Our Students

HESA Hosts Annual Assessment Day

On April 26th, HESA hosted its annual Assessment Day, the summation of a two-semester course series (EDLR 5102 and 5103) that gives first-year HESA students the opportunity to develop and hone important skills by conducting group assessment projects in service to the UConn community.  The series constitutes a fundamental element of HESA’s unique core curriculum and commitment to scholarship in practice. This year, students split into four groups and tackled four distinct assessment projects (see table). We spoke with Dr. Christine Wilson, the course instructor, to learn more:

The point of the course is to help the students learn about assessment, evaluation, and research by engaging in a yearlong group assessment project that serves a department or program on campus.  The first semester is dedicated to learning about foundations of assessment and research while completing a literature review for the projects, defining assessment questions, creating methodology, and completing IRB paperwork to assure that research with student participants is conducted legally and ethically.  During the second semester, the students collect and analyze data, present their results and findings during an open presentation day, and complete an assessment paper.

Assessment Day, which takes place at the end of the semester, is a great way for the community to see the work that the students have completed, as well as the contributions of knowledge that they are making to the departments they have served with their projects.  In addition, the students have a chance to present their projects in a formal setting. I have taught this course series three times, and Assessment Day is the highlight of the year.

Congratulations to the students of EDLR 5103 for their successful assessment projects, and the completion of their first year in the UConn HESA program.


Career and Technical Education Issue Brief: Current Trends and Results

Samuel J. Kamin, a doctoral student in the Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy program at the Neag School, prepared the following issue brief on career and technical education in affiliation with the Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA), a research center based at the Neag School that seeks to inform educational leaders and policymakers on issues related to the development, implementation, and consequences of education policies.

Husky Sport Collaborates with Local and Global Partners to Provide Additional Engagement to the Youth of Fred D. Wish School

One of the Husky Sport program’s strengths is its relationships, and from that, its partnerships. Since the program’s inception in 2003, it has been dedicated to maintaining community and campus partnerships to support youth and college student development. This past semester has been full of collaborative initiatives for Husky Sport including their partnerships with Fred D. Wish School,  where they participate in direct engagement with Hartford North End youth, and UConn’s Leadership In Diversity (LID) program for the 2018 Ignite Campaign. Husky Sport also partnered with UConn’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and local volunteers from ESPN to provide additional engagement to the youth of Fred D. Wish School.

Students at Wish School engage in physical literacy stations during a partner visit from YSEALI volunteers
Students at Wish School engage in physical literacy stations during visit from YSEALI volunteers

YSEALI is a grant-funded initiative started by the U.S. Department of State in 2013, which aims to support the leadership development of youth from Southeast Asia. Currently supported by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, approximately 40,000 individuals participate in the student exchange program each year. The Global Training & Development Institute (GTDI), which facilitates UConn’s  YSEALI program, gives students an opportunity to identify and develop a business plan for an issue in their home community or country that they are passionate about finding a solution for. Upon returning to their home country, they receive feedback and mentorship from the UConn program, and have the chance to apply for financial support for their social initiative.

Husky Sport helped facilitate YSEALI’s mission as they served as a host organization for YSEALI students and introduced them to the Fred D. Wish School in Hartford, CT, one of Husky Sport’s community partners. This is the fourth year that Husky Sport has hosted this event where YSEALI volunteers pair up with Husky Sport mentors for a day of learning and engagement with elementary students through physical activity. This year, YSEALI students participated in  a 30-minute information session about the organizational history of Husky Sport and their partnership within the Hartford North End community. YSEALI and Husky Sport program leaders then worked together to lead 3 dynamic sessions outdoors with Wish School’s fourth grade students. These sessions were centered around physical activity and nutrition, two of the Husky Sport program pillars. Both Wish School and YSEALI students then participated in a series of games and challenges that incorporated themes such as the USDA guided MyPlate and physical literacy. The day concluded with a debrief session which invited volunteers to ask questions and reflect on the experience.

“For most of the YSEALI students, volunteering with Husky Sport is their only opportunity to see the American school system up close as well as interact with youth during the 5-weeks here in the United States. During their time with Husky Sport, the participants learn valuable information that may help them start their own non-profits in their home countries when they return,” explains Cassandra Therriault, Husky Sport Graduate Assistant and YSEALI Program Staff Member on the takeaways for YSEALI participants.

However, this unique opportunity not only benefits YSEALI students, but it offers a one-of-a-kind experience for the elementary school students at Husky Sport’s community partner school. Therriault adds, “Each time the YSEALI students come to the school they share about their home country and their experiences in elementary school, which provides a great opportunity for our Wish students to ask questions and learn about places around the world!”

While the partnership with YSEALI allowed Husky Sport to collaborate with volunteers from around the globe, the ESPN partnership engaged more local volunteers. Four volunteers from ESPN’s Library Committee out of Bristol, CT joined Husky Sport for a day of engaging literacy, nutrition, and physical activity with K-2 students from the Fred D. Wish Elementary School. The day was organized into different stations including, reading a children’s book, a physically interactive game focused on hand-eye coordination, and an activity centered around  Wish School’s life skill theme: Be There, Be Ready!

