Eastern Pays Homage on Veterans Day

Sean M. Connolly, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs, addressing the crowd at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Sean M. Connolly, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs was the keynote speaker at Eastern’s annual Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11. “Today we pay homage to the patriots of all our wars,” said Connolly, “including peace- time veterans, Cold War veterans and those of all our conflicts.”

At the same time that Connecticut’s more than 200,000 veterans are experiencing a surge in support services compared to years and generations passed, they still face many mental, physical, fiscal and employment challenges, according to Connolly. He urged the crowd to thank a veteran, “not just today, but every day,” as they are the reason the United States is the longest enduring democracy in the world.


Vice President Kenneth Bedini, Father Larry LaPointe, Commissioner Sean Connolly, President Elsa Núñez, VETS Center Coordinator Toni Martucci and student Kevin Lacy.There are more than 600 students, faculty and staff who are veterans, active duty or military reserve members at Eastern. With a veterans center committed to serving this population, U.S. News and World Report has ranked Eastern as the ninth best public institution in the North for veterans.

There are more than 600 students, faculty and staff at Eastern who are veterans, active duty or military reserve members. With a veterans center committed to serving this population, U.S. News and World Report has ranked Eastern as the ninth best public institution in the North for veterans.

Strong Showing at COPLAC Conference for Eastern


Twelve students from Eastern presented at the recent northeast regional undergraduate research conference sponsored by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). The conference took place from Oct. 23–24 at Ramapo College of New Jersey. The work of 15 Eastern students was showcased in total, making Eastern among the top participating schools at the conference. Presentations included poster and oral presentations of research, as well as creative activity such as performances and creative writing.

Sabreena Croteau, a political science and history double major, presented “Democratic Elections in the American States: A Case for Reform.” “I was excited to present the findings of a paper I had been working on since last January,” she said,” especially at a prestigious interdisciplinary conference. It was great experience to develop my professional skills as a presenter.”

Erin Drouin, another political science major, presented “An Analysis of Traditional Media Coverage of Sexual Assault on College Campuses.” “This is going to look good on my graduate school applications,” said Drouin. “The fact that Eastern has such an emphasis on undergraduate research is going to set me apart from other applicants and I’m really happy the school has given me this opportunity.”

Eastern Sponsors Forum on Rights for Undocumented Immigrants

Imanni Hunter, Erika Sanchez, Stephanie Marquez, Joseline Tlacomulco, Amber Domond, and Yamundow Jatta

“Speak Up, Speak Out,” a forum to draw attention to the challenges faced by the immigrant and undocumented community, was held on Nov. 5 at Eastern. Guest speakers “included Eastern’s President Elsa Núñez, representatives of Connecticut Students for a Dream, the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance and United Action Connecticut.

Eastern President Elsa M. Núñez 

“Not only is immigration a topic that is drawing considerable interest by candidates for next year’s presidential election, the issue of immigration and undocumented immigrants is of immediate concern in our local community,” said Núñez.

Connecticut Students for a Dream

Student Erika Sanchez conveyed her passion and personal connection to the ever-growing issue of immigrant rights. Being the child of an undocumented mother has inspired her to tell her story as well as provide other immigrant and undocumented students the opportunity to share their experiences. “It was not until I joined Connecticut Students for a Dream that I realized the power of stories, of our voices and how we must never be silent about them. My truth is power. Your truth is power. We are a reflection of what we are fighting for – our communities and families,” said Sanchez. “Although they try to degrade, criminalize and deport our community they will never crush our spirit, they will never take away our humility, our determination and our dreams.”

The Women’s Center, the Intercultural Center and the Social Justice Themed Housing group sponsored the event, exemplifying Eastern’s collaborative and inclusive commitment to equality.  Above, left to right, are Imanni Hunter, Erika Sanchez, Stephanie Marquez, Joseline Tlacomulco, Amber Domond, and Yamundow Jatta.

The Last Performance in Eastern Harry Hope Theatre

English Professor Maureen McDonnell and Charlice Salters

From Oct. 27 to Nov. 1, the Performing Arts Department and Drama Society at Eastern Connecticut State University presented “A Doubt, A Parable,” the last production to be performed in the Harry Hope Theatre. In January 2016, the Theatre Program will move into facilities in the new Fine Arts Instructional Center.

Despite being the last production to be presented in the Harry Hope Theatre, “A Doubt, A Parable” marks Theater Professor Alycia Bright Holland’s debut as the director of a dramatic play. “I was interested in telling this story for many reasons, but mainly to provide us all an opportunity to think about our relationship to certainty,” said Bright Holland. “Unlike intransigence, I believe that doubt is a malleable place from which to begin any shared healing process. Doubt promotes curiosity, discovery and inquiry, rather than dormancy, idleness and complacency. And it is questioning that reveals answers. Doubt is expansive, whereas certainty can have a way of damming up human potential, or foreclosing possibilities.”

