Eastern Ranked Highly in U.S. News and World Report Rankings

On Sept. 10, U. S. News and World Report released its 2016 edition of “Best Colleges,” and ranked Eastern the 27th best public regional university in the North Region. Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities, and this year’s ranking was Eastern’s best ever.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Eastern was the 92nd ranked institution in the North overall, which includes public and private universities.

“I was very pleased to see Eastern achieve its highest ranking ever in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Our commitment to academic rigor; the hiring of additional full-time faculty; and the relevance of our majors to Connecticut’s economy have resulted in strong scores for such criteria as academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources and alumni giving. Students and parents turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help them make important decisions about where to attend college.  These newly released rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a valued, affordable liberal arts education in a residential campus setting.”

Eastern Tells Its Story to Connecticut Residents

On Sept. 9, U.S. News and World Report announced its 2016 “Best Colleges” rankings, and Eastern again demonstrated its progress in becoming an outstanding public university in America with a very strong showing.

While Eastern received good news coverage of our ranking in the local media and our campus community is well aware of this outstanding accomplishment, the administration feels it is important to showcase the University’s major milestones to larger audiences.  As the smallest state university in Connecticut, located away from population centers and in the shadows of the state’s land-grant institution, we must work harder to get our message to Connecticut residents.

To that end, full-page ads highlighting our U.S. News rankings were placed in the Hartford Courant, the Norwich Bulletin and the Willimantic Chronicle.  The ads were strengthened by a testimonial from Eastern alumnus David Whitehead ’84, an Eastern Fellow and senior vice president of Hartford HealthCare/president of Windham and Backus Hospitals.  We have heard from other Eastern alumni since the ads were published; clearly “Those Who Are Eastern” share Mr. Whitehead’s pride in our University.

Eastern’s faculty and staff work very hard to provide students with a quality liberal arts education that prepares them for careers and public lives as engaged citizens.  While this work is not done to receive accolades, the fact that Eastern excels in national rankings and continues to improve its academic reputation is inspiration to all of us.  We will continue to share your accomplishments as broadly as resources will afford so that others will also come to know of this special place we call Eastern.

Eastern’s Teacher Preparation Programs Approved for Five Years

The Connecticut State Board of Education voted unanimously on Sept. 2 to grant continuing approval to Eastern’s teacher education programs through September 2019. By statue, all educator preparation programs within the state require board approval, and the process occurs on a five-year cycle. Under the approval process, universities undergo external evaluation by a team consisting of a State Department liaison and academic peers. The evaluation begins with an electronic review of institutional reports followed by an on-site visit lasting several days. The institution then provides follow-up documentation to an independent state review committee to address the on-site evaluation findings and recommendations. The committee then makes a recommendation to the State Board regarding approval.

“I congratulate the faculty in our teacher preparation program for this important milestone,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez.  “Nothing is more important to the stability and sustainability of our education programs than gaining state approval.
“To have unanimous approval from the State Board of Education is a ringing endorsement for the hard work our faculty have put into enhancing their courses, expanding the curriculum, modernizing instructional delivery, and monitoring student outcomes.”

Since its beginnings in 1889 as a normal school training elementary schoolteachers, Eastern has been committed to preparing outstanding educators to teach in Connecticut’s schools. In 2004, the University received national accreditation for its teacher preparation programs from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
In 2014, the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Eastern’s Elementary Education program as eighth best in the nation and number one in New England.  The secondary education program was rated as one of the top three programs in the region, and one of the top 50 in the United States.

Given the fact that upwards of 50 percent of all teachers in Connecticut have retired in the past 10 years, Eastern officials understand the importance of preparing new educators to take up the teaching profession. “We are pleased that our teacher preparation programs are being recognized for meeting state and national teacher preparation standards,” said Provost Dimitrios Pachis. “Eastern will continue to prepare more teacher graduates at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the areas of elementary, secondary and early childhood education to meet the future needs of Connecticut’s schools, thus fulfilling our state-mandated historic mission.”

Eastern offers undergraduate and select graduate programs in Early Childhood, Educational Technology, Elementary Education, Physical Education and Secondary Education.

