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 Announces Commencement Speaker/Honorary Degree Recipient

HHS Secretary Tom Price/National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Conference

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/23/2018) Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), will be the commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient at Eastern Connecticut State University’s commencement exercises on May 15 at the XL Center in Hartford.

McCance-Katz graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Her sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration culminated in August 2017 with her DHHS appointment, which made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at DHHS.

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.

McCance-Katz is board certified in general psychiatry and addiction psychiatry, and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, with more than 25 years of experience as a clinician, teacher and clinical researcher.

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.

She also was the Chief Medical Officer of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration from 2013-15; State Medical Director of the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs from 2007-13; and Medical Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Virginia Health Practitioners’ Intervention Program from 2003-07.

Dr. McCance-Katz has published numerous articles on clinical pharmacology and, along with her husband Michael, holds a patent for a method used to prevent specimen substitution in substance use screening.

More than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s 128th annual graduation exercises at the XL Center on May 15, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to McCance-Katz, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Victor Funderburk, mayor of the Town of Windham.

Written by Edward Osborn

Eastern Student Presents at ‘Posters on the Hill’ in Washington, D.C.

Eastern Professor Courtney Broscious, U.S. Representative Joseph Courtney and Tess Candler.

Eastern Connecticut State University student Tess Candler ’18 of Ledyard was one of two researchers from Connecticut given the distinguished opportunity of presenting their projects at the highly selective Posters on the Hill (POH) academic conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Candler‘s major is Political Science and Economics.

During the April 17 event she presented her research poster titled “When Reds Go Green: Determinants of Conservative Support for Environmental Policy.” Her research was completed under the supervision of Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Each spring, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) hosts the event during which select undergraduate students present their research to members of Congress and other invited guests. CUR works to ensure that members of Congress have a clear understanding of the research and education programs that they fund. Approximately 60 students out of a pool of 600 nationwide applicants are selected to present their research posters.

According to Candler, prior research has demonstrated that individuals with conservative ideals are less likely to support environmental policies. However, she asserts that it is worth noting that some of the most significant environmental legislation has been passed under Republican leadership, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. This shows that comprehensive environmental policy has been passed under Republican administrations. Candler wanted to examine what made conservatives more or less likely to support environmental policy.

Her study examined the the conditions under which conservatives demonstrate high levels of support for environmental policy. “Understanding the rationales of conservative support for environmental policy can help those interested in passing this type of legislation be better equipped to shape policy in a way that increases its likelihood of enactment,” said Candler.

Candler found that conservatives are more likely to support environmental policy when there are no states’ rights concern, no unnecessary extension of government and the policy protects the rights of citizens.

“Tess serves as a shining example of what we can achieve at Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Broscious.

Eastern has represented Connecticut seven out of the 12 times students have presented in the annual Posters on the Hill conference.

Eastern to Present ‘Body+Image’ Dance Concert

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/20/2018) The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “Body+Image,” a spring dance concert, from April 27-29 in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. The Friday and Saturday shows will occur at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday’s show at 4 p.m.

“Body+Image” is an evening-length dance concert featuring originally composed dance choreographies and musical compositions by Eastern students, alumni and faculty. The two-act show will feature 10 multimedia dance and music pieces that explore themes related to “body and image.”

The show highlights students in the Dance and World Performance concentration as well as the New Media Studies program.

Tickets are free for Eastern students; $5 for other students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for senior citizens; $12 for Eastern faculty, staff and alumni; and $20 for the general public. To purchase tickets online, visit For more information call the box office at 860-465-5123 or email


Record Number Eastern Students Present at Prestigious NCUR Conference

Written by Jolene Potter

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/19/2018) A record-breaking 41 Eastern Connecticut State University students presented their research at the 2018 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) from April 4-7 at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Chosen from more than 4,000 submissions across the country, 100 percent of Eastern’s NCUR submissions were accepted at the 2018 conference. In the past four years, Eastern has sent more students to NCUR than all other public universities in Connecticut combined. These achievements have resulted in Eastern being recongnized by the Councit on Undergraduate Research (CUR) as a campus that is “leading the way” in undergraduate research.

