French Professor Bacholle Named CSU Professor

On June 20, the Board of Regents for Higher Education awarded the title of Connecticut State University (CSU) Professor to French Professor Michelle Bacholle for the 2019-20 academic year. A member of Eastern’s faculty since 1999, Professor Bacholle has served the University with distinction. She was promoted to associate professor in 2003 and professor in 2008.  In addition to being a tenured professor of French Studies in the Department of World Languages and Culture, Bacholle is a prolific scholar with an international reputation.

Bacholle, who was named Eastern’s Distinguished Professor in 2018, recently published her sixth book. In addition, she has 46 articles, 48 book reviews, and has presented at 5 international conferences and 46 national conferences. Her work has been published in the top journals in her field.

Bacholle also participates in governing boards, editorial boards and dissertation committees, and is a frequent speaker on Francophone studies throughout North America and Europe.

Awardees must first be nominated by a faculty advisory committee must first nominate a faculty member, receive the recommendation of the University president and CSU chancellor and finally be approved by the CSU Board of Trustees.

“Dr. Bacholle is an eminent scholar of international reputation, clearly representing the high quality and continuous professional excellence indicative of the CSU Professor title,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Her accomplishments clearly demonstrate that she has a significant body of scholarly work that is recognized internationally. She has been a leading scholar in the modern evolution of French and Francophone Studies. Her scholarship and books have received praise from around the world. Dr. Bacholle admirably fulfills the requirements for the position of CSU Professor.”

Not more than three (3) CSU Professorships are allowed in any one university at any given time. Dr. Bacholle serves as one of two CSU Professor at Eastern. History Professor Anna Kirchmann serves as the other CSU Professor.

By Dwight Bachman

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

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

‘Jurakán’ Documentary Explores Puerto Rican Identity

Labeled an “unincorporated territory,” the island of Puerto Rico has been under United States control since 1898. On April 3, filmmakers Rosa Emmanuel Gutiérrez and Gonzalo Mazzini visited Eastern Connecticut State University to screen their documentary “Jurakán: Nación en Resistencia,” which addresses Puerto Rican identity amid the constant question of ownership.

“Jurakán” filmmakers Gonzalo Mazzini and Rosa Emmanuel. Gutiérrez.

Before beginning “Jurakán,” Gutiérrez and Mazzini asked audience members, “What do you know about Puerto Rico?” With several Puerto Ricans in attendance, results varied but were mostly enthusiastic. “Being from Mexico, I didn’t know anything about Puerto Rico,” until he became involved in the project, Mazzini admitted.

Mazzini’s first trip to the island came when Gutiérrez, a native, invited him after they met during undergraduate school. It was there that the documentary came to fruition. “It’s a very warm country,” he said, referring not to the weather but to the culture. However, he found it peculiar that for such a proud nation, Puerto Rican flags on display were often hung beside American flags.

Mazzini’s observation as an outsider caused Gutiérrez to consider why this was so common, and what it suggested about her role as a Puerto Rican. “It’s that Puerto Rico is a U.S. colony,” she said. “There’s no other way around it. For me, that was the norm.”

She started to think about the ways colonialism had long affected her as a Puerto Rican, sparking the inspiration to create “Jurakán.” The film includes commentary from 41 people — artists, politicians, economists and historians among them — who speak on Puerto Rico’s history as a Spanish colony up until the Spanish-American War, in addition to its current status as a U.S. territory.

Points raised throughout the film largely center on how Puerto Rican lives have been altered to fit a colonialist image over time, stripping people of autonomy in various spaces. Those featured cite the conversion of Catholics to Protestants, being forced to utilize the U.S. Merchant Marine and the past criminalization of the Puerto Rican flag as major examples.

Law 53 of 1948, commonly known as the Gag Law, was an effort by the nation’s legislature to suppress the Puerto Rican independence movement. This law, which lasted until 1957, made it illegal to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, to speak or write of independence, to sing a patriotic tune and to meet with anyone or hold any assembly in favor of Puerto Rican independence.

Discussion takes place in the documentary around significant figures like Pedro Albizu Campos, a leader in the Puerto Rican independence movement, as well as the psychological impact that comes with never experiencing self-governance. One person brings up Stockholm syndrome — a condition that causes hostages to develop psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity — that has developed in some Puerto Ricans, contrasting with the desire for liberation.

The film captures Puerto Rican identity on a wide spectrum, indicating the complexity behind years of oppression. “A common denominator is communities working together to solve their problems,” said Gutiérrez. “Beyond what political stance they choose, I think the most important thing is that communities realize their power.”