Stephanie McMadden and English Professor Maureen McDonnell

“I feel honored to have performed in the production that will mark the close of the Harry Hope Theatre,” said psychology and theater major Stephanie Madden ’16, who played Sister James in the play. “I spent many, many hours in the Harry Hope Theatre in my four years at Eastern. The first time I performed in the Harry Hope was the fall of my freshman year, so I was unfamiliar with the theatre and was unsure what it was going to be like. Now, as a senior I couldn’t have wished for a better way to end my senior year and my time in the Harry Hope Theatre.”

Corey Lorraine

The intense and thought-provoking production also offered students and faculty the opportunity to collaborate as members of an artistic team. Maureen McDonnell, associate professor of English and director of women’s and gender studies, performed as Sister Aloysius. “I enjoyed that Alycia established a collaborative environment for us,” said McDonnell. “I value the work of everyone in the cast and team.” Corey Lorraine, as Father Flynn, and Charliece Salters as Mrs. Muller, rounded out the cast.

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Speaks at Eastern

Alicia Garza,

Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, visited Eastern on Nov. 12 to discuss the nationwide “Black Lives Matter” movement.  The movement started in July 2013 when George Zimmerman was declared not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.

Much of Garza’s talk was focused on the backlash the movement receives, in particular from those who say “all lives matter,” not just black lives. “In theory, all lives matter — this is true — but in practice, they don’t,” she said, remarking on the constitutional promise “that all men are created equal.” “In this country, some lives matter more than others.”

Garza emphasized that Black Lives Matter represents all factions of society that are discriminated against, regardless of skin color. It includes immigrants, the incarcerated, those with disabilities, the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgender communities and others.

“It’s about organizing and exercising collective power. Everyone in this room is an agent of social change. We need to re-inject this country with the humanity that it claims.”

The event was sponsored by Eastern’s Intercultural Center, Women’s Center and Campus Activity Board. Hundreds of students and members of the Eastern community attended, creating a maximum capacity crowd in the Student Center Theatre.

Students See Connecticut Supreme Court in Action

Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious and students in her Judicial Process class visited the Connecticut State Supreme Court in Hartford on Oct. 15.  The class observed proceedings in two cases: State of Connecticut v. Kenneth Jamison and Standard Oil of CT, Inc. v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation Act.

Students visiting the Supreme Court session included Eirik Brigg, Travis Dings, Jordan True, Max Prebit, Lindsey Berube, Michael LoStocco, Emilio Estrella, Raagan Wicken, Crystal Mayo, Adrianna Mihalek, Dmitri O’Donnell, Shafaq Chaudhry, Ben Brady, Jimmy Dignoti, James Harrison and Emily Becher.

“This trip gave me insight on details of the courts I could never have learned from books, such as the importance of confidence and presentation,” said Estrella. “It was a great experience.”

“I t liked getting to see all that we keep reading about in action,” said Brady. “I also liked seeing the attorneys and justices as people. We read about lawyers and we see them in movies but in person, they got nervous, fumbled their words, and say uhh.”

“I was surprised by the level of interaction by some of the justices with the attorneys, I didn’t think they would have interacted as much as they did,” said Mayo.

“Women Crossing Borders”

Anthropology Lecturer Christine McDonnell is offering an exciting series in her Anthropology of Migration course titled “Women Crossing Borders,” a series of lectures with women discussing their compelling narratives of their and other’s migrations from their homelands to the United States, and explaining the logistics of female migration. On Nov. 12, a discussion in Webb Hall focused on the United Action Connecticut’s (UAC) commitment to legal and undocumented migrants who are having a difficult time since the Obama Administration began deporting illegal immigrants. United Action Connecticut is part of an interfaith ministry seeking social justice for immigrants. The UAC’s Mark Kosnoff brought Patricia Rosas of Mexico and Amalpacro Cabezas  of Ecuador to Eastern to discuss their journey to the United States, as well as their current political dilemmas.  They shared compelling narratives of having left their homelands for a better life in the United States.

They said they have become economically disenfranchised because of the White House’s deportation policy that they believe considers groups of migrants as collateral damage. They said they have been in the United States for decades; received decent pay from their employers; and have contributed to the local economies of Connecticut. However, since the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency began to deport illegal immigrants, the political climate was not conducive for them to continue working, so they have had to quit their jobs and, now, have no way of earning a living or feed their families.

In addition, they told stories about how their children who are American citizens and had a difficult time growing up and attending American schools. They also fear that their entire families will be disrupted and relocated if ICE does continue with ad hoc sweeps in their hometowns.

Interschool Walk for Warmth Engages School Children

Sweeney Elementary School children run laps around the courtyard for the Interschool Walk for Warmth.

Eastern students volunteered at five elementary schools throughout the Windham area on Oct. 23 for the annual Interschool Walk for Warmth. The awareness-raising event for local schoolchildren focuses on energy sustainability and physical fitness. Eastern’s involvement coincided with “Connecticut Public Higher Education Make a Difference Week,” which ran from Oct. 18–24.

Luisa Florez, English major and student leader with the CCE, reads to schoolchildren during an Interschool Walk for Warmth activity.

