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2018 Dean’s Report


3 From the Dean 4 A New Start in Hartford UConn comes to the state’s capital with a new campus in downtown Hartford.

6 Cosmic Dawn at UConn The new astrophysics program brings the study of the universe to CLAS.

8 A Prized Class COMM 1000: The Process of Communication earns a national intro course award.

Cover: Ellen Yang ’18 (CLAS), Frank Amaefuna ’18 (CLAS), and Leann Mclaren ’19 (CLAS)—members of the CLAS Student Leadership Board—have a laugh at the Steps to the Bottom of a Pyramid sculpture outside of Homer Babbidge Library.

Read more on page 10

Above: A drawer of ant specimens from the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection housed in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Read more on page 13

9 The Next Generation of Research Leaders

A national fellowship program challenges undergraduates with graduate-level research.

10 Introducing the

CLAS Student Leadership Board The Board builds community and collaboration in CLAS.

11 Scholarship Stories Meet the accomplished students whose stories make up the fabric of our College.

12 Poetry Meets World UConn’s student-published literary journal celebrates its 20th anniversary.

13 Be Our “Guest” Rettenmeyer exhibit brings thousands of ants and their “guests” to life.

14 Our Strength, in Numbers

15 Huskies Helping Huskies Students meet alumni for an evening of career networking.


Dear Friends, This year was one of tremendous growth in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We celebrated national recognition, we welcomed new faculty and students, and we opened a new campus. While we faced continued budget cuts, we persisted in our research excellence and inspiring student success. Our University rose to an all-time high of No. 18 among U.S. News & World Report’s Top Public Research Institutions in 2017. This rise from 38 in 2000 reflects the University’s strides in retention and graduation rates, reputation, and support from donors. It places our University in the top 5 percent of all colleges nationwide. In CLAS, we hired 29 new tenure-track faculty across the sciences, social

COLLEGE LEADERSHIP Interim Dean: Davita Silfen Glasberg, Professor of Sociology

sciences, and humanities. An impressive 84 percent of our recent graduates reported positive employment outcomes six months post-graduation. Our students graduated in an average of 4.2 years, the third-fastest among U.S. public institutions. The beautiful new UConn Hartford campus opened to a warm reception from the city. CLAS programs in public policy and urban and community studies use the downtown space to train exceptional public servants.

Despite budget setbacks, we sustained an impressive $40 million research program. Among the many faculty who earned national accolades was Micki McElya, director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, whose book, The Politics of Mourning, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. As you read this volume, I hope you’ll be inspired to visit us in Storrs in 2018. Our faculty, students, and staff—as well as myself—would love to thank you in person for your support.

Our progress is especially notable since it occurred while state appropriations to UConn continued to decline. The College suffered difficult budget cuts, leading to decreases in funding for our 24 departments and eight interdisciplinary centers and institutes.


Associate Dean of Humanities and Regional Campuses: Shirley Roe, Professor of History

Associate Dean of Physical Sciences and Graduate Education and Research: Robin Côté, Professor of Physics

Associate Dean of Life and Behavioral Sciences and Undergraduate Education: Andrew Moiseff, Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology

Associate Dean of Social Sciences and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, Professor of Political Science

Davita Silfen Glasberg Interim Dean


2018 Dean’s Report

A New Start in Har 1

2018 Dean’s Report

On August 23, 2017, UConn threw open the doors of its new campus in downtown Hartford, lighting up the majestic five-story Hartford Times Building. The campus houses science labs, hightech classrooms, and offices; a shared space with the Hartford Public Library; and sunny common spaces for students. UConn Hartford offers students from all backgrounds the benefits of a small college environment with the resources and faculty of a world-class research university. Programs at the Hartford campus—which houses more than 3,400 students, faculty, and staff—prioritize outreach and service, and incorporate the cultural, political, and economic institutions of the city. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin calls the campus a major piece of a Hartford’s “long-awaited revitalization.”

tford 2


IN THE CITY The CLAS Department of Public Policy, located on the fourth floor of the new campus, is uniquely situated to send its students out into the city through its Intern and Professional Practice Program. Mariela Abreu, a Department of Public Policy graduate student, spent her first year interning right across the street at Hartford City Hall’s Office of Management and Budget. Working with Director Melissa McCaw ’14 MPA, the internship has given Abreu the analytical skills to move into a career in public and nonprofit management. “Our classes have taught me to analyze and interpret data, which is so important in difficult budget times,” says Abreu. “And you get a wellrounded sense of what it’s like to be in public administration.”