“Jurakán” won Best Documentary at the Rincón International Film Festival. There will be a sequel the production, focusing more heavily on the unification and organized efforts of Puerto Ricans against the setbacks that have continuously limited them.

Written by Jordan Corey

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

Professor’s New Book Examines Stories of Suicide-Loss Survivors

Michèle Bacholle

Michèle Bacholle, French professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, recently published her sixth book, titled “Récits contemporains d’endeuillés après suicide,” which translates to “Contemporary stories of mourners after suicide.” Bacholle’s book is the first to examine autobiographical writings by contemporary French novelists who are survivors of another person’s suicide.

Bacholle noted that although suicide is unfortunately prevalent in modern society, it is still a stigmatized and contentious topic in the United States and France. This stigmatization often impacts those who have lost someone close to them.

“Literature has its fair share of writers who committed suicide,” she said, “but only recently – since 2000 – have French writers become increasingly open about their loved one’s suicide and started publishing about their loss and grief, breaking the taboo and allowing suicide to enter the public discourse.”

Bacholle’s book examines how literature assists people who are grieving. She highlights the lives of writers Éric Fottorino, Delphine de Vigan, Philippe Grimbert, Zahia Rahmani, Olivier Charneux and Chloé Delaume as they regrouped after loss, typically involving extensive and drastic changes. In reflection, Bacholle thoughtfully explores the unique kind of mourning that comes with suicide.

She stated: “Although most of the writers I studied asked the questions customary of that kind of mourning, such as ‘why’ and ‘what if,’ most celebrated their loved one’s life and did not let their fatal decision taint or even re-fashion their memories and the life of the deceased.”

“Récits contemporains d’endeuillés après suicide” is divided into three parts. The first part addresses the weight of family. “Fottorino’s adoptive father’s suicide allowed him to reconnect with his biological father,” said Bacholle. “Vigan wrote about her mother’s suicide to break the silence on family secrets and end suicide’s contagion, to protect her own children from secrets’ toxicity.”

The second part, focusing Grimbert’s and Rahmani’s works, touches on history, including the trauma of the Holocaust and the Algerian War of Independence, major events that caused delayed suicides. The third part considers Charneux and Delaume’s experiences of losing their fathers to suicide when they were children. “Children as suicide-loss survivors have not received much attention,” notes Bacholle. “Their mourning is quite different from that of adults.”

She continued: “These accounts not only benefit those who write them – providing them with a venue to articulate their questions, sort through and come to terms with feelings such as guilt and anger and alleviate their pain – they also benefit the suicide-loss survivors who read them and see a reflection of their own affects and questions. I also think that suicide-loss accounts can act as prevention: reading about how the pain suicide-loss survivors feel and how grief persists throughout their lives can give persons with suicidal thoughts a lifeline.”

Bacholle hopes that her book will bring a better understanding of suicide loss and prompt more conversations surrounding the subject, so that those affected by it can receive support instead of avoidance or judgement.

A book launch will be held at Eastern on Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. in the Connecticut Room of Gelsi-Young Hall. Bacholle wants readers to know that for those in need of emotional support, help is available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Written by Jordan Corey

Bacholle and He Wrap up Fall Faculty Scholars Forum

French Professor Michèle Bacholle                                                                        Gary Bozylinsky Photography

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern faculty continue to showcase their scholarship on a wide range of research topics, which they share during lunch presentations at the Faculty Scholars Forum.

On Dec. 5, French Professor Michèle Bacholle ended the fall series of presentations by creating an interactive discussion on “Suicide Survivors or Captivating Your Audience with Counter-Presentations.” Bacholle asked audience members to play her version of the television of “Family Feud.”

Bacholle, as an activist from the feminist “Party of the Circle,” in her counter-presentation on Chloé Delaume’s “The Republic’s Witches,” U. of Guelph, Canada, April 2018

Questions focused on suicide and suicide loss, a topic Bacholle has been writing on for the past five years. Bacholle then explained that “counter-presentations” are performances based on serious research, the goal of which is to keep the audience engaged and more likely to retain information. Bacholle showed how counter-presentations can be effective at conferences and in the classroom.

Kedan He

On Nov.14, Kedan He, assistant professor of physical sciences, gave a presentation titled “From Quantum to Classical Mechanics, the Application of Computational Chemistry to Understand, Predict, and Design.” She presented on computational chemistry and how it could be applied to understand, predict and design chemical systems. Computational chemistry is a branch of chemistry that uses computer simulation to assist in solving chemical problems.

