Eastern Shack-a-thon for Homelessness

•Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Habitat for Humanity club members pose for a group photo as they break down their camp after a night sleeping in boxes.

Written by Michael Rouleau

A group of Eastern Connecticut State University students emerged from frost-covered cardboard boxes on Thursday morning, Nov. 9, after spending a freezing night sleeping outside. The temperatures dipped into the 20s for the annual “Shack-a-thon,” a fundraising event for the Habitat for Humanity club that aims to raise awareness of substandard housing.

Duct-taped boxes, plastic lining and tarps littered Eastern’s main courtyard for the 24-hour event, which challenged club members to weather the elements like homeless people do.

“I was very glad to have layers,” said sophomore Bryan Duffy. Besides lacking warm clothing, he added, “A homeless person might not even have access to the supplies we had. Someone could easily die of hypothermia in their sleep.”

The students learned some tricks to keeping warm. “You want a small box, rather than a large one,” said Duffy, “as your body acts like a furnace and heats up the space.” A tarp on the ground and plastic coverings were key for keeping dry, and duct-taped edges helped to seal in the warmth and reinforce the structure.

Another challenge for Shack-a-thon participants was to eat only food that was donated. Luckily the students had the support of members of the Eastern community, who chipped in with snacks and pizza. But they recognized that if not for a few generous souls, their hunger levels would have been drastically different-another insight into the life of being homeless.

Shack-a-thon and the club’s other activities lead toward its yearly highlight: a spring break trip to the Carolinas where the students build houses with other Habitat for Humanity chapters. Club members have been honing their skills locally in preparation for the trip. They’ve been helping to construct a house on Ivan Hill Street in Willimantic throughout the fall semester.

As part of the Habitat for Humanity policy, the to-be homeowner has been building the house alongside the volunteers in what is called “sweat equity.” “It’s really heartwarming to see him and his kids walk around the rooms that I built,” said sophomore Genna Fritsch. “It’s amazing to see the kids excitedly say ‘this is going to be my room!'”

Habitat for Humanity partners with community members all over the world to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. With volunteer support, Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families.

Collaborative Multimedia Performance at Eastern

SOY dancersWritten by Jolene Potter

Music, visual art and dance came together on Nov. 3 for a unique multimedia performance at Eastern Connecticut State University. This multimedia event involved extensive collaboration between Eastern faculty and students to provide audience members with an exceptional sensory-engaging experience. The “S.O.Y. Piano Trio Multi-Media Concert” was held in Eastern’s state-of-the art Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall.

The talented S.O.Y. Piano Trio, composed of violinist Seulye Park, pianist Okon Hwang and cellist Yun-Yang Lin, worked with visual artist Afarin Rahmanifar, movement specialist Alycia Bright-Holland, and media designers Kristen Morgan and Travis Houldcroft to present pieces by Cornicello, Rocherolle and Piazzolla.

Multimedia productions enrich music performance through a combination of different forms of expression such as audio, text, imagery, video and interactive content. The concert illustrated the artistic shift away from music as a product to music as one element of a multimedia art form.

SOY musiciansThe show opened with Anthony Cornicello’s “Towards,” performed by the S.O.Y. Piano Trio and accompanied by audio and video interaction and media design. Cornicello is a professor of music theory, composition and electronic music at Eastern. His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication. “Towards” illustrates how live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound.

Performers also presented six original compositions by Eugénie Rocherolle written for piano, violin and cello. The beautiful collection of flowing pieces show Rocherolle’s warm compositional style. The performance involved the collaboration of the S.O.Y. Piano Trio, movement specialist and Eastern professor Alycia Bright-Holland and Eastern dance group Modern Movement. Bright-Holland is a professor of performance arts with a particular focus on acting and movement.

The performance also led audience members on a journey throughout the four seasons with one of Astor Piazzolla’s most popular works “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aries.” The musical transitions from summer to autumn, winter and spring presented by the S.O.Y. Piano Trio were accompanied by the striking and expressive artwork of Afarin Rahmanifar, professor of painting and drawing at Eastern. The music and artwork provided concert-goers with an audio and visual sensory experience of the seasons, capturing the beauty of this famous work.

