Dance Team Soars to Spectacular Heights While Raising Money for Smilow Cancer Center

Posted April 29, 2016


On Sunday, April 4, the 29 women on the Western New England University Dance Team performed in the Alumni Healthful Living Center. Tickets were sold to Western New England University students, faculty, friends, and family with all the proceeds being donated to two young girls being treated at Smilow Cancer Center in New Haven CT.

“I have watched this team grow and develop for the past 4 years and could not be more proud of our accomplishments,” explained team president, senior Jessica Barnet. “The team loves to dance, this year alone we’ve performed at many football games, homecoming festivities, Midnight Madness, basketball games, Women & Sports Day, and two major Showcases.” 


The Dance Team provides members with the opportunity to learn a variety of difference dance styles and techniques, and learn to collaborate as a team. “Being a dancer for 16 years before college, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this team,” remarked freshman Blake Work. “It definitely made my freshman year great! The recital was amazing because we got to see many different choreography styles as well as seeing the team interact in new ways. I cant wait to see the team continue to grow and I am so happy to be a part of it!

"The team has been practicing for their recital the entire spring semester,"  explained freshman dancer, Gigi Nietschmann, who danced in 11 of the 21 songs the team performed. Nietschmann added, “preparing for the recital was a long process, often going past the Alumni Healthful Living Center's closing time. We all worked extremely hard and I'm really grateful for the opportunity, not just to dance, but to make so many new friends.” 


Junior Emily Gahr, who will be the team’s president next year remarked, “I believe that most of the strong comradery this year, came from our amazing senior class. The 12 girls that are graduating this year made up half of our team, and they were the most welcoming, genuine, and talented group of girls I have ever met.” 

To view and download more photos from the team's recent recital click here.


Students Utter-ly Impress at the 7th Annual University Public Speaking Contest 

Posted April 28, 2016

by sophomore Gabrielle Kiss

The 7th annual University Public Speaking Contest took place on Friday, April 22. The event, sponsored by the Department of Communication, is open to all undergraduate students. This year, students were tasked with crafting informative speeches of approximately five to six minutes in length about any subject of the speaker’s choosing. 

ps_comppngDr. Doug Battema, Megan Pantos, Mallory Paszkiewicz, Kiara Don, Kaitlin Armstrong, Gianna Comparone 

Megan Pantos, a freshman pre-pharmacy major from Rutland, MA, won this year’s contest. Her speech, “Career Paths in Pharmacy,” earned her the top prize of $100 cash. 

Second place went to “Yawning,” written and presented by Mallory Paszkiewicz, a freshmen majoring in pre-pharmacy from Schenectady, NY. 

Kiara Don, a junior communication major with a concentration in professional communication from Massapequa, NY took third place with her speech, “United and Mutually Equal (UME).” 

Honorable mention went to Kaitlin Armstrong, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major from Bolton, CT for her speech on ethical ambiguities in the drug development process, and Gianna Comparone, a freshmen health science major from North Providence, RI, for her speech on the dangers of opiates. 

Department of Communication faculty, who selected the five most promising speeches for presentation during the contest, initially reviewed all the submissions. Members from the Western New England University Chapter of Toastmasters International judged the final speeches, including Professors Joseph Gerard and Karl Petrick, and Copywriter Alexandra Lyman.


Western New England University Students Value Mother Earth

Posted April 28, 2016

by junior Natasha Mercado-Santana

On Tuesday April 19, Western New England University celebrated Earth Day. Display tables and outdoor activity challenges were set up on Deliso Lawn and run by various clubs and organizations on campus, such as the Model United Nations (UN), Feminists Unite, Freshman Council, D’Amour Library, and the Outing Club.


