Two UConn faculty members recognized for exceptional distinction in scholarship, teaching, and service have been designated as Board of Trustees Distinguished Professors, the University’s highest honor for educators.
In addition to joining a select group of UConn educators, Mark A. Boyer and Linda S. Pescatello have something else in common: They credit their success to the pure joy of learning about new topics, sharing the insights with students and fellow researchers, and working at a university that encourages scholarly curiosity and exploration.
Boyer and Pescatello are professors in the departments of political science and kinesiology respectively, and have long histories of producing intriguing research, engaging students with new challenges and ideas, and working closely with other faculty on interdisciplinary projects.
UConn’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously and enthusiastically at its meeting in April to designate Boyer and Pescatello as “Board of Trustees Distinguished Professors,” a title that only 49 other faculty members have been granted in the 15 years since it was established.
Pescatello, who holds three degrees from UConn and has taught at the University since 1998, is an internationally recognized leading scholar on blood pressure response to exercise among people with hypertension. Pescatello, a lifelong athlete, also is studying the influence of exercise on cancer survivors, and is in the early stages of new research on the use of yoga to help manage stress and reduce substance use among college veterans and among methadone users.
“I’m so fortunate because I’m getting paid to study things that are intrinsically interesting to me anyway,” says Pescatello ’77 (CLAS), ’81 MS (ED), ’86 Ph.D. (ED), “but having the opportunity to always be challenged by new ideas and new approaches also keeps me going and excited about my work.”
Boyer, who came to UConn fresh from graduate school in 1988 and is now the department head in political science, says the ability to pursue various interests and team up with researchers in other disciplines has also helped shape his career. His specialty areas include public goods theory, negotiation and bargaining, and the politics of the environment – specifically climate change.
“Because we’re one of the most environmentally conscious campuses in the world, there are a lot of opportunities for really interesting educational lessons all around us,” Boyer says. “One of my touchstones in the classroom is active engagement – it’s important to get students engaged in ways that make this real rather than just listening to me talk for an hour and a half or so.”
Boyer and Pescatello both emphasize the value of collaborating with students, professors in other disciplines, and other researchers as a key part of their own successes in and out of the classroom.
Pescatello holds joint appointments in UConn’s departments of allied health sciences, nutritional sciences, physiology and neurobiology, and community medicine and health care. She also is a senior research specialist in the Metabolic Services Division at the Hospital for Central Connecticut, and has consultant privileges in the Division of Cardiology at Hartford Hospital.
She has published more than 125 scientific papers and reviews, three books, numerous book chapters, has won hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of external research grants, and has advised and mentored dozens of students who’ve gone on to publish in her field’s top journals.
“Mentoring and guiding these young people and helping them develop their careers is particularly rewarding,” says Pescatello, who has spent about 30 years of her adult life at UConn between her own time as a student and her career as a professor.
Boyer, who describes himself as “a recipient of a lot of good fortune and support along the way professionally,” is also a Scholar-in-Residence at UConn’s Center for Environmental Science and an affiliated faculty member with the School of Engineering’s Environmental Engineering Program.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wittenberg University, and received his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Maryland, where he says his graduate mentors were superlative and set him on a path toward today’s successes.
One of his largest, long-term research projects is the GlobalEd Project with Scott W. Brown, a professor of educational psychology in the Neag School of Education. Started in 1992, GlobalEd conducts Internet-based international studies simulations for secondary school students, and has received more than $5 million in peer-reviewed grant support in the past 15 years.
Boyer says that while he is pleased that the collaboration has helped bring in so much research money, he is particularly happy and humbled by the Distinguished Professor designation because it recognizes teaching and service as well as research.
“I’ve tried very hard throughout my career to integrate teaching, research, and service,” he says, “and it’s very gratifying that that’s been recognized.”