Eastern Named to Princeton Review’s 2020 ‘Best Colleges’ Guide

Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized by in the Princeton Review in its “2020 Best Colleges” guide for the Northeast region. Featured schools were chosen based on survey results from 140,000 students across the country. Eastern was praised for its small class sizes, close-knit campus community and affordability. 

Home to 5,200 students annually, Eastern students come from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, along with 29 other states and 20 other countries. The 16:1 student to faculty ratio encourages group discussions and teamwork. Eastern offers 41 majors and 59 minors, with a liberal arts curriculum that’s rooted deep in the school’s mission to provide students with a well-rounded education. Eastern was also ranked among the top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2020 Best College ratings.

Eastern also offers 18 NCAA Division III sports teams, more than 90 registered student organizations and 17 honors societies. Eastern’s athletic mission is to emphasize values such as diversity, sportsmanship, health, wellbeing and equity. Eastern hosted its annual President’s Picnic and Student-Club Fair. In spring of 2019, more than 50 percent of Eastern students participated in at least one club. Clubs with the highest membership last semester were Eastern Outdoors Club, Freedom at Eastern and People Helping People. Eastern is also home to student services such as the Womens Center, LGBT support groups and minority support groups. Eastern was awarded the ‘Green Campus’ Status by Princeton Review for the ninth year in a row in fall 2018.

Written by Molly Boucher

Courant Names Eastern a ‘Top Workplace’

For the eighth time the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With almost 1,000 employees, Eastern ranked 10th in the “large” category, and was the only public higher education institution recognized among 60 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 22 in the Hartford Courant.

“We are honored to be recognized once again as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern’s President Elsa Núñez. “Even though Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our university has always prided itself on being a close-knit community and a welcoming, inclusive campus for students, faculty and staff. The Courant’s announcement reminds us that Eastern is a stable, inspiring place for our faculty and staff to come to work each day, and a supportive learning environment for our students. I am very pleased that we were among those recognized.”

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by Energage, LLC, a research and consulting firm that has conducted employee surveys for more than 50,000 organizations. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations. This year’s Courant survey surveyed 29,000 employees across the state.

The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.

To honor all “Top Workplaces,” The Hartford Courant held its annual awards program on Sept. 19 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, CT, where it announced the top workplaces in each category.

Written by Vania Galicia

Goddard, Shafer Halls Reopen to New Look and Purpose

Shafer exterior
Shafer cafe
Shafer residence
Shafer lounge
Shafer kitchen lounge
Goddard KPE lab
Goddard KPE lab
Goddard psychology lab

 

Two fabled buildings on the Eastern campus reopened their doors this fall semester after undergoing extensive renovations for more than a year. Shafer Hall, formerly home to the university’s fine arts programs, has been transformed into a loft-style residence hall. Goddard Hall, the university’s first facility devoted to science, has been outfitted with fresh labs and technology and finished with a contemporary interior.

Constructed in 1946, Shafer Hall remains one of Eastern’s most historic buildings. While major renovations have converted it into a residence hall, the building retains its original glazed block arches, wooden benches lining the hallway and other classic touches. The original lobby’s raised paneling was restored and continues to serve as an entrance to the newly remodeled auditorium and café.

The building has capacity for 91 residents. The residential suites include single apartments with kitchenettes, sitting areas, breakfast bars and lofts for bedroom furniture. Three- and four-person suites feature private bedrooms, kitchens and separate bath and toilet facilities.

The former Harry Hope Theatre will soon be reopened as a gym for students campus wide. Other building highlights include a game room, a kitchen lounge where students can gather to cook group dinners, as well as computer, study and meeting rooms.

All new mechanical systems, electrical, plumbing, sprinklers, data connectivity, windows, floors and roofing meet the university’s high standards for safety, technology and minimal environmental impact. The renovation was designed in accordance with Connecticut High Performance Building Regulations, which closely align with the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification standards.

The project was funded by bonds from the Connecticut Health & Educational Facilities Funds Authority (CHEFA) at a cost of $24.6 million. Construction began in August 2018. The architect was Stantec and the contractor was O&G Industries Inc.

The newly reopened Goddard Hall marks the completion of the Goddard/Communication Renovation Project—the Communication Building reopened in fall 2018. The adjoining buildings now represent a modernized academic complex home to several departments.

