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Eastern Takes Two "Alternative Breaks" During Spring Recess

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Eastern students Lisa Forcellina (left) and Kim DePaolis (right) with Eastern's AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Max Goto (center) working in raised garden beds at the Generous Gardens Project in Greenville, SC, for their week-long spring break in March.

Willimantic, Conn. - This past spring recess, Eastern Connecticut State University students participated in two "alternative break" trips. Both trips lasted a week in March; one group volunteered with the Generous Gardens Project in Greenville, SC, and the other volunteered in the Natchaug State Forest in Eastford, CT.

 Seven students worked with the Generous Gardens Project, a nonprofit organization that grows and distributes fresh produce to anti-hunger efforts in South Carolina. "Generous Gardens taught us so much about gardening, how to be 'green' and the importance of giving back," said Cassandra Marion, a senior majoring in visual arts. "The amount of work we were able to achieve made coming back every night exhausted totally worth it."

The group learned about sustainability and urban gardening while planting seeds, harvesting vegetables, composting, working on raised garden beds and other agricultural tasks.
 
"Generous Gardens helped to reignite my passion for helping people by expanding my repertoire of skills and offering me a novel vehicle for service," said Kimberly DePaolis, a junior double majoring in early childhood education and psychology. "Being completely submerged in a self-sustaining farm for the purpose of helping those in need of food was incredible."

"On Wednesday we had the day off and went for a hike on Paris Mountain, and later got to explore the town," said Lily Egan, a junior majoring in communication. "I wouldn't have traded our trip for anything. I needed an escape from regular life in Connecticut. The work was hard but also relaxing; a real stress reliever."


Another group of seven students took day trips from Eastern to Natchaug State Forest throughout the week, where they built bridges and did trail work with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. "The labor was tough, but not as difficult as I was expecting. I especially liked working with the power tools when we were building the bridge," said Anastasia Matos, a sophomore majoring in business administration. "I was out of my element, but everyone was so kind and helpful; I felt a real connection with everyone."

The Natchaug State Forest group enjoyed a hike through the forest and an education on forestry and conservation. "This trip was fun and rewarding, and, like all alternative break trips, a great way to learn new things, meet people and lend a helping hand," said Kurt Stefanscyk, a junior majoring in environmental earth science. "It feels good to give back."

The purpose of "alternative breaks" is to provide the opportunity for students to serve outside of their own communities in a drug-and-alcohol free environment. For information about Eastern's upcoming alternative break trips, contact the Center for Community Engagement.

 

Center for Early Childhood Education Releases New Video

Written by Jordan Sakal

Willimantic, Conn. - The Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University is pleased to announce the release of "Investigating Containers," a new video highlighting the work of teachers at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC). "Investigating Containers" explores how teachers engage toddlers and preschoolers in a variety of learning experiences while developing an understanding of the properties and uses of containers. This video features teachers Claudia Ahern, Amy Tyler and Amie Theriault, as well as CFDRC Director Niloufar Rezai.

"Investigating Containers" is the fifth film in the "Investigating..." video series. Each video in the series captures one topic of investigation in the CFDRC, and illustrates how teachers involve children in literacy, math, science, art and other experiences during the three to four months of investigation. "Investigating Containers" was directed by Media Production Specialist Ken Measimer. Communication students Megan Saunders, Sarah Pierce, Amy Dillon, Justin Bedard and Sean Leser were production assistants responsible for shooting footage, editing video and assisting with graphics.

To watch the 11-minute video, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/investigating_containers.html

 

 

UConn Professor to Speak at Eastern on Human Rights

Written by Ed Osborn


Willimantic, CT--Luis van Isschot will speak on human rights activism in Webb Hall 358 at Eastern Connecticut State University from 3-4 p.m. on Monday, April 21.
Van Isschot is assistant professor of history and human rights at the University of Connecticut. For more than a decade he worked internationally supporting human rights advocates in Latin America and elsewhere, mainly with the NGO Peace Brigades International.
 
Isschot's research seeks to explain the emergence of human rights as a new paradigm of social protest during the Cold War. In 2008 he was full-time coordinator of the "Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide and Other Human Rights Violations" oral history project.
His current book project, "The Social Origins of Human Rights: Protesting Political Violence in Colombia's Oil Capital, 1919-2010," examines why, how and with what impact people living in conflict areas organize collectively to assert human rights.

Established by Standard Oil in 1919, the oil enclave of Barrancabermeja has long been a critical battleground in Colombia's armed conflict. Drawing on interviews, as well as social movement and legal archives, van Isschot situates the experiences of frontline activists within broader debates on the history of the international movement for human rights.