1. Public policy graduate student Mariela Abreu at Hartford City Hall. 2. Undergraduate students in a biology class utilize new lab space.

• CLAS students can complete four-year degrees at the UConn Hartford campus, including English, psychological sciences, human development and family studies, and urban and community studies.

3. Melissa McCaw ’14 MPA, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, at a meeting with fellow alumni and interns of UConn’s Department of Public Policy.


• Students in the Urban Semester Program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018, live in downtown Hartford and take classes on both the theory and practice of solving real-world urban challenges, using Hartford as a case study. • The UConn Writing Center, housed in CLAS, offers monthly Saturdaymorning workshops for city residents, who can bring a poem, a resume, a paper, or any other writing for an hour of critique from English faculty. • State-of-the-art laboratories and the Quantitative Learning Center support STEM classes in chemistry, biology, math, physics, statistics, and computer science.


2018 Dean’s Report

Cosmic Dawn at UConn Three astronomers with interests in the birth and growth of black holes, stars, and galaxies recently landed at the College’s Department of Physics. But even before they set foot on campus, the new faculty began receiving emails from enthusiastic UConn sudents. “Our students are very excited because they have been requesting such a program at UConn for a long time,” says Nora Berrah, professor and head of the Department of Physics.

Assistant Professors of Physics Kate Whitaker, Jonathan Trump, and Cara Battersby, pictured below, came to UConn for the opportunity to build a modern astrophysics program from the ground up, and because of the University’s commitment to STEM fields through initiatives like Next Generation Connecticut. The program builds on introductory astronomy classes into advanced courses like Stars and Compact Objects, Galaxies and Cosmology, and Radiative Processes. They prepare students not only to examine the stars, but to enter into any career involving problem solving, creativity, and lots and lots of data.

SEEING STARS Astronomers collaborate on observation projects centered around massive telescopes situated across the globe. With a nearly $1 million UConn investment, UConn astrophysics researchers will join a new project at Hawaii’s Subaru telescope (pictured above), which can observe a section of sky as wide as the moon. It will allow the scientists to observe the chemical fingerprints of cosmic objects from millions of years ago. Trump and Whitaker were also selected among only 13 of more than 100 proposals worldwide to participate in NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will replace the Hubble Telescope. Both of these collaborations begin in 2019.

ENGAGING HUSKIES Back in Storrs, the new faculty members also engage in community outreach initiatives. In the summer of 2017, the Department of Physics hosted a solar eclipse viewing party on Horsebarn Hill, which attracted hundreds of students and community members alike. Trump also leads tours of the UConn Observatory for UConn alumni.

Above: Graduate student Yasaman Homayouni helps Gerald M. Lemega ’67 (CLAS) view the sun through a solar telescope during Huskies Forever Weekend in October 2017.


A Prized Class:

On the last day of class, after Assistant Professor in Residence of Communication Stephen Stifano ’08 MA, ’11 Ph.D. overhauled Comm 1000: The Process of Communication, the auditorium’s 350 students rose from their seats in applause. “The class made me want to major in communication—well, actually, Professor Stifano made me want to,” says communication major Jamie Sevush ’19 (CLAS). “I think when someone shows you how much they love something, you understand too. It’s infectious!” The course was recently recognized by the National Communication

COMM 1000 earns national recognition

Association with its Basic Course Program of Distinction Award. Comm 1000 regularly enrolls 700 students each semester and includes students from as many as 50 different majors. Stifano says that teaching students from that many different backgrounds poses a real challenge.

“I am extremely excited about this award,” Stifano says. “It’s validation that people were willing to work with me and that my students were willing to go on a bit of an adventure with me.”

