Girls Fight Back at Eastern!

Girls Fight Back is an organization founded by Erin Weed in 2001. It was inspired by the late Shannon McNamara, who was murdered on June 12th, 2001. Girls Fight Back empowers students to learn about violence prevention withint their community in addition to self-defense skills. For over fifteen years, Girls Fight Back has been an inspiration for students around the country for learning the simplest, most effective techniques in self-defense and safety precautions. On September 22, 2015, Eastern Connecticut State University was honored to be visited by Girls Fight Back’s National Speaker Bree Swartz for an evening program. The presentation reviewed the basics of using your intuition, understanding the definition of consent, and safety tips such as having awareness, using eye-contact, and setting boundaries. Techniques on how to be an active bystander and a good ally, how to support a survivor of assault, and verbal de-escalation skills were also discussed. In what Swartz called “Badass Ballet,” the basics of self-defense were covered with much enthusiasm.

Throughout the seminar, Swartz presented a professional yet light-hearted atmosphere where the audience was fully involved in the teachings and techniques being taught. Afterward, Swartz introduced a self-defense training course called Impact, hosted by Kirkland Productions, which seeks to empower people about personal safety and self-defense even further. To wrap up the production, students were asked to join a group picture where they displayed their defense positions and smiled for the camera to conclude a successful evening.

Post Contributor: Emma Costa

Take Back the Night: Thank You

Post Contributor: Erika Sanchez
On behalf of the Women’s Center, we thank everyone for their assistance and participation in Take Back the Night. The event provided a safe environment where students could feel comfortable in speaking up about their experiences, witness the many people on campus who support them, and learn about the various resources that are available. With persistent focus, leadership, and action, we united to help give voice to victims and bystanders of violence. However, the conversation does not end there. Together we must continue our eorts in ending sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking within our communities. We look forward to seeing you next semester and hope you will join us again next year as we take back the night!

If you, or someone you know, have experienced sexual assault, stalking, or other forms of interpersonal violence such as dating and domestic violence, we encourage you to seek out supportive services. Eastern has a Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT) available to give guidance, support, and information. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to visit www.easternct.edu/saiv or speak with the Coordinator of the SAIV-RT, Starsheemar Byrum at byrums@easternct.edu or (860) 465-4314.

Take Back the Night: A Reflection

Post Contributor: Ami Jallow
Personally, Take Back the Night was one of my favorite events of this semester. It was an event that allowed us to be open and vulnerable to complete strangers. It was very inspirational how we were all able to connect because we had either gone through, or knew someone that had gone through, some kind of abuse. I appreciated this event because it allowed a very different outlet for me to share my personal experiences. Take Back the Night reminded me why I wanted to work and be associated with the Women’s Center in the first place. We are here to provide a safe space, a haven on campus, for anyone from all walks of life to be comfortable enough to share their past, present and futures. I, personally, want to thank everyone that attended. It takes a lot to confide in people we have never met before. I want to thank you all for giving me an opportunity to heal further. God bless.

If you, or someone you know, have experienced sexual assault, stalking, or other forms of interpersonal violence such as dating and domestic violence, we encourage you to seek out supportive services. Eastern has a Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT) available to give guidance, support, and information. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to visit www.easternct.edu/saiv or speak with the Coordinator of the SAIV-RT, Starsheemar Byrum at byrums@easternct.edu or (860) 465-4314.

Path to Etiquette

Post Contributor: Chad-Michael Muirhead
On March 26th, the Women’s Center and Center for Internships and Career Development hosted an etiquette dinner for students from the Path Academy institution. The objective of the event was to introduce etiquette dining principles to students in the Willimantic community. The event allowed students to interact with Student Ambassadors from the Women’s Center, and discuss college life on campus.

The event began with an introduction from Starsheemar Byrum, Director of the Women’s Center. Student Ambassadors Amber Domond and Yamma Jatta were present and active in the program, talking to attendees. They shared ideas and information about the Women’s Center resources and events. Students were given the opportunity to experience professional style dining services and develop bonds with other students from the campus. Attendees enjoyed a great dinner by Chartwells, set in a spectacular and refined scene.

Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards

“To see, to recognize, to understand — that is the spirit of humanism. It will teach you how to live and how to bring life to the world about you.” – Ella T. Grasso

The Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards Ceremony occurred last week, honoring members of the campus and local community who promote gender equality. Introductions were led by Women’s Center Ambassador, Ami Jallow, followed by a Welcome from President Elsa M. Núñez. Ms. Jallow then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Attorney Michelle Cruz. Following her speech, the awards were presented Stacey Close, Associate Vice President of Equity and Diversity, Rhona Free, Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Ken Bedini, Vice President of Student Affairs. Closing remarks were led by Ken Bedini, before attendees were invited to a reception in the Student Center Café for light refreshments and food.

