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Liberal Arts

&Sciences Fall 2014

Alumna Masters the Methods of Audience Research Author Wally Lamb Heads to the Big Screen P.2 Faculty Hiring Helps Decrease Class Size P.3 A New Convocation P.4


n the mid-1980s—years before she found herself working on some of HBO’s most acclaimed original programs, including “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” and “Game of Thrones”—Kathy Carroll ’76 (CLAS), ’79 MA, ’84 Ph.D., P’17 was a recent graduate of UConn’s sociology program working at a market research firm in upstate Connecticut. Prompted by her husband landing a job in New York City and their subsequent relocation to Stamford, Carroll channeled her casual interest in television to make her next career move. “I wrote a letter to the three big television networks to ask whether they had any open research positions, and I got a response from ABC,” she recalls. This chain of events launched Carroll into a nearly three-decade career in television research, a majority of which she spent as Vice President for Primary Programming Research at HBO.

While much has changed for the television industry and the tools used to measure it during that time, what has held constant for Carroll are the skills that she acquired from UConn and her palpable sense of enthusiasm for the school. “UConn was basically my family’s school,” says Carroll, adding that she and her four siblings have ten degrees between them, eight of which are from UConn. “That’s where I learned about research techniques, ethics, and statistics that I still use to this day.” As an undergraduate student in Storrs, Carroll was drawn to sociology by compelling professors who taught her introductory courses. She soon realized that she had a passion for the research methods used to measure and analyze the “why” questions posed in this field. Carroll went on to pursue two advanced degrees in sociology from UConn, during which

time she mastered advanced research methods and techniques that helped shape her career path. Her doctoral dissertation—a content analysis study about women in American mystery novels—helped her secure her first job with ABC. Carroll’s professional focus shifted to market research when she moved from ABC to HBO in 1988, which she says reflects the cultural differences between the two networks. “At ABC, everything was based on the concerns of advertisers, but HBO is a pay cable channel and a unique player in the television field because it is not ad supported,” says Carroll. “The purpose of my work was not to tell the creative people how to make their shows, but instead how to best schedule, market, and promote the shows and improve the audience experience.” Continued on page 2


UConn Researcher’s Nanoparticle Key to Malaria Vaccine A novel protein nanoparticle developed by UConn biologist Peter Burkhard, in conjunction with an infectious disease specialist with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, is the key component of a promising new malaria vaccine. In tests with mice, the nanoparticle has shown to be effective at getting the immune system to attack the most lethal species of malaria parasite after it enters the body and before it has a chance to hide and aggressively spread. The researchers are on schedule to manufacture the vaccine for human use within the next year. More COLLEGE NEWS on page 2

Liberal Arts & Sciences

Kathy Carroll ’76 (CLAS), ’79 MA, ’84 Ph.D., P’17 and husband Mike Barney ’77 (BUS), ’78 MBA, P’17 center, at the CLAS College Experience in October 2013.

METHODS, from page 1

During the next 24 years, Carroll conducted all primary audience research for HBO’s original television and sports series, documentaries, and original films. Her work spanned some of the channel’s first original series like “Dream On,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” and “Inside the NFL,” through its more recent hits, including “Boardwalk Empire,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and “Game of Thrones.” Much of her work involved moderating focus groups, gauging participants’ reactions to series pilots or gathering feedback from existing fans of shows. Results would help the network determine how to market these programs and later what special features to make available on HBO’s website or as DVD extras. “We would ask what they liked about the shows, who were their favorite characters, what adjectives best described the shows, and we would always ask why,” she says. “We learned that people like to watch things that reflect some aspect of themselves and they like stories with unexpected twists and turns.” Another thing that Carroll learned, first from her studies at UConn and later in her corporate 2


career: “Good research methods transcend product or topic.” Carroll draws on this knowledge now as the owner and operator of Carroll Insights, which she started after leaving HBO in 2012. In this role she conducts qualitative research for clients in television and other areas like shopping, new technologies, and public service campaigns. One of her most recent examples involves pro bono work with The Public Good Projects, a nonprofit organization that produces campaigns that highlight complex and pressing national issues. The organization was founded by documentarian and producer John Hoffman, with whom Carroll had worked on several projects for HBO, including the 2012 special “The Weight of the Nation.” “These current projects tackle public health issues and health advocacy, and we get to examine a part of humanity that has nothing to do with television,” says Carroll. Carroll and her husband, Mike Barney ’77 (BUS), ’78 MBA, also regularly return to Storrs, where their youngest daughter is a sophomore. Carroll says that she enjoys touring the campus and stepping back into the classroom at events like the CLAS College Experience, a bi-annual lifelong learning event for alumni and friends of the College.

“I’ve sent three kids to college and see how great college is,” she says. “Our ability to go back and experience a college class with outstanding professors again is priceless.” Read the full story at

Author Wally Lamb Heads to the Big Screen Even best-selling fiction writer Wally Lamb ’72 (CLAS), ’77 MA admits he never could have envisioned it: The house in which he spent roughly 16 years penning several of his celebrated novels is now part of a movie set for a forthcoming feature-length film based on one of those books. The comic novella Wishin’ and Hopin’ (HarperCollins, 2008) is Lamb’s fourth book and the first of his works to be adapted for the big screen. Filmed in Connecticut by Rocky Hill-based Synthetic Cinema International, the movie—slated for limited release across the country later this year—was shot in part just minutes from the UConn Storrs campus, in a quiet, residential neighborhood in Willimantic. There, inside the same unassuming, three-story home where the UConn alum had Continued on page 3

Wally Lamb ’72 (CLAS), ’77 MA on set in residential Willimantic, Connecticut.

