Top U.S. Mental Health Official Speaks at Eastern’s 128th Commencement

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College 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.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

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 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.

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, 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. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Eastern Art Gallery Presents 2018 Senior Exhibition

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/30/2018) The Art and Art History Department at Eastern Connecticut State University will present its 2018 Senior Art Exhibition from May 4-15 in the Art Gallery of the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC). The opening reception will take place on May 4 from 4-6 p.m.

The exhibition will highlight the work of more than 30 graduating seniors who specialize in painting, sculpture, graphic design, printmaking and other art forms. The senior exhibition is the Art Gallery’s final show of the 2017-18 academic year.

The gallery is open on Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday 1-7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. The public is invited and admission is free. For more information, contact the gallery at (860) 465-4659 or (860) 465-4647, or visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery.

CREATE Conference Shows Breadth and Depth of Eastern Students

Written by Michael Rouleau

Displays of research and creativity filled the Student Center at Eastern Connecticut State University on April 13 for the annual CREATE conference. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier undergraduate conference of the academic year.

CREATE featured more than 200 students of all majors who led oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, music and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, as well as documentary viewings and new-media demonstrations.

Students give a musical performance.
A student gives an oral presentation.
Conference patrons peruse the CREATE art gallery.
Students give a theatrical performance.

 

“This conference really cements our slogan that Eastern offers a ‘liberal arts education, practically applied,’” said Brian Oakley, conference co-chair and professor of environmental earth science. “It’s evident when you look around and see the breadth and depth of the work being done by our students.”

“There is no event on campus more important than CREATE,” affirmed Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Some of the work on display represents three or four years of problem solving, testing and intellectual pursuit. This event is more than a source of pride; it’s a validation of our university’s mission.”

Midway through the conference, two students and two faculty members received awards for undergraduate research and faculty mentorship.

Julie Underhill ’18, who majors in labor relations and human resources management, and Tess Candler ’18, who double majors in political science and economics, received the undergraduate research awards. The faculty awards went to Underhill and Candler’s mentors, respectively: Business Administration Professor Niti Pandey and Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Award recipients Julie Underhill (middle) and Niti Pandey (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.
Award recipients Courtney Broscious (middle) and Tess Candler (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.

 

“Without the professors we cannot celebrate the success of the students,” reminded Provost Dimitrios Pachis, “and without the students we cannot celebrate the success of the professors. This is how the world works, the yin and the yang. With this sort of partnership, we create the future.”

The CREATE conference advances Eastern’s strategic plan by reinforcing high-impact practices such as mentored research and creative projects; increasing the percentage of students who present scholarly work; raising awareness of the accomplishments of Eastern students; and contributing to the intellectual richness of the campus community.

Eastern to hold Ninth Annual Service Expo and Awards Ceremony

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/11/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University will hold its annual Service Expo and Awards Ceremony on April 19 from 2-5 p.m. in the lobby of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the event will showcase the numerous service projects being spearheaded by Eastern students in the Windham area.

Student volunteers will present posters describing their projects, which have occurred at more than 30 sites in the region. Guest judges from the community and Eastern faculty and staff will present awards for the best programs.

Awards will be given to the following individuals: Service Learning Award – Denise Matthews, professor of communication at Eastern; Community Program Award – Christy Calkins and Journey House Program at Natchaug Hospital; and Community Engagement Awards to Nancy Brennan, Interfaith Campus Ministry, Erin Corbett and student Makayla Mowel.

The expo will kick off with keynote speaker Erin Corbett of Second Chances, an education program within the Connecticut prison system. The event is open to the public. For more information, contact the CCE at (860) 465-0090.

The Artists of ‘Mom and Dad’ Explain their Work

Kalen Na’il Roach stands before one of his pieces in the Art Gallery.

Written by Casey Collins

The Art Gallery at Eastern Connecticut State University is exhibiting “Mom & Dad” from March 8 to April 19. The exhibit features a collection of long-term photographic projects from artists Nelson Chan, Kalen Na’il Roach and Mariela Sancari. On March 22, Chan and Roach held an artist talk at the opening reception to discuss the motivations behind their snapshots.

Nelson Chan addresses the crowd at the exhibition’s opening reception.

For Chan, a picture is priceless. The thought and precision needed to capture exactly what he wants within the 8×10 frame exceeds any sort of limits he could imagine. Yet he assigns very specific values to each photo that stem from a reason, a memory, a longing or desire to understand the true meaning of family.

For decades, Chan’s parents lived apart from each other. While his mother resided in New Jersey, his father often spent his time running the family toy business in Hong Kong. Their relationship was one of cold and silence, yet some equal level of understanding. For Chan, it was especially difficult to understand this at such a young age, all the while splitting time between the two homes.

