Month: November 2017

EDLR Well Represented at the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement

Two representatives frPatti Bellamy and jenna Stone pose with their plaques after receiving their awards at the the Neag School of Education at UConn, Patricia Bellamy and Jenna Stone, were awarded the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement. The reception for the award winners was held on Nov. 14 to recognize these individuals for their exceptional dedication and significant contributions.

Patricia Bellamy, Assistant Director for Programs and Partnerships for Husky Sport, recently received the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement in a full-time staff position.

Patti began volunteering for Husky Sport, a program established through the Department of Educational Leadership in the Neag School of Education, during her undergraduate career in 2009. She said that her initial passion for working with Husky Sport, and the relationships that she built in doing so, ultimately led her to switch her career focus and pursue a Master’s Degree in social work.

In working with students similar to and different from her, Patti learned that to truly connect with someone, one must be willing to understand where and who they are, without forgetting about his or her personal experience.Patti Bellamy with her award during the 2017 Provost's Award for Public Engagement ceremony.

“Meeting people where they are is a social work term that I think more and more industries are grasping, but it’s understanding where people are, learning from them, not trying to be the expert of their career paths and their history, just letting people lead, listening and understanding from that and growing from that,” Patti said.

After receiving the award, Patti said that she was so proud that her experiences are being recognized, especially because she is normally shy when it comes to sharing her own accomplishments.

“I smiled like crazy but I couldn’t believe it, it seriously had not even been on my mind,” she said.

Justin Evanovich, Managing Director of Husky Sport, said that the people and partners of Husky Sport benefit greatly from Patricia’s sustained leadership, caring support and positive energy.

"She shines in this work through both her ability to foster meaningful relationships, and her facilitation of effective systems in collaborative partnerships," he said. "Patricia continues to positively empower others as part of her impactful leadership throughout all facets of Husky Sport."

When asked about where she would like to see herself working in the future, Patti said that a few years ago she might have said that she would like to have her own program but Husky Sport seems to have changed that path for her.

“Everything for me starts with an experience, a relationship and connections, building connections with people and I don’t want just anything, I want to really enjoy it,” she said. “The next thing is going to have to be ten times more awesome, twenty times more awesome, for me to even consider.”

Jenna Stone, a senior Elementary Education major in the Neag School of Education, was awarded the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement as an undergraduate student.

Jenna currently serves as the coordinator for Jumpstart within Community Outreach, but has volunteered with the program since her freshman year at UConn. One of her primary focuses in this position is to decrease the achievement gap in early childhood education while acting as a liaison between team leaders and student leaders in Community Outreach.

Jenna Stone with her award during the 2017 Provost's Award for Public Engagement ceremony.Jenna has learned while working with Jumpstart that she can act as a leader not only for preschool students, but for college students as well. After receiving the award this year, she said that she was more excited to share her experiences than to receive the recognition.

“Any time I get to share about the programs I’m involved with, I get excited,” Jenna said. “Service isn’t about the need to be recognized, but when you are it puts a big smile on your face.”

Not only is Jenna involved with Jumpstart, but she also serves as a volunteer for Husky Sport. Justin Evanovich said that Jenna possesses an extreme work ethic and a mature approach to managing her many endeavors.

"I’ve been fortunate to learn from Jenna about her work with Jumpstart, as well as her peer-and-programmatic leadership roles with Husky Sport, the Office of Community Outreach and the IB/M Neag Teacher Prep Program, to name only a few," he said. "In her everyday life, Jenna impacts many as an active citizen. We at Husky Sport are excited to support her next steps at UConn and beyond.”

Upon graduation, Jenna said that she hopes to be working in either a first or third grade classroom or as a fifth or sixth grade math teacher. She said that ultimately, she hopes to find a school that is diverse and that encourages students to raise the bar every day.

Jenna mentioned that during her freshman year, she would have never expected to hold the Jumpstart coordinator position, or even serve as a volunteer coordinator as she did last year.