Eastern Recognizes Outstanding Donors and Alumni

Front row, left to right, Professor Emeritus Charles Prewitt; David Engelson.
Back row, left to right, Ellen Lang; Jonathan B. Alpert; Jim Watson and Eastern President Elsa Núñez.

The annual President’s Leadership Awards Luncheon was held on Sept. 18 to honor and thank the University’s leadership level donors. The luncheon is the premier donor appreciation event of the year; in addition to recognizing Eastern’s top donors, the event also honored several distinguished Eastern alumni.

“Today is special.  Every day I am reminded of the generosity of our family of donors, but today, I get to say ‘thank you’ in person,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “I am amazed by your generosity, and I am humbled by your commitment to Eastern and to our students.      “Your role as leadership level donors is more important than ever, for you are leading by example. I know those efforts are paying off, and I thank you for that leadership.”

Ken DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement, spoke to the fundraising achievements of the past year. Gifts to the ECSU Foundation exceeded $2 million for the fourth straight year. In addition, the number of alumni making gifts to Eastern has grown by 250 percent since 2003, with a record 2,350 alumni donors.

Ken DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement.

“Through your personal philanthropy and commitment to Eastern, you inspire our passion for higher education and for creating opportunities for our students to succeed,” said DeLisa. “We are blessed to have you as part of our family and for your friendship and generous support of our students and faculty.”

Following the luncheon service, Núñez, DeLisa and alumna Kathleen Fabian, vice president of the Alumni Association, announced this year’s awards. Professor Emeritus Charles Prewitt received the ECSU Foundation Distinguished Faculty/Staff Donor Award. Four years ago, Prewitt made a generous donation in honor of his late wife Virginia to help Eastern open the Virginia and Charles Prewitt Office of Peace and Human Rights in Goddard Hall. Prewitt retired from Eastern in 1979 but continued to teach peace and human rights courses part time until 2013.
“The high point of my time at Eastern was the creation of the Peace and Human Rights minor,” said Prewitt. “That program and today’s award are reminders of the importance of peace and human rights in education, and that the goal of world peace is possible.”

David Engelson ’67, M’70 received the ECSU Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award. At age 27, Engelson became the youngest principal in Connecticut in 1970, and he served as an elementary school principal in Vernon for 32 years until his retirement in 2002.
Since then, he has served as executive director and now CEO of the Hockanum Valley Community Council. In relating his 35-year career in education and his current work at HVCC, Engelson said, “I enjoy being out in our local community meeting people. It is an honor to receive this prestigious award today. Thank you!”
Noted New York City psychotherapist Jonathan B. Alpert ’95 received the ECSU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award. In addition to his private practice, Alpert is an author and media consultant. His book “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” has been published in nine countries, and he is a frequent contributor to Inc. Magazine and the Huffington Post. Alpert has also appeared on The Today Show, CNN, FOX and Good Morning America, and has been interviewed by newspapers, magazines and radio networks around the world.

“Eastern gave me a solid education and offered me really interesting classes,” said Alpert. “It taught me to express myself and welcomed my ideas. Eastern embraced curiosity.”

Ellen Lang ’81 and her husband, Jim Watson, received the ECSU Foundation Distinguished Donor Award. Together they have built the Ellen L. Lang ’81 and James E. Watson, M.D. Endowed Scholarship to a current endowment of more than $50,000, and hope to bring the balance to six figures in their lifetime.  With other generous gifts, Lang and Watson will soon pass $75,000 in total giving to Eastern, and as members of Eastern’s Legacy Society, have provided for Eastern through their estate plan.  Lang is also president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, for the second time.

“Eastern has a special place in our hearts,” said Lang. I was a nontraditional student and was already a registered nurse when I attended here. Eastern gave me a chance to advance and succeed.”


Eastern Biology Alumna on International Stage

Joanne Michelle Ocampo ’11, who graduated magna cum laude from Eastern with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, was among the speakers at the 2015 Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Forum in Seoul, Republic of Korea on Sept. 7. Ocampo discussed the role of next generation students and working professionals in dealing with the continuous global health challenge brought on by infectious diseases.

Ocampo has been busy building her credentials as a biological scholar and got involved with the Forum through her graduate studies at Georgetown University, where she currently serves as an infectious disease research specialist for the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research.