Mars: Sound Art Installed at Eastern

Written by Casey Collins

Sean Langlais is not your everyday contemporary artist. Rather than use canvas or clay, Langlais prefers to craft his art from metals and sound. In collaboration with the Department of Art and Art History, Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting an exhibition by Langlais titled, “Mars: A Sound Art Installation.” Showing from Oct. 6 to Dec.7, “Mars” is the first exhibition of its kind on Eastern’s campus. An opening reception was held Nov. 2.

Students listen to the tickting of Langlais' "sound art.":

Students listen to the tickting of Langlais’ “sound art.”:

When visitors enter the exhibit, they see a wall of metal that resembles a panel off a space shuttle rather than a piece of art. The exhibit can best be described as what Langlais calls “the ever-growing and complex relationship between organic processes in nature and newly emerging products of technology.” The display was created from 100 industrial panels, each rigged with a magnet and light-absorbent materials.

Upon closer inspection of the glimmering wall it becomes easier to understand what Langlais means. As the panels are hit with different degrees of light, each produces different sounds that mimic the static noise of nature. If you visit the art gallery during the day when it may be empty, you can hear the fair humming and whirring that comes from the simultaneous swinging of the magnets. It’s almost as if you were transported into the depth of the wilderness, with nothing but the faint chirp of insects surrounding you.

Langlais has always been fascinated with sound art. Since he was 15 years old he has considered himself to be a tinkerer, playing with and creating new things from materials that would come to form the basis of his art. He also loved the outdoors, and found himself amazed at the complexity of simple aspects of nature such as water hitting a shoreline. Admittedly, he didn’t think he was creating sound art for many years, insisting that he was simply creating from his imagination and desiring to figure out how the world operates. “I’m painting my own painting of what I see as nature,” Langlais said, “and the nature I see today is technology.”

Mars Artist WorkThe 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.

Preserving Indian Culture at Eastern

Matika_WilburWritten by Jordan Corey

According to the National Congress of American Indians, there are 562 federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, nations, pueblos, rancherias, communities and Native villages in the United States. Matika Wilbur – member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes of Washington – founded her photography mission “Project 562” to give each one of these groups honest representation. On Nov. 1, Wilbur came to Eastern Connecticut State University to tell their stories to help the University celebrate National Native American Heritage Month.

Upon entering the Student Center Theatre, attendees were met with a projected photo of a young Native American girl kneeling next to a tree, depicted in color against a black and white background. The girl is Bahazhoni Tso, a Navajo of New Mexico. She is pictured in front of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ – part of the Navajo people’s four sacred mountains. Tso sat with her family in peaceful protest to protect the mountain range from the city of Flagstaff, which wanted to use reclaimed water to create man-made snow for a ski resort there.

Wilbur began her presentation with a lively energy, a booming laugh and an evident passion for her culture. “I come from the people of the tide,” she explained, incorporating Native language into the opening. During her explanation of the Tulalip Salmon Ceremony, Wilbur introduced the crowd to the word “tigwicid,” a means of expressing thanks. For the past five years, this pride in heritage has guided Wilbur all over America in her RV – nicknamed “Big Girl” – and so far, she has documented about 450 of the 562 federally recognized Indigenous groups.

Project 562 aims to not only replace outdated, stereotyped representations that are found about Indigenous people in online searches, but to provide an accurate visualization of Native Americans overall in order to combat the negative viewpoints upheld by society. Part of what drove Wilbur to this pursuit was her experience as a teacher at Tulalip Heritage High School, where a number of her students died of unnatural causes, such as suicide, drug use and homicide. “I’d have students in class with me, and the next day, we’d be putting them in the ground.”

