Neag School 2022 Alumni Awards Virtual Celebration

Congratulations to the Neag School of Education 2022 Alumni Awardees!

It is our honor to present this year’s eight outstanding Alumni Award recipients. We are proud to recognize each individual’s career accomplishments, contributions to their respective fields, and service to their community.

24th Annual Neag School Alumni Awards Celebration.

Outstanding School Educator

Jeffrey S. Danielian ’06 MA

Jeffrey Danielian.
(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey S. Danielian)

In addition to directing the LaSalle Scholars Program and teaching freshman biology at LaSalle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island, Jeffrey Danielian serves as the editor-in-chief for the National Association for Gifted Children’s (NAGC) magazine, Teaching for High Potential. In his role at LaSalle Academy, Danielian provides ongoing opportunities for student enrichment inside and outside the classroom, including facilitating independent research studies and coordinating mentorships. At NAGC — where he is known as a leader in the field — he also coordinates the Javits-Frasier Teacher Scholarship Program and oversees the submission and review process for the association’s annual convention.

He serves as co-director of Edufest, a gifted and talented conference held in Boise, Idaho. In addition, Danielian provides consultation to educators and parents and has authored various white papers, research summaries, and blog posts, as well as four volumes of poetry and four nonfiction books, including books about science teaching.

“His motivation to be successful in all roles can be attributed to his chosen responsibilities as a master teacher and scholar educator who wants to improve educational opportunities and pathways to excellence for his students and educators worldwide.”

— E. Jean Gubbins,

Outstanding Professional

Cindy Ouillette ’97 (ED), ’98 MA

A graduate of the Neag School’s Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program, Cindy Ouillette serves as a library media specialist for Tourtellotte Memorial High School in North Grosvenordale, Connecticut. In that role, she impacts the school’s educational community by building collegial collaborations, including integrating literacy skills into the curriculum, and delivering and facilitating special events to support student and staff literacy.

Ouillette co-chaired the steering committee for the school’s accreditation process and also collaborated with colleagues in writing technology grants that have awarded the district more than $200,000 to date. In addition, she develops rigorous academic opportunities and assists students with finding specific resources for individualized needs. Recognized as a forward thinker, Ouillette initiated and continues to advise a student writing center, and also collaborated with the school’s alumni association to plan and facilitate a yearly “Alumni Career Day.”

Cindy is an integral part of Tourtellotte Memorial High School, so much so that I personally could not imagine our school without her. This woman wears many hats in the makeup of our school, and she readily gives her time and energy to every one of the projects and activities she is involved with.”

— Paula Coderre,
Special Education Teacher,
Tourtellotte Memorial High School

Outstanding Early Career Professional

Wura Olusekun ’16 MA

Olusekun stands in front of an all-girls basketball clinic banner with pink and white balloons.
(Photo courtesy of Wura Olusekun)

Wura Olusekun has served as a program assistant with the National Hockey League (NHL) since 2017, where she oversees social impact, growth initiatives, and legislative affairs. In that role, Olusekun collaborates with stakeholders across the NHL to plan internal and external talent-related projects and events, and produce content for social impact campaigns. Through her work at the NHL, she has highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in hockey and beyond, evidenced, for instance, in her collaborations with NHL Studios and Marketing to develop the Off-Ice with Wyclek Jean four-part series, and to pitch and manage the process for Black Bolden’s Be Bold Players’ Tribune Story.

Most recently, she accepted a new role with Major League Soccer (MLS), where she oversees social responsibility. As a master’s student in the Neag School’s Sport Management program, she initiated the “Beyond the Field” speaker series, which continues today, enhancing students’ experience in the sport management program while also informing the greater Neag School community.

“I am excited for Wura, as I know her future is bright, and this is just the beginning.”