“Since my time at Eastern, I’ve supplemented my college degree with a Master of Science in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases from Georgetown University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as well as with a professional certificate in Business Administration from Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. I have also been elected as the inaugural coordinator of the Next Generation Global Health Security Agenda Network for 2015–16.”

Drive Electric Week

Eastern celebrated National Drive Electric Week on Sept. 16 by hosting an event showcasing an electric vehicle (EV) and how it is charged on the sidewalk between the new Fine Arts Instructional Center and the Student Center.

Eastern teamed up with the New England Electric Auto Association and the Town of Windham to participate in National Drive Electric Week, a celebration to raise awareness of the growing availability of electric vehicles (EVs). National Drive Electric Week is a nationwide celebration organized by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association, when EV owners across the nation were available to share their experiences and the benefits of driving electric versus traditional vehicles.

On Sept. 2, President Núñez signed the EV Everywhere Workplace Charging Challenge.  The challenge is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy to encourage employers to provide EV charging and build the nation’s plug-in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. (A full transition from gasoline to electric vehicles could decrease dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60 percent.)

HIV Advocate Scott Fried Lectures at Eastern

National public speaker, author and health educator Scott Fried came to Eastern on Sept. 9 to talk to students about love, HIV and social media in a lecture titled “Swipe Right for Sex: Love and HIV in the Age of Dating Apps.”

Fried was charismatic and engaging while he used his experiences as a gay man with HIV to teach students about the importance of avoiding situations that put them at risk. “We are contradictions. We say one thing and we do another,” he said. “We say we’re never going to drink again and then hit the bar with some friends the same night.” He stressed that human beings make bad decisions and take unnecessary risks, but can mitigate these risks by keeping in touch with their own emotions and communicating with friends, partners and significant others.

Fried emphasized just how risky dating can be, especially in the age of social media, where people on apps like Tinder and Grindr often misrepresent themselves. “You can’t weed people out just by asking,” said Fried. “All it takes is one lie or someone not quite telling the whole truth to change your whole life.”

Being a gay man with HIV has not always been easy for Fried, but through his struggle he hopes to help people who are dealing with similar issues and promote a better understanding of the issues they face in today’s society. “I value my life and I value my mistakes,” said Fried. “Everyone should feel that they’re deserving of love and be able to look at themselves in the mirror and say ‘I am enough.’”

Filmmaker Jesus Nebot Speaks at Eastern about Immigration

On Sept. 16, award-winning filmmaker and transformational speaker Jesus Nebot came to Eastern Connecticut State University to talk to students about humanitarian solutions to immigration issues in a lecture named after his award-winning film “No Turning Back.”

Nebot’s presentation was engaging and interactive as he questioned students on their opinions about immigration while sharing his own experiences as an immigrant. At one point, Nebot asked students if their parents were immigrants, then if their grandparents were immigrants, going back through the generations until eventually nearly the entire audience had their hands in the air. “We are a nation of immigrants,” Nebot said. “Almost every American is either an immigrant or a descendant of one.” He emphasized how hypocritical it is to pride ourselves on being considered a “melting pot” while systematically alienating immigrants.

Nebot also explained to students how political or legal perspectives on immigrants often lead to prejudice. “The term ‘illegal alien’ itself creates fear. The word ‘illegal’ gives us the idea of something criminal and ‘alien’ makes us think of something separate or different from ourselves. We need to be aware that we are regarding them in a way that is unfair. “How would our perspective changed if these people were called ‘economic refugees’ rather than ‘illegal aliens?’

“There is no easy solution to immigration, but we will never be able to find a solution coming from the same mindset that started the problem,” Nebot said. “We have to remember that before being Americans or Mexicans, we are human beings. We have to look at immigrants with love, compassion and solidarity rather than hate, fear and animosity.”

Unity Wing, Open to All

The Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing held its fall 2015 open house on Sept. 17. Located in the bottom floor of Eastern’s Student Center, the wing consists of the Intercultural Center, Women’s Center and Pride Room.

While the centers address different issues — from LGBTQ topics to embracing multiculturalism — they are safe and supportive spaces open to all students and members of the Eastern community. Patrons frequent the centers for a place to study, gather information about resources or to simply hang out.