Great Resume, Too Bad About Your Religion Employers are less likely to respond to a job application if that resume includes evidence of membership in a faith group, according to two recent studies by UConn sociology professors Michael Wallace and Bradley Wright. Researchers submitted resumes for four fictional recent college graduates to employers in New England and the South. Each resume was randomly assigned an identity based on religious preference or was designated part of a control group that had no religious affiliation at all. In both studies, applications that expressed any religious identification received significantly fewer overall contacts from employers than applications from the control group, with Muslim applications receiving the fewest responses by far.

Power Lines Offer Benefits to Species Recent studies co-authored by UConn biologist David Wagner demonstrate that power lines serve a vital role for the conservation of species, particularly in regions of the Northeast with high human population density. The studies found that the semi-open landscape in the transmission corridors are ideal for all manner of vertebrate and invertebrate life, wild flowers, and other native plants. If these landscapes were not managed as they are now by power companies, the land would eventually turn into dense forest with heavy cover and limited sunlight, unsuitable for many of those species, according to Wagner.

Fall 2014 AUTHOR, from page 2 SPOTLIGHT ON

rented space for many years, his characters will now come to life on screen. The film was also shot in the Connecticut towns of Willimantic, Jewett City, and Norwich—another source of excitement for Lamb, who was born in Norwich and still lives in Connecticut. Among the stars cast are Molly Ringwald, Meat Loaf, and Annabella Sciorra. Lamb himself will also make a cameo appearance in the movie, playing the role of a school janitor. “I still scratch my head sometimes and say, ‘How did all of this happen?’” Lamb says. “I have a pretty good imagination, but I couldn’t have imagined a life for myself that has become this cool and this interesting and this challenging.”

Faculty Hiring Helps Decrease Class Size An ambitious faculty hiring initiative has drawn hundreds of highly talented educators to UConn in recent years, helping decrease the University’s student-faculty ratio and accelerate its research. The University has hired 288 tenured or tenure-track faculty since the initiative began in 2011. A significant portion of these new faculty members have joined CLAS departments, with 158 individuals joining the College in since fall 2011. These acquisitions have helped UConn lower its student-faculty ratio to about 15.9 students per 1 faculty member—down from 18:1 in 2011—according to UConn Provost Mun Choi. “We are attracting the cream of the crop when it comes to

Felicia Griffin-Fennell ’99, ’05 MA, ’07 Ph.D. Degrees: BA, psychology; MA and Ph.D., clinical psychology; graduate certificate, women’s studies Job Title: Director of STEM Starter Academy at Springfield Technical Community College; independent researcher

When Felicia Griffin-Fennell was invited to participate in a CLAS alumni career panel in fall 2013, she was excited to share her personal experience with research at UConn and how her professors inspired her to pursue psychology. The panel was part of an ongoing event series sponsored by CLAS and UConn’s Center for Career Development that invites alumni back to Storrs to share their career experiences, give advice, and network with student attendees. Griffin-Fennell says that the skills she learned as an undergraduate and graduate student researcher proved to be valuable in her current work as an independent researcher and director of the STEM Starter Academy at Springfield Technical Community College. There she ensures that entering freshman students get a jumpstart in math through

faculty who will be conducting innovative research and educating our students. That’s at the heart of the University’s core mission, and we’re very proud of these talented new researchers and scholars,” Choi said. The University has targeted several academic areas for growth that are central to CLAS, including human rights law and policy; genomics and associated disciplines; environment and sustainability; and insurance risk and health policy.

a pre-college summer bridge program and receive continued academic support throughout the year. After sharing her experience at the career panel, GriffinFennell was approached by Samantha Micael ’14, then a senior majoring in human development and family studies. This initial interaction sparked a mentoring relationship, which was facilitated through the CLAS Career Advisor Program. “Samantha was a bit nervous about her career aspirations and her graduate prospects, but I think that’s typical for anyone who has the passion and the drive that she has,” says Griffin-Fennell. The pair talked monthly about academics throughout Micael’s senior year. With the guidance of her mentor, Micael reached out to a professor in her department and participated in research during her final semester at UConn—an experience that she says opened doors to other

opportunities and showed her that she was capable of doing graduate-level work. A year after the mentorship began, Micael is attending Drexel University for graduate studies in family therapy. She hopes to become a licensed family therapist and help children living in urban environments. Griffin-Fennell continues to be involved in the CLAS mentoring program and hopes to participate in future career events to help more students like Micael. “A lot of students get nervous when they think about their careers,” Griffin-Fennell says, adding that she often tells students not to get hung up on their particular degree because the skills that they learn can prepare them for many and diverse opportunities. Want to participate in an alumni career panel? E-mail

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Zhongyang Li listens to a presentation during the new faculty orientation. Li earned a Ph.D. from Brown University and was a research fellow at the University of Cambridge before joining the CLAS faculty this fall.


Liberal Arts & Sciences AROUND CAMPUS

Class of 2018 Inaugurates New Convocation Tradition On August 22, more than 3,500 members of the incoming freshman class gathered at sunset on the Student Union mall for a

redesigned Convocation. The Class of 2018 passed through decorated arches and entered the campus’ main quadrangle framed by dozens of glowing luminaries. As the sun set over Gampel Pavilion’s iconic silver dome, students were welcomed to UConn by speakers gathered in the center of the mall on a stage set up as a “theater-in-the-round.”

In recent years, Convocation was held earlier in the day inside Gampel Pavilion, and parents, faculty, and staff were invited to join students for the event. In contrast, the reimagined student-only program is meant to draw the newest members of the University community together to celebrate the start of their journey at UConn.

We want to hear from you! Have exciting news to share? Tell us what you’re up to by contacting Caitlin Trinh, CLAS Director of Alumni Relations, at



Liberal Arts & Sciences Fall 2014  

A newsletter for alumni of UConn's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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