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2019 Dean’s Report

Cover: Cahill Chen ’20 (CLAS), an actuarial science major and statistics and history minor, works out a problem in a study group at the Homer Babbidge Library. Below: In his cover story for the October 2018 issue of National Geographic, Associate Professor of Journalism Scott Wallace writes about isolated nomadic tribes in the Amazon. Here, Awá families from Posto Awá, an outpost created by the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs agency, set out on an overnight excursion into the forest. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.


3 From the Dean 4 Climate Changing Connecticut

Biology professors are making strides toward understanding and preventing the effects of climate change in our state.

6 Going Global Dual degrees in Chinese, French, German, and Spanish are giving tomorrow’s engineers a global advantage.

8 Access to the Arabic World A new major explores the Arabic and Islamic civilizations of the Middle East and North Africa.

9 Out with the Lecture, In with the Studio

New studio-style classes in physics give students a proven learning advantage.

10 Scholarship Stories 12 Next-Gen Science The Engineering and Science Building houses stateof-the-art genomics and computational biology spaces.

13 Geosciences

Department Joins CLAS The new department will serve a growing demand for Earth science degrees at UConn.

14 Our Strength, in Numbers

15 Inspiring Future Scientists

UConn’s Science Salon Junior gets the littlest scientists working on robotic hands, electric cars, and glow-in-thedark compounds.


COLLEGE LEADERSHIP Interim Dean Davita Silfen Glasberg, Professor of Sociology

Associate Dean of Social Sciences and Regional Campuses Edith Barrett, Professor of Public Policy

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 Humanities and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Cathy Schlund-Vials, Professor of English and Asian and Asian American Studies

Dear Friends, In a recent gathering of College faculty at a training on interacting with the news media, I thanked those in attendance for picking up the phone when a reporter from the New York Times calls their office. Academia is not traditionally a place where outreach to the public is respected, and it’s not always easy for professors to put their work on the line in a public setting. Here in CLAS, we work hard to combat that perception, and our faculty are exceptionally effective at communicating about their work. In a world where public opinion is constantly shifting, I’m proud of our faculty’s accomplishments in the public sphere. Indeed, public research, scholarship, and recognition has been a major theme for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences this year. Our faculty appeared in more than 300 national

and international news outlets, speaking about their research and scholarship, and commenting on such timely topics as immigration, climate change, and racial politics. We had a banner year for research grants, receiving more than $60 million in external grants across our divisions of humanities, sciences, and social sciences. We also celebrated the opening of a new Department of Geosciences. The Department had operated as the Center for Integrative Geosciences since 2004, and the forward momentum of its faculty and students propelled them to recognition as a full-fledged department by the UConn Board of Trustees in January 2019. This reorganization comes with a refreshed curriculum in Earth sciences that gives our students a new pathway to a rigorous STEM education. I very much look forward to the successes of this new department.

Finally, it is with a wistful yet proud feeling that I will step down as Interim Dean of the College in July 2019, and return to my research in sociology and human rights. I have truly enjoyed the distinct honor and privilege of leading the College for more than two years, and have been especially lucky to meet so many of our biggest allies and supporters among our alumni and friends. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for playing your part in making our College the vibrant heart of UConn. Please join me in welcoming Professor Juli Wade of Michigan State University as our new Dean in the summer of 2019. With warm regards,

Davita Silfen Glasberg Interim Dean




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Students and professors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are making strides toward understanding, mitigating, and preventing climate change in Connecticut and beyond. In 2018, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology earned more than $6.5 million in grant funding, focusing much of its work on the changing Connecticut landscape.

2019 Dean’s Report




Connecticut Agricultural Station, New Haven, CT

Totoket Mountain, Northford, CT

Climate change means that Connecticut insects are disappearing and out-of-state insects are appearing, says Professor David Wagner, who leads an entomology field course each spring. New arachnid arrivals include lone star ticks, which transmit the flu-like ehrlichiosis; and chiggers, tiny red mites that have a pernicious bite. “We need to be more mindful about the decisions we make, one tree at a time, one yard at a time, one campus at a time,” says Wagner.

Fifteen years ago, the predatory marbled salamander nested only in ponds fed by streams—about a third of Connecticut ponds in its range— that didn’t freeze in the winter, says Associate Professor Mark Urban. In recent winters, far more ponds don’t freeze over, so the salamander now runs rampant, unraveling these tiny ecosystems. “This is one of the biggest changes I’ve ever witnessed,” says Urban.



Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

UConn Forest, Storrs, CT

The saltmarsh sparrow nests in marshes along the southern coast of Connecticut, in areas traditionally safe from the tides. But with sea levels rising, many of their nests now flood, and Associate Professor Christopher Elphick predicts they will be extinct within 40 years. “There’s no evidence that sea level rise is going to stop,” he says. “In fact, there’s evidence that it will speed up and get worse.”

Professor Kurt Schwenk, a herpetologist, has brought his students “herping” in the UConn Forest for almost 30 years, and has watched spring peepers, a herald of New England spring, decline. The frogs emerge on the increasingly warm winter days, wear themselves out calling, and don’t make it through the winter, Schwenk guesses. “I have noticed clear changes in some species,” he says, “And the big question is, ‘why?’”


