Staying in Storrs: Ed.D. Alumna Joins PK-3 Leadership Program

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 PK-3 Leadership Program and Ed.D. Program.

Ed.D. student Tayarisha Stone is writing down strategies on a large yellow post-it, during her time in the Ed.D. Program
Tayarisha Stone-Batchelor engages in classroom activities while obtaining her Ed.D. degree. Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School of Education

This March, Dr. Tayarisha Stone-Batchelor, Principal of Rawson STEAM School in Hartford, CT, will return to her alma mater at the University of Connecticut to co-facilitate the latest module for the PK-3 Leadership Program.  Stone-Batchelor will be teaching alongside her Ed.D. classmate and returning PK-3 instructor, Dr. Roszena Haskins.

The Leading for Equity, Excellence, and Early Success module focuses on the critical components of leadership inside schools, the community, and across government and private agencies. Stone-Batchelor’s experience in the education field is extensive and includes a doctorate in education from The Department of Educational’s Ed.D. program. She graduated in 2017, and during her time as a student was actively involved with her cohort, which enabled her to strengthen her leadership skills by working with different students both inside and outside of her classroom experiences. She shares the most important part of being a leader is being able to be collaborative.

“To be successful in partnerships, it is imperative to have people working together, listening to other voices, and most importantly, being open to hearing other views.” – Tayarisha Stone-Batchelor

Stone-Batchelor used the strong leaderships skills she developed while in the Neag program to build and sustain positive relationships like the one with EDLR’s Husky Sport Program, an in-school and after-school program geared towards engaging Hartford youth through healthy nutrition, positive life skills and physical literacy.

In addition to her work and experience at UConn, Stone-Batchelor has been the principal of Rawson Elementary School in Hartford for the last 8 years. She was interested in working in an urban district to apply her expertise in developing a new model that would ensure all students have equal access and can compete for future jobs.  As the principal, Stone-Batchelor strives to give her students STEM opportunities that fully immerse and engage them. Stone-Batchelor’s efforts towards improving urban schools goes hand in hand with the passion she has for using her platform to become a voice for minorities. In February of 2019, she was recognized by the Voices of Women of Color earning the Trailblazer award for providing Women of Color with leadership skills that lead to employment opportunities and success in their communities.   

Because of Neag’s integral role in her success as an administrator, Stone-Batchelor has decided to return to Storrs. She hopes to give others the same experience she had, share what she has learned, and encourage and inspire others who undecided on their career path. She says that she made the decision to come back and teach at Neag because she sees that education has an impact on students and she wants to be a part of it. Specifically, Stone-Batchelor is excited to work with adult leaders, serving PK-3 aged students. 

What sets this program apart from others, says Stone-Batchelor, is that Neag’s PK-3 program uses modules that bring together an expert panel as a means to incorporate all perspectives and create a bigger picture for educators.  She believes it is important to expose educators to strategies that she has picked up in her time working in an urban district and she plans to implement the whole-child perspective which focuses on considering the child’s family as well stating,

“We’ve danced around the achievement gap for over a decade now,” she says. “We need to look at programs that partner with families early on so that we can break down the barriers early.”

Throughout her career, Stone-Batchelor has always kept a certain question in mind: how do we sustain what we have built so far and make it better? As she takes on this new role as PK-3 instructor, Stone-Batchelor says she finally hopes to be able to answer that question.

Student-Professional Feature: Diana Kelley

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 highlights these hard-working student-professionals and how they balance their responsibilities. This feature focuses on a student-professional in the Ed.D. program.

For Diana Kelley, a student in the Department of Educational Leadership’s Ed.D. program, balance is key: in addition to her studies, she works as the Director of Special Education for Glastonbury Public Schools.

Kelley’s path in the field of special education began when she was a busy stay-at-home mother. As her children started to get a little older, she was ready to rejoin the workforce and decided to go back to school to become a paralegal. At the same time, she got a job as a special education paraprofessional. She found that she greatly enjoyed working with children in a professional setting and was particularly interested in special education. Education, she realized, might be the right career for her. As a result she stopped her paralegal studies and transferred to Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) to complete her teaching degree.

