Neag School Accolades: March 2023

Throughout the academic year, the Neag School is proud to share the latest achievements of its faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

Explore their most recent promotions, awards, retirements, publications, and more:

Dean’s Office

The Neag School and its Alumni Board celebrated the 2023 Alumni Awards winners earlier this month. Check out the webpage featuring each honoree.

Group of professionals at gather in front of a UConn banner.
The UConn Alumni Center was filled on Saturday, March 11, with Neag School of Education Alumni Board members; Neag School faculty, staff, and administrators; friends of the University; and guests honoring eight esteemed Neag School alumni.
Male educator stands by sign outside a school.
Matthew Bowers, winner of the Neag School’s 2023 Rogers Educational Innovation Fund, will focus his classroom project on teaching his students hands-on STEAM skills and disability awareness. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Bowers)

The Rogers Educational Innovation Fund award committee selected Matthew Bowers, a speech-language pathologist from ACES at Chase in Waterbury, as this year’s recipient. He was formally recognized during the 2023 Alumni Awards Celebration. Read more about the honoree.

The Neag School, in partnership with UConn Career Services, hosted “Strong Beginnings: Building Your Professional Network” virtually in February. The panel included Neag School alumni Michael Corral ’18 Ph.D.; Symone James Abiola ’16 (ED), ’17 MA, ’22 6th Year; Nellie Schafer ’16 MA; and Robert “Roberto” Valentin ’16 MA. Click here to view the recording.

Dean Jason G. Irizarry visited Ivy Drive Elementary School in Bristol, Connecticut, in February. Dean Irizarry was the guest of Principal Emily Gomes, Neag School alumna and 2023 Outstanding School Administrator, who has led the school since 2019. They toured the school and discussed increasing partnerships and opportunities between the Neag School and Ivy Drive Elementary. Check out photos from the visit.

Thanks to around 275 individuals, the Neag School garnered more than $15,000 in contributions during UConn Gives 2023. The annual University-wide fundraising event raised over $534,000 for UConn in just 36 hours, with incoming donations to support everything from scholarships and academic programs to student groups and athletics. The Neag School, including its Alumni Board, promoted four different education-affiliated projects during this year’s UConn Gives. Read more about Neag School’s efforts.

Group of people visiting school.
Neag School faculty and staff attend a tour of the new Mansfield Elementary School in Mansfield, Connecticut. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Neag School faculty and staff recently toured the new elementary school in Mansfield, Connecticut, which will officially open in April. Former superintendent and Neag School alumna, Kelly Lyman, along with the current superintendent and Neag School alumnus, Peter Dart, provided insights on the building and the process of getting the project approved, designed, and built. View photos from the visit.

Neag School graduate students published the inaugural issue of the Neag School Journal, an education research journal. The editor-reviewed, open-access, annual journal is founded and run by graduate students at the Neag School and published five articles in its Spring 2023 issue. Read a story about the Journal.

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (EDCI) and Office of Teacher Education

Symone James; NCTAF; Education Policy; Teaching in America
Since 2017, the number of students of color has more than doubled in the Neag School’s Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates and increased by 33% in the Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Teacher Education Program. (UConn Photo)

The Neag School’s increased enrollment and program expansions to help combat Connecticut’s teacher shortage were featured on UConn Today. Read the full story.

Neag School students attended, and some presented at, the first in-person Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators of Connecticut (AMTEC) Preservice Teachers Conference held recently at Manchester High School. The conference was for preservice teachers from programs across the state.

Department of Educational Leadership (EDLR)

Two females gather in a sports arena.
Samantha Burke and Karina Vital are both sports management students interning in UConn’s Athletics Department. (Austin Bigoney/UConn Athletics)

UConn Today featured the Sport Management Program and its partnership with UConn Athletics.

The Sport Management Program hosted a “Beyond the Field” virtual event in March on creative expression and creative process at the intersection of sport, art and social change, with Eli Wolff moderating the discussion.

The Sport Management Program hosted a daylong Sport Business Management Conference in March at Laurel Hall on the UConn Storrs campus. During the program, UConn students had the chance to connect with sports business professionals from around the country. View photos from the conference.


Department of Educational Psychology (EPSY)

The Renzulli Center for Gifted Education, Creativity, and Talent Development has been hosting free webinars for parents and educators on various gifted education-related topics led by Neag School faculty, alumni, and other experts in the field.