He added supplementary material to the redesigned course, including multimedia tools like faculty-created podcasts. He also added discussion challenges through which students devise solutions to interpersonal ethical dilemmas, workplace controversies, and other real-world problems. And the innovtaions paid off. The withdrawal rate in the course dropped by 60 percent, showing Stifano that students were more engaged and more likely to continue with the course— something that’s very important at the beginning of students’ college careers.

Top: Kara McGillicuddy, a communication Ph.D. student and teaching assistant, leads a COMM 1000 discussion section in Oak Hall. Above: Assistant Professor in Residence Stephen Stifano ’08 MA, ’11 Ph.D. speaks with a student after class.

2018 Dean’s Report

The Next Generation of Research Leaders In 2016, UConn was one of only 12 institutions nationwide selected by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation to participate in its Beckman Scholars Program, a competitive initiative that provides graduate-level research experience to undergraduate students. UConn’s Beckman Scholars Program will award scholarships to six biology and chemistry students during the threeyear award period. “The program allowed me to devote the last year of my undergraduate career to research, which was fundamental for making headway on my project,” says Brock Chimileski ’17 (CLAS), the Program’s first scholarship recipient. Under the guidance of faculty mentors, Beckman scholars receive full-time research funding for two consecutive summers and part-time funding during the intervening academic year. A major plus of the program is the length of the award period, says Elizabeth Rodier ’18 (CLAS), who along with Jessica Young ’19 (CLAS) was named a Beckman Scholar in the spring of 2017. Rodier’s project assesses a new drug for epilepsy by measuring its effect on neonatal brain activity that is associated with severe forms of epilepsy. “The technique we use takes a lot of time, and being able to work over the summer helped me collect a lot of data and become more self-sufficient in the lab,” says Rodier.


“It’s really nice to be able to concentrate all of your focus on one topic and think more in-depth about it,” agrees Young. Young’s project investigates the regulation of ovulation using a fruit fly model. She says the experience will help her pursue a career as an OB-GYN.

“The Beckman Scholars Program allowed me to get more involved in research, receive funding, and interact with other people who are extremely passionate about science.” Jessica Young ’19 (CLAS) In August 2017, Chimileski, Rodier, and Young met other Beckman Scholars and research professionals at an annual nationwide symposium in Irvine, California. Rodier and Young will return in 2018 to present their work.


“It’s exciting because we’re at the beginning of our careers, learning how to be scientists and how to do research,” says Young. “To interact with other scholars who have been through that, and for them be so extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what they’re doing, is really inspiring.” 3

1. Physiology and neurobiology (PNB) and Spanish major Elizabeth Rodier ’18 (CLAS) in the lab of faculty mentor Anastasios Tzingounis, associate professor of PNB. 2. Brock Chimileski ’17 (CLAS), UConn’s first Beckman Scholar, with mentors Assistant Professor of PNB Alex Jackson and Ph.D. student Laura Mickelsen. 3. PNB major Jessica Young ’19 (CLAS) working in the lab of her faculty mentor, Assistant Professor of PNB Jianjun Sun.



Introducing the

CLAS Student Leadership Board


1 1. Alumnus John Ovian ’17 (CLAS) at CLAS Sundae Fest, an annual event put on by the Board to help students celebrate the end of the academic year. 2. Maddy Farrell ’19 (CLAS), right, co-leads an alumni tour of campus during Huskies Forever Weekend in October 2017. Farrell served as the Board’s Vice President of Recruitment and Volunteer Coordination for 2017-18. 3. 2017-18 Board president Shahan Kamal ’19 (CLAS) presents his research at the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research poster session. 4. Members of the 2017-18 CLAS Student Leadership Board.


The CLAS Student Leadership Board is a group of undergraduates from across the College committed to strengthening the academic experience and student community in UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This year’s 26 motivated students represent a diverse array of academic interests, from biological science and physics to history and political science, and come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. But they share the common thread of celebrating the values of a liberal arts education. Through regular meetings, the group serves as a liaison between the CLAS student body and the Dean. The Board also volunteers as ambassadors to students and alumni through events like UConn Open House and Huskies Forever Weekend, and produces a series of events that enrich the CLAS student community, including the flagship CLAS Sundae Fest each April.

