Board of Regents Chairman Visits Campus

Nicholas Donofrio, chairman of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, visited campus on Oct. 7, when he spoke to a packed house in the Student Center Theatre about innovation and the future of technology, and how a liberal arts education has value in this changing world. Eastern President Elsa Núñez said of Donofrio, who is the former executive vice president of innovation and technology at IBM, “We are happy to have someone with his vast experience helping to lead the higher education system in Connecticut.”

Donofrio charged the crowd to think about change, value and innovation, and to recognize that the world as we know it is moving faster than ever.

“Innovators start with the problem,” he said. “Anyone can be an innovator; it’s not a specially endowed job.” Donofrio also mentioned the value of having a broad education. “The innovators of the world aren’t ‘I’ shaped, they are ‘T’ shaped,” suggesting that one’s knowledge must be both broad and deep.”

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Eastern Expands On-Campus Internship Program

On Oct. 17, officials from Eastern and Cigna, Inc., held a grand opening for Cigna’s expanded internship program on Eastern’s campus. The expanded program, an on-campus workspace for students interning with the global health services company, has moved from Winthrop Hall to the more spacious Wickware Planetarium building.

Eastern’s facility is one of several “Technology Early Career Development Program” (TECDP) sites that Cigna sponsors throughout Connecticut.  The grand opening and program expansion marks a four-year partnership between Cigna and Eastern, and the occasion drew a crowd of former interns as well as Mark Boxer, Cigna’s executive vice president and global chief information officer.

“This type of collaboration between academia and industry is groundbreaking,” said Boxer. “Eastern is our first partner in this domain, and we are confident this beautiful facility will continue to attract some of the best talent on campus.”

The idea for an on-campus internship program came about four years ago, when Eastern President Elsa Núñez wanted to offer students experiential learning opportunities and corporate experience without having to leave campus.

The result was Eastern’s “Work Hub” in Winthrop Hall, with Cigna being the first corporate client. Students interning at the Work Hub are paid and work up to 25 hours per week. Sixteen students were selected through a competitive process and are working in the program this semester, and most of the interns get a full-time job offer from Cigna upon graduating. Interns work in a variety of web development areas, such as with architecture, applications, infrastructure, protection and social media.

“Since 2011, the Work Hub has provided students in our business information systems and computer science programs with a meaningful, supervised internship experience right here on campus,” said Eastern Provost Rhona Free. “The expanded TECDP center benefits both Eastern and Cigna—it is a wonderful partnership that continues to gain momentum. We are excited about the future of this important collaboration.”

The expanded facilities for Cigna’s TECDP initiative have freed up the space in Winthrop Hall to serve other organizations in addition to Cigna.  Horizons, Inc., a local nonprofit agency serving people with special needs, has just started utilizing Eastern interns and the Work Hub space vacated by Cigna.  Eastern is also in the final planning stages to have a financial services firm move its internship program into Winthrop Hall, and the University is working with the Small Business Development Center to link student interns with local startups to help them with social media and other business services.

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Hundreds of Prospective Students Experience the Eastern Difference

Eastern’s Office of Admissions presented “the Eastern Difference” to more than 1,300 prospective students and parents at Eastern’s fall Open House on Oct. 12. President Elsa Nuñéz greeted the students and their families in Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

Visitors participated in information sessions in the Betty R. Tipton Room and Student Center Theatre on academic, support services, financial aid and athletics fairs, where they spoke directly with faculty, staff, coaches and students. They were provided tours of Eastern’s state-of-the art facilities, including the residence halls, J. Eugene Smith Library, Science Building, Child and Family Development Resource Center, Webb Hall, bookstore, and were also presented a star show demonstration in the Robert C. Wickware Planetarium.

Ned Harris, director of enrollment management, summarized the day by saying, “We had a beautiful fall day to show off our outstanding campus, and our faculty and staff made sure our visitors left with a good sense of the close-knit educational environment that is Eastern.”

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Eastern Students Shine

Miles Wilkerson to Present Research at Regional Conference.

