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.

Ella T. Grasso Awards

Wednesday | March 25, 2015 | 3 pm | Student Center, Theatre

The Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards recognize members of the campus and local community whose actions promote women’s rights and gender equality. The Keynote Speaker for this year’s ceremony is Attorney Michelle Cruz who, with over twenty years of experience, has worked with crime victims in a variety of roles and most notably as Connecticut’s Second State Victim Advocate. This year’s award recipients are: Erika Sanchez, Dr. Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, and Ms. Lee Ellen Terry. We asked what they think their legacies will be:

Student Award Recipient: Erika Sanchez
“My legacy is to encourage others to embrace their culture and take pride in their roots. I aim to honor women who have silently contributed to history. I am because they were. Lastly, I want to make mi gente (my Mexican people) and my mom proud, so they know that all their sacrifices were not made in vain. I want to uplift, support and encourage them in any way I can.”

Faculty Award Recipient: Dr. Cara Bergstrom-Lynch
“My legacy, on a professional level is to inspire my students to practice and take what I’ve tried to instill about diversity, activism, and critical consciousness, into the world. On a personal level, my daughters are my legacy. Everything I teach them about, that relates to gender, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and social justice goes back to how I want the world to be for them.”

Community Award Recipient: Lee Ellen Terry
“My legacy is to honor those in my past who have loved and inspired me to be an example for her children, grandchildren, relatives and friends — to continue the work that punctuated my career, for economic well-being, fairness and justice.”

Women’s Appreciation Reception and Awards Ceremony

On Friday, March 6th, 2015, the M.A.L.E.S. club of Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a Women’s Appreciation Reception and Award Ceremony in honor of Women’s History Month. M.A.L.E.S. stands for Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence, and Success, and is comprised of men on campus who fuse their academic and social skills with their interest in civic engagement and public service. More on the M.A.L.E.S. club can be found here.

Upon entering the Paul E. Johnson Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library, attendees were greeted at the door by two members of M.A.L.E.S. who offered to take coats and provided brochures on the evening’s events. Female attendees were also given a single red rose, as a token of appreciation on behalf of the hosting club. Recipients were surprised and delighted to receive these gifts. It helped set the tone for this semi-formal evening, and allowed attendees to have a memento to remember it by.

The reception kicked off with Tashawn Ward giving introductions and Kevin Hyacinthe giving opening remarks about M.A.L.E.S., Women’s History Month, and a brief back story of tonight’s awards ceremony. Next was an inspiring musical selection sung by the Women’s Center’s very own Ami Jallow. Following this was the presenting of the awards, recognized by Martin Ralda, Lovel Cassels, and Avery Floyd.

Staff Recipient
LaTrisha A. Walton is currently the finance clerk for the Student Activities Business Office at Eastern. She first started her career in finance as Senior Account Specialist at CIGNA in 1998. Since coming to Eastern in 2006, she has worked diligently in SABO maintaining journals and ledgers, preparing financial statements, and handling cash and checks. Ms. Walton is a very well-respected member of the staff at Eastern—not only her colleagues and superiors, but by students as well. She serves as an Adviser for the F.E.M.A.L.E.S. organization on campus and serves as a mentor to students in the community. More on the F.E.M.A.L.E.S. club can be found here.

Faculty Recipient
Dr. Candice Deal is an Assistant Professor in Accounting at Eastern. She graduated from Morgan State with a Bachelor’s in Finance and a Master’s in Business Administration. Dr. Deal earned her Ph.D. from Morgan State in 2013. Her students say that she is the best Accounting Professor, as she goes above and beyond for her students, while still being able to serve on various university committees.

Student Recipient
Deisy Morales is a graduating senior, striving for a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a minor in Anthropology and Sociology. During her years at Eastern, she made every effort to impact the lives of others on campus and in the surrounding community. She has served as a Resident Assistant, a mentor for children at the Windham Early Childhood Development Center, and currently serves as Coordinator for the Sister-Sister Project. Ms. Morales’ hard work and dedications also transfers over to her academics, as she has a cumulative grade point average of 3.69. It has earned her the honor of being inducted into the Phi Alpha Honor Society of Social Work.

