Eastern Hosts 7th Marrow Drive

University Partners with DeCasanova to Find Life-Saving Matches

•Members of the men's soccer team with Coach DeVido (left) and Willy the Warrior

Members of the men’s soccer team with Coach DeVido (left) and Willy the Warrior

 Written by Michael Rouleau

In its ongoing support for people with life-threatening blood diseases, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its seventh marrow registry on Dec. 6. Organized by the men’s soccer team, 140 people were registered into the “Be The Match” database – the largest marrow registry in the world – bringing Eastern’s total to 1,650 registrants over the past five years.

The campus’s first marrow drive occurred in 2012, when student and soccer player Jon DeCasanova was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and lymphatic cancer. DeCasanova, a senior at the time, was given less than a one-percent chance of survival by some doctors.

Jon DeCasanova '16 explains the registration process

Jon DeCasanova ’16 explains the registration process

“One of the treatments I needed was a marrow transplant,” said DeCasanova ’17, who graduated last spring and now works for the Rhode Island Blood Center. In his role as an assistant account executive, DeCasanova helps run Be The Match events throughout the region. “I was able to receive a stem cell transplant, which is a science that we’re supporting here today. It’s a science that saved my life.”

In the past five years, 20 Eastern registrants have made life-saving donations to people with rare blood diseases – a rate much greater than the national average of one in 300 being selected as a best possible donor, and one in 430 actually going through with the procedure.

People identified as matches have two options for donating. One method is via a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, a nonsurgical procedure similar to giving blood. The other method is via a bone marrow donation, a surgical procedure in which bone marrow is extracted directly from the pelvic bone.

On the day of the event, members of the soccer team spread throughout campus, asking everyone they saw if they’re willing to help save a life. They even recruited the school’s mascot, Willy the Warrior. “Without the promotion of the team, there wouldn’t be as much success as there is,” said Greg DeVito, head coach, who reports the team volunteered approximately 70 hours in advance and during the event. “It’s an honor to see the team use their free time to help out a good cause.”

Volunteer Lauren Landry '20 takes a minute between mouth swabs for a photo.

Volunteer Lauren Landry ’20 takes a minute between mouth swabs for a photo.

“Most current students weren’t here in 2012, so they don’t quite understand what it did to this campus,” said DeCasanova of his diagnosis, remembering the fear and outpouring of support across the Eastern community. “Most people don’t experience cancer at such a young age; I was only 20 years old at the time. None of us really understood what was going on.”

While the men’s soccer team spearheads the effort with Be The Match, several other student organizations help the event run smoothly. Among them this year were the Social Work Club and Love Your Melon, a nonprofit organization with a chapter on campus that is focused on pediatric cancer. Among other tasks, student volunteers prescreened interested donors for eligibility – using a questionnaire concerning general health – and administered mouth swabs.

“I don’t get emotional too much these days,” said DeCasanova, “but when it comes to this event and Eastern in general, and the family we have here, it’s amazing… the passion everyone still has for this event, and their continuing support, not only for me, but for all the patients out there that need matches.”

With DeCasanova’s story and Eastern’s support, the soccer team won the 2016 National Association of D3 Athletic Directors Community Engagement Award. In 2014, the University was honored with the National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match Awareness Award. Representatives from the organization have commented that Eastern outperforms schools with much larger student populations.

“It’s not about me anymore. My life is saved,” concluded DeCasanova, adding that there are more than 70 diseases that are curable via marrow transplants. “It’s about all the other patients out there who are still looking for matches.”

Eastern Professor in Safe Passage Run

Bergstrom_Lynch_and_kidsWritten by Jordan Corey

Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University who lives in Manchester, participated in a road race on Dec. 3 to honor the late Alyssiah Wiley, an Eastern student who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2013. The Hot Chocolate Run is an annual fundraiser to benefit Safe Passage, an organization dedicated to creating a world free of domestic violence and relationship abuse. The run took place in Northampton, MA.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that nearly 20 people are physically abused every minute by a domestic partner in the United States – more than 10 million women and men per year. Of female murder victims, one in three are killed by intimate partners.