“Many colleges don’t have support centers like these on their campuses,” said Starsheemar Byrum, director of the Women’s Center. “We are lucky to have such resources and want all students to know that we are here to help and encourage them.”
The centers are manned by “ambassadors,” knowledgeable student interns and workers who connect visitors to relevant personnel and resources on campus, while offering a welcoming smile and conversation.

The Unity Wing is amidst a campaign to encourage students to register to vote, emphasizing that being civically involved is the best way effect change in our society.
A variety of events are organized and sponsored by the Unity Wing. For a listing of this semester’s events, visit


Welcome to Eastern Veterans!

Eastern’s Veterans Center held its inaugural Welcome Back Workshop in the Veterans Center on Sept. 9. Led by Veterans Center Coordinator and Air Force veteran Toni Martucci, as well as Eastern student and Navy veteran Kevin Lacy, the event offered a relaxed and comfortable environment, providing veterans refreshments and pizza to kick off the 2015-16 school year. “We have a lot of new faces in the Veterans Center this year, so it is our goal to better communicate our resources and connect our veteran student population to whatever they may need,” said Lacy.

The workshop focused on providing Eastern’s 651veteran students with tools to boost confidence in their resumes. “We want to give our growing number of veteran students valuable advice that will help them get the job in an extremely competitive job market,” said Martucci.

Several veterans worked on transitioning their resumes from a traditional military style to the expected civilian style during the workshop. “When I retired from the Air Force, I had no idea how to write a cover letter or what to add, include and exclude from my military resume,” said Martucci. “That is why I thought presenting this information would be a great addition to our Welcome Back Workshop.”

Global health service corporation Cigna was also on hand to inform veteran students how to connect with Cigna while they earn their degree. Alex Love, Eastern alumni and Navy veteran, said, “Eastern’s programs fit the mission of our company, and as a veteran I appreciate the benefits offered by Cigna. That is why I felt the need to give back to Eastern for giving me the opportunity to work with Cigna before I graduated.”

Along with teaching resume building and interviewing skills, the workshop also showcased the Veterans Center as a place for veterans to relax, do their homework and network with other military members. “I would love to see a much larger number of Eastern’s veteran population coming to the Veterans Center,” said Martucci. “We want our veterans to feel comfortable here and be informed about the resources we offer as well as the resources that we can connect them to.”


Connecticut Veterans Affairs Commissioner to Speak at Eastern

Sean Connolly, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, will deliver the keynote address during Eastern’s celebration of Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11. Connolly will speak at 9 a.m. in the Student Center Atrium.

Connolly began his service with the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs on March 16, 2015. He is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, currently serving with the 655th Regional Support Group headquartered at Westover Air Reserve Base, MA. An East Hartford native, Commissioner Connolly returned home to Connecticut in 2010, joining Pratt and Whitney, first as assistant counsel supporting the Military Engines Division and most recently serving as Pratt and Whitney’s global ethics and compliance officer. Prior to joining Pratt and Whitney, he was a senior associate at Greenberg Traurig, LLP in Washington, D.C. as a member of the Government Contracts and Homeland Security Practice Groups.

Eastern’s Track Gets a Facelift

After 10 years, Eastern’s track facility at the Mansfield Athletic Complex underwent a facelift this past summer, which coincided with its 10-year anniversary. Under the supervision of Eastern’s Facilities Management and Planning Department, the eight-lane synthetic track was recoated and repainted over a three-week period at a cost of $160,000.
The project was administered in three phases by Pocasset, MA-based Cape and Island Tennis and Track, which originally installed the Eastern track in 2005.  Cape and Islands is one of the region’s most reputable builders of tracks for colleges and high schools.

The first phase consisted of making minor repairs, with worn or scuffed areas of the track surface cut out and replaced. Rubber granulars were then applied to the surface in the second phase, with a binder then applied on top. In the third phase, new lane striping was applied and new lines were added to the pole vault runway. Minor repairs to the pole vault standards were also made.

“We received great longevity out of the original installation in 2005,” noted Jim Fielding, Eastern’s coordinator of university construction. “We should be in good shape now for another 7-10 years.”

The track at the Mansfield Complex serves as the home practice and competition facility for Eastern’s men’s and women’s track and field teams, and also fulfills the recreational needs of the Eastern and greater Mansfield and Windham communities.