Miles Wilkerson, a senior history and social sciences major from Mansfield Center, was chosen to present at the New England Historical Association’s (NEHA) fall conference in Rindge, NH on Oct. 18. His presentation, titled, “Nunca Olvide: Reframing Historical Discourse on Cuban Exile Terrorism,” focused on Cuba’s right-wing exiles and the effects that their terrorism and extremist acts had in shaping Cuban government. Wilkerson also recently presented his research at the Phi Alpha Theta New York Upper Regional Conference and saw it as an opportunity to hone his craft.   “I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend the NEHA conference alongside graduate students and professors,” he said. “As one of two undergraduates presenting a paper at this conference, I am proud to be representing Eastern at a professional history meeting once again.” Wilkerson acknowledged History Professor Joan Meznar, his mentor, for helping him to present at the conference. He also thanked the Eastern History Club for offering transportation to the event.

Egan Appointed to Serve on Community Service Commission.

On Oct. 6, Lily Egan, a senior who is majoring in communication, was appointed by Governor Dannel Malloy to serve on the Connecticut Commission on Community Service. The commission administers community programs under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. Egan is one of 19 members on the commission statewide, and will serve a three-year term. “This appointment is something I never would have dreamed of achieving when I was a freshman,” said Egan. “I look forward to making a difference in the state in this capacity.”

As a student, Egan has been heavily involved with service projects in Willimantic. As an underclassman, she participated in the club People Helping People, where she was introduced to Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) — where she now works as a senior student leader. “Lily is dedicated and passionate about service to our community,” said Kim Silcox, director of the CCE. “She has taken a leadership role within the CCE, and has developed several new volunteer programs based on community needs. We are so fortunate to have her on our staff.”

Aspiring Teacher Maggie Bodington Wins Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship.

Above, Vickie Soto’s younger siblings and Bodington at Stratford High School on Senior Scholarship Award Night this past June.)  Maggie Bodington, a freshman from Stratford, is one of this year’s recipients of the Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship, given to two Stratford high school seniors each year. The scholarship was created in honor of Victoria Leigh Soto ’08, who lost her life protecting the children of her first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.

The scholarship was the final award given at Stratford High School’s (SHS) Senior Scholarship Award Night this past June. “I was so blown away when I won it,” said Bodington. “I wanted it for what it really means, not just the money, but to continue her legacy. She was so full of life. The things she stood for — to live, laugh and love — they are how I try to live my life.” Bodington plays on Eastern’s soccer team, and plans to join the lacrosse team in the spring semester. She also hopes to join Habitat for Humanity and Best Buddies clubs, if her schedule permitsThe Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship is awarded once a year to a graduating senior from Stratford High School and a graduating senior from Bunnell High School in Stratford. Recipients of the scholarship must be pursuing a career in education and demonstrate excellence in academics, extracurricular activities and leadership skills. The recipients must also demonstrate the spirit to live, laugh and love, both in life and education —the way Vicki did. (For information on the Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund administered by the ECSU Foundation, Inc., visit,)

Social work students present at state conference.

On Oct. 29, two Social Work majors, Steve Wilmoth of Willimantic and Desiree Laporte of Dayville, received scholarships to present a poster session on their work with the Eastern Athletic Department’s Gambling Awareness Semester Campaign, at the 11th Annual Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling Conference (CCPG): “Bridging the Gap to Recovery; Community, Prevention, Treatment,” at the Mystic Marriott Hotel and Spa in Groton. The students developed a tool kit to educate, coaches, student athletes, trainers, club sport players and intramural players on gambling and problem gambling.  Their project was funded by a grant from the CCPG. Thomas Broffman, assistant professor of social work, served as supervisor for the students.

Rugby team picks up trash; helps Soup Kitchen.

Members of Eastern’s club rugby team took a break after hitting the streets of Willimantic to participate in their annual “See Trash, Pick it up!” town clean-up effort. This year, the team collected more than 475 pounds of trash and debris from local streets and sidewalks. The trash pick-up is in its fifth year.

