Honors Students Study Environmental Conflict in Costa Rica

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of honors students from Eastern Connecticut State University spent 10 days in Costa Rica in May 2017 for a field course that examined the country’s rich biodiversity and developing agricultural industry.

“This course required students to examine the conflict between preservation of the tropical rainforest and Costa Rica’s economic shift to export-focused agriculture,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and trip supervisor.

“Our trips to plantations as well as conservation centers and the tropical rainforest allowed us to see how the Costa Rican citizens feel about the conflict, what they’re doing to fix it, and put our research into perspective,” said Michelle D’Agata ’18, a sport and leisure management major. “Overall, I found that the citizens, scientists and plantation owners have positive attitudes and genuine concerns for the environment, and plantation owners use a number of tactics to minimize their negative impacts.”

The trip to Costa Rica was the field component of a course taken on the Eastern campus during the academic year. The students toured the tropical rainforest as well as plantations that grow pineapples, bananas, peppercorn and coffee. They even participated in a community service project where they planted 100 trees at a peppercorn farm as part of a reforestation effort.

“Costa Rica was certainly a great conclusion to my undergraduate career!” said Kayla Giordano ’17, a political science and economics double major. “I think the most eye-opening part of the trip was experiencing how our food is grown and how different agriculture is in Costa Rica compared to the United States. I’m glad I spent the semester learning about the biodiversity in Costa Rica before actually traveling to the country. It was awesome to be able to identify species we’d discussed in class during excursions into the rainforest.”

Students Study Tropical Biology in Bahamas

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Twenty biology students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to the Bahamas in May 2017 to study the island’s tropical biology.

At the Gerace Research Center, students experienced life at an active field station where they explored mangrove forests, sea grass beds, saline lakes and coral reefs. The group snorkeled at field sites around the island and identified species and compared notes on the animals and behaviors they observed. They also conducted quantitative surveys of rocky intertidal and dune communities.

The trip to the Bahamas was the field component of a class taken on the Eastern campus during the academic year, in which students studied island formation and the ecology of island ecosystems. The class was led by Biology Professors Joshua Idjadi, Kristen Epp and Brett Mattingly.

In their free time, students enjoyed interacting with other school groups and local residents at the research center and surrounding community. Students described the field course as their best experience at Eastern.

Students Study International Business in Spain

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Nine business students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Spain in May 2017 to study international business in the European Union. Students stayed in Barcelona and Madrid, and toured businesses and participated in lectures about the history and state of the regional economy.

The trip to Spain was the field component of a course taken on the Eastern campus during the academic year, and was led by Business Administration Professor Emiliano Villanueva. Among Villanueva’s research interests is the international wine economy, particularly that in Spain. A book he co-authored, “La Economía del Vino en España y el Mundo” (The Economy of Wine in Spain and the World), won the 2015 International Wine Organization Book Award.

Related to Villanueva’s research, the group from Eastern toured the Estrella Damm Factory, the largest brewery in Spain, and Freixenet, a major winery. They also visited the famous church Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Prado museum, the medieval city of Toledo, and other sites.

Psychology Students Study Culture in Hawaii

 

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eighteen psychology students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Hawaii in May 2017 to study cross-cultural differences related to well-being and relationships. From western and native-Hawaiian perspectives, the Eastern students examined topics such as parenting and attachment styles, social support, emotional expression, romantic relationships and more.

“Prior to going on this trip our class learned a lot about the culture in Hawaii and how they view relationships,” said Elizabeth Navarro ’17. “However, after traveling there I found that learning about culture in a classroom is nothing like experiencing it firsthand. I thought I had a good idea of Hawaiian culture until we traveled there; it was a complete culture shock.”

The trip to Hawaii was the field component of a course taken on the Eastern campus during the academic year, and was led by Psychology Professors Madeline Fugere and Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault.

In addition to their studies, the students also visited Iolani Palace, the home of the Hawaiian royal family; the Byodo-In Temple, in commemoration of the anniversary of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii; Waimea Valley, where they toured botanical gardens and took a waterfall swim; and Pearl Harbor. They also participated in a community service project to rebuild the wall of an 800-year-old aquaculture site.

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.

The Courant Names Eastern a 2016 Top Workplace

Written by Michael Rouleau

Top Places LogoWillimantic, CT — For the fifth time in the past six years, the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With 961 employees, Eastern ranked fourth in the “large” category, and was the only higher education institution to be recognized among 61 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 18 in the Hartford Courant.

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by WorkplaceDynamics LLP, a research and consulting firm that has compiled top employer lists for some of the nation’s largest media outlets. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations.
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.
Survey statements included: “This company operates by strong values and ethics”; “I have confidence in the leader of this company”; “I have the flexibility I need to balance my work and personal life”; for example.

“We are honored to be recognized as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “While Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our campus has always prided itself on its sense of community and for being a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, their families and the community-at-large. This announcement is a wonderful reminder that Eastern is a great workplace for our faculty and staff and I am delighted that we were among those recognized.”

Eastern Jumps Seven Places in U.S. News and World Report Rankings

Written by Ed Osborn
US News and World Report-FlagsEastern Connecticut State University moved up seven places among regional universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 edition of “Best Colleges” to 85th overall; Eastern was also tied for 26th place among public universities on the list. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 13.

Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities, and this year’s ranking was Eastern’s best ever.

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.

US News and World Report-Campus Scene“I am gratified to see Eastern achieve its highest ranking ever in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to academic excellence, our focus on student engagement and the introduction of new majors have resulted in strong scores for such criteria as academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources and alumni giving. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These new rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a quality, affordable liberal arts education on our beautiful residential campus.”
US News and World Report- Residential Halls ExteriorThis year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,374 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. 4.