The Model UN promoted the sustainability goals of the United Nations, which are a range of development goals that also serve to reduce poverty and hunger and provide affordable energy and clean water to maintain that developed nations are up-to-speed with keeping the environment clean. Freshman Council handed out little flowerpots for people to decorate and seeds to plant in them, the library created a pledge for students to save paper when printing, Feminists Unite held a clothing drive, and the Outing Club put up a slack line for people to test their balance between life and nature.

earth_day_11jpgOne group created a real life demonstration to show how much energy is required to run basic appliances. They counted how many curls people could do in 30 seconds with a 10-pound weight, and then put that number into a formula to see how much energy the person would be able to generate; and subsequently which appliances that they could power. “It’ll be kind of a disappointment when you see how much work you do and how little energy is produced energy, because it’s not as much as you would have thought,” explained freshman Jeffery Govoni, “It shows how much energy we use on a daily basis that gets wasted.”

Earth Day is significant, not just for the campus, but the whole world. “Earth Day is important because we have to value Mother Nature,” said Jermaine Harper, president of Freshman Council, “Nature is valuable because it’s impossible to survive without it.” Celebrating Earth Day is just the first step towards a greater good. “Every little step counts,” said senior Jake Thomas Picard, who was representing the Model UN, “so if we can get this campus engaged in Earth Day, then that’s one step towards the overall goal of getting the entire world on board. If we don’t take care of our planet, we won’t have one.”


Beta Gamma Sigma Welcomes the Co-Founders of Wine Somme

Posted April 27, 2016


Tim LaFalam, David Briganti, Jon Schoonmaker, Mary Schoonmaker, Katlyn Doherty, and Joeanna Glantz

On April 14, the Western New England University Chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma hosted its first speaker program featuring Wine Somme, a company that aids consumers in their wine selection via a mobile app that tracks their preferences and purchases. 

Assistant Professor of Marketing in the College of Business Dr. Mary Schoonmaker is one of the co-founders of Wine Somme. She and her husband Jon Schoonmaker educated the audience about the myriad challenges faced by start-ups, but also the joys of nurturing a business idea from inception to a real, functioning, and profitable enterprise.

The event was organized and hosted by Speaker Committee chair David Briganti and committee member Tim LaFalam, with assistance from Service Committee chair Joeanna Glantz. Over the past year, the Beta Gamma Sigma Executive Board met twice a month to discuss program ideas and initiatives, and to plan for the annual spring Induction Ceremony and Banquet. Members also attended the Beta Gamma Sigma Global Summit, an annual leadership conference of Beta Gamma Sigma members worldwide, as well as an inter-chapter networking event hosted by the University of Massachusetts Boston. Recently, the Executive Board organized and hosted a professional development workshop as a precursor to the Spring Career Fair, and is actively planning for an inter-chapter event next year for Beta Gamma Sigma members in Western Massachusetts.


Mental Illness Education and Suicide Prevention is the Focus of Student Efforts

Posted April 26, 2016

by Gabrielle Kiss


Western New England University students will host their 2nd Annual Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention on Saturday, April 30, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. starting at the University’s Commonwealth Lawn. All University and Springfield community members are welcome, including pets. 

Students were also recently approved to start a campus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The NAMI Campus Chapters work to end the stigma that makes it hard for students to talk about mental health and get the help they need. The NAMI Clubs hold creative meetings, educational awareness events, and offer NAMI programs through partnerships with NAMI State and National Organizations.

The Out of the Darkness Campus Walks are the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) signature student fundraising series, designed to engage youth and young adults in the fight to prevent suicide, the second leading cause of death among all people ages 18-24. 

“By engaging students and the community in the Out of the Darkness Walk, we raise awareness for suicide prevention efforts, helps fund research and educational programming, and helps dispel the stigma on mental health,” says pharmacy major, Kristy Nguyen. To register for the walk online or to donate, visit click here. 

give_hopepngBalancing all of the changes that happen in college can be stressful and challenging. Those challenges are even more difficult for the 1 in 5 students who also face a mental health condition. Nearly three-quarters of mental health conditions emerge by age 24, so many college students are facing these struggles for the first time, and may not know where to go for support. 