University's 14th Annual Excellence Expo

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. -Eastern Connecticut State University held its 14th Annual Excellence Expo sponsored by The School of Education/Professional Studies and Graduate Division on April 15 in the Student Center.

The expo featured more than 100 students presenting their research presentations, business marketing plans, communication advertising campaigns, photography exhibits and poster displays. Provost Rhona Free said that the expo reflected Eastern's model of "integrative learning," where students apply the knowledge learned in class by conducting experiments, research and other creative activity, and then sharing that through presentations and publications, eventually applying their learning in the workplace after graduation. Others like Jaime Gómez, interim dean of education and professional studies/graduate division, believes that the Excellent Expo is a great way to prevent academic excellence in students from becoming "invisible." 

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As part of the opening ceremonies to the expo, Psychology Professor Carlos Escoto, coordinator of undergraduate research and creative activity, presented an Undergraduate Research Mentor Award to Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of the Center for Early Childhood Education.
 
Trawick-Smith received the award for involving students in his research of children's play activities. "Students provide interesting fresh insights into our work, and ask questions I would never think to ask," he said. "It has been great fun working with students on this research." Trawick-Smith's student researchers have joined him in presenting their findings at national conferences and publishing their work in national early childhood education journals.

Student research was on display throughout the Student Center. While special research presentations from the Business Administration and Education Departments were conducted in rooms located on the first level of the Student Center, business marketing plans, communication advertising campaigns and photography exhibits were held in rooms located directly across from the Betty R. Tipton Room, where poster boards were on display.
 
Jordan LaRusso, who presented a poster on "Freedom of Speech in Schools," discussed the topic of verbal and written speech in our school systems in terms of the First Amendment. It was a project she started in her Ethics and Law class for Communication, and she felt that "conducting research and choosing my own topic is really what had drawn me to present here."

Similarly, Amanda Eckert, who presented a poster on the effects of social media on society titled "Do it for the Vine: and Other Excuses Social Media Gives Us," chose to present at the expo because she had the opportunity to present on a topic that she was genuinely interested in.
 
Judges included Gómez; George Hernandez, Windham Regional/ Small Business Specialist; Robert Jeannette, director of health services; Stephen Nelson, interim chief information officer; Edward Osborn, director of university relations; Michael Palumbo, technical support analysis; Peter Polomski, owner of The Lily Pad and Chase Rozelle III, associate professor in the Performing Arts Department. Members of the local community have been invited to judge the expo since 2004.
The 2014 Excellence Expo committee included Theresa Bouley, associate professor in the Education Department; Maryanne Clifford, economics professor; Doncho Petkov, business administration professor; Terri Toles-Patkin, communication professor and Nanette Tummers, health and physical education professor.

Arts and Sciences Research Conference and Exhibition

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University held its 14th Annual Arts and Sciences Research Conference and Exhibition (ASRCE) on April 12. The event featured oral and visual presentations of student-led scientific research and artwork. More than 50 presentations were delivered by students from a range of academic departments. 

 Mike Manzi, a junior majoring in environmental earth science (EES), presented on shoreline erosion due to weathering along Block Island. "I have enjoyed being a part of every step of the scientific process," said Manzi. "The best part is knowing that the information from my project can be used in the future by others doing research in this field."

 "Students studying environmental earth science have the opportunity to carry out exciting field-based research," said EES Professor William Cunningham. "Last summer undergraduates carried out original and important research in Idaho, Spain and various localities around southern New England. Their findings were presented at Saturday's event."

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At the ASRCE, Mathematics Professor Mizan Khan won the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Mentor Award. He was nominated by one of his students, Richard Magner, who has conducted extensive "number theory" research with Khan. 
 "Students who are interested doing research should ask a faculty member about opportunities in their area of interest," said Psychology Professor Madeleine Fugere. "I am always impressed by the quality of the research presented at this event."

Laura Markley, a junior majoring in EES, presented on population, natural resources and sea level rising in Bangladesh. "My research experience at Eastern has provided me with invaluable hands-on field experience," said Markley. "I'm lucky to be able to present on topics that interest me and address real-world problems."

"This event gives students the chance to experience the 'next step' in the research process: presentation," said Peter Bachiochi, psychology professor and faculty mentor. "It is very motivating for them."

"As a faculty mentor it is very rewarding to see your students present. It represents the culmination of a lot of hard work," said Fugere. "The ASRCE is one of the best academic events all year."