Completely gutted and rehabbed, Goddard includes fresh labs, classrooms and offices. There’s a suite of six labs for the Psychology Department as well as a lab for the Kinesiology and Physical Education Department, outfitted with an interactive wall and workout equipment for research.

The building also has new HVAC, plumbing, sprinkler and heating systems. New windows and improvements to the exterior make the building more energy efficient, also aligning it with Connecticut High Performance Building Regulations.

The two-phased Goddard/Communication project was funded by state-appropriated bond funds at a cost of $21.7 million. Goddard construction began in May 2017. The architect was MDS National Inc. and the contractor was PDS Engineering & Construction Inc.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern a Top 25 Public Regional University in U.S. News and World Report

The class of 2023 gathered for a group photo during the Fall 2019 Warrior Welcome weekend–Eastern draws students from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns

 Eastern Connecticut State University is again the highest ranked institution among Connecticut’s four state universities in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s edition of “Best Colleges.” The 2020 rankings were released on Sept. 9.

This is Eastern’s highest ranking ever as it was ranked 21st among public universities in the North Region. Eastern moved up five spots among public institutions over last year’s rankings and moved up 13 spots when both public and private institutions were considered.

Under the mentorship of Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan, Roshani Budhathoki ’19 was selected for an undergraduate fellowship by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB).

.The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, and is known as the most competitive among the four regions that make up the U.S. News and World Report ranking system.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked based on 15 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, class size, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

“Given the uncertain times facing the higher education community, I am delighted to see Eastern achieving its highest ranking ever,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “This is a testament to our commitment to high standards and the faculty and staff’s focus on providing students with personal attention. Our improved ranking this year is due to our rising graduation and retention rates as well as the continued quality of our incoming classes.

 Environmental earth science students traveled to the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho this summer for a geology field course led by Eastern faculty.:

“Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college. These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high-quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of upwards of 1,400 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2020 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 15.

For the past 35 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Written by Ed Osborn

Psychology Researchers Publish on Human, Pigeon Suboptimal Choice

James Diller

Eastern Connecticut State University Psychology Professor James Diller and recent graduate Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19 were published in Springer’s “Learning and Behavior Journal” on Aug. 19 for their research titled “Human and Pigeon Suboptimal Choice.” The research looked at the completion of similar tasks by humans and pigeons to determine whether non-human performance can serve as a model for human gambling research.

The project was designed by Diller’s undergraduate mentor, Maggie McDevitt of McDaniel College, who ran the pigeon component of the experiment. Pietrzykowski, a former student of Diller’s, ran the human subject experiment. Students from McDaniel College’s psychology department also assisted with data collection.

To determine whether pigeons could serve as a model to observe the way humans behave when gambling, the researchers carried out two sets of experiments that evaluated both human and pigeon behavior. The task for pigeon subjects involved each pigeon choosing between two different color-lit keys by pecking at them. Each key allowed the pigeons to access food for a certain amount of time depending on the color—blue for 10 seconds; red for 0. Two other colors consistently allowed the pigeons to access food for three seconds.

Eastern graduate Malvina Pietrzykowski ’19 presents the project’s research poster at the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conference.

The task assigned to the human subjects consisted of humans playing a computer game that awarded points depending on the color they chose. Like the pigeon experiment, each color had a set point value and subjects had to choose a color to earn points.

The results of the experiments showed that the pigeon subjects chose to “gamble,” or test their luck, more often than humans and that humans did share some patterns with pigeons when it came to “gambling.” However, although the results of the experiments suggest that humans and pigeons can behave similarly when assigned tasks that include a suboptimal choice, Diller concluded that more research must be done to truly determine whether pigeons are good subjects to test in comparison to human gambling behavior.

Diller commented on the experience, “It has been a lot of fun working across ‘academic generations’ on this project. I think this type of thing underscores the value of research experience and mentorship for students.” Speaking to his mentor and research colleague, he added, “If it weren’t for Maggie, I know I wouldn’t be at Eastern, and I’m proud to pass that type of experience on to Malvina and my other students.”

To see the full paper, see Springer’s website at https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13420-019-00391-8. 

Written by Vania Galicia

Students Research Food Culture in Italy and Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Students visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa and climbed the 294 marble steps to the top!