Group of individuals in drag stand plus others gather on a stage.
Team members from UConn’s Feel Your Best Self project pose for a picture with award presenters after winning the “Best Web/App Series—Original” category at the Kidscreen Awards in Miami on Feb. 14. (Submitted photo)

Feel Your Best Self (FYBS), led by Sandra Chafouleas and Neag School alumna Emily Iovino ’15 CLAS, ’16 MA, ’20 Ph.D., was awarded a Kidscreen Award, which are considered the Oscars for kid’s programming. Read about the Award. FYBS has also published a newsletter, Feel Your Best Self News. FYBS was also featured in a UConn Today story about the theme song’s teenage producer.

Numerous Neag School faculty and students presented at the Connecticut Council for Exceptional Children’s conference in March. Participants included Nina Bayer, Jessica Bourget, Chloe Cantero, Michael Coyne, Tobey Duble, Chris Esposito, Michael Gentile, Devin Kearns, Shannon Langdon, Allison Lombardi, Ashley Plumb, Mara Power, Sumita Sulija, Tracy Sinclair, Melissa Stalega, Ashley Taconet, and Elizabeth Zagata. View this link for the complete list of presentations.


Cara Bernard contributed a chapter, “A Disciplinary-Based Approach in the Performing Arts,” for the book Content-Based Curriculum for Advanced Learners, which was co-edited by Catherine Little.

Female professional holding award.
Melissa Bray with her “Trainer of the Year Award in Scholarship” award, given to her by the National Association of School Psychologists in Denver in February. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Melissa Bray received the 2023 Trainers of School Psychologists “Trainer of the Year Award in Scholarship.” This award is given to a school psychology trainer who, throughout their career, has demonstrated exceptional contributions to training that merit special recognition.

Mary Beth Bruder, who has a joint appointment with the Neag School and the UConn School of Medicine, was awarded a $10M federal grant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education. The grant will be used to provide technical assistance to increase equity in delivering early childhood intervention services to infants and young children from diverse backgrounds with disabilities or developmental delays.

Jacqueline Caemmerer co-authored “Beyond Individual Tests: Youth’s Cognitive Abilities on Their Math and Writing Skills” for the February issue of Learning and Individual Differences.

Todd Campbell’s NSF-funded IUSE Environmental Corps project team was recognized with the 2023 American Educational Research Association Experiential Education and Community Engagement: Scholarship and Practice Special Interest Group Outstanding Faculty/Community Partner Award. The team’s project, “Interrogating Consequential Education Research: Exploring Social Networks Connecting Communities With a University Environmental Service-Learning Program,” included Hannah Cooke, Rebecca A. Campbell-Montalvo, Todd Campbell, Byung-Yoel Park, and others.

Rebecca A. Campbell-Montalvo published The Latinization of Indigenous Students: Erasing Identity and Restricting Opportunity at School (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023).

Sandra Chafouleas authored an essay, “Chris Rock and Will Smith Can Afford Selective Outrage. The Rest of Us Can’t.” for CT Mirror. In addition, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Education Sciences, Chafouleas was a featured researcher on the American Educational Research Association website.

Hannah Dostal has been elected editor-in-chief of the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (Oxford University Press), the leading research journal in the field. She previously served as co-editor for the past year.

Danielle Filipiak was selected by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) as chair (two-year term) of the Media, Culture, and Learning Special Interest Group (SIG). As chair, she will help further AERA’s commitment to improving and advancing education research.

Rachael Gabriel (12:22) and former faculty member Sarah Woulfin (4:40) are interviewed on “The Reading Wars Are Older Than You Think” for the Have You Heard podcast.

Preston Green
Preston Green (UConn Photo).

Preston Green published “Charter Schools Aren’t Public Schools. Here’s Why We Need to Change That.” for Public Voices for Public Schools.

Liz Howard was a keynote speaker for the Dwight Bellizzi Dual Language Academy in Hartford, Connecticut, in March.

James Kaufman was interviewed for a blog “Episode 14: Creativity … Finding the Balance” for Psychology Life Lessons. He also co-published a book Creativity and Morality (Explorations in Creativity Research) (Academic Press, 2023, hardbook) and co-published an article “Taking Inventory of the Creative Behavior Inventory: An Item Response Theory Analysis of the CBI” for the March issue of Creativity Research Journal.

