Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie '01 is an internationally acclaimed novelist from Nigeria. During her senior year at Eastern she started working on her first novel, "Purple Hibiscus." Released in 2003, the book was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. Her two other novels, "Half of a Yellow Sun" (2006) and "Americanah" (2013), were also published to international acclaim and have both been turned into Hollywood movies. "Americanah" was listed among the "Top Ten Best Books of 2013" by the New York Times Book Review. She also has published a book of short stories, "The Thing Around Your Neck" (2009).
In 2015, Adichie was the keynote speaker at Eastern's 125th Commencement exercises, during which she told students: "You are very fortunate to have received your education at Connecticut's public liberal arts university, where professors are keen to see you succeed." Adichie recalled faculty members who "displayed spectacular faith in my writing."
Among her many awards and honors, Adichie received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2008 and was listed in Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015. She has also received praise for her popular TED Talks "The Danger of a Single Story" and "We Should all be Feminists." Communication Commencement
Jonathan Alpert '95 is a Manhattan-based psychotherapist, columnist and executive coach, and the author of "Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days." Dubbed "Manhattan's most media-friendly psychotherapist" by the New York Observer, Jonathan has appeared on major national news shows and is often quoted in newspapers, magazines and radio shows. Journalists frequently call on him to comment on news stories, current events, lifestyle and hot-button issues, celebrities, politicians and mental health.
Jonathan credits Eastern's "small classes and approachable professors" - particularly within the Psychology Department - with helping him be successful. "Eastern is very good at inspiring goals and passions for its students. For most people it takes a while to find your calling. I was lucky to find mine at Eastern." Sociology
"At Eastern, I've had the chance to explore new things and grow as a person and as a leader. The people I've met encourage me in ways that make me want to push myself in all directions." Sociology
Jeffery Benedict '91 is a bestselling author and award-winning feature writer for Sports Illustrated. He has authored 12 books, including his most recent, the New York Times bestseller "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football." A nationally recognized authority on athletes and crime, eminent domain, and leadership and business ethics, his writings have also appeared in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and have been the basis of programming on 60 Minutes, 20/20, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Dateline and the Discovery Channel.
"Sound writing is a key that has unlocked doors to a rich life of experiences and priceless relationships. As a student at Eastern I never imagined I'd make a career out of telling stories." History
David Bosso '97, named Connecticut's 2012 Teacher of the Year, is a social studies teacher at Berlin High School. David's dedication to teaching has taken him to Ghana, China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Egypt and Israel, working with teachers and students to better understand the culture and educational system of each country.
"I enjoy watching my students grow, and knowing that I played a part in enhancing their understanding of the world around them." David is also an expert in curriculum development, assessment and instructional strategies. "I have come to appreciate what I learned at Eastern even more so as I have grown as a professional. I occasionally refer to my course notes from over 15 years ago." History and Social Sciences Education Programs
Andrea Brown '08 is the premium activation manager with the NBA's Orlando Magic. She manages the service and retention efforts for the Magic's premium accounts, its highest paying/most distinguished customer base. Prior to this position, she was the Magic's premium club level manager and oversaw VIP areas in the Amway Center, the team's arena.
As an undergraduate, Andrea was a resident assistant and involved with the Sport and Leisure Management Club. She worked her way up in the Magic organization after interning at ESPN Wide World of Sports. "While at Eastern I learned what it takes to be a leader," she said, "and my professors provided insight on career opportunities that existed in the sports industry." Kinesiology and Physical Education Clubs
Amanday Brycki '05 is the behavioral health services practice manager at United Community & Family Services in Norwich, CT. In this role, she connects clients to behavioral health treatments and recruits and manages a team of behavioral health professionals. "The faculty at Eastern instilled hope and confidence in me that I could pursue a successful career in psychology. They gave me guidance in what strategies to use to get into graduate school, how to sort through programs, and what classes to take. They challenged me." Psychology Career Services
Marlana Carroll '11 is an inbound marketing consultant with Vital Design, an award-winning internet marketing agency in Portsmouth, NH. In this role, Marlana works with clients to develop marketing and conversion optimization strategies. She has also held related positions at companies such as Royal Palace Dance, Boardwalk North and Grapevine Marketing, and has professionally lectured and led trainings on marketing.
