10 Questions With Reuben Pierre-Louis, Future Special Education Teacher

In this new series, the Neag School is catching up with students, alumni, faculty, and others throughout the year to give you a glimpse into their Neag School experience and their current career, research, or community activities. 

Click the image below to check out an interactive, 360-degree view from inside UConn’s Scholars House.

Reuben Pierre-Louis; African American Men Learning Community at UConn; Scholars House; Special Ed
Neag School senior and Scholars House resident assistant Reuben Pierre-Louis (far left) snaps a 360-degree photo of a room in the new Learning Community at UConn, where new students are moving in today.

Current UConn student Reuben Pierre-Louis ’17 (ED), ’18 MA is set to begin his senior year in the Neag School’s five-year Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s (IB/M) program with a concentration in special education. In addition, he will be serving as a resident assistant this coming academic year in UConn’s new ScHOLA²RS House Learning Community.

ScHOLA²RS House – which stands for Scholastic House Of Leaders who are African-American Researchers & Scholars — is designed to support the scholastic efforts of male students who identify as African-American/Black through academic and social/emotional support, access to research opportunities, and professional development. For more information about ScHOLA2RS House, visit lc.uconn.edu/schola2rshouse/, or check out this video.

What is your hometown? Stamford, Conn.

What degree(s) are you pursuing at the Neag School of Education? I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education with a concentration in special education and a master’s degree in educational psychology through the Neag School of Education IB/M Program.

What led you to choose to pursue a degree in the field of education? I chose this profession because I love to learn what I was taught and teach what I have learned. One of the main reasons I chose this profession is the bad experience I had in the the school system growing up. Looking back now, I felt robbed of an education. As if I was “pickpocketed.” I watched how the tracking system in high school was so vast that you would think we were in the 1960s school system. I watched many black and Hispanics, especially men, die through many systematic pits. I watched a school system that would breed “us” to believe that our only salvation was either holding a football or a basketball. I know this sounds cliché, but I truly believe I can and will make a difference one day.

What are your ultimate career goals once you complete your degree? I want to go back and help uplift poor communities, especially the black community, and make a change. I want to teach at a school that I can believe in. A phrase that I heard from another teacher that always stuck with me is: “The best teachers need to be at the worst schools.” It does not always work out that way. I am also interested in special education research — in particular, mental health disorders. [I grew up with] a father who was diagnosed with schizophrenia; it really changes your perspectives on things. I want to figure out the underlying causing of mental health disorders, but most importantly, what is the best treatment possible.

“I want to … help uplift poor communities, especially the black community, and make a change. I want to teach at a school that I can believe in.”  Reuben Pierre-Louis ’17 (ED), ’18 MA

What kind of support have you received along the way from faculty mentors during your time at the Neag School of Education? I would say the tag team counselors [academic advisors] Dominique Battle-Lawson and Mia Hines have helped me on a consistent basis. They have helped me in so many different ways, from passing the Praxis test, [giving me] recommendations, and the list goes on. One of the main social supports for me was former graduate assistant Justis Lopez ’14 (ED), ’15 MA. Before I got accepted [to the Neag School], Justis helped me along the way. Also, faculty like Joseph Cooper and Erik Hines [ScHOLA²RS House faculty director] are role models for me as an African-American male. Even though I am the only black male in most of my classes now, I feel comfortable to know that there is a decent amount of African-American faculty that I can talk to.

Scholars House; Reuben Pierre-Louis; Learning Community
Neag School student Reuben Pierre-Louis, left, will serve as a resident assistant this coming academic year in UConn’s new Learning Community, ScHOLA²RS House. (Photo Credit: Ryan Glista/Neag School)

As a resident assistant at ScHOLA²RS House, in what ways do you envision being able to support the students who will be a part of this new Learning Community? I think I will be able to serve as a leader, mentor, and a friend to the students in this Learning Community. I see myself providing advice and guidance on a daily to weekly basis to help them to stay on track. I want the students to succeed not only academically, but also socially on campus. What I learned through my years in college is that you can be a great student academically for a while, but if you do not have a solid social network, it most likely won’t last.

What do you see as the greatest benefit of launching ScHOLA²RS House as a new Learning Community? Students of color will have a space in a predominantly white institution.

Why do you feel it is important for UConn to establish a Learning Community like this? If they don’t, the University will slowly lose its black population … Why do you think the University has on-campus centers like the AACC (African American Cultural Center)? If UConn starts losing its educated black population to … HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], this can affect the economy of Connecticut because people usually work in the state where they graduate. This Learning Community is bigger than what it appears.

What do you believe makes a great educator? A great educator has to be personable, humble to learn, and has to be self-driven.

What is one thing most people may not know about you? I am Haitian.

Watch Reuben Pierre-Louis speak, along with faculty and administrators, about the new ScHOLA²RS House Learning Community in this video. Check out additional photos from ScHOLA²RS House move-in day.

Read other installments of the 10 Questions series here.