Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Graduates 1,250 Students at XL Center

Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba

Hartford, CT — Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, told the 1,259 graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement to “Allow yourself the faith to ‘dream ahead’ as you embrace the next chapter in your journey.” Noting that college graduates have greater job security, live longer and have greater social mobility, Malerba told the graduates that they had made “a smart decision” in pursuing their educational dreams.

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 21, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,175 undergraduates and 84 graduate students received their diplomas.

Malerba told the graduates “Your education has just begun, as you have ‘birthed’ a career that will only grow and mature over time.” She also reminded graduates to set aside time for the “keepers of your heart” — family and friends who share life’s challenges. “When you meet others on the path of life, offer a kind word, encourage someone, comfort someone, and celebrate someone’s joy.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. 

Malerba was appointed the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe in August 2010, becoming the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. She previously was chair of the tribal council and executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her leadership roles in the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University and her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

In addition to a distinguished career as a registered nurse and her leadership positions with the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba is also a national advocate of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She serves in a number of national roles, including positions with the Federal Indian Health Services; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the National Institutes of Health.

Other speakers at the Commencement exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Merle Harris, vice-chair of the

President Elsa Núñez

Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

“The most important lesson I hope you have learned at Eastern is the knowledge that our great American democracy is only great because of the involvement and participation of our citizens,” said Núñez. “Being a citizen means debating the issues with your friends and in public forums — wherever you get a chance to voice your opinion. Most importantly, be willing to say no to whatever doesn’t feel right.

“You have learned how to think critically on our campus. You have learned how to ask questions, conduct research and analyze the results.  Do this in your workplace, in your community, and as a citizen of our great country.  I know you can do it . . . and I am counting on you to do so.  We need your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge more than ever.”

More 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 160 of the state’s 169 towns, with approximately 85 percent of graduates staying in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Michael Theriault (right)

Senior Class President Michael Theriault presented the Senior Class Gift to President Núñez — an annual Class of 2019 scholarship — and thanked his classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. He recalled registering for classes in the early morning hours, “trying to stay silent on the third floor of the library” and Thursday night pancakes. Looking to the future, Theriault said the arena floor was a sea of graduation caps, but “While they may look the same from the outside, the reality is that we all will wear different hats. Some of us will go on to be future educators and make differences in the lives of students. Others will become journalists, historians, psychologists, broadcasters and so much more. No matter what hat you will wear, we will all be Eastern Warriors now and forever.”

In speaking on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, Vice-Chair Merle Harris reminded the audience that “commencement” means “beginning.” She told the graduates they “have gained the skills needed to make wise decisions. . .” and were ready to “make your community, our state, and our nation a better place. I am gratified that I can greet you tonight as you begin the next phase of your life’s journey.”

CSCU President Ojakian also offered remarks. Pointing to the “transformational academic journey you have just completed,” he called the graduates “change agents for the future and the next generation of leaders.” Ojakian went on to say, “Connecticut needs bright, talented individuals to stay here, fill the jobs of the 21st century, purchase homes, and raise their families here in the state. Connecticut needs your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit and your ingenuity. You are the future of Connecticut — and because of that, Connecticut’s future is bright.”

From the colorful Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the piercing 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 reflected Eastern’s longstanding Commencement traditions.

University Senate President Andrew Utterback presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Andrew Hofmann, Tiara Lussier, Austin Stone, Ryan Michaud and Sara Ann Vega sang “America the Beautiful”; senior Shawn Ray Dousis gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Dickson Cunningham was recognized as the 2019 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Written by Ed Osborn

Senior Exhibition Spotlights Graduating Student Artists

 

The versatile talents of more than 30 Eastern Connecticut State University art majors were featured in the 2019 Senior Art Exhibition. The exhibition ran from May 10–21 in the Art Gallery of the Fine Arts Instructional Center and kicked off with an opening reception on May 9.

The event, which welcomed senior artists to discuss their work with gallery visitors, represented digital art and design, painting and drawing, printmaking and sculpture concentrations. Projects ranged from animated videos to photographs and displayed cultural, academic and personal influences.

Kelsey Kirkendall ’19 captured the people in her life to create “Delicate Exposure,” a digital art series that was created based on a survey of friends’ perceived qualities. “I really wanted to showcase my closest friends and highlight their biggest insecurities alongside the best parts of them,” she said. Her goal was to explore unseen parts of being human, reinforcing openness and encouraging self-assurance.

 

“Everybody has their own style shown through what they’re making, so it’s a very diverse collection even for those of us in the same classes. That’s what makes this gallery cool,” said Jake Ayotte ’19, another student inspired by the intricacies of humanity. His piece is a CD cover titled “VII,” combining his interest in art and music in an artistic interpretation of the seven deadly sins.

“Seeing all the work of my peers come to life is great,” Jevaughn Lindo ’19 noted, recognizing growth brought on by artistic challenges and successes. “It’s like metamorphosis.” He presented an animated project, “Art Squad,” which required bone animation, or giving the characters skeletons. Creative decisions were driven by the role of cartoons in his life.