“There are endless opportunities to get involved at Eastern! I went to school full time, worked on campus and was part of eight organizations. I never felt like I was just attending a state university. It was so much more. I found passion and excitement in everything I did because of my surroundings. At Eastern I discovered what drove me to become the marketing professional I am today." Psychology Clubs
Tomas Colon '15 is a fatherhood support provider for the Great Beginnings program at Madonna Place, a nonprofit organization based in Norwich, CT. He is also a 12-year military veteran and first-generation college graduate. In his role at Madonna Place, Tomas works with fathers of at-risk families, helping them to understand the details of childhood development.
Tomas learned of this opportunity through a "service learning" assignment in one of his sociology classes. "That's the wonderful thing about Eastern. Students are encouraged to get out of the classroom and into the community to get a pulse of what's going on; it's a wonderful experience for undergraduates." Sociology
Richard Cutting '09 has a private practice as a chiropractor at Cutting Edge Chiropractic in Tolland, CT. During his journey to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, Richard attended six colleges and universities.
"The quality of education in Eastern's biology department was by far superior to the others. The amount the professors care and take time to sit with you… they're hands down the best."
The future looks promising for the young doctor's private practice, which already serves several hundred patients. Biology
Kevin Douglas ’08 is the co-director of policy and advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), an association of nonprofit housing settlements in New York City that serves more than 500,000 people. Kevin is responsible for UNH’s overall policy priorities and engagement strategies. He has also served on a number of coalitions to advance education, skill building and employment for youth and immigrant New Yorkers. In 2016, Kevin was named one of “40 Rising Stars Under 40” by New York Nonprofit Media.
"As a social work student, I was inspired by Eastern’s faculty; they taught me the ethos and code of the social work profession, and showed me that it is possible to make a career out of the desire to do ‘good.’ The program introduced me to the power and importance of community organizing — I interned with the Caring Families Coalition to bring forth a system of universal health care and joined community members in a call for change and accountability." Social Work Community Service
Wendy Ernst '93 has worked as a veterinarian since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University in 2001. As the principal of Kirby Veterinary Hospital, she offers small animal general medicine and surgery, as well as canine reproduction services. She is a member of the Society for Theriogenology, a group of veterinarians dedicated to animal reproduction. Biology Undergrad Research
Marc Freeman '93, Ph.D., is the director of the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR. The institute, home to more than 200 scientists, researchers and students, investigates new treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases.
Prior to the Vollum Institute, Marc's lab at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center was the first to describe a gene responsible for causing the degeneration of axons — the nerve fibers that link neurons to one another or to muscle cells — after brain damage. This original research has enabled the development of potentially life-changing therapies for patients with a variety of neurodegenerative conditions.
Marc received the ECSU Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013 and says of his alma mater: "At graduate school I sat next to students who graduated from Harvard and MIT, and I found they didn't have as much opportunity to work with professors or in the lab as I did. That's how good the Eastern program is." Biology Research
Chris Gardella '15 works as an accountant at KPMG and continues to volunteer with Eastern students in the VITA program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). He started volunteering with VITA as a student and continues to serve as a site coordinator in Willimantic during tax season.
"VITA impacted my career as an accountant and opened the door for me at KPMG. The program also impacted my life personally. The reactions and gratitude you get from clients definitely leaves a mark on you. That alone is what keeps me coming back and what drives me to continue working with VITA for years to come." Accounting Community Engagement
Andrew Gutt '09 is the owner of Cafémantic, an award-winning restaurant in downtown Willimantic. Since opening in 2009, Cafémantic has developed from a small coffee shop into a chef-driven, farm-to-table eatery with outdoor patios and an event space down the street at 750 Main Street. While attending Eastern, Andrew felt that a coffee shop was something Willimantic was lacking, so he took it upon himself to open one. Andrew feels that Willimantic has a lot going for it, and sees his restaurant as "another symbol of the community and Eastern working together." Business Administration Community Engagement
"Writing, designing and illustrating a children’s book using mythological creatures combined my creative and intellectual interests. Sharing the project at Eastern’s research conference also gave me an opportunity to use my presentation skills." Visual Arts Undergrad Research
"In applying my software development and business skills at the Covenant Soup Kitchen, I extended what I had learned in the classroom and gained confidence that I am capable of using my skills in the real world." Business Information Systems Community Engagement
Dr. Michael P. Johnson '97 is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has appeared on Connecticut Magazine's annual list of Top Dentists for the past seven years and is now a full-time instructor at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Regarding his liberal arts education, Michael said, "Eastern helped to shape my critical thinking skills, communication skills and creative abilities. This is essential for lifelong learning and effective communication with patients and colleagues." Regarding learning about a variety of subjects, he added, "Being well-rounded is critical. You're going to interact with a lot of different types of people, so a wide knowledge base and broad perspective are important." Biology Undergrad Research
Jacqueline Kane '09 is a registered nurse at the University of Virginia Medical Center. "I credit much of my professional success to Eastern. Although I'm in a different field from what I was studying, the leadership and team-building skills I learned are invaluable in my current position."
