“Set ambitious, achievable goals. Make plans for achieving those goals. Embrace your diversity. Take chances and above all, find a good mentor.” That’s what Lenwood Gibson ’99, an alumnus from East Hartford and assistant professor of psychology at Queens College, a City University of New York, encouraged students to do during his presentation at Eastern Connecticut State University’s Third Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Award Ceremony.
The ceremony, held on April 29 in a packed Betty R. Tipton Room, recognized the academic and personal success of MORE THAN 120 African American, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional seven students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement across campus.
Awards at the event ranged from academic achievements and athletic excellence recognition to career development and global partnership recognition. “This event presents an amazing opportunity to share the accomplishments of more than 120 ALANA students with the campus community,” said Damali Abbensetts, advisor in Eastern’s Academic Advising Center and organizer of the event. “I am thankful to be part of this event’s unique role in highlighting ALANA students success at Eastern.”
Christian Caravagilia, a first-year sophomore from Stratford majoring in psychology, and Yuberki Delgadillo, a first year sophomore from Quaker Hill majoring in biology, won the Advisors Choice Awards. This award recognizes first-year students who have demonstrated personal development by getting involved on campus, utilizing available resources available.
Emmauel Caicedo, a sophomore from Manchester majoring in Health Sciences, and Alejandro Tobon, a sophomore from Windsor majoring in Health Sciences, won the Athletic Excellence Awards. This award recognizes student athletes who have demonstrated success in promoting values of inclusion and cultural diversity at Eastern, on and off the field.
The Building Bridges Awards was presented to the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS). This award recognizes the campus student club that is committed to making important contributions in the community and bringing awareness to cultural diversity.
Noah Zainal Affrin, a junior from Selangor, Malaysia majoring in communication and theatre, won the International Student Award for his leadership in promoting inclusive values and enhancing growth at Eastern.
Quanece Williams, a junior from Bridgeport majoring in history and political science, was presented the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award, which recognizes the resident hall assistant who is committed to making important contributions in the areas of inclusion and cultural diversity in residence halls.
Sabrina Davis, a junior from Willimantic majoring in social work and public health, won the Social Justice Advocacy Award. This award recognizes a student who has shown exemplary engagement in the area of social justice in ways that work to remove barriers that people face because of gender, race, ethnicity and culture.
Gibson, who graduated from Eastern with a Bachelor of Science in psychology of Children and Youth, a Master of Science degree in applied behavior analysis from Northeastern University and a doctorate in special education and Behavioral Analysis from Ohio State University, said he was “blown away at seeing all the excellent new facilities on campus,” and that he was “glad to return to campus and help celebrate and honor excellence.”
Gibson, who grew up in East Hartford’s housing projects, told the high-achieving students, “Statistically, I shouldn’t be here, but I want you to know that education saved me.” He said he chose Eastern because it had the highest percentage of minorities of all the campuses he visited. “I wanted to feel comfortable, and even though on move-in day I felt unprepared and unsure of my future, I felt comfortable at Eastern.”
Gibson told the students “a goal without a plan is just a dream” and that they need to “recognize and take advantage of opportunities, some of which may not readily be obvious. Do not let anyone else define you. Expand your horizons, as there is always something new to learn. Dress for success. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Above all, don’t be miserable; do what makes you happy. No matter how hard you have to work doing it, do what makes you happy.”
Other speakers included Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity; Susan Heyward, director of academic advising; William Bisese, director of the Academic Services Center; Dean of Students Walter Diaz; Carmen Cid, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences; Jacob Easley, dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies and the Graduate Division; and Rick Hornung, director of STEP/CAP, Eastern’s summer transition program. “We are all privileged to be a part of a team that has a little bit to do with your education,” said Hornung.
Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 164 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 24 other states and 50 other countries. A residential campus offering 40 majors and 56 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked in the top 30 public universities in the North Region, by U.S. News and World Report in its 2015 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council six years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.