Eastern Continues Celebration of 125th Anniversary

Eastern continued its celebration of the institution’s 125th Anniversary on Nov. 18 with a luncheon event titled “History at Eastern: The Past Informs the Future.” The event included an overview of the scholarly achievements of the History Department, a history quiz, a lecture that brought attendees from Eastern’s beginnings in 1889 to the present day and a theatrical performance by the History Club.

“If anyone suggests that Eastern faculty are not active researchers and productive scholars, or that they do not make important contributions to knowledge in their disciplines, a quick look at the work of our history faculty will correct that misperception,” said Provost Rhona Free. “In addition to the abundance of their scholarship, two things are noticeable: the quality of the presses and journals that publish their work and also how their research interests vary.”

Among the history department’s active researchers are Professor Anna Kirchmann, an award-winning author on Polish American studies; Professor Jamel Ostwald, another award-winning scholar for his publications on the War of the Spanish Succession; and Professor Joan Meznar, who has published many articles about Brazilian society in top journals. In addition to faculty, students of the History Department have also been published and presented their research at regional and national conferences.

President Núñez followed with her own remarks. “The first history instructor on this campus was hired in 1896. There have been two university presidents that were historians,” said Núñez. “History is not just for history majors. All students should see how mankind’s march through time impacts succeeding generations. History prepares students for almost any career.”

The program concluded with a comical performance by the History Club about the murder of Julius Caesar; a quiz led by Professor David Frye; and a lecture about the history of Eastern and its partnership with Willimantic.


Also on Nov. 18 was the dedication of the time capsule as part of Eastern’s 125th anniversary, held in the Student Center Atrium. The 24” by 36” time capsule will be installed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center upon its completion, and reopened in 2039 in celebration of Eastern’s 150th anniversary. Spectators gathered to see the items that will be sealed in the time capsule.

“Why are we doing this?” asked President Elsa Núñez. “We are doing it because we are proud of Eastern and want to share who we are with the people of the future. Items in the capsule point to our institution’s commitment to academic excellence; our relationship with the Willimantic community, which has always been a strong support system; and our focus on the future — innovation is another hallmark of Eastern,” said Núñez.  The audience members were given notecards to write messages to the future Eastern community. “The past 50 years have seen more technological change than in the past several thousand years. Where will we be in 2039?” asked Núñez.

Some of the items — which were donated from departments across campus — include a cell phone, a FASFA form, a mouse pad, a DVD titled “Investigating Trees” by the Child and Family Development Resource Center, a graphing calculator from the Math Department, a Warriors softball cap, an issue of the Campus Lantern (student-run newspaper), a mask from the Performing Arts Department, various books written by professors, a copy of Eastern’s strategic plan and more.

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Oboe? Oh My

Virtuoso oboist Andrea Gullickson treated the audience to an inspiring mixture of classical and contemporary compositions during her concert on Nov. 13 in Webb Hall. Gullickson kicked off Eastern’s 2014-15 Arts and Lecture Series. With tones and tempo that evoked images ranging from a cantering horse to a flitting hummingbird, Gullickson demonstrated a flair and command of an instrument most often played as part of an orchestra or concert band. Her accompanist, Peruvian pianist Eugenio Urrutia-Borlando, was equally adept at his own instrument, alternating from a deft, light touch running across the keys to delivering strident chords underneath Gullickson’s confident stylings. Pieces played ranged from classical pieces such as “Habanera” by renowned French composer Maurice Ravel and sonatas by German composer Gustav Schreck and Francis Poulenc of France; to two cotemporary pieces, “Black Anemones” by American composer Joseph Schwantner and “Way Out West” by Australian composer Graeme Koehne.

A native of Walhalla, ND, Gullickson has released three solo albums (including “Oboe Celebrations: Music to Lift the Spirits and Set the Imagination Dancing” and “Down a River of Time”) as well as an additional five albums with her highly acclaimed double reed ensemble, “WiZARDS! A Double Reed Consort.” She has performed at prestigious American venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress, in addition to performing at recitals throughout Europe, Asia and Australia.