Photo of Diana Kelly outside
Diana Kelley

Managing the multiple and often competing demands of work, school, and family was a challenge as she completed her degree. “I would take my schoolwork to my kids’ sports games,” remembers Kelley. Upon successfully completing her bachelor’s degree, she started working as a special education teacher at Gideon Welles School in Glastonbury, CT. In that position, she also took on numerous building-level leadership roles, including serving as a team leader and serving on the Teacher Administration Liaison Committee. Her interest in leadership led her back to CCSU to complete a master’s degree and then to Sacred Heart University to earn an administrative certificate. When the opportunity arose, Kelley took a position as Special Education Supervisor at Glastonbury High School. When the Director of Special Education position for Glastonbury Public Schools opened up several years later, Kelley applied, and she has been in that role ever since.

For Kelley, the decision to pursue an Ed.D. was multifaceted. “I like being in school; learning about the most current practices and research is very helpful in my career,” she says, adding that earning a doctorate has always been a personal goal as well.

She chose UConn’s Ed.D. program for its proximity, affordability, and cohort model, which she says is very important to her. “The cohort is very supportive; it helps everyone stay connected and hold each other accountable,” she says. “And from a networking standpoint, it’s wonderful to get to know people and understand where they’re coming from.”

At this point in the program, Kelley’s research largely focuses on teachers’ beliefs and attitudes about students with disabilities, and she intends for her research to have real-world impact. “I want to find out things that will help guide me and my staff in terms of best practices to support students and teachers,” she says. “The growth mindset is important to me: believing that all students can learn.”

Being a student-professional can certainly be a challenge, says Kelley. Her job is demanding and she is sometimes exhausted by the time she gets home at the end of the day, which makes hitting the books for her program difficult.

While it can be difficult at times, Kelley says being a student-professional is also uniquely rewarding. “I like being able to relate what’s said in class back to my job,” she says. “It helps me keep my practice current and relevant, and it helps me provide useful professional development for my staff.” Plus, Kelley adds, the busyness of her schedule actually helps her appreciate the calmer moments. “Sometimes it makes me appreciate being in the moment more.”

“Balance and prioritization is key,” says Kelley. “My advice is to stick to a schedule and have some structure. I try to get my schoolwork done on weekends and one night a week. And it’s so important to carve out time for yourself: some time to go to the gym, whatever it might be. Sometimes I just take one night and say ‘I’m not going to not think about school or work tonight.’”


Staying in Storrs: Ed.D. Alumna, Dana Ziter

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

Dana Ziter is an academic advisor in the UConn School of Engineering for the Computer Science & Engineering department. She is not only an alumna who has “Stayed in Storrs” upon completing her degree, but she concurrently held a full-time position at the University during her tenure in the Ed.D. Educational Leadership Program.

Dana Ziter with student
Dana Ziter coaches Computer Science student, Sean Kaufman (Class of 2021), during freshman orientation session

Ziter began her professional career at UConn in June of 2014 as a Program Assistant with the School of Engineering. In 2015, she began her academic career with the university– entering into the Ed.D. Program. Approximately a year into the program, she moved into her current role as an advisor after she got to know the advising team through their use of the Computer Lab during orientation sessions. One of the previous advisors, who was leaving, recognized Ziter’s potential and encouraged her to apply for the position. After the successful defense of her capstone in 2018 and completion of the Ed.D. program, she was prepared for increased responsibility, and received a promotion to an Academic Advisor II status. She is confident that her doctoral degree has prepared her to take on larger leadership roles and continue an upward career trajectory.

Balancing student life with a professional career at the University was not always an easy feat, but through the support of her program cohort and the Educational Leadership faculty, she excelled in her coursework and research. She specifically credits Dr. Jennie Weiner, who was a consistent source of reassurance that she could be successful in both the program and her research. She also thanks her direct supervisors, George Assard, who supervised her during her role as a Program Assistant, as well as her current supervisor, Whitney Losapio, for supporting her career growth in every way possible. Additionally, her current advising teammates were critical supporters– allowing her to interview them for specific projects and use some of their day-to-day situations as part of her coursework and research.