— Jennifer McGarry,
Professor and Husky Sport Executive Director

Outstanding School Administrator

Siobhan O’Connor ’12 6th Year, ’16 ELP

O'Connor kneels to talk to young student outside Highcrest Elementary School.
Wearing scrubs, Principal Siobhan O’Connor welcomes students to Highcrest Elementary in Wethersfield on the school’s first day of classes in 2020. (Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant)

Siobhan O’Connor has served since 2021 as principal of Wethersfield (Connecticut) High School. Previous to that, she served as principal of Highcrest Elementary in Wethersfield. A tireless advocate for student resources, she is a visible presence who is deeply connected to the school community and focuses on her students, including leading the school during a pivot to remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis. During the pandemic shutdown, O’Connor ensured her students were receiving meals, with her efforts helping to create a satellite meal distribution site in town. As the 2020-21 school year began, O’Connor proactively planned for school safety. As a result, 100% of her staff returned to school during the pandemic.

She has shared her extensive knowledge of educational strategies, including being integral in helping to create student learning plans as well as strategies during individualized education program meetings. Recognizing the need to increase collaboration between general and special education teachers, O’Connor worked with her leadership team to adjust the daily schedule to increase collaborative time; this model proved so effective that other schools within the district have also looked to implement it.

“What makes her such an extraordinary leader is her ability to appeal to teachers and other staff members as a comforting, yet inspiring presence; a leader that not only is a team player but one who also can guide her staff and provide them with necessary direction when it is needed.”

— Ian Lynch-Passarelli,
Special Education Teacher, Wethersfield Public Schools

Jody stands outside with a group of students.
(Photo courtesy of Jody Ian Goeler)

Outstanding School Superintendent

Jody Ian Goeler ’07 ELP

A graduate of the Neag School’s Executive Leadership Program, Jody Ian Goeler has served as superintendent of Hamden (Connecticut) Public Schools since 2014. He leads a dynamic and diverse urban/suburban district with a student enrollment of approximately 5,700 students, 880 full-time staff, and a budget of $92 million.

A dedicated and passionate leader, Goeler is implementing a multiyear plan that provides bold, innovative, and transformative leadership to address equity for Hamden Public Schools. He is leading Hamden Reimagine, Restructure, Results (R3), a forward-thinking approach to change the fabric of Hamden Schools to provide educational equity for all schools. Known throughout the state as a literacy expert, Goeler began his academic career in Connecticut teaching, supervising student activities, and developing individualized education programs. Additionally, he is an innovator with technology and brought technology in Hamden classrooms to a new level.

“Jody’s leadership style and personal character is grounded in doing what is best for children and their education –that is his greatest attribute. ... Jody is a true professional in every sense of the word and he demonstrates that with his actions.”

— Joseph Macary,
Superintendent, Vernon Public Schools

Bidya Ranjeet.
(Photo courtesy of Bidya Ranjeet)

Outstanding Higher Education Professional

Bidya Ranjeet ’84 MA, ’90 Ph.D.

Bidya Ranjeet has served as a director of the UConn Center for Academic Programs (CAP) since 2013, where she manages the daily operations of the University’s TRIO Programs (Student Support Services, UConn College Access and Success, and UConn Rising Scholars Program and McNair Scholars Program). While recruiting, enrolling, supporting, retaining, and graduating low-income and first-generation students through the CAP’s umbrella programs, she has successfully secured local, state, and federal funding — including, most recently, $1.4 million in grant support from the U.S. Department of Education.

Her advocacy for students and collaboration with campus support services at UConn began almost 30 years ago, when she started as a counselor at UConn Student Support Services, advising students on personal, academic, career, and financial aid issues. Ranjeet, who began her professional career in education as a teacher, then principal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, earned her master’s in educational administration and her doctorate in adult education from the Neag School.

“Dr. Ranjeet makes time to get to know the students who she serves, both inside and outside of the classroom. She always welcomes students to meet with her for academic and professional advice, showing her commitment to their growth and well-being at UConn and beyond.”

— Susana M. Ulloa,
High School Initiatives Director,
John W. Rowe Center for Undergraduate Research

Outstanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Professional

Michael D. Corral ’19 Ph.D.

Mike plays tug of war with Husky Sport students.
(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

A lead researcher for Promise54, a national nonprofit designed to support and build up education systems to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) experiences, Michael Corral is a graduate of the Neag School’s doctoral program in learning, leadership, and education policy. At Promise54, he collects data to inform the organization’s research and reporting and recently was lead author of a published report summarizing 50,000 staff experience surveys and 700 organizational profiles sharing the current DEI work and antiracism in the education sector.

