Congratulations to the recipients of the Neag School of Education Alumni Board Scholarship for 2022:
Sandeep Dutta, a doctoral student in learning, leadership, and education policy (LLEP) with a concentration in sports management;
Yasmin Elgoharry, a doctoral student in LLEP with a concentration in higher education racial justice and decolonization; and
Joselyn Perez, a doctoral student studying research methods, measurement, and evaluation.
The Alumni Board Scholarship provides a $1,000 award annually to students enrolled in a Neag School master’s, doctorate, or sixth-year program who have proven academic excellence or demonstrated financial need.
Combining Passions for Soccer and Positive Change
Throughout his time at Columbia University and now at UConn, Sandeep Dutta has been using his longtime love for soccer to give young individuals a chance to learn important skills outside of the classroom.
“In developing countries where the education system does not support holistic development, and success is measured by how well a student reproduces textbook material, the opportunities to learn essential life skills are minimal,” says Dutta, who grew up in a small village in India. “Over the years, research has shown the power of sports in developing long-term, transferable skills such as critical thinking, leadership, accountability, building self-confidence, and much more.”
During his time in the Neag School’s LLEP program, Dutta has engaged in Husky Sport, a program housed within the Neag School that works with Hartford schools to aid students’ growth and development through sports.
“This research-driven program, in conjunction with the rigorous Ph.D. course curriculum, provides the necessary exposure to experienced academics and researchers which will help me identify efficient solutions to solve issues around impact assessment in sport for development programs,” he says.
Growing up, Dutta says he felt societal pressure to become a doctor or engineer. However, he always found his happiness on the soccer field with his peers and, supported by his loved ones, Dutta was encouraged to follow his interests.
“I plan to use this degree to delve further into my research, specifically how regular physical activity can help in achieving several sustainable development goals.”
— Sandeep Dutta, 2022 Alumni Board Scholarship Recipient
“My parents understood … the proverbial ‘rat race’ involved in traditional fields and allowed me to explore and find my way,” he says. Being involved in sports, he adds, taught him “essential life skills,” such as respect for others, honesty, and hard work, from a very young age.
Dutta says he plans to use his scholarship and degree to delve further into his research, specifically how “regular physical activity can help in achieving several sustainable development goals.” He says he hopes to live in a society where the benefits of physical activity are available to everyone, not just those in prosperous, modern communities.
Inspired to Advocate for Change
As a first-generation Muslim immigrant and woman of color, Yasmin Elgoharry says she quickly realized the American Dream is not always as attainable as it seems. To her, receiving an education was a symbol of gaining upward mobility.
“My education proved difficult, as there was a dearth of role models and mentors who looked like me or shared my story, or even had an understanding of the difficulties that I faced as a nontraditional student who worked multiple jobs while trying to balance her education and home responsibilities,” she says.
Elgoharry says she witnessed firsthand bigotry, xenophobia, and racism in seeing her mother, a housekeeper, and her father, a custodian, mistreated in the workplace. As they tried their best to provide for their children, Elgoharry found inspiration to advocate and fight for change.
“I believe that poverty, illiteracy, inequality, and even bigotry are policy choices, and education is the best prescription for curing all of the above,” says Elgoharry. “I want to understand better the intersection of education, inequality, race … that plague our communities and nation and hinder us from building a better society, so that I might one day have the tools to change it.”
“It truly takes a village, but I have been fortunate to have had a community of mentors to help me throughout my journey.”
— Yasmin Elgoharry,
2022 Alumni Board Scholarship Recipient
As Elgoharry strives toward her mission of working in higher education, she also plans to create a space for underrepresented individuals in America, including immigrants, women of color, and working-class students who may not be receiving the same opportunities as others.
For Egloharry, a strong support system is key. She credits part of her success to the ‘village’ that helped raise her.
“I have been fortunate to have had mentors of all stripes, from the Black and Brown women who spent their free time volunteering at the local Boys & Girls Club, who helped me with my homework while my parents were working, to the educators who encouraged me to reach higher, and to my parents’ indomitable will to give my sister and me a better life,” she says. “It truly takes a village, but I have been fortunate to have had a community of mentors and role models to help me throughout my journey.”
Recently, she was selected by peers to represent the Neag School’s Department of Educational Leadership on the Neag School Doctoral Studies Committee and also will serve on the Graduate Student Career Council.
From Knowledge to the Real World
Joselyn Perez, also a first-generation American, was motivated from a young age by her parents’ happiness whenever she excelled in school.
“I decided to pursue my Ph.D. … because for once I felt convinced that what I was learning in the classroom, I could apply to the real world,” says Perez, who is pursuing her doctorate at the Neag School in research methods, measurement, and evaluation. “I grew passionate about statistics because I was able to explain life occurrences with numbers.”
“As a child, I observed the decisions that people around me would make, as well as the consequences that came with their actions,” says Perez. “I learned that these decisions and consequences did not just affect the individual, but [also their] family.”
“I decided to pursue my Ph.D. … because for once I felt convinced that what I was learning in the classroom, I could apply to the real world.”
— Joselyn Perez, 2022 Alumni Board Scholarship Recipient
Her parents continuously told her the one thing that would help her get ahead in life would be education.
“I took that to heart and made efforts to learn about opportunities, resources, and mentors that could help me achieve my educational goals,” she says. “It was intimidating to navigate and investigate how I was going to obtain a higher education, but I quickly learned that I had a lot more to lose if I did not try.”
With this scholarship support, Perez says she knows that she is on the right path, and that it serves as a reminder that she is succeeding and that others see the true potential in her and her capabilities.
Alumni Board Scholarship recipients Sandeep Dutta, Yasmin Elgoharry, and Joselyn Perez will be formally recognized at the 2022 Neag School Alumni Awards Celebration, taking place in March. For more information on supporting students like these, visit s.uconn.edu/neaggiving.