Buddhist Monk Speaks at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

 

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Willimantic, Conn. - Ajahn Boumlieng, a Buddhist monk of the Lao Lan Xang Temple in Willington, CT, spoke at the J. Eugene Smith Library at Eastern Connecticut State University on April 8. The event, titled "The Way of the Elders: Buddhism and the Lao Community in Connecticut," discussed Theravada Buddhism and Lao culture.
 Theravada directly translates to "the way of the elders," and is among the oldest and most traditional forms of Buddhism. It follows closely to the teachings of Buddha and focuses on meditation. "Meditation is the most important part of my culture," said Boumlieng. "Meditation can be active or still, but must focus on breath."

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 Boumlieng, a native of Laos, has traveled extensively amidst his spiritual journey, learning various Buddhist philosophies along the way. He became a monk 30 years ago at the age of 25, and spent approximately 10 years meditating in Laotian caves to learn his Buddhist routes --a common practice of monks from that area.
Since then he has lived in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and now the United States. He's been in the United States for about 10 years--Connecticut for six. Boumlieng's English is limited, but he speaks Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and French fluently.

Speaking of the goal of meditation, Boumlieng said, "The mind is like water; naturally clear, but able to be colored." The mind is colored by thoughts and emotions, which Boumlieng calls "monkey mind." Clarity is the state of mind hoped to be achieved through meditation.

In his culture, monks are highly revered and are not expected to work; they are totally supported by the community. Through enlightening themselves, the community benefits, as monks provide a service as teachers and counselors. In Laos, monks are not allowed to use technology, but because of the support they receive, there is no need for it. In Connecticut, however, Boumlieng must occasionally resort to cars and the Internet.

Elks Club Names Eastern Professor "Citizen of the Year"

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Charles Wynn (left) being presented the 2013-2014 Citizen of the Year Award at the Elks Lodge's Irish Night on March 8, 2014.

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University Chemistry Professor Charles Wynn has been named 2014 Citizen of the Year by the Willimantic Elks Club. Wynn earned this award for his commitment to community service and leadership roles in volunteer organizations.

 Wynn got his first taste of volunteering in the late 1960s as a Peace Corps volunteer, when he spent two years in Malaysia as a science education lecturer at the Malayan Teachers College in Penang. "Through volunteering you meet exceptional people; the types of people you didn't even know existed," said Wynn. "Those people and experiences with them expand your perspective of the world."


Wynn's causes include working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, supporting cancer patients and serving those afflicted with blindness. "I consider myself a very fortunate person. I volunteer because I want to give back," said Wynn. "As John F. Kennedy said, 'Of those to whom much is given, much is required.'"

Wynn is involved with numerous charitable organizations locally, regionally and at Eastern. Some of his roles include being the long-time meet director of the Windham Invitational Special Olympics Swim Meet; president of the Greater Windham Unit of the American Cancer Society; former member of the Board of Directors of Camp Horizons; and past president of the Willimantic Lions Club.

 "There is nothing more influential in changing people's behavior than a good role model," said Wynn. "If you want people to change for the better, show them the way, don't tell them." In the words of Fred Lebeau, one of Wynn's greatest role models and fellow member of the Lions Club, "I want to leave the wood pile with more in it than when I found it."

Magner Earns Goldwater Honorable Mention!

Written by Anne Pappalardo

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Willimantic, Conn. - Richard Magner '14, a mathematics major from Beacon Falls, CT, recently received an Honorable Mention from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The Goldwater Scholarship program was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The program recognizes undergraduate students who demonstrate the potential to make significant research contributions in their future careers.

 Julia DeLapp, Eastern's coordinator for national scholarships and fellowships and program coordinator for the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE), said, "As far as I know, this is the first time an Eastern student has been recognized by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Richard has been conducting research under the mentorship of Professor Mizan Khan for two years and is also Eastern's first Undergraduate Research Fellow."

"By the time he graduates, he will have completed eight graduate-level courses at the University of Connecticut, served as a teaching assistant for an upper-division math course, and will have had at least one publication and multiple presentations related to his own research," added DeLapp.

Magner's professors have recognized his unique capacities and have provided him with challenging experiences to ensure that he continues to develop while at Eastern. In addition to earning the respect of members of the Department of Mathematics, he has also impressed Computer Science faculty by writing computer programs on his own to aid his research.

In order to qualify to be considered by the Goldwater Scholarship program, students must be nominated by their institutions. Each institution can only nominate up to four students and each student must show actual potential for promising careers in research.
 