Safe Passage, located in Northampton, supports safe shelter, legal assistance and counseling services for adults and kids who have lived with violence in their homes. Since Wiley’s death in 2013, Bergstrom-Lynch has been dedicated to raising awareness of intimate partner violence.

Though she was never a “runner” before her recurring participation in The Hot Chocolate Run, Bergstrom-Lynch trained for it, feeling that it’s important to take a stand for all victims of domestic abuse. This year, she was joined by her two daughters, ages six and eight, as she raised $1,510 – totaling $6,185 for Safe Passage to date. “Donations came flooding in from my Eastern colleagues,” she said, including former students, the dean and the president, as well as many friends and family members.

As a professor and the department chair of sociology, domestic violence has a heavy impact on Bergstrom-Lynch – something undoubtedly amplified by what happened to Wiley. At just 20 years old, Wiley was kidnapped from campus by then-boyfriend Jermaine Richards, whom she had planned on breaking up with as a result of his unhealthy, possessive behaviors. Following her disappearance, Wiley was found dismembered in the woods a month later. Having gone through two mistrials, Richards was finally convicted in September 2017.

“My senior seminar students brought Alyssiah’s mother, Corinna Martin, to campus in fall 2013 to talk to an overflowing audience in the Student Center Theater about the loss of her daughter,” Bergstrom-Lynch stated. “She moved me deeply.” Tragically, Wiley’s sister – Chaquinequea Brodie – and nine-year-old niece were also murdered this past August. Brodie’s boyfriend is believed to be the perpetrator, again demonstrating the severity of domestic violence cases.

Brodie was the vice president of Mothers of Victim’s Equality (MOVE) Inc., a nonprofit group established by her mother to provide dating and domestic violence education. In a similar fashion, Bergstrom-Lynch stressed the significance of promoting awareness and discussing these issues that are often deemed “private” in a public way. “All of us know someone who has been impacted by intimate partner violence, and many of us have experienced it ourselves,” she said. “If anyone sees red flags, either in their own relationship or in friends or family members’ relationships, I want them to know that there is hope out there, and there are safe places to go.”

This year’s Hot Chocolate Run collected a total of $615,000 for Safe Passage, with 6,000 runners and walkers in attendance. “Alyssiah meant a lot to many people at Eastern, and her memory lives on,” Bergstrom-Lynch concluded, having completed another successful race. She encouraged students to seek assistance if needed. Options for support include Eastern’s Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT) and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), which has a 24/7 telephone line at 888-774-2900.

Eastern Hosts DACA Event

Eastern students viewing an informational poster at Social Action Day.

Eastern students viewing an informational poster at Social Action Day.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The current national debate on immigration policy — in particular the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order issued by President Barack Obama in 2012 — was the focus of an event at Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 14 hosted by social work students.

The students’ annual Social Action Day was held in the Betty R. Tipton Room in the Student Center. Titled “DACA 411,” the event was the result of a collaborative effort of social work students taught by Professors Isabel Logan, Paul Trubey and Pamela Chiang. Local community members were also invited to attend.

DACA was an executive order signed by Obama in June 2012 to grant temporary protection to eligible immigrants who entered the country as minors and received a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. The policy also allowed the students to obtain work permits, drivers’ licenses and attend college. They are frequently referred to as “Dreamers,” a reference to the Dream Act, first introduced in Congress in 2001. While it has been debated and frequently reintroduced since—as recently as this fall — this legislation to provide a legal path to U.S. citizenship for millions of immigrants has not been passed.

Eastern student panelists speaking at Social Action Day.

Eastern student panelists speaking at Social Action Day.

In early September 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was rescinding the Obama-era policy, pending a six-month delay to give those students whose DACA status was set to expire before March 2018 one month to submit an application for renewal. There are approximately 800,000 students covered under DACA in the United States; more than 100 attend Eastern.

Without legislative action to provide permanent protections to these undocumented students, they face deportation to countries they have no memory of, nations they have never considered home.

Featured speakers at Social Action Day included State Rep. Susan Johnson, who represents local District 49; Attorney Edwin Colon, director of the Immigrant Children’s Justice Project at the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford; and community activist Renato Calle of the Connecticut Working Families Party. The event also featured two DACA students enrolled at Eastern —Political Science major Yenimar Cortes ’19 and Computer Science major Estefanny Perez Hernandez ’20.