From June 9-29, eight Eastern Connecticut State University students studied “Cross-Cultural Psychology of Food” in Florence, Italy, with Assistant Professor of Psychology Jenna Scisco. Students learned about eating behaviors and the differences between Italian and American food culture by visiting an olive oil farm, a goat farm, a community garden, a butcher shop, restaurants and food markets.

Students visited the Orti Dipinti educational garden where they learned about sustainable food practices.

Students also took in lectures on Italian cuisine and the slow food movement and participated in food tastings and cooking classes. Through these engaging activities, the students learned that Italian food is fresh, seasonal and regional. Italians value being able to prepare their own food, love to eat and are passionate about their food. Food is meant to be shared in Italy; an important flavor in Italian cooking is family and friends!

At Orti Dipinti educational garden, students made fresh pesto from their handpicked herbs, such as pineapple and apricot sage.

The students’ primary research project was a comparison of meals they observed in the United States and Italy. These hands-on field observations immersed them in the local culture and allowed them to explore differences in types of foods consumed and eating behaviors across the two cultures. Students also completed a report on the use of food in artworks displayed in the Uffizi, Accademia and Bargello galleries. They also wrote a report on the unique characteristics of Italian food labels found on products in grocery stores.

Dr. Scisco led a lecture on food culture atop Piazzale Michelangelo with sunset views of Florence.

While exploring Florence, Eastern students climbed to the top of the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), enjoyed beautiful views of the Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio, took in the sunset from the Piazzale Michelangelo and visited beautiful churches such as the Santa Croce Basilica. Students also had the opportunity to explore other cities in Italy with a climb up the Leaning Tower of Pisa and an overnight trip to Venice.

by Dwight Bachman

Escoto Named Alumnus of the Year by Loma Linda University

Carlos Escoto, associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University, was recently named 2019 Alumnus of the Year by Loma Linda University’s School of Behavioral Health. Escoto accepted the award on June 16 in Loma Linda, CA.

Born and raised in Orange County, CA, Escoto earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chapman University and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology from Loma Linda University.

He was recognized for outstanding performance in his roles as a researcher, administrator, educator and colleague. “Dr. Escoto, you honor us with your dedication to excellence,” said Bev Buckles, dean of Loma Linda’s School of Behavioral Health. “We look forward to the opportunity to present you with this award.”

Escoto moved to Connecticut and joined the Eastern faculty in 2002. With a primary focus on student success, Escoto has mentored many students through independent research projects. He received a teaching award in 2007 and has also published on the topic of pedagogy.

Professor Escoto (left of podium) accepts the Alumnus of the Year award at Loma Linda.

He’s served as chair of the University Curriculum and Faculty Development Committees as well co-chair of the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee. He’s served on search committees for the provost and dean of students positions. Currently he is chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences.

Dr. Escoto is also the coordinator of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, a position he’s held since 2013. During that time, research activities and opportunities for presenting at conferences have dramatically increased across Eastern’s undergraduate student body. Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for participation at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research this past April in Georgia — the only school from New England to make the list. Eastern students routinely represent Connecticut at the highly selective Posters on the Hill conference in Washington, D.C. And this May, two students presented in Germany at the second annual World Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Off campus, Escoto has served as the associate editor for the Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research. He is an elected councilor in the Psychology Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), as well as an executive board member of the CUR at large.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Research Institutes Help Young Students to Identify as Scholars

David Porter ’20 presents “Overlooking How to Fish: How Chris Yates’ Contributions to Modern Day Transcendentalism Have Yet to be Recognized” in the English SRI.

Summer vacation was delayed for four groups of Eastern students who immediately followed the end of the school year with intensive, weeklong research programs on campus. From May 20–24, four Summer Research Institutes (SRIs) engaged select, up-and-coming students in projects pertaining to the fields of psychology, English, political science and network science.

Speaking to the goal of the SRIs, Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious said, “We want to engage students earlier in their academic careers. We want to immerse them in applied research at a younger age and help them to think of themselves as scholars.”

Political science SRI students and faculty pose for a group photo outside of Webb Hall.

Led by Broscious and Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas, the political science SRI challenged first- and second-year students to develop research proposals for projects they will carry out during the academic year. Using applied research methods, the students determined individual topics of inquiry, conducted preliminary research and wrote proposals.

Sophomore Griffin Cox’s research proposal concerns the campaign rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election and how President Trump’s language compares to that of former Presidents Regan and Nixon. “How does he compare to previous galvanizing figures in conservative politics?” questioned Cox.