As a doctoral student, Corral taught courses throughout the Neag School, focusing on multicultural education, equity, and social justice, and providing professional development sessions and leadership for UConn’s Husky Sport program. Driven by his own experiences navigating the educational system as a student of color, Corral began his professional career in education teaching in a rural, lower-income, and predominantly Latinx community.

“As he did many times throughout his time at UConn, Dr. Corral continues to impress in many ways as he carves out his path as a professional generating necessary change in the associated fields of education, educational policy, assessment, community engagement, and culturally sustaining pedagogies and practices.”

— Justin Evanovich,
Assistant Clinical Professor

Distinguished Alumna

Donna Bandelloni ’77 (ED), ’80 MA

Donna Bandelloni.
(Rebecca Ames Photography)

Donna Bandelloni has served as a director of gift planning for leading healthcare organizations and as senior director and director of charitable gifts for world-leading financial institutions for more than 25 years. Her capacity to lead and execute produced significant growth in gift planning programs for large healthcare foundations in Northern California. In addition, Bandelloni has held director positions at large financial institutions such as Merrill Lynch Trust, Wells Fargo Charitable Management, and Mellon Financial, successfully expanding their charitable services to the nonprofit sector.

She is actively involved with the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, American Council on Gift Annuities, and Marin Estate Planning Council. At UConn, she is a member of the Neag School of Education Dean’s Board of Advocates and the UConn Foundation’s Women’s Philanthropy Forum.

“Donna is well known from coast to coast as an effective charitable gift planner, an engaging teacher and presenter, and an energizing presence in our professional associations. We have been colleagues for over two decades, and I am very happy that her alma mater is recognizing her distinguished career with this honor.”

— Joseph O. Bull, JD,
Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer, Wilmington College



Alumni Board Scholarship Recipients

Through the generosity of current and past board members of the Neag School of Education Alumni Board, funding is made available each academic year to provide much-needed scholarship support to one or more current Neag School students.

Formally established in 2014, the Neag School Alumni Board Scholarship this academic year will support three doctoral students:

  • 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

Read their story.

Tamika La Salle.
Tamika La Salle

Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award

The Dr. Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award is awarded annually to a full-time faculty member in the Neag School of Education for outstanding teaching.

Associate Professor Tamika La Salle in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program has been named the 2022 Zirkel Award honoree. La Salle is also a research scientist for the Center for Behavioral Educational Research (CBER). Her primary areas of research interests include culturally responsive education practices, school climate, and the interrelationships among cultural and ecological variables including the community, family, and school on student outcomes. 

She is a co-investigator on a $4 million PBIS-V subgrant to UConn, serving as the school climate and culture coordinator for the PBIS Technical Center. La Salle is also a co-investigator on a $2.4 million NIH grant focused on reducing youth violence and racism and discrimination through comprehensive prevention strategies.

Since 2017, she has served as project coordinator leading a Cross-Cultural School Climate Group with partners from more than 10 countries, and also regularly serves as a school and state consultant, working with schools to identify and implement culturally responsive intervention and prevention practices to support equitable access and opportunities and to improve school climate.

Learn more about the Zirkel Award.

Thank You, From the Neag School 2021-22 Alumni Board

Today, more than 24,000 Neag School alumni are making a positive impact on communities worldwide as educators, school psychologists, counselors, researchers, sport management professionals, and leaders across and beyond the field of education.

It is our great privilege to sponsor this annual event — now in its 24th consecutive year — as a way of formally recognizing a selection of the School’s most accomplished and dedicated graduates. These awards honor distinguished educators and professionals who have made a significant contribution in their chosen profession.

On behalf of UConn’s Neag School of Education, we congratulate this year’s incredibly deserving award recipients. Thank you for joining us online in honoring these remarkable individuals.

The 2021-22 Neag School Alumni Board

Would you like to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of educators?

Support the Neag School Alumni Scholarship fund at

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