“I think when you’re passionate about a topic, and a program, you truly do give your everything and you love every minute of it,” she said. “That’s how Jumpstart makes me feel.”


Community Foundation to Fund Leadership Training Project

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has awarded funding for a projectHartford Foundation for Public Giving logo focused on leadership training through the UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP), a school leadership program based at the Neag School that prepares highly qualified school administrators in Connecticut. Jennifer Michno, assistant clinical professor in educational leadership, is the principal investigator for the project.

According to Michno, the purpose of the project, now funded through its first year, is to infuse 10 hours of research-based content in the areas of family, school, and community partnerships into the UCAPP curriculum. In addition, Michno says, the project seeks to build the capacity of practicing school administrators in these areas and to expand statewide knowledge of family, school, and community partnership practices as a means of influencing student achievement.

“[This award] will advance our work to prepare school leaders committed to excellence and equity for every school community in Connecticut.”

— Richard Gonzales, director of Neag School educational leadership preparation programs

Anticipated outcomes of the project include implementing pilot curriculum modules in UCAPP during the 2017-18 academic year; designing measurement tools to assess the impact of this curriculum on aspiring leaders and practicing administrators; and collaborating with partners at UConn, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and others across the nation in exploring ways to reach teacher preparation programs with UCAPP’s curriculum materials.

“We congratulate Jen on securing this significant award, which will advance our work to prepare school leaders committed to excellence and equity for every school community in Connecticut,” says Richard Gonzales, assistant professor-in-residence and director of the Neag School’s educational leadership preparation programs.

Funding totaling $208,103 has been awarded for the project’s first year, with future funding to be sought following completion of the expected outcomes for year one of the project.

Learn more about UCAPP at For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit

Department of Educational Leadership Welcomes Post-Doctoral Researcher

Reem Al Ghanem Headshot
Reem Al Ghanem

The Neag School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership welcomed Reem Al Ghanem as a postdoctoral researcher in September.  

Dr. Reem Al Ghanem earned her B.S. in Special Education from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, and her Ed.M. and Ed.D. in Special Education from Boston University.  In her undergraduate studies, she majored in severe disabilities, but in her graduate studies, Al Ghanem shifted her interests to mild/moderate disabilities with a focus on reading disability.

Al Ghanem’s interests in reading disability developed from her professional experience as a special education teacher in Saudi Arabia, where she worked alongside Arabic/English bilingual students with reading difficulties.  The school in which she worked had numerous resources for reading intervention strategies in English, but similar resources in Arabic were scarce. Given the thin literature on reading disabilities and reading intervention in Arabic, the school relied largely on translating and trying to adapt English reading interventions to Arabic and Al Ghanem began to question whether this approach was truly effective as English and Arabic are distinctly different languages. She also challenged herself to identify ways she could better help those students with the most severe reading disabilities.

These questions lead Al Ghanem to focus her graduate studies in the area of reading. She became more heavily involved in reading research when, during her first year of doctoral studies, she began working with Dr. Devin Kearns and in 2015 she jointly published a literature review with Dr. Kearns on word recognition in Arabic in the Reading Research Quarterly journal. Today, Al Ghanem continues her research and efforts to help improve reading interventions in both English and Arabic.

Al Ghanem became involved in leadership and policy research during her last year of graduate studies. Her interest in leadership, policy, and teacher education developed as a result of her own experience as a student-teacher and her experience teaching methods classes to pre-service and in-service teachers working with students who had reading disabilities. In both experiences, she ran into cases where school administration and district personnel, played a great role in determining what reading programs, interventions, and instructional methods were to used to support students with reading difficulty.

These thought provoking disparities align with the work that Dr. Al Ghanem will be conducting at UConn working on an IES-Funded Project with Professor Morgaen Donaldson. The project focuses on the associations between district policies related to principal evaluation, principal’s enactment of learning-centered leadership practices, and student achievement in reading and mathematics. Al Ghanem and Donaldson are working together as part of a larger research team headquartered at the University of Connecticut with collaborators at the University of Virginia, and Michigan State University.