Erika Groleau ’19 also incorporated parts of herself into her art, producing a board game called “CAT-astrophe.” She used her familiarity with different game styles and experiences as a cat owner to create it. “The best part was really showing myself that I was able to accomplish this,” said Groleau, who received engaging feedback at the reception. “When I stand there, people tell me about their cats.” She would like to expand the project in the future.

Aiming for a similar connection as an artist to the audience, Joshua Philippas ’19 designed “Lost Looks,” an affordable streetwear clothing line. “I wanted to think outside of the box and make something that people could relate to,” he explained. Articles in the line include lightly colored cropped T-shirts and hoodies, achieving a relaxed but stylish appearance.

Written by Jordan Corey

43 Strong, Eastern Represents in Georgia at National Conference

With 43 student presenters, Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation, and the only school from New England to make the list.

Forty-three students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Georgia on April 11-13 to present original research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The 2019 conference occurred at Kennesaw State University and featured hundreds of undergraduate students from across the country.

Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation this year – the only school from New England to make the list – and one of the few with a student population of less than 6,000.

Eastern students from a range of majors presented artwork, music performances and oral/poster presentations. Research questions probed topics such as the microbiome of scorpions, the link between casual sex and online dating, pop-culture glamorization of eating disorders, and much more.

Adella Dzitko-Carlson presents “Finding Faith in the 21st Century: The Search for the Sacred in John Luther Adams’ “In the Name of the Earth.”

Music major Esther Jones ’20 commented on the experience of performing a lecture-recital. “This experience at NCUR was a milestone in my life because I didn’t think that I could actually do it when the time finally came around. I thought that I would be trembling so badly that my mind would go blank.”

Jones’ piano performance was titled “‘Theme and Variations on an Egyptian Folksong’ by Gamal Abdel-Rahim.” She added, “This experience helped to boost my confidence and has given me courage to face new challenges.”

“One of my greatest takeaways from this conference is how it pushes you and makes you a better academic,” said Michael Tuttle ’19, who majors in psychology and mathematics.

“Presenting at a conference subjects your research to a higher level of scrutiny, challenging your thoughts and ideas. When audience members ask questions and offer suggestions, it pushes you to think critically and creatively.” Tuttle’s presentation was titled “Overconfidence and Impulsivity of College Students in a Cognitive Reflection Task.”

Theresa Parker presents “Echo Chambers in Social Media: Why do People Seek or Reject Opposing Viewpoints.”

Biology major Chris Shimwell ’20 presented “Molecular Identification of the Scorpion Telson Microbiome.” He said, “Presenting at a national conference is a valuable experience because it allows you to synthesize information into an audio-visual format and present it to others who are highly educated and knowledgeable about your field.”

Jacob Dayton ’19, a biology major who presented two projects – one on the genetic diversity of a migratory bird group and one on the behaviors of strawberry poison-dart frogs – added that the value of presenting at national conferences is threefold.

“One, it provides students with the opportunity to practice communicating their research to a diverse audience. Two, questions and comments from audience members challenge students to defend and/or expand their thinking. And three, it provides the opportunity to publicize Eastern and the quality research that its students are conducting.”

Students also cited being exposed to new research questions during others’ presentations, interacting with peers from across the country, and sharing the NCUR experience with their Eastern friends as highlights of the conference. Psychology Professors Carlos Escoto and James Diller and Biology Professor Patricia Szczys accompanied the Eastern group.

NCUR was established in 1987. From a pool of several thousand applicants, students are accepted into the conference if their research demonstrates a unique contribution to their field of study. NCUR offers undergraduates the opportunity to present their research findings to peers, faculty and staff from colleges and universities across the nation, providing a unique networking and learning opportunity.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Mohegan Tribal Chief Named Eastern’s Commencement Speaker

 Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the Commencement Speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford. Malerba will also receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremonies.

Malerba has achieved an exemplary career in the health care and tribal governance fields. Not only has she served her community with distinction, she has brought national recognition to the State of Connecticut.

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. The position is a lifetime appointment made by the tribe’s council of elders. She previously served as chairwoman of the tribal council and was also executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her work for the Mohegan Tribe, Chief Malerba had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

Chief Malerba has achieved a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services; is a member of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council; serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health; is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee; and serves as a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She also serves as the United South and Eastern Tribes board of directors secretary, and is a member of the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Chief Malerba serves as a trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member for the Harvard University Native American Program and served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 11 years.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s graduation exercises on May 21, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to Malerba, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Written by Ed Osborn

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

 

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/08/2019) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Students present research during the poster session of the 2018 CREATE conference.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Artist Explains ‘Sacred Geometry,’ on Display Until March 7

Reni Gower explains the concepts behind her artwork during her visit to Eastern.