NAMI also offers support groups and teaches friends and family of those afflicted with mental illnesses how to help their loved ones. “I thought this chapter was important to start because I know so many people who suffer from mental illnesses, and a few of my friends and I have also lost people to suicide,” explained junior Natasha Mercado-Santana, the new president of the campus chapter of NAMI.


“Even if you don't have a diagnosed mental illness, it is still important to get support, especially in college, where challenging classes, new social situations, and being away from home for the first time can all be very stressful,” added Mercado-Santana,  “People don't get help because they ether don't know where or how to get it, or because they don't want to admit they need it. We're trying to eliminate that stigma and guide students to the resources they need.”

On Friday April 22, the CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that the suicide rates in the U.S. have surged over the past 15 years. 

To learn more about the new NAMI Student Chapter at Western New England University contact Natasha Mercado-Santana at


Western New England University Students Present at 2016 NEURON Conference

Posted April 26, 2016


Fifteen students majoring in Neuroscience recently had the opportunity to attend the Northeast Under/graduate Research Organization for Neuroscience (NEURON) conference at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. NEURON provides an open forum for young scientists to present and discuss their work in a comfortable yet engaging setting. Faculty attendees can attend workshops to enhance pedagogical issues or research education. Importantly, attendees can network with like-minded researchers and educators, encouraging future collaborations.


NEURON conference presenters (L to R): Jaquan Williams, Laura Verdi, Alyssa Hurley, Dylan Carman, and Nicole Lessard.

This year five WNE students presented posters at the conference along with over 100 other presenters from various universities. Seniors, Nicole Lessard, and Jaquan Williams along with junior, Dylan Carman presented their research on rat behavior and juniors, Alyssa Hurley, and Laura Verdi, presented their research investigating olfactory neuron regeneration. All five presenters are taking the Research Track for Neuroscience.

“Presenting my research at NEURON also gave me new ideas about what to focus on in the future, and other aspects I should take into consideration that I hadn’t previously thought about," explained junior Dylan Carman.

This year’s NEURON keynote speaker was Dr. Nii Addy Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and of Cellular and Molecular Physiology who gave an engaging lecture on underlying mechanisms of opiate addiction.

“Going to the NEURON conference allowed me to learn about many new topics in neuroscience, especially about addiction, which is one of my interests,” said Carman.


Step Afrika! Energizes the Western New England University Community

Posted April 25, 2016

by freshman Jeremy Morris

Earlier this month, the dance sensation Step Afrika! visited Western New England University to educate and delight students and faculty with their unique style of dance and music. The members performed a series of dances to tell a story of how to overcome adversity.  Step Afrika! gets people moving – towards college, towards a greater appreciation for the arts and towards a better understanding of each other.  Over the past 21 years Step Afrika! has become one of the top African American Dance Companies in the U.S. 

Step Afrika! is a non-profit organization that is focused on the African-American tradition of stepping, which is defined as a form of dance using the body as an instrument to create rhythms through a combination of claps, footsteps, and vocals. The dancers perform stepping routines along with various other dance forms such as tap and hip-hop. Assistant Director of Student Activities & Leadership Development Tom Donovan greatly valued having this group visit our campus, “Step Afrika! is a great program that provides a historical point of view of how and why stepping was created, and the evolution it has taken over the years.  The program also does a great job of making the program fun and interactive by getting the audience member involved in the show.”


During their performance Step Afrika! incorporated singing, stepping, clapping, and instruments into their dances to make the show even more lively. Freshman pre-pharmacy major, Cailin Wadja got to see the performance and said, “Step Afrika! gave off an extremely powerful vibe and kept viewers on their toes throughout the entire event, I hope to see them again next year.” Cailin’s roommate Cara Fiamma also went and stated that, “it was a very entertaining and enjoyable experience. Watching all the dancers made me want to get involved myself.” Step Afrika! performs powerful and energizing shows, which provided the students and faculty of Western New England University with a fun and memorable experience. “The program was very successful.  We had over 150 University community members attend the event, and they provided great energy for the performers,” added Donovan.


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