Within her role at Neag's School of Education, Dr. Al Ghanem’s responsibilities will include interviewing principals, conducting surveys, and analyzing student data to learn more about the principal’s involvement in making instructional decisions, their leadership style, and how they influence student achievement. She is working primarily from the University of Connecticut branch in Downtown Hartford, CT, and is looking forward to working with the community of scholars in the Department of Educational Leadership. Welcome Dr. Reem Al Ghanem!

Transforming Principal Preparation: Reflecting on UPPI’s Progress

Transforming Principal Preparation: Reflecting on UPPI’s Progress

Casey Cobb and Miguel Cardona at UPPI kickoff meeting
Casey Cobb, Neag Endowed Professor of Educational Policy (left) and Miguel Cardona ’01 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools, take part in a UPPI kickoff meeting earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

As 2017 nears its close, work on the University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI) — an initiative led at UConn by the Neag School’s University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) — is getting ready to celebrate its first birthday. This past year, UConn was one of seven universities selected to take part in the Wallace Foundation-funded initiative, which launched officially in January and is focused on improving training programs for aspiring school principals nationwide. At UConn, UCAPP is a school leadership program based at the Neag School that prepares highly qualified school administrators in Connecticut.

Faculty from the Neag School, administrators from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), leaders from several public school districts in Connecticut, and other stakeholders­ from across the nation who have joined UConn’s UPPI workgroups are collaborating to address how university principal preparation programs — working in partnership with high-needs school districts, exemplary preparation programs, and the state — can improve their training so it reflects the evidence on how best to prepare effective principals. Over the past 10 months, these workgroups have been developing a “theory of action” for redesigning UCAPP that is focused on three main facets: revising the UCAPP curriculum, developing a leader tracking system, and redesigning the program’s internship component.

“UCAPP is universally recognized as a top program that creates opportunities and helps other programs. We’re looking to continuously improve the program so this momentum can keep up steam for years to come.”

— Richard Gonzales,
UPPI project director and principal investigator

“The main question we’re asking here is: How can a traditional university program work with partners to redesign themselves and align with the best in the field?” says Richard Gonzales, project director and principal investigator for UPPI. Gonzales has coordinated the effort to redesign and improve the program so that the curriculum and the internship experience parallel each other more effectively.

For the Connecticut State Department of Education, this partnership will, according to Sarah Barzee, CSDE chief talent officer, allow for a “transformation through a targeted focus on principal preparation with the goal of ensuring that each and every principal enters this phase of their career with the knowledge, skills, and understanding to be a ‘school-ready’ principal.”

Curriculum Revision
The workgroup taking on revisions to the UCAPP curriculum has come together to review existing UCAPP curriculum materials, syllabi, and more in order to identify the programs’ strengths as well as areas of opportunity — with the ultimate goal in mind of proposing solutions and improvements where appropriate. The workgroup was co-chaired by Sarah Woulfin, assistant professor in the Neag School, and Erin Murray, assistant superintendent for Simsbury (Conn.) Public Schools.

“Principals are no longer merely managers inside the office; rather, they are responsible for transforming teaching and learning to yield equitable outcomes for children, families, and communities,” say workgroup members in a self-assessment report they issued this past summer. “Wallace UPPI is grounded in the theory of action that if university-based principal preparation programs improve, then principals will be more effective leaders to promote positive educational outcomes.”

The report proposes a variety of short-term and long-term next steps and recommendations for improving the UCAPP curriculum, some of which could potentially involve piloting, testing, and refining new approaches. It also points out existing gaps in data collection and analysis, “acknowledg[ing] that the leader tracking system will enable the program to obtain additional data.”