How do you take a degree from UConn’s growing School of Engineering and make it even better? You make it, says Associate Professor of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages Jennifer Terni, a global, dual degree. The Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages in CLAS and the School of Engineering launched their new collaborative International Engineering Program in 2018, in which undergraduates studying engineering spend an academic year abroad and immerse themselves in Chinese, French, German, or Spanish. The hands-on, global experience creates young professionals with both cultural and technical competencies and prepares them for careers around the world, says Terni, the program’s co-director. “These students are learning to think in another language,” she says. “When you marry the cultural experience with engineering training, students become better engineers because they learn to think outside the box on a daily basis.”

2019 Dean’s Report


The newest program, called Technopole France, launched this year as an exchange with the University of Toulouse, France. The home of aerospace manufacturing giant Airbus, Toulouse is akin to Silicon Valley in its concentration of researchers, universities, and technologies.

The AsiaTech program takes students to Shanghai, China, and emphasizes mechanical, materials, electrical, and chemical engineering, and computer science. The study of upper-level Chinese makes AsiaTech especially rigorous.

The Engineering Spanish program sends its 40 students to Valencia, Spain, and emphasizes biological engineering disciplines, such as biomechanics and biomedical engineering. The Polytechnic University of Valencia is a leader in cutting-edge biomedical research, such as sport concussions and designing headgear for soccer players.

The flagship Eurotech program, which places UConn undergraduates at universities and internships in the Baden-WĂźrttemberg region of Germany, celebrated its 25th year at UConn in 2018. Its 120 students study in an engineering discipline and participate in a full-time internship that immerses them in the German language.


Access to the Arabic World Beginning this May, students at UConn who want fluency in the Arabic language and deep knowledge of classical and modern Islamic culture and heritage can declare a major in Arabic and Islamic civilizations. The program examines the many different perceptions—both real and imagined—of the Arab world, and the different linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions that shape it. The Arabic language gives its speakers access to many different nations and cultures, including Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and others across the Middle East and North Africa. Students can also study

abroad in Muscat, Oman during the summer, and take immersive Arabic dialect courses. Some students are native speakers of Arabic or have a Muslim background; and others are not sure what it means to be “Arab” or “Muslim,” and so come to learn, according to Nicola Carpentieri, the program director and an assistant professor of literatures, cultures, and languages. In his course titled Al-Andalus: Music, Literature, and Science in Muslim Spain, Carpentieri teaches on the medieval Muslim territory in southern Spain that helped to shape Spanish and European literature, music, philosophy, medicine, and art. The major appeals to students who are studying in many other areas, including the sciences, says Carpentieri.

Above: A Muslim prayer service at the Hartford Public Library before an event at UConn Hartford. Below: Nicola Carpentieri, assistant professor of literatures, cultures, and languages, leads an Arabic studies class outside the Benton Museum.

“Our students come from all majors, but they are curious and motivated,” he says. “They may have seen bad press about the Arab world. But they’re open-minded and aware that simplistic divisions are fabrications. We want to shatter the binaries of East and West.”

2019 Dean’s Report


Out with the Lecture, In with the Studio Step into a class section of Fundamentals of Physics II, and you’ll find a scene far from a typical large introductory science lecture. The class of 30 sits at triangular workspaces covered with wires, coils, magnets, and power supplies used to demonstrate electromagnetic induction. The instructors move from group to group, stopping to answer questions. Students shuttle back and forth to whiteboards lining the walls, working out problems and explaining concepts to one another. Thanks to renovations to the Edward V. Gant Science Complex, it’s a scene that will soon become common in UConn physics courses, says Barrett Wells, professor and head of the Department of Physics. “We’re rebuilding our classes from the ground up,” he says.

The curricular redesign will replace the characteristic large-lecture format with these small classes using five new studio-style physics learning laboratories to be added to the Gant Science Complex in 2019. Combining the lecture and laboratory into one class is proven to increase concept learning and improve students’ collaborative problem-solving skills. “This is a trend we’re seeing in our discipline,” Wells says. “Restricting class size to promote students actively participating during class has been documented to help them achieve and learn more across the board.” Physics and mathematics major Ian Segal-Gould ’21 (CLAS) says the class fosters the skills expected of professional physicists. “In lecture-based courses, people look at the professor,” he says. “They’re

Top: Students collaborate on a problem-solving tutorial in a class section of Fundamentals of Physics II. Above: Course instructor and Ph.D. student Lukasz Kuna ’14 (CLAS), ’17 MS assists a group including Ian Segal-Gould ’21 (CLAS), far right.

not talking to each other, they’re not solving the problem—they’re looking at somebody else solve the problem. In the real world, physicists work together, so I think the interactive component to this course is on the right track.”