“What we want is for people to have the support from everyone in the community in terms of a clean (immigration) bill with no unfortunate actions, no building of the wall,” said Colon.  “Last week there were a number of acts of civil disobedience around the United States, protests in Washington and even in Hartford. Everyone is anticipating that this will be hard-fought effort. I know this is not going to come easy – we are hopeful but cautiously optimistic about the future. This issue hits very close to home for many.”

Colon, who is also a faculty member at Capital Community College in Hartford and the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, provided a legal aid van through the Center for Children’s Advocacy for students and local community members during the event. The mobile office provides free legal consultation and representation related to immigration issues.

“That people are having to constantly live in fear is not a way to run a country or state,” said Rep. Johnson. “We need to be able to support undocumented people without criminalizing them,” added Calle.

“The word ‘Dreamer’ comes with a narrative that you are an immigrant and a student with a high GPA – a ‘good’ immigrant,” said Cortes. “It tends to indicate that all others that are part of the immigrant community are ‘bad’ immigrants even though they sustain, work hard for their families and contribute to our community. I prefer to call myself undocumented instead of being classified as DACA.”

“DACA was a little bit of hope. I qualified for DACA, but by the time my sister came of age it was already being repealed,” said Perez Hernandez. “We lost everything that we had gained. However, the current issues are also bringing us together. Events like this educate people on the topic — we feel connected. I feel included here.”

Students from the Social Work program presented topics such as “DACA Policy, Now and Then” as well as “State Responses to DACA,” and hosted a mock debate and a discussion of the results of a student survey on DACA that was circulated among Eastern students. Attendees were also given the option to sign petitions to be sent to members of the U.S. Congress and Connecticut General Assembly.

Preparing for the Social Action Day event was an eye-opening experience for the social work students. “I learned about how hard it is to create a policy, especially when it comes to DACA, and then to see the abolition of the policy,” said Brooke Unikewicz ’20, a student in Trubey’s class. “I have been inspired and have been spreading my knowledge to anyone who doesn’t know about DACA. One thing that surprised me was the amount of people who supported the abolition of DACA when we circulated the survey – I expected there would be no one who wants to get rid of the policy.”

“The students were very engaged in several areas including the research study to assess the familiarity and knowledge of the DACA issue on campus,” said Trubey. “These social work students are learning the importance of standing up for social change and against social injustice. The students in the course embraced this challenge and put together an informative program.”

Social Work student Hanna Levesque ’19 of Bristol said, “I hope that the overall message people took away from our Social Action Day is that, above all else, Eastern cares, and we are trying to help our fellow colleagues, friends and loved ones enrolled in the DACA program feel protected.”

Professor Logan concluded, “I think that my students were definitely empowered and I think they took away more knowledge on a topic they were already passionate about.”

The Truth behind True Crime

                                             A&E Executives Speak at Eastern

The six-person panel (left to right) included three Eastern faculty members--William Lugo, Kim Dugan and Theresa Severance--and TV executives Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb

The six-person panel (left to right) included three Eastern faculty members–William Lugo, Kim Dugan and Theresa Severance–and TV executives Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb

Written by Jordan Corey

Three Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) executives – Laura Fleury, Peter Tarshis and Sean Gottlieb – shared their expertise of “true crime” programs with Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 8. Complete with promo clips, intriguing audience questions and thoughtful responses, the panel generated dialog on what goes into capturing real-life crime narratives on television.

“We’ve all been affected by crime … they’re powerful, important stories,” said Sociology Professor William Lugo in his introduction to the program. To begin the discussion, Tarshis, a producer of TV shows like “The First 48” and “The Eleven,” addressed the unique opportunity that television production teams have in being allowed into certain environments, particularly crime scenes. “We’re very mindful of that incredible privilege … we try to humanize the process.”