Gullickson’s ability as an oboist is nearly unrivaled and has been described as “…pure, focused and unforced — perfectly natural sounding and effortless” (Fanfare). She is also an outstanding educator and has served on the faculty of Butler University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and currently at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.  The next Arts and Lecture event features Forensic Scientist Henry Lee on Feb. 10, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre. For more information, visit http://www1.easternct.edu/artsandlecture/

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Eastern Honors Veterans

“The numbers are telling. Since our nation’s founding, some 48 million men and women, have donned the uniform and proudly stepped forward to defend our freedoms,” said Captain Carl A. Lahti, commanding officer of Naval Submarine Base in New London, during his keynote address at Eastern’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony in the Student Center on Nov. 11.   Lahti said there are almost 1.4 million service members currently deployed at home and around the globe, in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. “Today, there are nearly 22 million living veterans. Over the next 30 years, the number of veterans is projected to decline to less than 15 million. As the number of veterans decreases, so does our attachment to their legacy, so it’s important we pay tribute.”

The ceremony was led by Eastern’s Veterans Center Coordinator Lawrence Schmitz, and included remarks by university administrators as well. President Elsa Núñez, whose father and brother served in the U.S. military as citizens of Puerto Rico, said, “While we should not glorify the work that our brave men and women in the armed forces perform in battle, we should hold up their bravery and sacrifice as a symbol of America’s finest values,” she said. “We should do this not just on this date each year, but every day of the year.”

Kenneth Bendini, vice president for student affairs, added, “We continue to make strides with all students, and in particular with students who are veterans,” he said, pointing out the work of the VETS (Veterans Education and Transition Services) Center. Because of the center’s recent expansion of space and services, Eastern was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top eight public regional universities serving veterans in the North.

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Eastern Honors Distinguished Alumni and Friends


Three distinguished alumni, one friend of the university, one individual donor and a financial institution were honored on Nov. 7 during the President’s Leadership Awards Luncheon, held in the J. Eugene Smith Library. The luncheon is the premiere donor appreciation event of the year; in addition to recognizing Eastern alumni.

Zygmunt Francis Dembek ’72, an epidemiologist and biochemist with more than 30 years of state and military service, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. The second Distinguished Alumni Award went to Kathy Regan-Pyne ’79, whose career includes positions in education, human resources and career development. Alumnus Edward J. Girard ’00, whose relationship with Eastern began as a graduate student, earned the Distinguished Service Award for his work in churches and volunteerism throughout Connecticut.

Ray Armani earned the “Hermann Beckert Friends of the University” Award for his commitment to students as a mentor and assistant coach of the rugby club. The ECSU Foundation Distinguished Donor Award went to alumna Mary Lou Corbett DeVivo ’60, whose involvement with Eastern includes an endowed scholarship and participation in boards and a number of campus events. Finally, the ECSU Foundation Board of Directors Distinguished Donor Award went to First Niagara Bank.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said “we are here to say ‘thank you.’ I am also here especially to bring thanks from the hundreds of Eastern students who, without your support, might not be walking our halls, sitting in our classrooms and working tirelessly to achieve their goals as scholars and budding professionals.”

Ken DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement, remarked, “With students facing unparalleled needs, your generosity resulted in our being able to award an all-time high of $750,000 in ECSU Foundation Scholarships to more than 300 deserving students. Thank you to this group of exceptional alumni and friends, and to everyone who has contributed to our success. We are humbled by your faith in us, and by your commitment to giving our students the important support that will allow them to continue on a path to graduation and to success in their careers.”

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Nunez Tells Children: Be a Good Student

“The most important thing you can do for yourself and your family is to be the best student you can be here.” That was the advice Eastern President Elsa Nunez gave students on Oct. 24, at St. Brigid Elementary School in West Hartford as the school celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. “Whether your ancestors came to this country from Africa, from Latin America, from Italy, Germany or England—a good education is essential for you to get a good job and raise a family when you grow up.”

Nunez encouraged the students to pursue higher education as well, and invited them to visit Eastern’s campus. “You need a college education.  I am not saying this because I am president of a college. I am telling you this because people with a college degree get better jobs and earn more money.” She told the students to learn as much as they can from their teachers and their parents. “Your teachers are all here to help you learn about life and what it takes to succeed. If you live with both of your parents, you are blessed. If you live with just one parent, he or she is working even harder to feed you, clothe you, and put a roof over your head. And your mom and dad are also teachers. They may not teach you math or social studies—although they may help you with your homework. But what they teach you is even important.  They teach you to be on time. They teach you to do your chores at home. They teach you how to take care of your brothers and sisters and to be kind to other people. They teach you to work hard and to be strong.  So listen to your parents and your teachers—when you grow up, you will look back and be thankful for all they do for you.”