“Learning to conduct research is a major component of a liberal arts education,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “That is why Eastern is committed to supporting our undergraduate students so they can conduct research and present it at regional and national conferences. To know that every Eastern student’s proposal was accepted at this year’s NCUR is a testament to the support students receive from our faculty.

“The fact that Eastern had more student representatives than any other college or university in Connecticut shows that we are serious about giving as many of our students opportunities to conduct meaningful, scholarly research as possible,” continued Nunez. “We know that undergraduates at larger institutions don’t get these opportunities, but we also know that students who are engaged in applied learning activities such as research projects get better grades and graduate at higher rates.”

Carlos Escoto, psychology professor and coordinator of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, chaperoned students on the NCUR trip. “The students got a lot out of the conference. The trip had a great sense of comradery and students showed up to support one another.”

Students are accepted into NCUR if their research demonstrates a unique contribution to their field of study. Established in 1987, 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.


Eastern English Alumni Discuss Careers in Law and Library Science

English alumni Hilary Saxton ’13, Caroline Hayden ’13, and Eric Alan ’12 discuss the opportunities of library science for English majors

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/19/2018) This semester, the English Department at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted two alumni panels to combat the popular notion that English degrees lead only to academic professions. The “English at Work” series welcomed several Eastern graduates who took alternative routes following their time at Eastern – some went on to receive a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and others earned a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.

Kristen Brierley ’08, Samuel Lisi ’13 and Andrew Minikowski ’12 made up the February panel, while the March panel consisted of Hilary Saxton ’13, Caroline Hayden ’13 and Eric Alan ’12. Each group discussed their transition from studying English to joining the working world, sharing real-life professional experiences and providing helpful insight for current English majors.

When asked about which English classes they consider particularly helpful when applying to law school, the J.D. panel agreed on the importance of rhetoric and composition classes. “That’s what law is… that’s the meat of practicing law,” said Minikowski, calling attention to the importance of being able to structure evidence and form coherent arguments. Lisi pointed out that it is beneficial for English students to participate actively in these classes as a means of refining discourse skills. “You need to be able to speak in a way that’s clear and makes sense.”

As a law student, “You have to have balance,” said Lisi. It is no secret that English majors also require remarkable balance. The dedication behind the field and those in it is a sweeping part of what shapes a student to succeed in a demanding discipline later in life. “In hindsight, law school is like training for anything. It’s very difficult because it’s worth it.”

“Of course there are moments here you’re in over your head,” said Brierley, reassuring students that every professional journey comes with challenges – especially in the field of law – and that struggling does not make somebody a failure. Rather, she suggested, one must learn what methods work best for them and put in consistent effort. “It is not what you expect, it is not like your time as an undergraduate, but you know yourself.”

In the same way studying both English and law showcases versatile character, an array of connections brings widespread career possibilities. Lisi mentioned the benefits of interning and becoming familiar with companies that pertain to one’s field, even if not in an expected position, as a means of “learning-by-proxy.” The J.D. panel stressed the magnitude of this multifaceted effort. “Be strategic in looking for places you’d want to gain some exposure,” said Minikowski.

Likewise, the Library and Information Science (MLIS) alumni also emphasized that finding the right career fit is an individualized process, which is why it is important to consider a number of options. Hayden shared that before English, she had majored in art, and before that, psychology. “I needed to reevaluate my career choices,” she stated. She found value in her on-campus job, working in the archives at Eastern’s library.

Saxton, on the other hand, knew that she loved English, but did not know what to do with her degree after graduation. She revealed that her decision to get an MLIS was because a friend was doing it, and it turned out that she quickly took to the study. However, it was not before Saxton discovered that she hated being a college librarian that she discovered she loved being a children’s librarian.