Jessica Koslouski, a postdoctoral research associate, and Sandra Chafouleas, along with others, co-published “Considering Equity of Evidence: Examining Teachers’ Justifications for Direct Behavior Rating Scale Scores” for the February issue of School Mental Health.

D. Betsy McCoach co-published “Bidirectional Effects of Parental and Adolescent Symptom Change in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” for the February issue of Psychological Trauma Theory Research Practice and Policy.

Four adults at UConn Homecoming event.
Erin Murray, third from the left, attends Neag School’s Homecoming gathering with Dean Jason Irizarry, Jim Murray, and Sean Murray in 2022. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Erin Murray has been asked to participate in a webinar panel with SchoolSims, the simulation program UCAPP uses to provide interactive, real-world decision-making experiences to our UCAPP leaders. This will be the second panel she has been part of, and she looks forward to collaborating with others across the country using SchoolSims.

Del Siegle has been appointed UConn’s University Marshal. He will act as University Marshal at the 2023 UConn Master’s and Doctoral Commencement ceremonies.

Jennie Weiner published an article, “Fit to Learn: March 2023,” for the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ NASSP News.

Suzanne Wilson was recognized with a University Teaching Fellow Award from UConn’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. This honor has been bestowed on a small number of faculty who are part of a selective club of distinguished educators recognized and respected for teaching excellence. She will be recognized at a ceremony later in the semester.


Hannah Cooke, a doctoral student in curriculum and instruction, has been selected as a 2023 SKAIDS Fellow (Sandra K. Abell Institute for Doctoral Students). She will be recognized at a SKAIDS ceremony in South Carolina in June.

Smiling African American woman in white top.
Kenya Overton leads a discussion during the Noyce Teacher Leader workshops on 2022. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Kenya Overton, a doctoral student in curriculum and instruction, was honored with the Susan Gaye Award and was recognized at the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE) conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, in February. Overton is the program manager for the Connecticut Noyce Math Teacher Leaders (MTL) Program, led by Neag School’s Megan Staples.


Charles Dumais ’09 ELP was appointed president of the Connecticut Zoological Society’s governing board for the 2024 fiscal year. Dumais is the executive director of Cooperative Educational Services in Trumbull and recently served as superintendent of the Amity Regional School District in Woodbridge.

Fany DeJesús Hannon ’08 MA was featured by UConn Magazine about her book reading choices. This fall, she was appointed interim dean of students after a decade as director of UConn’s Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center.

Willena Kimpson Price in a red outfit celebrating Kwanza.
Willena Kimpson Price at the Annual Kwanzaa Observance Dinner in the UConn Student Union Ballroom in 2012. (Ariel Dowski/UConn)

Willena Price ’00 Ph.D., the retired director of the H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center at UConn, participated in the UConn Women and Philanthropy podcast on female leadership in February.

Michael Smith ’08 MS, a gifted education teacher for Warwick School District in Lititz, Pennsylvania, and coach of the district’s Future City team (a national STEM competition), led his students to the national championships, where they placed first. Smith has coached their Future City team for the past 17 years, during which time they have won the regional competition 12 times and been nationally ranked as first (three times), second, fourth, sixth, 11th (twice), 12th, and 13th. Read more about their journey.

Kelli-Marie Vallieres ’07 Ph.D. was recognized by the Hartford Business Journal as a 2023 Power 50 member (No. 48). She’s the chief workforce officer in Connecticut’s Office of Workforce Strategy.

Roberta Wachtelhausen ’81 (ED) was recognized by the Hartford Business Journal as a 2023 Power 50 member (No. 43). She’s the president of WellSpark Health, a Farmington provider of corporate wellness programs that announced major expansion plans in 2021.

In Memoriam

Raymond C. Amore 82
Bernice G. Crim 62
Leola A. Cross  ’78
Joyce A. Dyer 69
Susan Felix  ’61
Rosalie J. Ford 85
Patricia T. Gardella  ’66
Donald F. Garvais 68
Dona P. Ginty 57
George R. Haddad 54
Elizabeth R. Harvey 69
John P. Hayes 73
Ettore C. Raccagni 56
Loraine L. Shand 64
Frank F. Smith 85
Gerda Walz-Michaels 95
Betsy J. Wiggins 59
Paul W. Wittmer 54


Congratulations to our Neag School alumni, faculty, staff, and students on their continued accomplishments inside and outside the classroom. If you have an accolade to share, we want to hear from you! Please email us any news items or story ideas.