Students at Wish School engage in physical literacy stations during a partner visit from ESPN
Students at Wish School engage in physical literacy stations during a partner visit from ESPN

The partnership with ESPN developed through an alumni connection, Leigh Michaud, who earned her M.S. in Sport Management in 2012, and now works in Remote Production Operations for ESPN. Having worked with Husky Sport throughout her time at UConn, Michaud thought it was the perfect place for her ESPN Library committee to volunteer. Since, they have been volunteering with Husky Sport for the past five years.

As many members of the ESPN Library Committee, including Michaud, return every year, volunteers are able to connect with students that they saw in previous years, promoting and facilitating Husky Sport’s commitment to relationships. This connection and association with fun memories from the previous year(s) always means something special for both the ESPN volunteers, Husky Sport and the Wish School students.

Assistant Director of Husky Sport, Patricia Bellamy reflected on the significance of the experience as she remarked,

“It’s always great when our ESPN volunteers are here! We get to further divide and engage our students for multiple activities but they [ESPN volunteers] also get to feel how exciting it is to work with our Wish Students. Having the adults that you see everyday telling you that reading is important is one thing, but when people who have the 'cool jobs' come and tell our students, it’s a big deal.”

Partnerships with programs and organizations like YSEALI and ESPN are not only important to the collegians participating in Husky Sport, but they offer a rewarding experience for the ESPN volunteers, help build YSEALI participants leadership development, and work cohesively to help engage and inspire local youth in Hartford.

The Department of Educational Leadership appreciates Husky Sport’s intentional relationship building with various partners around the world and throughout Connecticut. Their continued dedication to these partnerships lends itself to meaningful and reciprocal learning experiences for those involved.


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.

HESA’s Mock Interview Program Welcomes Alumni Participation

The course “Seminar in Higher Education” is an important aspect of the HESA core curriculum.  Set in the final semester of the HESA program, the course is designed to further integrate HESA’s curriculum and practice-based experiences to prepare students to make the transition into the next chapter of their journey, whether it be in a professional setting or entering into a doctoral program.

Traditionally, the course has featured a mock interview component which gives students the opportunity to refine their interview skills. This spring offered that same opportunity to students, but featured an exciting update. Intentional changes were made to further reflect what students will experience in a first-round interview while simultaneously providing an opportunity to network with the HESA alumni community.  Instead of the traditional in-person mock interviews, students connected with HESA alumni over digital platforms for virtual, web-based interviews.

HESA Program Director Dr. Kari Taylor, who is teaching the seminar this spring, worked with Caitlin Trinh, Director of Alumni Relations at the Neag School of Education, as well as Ana Clara Blesso, Assistant Director for Experiential Learning at the Center for Career Development, and Lisa Famularo, a HESA student whose Graduate Assistantship is with the Center for Career Development.  Caitlin reached out to program alumni and helped connect them with the initiative, while Ana and Lisa helped to prepare students for this experience by giving a presentation to the class on how to best prepare for an interview prior to the mock interviews with alumni.

Each student submitted a resume and cover letter for a position to which they were interested in applying.  These resources were shared with the alumni who served as the mock employer. Instead of one day for all the interviews, each student-alumni pair negotiated the scheduling of their own interview.  With these changes to the overall experience, the HESA community was able to use its strong reciprocal relationships to help students refine their career skills and build valuable professional and mentorial relationships.

To get a better understanding of the new mock interview experience, we caught up with one student-alumnus pair: Current second-year HESA student Cristina Carpentier and HESA alumnus La’Rez Wilson (‘13), who currently serves as the Community Relations Coordinator in the Department of Social Change at The Ohio State University.


The Student Perspective

Headshot of Cristina Carpentier
Cristina Carpentier

What do you feel that the mock interview program offered you at this point in your HESA experience?

CC: I thought the mock interview assignment was really helpful. Considering that the job search is taking up most of my brain space these days, it was nice to have a class assignment with direct application to that process. While I didn’t end up actually interviewing for the position I chose for my mock interview, the experience still offered me the direction and motivation I needed to improve my interview skills. La’Rez offered me specific feedback on things I did well and the answers that needed further thought; it was a solid combination of a confidence boost and an opportunity for growth. It was also nice to connect with a HESA alum so close to graduation because it reminded me of how far this community extends.


How did you prepare for the interview?

CC: I wanted to be able to answer questions with concrete examples tied to my skills and values.  So to prepare for the interview, I scanned the job application for specific skills the employer was looking for and came up with a list of my related experiences. I also read through the office’s and institution’s websites so I could clearly explain how I saw myself fitting into those spaces. Lastly, I came up with a few questions that would help me get the pointed feedback I was looking for from my mock interviewer.