To better understand his parents’ relationship, Chan undertook “Mom & Dad,” a photographical exploration of his parent’s relationship. Now 13 years into the project, Chan explained what it has taken for him to reach this point in the work where he is ready to share the shots.

“They were embracing in their office, and I thought it was a very tender moment between the two of them,” he recalls. “I remember saying to myself that I would give the shot to my mother as a gift. When she came back to New Jersey I gave it to her and she was not happy about it at all. This photograph that I describe as my parents embracing each other was actually my mother embracing my father, and my father, who was very distant, looking out into the distance. When she opened it, she whispered something to herself, and I heard it. She said, ‘He doesn’t love me anymore.'”

Chan described the moment as earth-shattering to him. At the time he was simply a college student trying to figure out what it meant to be a photographer. For a truth like this to come from a gift of good intentions was mind-blowing to him, and helped him discover the unintentional power that photographs can truly contain.

An arrangement of photographs by Nelson Chan.

“In that moment I realized pictures can mean so many different things to so many different people,” said Chan. “I decided I would begin this project of photographing my family after college. Not just to better understand my family, but to better understand myself.”

While Chan takes a more traditional approach to presenting his work, Kalen Na’il Roach has mastered the unorthodox. His art hangs from the gallery walls in the form of vibrant cloth banners. Images of men from decades past center the streamers, a collage of different backgrounds and colors laid out behind them. It is as dazzling as it is confusing to the eye. The men are Roach’s family members, a theme central to his art.

Art had been an integral part of Roach’s family lineage dating back generations. His father was a photographer and his grandfather was a painter and jazz musician. Before he became a photographer Roach was a talented painter himself, but, “It was my father who put the camera in my hands first.” His father passed away in October 2017.

Roach’s fascination with his family’s work stems from a vast collection of photographs left behind by his father and grandfather. “I had found these images that my father took at parties. He would take these portraits of people and sell them for $5 a pop,” said Roach. “One day I found these images that he hadn’t sold, and they were all pictures of my family, I was shocked at the performance of it all and how much photography can be performance; how it relates to portraiture; and how it related to my experience with my family members. In the pictures they were putting on their best selves, but I knew so much more.”

The more he mined this archive of photos, the deeper his understanding grew, but it was never enough. While Roach’s ultimate goal of his art is to honor the legacies his father and grandfather, he also yearned to fully comprehend the relationships of his family especially that of his mother and father. While the two were close, they were not together- separating when Roach was three years old. Despite all the photos of his family he had unearthed, one of the hardest things for Roach was that he did not have a photograph of him and his parents. It was only a short time ago that he set out on one of his most ambitious projects yet- to take that coveted photograph.

A photograph by Mariela Sancari.

“I tricked them into doing a shoot together,” explained Roach. “I told them to wear black and meet me at my mom’s basement, and that it was an emergency and that I needed them both. I knew there was no other way to do it. I needed to create this image of them together because we didn’t have it.”

Roach describes how he used this photo for his first-ever solo show, the deeper motivations behind the shot, and what it took to capture this elusive moment. “I was playing with the idea of what our family really was and what our family looks like,” said Roach. “I thought it was going to be like pulling teeth, but once we got together they were all-in. We had a great time, but I forced them to be stoic. I told them what to be, how to look and how to act. I was so controlling with it because I wanted it to be as made up of a picture as possible, so when you looked at the awkwardness of it you could see the tension. It was an acronym of what two people who have a kid together and aren’t together anymore- but love each other- is.”

Although she was not able to attend the opening reception, Sancari did leave a message explaining the meaning behind her portion of the gallery. Her photography explores how memory shapes identity, and how it shades into fiction. In her photographic series “Moisés,” Sancari confronts the lingering uncertainties surrounding her father’s life and death by photographing men in their 70s- the age her father would be today had he not committed suicide when she was a child.

The Art Gallery is located in Room 112 of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus. Gallery hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 11 to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 1-7 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. Parking is available in the Cervantes parking garage and in the Student Center parking lot. For more information regarding this and other exhibitions at The Art Gallery, please call (860) 465-4659 or visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery.

Eastern Professor Anne Dawson wins 2018 Ruth Emery Award

Written by Casey Collins

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/28/2018) Anne Dawson, professor of art history at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been announced as the unanimous winner of the 2018 Victorian Society in America Ruth Emery Award. Her book, “Rare Light,” explores the life and career of American impressionist J. Alden Weir, an artist who created some of his most notable works while living in Windham, CT. The Ruth Emery Award recognizes top scholarly work on 19th-century regional history.