Mixed-media artist Reni Gower recently visited Eastern Connecticut State University to kick off the opening of her exhibition, “Sacred Geometry: The Perfect Proof.” The exhibition is on display in the Art Gallery from Feb. 1 to March 7, located in room 112 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

“Sacred Geometry” consists of large singular “papercuts,” which are complex patterns inspired by Celtic knotwork and Islamic ornamental tiles that are hand cut from single sheets of paper. Gower was inspired by sacred geometry, a concept from ancient times that derives meaning from perfect shapes such as circles, squares and triangles. At her lecture, Gower discussed her development as an artist and how her fascination with patterns and geometry has continually inspired her work since she was a student.

Papercuts: Burdock (2018) and Quatrefoil (2018). Acrylic on hand-cut paper

“Geometry exists as an intrinsic belief in the natural world,” said Gower. “Humans love to find patterns in everything, and there are plenty of them in nature. Time, culture and religion come together in this concept of observing and creating perfect geometric shapes.”

Gower’s artistic evolution began with her mixed-media work. She used recycled materials such as canvas, cheesecloth, plastic, aluminum screens or rug-hold, and cut them into strips to be layered onto a frame. After arranging these materials, she then painted her unusual canvas with acrylic in varying designs. This highly-contrasting work led to Gower’s experimentation with acrylic and canvas with more conventional methods, but her interest in mixed-media never wavered.

“I have always been interested in recycled materials being used in art,” Gower said. “A common theme in all of my work is materials adding up to more than the sum of their parts.”

Her interest in geometry led her to explore the ancient art of papercutting. These pieces are painstakingly designed and cut from a single piece of paper. Some of Gower’s works are over six feet in length. The process is laborious but meditative, allowing Gower to reflect on the nature of geometric designs.

“Sacred Geometry: The Perfect Proof” features these intricate works of art and Gower hopes the universal language of sacred geometry will connect Western and Middle Eastern artistic legacies with hope and optimism.

Eastern’s Art Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 1-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery or call (860) 465-4659.

Written by Raven Dillon

Windham Textile & History Museum to Feature Work of Remarkable Dressmaker

Eastern Students Design for Access Agency

Eastern and Access Agency personnel peruse the students’ final poster designs at the project’s Nov. 29 unveiling at Access.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Ten graphic design students at Eastern Connecticut State University recently concluded a major project with the Access Community Action Agency in Willimantic. As part of Professor Terry Lennox’s capstone course “Eastern Design Group,” the students created 13 posters that graphically represent the agency’s 13 community programs.

The posters will live in the agency’s conference room as official representations of Access’ services, which include assistance programs for energy, food, housing and employment. The posters will also be used externally for fundraising and outreach events.

“How do we better tell our story?” asked Kathleen Krider, Access’ senior director of community engagement, at the poster unveiling in late November. “By working with Eastern students!” she exclaimed.

Eastern Design Group students and Professor Terry Lennox (middle, back row) stand before several of their final poster designs.

Krider reflected on an email she received this past summer from Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), in which local nonprofits and charities were invited to apply for service projects with Eastern students. Krider responded that Access could use assistance in the realm of marketing and branding.

Enter the Eastern Design Group. Each year, a new cohort of graduating seniors takes on a design-related project to serve an area community organization. This was Lennox’s 10th year bringing students into the community for such a project, and her first with Access.

Robert John ’19 stands before one of his two poster designs.

“We work exclusively on real-world projects, following the same protocol students will use as professionals,” she said. That protocol involves ongoing research of the client’s needs and mission, interviewing clients, determining timetables and maintaining communication throughout the design process.

“Working with a client isn’t as easy as one might expect,” said student Robert John ’19. “There’s constant back-and-forth, new ideas, changes and countless drafts. It’s difficult to meet everyone’s expectations, including your own.”

After receiving design input from Access program coordinators, each student designed 13 posters – one for each program – as well as numerous drafts and revisions. In the end, Access selected a poster from each student, with some students receiving multiple selections.

One of the challenges was navigating differences in artistic opinion. “Before this, all the art I’ve done has been what I like,” said Olivia DeForge ’19, who designed the poster for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). “If the client wants something changed, you have to do it even if you might not agree. This experience taught me how to interact with and take input from a client.”

Lennox agreed, “It’s all about meeting the client’s needs by translating your own creativity, skills and training.” She also pointed out the résumé- and portfolio-building aspects of this project.

“We wanted the posters to frame the programs from a wide lens,” said Krider. “That way, as the programs change, the posters remain applicable.”

Oivia DeForge ’19 stands before her poster design.

For instance, income guidelines for energy assistance may change from year to year. “If the content is too specific, it may become dated,” said Krider. “We’d like to keep these posters in circulation for several years.”

“I’m incredibly pleased with the end result of my work, as well as the work of my peers,” said John, who designed posters for the Rapid Re-Housing program and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program. “It’s satisfying knowing that something you created will benefit others for years to come.”

The Eastern Design Group was started by Professor Emeritus June Bisantz. Now, Lennox, as well as Professors Tao Chen and Lora Lee, regularly lead art students through community-related graphic design projects. Past projects from their various courses include designing print materials and exhibitions for the Commercially Licensed Co-operative Kitchen (CLiCK), Windham No-Freeze Project, Generations Family Health Center, Windham Hospital, Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and other Windham-area nonprofits.