She knew the Tulalip students struggled with various issues centered on the misrepresentation of Native Americans, but had nothing to show them how to counteract it. Nevertheless, Wilbur felt obligated to do something. Refusing to continue the promotion of historically inaccurate narratives, she created Project 562 to spotlight the successes and depth of Native people. Not only does Wilbur take their photos, but she asks her subjects a series of questions to gain insight on who they are. One person featured during her presentation was John Trudell, a Santee Dakota poet, musician, actor, author and activist.

“The only thing that the American Indian has ever known is struggle,” Trudell told Wilbur when she met him in San Francisco. He discussed the direction he would like to see Native Americans move toward, and his own role in that progression. In addition to Trudell, Wilbur highlighted a Hawaiian language teacher who talked to her about incorporating Indigenous linguistic structures into Standard English to create a sense of community, and a farmer she called “Uncle John,” who discussed the problem of sunscreen-ridden water in regards to growing kalo. Other photographs included college professors, ranchers and artisans.

Wilbur touched on the connection between identity and land for Native people, playing a Project 562 video of the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The video depicted peaceful protestors being sprayed with mace and attacked by dogs. “What we saw at Standing Rock,” she stated, “was an incredible violation of human rights without much consequence.”

The photographer argued that the current political climate surrounding Native Americans must be combatted in more ways than one, from creating welcoming spaces in society to further incorporating real representations, like those of Project 562, into educational environments. Wilbur concluded with a story of the Nisqually tribe and the fight to maintain their canoe-centric traditions, victorious in their efforts despite governmental backlash. “There can be great loss, but there can also be great resurrection,” she said.

Eastern’s Mama Authors Miracle Stories

mama

Raouf Mama, professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, has recently authored “It was a Beautiful Day and Other Personal Quiet Miracle Stories,” an e-book published by WestBow Press.

The collection of powerful, inspirational stories captures personal, life-changing moments as it celebrates “the transmutation of sorrow into joy, of fear, despair and grief into a song of thanksgiving,” in the words of the author.  The book transcends Mama’s personal sense of gratitude for unexpected moments of grace in his life as it reaffirms the possibility of miracles in people’s daily lives.

The book taps into the universal appeal of miracles and invites readers to recognize and celebrate their own personal miracles, events that may otherwise pass unnoticed in their daily lives.

“In an era of widespread unbelief and skepticism, this book is an attempt to awaken the reader to a sense of the miraculous and the mysterious in the world and sounds a warning about the insufficiency of our senses as the exclusive basis for our judgment and our conclusions,” Mama adds.

Mama’s viewpoint on the issue of miracles is best expressed by an excerpt from his book:  “Dressed in my Sunday best, my car washed and waxed to a dazzling sheen, I set out to fetch my son. The sky was just as clear as it was two weeks earlier on Father’s Day, the air just as sweet, the day brighter still; but the joy that lifted and brightened my heart on that day, poetry and oratory will labor in vain to capture. One would have to envision the ecstasy the apostles must have felt after the agony of Good Friday, to get the full measure of my felicity.”

Mama is a distinguished professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University and an award-winning storyteller of international renown, the only one in the world today who tells in English, French, Yoruba and Fon folktales from his native Benin and other parts of the world.

Mama’s style of presentation blends stories with poetry, music and dance, and his publications include his memoir titled “Fortune’s Favored Child”, “Why Goats Smell Bad,” “Tropical Tales,” “Pearls of Wisdom” and “Why Monkeys Live In Trees,” winner of the 2008 National Multicultural Children’s Book Award.

Renowned Scholar to Speak at Eastern

Written by Dwight Bachman

Pedro Noguera PHOTOWillimantic, CT—Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as faculty director for UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools, will lecture at Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 14. The event begins at 9 a.m. in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center

Noguera’s scholarship and research focuses on ways that schools and their students are influenced by social and economic conditions and demographic trends. Noguera serves on the boards of many national and local organizations and appears as a regular commentator on educational issues on CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio and other national news outlets.

Prior to joining the faculty at UCLA, Noguera served as the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University and the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools; the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and as professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also the director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change.