Eastern Abroad: 2015-16 Global Field Courses

Every year, academic departments across campus sponsor “global field courses” (GFC), culturally and academically immersive study abroad experiences led by Eastern faculty. All corners of the globe have been visited — and studied — since the first GFC program in biology went to the Caribbean in the late 1960s. See below for destinations during the 2015-16 academic year.

Environmental earth science students in Iceland

Environmental earth science students in Iceland

Costa Rica: Biology students took a 12-day GFC to Costa Rica, where they conducted field experiments in rainforests and explored the country’s tropical landscape.

Eastern Europe: Communication students spent two weeks touring Poland, Austria and Hungary as part of their GFC “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe: History, the Media and the Holocaust.”

Ghana: Health sciences students went to Ghana, West Africa, for three weeks, where they visited health clinics, hospitals and related organizations in the Ashanti region of Ghana.

Biology students in Costa Rica

Biology students in Costa Rica

Iceland: The Environmental Earth Science Department took a 10-day GFC to Iceland, where they studied the country’s stunning geology and embarked on excursions such as volcano hikes and swimming in “Blue Lagoon.”

Ireland: Psychology students embarked on a month-long GFC to Ireland, where they studied the “History of Psychology” at University College Dublin and partook in Irish cultural events such as the centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Italy: English students traveled to Italy for a month-long GFC titled “Creative Writing Abroad,” where they immersed themselves in the local culture and participated in intensive fiction writing workshops.

For more on Eastern’s global field courses, see our interactive map.

Eastern Student Wins Prestigious Scholarship to Intern in Africa

Written by Michael Rouleau

Sierra Colon

Sierra Colon

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Sierra Colon ’17, a political science major at Eastern Connecticut State University from Wethersfield, is one of 250 undergraduate students from across the United States selected to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Colon will use the scholarship this summer to intern with the Surplus People Project (SPP), a nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa.

According to Colon, communities in South Africa are reforming their land and food management systems. “SPP is a leading nonprofit organization that helps organize these movements,” she said. “I will be working with their team along with their new Youth Movement, made up of local college students fighting to decrease the price of food.” Colon will intern from June 8 to Aug. 8 alongside two other international students — one from Michigan State University and one from Sweden.

“I am excited to step out my comfort zone and meet new people on this trip,” said Colon, who is from Wethersfield. “It’s such a privilege to be able to experience another culture and interact with people with different backgrounds. No one in my family has done something like this, so I am excited to share with them my experiences and be a role model for my younger brother.”

Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply towards their study abroad or internship program costs. The program aims to diversify the students who study and intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go. Students receiving a Federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions who will be studying abroad or participating in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit are eligible to apply. Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies — making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within the government and the private sector.

The scholarship is named after Congressman Benjamin Gilman, who retired in 2002 after serving in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chairing the House Foreign Relations Committee. “Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates,” said Gilman. “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience.  It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator, in the international community.”

The Gilman Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE). According to Allan Goodman, president and CEO of IIE, “International education is one of the best tools for developing mutual understanding and building connections between people from different countries. It is critical to the success of American diplomacy and business, and the lasting ties that Americans make during their international studies are important to our country in times of conflict as well as times of peace.”

Prestigious Scholarships Enable Student’s Dream of Studying in Japan

Written by Michael Rouleau

Brandan Sumeersarnauth ’17, an environmental earth science (EES) major at Eastern Connecticut State University from Stafford Springs, CT, is the recipient of two prestigious scholarships that will enable him to study in Japan this coming spring. He is one of only 25 undergraduate students nationwide to receive the $2,500 Bridging Scholarship for Study Abroad in Japan, as well as one of 800 American undergraduates to receive the $5,000 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

Japan has intrigued Sumeersarnauth for years. From the underlying messages of anime (Japanese cartoons), to the lyrical content of the music, to the food and language, he said, “I made the connection that the things I hold important morality-wise are also important in Japanese culture.”

Eastern EES students Brandan Sumeersarnauth ’17 (left) and Mike Manzi ’15 presenting their research on the eroding bluffs of Block Island at the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) Northeastern Section Meeting in New Hampshire in March 2015.

Sumeersarnauth believes, for example, in “wabi-sabi,” a Japanese philosophy that recognizes the beauty of imperfection and impermanence. It’s a concept that seems to be contrary to mainstream consumerist society. “Think of an old musical instrument, or an old truck with a bunch of dents,” he said. “Most people would throw it away, but each dent is a memory or story, and gives it more value.”

Sumeersarnauth is also drawn to Japan for academic reasons. Throughout his schooling at Eastern, he has studied coastal geology, particularly in the Northeast. “Japan is a big island nation with a 360-degree coastline,” he said. “It is affected by all the things Rhode Island and Connecticut are affected by, but on a grander scale. With its location in the Ring of Fire—affected by earthquakes, subduction zones and volcanoes—it is also a great place to study tectonic processes and seismicity.”

While enrolled at Musashi University in Tokyo, Sumeersarnauth will not study science. His spring 2016 semester will focus on humanities, foreign policy and language—a curriculum that will work well for him, despite his other interests. “With my career I want to be on the international scale of things,” he said, “so I figure by learning a different perspective on global issues from my own, it will give me that necessary foundation to work on that scale.”

To satisfy his science-related interests, Sumeersarnauth plans to visit the National Science Foundation, the Geological Survey of Japan and different mines in the region to observe mineral collections.

The goal of the Bridging Scholarship is to promote study abroad in Japan by larger numbers of American students, thus increasing understanding between the two countries. The Gilman Scholarship has a broader aim; to make study abroad accessible to lower income students as well as diversify the countries in which students study. For both scholarships, the hope is for students to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies—making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.