Fleury, who has worked on “Beyond Scared Straight” and “Cold Case Files,” agreed that the access is a “great luxury” and should be approached as such. She highlighted the importance of consciousness in order to respect all aspects of a situation. “Every person in this story has rights,” she said, from the victims and their families, to the law enforcement involved, to the suspects and their families. To protect such rights, a multitude of steps are taken. Releases are signed regarding participants and objects, as well as following journalistic protocol and partnering with specialized lawyers.

True Crime logoThe executives argued that the true crime shows they work on grant people a window into what is actually going on. Not only that, but they have helped solve crimes that otherwise may not have been pursued by police departments – due to lack of resources or time, for example. With dedicated social media followings, widespread viewership and avid research teams behind them, the programs both raise and answer many questions.

An audience member asked whether or not the current “spirited” political climate changes the direction of what can be screened. When it comes to talking about social issues, a phrase used at A&E is “hiding the broccoli” – the act of integrating something that may not be appealing to everyone, but is nonetheless important, into something that will captivate all parties. Part of the job is to find ways to engage people, and the executives aim to do this in as observational a manner as possible.

Fleury pointed out that at this moment in time, there is not as much trust in the government and overall legal system as there has been in the past. This makes the idea that “maybe somebody got it wrong” more compelling, seen in the sweeping popularity of shows like “Making a Murderer.” The concept of a gray area or wrongful conviction used to be a “non-starter,” according to Tarshis; viewers simply wanted to see “bad guys” put away. Coupled with these contemporary outlooks, he noted, the numerous distribution mediums available now have opened new doors for telling and sharing stories.

Just as the executives and their colleagues have had to adapt to how people are retaining programs, Gottlieb – producer of shows like “8 Minutes” and “Live PD” – drew attention to the fact that audiences have had to acclimate to how shows are being broadcasted. On shows such as “Live PD,” there is not always a clear resolution as there is on shows such as “The First 48.” “Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s ambiguous, sometimes it’s action-packed,” Gottlieb said. “Different situations bring out different audiences … you see it almost immediately online.” The panel compared true crime viewers to those of sports games.

Given the nature of true crime, one student asked about the ethical obligations that arise during the filming process. In response, Tarshis recalled working on “Codependent,” a show centering on codependent drug addicts. A couple wanted to empty their drug supply the night before attempting recovery, and the woman involved accidentally overdosed. The television crew stepped in and called 911, despite her boyfriend’s claims that she was fine. “Basic decency and human life is more important than any hour we put on the air,” Tarshis concluded.

“It’s a living, breathing process,” said Fleury. “We always remind ourselves that these are real people.” The executives collectively agreed that they are not exempt from the heavy emotional influence that is often evoked from their television shows, and they have assorted methods of dealing with it. While Tarshis tries to compartmentalize his life and avoid taking on the degrees of sadness he sees at work, Fleury tends to focus on those who survive bad situations and come out stronger. In short, the group expressed that true crime in its entirety serves a number of significant purposes. “You start to realize that these shows have real impacts,” affirmed Gottlieb.

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 Names Alumni Fellows

‘The Intersection between Opportunity and Preparation’

•James Girard '97, Anne Iezzi '79 and Andrew Mitchel '89 were inducted into Eastern's Fellows Program. They held a panel discussion with students on the Eastern campus in September.

James Girard ’97, Anne Iezzi ’79 and Andrew Mitchel ’89 were inducted into Eastern’s Fellows Program. They held a panel discussion with students on the Eastern campus in September.

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT –Three alumni from Eastern Connecticut State University were inducted into the Eastern Fellows Program this September. In addition to joining the ranks of the university’s distinguished alumni, James Girard ’97, Anne Iezzi ’79 and Andrew Mitchel ’89 returned to campus to meet with students and share career advice.

Girard, a business administration major, is the vice president of human resources at Harris Corporation, a global technology company with approximately 17,000 employees. Iezzi, a sociology major, is the vice president and chief compliance officer for the Retirement Services Division at Voya Financial, a Fortune 500 company . Mitchel, an economics major, is an international tax attorney whose expertise has been sought after by The Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

During a panel discussion with students, the alumni spoke of their experiences as Eastern students and insights in the business world. On the topic of lifelong learning, Girard said, “If you are to be successful, you need to continually learn. Having this mindset gives you an edge in the workplace, as the techniques and tactics of your industry will continue to change.” Iezzi followed with, “When you’re in the workplace, you may stop getting tested, but you should never stop being curious. Learning doesn’t stop after graduation.”