The book is rated 4.5 out of five stars on Amazon, receiving numerous positive reviews from critics. “Within a growing body of distinguished literature on American art, the volume sparkles with rich historical detail and fresh archival research,” said Patricia McDonnell, director of the Wichita Art Museum. “As editor and lead author, Anne Dawson makes a meaningful contribution to our knowledge of American impressionism through the lens of a finely focused study.”

“Rare Light” was one of 109 titles submitted for the awards, which included categories in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young readers. Each category was reviewed by a panel of five judges, all with substantial expertise in the literary arts. The books were reviewed over a course of three months, with each category critiqued according to a specifically assigned criteria. Of the 109 books, only 17 were selected for the list of finalists.

Dawson has been an Eastern faculty member for 24 years, and now serves as chair of the Art and Art History Department.

 

Eastern Art Gallery presents “Mom & Dad”

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/12/2018) The Art Gallery at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “Mom & Dad” from March 8 to April 19. On March 22 from 3-4 p.m. there will be a gallery talk with exhibiting artists Nelson Chan and Kalen Na’il Roach, followed by an opening reception from 4-6 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Mom & Dad” brings together Chan, Roach and fellow artist Mariela Sancari, who investigate their personal and familial histories through long-term photographic series and installations.

Chan’s photographs follow his parents as they travel back and forth between the United States and Hong Kong, where their business is based. His project is both an intimate portrait of his parents’ lives and relationship and a snapshot of larger processes of globalization and economic migration.

Roach works with and within his family’s archive. By painting, drawing and pasting over family photographs, he searches for the family he knows beneath the seamless illusion of the photographic surface.

Like Roach, Sancari explores how memory shapes identity-and how it shades into fiction. In her photographic series “Moisés,” Sancari confronts the lingering uncertainties surrounding her father’s life and death by photographing men in their 70s–the age her father would be today had he not committed suicide when she was a child.

The Art Gallery is located in room 112 of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 1-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. Parking is available in Cervantes Garage and in the Student Center parking lot. For more information regarding this and other exhibitions at the Art Gallery, please call (860) 465-4659 or visit on the website at http://www.easternct.edu/artgallery.

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

Eastern’s Imna Arroyo Presents Artwork

             Professor Emeritus Imna Arroyo Exhibits “Ancestors of the Passage”

                                               at William Benton Museum of Art

Written by Casey Collins

Eastern Connecticut State University Professor Emeritus Imna Arroyo will present her installation “Ancestors of the Passage” at the William Benton Museum of Art. The installation will be on display from Jan. 18 to March 11, with an opening reception on Jan. 25 from 4:30-7 p.m.

“Ancestors of the Passage” is a multimedia installation composed of 27 terracotta ceramic figures, each one cast in a blue sea of acrylic canvas and silk fabric. The figures have a blank stare on their face as they reach a hand out toward the viewer.

The inspiration for the installation comes from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Refugees,” and the histories of voluntary and involuntary immigration that brought us to become American.” Much like Nguyen’s work, Arroyo’s installation explores the forced immigration of slaves from Africa.

Entrance to the reception is free and open to the public. For more information regarding the installation, please contact the William Benton Museum of Art at (860) 486-4520.

Eastern’s Rahmanifar Exhibits in NYC

Afarins Arnavaz_and_ShahrnazWritten by Casey Collins

From Nov. 17 to Dec. 22, Brooklyn’s SOHO20 Gallery will present “Women of Shahnameh, The Memories Between,” an exhibition by Afarin Rahmanifar, art professor at Eastern Connecticut State University. For Rahmanifar, who resides in Manchester, this will be her first time on display at the prestigious New York gallery – in the past month she was also featured at the ArtWalk Gallery in Hartford, CT, and the Hans Weiss Newspace at Manchester Community College.

Self-described as having “intersecting points of Eastern and Western culture,” Rahmanifar’s work is a reflection of her life as a young exile of Iran and a proud American mother. As a child, Rahmanifar’s family was forced to abandon her home in Tehran, Iran, in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. She later came to America, where her passion for art led her to earning a master’s in fine arts at the University of Connecticut.

“Women of Shahnameh, The Memories Between,” is a masterful collection of different art forms, including painting, installation and animated motion picture. The exhibition draws inspiration from “Shahnameh” (“The Book of Kings”). The book is the world’s longest poem, and is a staple of Iranian mythology, telling the stories of magic, superheroes and love. Rahmanifar’s exhibition translates the epic into short films and original stories that tell modernized tales of the women of Shahnameh, while still encapsulating the main themes of love, dreams and demons.

“Women of Shahnameh, The Memories Between” is on display until Dec. 22. For more information, call (718) 366-3661 or visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/soho20gallery/about/?ref=page_internal.