UPCOMING EVENTS

5
MAR

UConn/HESA Alumni Reception
at the ACPA Conference in
Boston, MA

11
MAR

HESA Alumni Reception
at the NASPA Conference in
Los Angeles, CA

12
MAR

UCAPP Workshop
on Safety & Crisis Management in
New Haven, CT

13
MAR

UCAPP Workshop
on Safety & Crisis Management in
Hartford, CT

16
MAR

Neag Alumni Awards Ceremony
in Storrs, CT

Calendar linking to more upcoming events for EDLR

RECENT ALUMNI & STUDENT NEWS

Staying in Storrs: Adult Learning Alumnus, Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.

The University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership is fortunate to have well-connected alumni who continue to work with the university post-graduation or who have returned after years of work in diverse professional settings. The “Staying in Storrs” series highlights our talented EDLR program alumni and the work they are currently doing with UConn. This feature focuses on the Adult Learning Ph.D. Program.

Dr. Kevin Thompson, Assistant Professor in Residence in the UConn School of Business’ Management Department, is no newcomer to the UConn community: he is also an alumnus. He earned his Ph.D. in Adult Learning from the Neag School of Education and decided to bring his expertise back to UConn to work with the next generation of business professionals.

Dr. Kevin ThompsonAfter 30 years in the corporate world and earning a Ph.D., Thompson decided to leave his senior management position and return to Storrs to share his skills and knowledge with business students. He says he hopes to provide students with the same experiences and opportunities he received during his time as a student. Thompson’s mission to help students achieve success is clear in his research.

“My research focuses on how to enhance learning for the millennial generation and how service-learning impacts career success,” says Thompson.

Using his research as a foundation, Thompson has introduced experiential, project-based learning to the Business School curriculum. In December of 2018, Thompson was awarded the UConn Provost Award for Engaged Scholarship for Non-Tenure Track Faculty, which recognized his dedication to pairing community engagement and student success.

During his time as a Ph.D. student in the Adult Learning Program, Thompson said he wrote a paper that compared and contrasted adult learning scholarship and practice. Ever since that paper, he has been fascinated by the role scholarly research plays in improving lives and increasing student success. Thompson says his experience as a UConn student played a big role in his professional success. “I find that relationships can be even more important for career success than your level of technical expertise,” says Thompson. “In my Ph.D. program, I was able to develop relationships with both other students and faculty that are an essential part of my support network to this day.”

Thompson says that the most fulfilling part of his faculty position is the regular experience of engaging with students and helping them achieve their learning and career goals. “Not a day goes by that this effort does not bring me satisfaction,” says Thompson. “It drives me to try to create an even more valuable experience for the students I teach.”

Overall, Thompson describes his UConn experience as “inspired” and says that it’s important to take opportunities to pause and reflect on one’s life and career.

“It is heartwarming and inspiring to know that I’ve come to a place in my career where I can leverage all that’s been given to me for the benefit of UConn students.”

Courses and Curriculum: EDLR 5015

UConn’s Department of Educational Leadership (EDLR) offers a rich and diverse curriculum that prepares both undergraduate and graduate students to be educational leaders in our ever-changing world. The “Courses and Curriculum” series highlights innovative courses within EDLR’s catalog that are changing the education game for the better.  

Dr. Richard Schwab

In EDLR 5015: Teacher Leadership and Organizations, finding your voice is the name of the game. The course, which is designed to prepare future teachers to become effective leaders within their schools, has been taught by a host of talented professors over the year, each of whom brings their unique skills to the curriculum. In recent years, Dr. Richard Schwab–Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership (EDLR), former Dean of the Neag School of Education, and UConn alumnus–has brought his extensive background in teacher education to the course and it has taken off.

The course is made up of many innovative components, including guest speakers from a range of professional areas who come to share their expertise. Recent speakers have included Dr. Alan Addley, Superintendent of Granby Public Schools and Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year in 2019, and Alicia Bowman, who was named National Distinguished Principal of the Year by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in 2015– both are Neag alumni. “One of my favorite parts of this course was getting to learn from so many leaders from across Connecticut,” says Emily Cipriano, an EDLR alumna who credits a class visit by Nate Quesnel, Superintendent of East Hartford Public Schools, with finding her “dream job” teaching in the East Hartford school system herself.

The course also emphasizes leadership in the area of Family School Community Engagement (FCSE). “We talk about valuing all families: rich or poor, from all sorts of home life situations. All families want and are entitled to a meaningful education for their children,” says Schwab.