“Both working in an institution and experiencing life as a student has provided me with priceless experiences as a leader, team member, student, facilitator, and most importantly as a listener. Many of our students just need to be heard and it has taken some diligent work on my part to be patient in listening– not just immediately jumping to possible solutions.”  -Dana Ziter

Ziter was able to integrate her professional career with her capstone research as part of the Ed.D. Program, focusing on revising the University Academic Probation protocol and completing a research project on student grade outcomes in correlation with the revision. For this project, she used a regression discontinuity model to analyze the data– a complex model that she never imagined she was capable of. During her time in the program, she also got multiple opportunities to present her work on advising struggling students. She presented at the Region 1 NACADA CT Drive-In conference and annual UConn faculty advisor conference.

She is extremely thankful for the opportunities that her research provided as it allowed her to build connections with advisors and faculty members throughout the university. In working with the University Director of Advising, Dr. Katrina Higgins, on her capstone research she has been able to take on additional projects for the department, bringing insight from her professional and academic career to solve a diverse array of problems.

Overall, Ziter’s experiences both as a student and a professional have been extremely valuable, and she looks forward to the growth opportunities at UConn that her Ed.D. degree has made available.  

EDLR Student Researchers Stand Out at Conferences

Lisa Sepe at UCEA conference 2017
Neag School Ed.D. student Lisa Sepe presents on the topic of exploring teacher collaboration to support diverse learners at the 2017 UCEA Convention, held last month in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Sepe)

The 31st annual University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) Convention was recently held on November 15-19, 2017 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Denver, CO. This year, six students from the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership presented their research. Daron Cyr, Jonathan Carter, Shannon Holder and Alexandra Lamb represented the Learning, Leadership and Educational Policy Program, while Scott Hurwitz and Lisa Sepe represented the Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) Program.

The UCEA Convention engages participants in discussions about research, policy, practice and preparation in the field of education with a specific focus on educational leadership. This year’s theme was Echando Pa’lante: School Leaders (Up)rising as Advocates and (Up)lifting Student Voices, and the intended discussion was centered around encouraging opportunities for reflective dialogue regarding the educational contexts that students, teachers, principals, and superintendents will be facing within a changing national climate and its impact on educational policy.

Such an opportunity has a meaningful impact on the development of doctoral students as researchers in addition to their professional advancement. Scott Hurwitz, a third-year doctoral student pursuing his Ed.D. and the current principal of Gideon Welles School in Glastonbury, CT, commented on the experience saying,

“Presenting at conferences like UCEA affords us the opportunity to collaborate with university faculty and leadership scholars around the globe. We are able to share our research and receive feedback that informs our current and future work.”

Hurwitz’s presentation was titled, “Institutionalizing School Security: A Case Study,” for which he utilized two branches of institutional theory, logics and myths, and symbols to analyze the organizational shifts that took place in Connecticut schools following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He worked on this research with the Department of Educational Leadership’s Dr. Sarah Woulfin and Dr. Jennie Weiner, who he said, “...served as guides and mentors,” in helping him produce relevant and robust research. Hurwitz is an accomplished researcher, who recently defended his Capstone proposal in October 2017. His proposal examined the how school leaders frame policy specifically around Connecticut’s anti-bullying policy.

Shannon Holder at UCEA conference 2017
Ph.D. student Shannon Holder presents at the annual UCEA Convention in Denver last month. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Holder)

  Shannon Holder, who is a third year doctoral student in the Leadership and Educational Policy program presented two projects at this years UCEA conference. Her first presentation was titled, “The Sheff v. O’Neill Decision and Interest Convergence,” where she analyzed the ruling using Derrick Bell’s (1980) Interest Convergence principle which suggests the interest of Blacks in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interests of Whites. Her findings revealed two themes: interests converge in the court documents, and interests have diverged since the case was decided. Holder’s second presentation was titled, “Teacher Sensemaking in the Detracked High School Classroom.”  This qualitative study of high school teachers examined how they made sense of a detracking reform. Sensemaking theory is utilized to analyze participants’ conceptualization of detracking. Holder found that participants tended to have different definitions of detracking and as participants transitioned to teaching in a detracked environment those definitions became increasingly amorphous. These findings signal that teachers may create definitions of detracking that diverge from its formal intentions with implications for policymakers and practitioners.

