Ph.D. Student Pauline Batista Seeks to Support Youth’s Voice

LLEP Ph.D. student, Pauline Batista is making an impact and inspiring others to have a voice.  In the Neag School of Education article she shared, “That was when I thinking, ‘Maybe I should really get a Ph.D.’ Because people like me typically don’t have a voice,” Batista says. “But if they have the right education, all of a sudden, they have a voice. All of a sudden, the door is open.”

Ph.D. Candidates Integrate Open Dialogue Into Sport Management Courses

Several Neag School graduate students and faculty have been named 2019-20 Initiative on Campus Dialogues Fellows. This initiative brings together UConn students, staff, and faculty, as well as nonuniversity practitioners, to focus on dialogue and implementation. Sport Management graduate students Charles Macaulay and Ajhanai Newton, with Laura Burton and Justin Evanovich, are Fellows with their project “Sports Talk: Creating Dialogical Classrooms for the Development of Future Sport Leaders;”

Gerardo Blanco is a Fellow with the project “Promoting Cosmopolitanism through Global Dialogue in the Classroom”; and Patricia O’Rourke, a graduate student in curriculum and instruction, is a Fellow on the project “Continuing Project: Democratic Public Dialogue on Equity and Integration in Education.” Read more about Neag School’s ICD Fellows for 2019-20.

Sport Management Doctoral Student Recent Success

Ajhanai (AJ) Channel Inez Newton, a doctoral student in sport management, received the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport’s Gary Sailes Award in November. She also co-published “Being Black in a Sea of Color: AA Phenomenological Study Exploring Black Students’ Racial Experiences at AANAPISI and Emerging HSI” for the December issue of Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity. 

Race, Place, and the Uneven Distribution of Black or Hispanic Educators in CT

Jeremy B. Landa, a Neag School doctoral student in the Learning, Leadership, and Educational Policy program, prepared the following issue brief — in affiliation with the Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) — exploring the distribution of Black or Hispanic educators across Connecticut’s school districts.

Student-Professional Feature: Ngozi Taffe

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 program 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 LLEP Program.

Ngozi Taffe, Director of the Project Management Office in ITS, is working to complete her doctorate in UConn’s Learning, Leadership, and Educational Policy (LLEP) Ph.d. Program. Taffe, who earned a BS in Information Technology and an MBA both from UConn, has returned, after working for 15 years in the corporate world, to implement and support new projects at UConn.

Ngozi Taffe headshot

Formerly the Director of Financial Systems at UConn, Taffe’s role evolved to Director of Project Management about a year ago. While the implementation of policy and software has stayed the same, Taffe works to solve more complex issues within the educational arena and change technology for the better to keep up with evolving policies. In her doctoral program, Taffe specializes in studying college persistence within minority populations and addresses the “element of grit that comes to both areas.” Essentially, she’s interested in building software for people while researching about people.

By connecting her research interests to real-life experiences, she is learning “to listen to people express experiences in voice, research factors, and other successes, and capitalize and create a roadmap on those successes.” A road that leads Taffe towards understanding and solving bigger societal issues.

While Taffe’s work is “very rewarding,” balancing school, work, and family obligations continue to be a “juggling act.” On top of being a student-professional, Taffe is both a spouse and a parent and works to fill both shoes while also accomplishing her own personal goals. Taffe does admit though that this kind of lifestyle is not for everybody, but being the continuous learner that she is, she loves to engage in critical research and push her intellectual boundaries. She states, “the benefit of what you’re doing is what drives you.”

“As an adult learner, with several levels of responsibility, there’s a benefit of working and going to school.”

With Neag’s flexibility in providing classes after business hours, Taffe encourages students to take advantage of the available opportunities to gain professional experience while advancing your education. By aligning your work with your academics, with some level of overlap, you learn to make necessary trade-offs which can deepen your level of understanding while pushing you to achieve your long-term goals.

Taffe’s recommendation for other students looking to become student-professionals is to surround yourselves with supportive advisors who understand and appreciate the challenges you’re going through; align yourself with a support/peer group that shares similar interests and goals. As Casey Cobb, her advisor comments,

“She has found a way not only to balance work, life, and student demands, but also found interconnections among all those areas.”

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.”