The MLIS panel members touched on the flexibility of their degrees, promoting the field as a promising space for the adaptable English student. Much like an English degree, a library degree does not inherently land somebody in academia. “It’s not just universities, it’s not just historical societies,” said Hayden. “We all go into the program, come out and go off in a million different directions.”

Alan concurred, pointing out that many people do not have a distinct plan going into this graduate study. “The great thing about a library degree is that you can do practically anything with it.” He added that the English major’s polished ability to gather and organize information makes for a smooth transition into library and information science.

The varying degrees of experience called attention to not only the professional growth that comes with library science, but to the academic development undertaken by an English student. Alan affirmed that the overall practicality of the English major is a powerful quality in the working world, whether it is directed toward an MLIS or elsewhere. “You will be able to take that and use it.”


Eastern Students Win Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awards

Eastern’s 2018 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awardees Nadia Balassone ’18 (left) and Yuberki Delgadillo ’18 (right) with Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Written by Anne Pappalardo

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/19/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University students Nadia Balassone ’18 of East Hartford and Yuberki Delgadillo ’18 of Quaker Hill were named the recipients of the 2018 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award on April 17. The 30th annual Henry Barnard Awards Banquet, held at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, CT, recognized 12 outstanding undergraduates from Connecticut’s four state universities – Central, Eastern, Southern and Western.

The Barnard Awards program is the premier academic recognition event of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System (CSCU) and is sponsored by the CSCU Foundation. To be considered for the award, a student must have at least a 3.75 GPA, a record of community service and be nominated by their respective university president.

Balassone, an English and Business Administration major, carries a 3.89 GPA and is on the Dean’s List. She is a writing tutor and received the Academic Excellence Scholarship. She is also president of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, staff writer for the student-run Campus Lantern newspaper and was vice president of the Entrepreneurship Club. She has an internship at the Institute of Sustainable Energy, where she helped pilot the Sustainable CT statewide certification program, represented at the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, and completed an internship at Waste Management National Accounts, where she gained insight into recycling. She volunteers at an animal shelter and plans to pursue law school to work the sustainability field in environmental or animal law. Balassone was recently accepted at Quinnipiac Law School for the fall term.

“From the minute I stepped foot on Eastern’s campus, I could tell it was a community,” said Balassone. “I think that was one of the biggest deciding factors for me coming to Eastern. I wanted a sense of community and I wanted that support.

“Working as a peer tutor at the Writing Center has shaped me as a writer. I’ve learned how to communicate and reach back into my community. Receiving the Barnard Scholar Award is a huge honor for me. I would say it really punctuates the sense of community at Eastern for me,” she added.

“When Nadia worked in our Writing Center as a peer tutor, it turned her on to the world of rhetoric and composition,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Combine that with her work in the Institute of Sustainable Energy and you can see why she plans to enter law school this fall in pursuit of environmental law. Nadia’s mom says he daughter is going to save the world and I’m convinced it will happen.”

Delgadillo, a Biology major, carries a 3.85 GPA and is also on the Dean’s List. She is an award-winning resident assistant, widely known for her leadership and scholarship. She is co-president of the Pre-Health Society and a member of the Tri-Beta National Biology Honor Societ, as well as a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. She has also been a teaching assistant at Eastern, and presented her research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research at the University of Central Oklahoma earlier this month.

Delgadillo works as a certified nursing assistant at St. Joseph’s Living Center and volunteers at Backus Hospital. She also participated in a pre-medical urban enrichment program at Cooper Medical School and will be travelling to Ghana this coming summer for a public health internship. Her goal is to become a nurse practitioner and eventually a nurse educator.

“The last four years at Eastern have definitely been years of growth,” said Delgadillo. “I had so many opportunities and I took every opportunity I had – just to learn about myself.

“I became interested in health care because of my experiences here at Eastern. I’ve loved helping people and sending people to the resources they need. Receiving the Henry Barnard Award is an honor. I feel like it truly reflects my past four years of being so involved – I feel like it’s really paid off.”