Sophomore Luc Poirier’s proposal concerns male participation in, and identification with, the feminist movement. “I believe the issue with gaining the support of men in the feminist movement is in part rooted in the word ‘feminist’ itself,” said Poirier. “The term is synonymous with ‘feminine,’ which doesn’t appeal to the ‘macho culture’ that is still alive today.”

The Psychology Department hosted a SRI for 10 students who conducted psychological research on topics related to prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes. Led by Professors Alita Cousins and Jennifer Leszczynski, the students’ inquiry covered such topics as gender and criminality, the effects of physical attractiveness on perceived characteristics, parenting influences on gender and more.

Shirley Holloway ’21 presents “The Association Between Feminism and Gender Roles” at the psychology SRI.

Freshman Sierra Nastasi’s project on gender stereotypes in sports was inspired by her experience as a female hockey player. She said: “Playing on both men’s and women’s teams, I’ve noticed how perceptions of female hockey players differ from those of their male counterparts. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the perceptions that arise in cross-gendered sports.”

The English Department brought together 10 first-year and transfer students for a SRI titled “Finding your Scholarly Voice,” which focused on developing scholarly projects on texts of students’ choice. 

“The workshop aimed to help students dive into the scholarly conversation surrounding their texts and find their own ways to contribute to that conversation,” said Professor Allison Speicher, who led the workshop. “Students completed extensive research, synthesizing a wide variety of sources, including literary scholarship, histories, authors’ journals and letters, book reviews and theoretical perspectives, to craft project plans and abstracts for their own scholarly articles.”

Network science SRI students and faculty pose for a group photo.

Freshman Bailey Hosko’s project investigated the minor role of the teacher in the book “Push” by the author Sapphire. The teacher was a “change agent” for the main character, an illiterate 16-year-old girl from Harlem. “The research institute gave me a head start on my senior seminar, but more importantly it gave me a desire to further investigate a topic that I’m interested in as a career,” said Hosko, who aspires for a career as an educator with a focus on literacy.

Mathematics Professor Megan Heenehan and Computer Science Professor Garrett Dancik collaborated on a SRI that introduced students to the field of network science. The week-long program utilized techniques in graph theory, computer programming and network analysis to collected data from movie scripts. Broken into groups, the students used the information to analyze the social structure and sentiment of “Mean Girls, “The Dark Knight” and “Batman and Robin.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Psychology Researchers Analyze Mate-Guarding Scale

Professor Alita Cousins and student Lauren Beverage present at Human Behavior and Evolution Society Annual Meeting.

A team of researchers from Eastern Connecticut State University’s Psychology Department presented at the 31st annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society on May 29–June 1 in Boston. Professor Alita Cousins and psychology major Lauren Beverage ’20 presented “Validity of the mate-guarding scale in women.” Professor Madeleine Fugère was a collaborator on the project as well.

The act of “mate guarding” aims to preserve access to a mate by keeping rivals away and keeping partners from leaving the relationship. “Mate guarding is about controlling a partner and keeping access to them,” explained Beverage. “It encompasses intrasexual (partner-directed) and intersexual (competitor-directed) tactics.”

The team’s study set out to assess the psychological measurements (psychometrics) of the Mate Guarding Scale (MGS)—as the scales for measurement are few and their psychometric properties are largely unknown. Previous analyses focus on the following six MGS subscales: confronting rivals, publicizing the relationship, escorting the partner, covert tactics, monopolization and aggression.

The Eastern team surveyed 1,069 women. Results showed that women who self-reported more overall mate guarding toward their partner had in turn experienced more mate guarding by their partner; were more invested and controlling in their relationship; and felt their relationship had more costs.

The team’s project abstract reads: “Results showed that the more controlling and invested the women were, the more they engaged in mate guarding, as well as confronted rivals, publicized their relationship, escorted their partner, used covert tactics, monopolized and were aggressive.”

Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that the MGS has high validity.

Speaking to her experience as an undergraduate research assistant, Beverage said: “Working with, and getting input from, multiple professors helped to problem-solve issues as well as creatively expand on the scale and discussions on factors that play a role in mate guarding.

“I had also never presented at a conference before, let alone an international one,” she added. “I had the pleasure of explaining our project to people from all over the world, including Germany, Norway and Australia, in addition to learning about their research. I’m grateful for the experience and to have worked with wonderful people!”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman