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 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.

 

English Students Travel to Italy for Global Field Course

Written by Ryan King

Class meeting

Class meeting

Willimantic, Conn. – Eight students from Eastern Connecticut State University recently traveled to Florence, Italy, with English Professor Christopher Torockio to participate in the course, “Creative Writing Abroad.” This intensive writing course encourages students to produce daily, original works of poetry and fiction in a foreign country.
“As writers, it is our job to capture the human essence as much as we can to make our work more believable, authentic and relatable to our audience,” said senior English major Mikayla Zagata. “In that respect, seeing people from a different culture and the distinct differences and similarities between us gave me a much better understanding of the human condition.”

Students used class readings and their surroundings for inspiration in producing original work every day. Zagata said of this experience, “One of the most challenging things was creating descriptions in our writing that accurately captured our surroundings. Florence is just so majestic that it’s hard to put into words sometimes.”

Students stayed within minutes of the famous Duomo, a cathedral that has been that main church of Florence since 1436. They also visited the Galleria dell’ Accademia which houses Michelangelo’s statue of David.  They were also never far from a palace or grand building that was either under Medici control at one time or a former Medici residence. The group also had the opportunity to explore different areas of Tuscany such as Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa.

Students Travel to American Deserts for Global Field Course

Written by Ryan King


Willimantic, Conn. – During the spring semester, a group of fourteen Eastern Connecticut State University biology students traveled to the Great Basin, Mojave and Sonoran deserts as part of a new global field course. On this trip, students had the opportunity to participate in an intensive one-week field experience in the American Southwest with Professors Brett Mattingly and Matthew Graham. The professors wanted to use the course to demonstrate to their students the many misconceptions about deserts. “Many of these students, true New Englanders, had never visited a desert and pictured them as barren expanses of sand and cacti,” said Graham. “We wanted this field course to blow their minds! Deserts are so much more than that.”

Many students who went on the trip were thankful for the opportunity to apply what they’ve been learning in the classroom in a more practical setting. Student Jonathan Henault said of his experience, “I think these types of global field courses are valuable because they allow students to experience the subjects they are currently studying close up. This type of exposure, at least in my case, enhanced my understanding and increased my interest in desert ecosystems.” This experience was informative and eye-opening for students and gave them the opportunity to apply what they’d been learning in the classroom in new and exciting ways. Rather than conducting research or experiments in the comfort of a lab, these students got up-close and personal with scorpions and snakes in a setting that was completely unfamiliar to them. “I think the most challenging part of this trip was actually getting to sleep when there were so many exciting things to see and do,” Henault said.

In the field, the class also discussed historical and environmental factors, such as climate change and tectonic events, which shaped the current distributions of deserts and the organisms that inhabit them. Graham described the importance of making these observations: “By understanding how our fragile desert ecosystems have responded to historical climate change, such as the period of warming that has occurred since the last glacial period, we will be better equipped to predict, and thus mitigate, effects of ongoing and future changes in climate.”

Students were offered unique opportunities that they couldn’t have experienced in the classroom. Some of these opportunities included camping at the base of the Sierra Nevada, exploring Death Valley National Park, where they visited the location with lowest altitude in North America, and coming face-to-face with a rattlesnake! By traveling to these locations, students were able to see for themselves the plant and animal species that populate this arid region.

Students Complete a Geological Tour of Idaho, Wyoming and the Surrounding Region

Written by Ryan King

Willimantic, Conn. – 14 students from Eastern Connecticut State University recently traveled to Idaho and Wyoming as part of a geological field excursion with Environmental Earth Science professors Dickson Cunningham and Stephen Nathan. As one of Eastern’s “global field courses,” this trip provided a unique and valuable learning experience to students by allowing them to apply what they learned in a classroom in a real-world scenario. “The trip was a great success in terms of education, adventure and fun,” Cunningham said. “These field courses constitute a new initiative in the Environmental Earth Science Department to incorporate additional geoscientific field training into the undergraduate curriculum.”

Students were able to explore some of America’s most fascinating terrain for geological research. In addition to analyzing geothermal and geological features, they explored the stunning scenery and wildlife of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the surrounding mountain ranges. The students were also able to observe the raw and rugged landscape of the Craters of the Moon National Monument, where they saw the effects of volcanism firsthand. The group also travelled to Idaho’s Lost River Range, a mountain range that features seven peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation, where they observed how earthquakes and the subsequent landslides shaped the region.

“This course enabled us to see textbook examples of geological processes and features that you can’t see without traveling,” student Brian Wicks said. “Getting to see these examples in person as opposed to only in the classroom really helped the cognitive process and my understanding of the subject.”

This trip also offered many unique experiences to students aside from their research. While conducting their research, students came face-to-face with a variety of wildlife, including rattlesnakes, bison and moose. They also had to weather rainstorms, hailstorms and even a blizzard at 10,000 feet!

Students Examine San Salvador Island’s Fauna for Global Field Course

Written by Ryan King

Willimantic, Conn. – Nineteen students from Eastern Connecticut State University recently traveled to San Salvador Island to study tropical biology. The trip focused on studying the history and development of the local fauna on the island as well as in the surrounding waters. The group’s research was based out of the Gerace Research Center, which occupies a former U.S. naval base in Grahams Harbor.

This class was offered as one of Eastern’s “global field courses,” which provide unique learning experiences to students by allowing them to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting. The tropical biology global field course has a long history of success at Eastern and has been offered every summer since 1968. The course alternates annually between traveling to San Salvador Island and Costa Rica.

San Salvador Island and other surrounding islands in the Bahamas offer a unique opportunity for biology students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. As opposed to more common continental or volcanic islands, San Salvador is a large platform of carbonate sediment, and many of the plants and organisms found on the island are exclusive to the region.

The field experience in the Bahamas allowed students to conduct research and make informed observations about creatures they could never have encountered elsewhere. “The second I got in the water, I realized that there was so much going on,” said biology major Megan Barnes. “I was shocked when I saw all of the different colors and all of the different fish. Most people have never even heard of these fish, but this global field course gave me the opportunity to see them firsthand!”

The group also closely examined the ecosystem of this unique region. “One highlight of the trip was the frequent sightings of sharks and sea turtles, both signs of a healthy coral reef ecosystem,” said faculty advisor and Biology Professor Charles Booth.
Students were also able to enjoy the scenery and local culture of San Salvador. They visited an open-air market in San Salvador’s largest community, Cockburn Town, and attended a fish fry put on by the locals. The students also travelled to the hand-operated Dixon Hill Lighthouse, which has been in operation since the mid-1800’s, and got to see how it worked in person.

Even when they weren’t conducting field research, students were able to observe a variety of native animals. They were able to see the endangered San Salvador rock iguana in its natural habitat, in addition to exploring San Salvador’s largest cave, Lighthouse Cave. Made primarily of limestone, the cave houses a large colony of bats estimated to number between 200 and 500, which students were able to observe.

Barnes encouraged future students to look into this global field course, saying, “It was an amazing opportunity. I had to learn to take each day as it came because I never knew what we’d encounter, from weather, to plants, to animals; each day was a unique experience.”

 

Students Travel to London and Paris for Global Field Course

Written by Ryan King

Communications Professor and Eastern students at the Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising Agency in London

Willimantic, Conn. – Eight students from Eastern Connecticut State University recently traveled to Paris, France and London, England, as part of a “global field course” with Communication Professor Olugbenga Ayeni. The course, “International Advertising and Public Relations,” allowed students to gain an understanding of how advertising and public relations work on a global scale. “Students learn about all aspects of communicating across cultures, the intersection between communication and culture and how these impact developing advertising concepts and strategies for global products and consumers,” explained Ayeni.

The trip offered students the opportunity to visit important global advertising agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi and McCann Erickson. They attended workshops at Saatchi & Saatchi to learn some of the intricacies of a front-line advertising agency. They also enjoyed interactive and informative meetings at the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR), an organization that regulates, certifies and oversees public relations professionals in the United Kingdom. The group also visited the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), where they staged a mock news session. “I wasn’t just sitting at a desk learning,” student Kelly Reardon said of the trip. “I actually got to experience what these people do in the jobs that we’ve been studying.”

Professor Christopher Ayeni and Eastern students at the Eiffel Tower in Paris

The group also took the opportunity to visit cultural sites to observe the culture of British and French consumers. Through walking tours of London and Paris, students were able to absorb information about two of the world’s most popular cities and their citizens. They visited the British Museum, the first national public museum in the world, which gave an enriched perspective of the world on a global scale using artifacts that dated back hundreds or even thousands of years. The students visited historic landmarks such as Stonehenge and Buckingham Palace in England, and the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre in France.

Students Travel to Central Europe for Global Field Course

Written by Ryan King


Willimantic, Conn. – Six students from Eastern Connecticut State University recently traveled to Central Europe as part of Communication Professor Cesar Beltran’s course “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe: History, the Media and the Holocaust.” This course, offered as one of Eastern’s “global field courses,” sought to analyze the historical, political, cultural and economic effects that World War II and the Holocaust had and continue to have today.

Student Taylor Herold said of the trip, “Global field courses are a valuable experience because you learn so much while experiencing some amazing places. You learn by actually going to famous historical sites where the action happened. It’s not like learning about it from a book. You are learning hands on and nothing can compete with that.”

 In an effort to analyze how past conflicts have shaped communication throughout Europe, the group traveled to Poland, Austria and Hungary. Through visiting Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Vienna’s Centropa Institute and Budapest’s Central European University, as well as meeting with U.S. Embassy officials, the students obtained a much better understanding of the widespread effects that the Holocaust had throughout Europe. They also went to Brody Studios, an arts club in Budapest, where esteemed television personality, author and historian Tessa Dunlop spoke about the “Enigma” machine, which was used to decipher codes during World War II.

The group also travelled to Auschwitz-Birkenau, infamous concentration camp and location of countless atrocities. “You can read every book and see every movie on the Holocaust but nothing can prepare you for being at the actual site where so many innocent people were murdered,” said Herold.  “There truly are no words to describe what it was like to be there.”

The group also took time to visit historical and cultural landmarks, including Wawel Castle in Krakow, the Imperial Ring in Vienna and the Castle District of Budapest.