Developing a Leader Tracking System
Meanwhile, the Leader Tracking System (LTS) is being developed to evaluate leadership development from the district, university, and state perspectives. The workgroup behind these efforts envisions using such a system to provide data to the Connecticut State Department of Education, partner districts, and the Neag School that would ultimately be used to make decisions about the preparation, hiring, development, and placement of school leaders.

According to Louis Bronk, director of talent at Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools and a co-chair for the UPPI workgroup focused on the LTS, the team is focused on figuring out what they are specifically looking for in school leadership, and what information and data they need to answer this question. A fully realized LTS would ultimately outline what qualities candidates must exhibit and what knowledge they must possess.

Sarah Woulfin at UPPI kickoff meeting
Sarah Woulfin, a Neag School assistant professor and member of the UPPI Steering Committee, takes part in a UPPI kickoff meeting on the UConn Storrs campus earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

“From a university standpoint, the LTS would provide information on a candidate’s success post-graduation for the prep program,” says Bronk. “From a [school] district perspective, it will allow us to evaluate our internal leadership development systems and also allow us to better engage in data-driven decision making in regard to administrator placement and development.”

Internship Redesign
For UPPI’s internship workgroup, the goal has been “to bring coherence to all aspects of the internship across the three models of training within UCAPP,” says Jennifer Michno, co-chair of UPPI’s internship workgroup. The three models of training within UCAPP include a traditional track, designed for Connecticut-certified educators with at least three years of experience in teaching; a track known as Preparing Leaders for Urban Schools (PLUS), for educators working in Hartford or New Haven (Conn.) public schools; and a residency track, which is designed to prepare principal candidates to serve specifically in turnaround schools.

In its efforts to unite the internship component across UCAPP’s models, the workgroup will be looking, Michno says, not only to shift the internships from a focus on supervision to one on coaching, but also to bring measurability to all facets of the UCAPP internship at large and to decide on consistent practices and protocols that will be used across all UCAPP internships.

In addition, the workgroup is partnering on internship redesign efforts with a number of other collaborators from across the nation, including the New York City Leadership Academy, a nonprofit that prepares and supports educators to lead schools, and mentors assigned through the University of Illinois-Chicago.

As the UPPI project progresses, such collaborative efforts across each of the workgroups will continue to evolve. “UCAPP is universally recognized as a top program that creates opportunities and helps other programs,” Gonzales says. “We’re looking to continuously improve the program so this momentum can keep up steam for years to come.”

Learn more about the Neag School’s involvement in the University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI) and how it is working to transform principalship at

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Neag School Hosts Annual Educational Leadership Forum in Hartford

Written by: Shawn Kornegay

Neag School of Education alumni, faculty, and administrators, along with educators from across the state, gathered at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture earlier this month for an evening of networking and insights from two dynamic Neag School alumni.

Miguel Cardona ’00 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., ’12 ELP, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools, and Bridget Heston Carnemolla ’13 Ed.D, ’14 ELP, superintendent for Watertown (Conn.) Public Schools, each shared insights into their experiences in the Neag School’s educational leadership program and personal revelations on leadership as the featured speakers for the Neag School’s third annual Educational Leadership Alumni Forum.

Neag School Dean Gladis Kersaint kicked the event off with welcome remarks, while Richard Gonzales, faculty event co-host and director of the Neag School’s educational leadership preparation programs, spoke on the strength and national prominence of the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP). Gonzales also touched on UCAPP’s involvement in a Wallace Foundation-funded national initiative known as the University Principal Preparatoin Initiative (UPPI), which is focused on improving principal preparation programs across the country.

At a recent national meeting on UPPI, Gonzales said, he listened as the event’s keynote speaker, Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, recognized UCAPP by name in her address as a principal preparation program dedicated to continuous improvement.

“We have a reputation from the past, and we are continuing that reputation,” said Gonzales. “One of the questions I often get is around the UPPI initiative: ‘Why redesign? Why fix what’s not broken?’ The simple answer is because we’ve learned along the way that we can do better — and why shouldn’t we get better?”