“Out of about 30 high school kids on the street where I grew up, 10 of them graduated high school, and only a few went to college. It’s not so often that you get to see someone rise up from where I was. “To me it feels like an honor; I’m proud to say I’m a first-generation student. I’ve met so many great people and have made so many great friends just in my first semester. Without my scholarship, I don’t think I would be here now. It has really been a blessing.” Joseph Vazquez ’22 (CLAS) Urban and community studies major; supported by the Arthur O. Bayer College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Scholarship Fund

2019 Dean’s Report


“My scholarship made a huge difference because my family had just moved here from India in 2016. As a transfer student from a community college, it allowed me to explore campus and get involved with the Transfer Connections House. I’ll be the first in my family to finish college. I know it will make my parents proud.”

“Next semester I will teach a lecture on globalization, and what the government needs to do to address the air pollution problem and create air pollution mitigation policies. My research will be a part of the course because air quality and public health are pressing issues facing the business world.”

“I think being able to have a lot of really phenomenal extracurricular experiences outside the classroom has helped me to see the implications of what I’m learning in class. Scholarship support has inspired me to help other students access the same type of opportunities that I gratefully received.“

Ruhi Patel ’20 (CLAS)

Xueke Li

Tara Watrous ’19 (CLAS)

Statistics major; supported by the CLAS Undergraduate Scholarship Fund

Ph.D. candidate, Department of Geography; supported by the CLAS Graduate Fellowship Fund

Psychological sciences major; supported by the Jacqueline Brown-Dickstein and Rita Dickstein Singer Fund

We’re making a difference for our students. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the College is able to provide rich learning opportunities and scholarship support to students across disciplines. You can help us make a difference. Learn more at


Next-Gen Science The University celebrated the opening of the new Engineering and Science Building, a five-story structure dedicated to technology and life sciences, in June 2018. More than 118,000 square feet of laboratories, research space, meeting and gathering spaces, offices, and other amenities within the building are tailored to foster research innovation. Its completion is a milestone in the Next Generation Connecticut initiative, which funded the $95 million project. Next Gen CT will expand science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines at UConn as a pathway to economic growth in the state. The building houses such innovative centers as the Institute for System Genomics, the University’s primary genomics research and training facility; and the Computational Biology Core, which serves faculty and students with crucial computational power and technical support.

Above: An exterior shot of the Engineering and Science Building. Below: Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Leighton Core discusses a project with his Ph.D. student, Geno Villafano.

2019 Dean’s Report


Geosciences Department Joins CLAS In 2019, the College gained a new department that will bring research and education about the Earth and its atmosphere to UConn students and faculty alike. The Department of Geosciences involves scholarship related to water, energy, climate change, natural resources, oceans, mountain building, mass extinction, landscape change, and life at the extremes of the Earth and beyond. Incoming Head Lisa Park Boush says these areas of expertise are not only building blocks for successful careers, but essential for economic development and responsible policymaking. More than 1,000 undergraduate students enroll in UConn introductory geoscience courses annually, and more than 50 students are currently majoring in geosciences. The Department will continue to offer its popular education abroad programs in Taiwan, the Bahamas, the western U.S., and Italy. The program has operated as the Center for Integrative Geosciences since 2004. Park Boush says the growing prominence of the Center created momentum for the change. “I am really excited to unleash our potential as a department,” she says. “It’s a new day for geosciences at UConn.”

Above: Geosciences students spell “UConn” at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve during a field course trip to Colorado in May 2018.




Academic Departments

No. 22

UConn’s position in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of top public universities.

Centers and Institutes



Undergraduate Majors

Undergraduate Minors


Fall 2018

Students at Storrs campus Students at regional campuses

8,440 2,137



of UConn undergraduates are CLAS majors.

Student Characteristics Fall 2018

Female Minority International



External funding awarded to CLAS in FY18, the most ever awarded.


Fall 2018


$63 million

Undergraduate Graduate 54% 54% 39% 12% 10% 36%

1,552 170

Students at Storrs campus Students at regional campuses




of UConn graduate students are in CLAS program tracks.

UConn Nation

100,000 alumni

More than of UConn have degrees from CLAS.

of UConn full-time instructional 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

2019 Dean’s Report


Inspiring Future Scientists In October 2018, CLAS Alumni Relations teamed up with the Department of Chemistry, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, School of Engineering, UConn Extension, and others to offer the second annual Science Salon Junior during UConn’s Homecoming Weekend. The program was adapted from the UConn Science Salon series, launched in 2015, in which distinguished faculty led discussions on current issues related to science, technology, and the environment. This year’s Science Salon Junior welcomed nearly 40 children of UConn alumni and local families to participate in creative, kid-friendly experiments. Participants designed “robotic hands” using straws and string, programmed electronic cars, and mixed chemicals to create glow-in-the-dark compounds. UConn faculty and members of student organizations, including the CLAS Student Leadership Board, lent their time and expertise to encourage and assist the future scientists. “Science Salon Junior is an opportunity to engage alumni, their children, and local community members in fun, interactive, and educational ways,” says Greg Bernard, director of alumni relations for CLAS. “Participants are exposed to various disciplines, while interacting with our amazing faculty and students.” Pictured: Scenes from Science Salon Junior in October 2018.

Find out more about these and other alumni programs at

Office of the Dean 215 Glenbrook Road, Unit 4098 | Storrs, CT | 06269-4098

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Dean's Report 2019  

Dean's Report 2019  

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