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Eastern Alumnus Wins Wethersfield Teacher of the Year

Kevin Kobelski ’93 has been named the Wethersfield School District’s 2014–15 Teacher of the Year. Kobelski has been a physical education teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School in Wethersfield for 10 years and worked at the Webster Hill School in West Hartford before that.

Kobelski was recognized for his ability to get his students to think about physical education in new and exciting ways. He emphasizes the importance of movement by explaining that there are a variety of ways to move and that all of them will contribute to health and fitness. Despite that fact that he is a big sports fan, Kobelski said, “I’m not here to produce a basketball player or a football player. I’m here to produce a student who is physically educated.” Young children are still learning about health and fitness, and Kobelski urges them to be creative and determine what works best for them personally, even if it is new territory.

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A Bar of Soap and the Right to Vote!

“How many bubbles are in a bar of soap?” Stacey Close, Eastern’s associate vice president of equity and diversity, author and historian, illuminated a room full of scholars and dignitaries that included Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, when he revealed that was the question the Mississippi registrar of voters asked African Americans as part of a “literacy test” during the elections of 1960 designed to keep African Americans from voting.

Close presented “The Voting Rights Act; The Struggle Continues” on Oct. 29 at Connecticut’s Old State House’s “Conversations at Noon Series. The Noon Conversation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, considered to be the most successful piece of civil rights legislation in American history. The act meant to ensure no person should be denied the right to vote based on race or color. But as Diane Smith, Connecticut Television Network’s senior producer for program development who hosted Close’s presentation, noted, “As we have seen in recent elections, there have been some roadblocks placed in front of potential voters in several states.”

Close said the struggle for voting rights continues, and cited new challenges such as voter ID laws passed in Texas, Ohio and Wisconsin. He said the struggle matters “because America is still considered to be the cradle of justice and freedom, and all citizens should have the right to vote. It still matters because the world is watching.” Kevin McMahon, professor of political science at Trinity College, said much of the gerrymandering and redistricting that is going on is designed to keep minorities from voting, including Native Americans. Connecticut Humanities sponsored the program, moderated by Rebecca Taber-Conover, director of public programs and History Day.

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Faculty Authors

Psychology professors Madeleine Fugère, Jennifer Leszczynski and Alita Cousins have published a book titled, “The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships.” The book delves into the theory of romantic attraction and close relationships in a way that is engaging and accessible, while also being informative. The book outlines advanced social and psychological concepts, breaks them down and provides context for them through anecdotal, real-life experiences and examples from popular media. The text answers questions about whether we can detect genetic quality through scent, whether opposites actually attract, whether men or women are considered more romantic and other topics.

Philosophy Professor Christopher Vassilopoulos has authored a book, “Heirs to Freedom,” which is receiving rave reviews.  “Heirs to Freedom does a lot to educate us, and it enhances our will to reach truth through search by our own means,” said Panos  Eliopoulos, professor of philosophy at the University of Peloponnese in Greece. Philosophy Professor Hope Fitz agrees: “Chris Vassilopoulos gives us a rare insight into the lives of a group of southerners living during the time of slavery in the United States. The characters and the plot are such that we actually feel that we are there: in the homes of the whites and the slaves; in the bustling city dominated by the whites in power.  Also, we are privy to the hearts and minds of the main hero, a white master, his wife, his former black slave, as well as their children and grandchildren.

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Eastern Students Continue to Shine

Jennifer Pepin, a senior double majoring in Early Childhood Education and Spanish, has been named Eastern’s first Global Scholar. To become a global scholar, a student must complete the Global Citizenship Program. This program consists of taking a Cultural Perspectives course; attending Global Citizenship events; taking two Foreign Language courses at a college level, completing three courses that pertain to one particular region or language, participating in a study abroad program or taking an approved cluster of courses that relates to a global perspective; and completing a self-designed independent project with a specific community, organization or group working in global or intercultural projects.

Pepin knew since her freshman year that she wanted to work in a bilingual elementary school. She saw a brochure for the Global Citizenship Program in the Intercultural Center and was immediately interested. As part of the program, Pepin traveled to Havana, Cuba, in her freshman year and Salamanca, Spain, this past summer. She focused on Latin American Studies for her three-course cluster, and worked at Eastern Connecticut Area Health Education Centers for a summer independent study. Pepin also became the head of the Global Issues Committee for People Helping People, an on-campus student organization. Completing each level, Pepin earned her Global Scholar designation as she entered her senior year at Eastern.