“Yuberki has combined her love of science and love of people to pursue her interest in nursing and plans to attend UConn’s School of Nursing next January,” said Núñez. “As a Biology major she has done research on Alzheimer’s disease and spent the six weeks last summer refining her interests and skills in medicine. She is now preparing to be certified as a medical interpreter to assist doctors with Spanish-speaking patients.

“Her hero is her mother, who was the first college graduate in her family back home in the Dominican Republic. She wants to make a difference in the lives of women and the elderly – and I know she will,” added Núnez.

Hartford native Henry Barnard was one of the principal forces in creating the American public school system in the 19th century, serving in the Connecticut General Assembly before becoming superintendent of schools in Connecticut and principal of the New Britain Normal School in 1850. He became the first U.S. commissioner of education in 1867.


Eastern to Beautify Willimantic during ‘Town Pride, Town Wide’

Written by Kim Silcox

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/18/2018) On Saturday, April 28, Eastern Connecticut State University will host its 10th annual “Town Pride, Town Wide” community beautification event. The event will take place at various project sites across Willimantic from 9:00a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Eastern students at a previous Town Pride, Town Wide event:

Town Pride, Town Wide started years ago as a means to give Eastern students the opportunity to work closely with local community members and community agencies to leave their mark on Willimantic. This event is a collaboration between Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the Windham Region Chamber of Commerce, Willimantic Waste Paper Co. and the Town of Windham. The CCE looks to send more than 150 Eastern student volunteers to more than 25 project locations in the greater Windham area on the day of the event.

Eastern students at a previous Town Pride, Town Wide event

Eastern Connecticut alumni from the Becket Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket, MA, have been invited to participate in the event as well, through the organization’s “Deeds of Love and Service” program which will provide community service throughout New England on April 28.

Community sites include Lauter Park Community Gardens, CLiCK Willimantic, Veterans Memorial Park in Andover, Willimantic Whitewater Park, St. Joseph Living Center, the Airline Trail, the Windham Textile and History Museum, the Garden on the Bridge, and more.

Town Pride, Town Wide is funded in part by The Last Green Valley, Inc. More than 150 Eastern students will turn out for the event, which is the largest volunteer event of the year for Eastern.

Eastern Drama Society Presents ‘Coldcock Cafe’

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/17/2018) The Drama Society at Eastern Connecticut State University will present its second-annual spring performance, “Coldcock Café,” on April 20 and 21 in the DelMonte Bernstein Studio Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Both shows start at 7 p.m. and are free admission (donations are appreciated). The Drama Society is Eastern’s student-led theatre club, and “Coldcock Café” is an original feature-length production that is written, directed and performed by Eastern students.

The play follows barista Dana Green, who finds herself in control of the coffee shop while her boss is out of town. On this day, however, a freak snowstorm leaves her and several peers stranded.

“As the storm worsens and the likelihood of rescue lessens, the café becomes ideologically divided,” writes the Drama Society of the plot. “Being forced to remain in each other’s company for an extended period of time brings forth the group’s inner nature and, when pushed to the limits, their true personalities are revealed and certain schemes are put to use… as well as a wild haymaker.”

Drama Society members report that “Coldcock Café” is like the sitcom “Friends” mixed with “Lord of the Flies.”

The play is written by Matthew Bessette of Lebanon and Patrick Loller of Brooklyn, NY; directed by Samuel Boushee of Andover; and features Jake Buckley of Terryville, Harold Gagne of Storrs, Caraline Louise, Emily Kelly of Meriden, Sara Lafrance of Waterbury, Sam Nicefaro of Hamden, Ashlyn O’Boyle of Killingworth, Andrew Rich of Berlin, Alexis Schacht of Enfield, Austin Washington of Wallingford and Hanna Zammarieh of Vernon.