What’s one thing that surprised you about the interview?

CC: I was surprised by how quickly La’Rez and I connected!  I suppose it could’ve been because I knew he wasn’t actually looking to hire me – that certainly took some pressure off – but I think it was more than that.  I liked knowing that he had been through the same graduate program I’m currently going through. It made me feel more comfortable than I was expecting to feel, which helped me to put my best foot forward.  I also appreciated having the opportunity to talk to him a bit about his position and function area. He offered me some helpful and comforting insights on the job search within the service learning and civic engagement function area that I was not planning to walk away with.


What’s one particularly great piece of information you took away from the mock interview process?

CC: I walked away from the mock interview process understanding the importance and value of presenting your most authentic self in interviews. I struggled to answer questions when I began thinking about what the interviewer wanted to hear and he noticed this struggle. On the flip side, the responses that came from my personal values and experiences were clearer and more meaningful. La’Rez advised me to take a moment to myself to consider what I really want to say before responding to challenging questions. I now know that doing so will help me to offer more genuine and effective responses.


What advice would you give to next year’s mock interviewees?

CC: I would advise next year’s mock interviewees to take full advantage of the opportunity by really applying themselves to the assignment and working to build a connection with their interviewers. The job search is a pretty daunting process – take all the help you can get!


The Alumnus Perspective

Headshot of La'Rez Wilson
La’Rez Wilson

Can you take us through your journey since you graduated from the UConn HESA program?

LW: Currently I’m at The Ohio State University and I’m working as a Coordinator within their Department of Social Change.  I found myself there basically because of my love of working with students, specifically in the realms of civic engagement and service learning.  Before coming back to Ohio, which is where I’m originally from, I was doing similar work at Washington University in St. Louis for 4 years. I remember applying for jobs during my second year in the UConn HESA program and I was a little nervous because I was one of the folks in our cohort that didn’t like interviews.  When I found the position at Washington University I thought: I love working with students and I love working with kids, so it’s a good combination. While at UConn, I was working in the Office of Community Outreach and I was a Graduate Assistant for the Community Service Learning Community, and those positions made me really want to look into how I could do that professionally and full-time.


What made you want to be a mock interviewer?

LW: Well, I thought back to my own mock interview experience.  At the time, I felt like I just tanked! Some of the biggest feedback I got was that I didn’t leverage my skills and experiences enough to really showcase all the work I had done.  So when I got the email about being an interviewer for the mock interview program, I thought: this is my time to professionally give back. I know what it’s like to go through the interview experience, I know what it takes to prepare for an interview.  At Washington University, I did a phone interview, I did a Skype interview, and of course I had an on-campus interview, and then as part of the job selection process I was required to write an essay. And all this while trying to figure out my plans for the future, still applying for other jobs, and in the midst of my final semester at HESA; it was pretty stressful.  So when I got the email from HESA I thought, I need to share these experiences with others and really offer that space for reflection.


What insight were you excited to share with Cristina?

LW: I wanted to share what I was feeling during my own interview experiences, and to dig deeper and understand what she felt during the mock interview.  Because those same emotions and behaviors are going to translate themselves into the real-life experience, so let’s take some time to reflect on it now while we still can.  I also wanted to share some tips that I’ve picked up along the way from interviewing, from mentors, from my own experience, from my friends. As part of my current position, I work with incarcerated youth in hopes of helping them gain skills in order to reenter society effectively.  We’ve been doing workshops in some of the detention centers in the central Ohio area and one of the things we talk about is how to recognize illegal or touchy questions that aren’t necessarily related to the job. For those populations, it’s particularly helpful to understand that because there are such high stakes involved.  With Cristina, we didn’t really touch on questions to look out for or anything like that, but we did touch on how to stay vigilant about what’s being asked and why. Knowledge is power, and that’s going to be helpful going into the interview process.


What would you say to HESA alumni who want to get involved in the mock interview program?

LW: Do it!  It sounds so to-the-point, but seriously.  Mock interviews are a great way to professionally give back, but they’re also a way to make sure that you are still prepped and primed for the career search experience.  One piece of advice that I received from a mentor along the way was that if you have the opportunity to be on a search committee, take it. Because it helps you to see what others are seeing when they’re evaluating candidates, but also to improve your eye for recognizing talent.  I think that’s something that’s not easily taught. So I think being a mock interviewer is a good opportunity to keep those skills sharp and to share your experience. And ultimately, one of the strongest things that we can do as alumni is help share our stories, help make the process a little smoother, a little less stressful.  I told Cristina all that I’m telling you: I was stressed out, I was nervous about interviews, and I think it was validating for her because she felt the same. And it’s good to be able to say hey, I was there, it’s going to get better. And let’s talk about how to get there.

As we wrap up another semester, we’d like to extend our gratitude to everyone who contributed to this year’s successful mock interviews. If you are an alumni who is looking to get involved for future mock interviews, please contact Dr. Kari Taylor.