“As a member of the CLAS Student Leadership Board, I’ve noticed that every single person you meet here brings something unique to the table. It’s like a puzzle, where you put all the pieces together.” Shahan Kamal ’19 (CLAS) President, 2017-2018 CLAS Student Leadership Board


2018 Dean’s Report


SCHOLARSHIP STORIES “Fellowship support allowed me to dive into research in my first year, which many Ph.D. students can’t do because they’re juggling coursework and a TA load—and just life! It also allowed me to do things like attend visiting lectures and events at the UConn Humanities Institute and be part of the intellectual community here.” Aimee Loiselle Ph.D. candidate, Department of History; 2017-2018 recipient of the Covenant Insurance Company Summer Fellowship

“UConn has definitely expanded my horizons. I took a course on U.S. homelessness; it is the reason why I added human rights as a double major. I also took a class on the Syrian Refugee Crisis that got me into my research. I plan on going to law school after I graduate to be an international human rights lawyer.”

We’re making a difference for our students.

Susan Naseri ’20 (CLAS)

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the College is able to provide rich learning opportunities and scholarship support to students across disciplines.

Political science and human rights major; 2017-2018 recipient of the Alan R. Bennett Honors Scholarship in Political Science and the Paul J. Volpe ’67 Award

“I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. My parents wanted to give me a better opportunity for education and raise me in a better environment, so we moved here when I was really young. Receiving the scholarship has been meaningful because I’m more able to afford college now. It pushes me to keep going. It also brought a lot of joy to my parents; they see that it was worth it to come here.”

Livingston Cortez ’19 (CLAS) Psychological sciences and Spanish major; 2017-2018 recipient of the David A. Kenny, Sr. Scholarship in Psychology

You can help us make a difference. Learn more at clas.uconn.edu/ giving

2018 Dean’s Report

Poetry Meets World English majors know that in our technology-oriented world, they often have to defend their studies. “What are you going to do with that?” is an oft-heard question. But in the Department of English, students can get a leg up in the publishing world by producing a fullfledged magazine. The Long River Review, UConn’s student-run literary magazine, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. Featuring original works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, translations, and artwork by UConn students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the LRR is a joint venture between the CLAS Department of English and the Design Center in the School of Fine Arts. “There’s no substitute for what I’ve learned producing the Long River Review,” says Stephanie Koo ’17 (CLAS), editor-in-chief of the 2017 edition. “We have one annual publication that we work hard on, and it’s really cool to have a hard copy to hold in our hands.”

The publication was originally founded in 1983 under the name Writing UConn. In 1998, it was transformed into a student-focused literary magazine by author Leslie Brody ’93 Ph.D., who joined the UConn faculty after earning her doctorate in English; acclaimed author Wally Lamb ’72 (CLAS), ’77 MA; and Emerita Professor of English and former Connecticut Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson. Students enrolled in the LRR course meet each week to discuss, make decisions about, and produce the magazine. Outside of class, they review hundreds of submissions and work independently on promotional projects and initiatives for the magazine. “It’s not like any other class I’m used to teaching,” says Assistant Professor in Residence of English and Director of Creative Writing Sean Forbes, who served as the faculty advisor of the 2017 publication. “It’s technically a practicum course, but it’s also more than that.” Forbes says that students apply many practical skills on a daily basis, ranging from working in groups to organizing

Students take part in a a production meeting of the Long River Review in March, 2017.

events and fundraisers to managing individual projects. “Serving on the staff of LRR gets our students jobs,” says Visiting Assistant Professor of English Darcie Dennigan, who advised the magazine from 20132014. “It’s an apprenticeship in literary editing and publishing.”

Cover of the LRR 20th anniversary edition.