Like Hurwitz, Holder had previous exposure to UCEA as they both presented at the 2016 conference in Detroit, MI. Jonathan Carter, a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Leadership and Educational Policy program was a newcomer to the student research scene as the 2017 UCEA Conference was his first time presenting research with the Educational Leadership Department at UConn. His research, titled, “Supplementing the core curriculum in a university principal preparation program,” looked at an improvement initiative undertaken by one university’s  principal preparation program to develop a supplemental workshop model to address identified gaps in the core curriculum. Carter was guided by EDLR’s Dr. Richard Gonzalez. As a researcher, Carter found the entire experience valuable to his development saying, “The feedback from other scholars in the field was very useful and will help guide our revisions as we prepare the paper to submit for publication.”

The UCEA conference was one of three academic conferences that the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership students had the opportunity to present at this past year, including the The Harvard Graduate School of Education Student Research Conference in which six students attended and presented their research and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting where five different students were able to present at.

Chelsea Connery, a second year Ph.D. student in Leadership and Education Policy, who attended the Harvard Conference offered a sentiment that all of the student researchers could identify with as she explained,

“Attending conferences such as these, being around motivated and like-minded individuals, can be reinvigorating, which is important, especially in the current sociopolitical context; it can re-foster your hope and resilience.”

The Department is extremely proud of the research and work that our students continue to produce, and thankful for the brilliant and caring faculty that always support them.

Access the full 2017 UCEA Convention program at ucea.org/conference/program-2017

Celebrating Ed.D.’s Capstone Projects and Proposals

This fall, the Ed.D. students have been working towards completing their capstone projects and research proposals as part of the Ed.D. course requirements.  Congratulations to the following students on their dedication to the program as they are one step closer to their degree.

Anthony MangiaficoAnthony Mangiafico, member of the ’15 Ed.D. cohort, successfully defended his capstone proposal on September 27th.  Anthony’s capstone seeks to center the narratives and experiences of Students of Color while currently pursuing their GED.

Dr. Fernández was his major advisor, and Drs. Woulfin, LeChasseur, Femc-Bagwell, and Weiner served on his committee.


Scott Hurwitz headshotScott Hurwitz defended his proposal in October 2017. His capstone research proposal examines the how and to what extent school leaders frame policy with a specific focus on Connecticut's anti-bullying policy. He will also study the factors that shape how leaders frame their policy messages.

Scott was also recently awarded to receive the 2018 AASA Educational Administrative Scholarship Award.

Dr. Cobb is his major advisor, and Drs. Woulfin and LeChasseur are his associate advisors.

Dana ZiterDana Ziter, member of the ’15 Ed.D. cohort, successfully defended her capstone proposal on November 7th.  Dana’s capstone assesses the impact of a new student advising protocol on UConn students currently on academic probation via a regression discontinuity design.

Dr. Cobb was her major advisor, and Drs. Dougherty, Higgins and Weiner served on her committee.

Gail Lanza, member of the ’15 Ed.D. cohort, also successfully defended her capstone proposal on November 30th.  Gail's capstone will focus on public elementary school teachers’ perceptions of their abilities to deal with student misbehaviors, their perceptions of student misbehaviors, and the strategies that teachers use to reduce feelings of burnout.

Dr. Woulfin is her major advisor, and Drs. Weiner and Gabriel are serving on her committee.

Cohort’s Collaborative Effort Stands Out as Members Recently Complete Ed.D. Program

Members of the 2013 cohort, Meg Smith, Lara White, Roszena Haskins, Tayarisha Stone, Regina Hopkins and Ann Traynor, have all recently earned their Doctorate of Education through the Ed.D. Program from the Neag School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership. Achieving a doctorate while working as a high level professional is a difficult task, however, the women of the 2013 cohort were able to accomplish this feat through collaboration and continual support of one another. Their ability to balance work, personal life, and academia, and the way they tackled critical issues in the field of education was inspiring and set a model for future cohorts. Dr. Sarah Woulfin noted that “this cohort’s efforts provides a stellar example of how Ed.D. cohorts can collaborate to attain their goals as scholars and educational leaders.”