“Stay humble. Titles don’t make you a good leader. Action makes you a good leader.”

— Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools

Leadership Lessons
As the first featured alumni speaker of the evening, four-time Neag School alum Cardona spoke about how much he has learned from Neag School’s educational leadership programs and from his family. “I’m really pleased that I have both my UConn family here and my home family,” he said.

Miguel Cardona speaks at Educational Leadership Forum
Four-time Neag School alum Miguel Cardona served as one of the 2017 Educational Leadership Forum’s featured speakers. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

In his address, Cardona went on to share personal stories on leadership, including one anecdote starring members from the UConn men’s basketball team. Spending time one evening on the Storrs campus with his son — a big basketball fan — Cardona and his family happened upon a group of UConn men’s basketball players.

This was, Cardona said, “about the same time the UConn men’s basketball team was on their way to winning a championship, and my son and I watched basketball all the time.”

The players took pictures with his son, gave him a T-shirt, and shook his son’s hand. To Cardona, “That was a leadership lesson: Stay humble. Titles don’t make you a good leader. Action makes you a good leader. Be remembered by testimony, not titles,” he said. “That’s something I learned … from my experiences with UCAPP and the other UConn programs, and a life full of leadership experiences at Meriden.”

Cardona also spoke about his experience co-chairing a statewide commission focused on closing the achievement gap. The group had listened to testimony from stakeholder groups and experts, including faculty and administrators from the University of Connecticut and Neag School, Cardona said.

“If you are going to close any gap, leadership matters,” Cardona said, reflecting on the leadership role Neag School faculty played in the effort. “They were trendsetters for reshaping leadership programming.”

“You can’t simultaneously be all things to all people. It’s a necessary limitation, but requires us to be present at the moment — and to consider the role and the impact of that role at that moment.”

— Bridget Heston Carnemolla,
superintendent, Watertown (Conn.) Public Schools

Balancing Personal Life With Professional Life
Superintendent Carnemolla also served as a featured speaker at the event, sharing how her Neag School journey as part of the doctoral program in educational leadership and the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) helped develop her as a leader.

Bridget Heston Carnemolla speaks at Educational Leadership Forum
Alum Bridget Heston Carnemolla serves as a featured speaker at the third annual Educational Leadership Alumni Forum. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Carnemolla spoke in part about juggling her family life and her position as a school principal while attending the Neag School’s Ed.D. program. Recalling classes led by instructor Robert Villanova, she shared what she learned from him on leadership: “You can’t simultaneously be all things to all people,” Carnemolla said. “It’s a necessary limitation, but requires us to be present at the moment — and to consider the role and the impact of that role at that moment. You also have to know your role as a leader.”

In having shifted from a role as principal to one as superintendent, Carnemolla also says she saw how each of her Neag School educational leadership program experiences served her. “Both the doctoral and executive leadership programs [at the Neag School] prepared me to think of these roles differently and how I could impact positive change,” she said.

Carnemolla reflected on the impact of gender in leadership as well.

“Clearly I’m a female role model, and I have a very specific obligation,” she said. “It is often very different for girls and women who want to be leaders. We face different challenges from our male counterparts.

“We, as strong, competent women who take these positions of power, it’s our moral obligation to teach young people to value everyone and to value everyone’s perspectives,” she added.

Carnemolla credited educators with inspiring her and giving her a tangible goal for who she could be. She was taught, she told the audience, “to find her own voice and to use it for good and challenge things that are unjust.”

“If you are in a current leadership position, I congratulate you and I applaud you,” she says. “If you are just starting, I encourage you to continue. You can, and you will, make a difference.”

Interested in taking your education career to the next level? Find further information about Neag School’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP) or UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) today.

View photos from this year’s Educational Leadership Forum, or check out video coverage of the event.


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