Speaking to the role of luck in career success, Girard said, “I don’t believe in luck. Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. The key is hard work.” Iezzi reflected on her previous job at The Hartford, where she held several roles, eventually becoming a vice president in the Wealth Management Division. “Over the course of my 28 years with The Hartford, I never applied for a job. They came to me.”

The talk was ripe with career advice for students and seasoned professionals alike. “Take the job that nobody wants,” said Girard. “Some jobs are sexy, some aren’t, but those may be more important.” Emphasizing the importance of good writing and paying attention to the basics, he said: “Check your emails before you send them,” adding that it’s embarrassing how often poorly written emails make their way to upper management.

On the topic of leadership, Girard said, “At a certain point in your career, you can’t get the job done on your own, no matter how skilled you are. It takes a team. That comes down to leadership, and leadership is about emotional intelligence (EQ), not just IQ.”

Finally, on the topic of interviewing, the three alumni encouraged the students to research the company and review the LinkedIn profile of the interviewer beforehand. “Show them that you’re prepared and curious. Come ready with a question.”

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. Twenty-six alumni of all majors and fields have been inducted into the program. For more information as well as a listing of Eastern fellows, visit www.easternct.edu/alumni/fellows.

Professor Asks, “Who is Puerto Rican?” at Eastern

Written by Jordan Corey

Charles Venator-Santiago

Charles Venator-Santiago

Charles Venator-Santiago, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, appeared at Eastern Connecticut State University on Sept. 20 to discuss the extension of U.S. citizenship to native Puerto Ricans.

The “University Hour” lecture covered the history of this complex extension, dating from 1898 to present day. Controversy over the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans has come to light in various contexts, explained Venator-Santiago, including the Tuana v. United States federal court case in 2015, which brought attention to the voting rights of U.S. nationals. “This word ‘extension’ is really important,” he stressed.

America gained military control over Puerto Rico in 1898, following the Treaty of Paris ratification. It was governed as an incorporated territory until 1900, when the Foraker Act was introduced to provide the territory a civil government. In 1901, the Doctrine of Territorial Incorporation was established, consisting of three basic elements to lay out the constitutional interpretation of Puerto Rico and other territories. Puerto Rico has been ruled as an unincorporated territory ever since.

The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization Act (BINA) of 1906 was the first law that enabled those born in Puerto Rico to naturalize as American citizens. By 1917, Congress passed the Jones Act to provide for the collective naturalization of Puerto Rico’s inhabitants.

The Jones Act called for people to choose between keeping their Puerto Rican citizenship or gaining United States citizenship. It did not, however, change Puerto Rico’s territorial status, so those born on the island could only obtain a derivative form of parental, or “jus sanguinis” – blood right – citizenship. Birth in Puerto Rico at this time was equivalent to birth outside of the United States.

Venator-Santiago went on to explain the corrective amendments made to Section 5 of the Jones Act from 1927-1940. In 1940, Congress created legislation granting “jus soli” – birthright – citizenship to those in Puerto Rico. The Nationality Act of 1940 thus established that Puerto Rico was part of the United States for citizenship purposes. Since 1941, birth in Puerto Rico is commensurate to birth in the United States.

That said, Venator-Santiago argued, “The Supreme Court has cherry-picked which rights to extend and withhold,” which is where many debates stem from. As of March 2017, Congress has deliberated 101 bills containing citizenship provisions for Puerto Rico. “There are different kinds of rights that apply differently,” he said. “Puerto Rico is considered to be a foreign place for constitutional purposes.”

According to Venator-Santiago, the arguments surrounding status have focused on two questions – how to simultaneously uphold the status of a person’s Puerto Rican citizenship, and what to do with the economy of Puerto Rico. Despite the ongoing societal discussion on the topic, he pointed out that one of the biggest issues is lack of awareness. “The average American doesn’t have a clue (that Puerto Rican natives are considered United States citizens),” he claimed. “There is no clear understanding among the public.”

Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,389 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 10.

For the past 33 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

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About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.