Noguera has also served as a trustee for the State University of New York (SUNY). In 2014, he was elected to the National Academy of Education. He recently received awards from the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences, the National Association of Secondary Principals, and the McSilver Institute at NYU for his research and advocacy efforts aimed at fighting poverty. Noguera served as a classroom teacher in public schools in Providence, RI, and in Oakland, CA, and continues to work with schools nationally and internationally as a researcher and advisor.

Noguera has published more than 200 research articles, monographs and eports on topics such as urban school reform, conditions that promote student achievement, the role of education in community development, youth violence, and race and ethnic relations in American society. His work has appeared in multiple major research journals.  He is the author of several books, includingCity Schools and the American Dream”;  “Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation’s Schools”; “The Trouble With Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education”; and “Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving from Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap” with A. Wade Boykin. His most recent books are “Excellence Through Equity” with Alan Blankstein and “Race, Equity and Education: The Pursuit of Equality in Education 60 Years After Brown” with Jill Pierce and Roey Ahram.

Eastern Career Week

career fair 2017Written by Casey Collins

 WILLIMANTIC, Conn. —Eastern Connecticut State University is dedicated to preparing its students for the professional world ahead, and career development activities are a big part of that effort. Career Week was a series of activities and seminars from Oct. 23-25 aimed at helping students prepare for life after eastern. It was sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD). The week-long event included seminars, activities and a career and internship fair with 78 regional and national businesses in attendance.

Beginning with a resume building workshop, students were guided through the process of writing and formatting their resumes to professional standards. With free food and drinks provided, the coordinators of the event made comfortable while lending a helping hand in fine-tuning their resumes.

The next event on the schedule was the career fair boot camp. For this seminar, students were given helpful tips about the world of business by volunteering professionals, including Eastern staff as well as members of the Men Achieving Leadership Excellence and Success club (M.A.L.E.S.). The discussion included pointers on everything from how to dress professionally, what mannerisms you should avoid using, and even how to stand or sit correctly during an interview.

Perhaps the most interesting topic of the entire seminar series was how to perform a “power pose”. One of the speakers took to the front of the room and asked all students to stand up. He then guided them on different poses to maintain before, during and after an interview, including keeping your back straight, the angle to keep your arm at when shaking hands and even flexing your muscles every now and then.

The week concluded with the career and internship fair. This was the proving ground where students utilized their new skills. When the doors opened, a flood of students in pressed suits and colorful dresses entered the room, all armed with their own assortment of portfolios, folders and business cards. Some of the most notable companies in attendance included insurance companies such as Travelers, Bankers Life and H.D. Segur, both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, as well as public service agencies such as Norwich Public Schools and the West Hartford Police Department.

While students of all majors were encouraged to attended, the most sought-after majors included accounting, business administration, communication, education and finance. For the next few hours, students engaged with the companies in casual conversation, discussing everything from where they were from to their personal goals. Those who were well prepared were often asked for their resume, a sign that good things could be on the horizon.

Senior Stephanie Hartnett, who attended the event as both a student and as a representative of Eastern’s Office of Alumni Affairs, described the day as “real successful.” She added, “It’s great to see so many students come out and want to make something for themselves; you can only hope everyone gets a chance at a job.”

At the end of the day, nearly 400 students attended the fair. Those who enjoyed the experience will not have to wait long for their next opportunity, as the CICD will host their next Career Week on April 5, 2018 from 1-4 p.m. in spring 2018.

Eastern’s Day of Giving is Nov. 22

DAY OF GIVING 2017-FILEEastern Connecticut State University’s 11th annual Day of Giving will occur on Nov. 22 in Hurley Hall. The event is open to Willimantic residents who might not otherwise enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. The meal will be served from 12-2 p.m.

The major community event-which served more than 700 guests last year-is a collaboration between Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the Office of Institutional Advancement and Chartwells, Eastern’s food service provider.

The festive spread of Turkey, stuffing and all the traditional fixings will be donated by the ECSU Foundation and Chartwells. Chartwells staff will donate their time to prepare the food and decorate the dining hall. More than 50 volunteers from the Eastern community-students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university-will serve food, provide transportation, welcome guests, lead children’s activities and clean up.