The Interschool Walk for Warmth is a collaborative effort between Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and Windham Public Schools. Led by 51 student-volunteers, children made arts and crafts with recycled materials and participated in various physical activities, from running to floor exercises. “I’m so blessed to work with these kids,” said Lindsay Poulos, a social work major and student leader with the CCE. “They want to learn. They’re so little, but they want to better themselves. I’m impressed with how insightful they are.”

Above, Sweeney Elementary School children run laps around the courtyard for the Interschool Walk for Warmth, and Luisa Florez, English major and student leader with the CCE, reads to schoolchildren during an Interschool Walk for Warmth activity.

Eastern Professors Participate in Civil Rights Panel


Left to right, Reginald Flood, Sean Frederick Forbes, Karen Thorsen, Jon Andersen and Stacey Close

Eastern Professor participated in a discussion on the film “James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket.” The film was shown on Nov. 12 at the Arts at the Capitol Theater on Main Street in Willimantic.  The film is inspired by African American novelist and playwright James Baldwin and commemorates the 50th anniversary of several major Civil Rights milestones. History Professor Stacey Close and English Professor Reginald Flood; Sean Forbes, interim director of creative writing at the University of Connecticut; and Karen Thorsen, the director of the documentary, discussed the significance of the film, saying that recent events on the national stage  demonstrate the need for continued vigilance in defense of civil rights.

Close offered a spirited call for outreach and education as essential parts of the on-going work of human progress in race relations and justice. Flood talked about how Baldwin has continued to inspire and inform his own growth as a writer, educator, citizen and person. The film was sponsored by Quinebaug Valley Community College’s (QVCC) Cultural Programming Committee, the Office of the President at QVCC and Eastern.

Meet Willi!

Gabby Wrobel and Clint Gosselin with Willi the Warrior

Through the leadership of the Student Government Association, and the direct input of almost a thousand student voters, Eastern’s new Warrior mascot has a name!  Democracy reigns!  Welcome Willi the Warrior to campus!  The University unveiled the mascot’s name and celebrated the strength and determination of “Those Who Are Eastern,” when the Student Government Association (SGA) sponsored its first “Warrior Wednesday” on Nov. 11 in the Student Center Lobby. Many people on campus wore something with “EASTERN” on it that day.  Willi was in attendance at Warrior Wednesday to claim his new name, and students with Eastern apparel won prizes through a series of raffles. Go Warriors!

Storyteller, Author and Professor Raouf Mama Lectures at Eastern

English Professor Raouf Mama

On Oct. 28, storyteller and English Professor Raouf Mama spoke to students about his recently published memoir, “Fortune’s Favorite Child.” Mama opened his lecture by reading an excerpt from his memoir and talking about his upbringing. For the first 20 years of his life, he lived a normal existence in Benin, West Africa.

Unbeknownst to Mama, the time surrounding his birth had been stressful and traumatic for his family, almost resulting in his death before he was a week old. Ultimately, his mother gave him up for adoption. The adoption prevented him from meeting his biological father until he was an adult, but Mama described the event as the most beautiful moment of his life. Although it was stressful for him, Mama has taken away many positives from the time before he met his father. “Those 20 years made me a better person because I’m more keenly aware of what it’s like to feel unwanted or unloved,” he explained.  

“You can’t sleepwalk your way through life. You have to find something to be excited about, something to be passionate about. Most importantly, everyone should have a sense of excitement about life,” Mama said as he tried to convey to students that we are all “fortune’s favored children.

Eastern Athletes Win Top Academic Award

Eastern Athletic Director Lori Runksmeier with Presidents Cup Award

Little East Conference (LEC) Commissioner Cora Brumley recently announced that Eastern has earned the Presidents Cup as the top academic institution in the league.  The Warriors registered a cumulative grade point average of 3.11 for the fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters. The Warriors claim the Presidents Cup for the second time, as Eastern was the award’s first recipient in its inaugural year in 2010.

“The Eastern Department of Athletics is proud to receive the Presidents’ Cup, as it reflects the hard work that our student-athletes put into their fields of study and the passion they show in the classroom,” remarked Runksmeier.  “I think it’s great that the Little East Conference has chosen to honor academic success with the highest award the conference gives. The priority shown by that decision embodies what Division III athletics is all about.”

Eastern saw 76 of its student-athletes earn LEC All-Academic status last year, which recognizes those competitors who achieve a 3.3 GPA or higher in a given semester. Pacing Eastern’s teams in the classroom was the women’s cross-country squad, which accumulated a 3.42 team GPA in 2014, followed closely by women’s soccer at 3.39.

“I am very pleased to see our student-athletes being recognized for their academic achievements,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Athletes on our campus are students first, and this data attests to their outstanding performance in the classroom.  As much as we also applaud their accomplishments on the playing field, our student-athletes—like most Division III competitors—know that they are preparing for careers in professions outside of sports.  The self-discipline, goal-orientation and teamwork that our student-athletes practice in competition also help them succeed in class.  These same athletes will graduate to become outstanding citizen leaders with rewarding careers. To know that our student-athletes as a group are excelling academically means that they have their priorities straight. Go Warriors!”   (For more news on Eastern sports, visit http://gowarriorathletics.com/landing/index)