The Division of Student Affairs would like to extend special thanks to:  William Bisese, Chartwells, Cliff Marrett, Melissa Nosal, Josh Sumrell, Steve Taylor, Gabby Wrobel and Leigh Balducci.

Community Award Recipient
Lee Ellen Terry, Women & Girls Fund Steering Committee Member
Lee Ellen Terry is a retired attorney who worked for many years in labor relations as an advocate for fairness and justice. Terry graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1970 with a B.A. in English Literature, and in 1972 with an M.A. in English literature. In 1974 she was hired by the Connecticut Education Association to organize and represent teachers in northeast Connecticut. Following nine years at CEA, Terry attended UConn Law School, graduating and passing the bar in 1986. After four years working as an attorney in Putnam and Storrs, Lee spent the rest of her career as an appeals referee for the Department of Labor’s Employment Security Division, where she adjudicated thousands of cases until 2004. A founder of the Windham Area Women and Girls Fund, Terry has provided leadership and involvement in several other civic groups serving Windham County, including Connecticut Legal Services. She is now a trustee for the Eastern Connecticut Community Foundation and was recently appointed chair of the Windham Area Women and Girls Fund Steering Committe. Her legacy is to honor those in her past who have loved and inspired her to be an example for her children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends — to continue the work that punctuated her career, for economic well-being, fairness and justice.

Faculty/Staff Award Recipient
Dr. Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, Department of Sociology at Eastern Connecticut State University
Cara Bergstrom-Lynch is an associate professor of sociology at Eastern. She received her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1997, and her M.A. in 2002 and Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of Michigan. Bergstrom-Lynch’s ongoing research and teaching interests address the intersections of gender and sexuality within families. She has published research in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies, the Journal of GLBT Family Studies and the Journal of Family Issues, among others. Bergstrom-Lynch is the 2014 recipient of the Service Learning Award given by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement. Bergstrom-Lynch is the faculty co-advisor to the Pride Alliance, the LGBT+ student group at Eastern, and serves on the Women’s Studies Advisory Board. She and her wife have two young daughters who they love very much. Her professional legacy is to inspire her students to apply what she has taught them about diversity, activism and critical consciousness in their own lives. On a personal level, Bergstrom-Lynch’s daughters are her legacy. Everything she teaches them about gender, women’s rights, LGBT rights and social justice goes back to how she wants the world to be for them.

Student Award Recipient
Erika Sanchez, Women & Gender Studies Major at Eastern Connecticut State University
Erika Sanchez’s mother came to the United States with a dream for a better life than the one she had in her native land of Mexico. The invaluable lessons she taught her four daughters — the value of a dollar, being kind and compassionate in all that one pursues — continue to influence Erika’s belief that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and given a chance to pursue their dreams. A first-generation student, Erika transferred to Eastern from Norwalk Community College to pursue a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. She connects her education with her service in the community through her work at the Women’s Center and other opportunities. As a Chicana, Erika is deeply committed to combatting sexism and racism. Her involvement with the Bandana Project, designed to increase awareness of the sexual exploitation of migrant workers, is one example of her service. Erika is completing her capstone work in Women and Gender Studies under the guidance of Professor Joan Meznar. Her research analyzes the contributions of undocumented Mexican workers, with particular attention to generational changes and their impact on immigrant women’s lives. Erika’s legacy is to encourage others to embrace their culture and take pride in their roots. She aims to honor women who have silently contributed to history. She is because they were.

Keynote Speaker
Attorney Michelle Cruz
Michelle Cruz is a graduate of the University of Connecticut’s School of Law.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and an associate’s degree in the Administration of Justice. Cruz served as an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts, where she specialized in prosecuting crimes involving victims of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence. In 2007, she was appointed by Governor M. Jodi Rell as the state victim advocate of Connecticut to run the state’s victims’ rights enforcement agency. Cruz worked to improve the field of domestic violence, drafting several investigative reports which led to sweeping changes to the state’s response to domestic violence. She advocated for laws that enhanced the rights of victims and shed light on flaws within the Risk Reduction Earned Credits program. In 2013, she opened her own private law practice and now has offices in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. She has published numerous articles and has made frequent media appearances on radio and television. Cruz’s column, “Truth Serum,” appears regularly in the Connecticut Law Tribune.