Summer Letter from the Dean

Thomas DeFrancoDear Alumni and Friends,

This is my second summer as dean and it’s been a very, very busy two years. We’ve had a busy academic year filled with activities and accomplishments. Also, one may think that the Neag School of Education is slow during the summer. Spend a little time around the Gentry Building during the summer and you will quickly find out that, although most of the students are gone and some of the faculty are on their summer break, it’s still very busy. Just walk around the Gentry Building and around the UConn campus and you will see a flurry of summer activities happening.

Fall 2010

The fall semester kicked-off with a busy year of accomplishments and accolades. Through the Neag’s support, the Neag School is now the #1 ranked public graduate school of education in the Northeast, as recognized by the U.S. News & World Report. We are ranked #20 among all graduate public institutions of education and #33 among all 278 private and public graduate schools of education in the country and our doctoral program in kinesiology is ranked #1 in the country, for the second consecutive time.

The NCATE accreditation team gave us very high marks on our programs under review and featured the Neag School on their national website in a new web series entitled Stories from the Field.”

Our CommPACT schools project, under the direction of Dr. Michele Femc-Bagwell, a partnership with the Neag School and educational stakeholders throughout the state, is receiving national attention as a school reform model focused on closing the achievement gap in some of our most challenging schools in Connecticut.

Spring 2011

The Korey Stringer Institute, under the direction of Dr. Doug Casa celebrated its one-year anniversary. The Institute is a partnership with the Neag School, the National Football League, and Gatorade. Through education, research and outreach, its goal is to endsudden death in sport, as it relates to exertional heat stroke. Dr. Casa recently published the first book of its kind, titled “Preventing Sudden Death in Sport and Physical Activity.”

The Center for Behavioral Education and Research directed by George Sugai is recognized as one of the top research centers in the country on classroom management and positive behavior support systems. The Center hosted the Connecticut Summit on PBIS (positive behavioral interventions and supports) with over 300 attendees, including education policy makers, from across the state. Dr. Sugai also appeared at the White House on a national panel on bullying with three other national experts.

May was a blurr on the UConn campus with Commencement, Honors Celebration and the Alumni Awards Banquet, all happening in a few short weeks’ time.

In 1998 we gave out 51 awards that totaled approximately $30,000 in scholarship support at the first annual Honors Celebration. At the 17th Annual Honors Celebration in April, we presented a total of 232 scholarships—with nearly $162,000 in scholarship aid to our undergraduate and graduate students, and an additional $440,000 in grant scholarships from the Noyce Foundation. We were able to host this wonderful event and provide the much needed scholarship support because of the generosity of our donors.

Our Commencement Ceremonies took place on May 7th and 8th. For the fifth year, we hosed our own ceremony, for the undergraduate and sixth year programs, at the Jorgensen Auditorium on May 8. Kelci Stinger, wife of the late Korey Stringer and CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute, gave the undergraduate commencement address.

We also hosted two graduation receptions, one for graduate students and one for undergraduate and 6th year students, in the Gentry Building. The families beamed with pride and excitement over their students’ achievements and the graduates were thrilled to be celebrating the special day and their accomplishments.

The Neag Alumni Society held the 13th Annual Awards Banquet, honoring outstanding alumni. This evening was memorable as faculty and alumni gathered to formally recognize the achievements of some of our outstanding graduates. Our award recipients are educators who have made significant contributions across all levels of education, locally, state-wide and nationally. The event, complete with a delicious sit-down dinner and entertaining music in the Rome Ballroom, honored seven outstanding alumni.


Summer 2011

The folks in the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development celebrated their 34th year with Confratute, chaired by Sally Reis and Joe Renzulli. Over 600 educators from across the U.S. and the world came to campus for week-long academic training with 55 education psychology classes being offered. They also celebrated Joe’s 75th birthday by painting the rock in front of the UConn Alumni Center.

The Neag Center for Gifted and Talented also hosted the 2011 UConn Mentor Connection, an inquiry-based summer program for talented teens. A group of almost 80 rising young high school juniors and seniors spent three weeks on campus participating in creative projects and research investigations under the supervision of university mentors. One group of teens, led by State Archaeologist Dr. Nick Bellantoni, unearthed a long-forgotten Catholic cemetery in New Haven.

The Neag School also officially launched a year-long Math Leadership Academy with almost 30 educators from four local school districts. Thanks to a state Department of Higher Education grant, the participants will earn 12 units of graduate coursework that began in July with three weeks of intense training in the Gentry Building focusing on math and pedagogy. During the fall and spring, the academic training will continue with weekly seminars, carrying three credits. The year will culminate in a symposium, open to graduates of the program, Neag students and friends.


Success is built on many things. First, over the past decade, President Austin and Provost Nicholls have been strong supporters of the Neag School and see the value and importance in having a strong school of education at the University of Connecticut. I’m very fortunate to have a strong administrative team, the best and brightest in the university, staff who are willing to help both faculty and students achieve their goals, faculty who are scholars in their respective fields, and people like yourselves you care very much about education.

When Mr. Neag gave his gift he stated, “I saw this gift as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of thousands of schoolchildren in Connecticut and the nation.”

In the Neag school we take his pledge very seriously. We are dedicated to developing highly effective teachers, principals, superintendents, researchers, physical therapists and exercise scientists in order to improve the academic performance and health and well being of ALL children and adults in Connecticut and across the nation. Simply put, this is our core mission.

While this letter mentions a lot of activities and accomplishments from the year, it’s only a brief overview of the many accolades from the year. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have contributed to our success and well-being. We have an amazing family here in the Neag School and we look forward to another productive academic year.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your summer and stop by the Gentry Building for a visit (before or after the Dairy Bar). We would love to see you.


Thomas C. DeFranco


Neag School of Education