The Drama Society’s spring show offers students the chance to develop their playwriting, directing, acting and design skills. “Coldcock Café” is a fully staged production with a cast of characters taking place in one of Eastern’s premier performance venues. For more information, visit

Written by Michael Rouleau

‘Youth’ and ‘Chitra’ Awaken Eastern Theatregoers

Andrew Rich plays the Duke in “Youth”

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/13/2018) Themes of youth, love and enlightenment were on display in Eastern Connecticut State University’s latest theatrical production, “Awakenings: ‘Youth’ by Thornton Wilder and ‘Chitra’ by Rabindranath Tagore.” From April 5-8, the two one-act plays – by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors from the East (Wilder) and West (Tagore) – transformed Eastern’s DelMonte Bernstein Studio Theatre into a tropical island and then into a lush Hindu dreamscape.

Both plays were directed by graduating theatre students Matt Bessette of Lebanon (“Youth”) and Emily John of Woodstock (“Chitra”).

“The play I chose to direct for my theatre capstone project was a satirical allegory for youth culture of the 1960s; therein, its characters take the decade’s resentment of old age to the extreme,” said Bessette, director of “Youth.” “What results is a dramatic comedy on a tropical island with equal parts over-the-top humor and thought-provoking drama.”

The story unfolds when a shipwrecked middle-aged man stumbles upon the shores of an island inhabited only by young people. The islanders are repulsed by his gray hair and wrinkly skin, and demonize him for coming from a world with values of which they disapprove. The naivety of the islanders is clear, however, as the worldly man exhibits compassion and wisdom that changes the fate of some of the youth.

“Youth” is part three of “The Ages of Man,” Wilder’s unfinished series of plays that symbolize infancy, childhood, youth and middle age. According to Bessette, “Of the completed four parts of ‘Ages,’ the first two – ‘Infancy’ and ‘Childhood’ – were published during his lifetime and widely produced. The third and fourth, however, were made public only after his death.”

Bessette decided to direct “Youth” because it’s not very well known. “… therefore, I would get the chance to prove myself and, to a certain extent, set a precedent for any future productions. Furthermore, its thematic presence is so strong and yet it’s so cleverly written that it comes across as nothing more than a meaningless farce to the unobservant viewer. Because it effortlessly blends humor and horror, I interpret it as a drama deliberately masquerading as a comedy to hide its more serious intentions from the unworthy eye.”

After a brief intermission, theatregoers returned to a dimly lit, green-tinged set for “Chitra.” The tale centers

Actors perform a dance number in “Chitra”

upon Chitrangada, a princess torn between the demands of being a warrior and the desires of embracing her femininity. With the help of the gods of love and youth, Chitra is transformed into an image of beauty that attracts the attention of the great warrior Arjuna. But she is not true to herself or Arjuna, living a double life, until the powers of love and honesty unite them.

“When I first read this play I felt very much connected to Chitra,” said director Emily John. “As a young woman on the brink of new beginnings, about to start on the next stage in her journey, I felt a kinship with the warrior princess. Just as Chitra questions how much she knows of life and love, I also have big questions about where my own path is leading me.”

The playwright Rabindranath Tagore was born in India in 1861. “It has been said that he was very much ahead of his time,” said John. “Coming from a time when women were seen as less than equal, the warrior princess is one brilliant mind’s call to the masses for a change for which we still fight, even now.

“The message does not stop with Chitra, however. Just as intriguing and important a character is Arjuna. As Chitra is an example to women to be true to themselves and to embrace their strength as much as their grace, Arjuna is a call to men to allow their gentler, loving nature to come forward without fear or embarrassment. Tagore shows Chitra and Arjuna to us not as the stereotypical prince and princess who simply find their happily-ever-after. Rather, he lets us see them as people.”

“Awakenings: ‘Youth’ and ‘Chitra'” involved a cast and crew of more than 50 Eastern students, staff and faculty who created elaborate sets, costumes, projections, sound effects and dance choreographies.