This is an interdisciplinary field that merges chemistry and physics, theoretical chemistry, computer science, as well as data science, and uses efficient computer programs to calculate the structures and properties of molecules and solids.

Professor He explained the difference between classical and quantum mechanics, how each physics law is used in answering chemistry-related questions, and the advantages and disadvantages of both methods. She then demonstrated the application of using Ab Initio electronic computation in illustrating the difference between the thermodynamics vs. kinetic control of a chemical reaction. She demonstrated how high-accuracy computation, in conjunction with cutting-edge experimental techniques, discovers the third reaction mechanism – “Tunneling control.” Under this mechanism, she said, the reactant with extremely low thermal energy can penetrate a narrow activation barrier and produce the unexpected product.

The second half of her talk focused on molecular docking, one of the most commonly used methods of the computer-aided drug design. The computer-aided drug design takes advantage of the freely available database on protein structures and drug-like small molecules, using a fast screening process to help identify possible drug candidate, and reduces the time required in developing new drugs. In the structure-based drug design approach, she said, the structure of a target protein is well characterized. The target protein and small drug molecule candidates are docked to simulate the interaction pose. The interaction binding affinity between the protein and small molecules are also calculated using molecular-docking software to identify the best performing drug molecule candidates. 

Eastern to Hold 3 Native American Heritage Month Events

Written by Jolene Potter

Eastern Connecticut State University will host three events in commemoration of Native American Heritage Month in late October and November. The events will feature prominent figures and guest speakers from the local Native American community, as well as demonstrations of music, jewelry making and natural medicines. All events are free and open to the public.

On Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. in the Student Center’s Betty Tipton Room, internationally acclaimed author and activist Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe Tribe will lead a talk titled “A Native Perspective: Sustaining Our Land, Recovering the Sacred.” Her talk will explore how indigenous understandings of land, religion and sacredness influence strategies for a sustainable environment. LaDuke is the executive director of Honor the Earth, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and financial support for indigenous environmental justice. The organization recently played an active role in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

On Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre, Chief Marilynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe will present “A Talk with First Nation, First Modern Female Chief.” Appointed in 2010, Malerba is the 18th chief of the Mohegan Tribe and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history.

On Nov. 13 from 11-1 p.m. in the Student Center Lobby, Eastern will celebrate the diverse cultures and traditions with a “Native American Heritage Day of Events.” Starting at 11 a.m., there will be an opportunity to participate in demonstrations of natural medicines (led by Mohegan tribal member Charlie Strickland) and jewelry design (led by Natasha Gambrell of the Eastern Pequot Tribe). At 12 p.m., there will an interactive program featuring a variety of Native music led by Chris Newell, a singer and senior educator of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

These events are co-sponsored by the Intercultural Center, Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Institute of Sustainable Energy and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work. The mission of Native American Heritage Month is to educate the public about the challenges faced by Native people currently and historically as well as the ways in which tribal citizens and communities have worked to conquer these challenges. All events are free and open to the public.

Conference Lends ‘Parrot’s-Eye View’ into Latin America and Caribbean

Three Eastern students present “Media Narratives and their Impact on the Immigrant Rights Movement.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

On the 526-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World, on Oct. 12, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its third Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Conference. The symposium featured research presentations and panel discussions by Eastern faculty and students, as well as a keynote presentation by visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College.

“The date of this conference is significant,” said Anthropology Professor Ricardo Pérez, conference co-organizer. “It’s on this day in 1492 that Columbus spotted an island in the Caribbean and ‘discovered the New World,’ an event that resulted in a number of circumstances still felt today.”

The LACS Conference explored some of those circumstances, from the maroon communities of descendants of African slaves in Brazil, to the media portrayals of undocumented youth in the U.S., to the perils of Puerto Rican parrots after Hurricane Maria – and colonialism.

Anthropology Professor Mary Kenny opened the first panel with a discussion of her new book, “Deeply Rooted in the Present: Heritage, Memory, and Identity of Brazilian Quilombos.” Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country, and was the last to abolish slavery (1888). Presently there are more than 4,000 estimated maroon communities (known as Quilombos) in Brazil, many of which are in remote locations disconnected from mainstream society.

English Professor Miriam Chirico presents “John Leguizamo’s Comic Frame and Search for Identity.”