One course component in particular has garnered a lot of attention recently– including at the national level. As part of Schwab’s contract-based grading system, students are given the option of completing one of several projects in order to earn an A in the class. One of the possible projects is to complete an op-ed on an educational topic of the student’s choosing.

“The goal is for students to understand their voice,” says Schwab. “If you’re going to be a teacher leader, you need to have the courage to say: this is what I believe in.”

While publication is not a requirement of the project, this year alone Schwab has seen four of his students publish their op-eds: Emily Cipriano, Taylor Hudak, Julia Pilarski, and Olivia Singer have each used their voices to publish op-eds on topics ranging from teacher certification to how to teach in times of violence and political upheaval. Cipriano’s piece even reached national ears: not long after it was published, she appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered along with Dr. Schwab to talk about the impact of school shootings on the teaching profession.

Beyond the excitement of publication, writing op-eds is an instructive process. “Writing about a topic that is both a passion of mine and a critical issue in education helped me develop a sense of teacher leadership,” says Julia Pilarski. For Taylor Hudak, who describes herself as “a very reluctant writer,” the op-ed project was doubly empowering: “I definitely see myself writing more op-eds in the future, which is something I would never have thought before taking this course.”

“I felt like my voice was being heard, like it could actually make a difference,” says Olivia Singer.

So how does one write an op-ed? “I say to my students: start with your heart,” says Schwab, who has published numerous op-eds himself. “Only write what you’re passionate about. And no one gets it right on the first try! Editing, learning to express yourself concisely– that’s all part of the learning process.” Most students start with around 3000 words and have to hone that down to around 650, explains Schwab. For this process he brings in Stefanie Dion Jones, Director of Communications for Neag, as an expert coach for the students. “She’s wonderful at showing students how to put themselves out there, how to work with feedback,” says Schwab.

“Some students come in thinking they don’t have anything to offer,” says Schwab. “I couldn’t disagree more: I think these students have a great deal to offer.” And the impact of the op-eds goes beyond individual development and can effect broader social change: “Legislators read these!” he says.

Dr. Schwab’s comprehensive and innovative approach to teacher education is integral to Neag’s mission to prepare the next generation of educators to be leaders in our ever-changing world.

Student-Professional Feature: Miguel Colón

In Higher Education, it is not uncommon for students to balance their studies with a full- or part-time job. Many students enrolled in the programs of the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership (EDLR) are not only students, but working professionals in the field. The “Student-Professionals” series will highlight these hard-working student-professionals and how they balance their responsibilities. This feature focuses on a student-professional in the SPM program.

Miguel Colon headshot
Miguel Colón

Miguel Colón, a student in the Sport Management master’s program at the University of Connecticut, works hard to maintain an academic and professional career as both a full-time student and the Interim Associate Director for UConn Community Outreach.

Colón says he never expected to go to school for Sport Management, but ever since he was a little kid he always had a great affinity for sports. Now, close to completing a master’s degree and having worked closely with Community Outreach’s 14 youth development and education programs and the student leaders in those programs for the past 11 years, Colón wouldn’t have it any other way.

As both a student and the new Interim Associate Director for Community Outreach, Colón is faced with challenges every day. Nevertheless, he strives to create a positive environment in every aspect of his academic and professional life. A big sports fan, Colón understands the social implications of physical exercise and applies this knowledge to his daily life – both within and outside of the office.

He sees sport as a vehicle for both personal and social change; as he puts it, “sports reflect society”.

Miguel with a student
Miguel Colón meeting with a student.

A first-generation college student, Colón was well-acquainted with facing challenges and overcoming obstacles long before he began his higher education path. He migrated to the mainland US from Puerto Rico at the age of 14, and says that navigating a new bureaucracy, seeking out help and support, and finding mentors who could guide and direct him were just a few of the challenges of joining a new educational system. In his feature with WNPR, Colón shares more details about his experience as a first-generation college student.

Because of his unique background, Colón says he views college in a way that’s different from most. Although it was difficult at times, he says he enjoyed going through the experience. The most rewarding aspect of his sometimes-demanding lifestyle, he says, is seeing how he’s able to trailblaze through thick and thin. The ability to acknowledge what you have been able to accomplish, he notes, is vital to moving forward in your life.

As a student-professional, Colón appreciates the time he spends working with people and communicating with students, colleagues, and professors. Communication is vital to his area of study, he says, and using and honing these skills not only benefits him in the classroom but also in his personal and professional spheres.