Business Administration Health Sciences
Brett Kjellen is an optometrist at the Ratchford Eye Center in Berlin, CT. Brett started off at Eastern as an economics major, but one class during his freshman year ended up changing his career forever. "I took a human biology class and loved it, so I changed my major. That changed my life. If I hadn't taken that class I wouldn't have discovered my love for biology and ended up where I am today."
In optometry school, he added, "I felt just as well prepared if not more so as other students from bigger-name universities. You never think that Eastern would be such a powerhouse, but it really is, and for the sciences, it's fantastic." Biology Economics
Tanika Mangum '06 is the development coordinator for the Children's National Health System, a pediatric health system in Washington, D.C., that serves more than 200,000 children annually. In this role, she identifies and engages new prospects to increase philanthropic giving to the medical center.
"Eastern helped me to find my voice. Through my involvements on campus I was exposed to a variety of approaches to leadership and challenged to find my own style. I was inspired daily by a diverse group of students — many of whom I'm still in contact with today. Eastern not only gave us permission, but dared us to be great!" Sociology Student Activities
Former soccer and lacrosse player Daniela Marchitto '13 is now a third-grade teacher at Milford Public Schools in Connecticut. "Being a student-athlete at Eastern taught me many valuable lessons. It taught me how to achieve success, and also how to use failure as a motivator. I learned about dedication, teamwork, leadership and responsibility. These are skills that I try to instill in my students and their families every day as a teacher." Elementary Education Athletics »
Carly is the founder and director of Silver Circle Art Center, a dynamic art space in Putnam, CT, with gallery exhibitions and art classes/workshops. "With the support of Eastern's faculty and administration, I was able to tailor my college experience to my unique and challenging life circumstances. I was given the flexibility to create a meaningful degree that reflected my professional and personal aspirations." The Arts Individualized Major
Katherine McNair '10, a certified public accountant (CPA), is the audit manager at PKF O'Connor Davies in Wethersfield. In addition to being named a "2014 New and Young Professional to Watch" by the Connecticut Society of CPAs, Katherine serves on a number of CTCPA organizations, including its Advisory Council and Government Accounting/Auditing Committee.
"Eastern's accounting professors taught me the skills I would need to pass the CPA exam and the background knowledge I would need to start a career in public accounting. Professor RuJoub was also instrumental in obtaining my first job with Marien + Company — he recommended me to the managing partner." Accounting
David Ngibuini '14 is a project manager with the global health services company Cigna. Among his interests are internet security, vulnerability management and network intrusion. David also supervises the very program that introduced him to the business: Eastern's on-campus Technology Early Career Development Program, an internship partnership with Cigna. Computer Science
Yaw Ofosu-Agiri '08 is a financial specialist in the Commercial Engine Campaign at Pratt and Whitney. Prior to this role, Yaw was the senior financial analyst for Pratt's Hot Section Module Center.
"During my sophomore and junior years at Eastern, the career center helped me get an internship with United Technologies. I was able to land a job right out of college with Pratt based on the network I developed during the internship." Accounting Internships
Justin Piro '05 is a senior scientist at Pfizer, a leading research-based biopharmaceutical company in Cambridge, MA. His work in the Neuroscience and Pain Research Unit has him examining the role that uncontrolled and persistent neuro-inflammation plays in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's while developing novel therapeutics to combat these inflammatory insults.
"The majority of my classes at Eastern included a strong lab component. I was doing what scientists do - getting outside of the classroom and working with the latest scientific equipment. Eastern really set the groundwork for me to go to graduate school." Biochemistry Undergrad Research
Clayton Pollock '07 is a biologist for the National Park Service in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Among his projects, Clayton uses acoustic telemetry to track the habitats and movements of sharks, sea turtles and important reef fish to determine the effectiveness of national park boundaries.