“I strongly recommend this program to anyone who has an interest in global studies and doesn’t mind stepping out of his or her comfort zone. I learned a lot about myself and what it means to have global competence,” Pepin stated.

Mackenzie Fannon, a senior environmental earth science major from Bristol, was chosen to present at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) annual fall conference, which begins Dec. 15 in San Francisco, CA. Mackenzie spent 10 weeks downloading and processing seismic data in order to complete her research, titled, “Source Parameters of Large Magnitude Subduction Zone Earthquakes along Oaxaca, Mexico.” More than 25,000 people are expected to attend the conference.

The AGU fall meeting is the largest conference in the world concerning geophysical research, and it is rare for undergraduates such as Fannon to present their research at an AGU conference. “I am really excited to be presenting my research at AGU,” said Fannon. “This conference will give me the opportunity to show off all my hard work to thousands of people from all over the world.”

 Sixteen environmental earth science students from Eastern Connecticut State University and three of their faculty members participated in this year’s New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference (NEIGC). The conference occurred from Oct. 10–12 at Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA, and the Eastern group presented on their fieldwork along the dynamic Rhode Island coastline.

This year, Eastern students participated in a field trip entitled “Climate change comes to the south shore of Rhode Island: erosion, inundation and migration.” The trip focused on storm damage and rising sea level, and discussed the science and management of this very dynamic coastline.  The field trip was led by Eastern Earth Science Professor Bryan Oakley, as well as Professors Drew Hyatt and Steve Nathan. This was the 106th annual meeting of the NEIGC, which brings together educators, the private sector, government and other groups to showcase a broad range of fieldtrips exploring all aspects of regional geology.  NEIGC is a unique conference in that there are no formal talks. The sole mission is to present field trips of interesting geologic locales.   At the conference, field trips (and guidebooks) are presented in a professional manner, and undergraduate student participation is encouraged. The students in turn gain valuable field experience and a glimpse of life beyond the classroom.

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Career and Internships Fair Hosts Over 90 Employers

More than 90 employers attended and spoke with more than 500 Eastern students about internships, part-time jobs and full-time employment during Eastern’s Center for Internships and Career Development (CICD) Career and Internship Fair on Oct. 29. Employers represented almost every industry, including nonprofits, state and federal agencies, finance, insurance, education, retail, hospitality, entertainment and media.

Business Administration Professor Doncho Petkov commended the CICD for bringing more employers this year to campus than in years past. “That is a positive sign about the changing attitudes towards our graduates.” The CICD hosts a career and internship fair once every semester. Communications Professor Olugbenga Ayeni agreed: “It was a well-planned and well-attended event. The students are better served by an initiative such as this one.”

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Maryam Elahi’s Legacy: Human Rights

Maryam Elahi, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, discussed human rights with Eastern students in the Student Center Theatre on Nov. 5. Elahi is a human rights activist and champion of the rights of women and girls.  She elaborated on her beliefs on student responsibility and power in proclaiming ownership of issues such as social justice, encouraging students to become more active in the Eastern community and elsewhere. Eastern’s Women’s Center hosted Elahi’s presentation as part of Eastern’s University Hour Series.

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Eastern’s Cattanach is NCAA Cross Country Qualifier

Junior Lee Cattanach (New London) became the first Eastern men’s cross country runner in 38 years to qualify for national competition years after placing 20th overall in a field of 373 runners on Nov. 15 at the NCAA Division III New England Regional Cross Country Championships, hosted by Williams College at Mount Greylock Regional High School.

Cattanach, who missed all of last season due to injury and the first half of this year in rehabilitation, was the third of seven individuals to qualify on an at-large basis from the New England regionals for the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships on Nov. 22 in Mason, OH. He was timed in 25:57 over the 8,000-meter course — an improvement of 27 seconds over his winning time on the same course at the New England Alliance Championships two weeks ago.

Only 65 seconds separated the first and last national qualifiers at the New England Regional. Cattanach was the second New England qualifier from a state institution and one of only three overall.

In addition to becoming the only national qualifier from the New England Alliance (Little East Conference and Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference), Cattanach becomes the program’s first representative to reach national competition on an individual basis since E-Club Hall of Famer Tim Quinn in 1976. In 1975, Quinn helped the Warriors qualify for the only time ever on a team basis; as the team’s only senior in 1976, he qualified for the national meet at Cleveland with a tenth-place finish at the Eastern Championships.

Sixteen teams qualified automatically for the nationals and 16 on an at-large basis. A total of 56 individuals will compete.

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