To other student-professionals, Colón emphasizes the importance of having a strong support network of faculty advisors, such as Drs. Burton and Cooper, who strive to put their students’ happiness and well-being before anything else. Even in times of crisis, as in the wake of Hurricane Maria which devastated his family in Puerto Rico, Colón knew he had several shoulders to lean on. But, at the end of the day, Colón admits that self-motivation is huge. Especially in a fast-paced work environment, Colón says committing to a task and following through is crucial; it’s one of the biggest pieces of advice he can offer. “Once I’m ready to do something,” says Colón, “I really act on it.”

 

RECENT FACULTY & STAFF NEWS

Joseph Cooper Releases New Book: From Exploitation Back to Empowerment

The Neag School of Education covers Sport Management’s Dr. Joseph Cooper, who recently released a new book, From Exploitation Back to Empowerment: Black Male Holistic (Under)Development Through Sport and (Mis)Education which was inspired by his research on the intersection between sport, education, race, and culture and the impact of sport involvement on the holistic development of Black male athletes.  Read the full story here.

RESEARCH Series: Research to Practice

Research to Practice image

For Dr. Sarah Woulfin, the bridge between research and practice is well-traveled. Now in her fifth year of collecting data as part of a research-practice partnership (RPP) with Hartford Public Schools, Woulfin says creating an open dialogue between research and practice is at the core of her work.

“I want to try to answer questions that people in the field really care about, questions grounded in real-world issues,” she says. “There’s a great deal of work being done to improve schools, to make sure that every child has access to positive educational opportunities every day. I want to make that all more feasible. Increasing and understanding the doability of reform, preventing overload: those are the big picture goals.” – Dr. Sarah Woulfin

Dr. Sarah Woulfin
Dr. Sarah Woulfin

Broadly, Woulfin’s current research seeks to understand implementation of reforms in educational systems, especially within urban districts. As school districts work to improve, they often use many levers: updating curricula, meeting state accountability goals, implementing new attendance policies and teacher evaluation methods, and more. Woulfin’s research asks: how do both district and school leaders cope with this mixture of reform pressures? How do districts support teachers in the midst of these reforms? How can districts avoid what Woulfin calls the “too-muchness” of reform?

In her partnership with Hartford Public Schools, Woulfin is able to explore these questions in real time and from many different angles. RPPs are necessarily dynamic, says Woulfin, and her role is continually shifting. Early in the partnership, for example, she was interested in understanding how Hartford was implementing Common Core standards, a national educational initiative that was adopted by Connecticut in 2010. She learned that the district was mostly using instructional coaches for implementation, so she started researching instructional coaches’ roles and responsibilities in Hartford Public Schools – what kinds of support they received, where they were struggling, and so on. Soon, Woulfin started sitting in on professional development sessions for teachers, offering an extra set of hands and and quick-cycle feedback for the coaches. “It’s an interesting dance,” says Woulfin. “I don’t have authority in that sphere, so what I can do is increase access to useful materials, share my experience from other districts, and be a transporter for different techniques.”

Woulfin’s data collection focuses on the instructional coaches and teachers who are experiencing the reforms and the professional development activities: how they experience the reforms and professional development, what they find challenging, and how the daily realities in their school buildings make it easier or harder to take on the tasks that are expected of them. Within the framework of the RPP, Woulfin is able to put her findings in practice in a streamlined way. In addition to working with coaches and teachers, she also advises district leaders. “It gives me a good sense of what the more macro priorities are,” says Woulfin. “Each role in a district faces a different set of pressures.”

Woulfin’s commitment to bridging the gaps between research and practice comes from her own past; before she returned to school and earned her Ph.D. in Education from UC Berkeley, she was a teacher and a reading coach herself. When she was deciding to pursue her Ph.D., the research-practice partnership model was still a relatively new concept. Nevertheless, Woulfin found herself drawn to it, ending up in RPP-style projects before she even fully realized how to classify them. For her doctoral dissertation, for example, she conducted a one-year study of a school district; although not originally designed as such, it soon became an informal RPP. “I kept hearing, ‘you’re back?’” says Woulfin. “There’s something unique about becoming fully embedded in a district instead of dipping in for a shorter period of time. People realize ‘oh, she’s really here.’”

Recently, Woulfin had an experience that exemplifies the uniqueness of the RPP model. “I’ve been working with the math coaching team in Hartford, and recently they created team t-shirts for a Hartford schools event,” she says. “After the event, someone emailed me and said ‘we got you a t-shirt, we’ll give it to you next time!’ I had tears of researcher joy in my eyes. It was a huge moment for me: I truly felt like a part of their community.”

