Neag School Announces Recipients of 2018 Alumni Awards

Neag School 2018 Alumni Awards CelebrationThe Neag School of Education and its Alumni Board are proud to announce the 2018 Neag School Alumni Awards honorees.

Seven outstanding Neag School graduates will be recognized at the School’s 20th annual Alumni Awards Celebration on Saturday, March 17, 2018:


  • Outstanding Early Career Professional — Xaimara Coss ’04 (ED), ’16 MS
    A former student-athlete in women’s volleyball at UConn, Coss is the licensing manager for the National Basketball Association. She has 10 years of global merchandising experience with nonprofits and community organizations, including Major League Baseball Properties. Prior to her current role at the NBA, she served as the NBA’s finance manager, overseeing and ensuring compliance on all licensing contracts.
  • Outstanding School Educator — Jennifer Lanese ’94 (ED), ’95 MA
    For the past 16 years, Lanese has served as a teacher for Hall High School in West Hartford, Conn., where she teaches English as well as British literature, and serves as faculty advisor to the Action Club, which promotes social justice and youth leadership. For her commitment to the school, she was recognized as West Hartford’s 2015 Teacher of the Year. Prior to Hall High, she taught at East Granby High School in East Granby, Conn., for five years.
  • Outstanding School Administrator — Samuel Galloway ’01 6th Year
    As director of human resources for Bristol (Conn.) Public Schools since 2014, Galloway has implemented a centralized registration process; increased teacher and administrator diversity; and evaluated and advocated for two high schools, resulting in increased graduation rates, among other accomplishments. He previously served as principal of Bloomfield High School in Bloomfield, Conn., for four years, where he increased graduation rates and led the school through a full transformation. Galloway’s prior experience includes serving as a trooper for the state of Connecticut for 20 years and as a training officer for the U.S. Army Reserves.
  • Outstanding School Superintendent — Nathan D. Quesnel ’01 (ED), ’02 MA
    For the past five years, Quesnel has served as superintendent of East Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools, where he has orchestrated strategic planning and vision development for the school district; led the district’s focus on growing and increasing student achievement; and led district reform and turnaround efforts. Quesnel has also served in leadership roles at East Hartford Middle School and with the U.S. National Guard.
  • Outstanding Professional — Carol D. Birks ’08 ELP
    Birks serves as chief of staff to the superintendent for Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools (HPS), where she assists with day-to-day management and operations of the $417 million district — including organizing the executive staff and supervising the senior advisory team — and serves as key contact to the district’s departments. Prior to that, she was the assistant superintendent for instructional leadership for HPS, serving 21,000 students. Birks has held various educational leadership and coaching positions with school districts and education organizations, and has received numerous awards for her community service.
  • Outstanding Higher Education Professional — Mohammad Zaheer ’74 Ph.D.
    Zaheer has almost 50 years of teaching experience in higher education. He retired in 1997 from his position as a professor of economics at Manchester Community College in Manchester, Conn. He has held teaching and administrative posts at such institutions as Eastern Connecticut State University (adjunct professor up until 2001), U.S. International University in Kenya, and Government College of Science in Pakistan. Zaheer is a prolific writer, having published a number of academic books on economics and served in a wide variety of professional leadership posts in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Distinguished Alumna Award — Persis Rickes ’80 (CLAS), ’81 MA, ’93 Ph.D.
    Rickes serves as president and principal of Rickes Associates, a higher education planning firm dedicated to space utilization/programming and strategic planning for colleges and universities. She has 30 years of experience in higher education planning. As one of four companies in the U.S. that works specifically in higher education space planning, Rickes Associates has served more than 200 institutions on nearly 400 projects in 25 states and internationally.

The 20th Annual Neag School Alumni Awards Celebration on March 17, 2018, begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 5:30 p.m. Attire is business formal. No-host bar. The cost of the dinner is $50 per person.

Join us for the celebration on March 17. Register online at

Questions? Contact Caitlin Trinh, Neag School alumni relations director, at 860.486.1202 or

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