Our Alumni

HESA Alumna Receives Award

Congratulations to Lexy Parrill (HESA ‘17) who recently received the Chester A. Berry Scholar Award at the Association of College Unions (ACUI) National Conference.  The award is given annually to the author of an outstanding work of writing in the field of college unions and student activities. We caught up with Lexy to find out more about her research:

LP: My involvement in this work stems from an independent project I conducted as an undergraduate at Indiana University.  The project focused on memorial unions and, like any great research project, it led me to a series of unanswered questions. Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with the Union Idea and the notion that college unions (and campus centers) are more than just facilities: they are part of an educational philosophy that brings together the community using programming and physical space.

Lexy Parrill (’17)

I received this award alongside my mentor and research partner Mara Dahlgren. Mara was my advisor when I was a student at Indiana University. We have a shared appreciation for the college union idea, and we both understand the powerful role history plays in shaping our perceptions, attitudes, and–in this case–buildings. Mara is the Assistant Director of Activities and Events at the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University.

I received my bachelor’s degree in History, and I strongly believe that it is important to understand the context and background of an institution–in this case, the college union– in order to produce useful knowledge.  When Mara and I began looking into this phenomenon, we realized there was no central database that contained basic information about college union construction, naming practices, memorialization, services, funding, missions, student involvement, etc. We decided to develop this tool, and so far we have collected 750 unique data points (and counting!) from institutions across the world.

This data has allowed us to reframe the college union story and provide data to support (and rebuke) anecdotal stories. We plan to continue to collect information from additional institutions and set up systems to maintain our existing database. We hope this tool provides a jumping point for researchers and practitioners in the field of college unions and student activities.

The HESA community wishes Lexy the best of luck as she continues to examine higher education policies and systems as part of her exciting and important research.

We love to hear from HESA Alumni, so if you have a story to share click here to get in touch!


UCAPP’s 4th Annual Change Project Day

2018 UCAPP Graduates during their Change Project presentations
Photo credit: Frank Zapulla

On Saturday, April 28th, the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) held their 4th Annual Change Project Day at Laurel Hall on the UConn Storrs Campus. The Change Project is the capstone for the School Administrator’s 6th year certificate program, through which students identify opportunities for school improvement and develop a plan to ignite positive change in their home or mentor school.

This year, 37 graduating students presented their final projects to their host school mentors, clinical supervisors, UCAPP faculty, colleagues, friends and family. The reach of these projects went far beyond the presentation day, as they were put in practice, and directly impacted 4,500 students and 620 educators throughout Connecticut. Beyond the impact on students and educators, the UCAPP graduates gained learning that was not only supported by what they were exposed to in UCAPP coursework, but from first-hand administrative experience.

“I learned from the change project how important it is to build relationships as a leader, to support teachers and build capacity, as well as developing professional learning opportunities that are more meaningful and individualized for teachers,” offered UCAPP graduate, Lauren Poppe, regarding the experience.

Lauren Poppe
Photo credit: Frank Zapulla

Poppe’s project was centered around “Teachers Invested in Learning.” For which, she put together a book club after school for teachers that were interested in learning and growing together. The teachers met once a month to discuss the book, Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher, as well as to share student work, things they tried, and any ideas they had moving forward. Poppe explains that she developed this topic because, “Teachers were often expressing how they feel like they do not have enough say in their own learning, the curriculum they are teaching and many felt like there was little joy in the classroom for students and teachers.”

Hannah Sam, a UCAPP graduate, worked on getting higher rates of students to complete service hours with 8th grade capstone projects. Sam learned the importance of investing in appropriate structure to enact positive change, how to evaluate the big-picture in relation to student success, how to delegate based on strengths and empower team members, and how to involve parents and community members.

UCAPP graduate, Sara Spak, focused her project on the high school level. She worked with school and student leaders to add a “flexible block” of time in the school schedule to allow students to have choice in their educational decisions. She assisted in the design and implementation of a pilot offering 4 Flex Block opportunities in the Ellington High School schedule. Survey results completed by both students and teachers provided positive feedback and suggestions that led to full implementation of Flex Block for the upcoming school year.

“Giving students choice is powerful and allows students to find passion and voice in their learning.”

Sarah Spak
Photo credit: Frank Zapulla

Spak learned about the importance of listening to students in addition to educators as an administrator.  She explains, “Giving students choice is powerful and allows students to find passion and voice in their learning. This committee was led by 4 incredible student leaders who represented the voice of students throughout Ellington High School in a positive and meaningful way. Their perspectives were thought-provoking and challenged adults on the committee to think outside of the box and to impart change that did not conform with traditional norms.”

While all unique, each UCAPP Change Project was consistent with the program’s mission of preparing highly qualified school leaders to promote equity and excellence in schools throughout Connecticut. Therefore, exemplifying the readiness of the UCAPP program graduates to foster positive change in their new career path.

Sarah Barzee, Chief Talent Officer at the Connecticut State Department of Education delivered the keynote speech prior to the morning presentations. The event was a great opportunity for UCAPP graduates to present their capstone projects as well as learn from recent alumni and new school leaders.

To view the full album, please visit Neag’s Facebook page.