Members of the 2013 cohort worked well inside and outside of the classroom
Members of the 2013 cohort worked well together, both inside and outside of the classroom

There was always a strong presence and communication which set the tone for their cohort success. Meg Smith, described the cohort as academically and emotionally supportive and that members, “...were always attuned to what was happening with people professionally.” Ann Traynor echoed this as she said her fellow cohort members served as, “‘Critical friends’ during courses, the development of our problem of practice and proposal, and during the research, analysis and writing of our dissertations.” They were a cohesive unit, who bonded not only as professionals and peers, but as friends. The cohort often had dinner together, and socialized outside of the program, which strengthened their dynamic and built lasting friendships.

Cohort member, Roszena Haskins commented that,

“The diverse educational and professional make-up of our cohort was invaluable throughout the program. We shared our individual expertise, resources and strengths with each other. When we experienced challenges, we united as a problem-solving body and support system. Our cohort was collaborative. Our interactions in the classroom evolved into a special network of educators and developed lasting relationships outside of the academic setting.”

Despite their inspiring work ethic, their commitment included some challenges. Each member was growing in their respective full-time careers, and taking on new challenges as school leaders. Lara White explained, “We have all had to manage our careers, graduate school, and family, and it wasn't always easy but we understood each other in a way that others couldn't.”

Other members reiterated this sentiment saying that they felt they did not always have “full access” as most of the cohort members were off-campus. They credited cohort member, Ann Traynor, who works as the Director of Academic Advising and Certification Officer at the Neag School of Education for assisting the cohort with many on-campus responsibilities and giving them an inside perspective about the university. Each member had to be disciplined with how they split their time, but as a team they complemented each other's obligations and responsibilities to tackle the workload, together.

While they came from different backgrounds, and had different research interests the cohort was able to share research while building each other’s confidence. Their research included:

  • Improving cultural competence through professional development
  • Teachers’ emotional responses to coaching
  • Culturally responsive instruction and the recruitment and retention of teachers of color
  • College readiness, persistence and success through the lens of equity and policy
  • How educational policy and policy implementation can create or perpetuate inequities, especially for students of color and first-generation college students

Across the board, cohort members brought passion and dedication while engaging in quality research and creating meaningful work around these critical issues. They identified overlapping themes and helped each other whenever they could. This type of support is critical in framing the cohort's culture while maintaining a work-life balance.

This unique group unanimously agreed their success was a result of Ed.D’s faculty. Meg Smith stressed the value of how each professor challenged the cohort members academically, while concurrently building their confidence.  She also stated the “professors of the Ed.D. program universally are absolute experts in their field selected because they understand challenges of working, and they have the absolute keenest sense of what you need to know in each sub field to enhance practice and scholarship.”

Meg Stone with Dr. Sarah Woulfin
Meg Smith standing outside of the Gentry building with Ed.D. faculty, Dr. Sarah Woulfin

Smith explained that faculty, specifically Dr. Sarah Woulfin, went out of her way to make sure she was creating meaningful work, while also ensuring that she knew her work was of the caliber to present at conferences such as the AERA Annual Meeting. Lara White also emphasized how meaningful it was to have the faculty's support,

“I loved the level of care and intelligence of our department. Dr. Woulfin ensured that we never felt alone and always provided help and assurance of our endeavors.”

2013 Cohort graduates with Drs. Jennie Weiner and Sarah Woulfin
2013 Cohort graduates with Drs. Jennie Weiner and Sarah Woulfin

Support from the entire faculty illustrated a passion for educational leadership that members were able to feed off of and inspired their work. Roszena Haskins described how the program and its faculty “established an engaging learning community where I especially enjoyed the dissertation research process for which I had three strong advisors who understood my strengths and responded to my academic needs.”

The community of support among faculty and within the cohort itself drove motivation for members to create meaningful work and stay disciplined to finishing the program in a timely manner. Teamwork and passion drove their success which led them to finishing their degree in four years while tackling critical issues surrounding education within Connecticut.

The Department of Educational Leadership and Ed.D. program extends deep congratulations to the women of the 2013 cohort on their completion of the Ed.D. program and thanks them for their hard work, dedication and, commitment to their degree, the program and each other.