Neag Faculty Member and Student Recognized as Finalists for Public Engagement Award

Dr. Jason Irizarry, Dean Thomas C. DeFranco, and Julia Leonard gather at the awards event.
Dr. Jason Irizarry, Dean Thomas C. DeFranco, and Julia Leonard gather at the awards event.

On Nov. 29, 2010, the University of Connecticut held the fifth annual Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement, in which a professor and student from the Neag School of Education were recognized as finalists.

The Office of Public Engagement selected one faculty member, one staff member, one graduate student, one undergraduate student and one university program based on involvement and leadership in public outreach. A total of 41 nominations were received this year.

Two of the 16 finalists were Jason Irizarry, an assistant professor of Multicultural Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and faculty associate in the Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, and Julia Leonard, a sixth-semester special education major.

In addition to course work, Irizarry most notably has taught class at a local high school free of charge the last three years, helping promote academic achievement of youth by addressing issues associated with teacher education. To Irizarry, public engagement is simply part of his job. He hopes to scale up in the future from his current work with small groups to multiple classrooms with teachers and students working together over longer periods of time.

“I never thought of [service] as something extra,” said Irizarry.

A Groton resident, Leonard was nominated by Matthew Farley, associate director for community outreach at UConn, and Gina DeVivo Brassaw, senior program coordinator for community outreach. Leonard’s involvement on campus ranges from being a teaching assistant and First Year Experience mentor to a UConn Connects facilitator through the Office of First Year Programs and Learning Communities.

As a student leader, Leonard acts as the project director for Special Olympics, which includes planning a dodgeball fundraiser, as well as the Husky Classic, a statewide soccer tournament that occurs in the spring. In this position, Leonard also advocates for individuals with disabilities

Both the Neag School’s faculty member and student were honored by their recognition and plan to continue providing leadership and service to their community involvements. For further information on the Office of Public Engagement awards, programs or how to get involved, call (860) 486-4854.