Covenant Soup Kitchen Manager Pam Rogers, right, jokes with Eastern Connecticut Rugby team members, left to right, Demitri Voukounas, Anthony Testi and Tevin Williams at the Covenant Soup Kitchen, as the rugby team donated 1,200 kitchen towels, which were sorely needed. “For years, the team has volunteered at the Soup Kitchen, seeing this as a way to give back to their school community,” said Assistant Coach Ray Armani.

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Scholarship Winners Meet Their Donors

On Oct. 15, the ECSU Foundation, Inc., awarded more than 325 scholarships totaling more than $750,000 in financial aid to students of all backgrounds and academic majors — both Foundation records. The scholarship reception in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center brought together major scholarship donors and their respective student-recipients. “We are relentless in our pursuit of increasing educational access and improving success rates of students attending our campus,” said Ken DeLisa, vice president of Institutional Advancement. “Everyone in this room should take pride in the fact that as recently as a decade ago the Foundation was only able to award $100,000 in scholarships.”

“This event allows us to see several hundred of our hardest working, most dedicated students in one spot at one time,” Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “We also have the pleasure of announcing a significant outpouring of support from generous donors who understand the value of investing in America’s next generation of leaders.”

This year’s reception also introduced one of the Foundation’s newest endowed scholarships, the John F. Kearney Jr. Scholarship Award. The scholarship was presented by Laura Kearney, wife of the late John Kearney. “John loved his years at Eastern. When he was reaching the final weeks of his battle with cancer, he wanted me to arrange this scholarship to help facilitate the education of future Eastern students,” she said.

Student Lisa Forcellina, a senior from Newington double majoring in early childhood education and psychology, also spoke at the event. “The gifts you have given open many doors for students at Eastern. I think I speak for everyone here when I say thank you!”

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Health, Wellness and Benefits Expo a Community Hit

On Oct. 21, more than 40 health-related organizations participated in Eastern’s Annual Health, Wellness and Benefits Expo in the Student Center. The vendors included small holistic wellness companies, area hospitals and nonprofit health centers, banks and financial institutions, health and life insurance companies, state agencies and more. Free services provided included breast cancer information, flu and diabetes clinics, free chair massages, healthy snacks from local vendors and STD and HIV testing.  Hundreds of people from Eastern and surrounding communities attended the expo to partake in the free services and browse the informational tables.

The event was sponsored by Eastern’s Health Services and Human Resources Departments. “The health expo was an amazing opportunity for people to come together and learn about ways to stay well and about available health resources,” said Jane Neu, associate director of health services. “While visitors had access to free services, venders and various health organizations had the opportunity to meet a number of people with an interest in health and wellness.”

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Art and Culture Thrives on Campus

Rare Holocaust Exhibit Featured in at Akus Gallery.

The Akus Gallery at Eastern is hosting its second exhibition of the fall semester, “Rosemarie Koczÿ (1939-2007): Process and Realization,” from Oct. 23–Dec. 11. Koczÿ was a childhood witness to the Holocaust who found salvation in art. Deported to a slave labor camp at age three, and deprived of family, education, basic needs and dignity, Koczÿ survived to forge a life as an internationally recognized artist, and to bear witness to the trauma and loss experienced during and after World War II.

On Nov. 6 from 3–4 p.m., exhibition curator Marion Callis, director emerita of the Akus Gallery, will speak about the artist, followed by a reception from 4–7 p.m. at the gallery. “Rosemarie Koczÿ (1939-2007): Process and Realization” features art works rarely seen together or in the United States, including drawings from the early 1980s on loan from the Musée de la Création Franche in Bègles (Bordeaux), France, paintings and sculpture from private and public American collections (including significant loans from the CUNY/QCC Art Gallery at Queens, NY), and personal journals, photos and art tools from her estate.

On the Verge” entertains Harry Hope Theatre Audiences.

“On the Verge” entertains Harry Hope Theatre Audiences.  Congratulations to Chase Rozelle, director, and to the entire cast and crew (onstage, backstage, and front-of-house) for a successful run of “On The Verge,” and for the show being selected for consideration for production at the Region I Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in January 2015! 