During the four weeks leading up to the Day of Giving, the CCE will conduct food drives at area grocery stores. Donations will go to the Covenant Soup Kitchen and other local food pantries. Upcoming drives include the Willimantic Food Co-op on Nov. 4 and 5; Bob’s IGA in South Windham on Nov. 11; Stop & Shop in East Hampton on Nov. 12; and Stop & Shop in Uncasville on Nov. 18 and 19. Volunteers will collect items from 10am to 2pm on each day.

Last weekend’s food drive, which took place at the Canterbury Better Value Super Market, 575 food items totaling 702 pounds were collected, along with $96 in cash donations.

Additionally, collection boxes have been placed throughout the Eastern campus in residence halls, classroom buildings and administration buildings. Last year, 859 food items were donated on campus; the goal for this year is 1,000 items.

Eastern’s Civic Action Conference

civic_action_conferenceWritten by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its second annual Civic Action Conference on Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Center. The conference will focus on “service learning,” an educational strategy that aligns classroom learning with community efforts. Presentations will be delivered by service learning experts, including Eastern faculty and keynote speaker Rick Battistoni, who teaches public/community service studies at Providence College.

Morning presentations will occur in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center; afternoon presentations take place in the Student Center Theatre. The program schedule is as follows:

Registration is at 8:30 a.m. The conference will begin at 9 a.m. with a presentation on Eastern’s Civic Action Plan, followed from 9:30 to 11 a.m. by a presentation on “The Pedagogies of Service Learning.” A presentation on “The Collaborative Practice of Service Learning” will go from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by a break for lunch

From 1:30 to 3 p.m., “The Research and Creation of Service Learning” will be presented, followed by Battistoni’s keynote speech, “Community or Political Engagement? Education for Democracy in Troubled Times,” from 3 to 4 p.m.

The conference is free and open to the public, with attendees encouraged to come and go as their schedules permit. Advanced registration, which will include lunch, can be completed online at http://www.questionpro.com/a/TakeSurvey?tt=bu4pQryePUM%3D. Please register by Friday, Nov. 3. The Civic Action Conference is organized by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement.

Eastern Hosts Historical Conference

Eastern faculty and alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. (L-R) Miles Wilkerson ’15, Professors Anna Kirchmann, Jamel Ostwald and Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, and Professors Scott Moore, Caitlin Carenen and Thomas Balcerski.

Eastern faculty and alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. (L-R) Miles Wilkerson ’15, Professors Anna Kirchmann, Jamel Ostwald and Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, and Professors Scott Moore, Caitlin Carenen and Thomas Balcerski.

Written by Anne Pappalardo

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted the New England Historical Association’s 99th Annual Fall Conference on Oct. 28 in the Betty R. Tipton Room in the Student Center.

The association is a regional affiliate of the American Historical Association and includes approximately 450 scholars who are employed in various positions related to history. It promotes scholarly interchange and seeks to enhance teaching and scholarship in history. While most of its members are college and university faculty, active participants also include graduate students, independent scholars, preservationists and museum-based scholars, historical society administrators and secondary school faculty.

Eastern History faculty who moderated or presented research included Professors Thomas Balcerski, Caitlin Carenen, Bradley C. Davis, Anna Kirchmann, Joan Meznar, Jamel Ostwald, Barbara Tucker and Scott Moore. Eastern alum Jim Loughead ’04 of Mansfield Public Schools was a discussant at a Teaching Social Studies roundtable and Miles Wilkerson ’15 presented “The Moral Treatment: On the Institutionalization of People with Disabilities in the Anglophone Atlantic, 1660-1860.”

Adam Murphy ’18 of Meriden presented “A Professor’s Experience in Indonesia: Examining the Partnership Between University of Kentucky and Bogor Agricultural College, 1957-1966.” Murphy’s major’s are Political Science and History and Social Science; he also has a minor in Asian Studies.