Looking ahead, Woulfin is excited to continue her work in Hartford and also to expand a second RPP with Bristol Public Schools. She is also in the conceptual stages of a project that would bring together urban district administrators from across Connecticut in a “community of practice.” On top of her research-practice work, Woulfin teaches in a multitude of Department of Educational Leadership programs: the Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP), the Ed.D. program, the Ph.D. in LLEP program, and the Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG). She credits her students, many of whom are school and district leaders themselves, with helping her broker and continue these partnerships. The Department of Educational Leadership is proud of Dr. Woulfin’s outstanding efforts to integrate research and practice in education.

Courses and Curriculum: EDLR 5015

UConn’s Department of Educational Leadership (EDLR) offers a rich and diverse curriculum that prepares both undergraduate and graduate students to be educational leaders in our ever-changing world. The “Courses and Curriculum” series highlights innovative courses within EDLR’s catalog that are changing the education game for the better.  

Dr. Richard Schwab

In EDLR 5015: Teacher Leadership and Organizations, finding your voice is the name of the game. The course, which is designed to prepare future teachers to become effective leaders within their schools, has been taught by a host of talented professors over the year, each of whom brings their unique skills to the curriculum. In recent years, Dr. Richard Schwab–Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership (EDLR), former Dean of the Neag School of Education, and UConn alumnus–has brought his extensive background in teacher education to the course and it has taken off.

The course is made up of many innovative components, including guest speakers from a range of professional areas who come to share their expertise. Recent speakers have included Dr. Alan Addley, Superintendent of Granby Public Schools and Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year in 2019, and Alicia Bowman, who was named National Distinguished Principal of the Year by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in 2015– both are Neag alumni. “One of my favorite parts of this course was getting to learn from so many leaders from across Connecticut,” says Emily Cipriano, an EDLR alumna who credits a class visit by Nate Quesnel, Superintendent of East Hartford Public Schools, with finding her “dream job” teaching in the East Hartford school system herself.

The course also emphasizes leadership in the area of Family School Community Engagement (FCSE). “We talk about valuing all families: rich or poor, from all sorts of home life situations. All families want and are entitled to a meaningful education for their children,” says Schwab.

One course component in particular has garnered a lot of attention recently– including at the national level. As part of Schwab’s contract-based grading system, students are given the option of completing one of several projects in order to earn an A in the class. One of the possible projects is to complete an op-ed on an educational topic of the student’s choosing.

“The goal is for students to understand their voice,” says Schwab. “If you’re going to be a teacher leader, you need to have the courage to say: this is what I believe in.”

While publication is not a requirement of the project, this year alone Schwab has seen four of his students publish their op-eds: Emily Cipriano, Taylor Hudak, Julia Pilarski, and Olivia Singer have each used their voices to publish op-eds on topics ranging from teacher certification to how to teach in times of violence and political upheaval. Cipriano’s piece even reached national ears: not long after it was published, she appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered along with Dr. Schwab to talk about the impact of school shootings on the teaching profession.

Beyond the excitement of publication, writing op-eds is an instructive process. “Writing about a topic that is both a passion of mine and a critical issue in education helped me develop a sense of teacher leadership,” says Julia Pilarski. For Taylor Hudak, who describes herself as “a very reluctant writer,” the op-ed project was doubly empowering: “I definitely see myself writing more op-eds in the future, which is something I would never have thought before taking this course.”

“I felt like my voice was being heard, like it could actually make a difference,” says Olivia Singer.

So how does one write an op-ed? “I say to my students: start with your heart,” says Schwab, who has published numerous op-eds himself. “Only write what you’re passionate about. And no one gets it right on the first try! Editing, learning to express yourself concisely– that’s all part of the learning process.” Most students start with around 3000 words and have to hone that down to around 650, explains Schwab. For this process he brings in Stefanie Dion Jones, Director of Communications for Neag, as an expert coach for the students. “She’s wonderful at showing students how to put themselves out there, how to work with feedback,” says Schwab.

“Some students come in thinking they don’t have anything to offer,” says Schwab. “I couldn’t disagree more: I think these students have a great deal to offer.” And the impact of the op-eds goes beyond individual development and can effect broader social change: “Legislators read these!” he says.

Dr. Schwab’s comprehensive and innovative approach to teacher education is integral to Neag’s mission to prepare the next generation of educators to be leaders in our ever-changing world.