Among the problems facing the Quilombos is their status. Without federal recognition – or land acquisition rights – they are seen as squatters and sometimes forcibly moved to make way for development. According to Kenny, less than 10 percent of the Quilombos have federal status, yet some have existed for hundreds of years.

The third panel opened with English Professor Miriam Chirico’s research “John Leguizamo’s Comic Frame and Search for Identity.” Her research explores the tendency for Latino men to be typecast as gangsters and drug dealers in movies and television, which only reinforces negative stereotypes. “It’s hard to underestimate the effect this has on the public mind,” said Chirico.

A longtime actor-activist from Colombia, Leguizamo has made a career in white-dominated Hollywood by playing to the stereotypes of Latin American men, while also attempting to retain his ethnic identity.

Social Work Professor Isabelle Logan closed panel three with her presentation “Microaggressions and Bilingual Latino Professionals in the Court System.” Prior to coming to Eastern, Logan worked in the court system for 20 years. “When I started I was the only bilingual social worker in the public defender’s office,” she said. “I soon realized I was being asked to fulfill certain tasks that my colleagues were not.”

Social Work Professor Isabelle Logan presented “Microaggressions and Bilingual Latino Professionals in the Court System.”

Many of these tasks included serving as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking clients, however this added workload resulted in her being unable to complete her other work. When she asked for support, her plight was dismissed with statements such as, “Isn’t this the reason you were hired?”

Microagressions are subtle forms of discrimination. Logan’s research shows that they affect bilingual professionals in the hiring process and work environment, as well as their work performance and professional development.

Panel four consisted of students Vania Galicia (English), Monica Torrijos Ronquillo (psychology and criminology) and Juan Matiz (computer science) who spoke on the experience of undocumented students in a presentation titled “Media Narratives and their Impact on the Immigrant Rights Movement.”

Though it has never been passed, the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 as a way to grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. In an effort to protect these youth from deportation, the Obama Administration passed DACA in 2012 — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“Growing up, we began to realize the effects of our undocumented status, particularly the lack of economic mobility and access to higher education,” said Matiz. Galicia agreed: “When I was a kid, I wondered if I’d ever be able to go to college, or if I could even get a job.”

The students’ presentation focused on the media’s role in crafting the DREAMer narrative – “DREAMer” is a term used to describe undocumented youth with high hopes in America. The students explained that this narrative is an example of “American exceptionalism,” as DREAMers are often depicted as highly educated young people with impressive career trajectories – an idealized notion of the “right immigrant.”

Student Monica Torrijos Ronquillo discusses the media’s portrayal of the immigrant-rights movement.

“If you’re undocumented, you’re either perfect (a DREAMer) or a criminal,” said Torrijos Ronquillo. “You can’t be anywhere in the middle. You can’t just be normal.” The students indicated that this societal pressure, coupled with their uncertain futures, breeds anxiety and depression.

The conference closed with visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College, who presented “The Great Silence: A Parrot’s Eye View of the Forests of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.”

“Imagine a Caribbean region with thousands of parrots flying overhead. Columbus described such a flock darkening the sky. This display is unimaginable today,” said Paravisini-Gebert, explaining that there has been a steady decline in parrot populations due to human and environmental events.

Visiting professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert of Vassar College presents her research about the perils of Puerto Rican parrots after Hurricane Maria.

Many endemic species of parrot and macaw have gone extinct throughout the Caribbean due to habitat destruction/deforestation and hunting.

“If you’ve been around a long time, you become picky,” said Paravisini-Gebert. “This is true of the parrots, who commanded the forest a long time. They need certain habitats to be just so.”

Parrots have been slow to adapt to the changes brought after colonization. With diminished habitats from human development, parrot populations have declined to the point where, now, a direct hit on their range – such as by a hurricane – could bring a localized population to extinction.

To boost populations, some parrots in Puerto Rico are bred in captivity and reintroduced to the wild in the island’s more remote regions. The problem with this has to do with loss of language. Parrots have complex vocalizations that differ among species and regions.

“Those from captivity don’t speak Puerto Rican parrot,” joked Paravisini-Gebert, “like their wild counterparts in other parts of the island.”

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference also featured presentations by Sociology Professor Dennis Canterburgy, who recently authored “Neoextractivism and Capitalist Development”; Geography Professor Patrick Vitale’s presentation “From McKeesport to Mexico City: How American Suburbs Fought the Cold War”; and History Professor Joan Meznar’s presentation “Saving Brazil from Communism: Our Lady Aparecida and the Military Regime, 1964-85.”