Eastern Performing Arts Department performed the play in the Harry Hope Theatre from Oct 7-12. “On the Verge” portrays three Victorian women traveling through what they believe to be Terra Incognita (Lands Unknown).  As the play advances, these women begin to realize that they are not on any ordinary journey, but that they are, in fact, traveling through time.  While doing so, they begin to see visions and learn new words from the future.

Each of the explorers is based off real life Victorian women. Mary is the lead lady explorer, drawing upon wisdom from her favorite periodicals.  Alexandra, the youngest explorer, is more care-free and has a fascination for learning and defining new words that she learns along the way.  Fanny, the most reserved and only married voyager, is more hesitant in the exploration, thinking everything they envision is immoral and inaccurate.
Sarah Oschmann (Fanny), a senior theatre major, said, “We did a lot of research on the women our characters were based off of, so knowing their history really helped shape the way we thought about them. Costumes were the icing on the cake; once you are wearing it, you are that character. You live and breathe and move just like the women of that era.” Caitlighn Foley (Mary), a sophomore with a double major in theatre and accounting, stated, “Memorizing the script was horrendously nerve-wracking. I honestly wasn’t sure I could pull it off until the show opened.”

John-Paul Deveglia, a junior biology major, adapted from playing Fanny’s husband, a shy American banker, to Alfonse, an eccentric character with a German accent, to creatures such as a Yeti who speaks through growls and roars. Deveglia brought an aura of comedy to the show with his extravagant character embellishments. “I always tried to entertain my family when I was younger,” Deveglia said, “so some of my voices came from silly things I would do around my house or among family or friends. That helped me out when I was figuring out how to approach each character.”
Stephanie Madden (Alex), a junior double majoring in psychology and theatre, said, “The greatest reward from the show was not only sharing this wonderful experience with the director (Chase Rozelle), the stage manager, cast and crew, but also learning about the history of this country. I also learned how special and unique a woman traveler was during the 19th century,” Madden concluded.


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Anne Dawson’s “Love at First Sight,” a Collaborative Documentary

“What I love about research is that it’s like being a detective,” said Art History Professor Anne Dawson. “I like solving mysteries. It’s cool when a hunch you had is proven right, and also when you find out you were wrong.”

Dawson’s latest project, “Love at First Sight: J. Alden Weir and Windham, CT,” is a collaborative documentary about the accomplished impressionist artist J. Alden Weir that premiered this past September. “Weir in Windham” is the title of a larger, multiyear project led by Dawson that includes a website and book, and will culminate in 2016 with an exhibition of some of Weir’s best works.

For the documentary project, Dawson sought out Communication Professor Denise Matthews, an experienced documentary maker, who assigned the project to her documentary production class. “A goal of this project is to develop appreciation and awareness of Windham,” said Matthews, “and the visual nature of a documentary helps people to click with the research. It really brings Weir’s story to life.”

Dawson, an art historian with a literary background, was not used to the confines of film. “A film is totally different than a book. Professor Matthews knew which pieces needed to be told without going too in depth or not enough,” said Dawson. “I feel the documentary really captures the essence of the research.”

Attesting to community support of the project, Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement helped fund the documentary. Willimantic’s Railroad Museum and Textile Museum were involved as well. “Love at First Sight” can be viewed at the project’s recently launched website Upcoming “Weir in Windham” events include a book to be published by Wesleyan University Press and 2016 exhibitions at the Akus Gallery and Lyman Allyn Art Museum.

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Two Fairs Provide Students with Graduate School and Job Market Options

On Oct. 2, 250 students participated in a Graduate School Fair in the Betty R. Tipton Room, which showcased 45 graduate schools from colleges around New England. Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development hosted the fair.

On. Oct. 8, more than 100 students converged on the Betty R. Tipton Room to participate in the Accounting Department’s 10th Annual Job Fair. Fourteen accounting firms were on hand to greet Eastern students. “It was a successful job fair, and we use it to connect our students with employers,” said Accounting Professor Moh’d RuJoub. “Some of our students who attended the job fair have already received full-time employment and internship offers.  The participants were very impressed with the high quality of the students, and they look forward to coming back next year. Blum Shapiro and O’Connor Davies actually came back the following week and both companies interviewed about 12 students each.”

