one of them saying that they would never fight her, assuming she’d beat them up. “You know nothing about where I come from, yet you have very real assumptions about what this brown body does,” she explained to the Eastern students.

The first piece Dorcas shared, “Politics of Pigmentation,” highlighted this sort of stigmatization, centering on the idea that her “mami” always warned her about getting too much sunlight. “She is not telling me to stay out of the sun for a deep concern for my health,” she read. “My mami does not want me to be too brown.” It took years, Dorcas revealed, to love the color of her skin.

The writer consequently stressed how important it is to bring her mother, a brown woman who has adapted to the very oppressions that Dorcas fights, into the spaces that she has been to. She wants to do what her mother could not, but without alienating herself. She uses her and her grandmother as guides to non-linear logic, discussing societal issues in a story-like manner with no clear beginning or ending. “I am a mami’s revolution.”

Dorcas concluded by reading “Dear Woke Brown Girl.” She described the piece as something she needed to hear during those challenging times in graduate school. “Woke brown girl, do not let them take away your passion,” she spoke, “And boy will they try, without any compassion, to keep you down. But remember that without passion you will extinguish, and if for some reason you do, and you might, there will be other woke brown girls to pick you and light you up again.”