Eastern mathematics Professors Mizan Khan, Peter Johnson and Christian Yankov submitted letters of recommendation for Magner. His career goals include pursuing a Ph.D. in Mathematics, conducting research in number theory and teaching at the university level.

"Ricky is arguably the strongest mathematics major we have had in the past 20 years. He has an excellent mind and has shown that he is capable of doing original work in mathematics. Most importantly, his level of motivation and study ethic is extraordinary," said Khan.

Magner presented his research at two research conferences during the summer of 2013. The first, "Combinatorial and Additive Number Theory 2013" at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY); the second, the 2013 Young Mathematicians Conference at Ohio State University (OSU), which was funded by the National Science Foundation. Only one-third of the abstracts submitted were accepted at the OSU event.

The research has culiminated in two manuscripts. "The Combinatorial Geometric Problems Involving Modular Hyperbola," authored by M. Khan, R. Magner, S. Senger and A. Winterhof, will appear in INTEGERS (www.integers-ejcnt.edu) this year. INTEGERS is a refereed electronic journal devoted to research in the area of combinatorial number theory. "An Application of Modular Hyperbolas to Quadratic Residues," authored by Khan and Magner, will also be published in American Math Monthly (www.maa.org) this year.

Annual Eastern Excellence Expo Set for April 15

Written by Dwight Bachman


Willimantic, Conn: -- Eastern Connecticut State University's School of Education/Professional Studies and Graduate Division will hold its 14th Annual Excellence Expo on April 15, 2014, from 1-3p.m. in the Student Center.  The public is invited. Admission is free.

More than 110 students, supported by 10 faculty mentors, will present research projects and posters showcasing the five departments in the School of Education/Professional Studies and Graduate Division: Business Administration, Communication, Economics, Education, and Health and Physical Education.
Presentations include business marketing plans and communication advertising campaigns;  research presentations from business and education students; and a gallery photography exhibit of framed prints and color slides, just to name a few.  Poster research includes topics on communication law and ethics; health communication issues; and systems analysis.

For more information on the Excellence Expo, contact Pat Kucharski at (860) 465-5264 or email her at kucharski@easternct.edu.

Eastern Mathematicians Makes Discovery

Written by Michael Rouleau

mathmeticians make discovery-wagner,left Khan right.jpg                           Richard Magner, left, and Professor Mizan Khan, right


Willimantic, Conn. - Two members of Eastern Connecticut State University's Mathematics Department have made a discovery in the field of mathematics known as "number theory." Eastern mathematics professor Mizan Khan and Richard "Ricky" Magner, a junior majoring in mathematics, will have their discovery  published in Volume 14 of the electronic journal INTEGERS.

 The research, titled "Two Combinatorial Geometric Problems Involving Modular Hyperbolas," was a collaborative effort among four scholars, including Khan and Magner, as well as Steven Senger of the University of Delaware and Arne Winterhof of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

"The research concerned two problems, and Ricky answered one of them," said Khan. "Ricky's discovery is quite pretty; he is very clever."

 The questions leading their research were: "given a finite collection of points on a two-dimensional grid, how many distinct lines can you draw connecting two or more points in that collection?"; and "what conditions ensure that a line connecting two points in that collection do not meet a third point?"

The answers to these seemingly simple questions are indecipherable for those without some background in number theory--which deals with the properties and relationships of integers, or whole numbers.

 "Questions in number theory are easy to state," said Magner, "but they are difficult to answer, and their implications are often unknown."

 During Magner's freshman year, Khan approached him after class with an excerpt from a book dealing with "modular hyperbolas"--an area of number theory that Khan has been working on since 1999. "At first I didn't really know what we were looking for," said Magner, "but in the fall of my sophomore year, after spending much time with modular hyperbolas, things started to come together."

 Both Khan and Magner agree that the discovery alone has no practical application. "While the solution is elegant, this is a minor discovery," said Khan. "In this case, it is the process that is important, not the solution. My hope is that Ricky will build on this experience to prove bigger theorems in the future when he is in graduate school."

 "Through solving problems you develop skill and build an 'arsenal,' which can lead to new discoveries and expand the field of mathematics," said Magner. "At the time, you may not know if the discovery is useful. It may be years before its use is realized."

 Magner is currently taking graduate mathematics courses at UConn, in addition to his full-time workload at Eastern. After obtaining his master's degree, he plans to apply for a PhD program in mathematics, while still investing time in his passion for writing and other intellectual pursuits.

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