Be Our

“Guest” The seven four-foot black ants marching across the side of the Biology/Physics Building would like you to follow them inside. But don’t be afraid. These models, about 200 times actual size, lead the way to “Be Our Guest: An Exhibit on the Complex Society of Army Ants and Their Guests.” The exhibit is an introduction to the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection, consisting of more than two million specimens, naturalist photographs, and field notes from research by the late Carl Rettenmeyer, a faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) from 1971 to 1996, and his wife, Marian. The Rettenmeyers worked in Central and South America for 50 years studying the complex societies of army ants and the thousands of “guests”—like mites, beetles, flies, and wasps—that rely on them to survive. In addition to hundreds of thousands of army ants, the collection includes 92,000 specimens of guests representing 187 species. The exhibit stems from a partnership between EEB and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History (CSMNH) —which Rettenmeyer himself founded — under a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. “What initially appeared to be a simple system was, in fact, fantastically complex,” says Janine Caira, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who oversaw production of the exhibit. The exhibit is part of a host of programs from the EEB/CSMNH collaboration aptly named AntU, including a display of UConn student poetry about army ants in the Wilbur Cross Building; a puppetry workshop for the public; and a digital media course in which students animate the lives of army ants. The exhibit is open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through 2019.

2018 Dean’s Report





Academic Departments

No. 18

UConn’s position in U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of top public universities (our highest ranking yet).

Centers and Institutes



Undergraduate Majors

Undergraduate Minors


$40 million

Research expenditures in CLAS in FY17.


Fall 2017

Fall 2017

Students at Storrs campus Students at regional campuses

8,010 1,801

Students at Storrs campus Students at regional campuses





of UConn undergraduates are CLAS majors.

Student Characteristics Fall 2017

Female Minority International



Undergraduate Graduate 57% 55% 34% 12% 6% 33%

1,592 167



of UConn graduate students are in CLAS program tracks.

UConn Nation

100,000 alumni

More than of UConn have degrees from CLAS.

of UConn faculty are housed in CLAS departments.

CLAS awards half of all undergraduate degrees at UConn.

of total credit hours at UConn are taught in CLAS.

of CLAS graduates reported positive outcomes* 6 months post-graduation.


*Employed, continuing education, or service

2018 Dean’s Report


Huskies Helping Huskies

Payam Andalib ’04 MS, ’05 Ph.D., center, leads a roundtable discussion at CLAS Career Night with Haley McMullen ’18 (CLAS), right.

“What can I do with my major?” “What are my career options?” “How can I make my professional goals into a reality?” A new event series for CLAS students, coordinated in partnership with the UConn Center for Career Development, addresses these questions by tapping a uniquely qualified set of professionals: UConn graduates. Introduced in 2017, CLAS Career Nights connect alumni and employers with current students for conversations about careers. The fall 2017 event highlighted options for students in the sciences, with a particular focus on biology majors, who comprise nearly 20 percent of the College’s undergraduates. “I am so glad that many career events take place at UConn throughout the year that provide students with opportunities to interact with employers and alumni,” says roundtable facilitator Payam Andalib ’04 MS, ’05 Ph.D. Andalib is regional director and director of quality assurance and academic affairs at SafePassage Neuromonitoring and an adjunct instructor at UConn. He says that he was eager to share his unique professional journey and to present a new career path to students.

“It’s important to see alumni talk about how proud they are to come from UConn and the great things they accomplished while they were here.” Haley McMullen ’18 (CLAS)

“I spoke with many of them about a variety of topics, from their current career choices to transitioning from the life of a student to a professional,” he says. “It was really nice to have alumni like Payam come back and talk about concrete jobs that we didn’t even know existed,” says attendee Haley McMullen ’18 (CLAS), a pre-med student studying physiology and neurobiology and French. McMullen plans to take a gap year after she graduates, then apply to medical school. She says she felt encouraged by her interactions with alumni who had successfully navigated a variety of paths to a career in medicine. “As a pre-med student, I really loved the event,” says McMullen. “Getting to sit down and talk to someone who has my dream job and learn about the track they took was amazing.”

Keep in touch with your alma mater. Stay connected to CLAS by attending a CLAS career event, finding out the latest news from your department, and more. Learn more at clas.uconn.edu/alumni

Office of the Dean 215 Glenbrook Road, Unit 4098 | Storrs, CT | 06269-4098 clas.uconn.edu

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Dean's Report 2018  

Dean's Report 2018  

Profile for uconnclas