Following the awards ceremony, attendees were welcomed to help themselves to fruit platters, chocolate fondue, tiny sandwiches, and plenty of sparkling fruit punch. The room was abuzz with conversation, laughter, and the clinking of dinnerware. When everyone was settled back into their seats, Malik Turner introduced the Keynote Speaker, Ana Valentin-Jackson. Ms. Valentin-Jackson shared the story of her large family, the struggles she faced as a single-mother raising two daughters, and the accomplishments she had along the way to pursing her goals. Education, she emphasized, is vital to success and should be constantly sought after—whether it is education through a college program, work experience, or from reading a book. As long as you are constantly learning, and constantly improving yourself, that is what truly matters.

After this speech, there was a poetry reading by Sabrina Scott that expressed how we all stem from the first woman on Earth. Through rhymes and similes, the poem described the first woman as having great strength, patience, courage, and compassion. The ceremony was brought to a close with Jacob Singer offering a reflection on women’s history, and Dajoun Jones giving gifts to the female participants: Ami, Ana, and Sabrina. Special thanks were given to Hatef Alavi, Walter Diaz, Clifford Marrett, Chartwells, Dan’s Awards and Engraving, and the M.A.L.E.S. committee.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Awards 2015

There are many individuals on campus and in our community who work tirelessly for the good of others. They commit their time and demonstrate a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and civic engagement. Unfortunately, the efforts of these dedicated and compassionate individuals often go unrecognized. That is why Eastern Connecticut State University presents the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award – to honor individuals who best exemplify the teachings and example of Dr. King. This year we are excited to present three awards – one to an Eastern faculty person, one to a student and one to a community member.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.” – MLK

Community Recipient
W. Reggie Hales is publisher of the Inquiring News Connecticut newspaper. Hales is also a professional photojournalist and advocate for small businesses and civil justice for people of color. For more than four decades, he has showcased success stories from different minority communities. Hales is a distinguished media consultant and mentor to students interested in journalism. A dedicated husband, father and grandfather, he also serves as president of the Hartford Enterprise Zone Business Association.

Faculty Recipient
Anthony Aidoo is a professor of mathematics at Eastern Connecticut State University. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences from the University of Vermont. Growing up poor in Ghana, West Africa, the son of illiterate parents, Aidoo could not afford to attend high school. However, after training to be a teacher, he studied at home to gain admission to the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. Aidoo’s hard work as an undergraduate student paid off when he received several offers for full assistantships to study for his Ph.D. in mathematics in the United States. When he is not teaching or doing research at Eastern, Aidoo volunteers as an advisor to students in his native Ghana. He also volunteers as a tutor to minority students studying for their GED in the Windham Neighborhood Renovations and Training Program.

Student Recipient
Jonah Craggett is a first-generation student from New Haven. During the past four years, Craggett has dedicated his time and energy to spreading awareness of diversity issues and inclusion to the Eastern campus community. He serves as vice president of the Black Student Union and is a third-year resident assistant in Noble Hall. A talented writer and speaker, Craggett wants to pursue a career in journalism. Through community outreach with New Haven’s churches and city administrators, he seeks to reestablish New Haven’s urban core as a flourishing part of the greater New Haven community.

Keynote Speaker
Siobhan Carter-David is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Southern Connecticut State University, teaching in the areas of fashion and beauty studies, and African American, urban and contemporary U.S. histories. Her research explores the politics of racial uplift as represented in the fashion instruction of African American print media, as well as American fashion, beauty culture and the politics of presentation. Carter-David has written and given numerous talks on hip-hop, culture and clothing, magazine culture and urban style. As a public historian, she has worked with museum curators on projects involving various facets of African American cultural history. She is currently working on a book manuscript, “Issuing the Black Wardrobe: Fashion and Anti-Fashion in Post-Soul Publications.”

Special Thanks To
Candice Deal, Courtney Callaway, Emma Blandford, Ken Bedini, Chartwells, Alexis Tribble-Bryant, Carlie Bermani-McCan, Jessica McDonald, Alex Andre, Olivia Beaullan, Olvie Saint-Fleur, Alycia Bright Holland, and James Holland