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Relay for Life Supports Cancer Research

On Oct. 18, 53 Eastern students and staff participated in the 19th Annual Relay for Life at the Mansfield Athletic Complex, and helped to raise more than $78,000 for the American Cancer Society. This is the 13th year Eastern has hosted the relay.

Kim Silcox, director of Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement, said 11 teams from Eastern participated in the relay, and additional donations are still coming in. “Relay for Life is a great community event that brings hundreds of community members together around an important cause: to celebrate those who are cancer survivors, to honor those who have lost their battle, and to fight back with those who are currently undergoing treatment,” said Silcox. “From the opening ceremonies to the lighting of the Luminarias, the event is an opportunity for all involved to reflect on how cancer has impacted their lives and the lives of their loved ones and to share, in a supportive and caring environment, in a celebration of life. Eastern is proud to support this event and we look forward to hosting again next year.”

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Swimming Team Kicks Off Season

The Eastern swimming team kicked off its 19th intercollegiate season Oct. 18 at the University of Saint Joseph (CT) Pentathlon, under the direction of head coach Maureen Fahey, the only coach in program history.  Eastern returns 11 letter winners from a year ago, when it lost only one regular-season dual meet for the third straight season, and recorded its fifth straight Top 5 finish in the New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Association (NEISDA) Championships.

Four swimmers who were named All-New England a total of 22 times based on their performances at the NEISDA Championships return, among them seniors Shannen Barnard (Niantic) and tri-captain Kayla Smoragiewicz (Norwalk) and juniors Macaire Jones (Danbury) and Rebecca Stewart (Niantic).  All four contributed to All-New England records, with Barnard, Smoragiewicz and Jones being named All-New England three times each in individual events and Stewart twice. Last year, Smoragiewicz recorded the fastest times among Eastern swimmers in all three backstroke event, Jones the fastest times in the 50 and 100 freestyle, Stewart in the 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle, and Barnard in the 50 and 100 butterfly.

Other returning swimmers include tri-captain Abby Arisco ’15 (Wallingford), Shannon Coleman ’15 (Plantsville), senior tri-captain Katie Dulz (Windsor), junior Sarah Froehlich (Woodstock) and sophomores Jessica Charron (Baltic), Natalie Stepniewski (East Haven) and Megan Styrczula (Farmington).

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Leclerc Gains Little East Conference Hall of Fame Induction

Robin Gaby Leclerc ’90 is one of 11 former coaches, student athletes and administrators among the Little East Conference’s third class of inductees who were inducted into the conference’s 2014 Hall of Fame at the Providence Marriott in Providence, RI.

Born in Terre Haute, IN and raised in Hebron, Leclerc was a dual-sport athlete who excelled not only in basketball but soccer as well. After being named All-State twice in high school, the six-foot Leclerc turned down a scholarship to the University of Hartford to come to Eastern, where she played three basketball seasons under E-Club Hall of Fame coach Bob Miller. “It was a complete surprise,” said Leclerc in describing when she was notified of the award. “After graduating 24 years ago, I did not expect to receive this award at this point in my life.”

In her three-year college basketball career, Leclerc scored 1,114 points, averaging 13.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. As a senior, she was voted Eastern’s first WBCA Division III All-American. In addition, she was named ECAC New England Division III and Little East Conference Rookie-of the-Year in 1998. Leclerc was twice selected first-team All-New England by both the ECAC and New England Women’s Basketball Association.

Leclerc was also a four-year member of the first Eastern women’s soccer team — competing as a freshman on the first team in program history in 1986. Her four-year career resulted in 19 goals and a program-record 30 assists.

After graduating in 1990 with a B.A. in Fine Arts, she went on to earn her M.S. in Elementary Education from the University of New Haven. Leclerc lives in Narragansett, RI, with her husband, Juss, and their two children, Alex and Gabrielle, the latter now playing Division I volleyball at North Carolina Central University.

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