"I wouldn’t be where I am today without the foundation I received from the Biology Department. In particular, Dr. Ross Koning and Dr. Charles Booth were great mentors and the study abroad programs they led inspired me. I will never forget my experiences in Belize and San Salvador Island; those opportunities helped to define my career aspirations and provided a great deal of practical experience, not to mention how amazing the coral reefs and rain forests were!" Biology Study Abroad
Olivia Puckett '11 is an administrative assistant in the Office of Program Review and Investigations at the Connecticut General Assembly. Her boss, Director Carrie Vibert, said: "Olivia applies her in-depth knowledge and political science skills every day, supporting the mission of the Connecticut state legislature. We benefit each day from her excellent liberal arts education, passion for continued growth and leadership skills." Political Science
Former softball player Molly Rathbun '12, a four-time Division III All-American, is the new head softball coach and sports psychology coordinator at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.
"I strongly believe being a student-athlete has shaped me into the best version of myself, and has made me realize my passion for helping others to do the same. Being a student-athlete taught me about commitment and camaraderie, and showed me the importance of staying in the moment and focusing on the little things." Kinesiology and Physical Education Athletics »
LaToya Smith '06 is an award-winning multimedia journalist and CEO of Brass City Media, a New York City-based content marketing agency. LaToya is also a tech correspondent on eTech.tv, an online edutainment show that discusses technology for business, technology trends and related topics. She covers startups, nonprofits and wearable technology.
Prior to founding Brass City Media, LaToya held several positions with Black Enterprise Magazine, ranging from staff reporter to multimedia content producer. She was also an on-air correspondent for the nationally syndicated television show "Our World with Black Enterprise," and has written for JET and Essence magazines.
"Eastern gave me the experience and training I needed to adapt to this rapidly changing industry. I received a truly multimedia education through Eastern’s courses in television, radio and public relations. I learned how to edit video using Final Cut Pro — software that I still use to edit client projects today — and advanced my writing skills and developed a portfolio as a copy editor with the Campus Lantern student newspaper. These experiences gave me an edge going to graduate school and beyond." Communication Clubs
Khrystyna Stefak '11 is the assistant director of Alumni and Parent Relations at Wesleyan University. "Since graduating I've worked at Trinity College, the University of Bridgeport and now at Wesleyan University. Eastern taught me how to develop relationships with people of different ages, races, backgrounds and perspectives; how to organize events; and how to work in a professional setting." Business Administration
Christina Turner ’09 is the assistant athletic director for administration and director of recreation at Colgate University, as well as a certified exercise physiologist and fitness coach. As an assistant director, she manages operations within the athletics department and directs a comprehensive recreation program for the entire campus community. In her spare time, Christina is a fitness coach and enjoys teaching and training clients of all ages and fitness levels.
"At Eastern, I learned by doing, and that made all the difference for me as a young professional. We worked hands-on in a number of areas, including exercise testing and instruction, event management and research. We toured facilities, shadowed industry professionals and networked with employers. These experiences led to my internship with Velocity Sports Performance and influenced my decision to pursue a graduate degree in exercise and sport science." Kinesiology and Physical Education
Adam Wurtzel '07 is the host, writer and producer of the television segment "The Pickup," a nationally syndicated country music news feature based in Nashville, TN (airing on Heartland Network’s "Country Fix"). In addition to "The Pickup," Adam works full time at FOX 17 Nashville. He was nominated for a Media Achievement award at the 2013 Country Music Awards (CMA), and has interviewed celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest, Dolly Parton and Drew Carey.
"I truly learned the inner workings of television at Eastern — tools I use every day at work. During my campus tour, Eastern was the only school I visited that was actually producing television in their studio. On the first day of my freshman year, I met with Communication Department about creating a game show. That show, "Eastern Expedition," kicked off that semester and lasted well after I graduated." Communication
Taylor Zurowski '11 is the vice president of operations at Drupal Connect, a website consulting firm in Newport, RI. In this role, Taylor manages client relationships and oversees billing.
John Florez, CEO of Drupal Connect, said of her: “Taylor has been an integral part of our continued growth and success. In addition to the excellent work she consistently delivers, Taylor is an incredible person whom her colleagues look up to and admire. With her Eastern education she is a great addition to our Drupal Connect team." Business Administration