Future Educator Gets Early Lessons in Leadership

Emily Baseler
Emily Baseler reads to children at Windham Public School Preschool classroom during her team leader year as a Jumpstart member. (Photo: Courtesy of Emily Baseler)

As early as her freshman year, Neag School junior Emily Baseler ’17 (ED, CLAS), ’18 MA has been coaching college students to be exceptional teachers and leaders. Volunteering with UConn Jumpstart – a national early education organization that offers UConn students the chance to engage in meaningful service while receiving extensive early childhood and professional development training – Baseler served as team leader her freshman year and is now in her second year as student program director.

Jumpstart helps children develop the language and literacy skills they will need to thrive in school and in life. Through UConn, Jumpstart has preschool partners located in the Vernon-Rockville and Windham-Willimantic areas of Connecticut. Nationally, the organization partners with 6,100 college students and community volunteers, who work with preschool children in low-income communities for a full school year.

Baseler, a Spanish and elementary education double major, applied to be a corps member in the Jumpstart program as a freshman, prepared to take on the 300-hour term-of-service commitment. Despite her inexperience, she made an impression on the Jumpstart senior site manager and program coordinator, Kelly Zimmerman.

“Although she was only a freshman, her professionalism, passion, and commitment to service was far beyond other students applying for the same position,” Zimmerman said in her nomination letter for Baseler. “While it’s extremely rare for us to have a freshman in a student leadership role, I strongly believed that Emily would be the best fit.”

Baseler took a few weeks at the beginning of her Jumpstart experience to train and pick the brains of her upperclassmen colleagues. In no time, she was excelling at teaching and classroom management, engaging the children in the community, providing family resources in English and Spanish, and encouraging her UConn Jumpstart peers to take an active role in their service. As a student leader, she says she learned to set clear expectations from the beginning. It was weeks before the team even asked how old she was, assuming she was an upperclassman like them.

“My corps members and I met, and we bonded as a professional team and grew to be friends with a great respect for one another,” says Baseler. “Each of us brought a completely different experience to the table and recognized each other’s strengths.”

During her sophomore year, Baseler became the UConn Jumpstart student program director. While the position did not diminish her direct service with the preschool children, in this role – for which she was rehired this fall – she is responsible not only for helping to recruit, interview, and hire all 80 members of the program, but also ensuring they are on track to finish the program successfully. She also meets with the program’s student leaders about supervision of their teams and the curriculum guidance and support they offer to their preschool classrooms.

Emily Baseler
Emily Baseler participates with UConn’s winter relief alternative break to Birmingham, Alabama. She’s shown here calking a house before the group started painting. (Photo: Courtesy of Emily Baseler)

Baseler’s leadership experience during her time at UConn extends beyond the Jumpstart program. In addition to having gained experience as a resident assistant, a day camp head counselor, a community outreach relief worker, a local shelter volunteer, a student ambassador, and a service learning committee chair, she spent a summer abroad at the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyolo in Cusco, Peru, tutoring high school students.

According to Zimmerman, Baseler’s student program director duties are similar to those she fulfilled in the role last year; however, five bilingual teams have been added to the program. “Emily is now working with students who will be speaking both English and Spanish in the preschools, and is learning about curriculum adaptions to help assist these student leaders on this unique journey,” Zimmerman says.

Last month, Baseler’s hard work, leadership, and dedication in the classroom and across campus was recognized with a 2015 Provost’s Undergraduate Student Award for Excellence in Public Engagement. Baseler was one of only five individuals chosen to receive the award, which celebrates those who successfully integrate public engagement into their academic, research, and service programs.

“I am honored to be recognized with the Provost Award for Public Engagement,” says Baseler. “To me, excellence in civic engagement means that one has a commitment to service and a passion to create social change. A public servant seeks to engage with their local community and provide support in whatever they can – for me, I do so through my passion for education.”

According to Gina DeVivo Brassaw, associate director of the Office of Community Outreach where Jumpstart is housed, “As a Neag student, Emily embodies a future teacher. She is the perfect example of a student combining their future career with their community service experience and taking the steps to also build her personal leadership along the way.”

After graduation, Baseler plans on working in a STEM-focused school in an urban area to encourage low-income students to “fall in love with learning,” while her longer-term ambitions include entering school administration to become a coach and support her peers – much like she has already learned in her Jumpstart experience at UConn.