Professor Sandra M. Chafouleas in the Neag School’s Department of Educational Psychology has been named a University of Connecticut Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor — the highest honor that the university bestows on faculty who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship, teaching, and service. The award honors faculty who have spent at least 10 years of their career at UConn and have attained the rank of full professor. The UConn Board of Trustees approved Chafouleas’ prestigious designation at its April 26 meeting in Storrs.
Chafouleas joined the Neag School’s Department of Educational Psychology in 2000. There, her work is focused within the master’s/specialist and doctoral programs in school psychology. She also serves as co-director of the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH), the mission of which is to facilitate innovative and impactful connections across research, policy, and practice arenas relevant to school and child health.
Chafouleas builds and leads research teams that bring together personnel from across UConn and the nation who offer different disciplinary perspectives and expertise in tackling important issues for children, families, and schools. Her scholarly work has focused on assisting with decisions about school-based practices to help define which behaviors are critical to learning, health, and well-being; who needs additional supports to be successful; and what processes can inform practices that are effective for individual students, classrooms, and schools.
“It has been easy to stay motivated and engaged when you are surrounded by amazing colleagues who are passionate about research in school and child health and well-being.”
— Sandra Chafouleas, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Neag School of Education
To date, she has authored more than 150 publications, many of which have become seminal citations for expanding school-based services in identification and response to social, emotional, and behavioral risk. As principal investigator, she has maintained continual federal support for her research since 2006.
“It has been easy to stay motivated and engaged when you are surrounded by amazing colleagues who are passionate about research in school and child health and well-being,” Chafouleas says. “There are so many avenues of research to pursue, as the issues are complex and involve multiple systems.”
For example, she says, she spent the first part of her research career building and evaluating better ways to help schools efficiently identify children who may need extra supports and then monitor their response to interventions. “We are still working on how to use those assessments within larger systems of prevention to intervention,” she says, “but have moved to more interdisciplinary collaborations and are looking at the many facets of whole child success. Over the years, I have fully embraced that interdisciplinary collaboration across systems of care is very challenging, but essential to having sustained impact.”
Scholar, Teacher, and Mentor
“Dr. Chafouleas is one of, if not the most, prolific researcher in the Educational Psychology Department,” wrote Dean Gladis Kersaint and Associate Dean Del Siegle in a joint letter nominating Chafouleas for the designation. Her “passion for research excellence is evident in her teaching and service, which are areas where she also excels.”
Consistently acknowledged as an excellent teacher and mentor, Chafouleas has to date successfully mentored six postdoctoral scholars and 19 doctoral students in pursuit of diverse career paths in education. Ten of those advisees currently hold tenure-track positions across the nation, with many others serving part-time roles in postsecondary education along with full-time applied work. As principal investigator, she successfully led an Institute of Education Sciences (IES)-funded postdoctoral training project designed to increase the capacity for high-quality education research, with each trainee achieving continual success in academia. In 2009, she also received the UConn Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.
In a nomination letter penned by four of Chafouleas’ former mentees — including two Neag School alumni, Amy Briesch ’09 Ph.D. and Stephen Kilgus ’11 Ph.D., and two former postdoctoral fellows, Faith Miller and Sabina Neugebauer — Chafouleas is described as being “able to breathe life into the material at hand by providing relevant anecdotes and examples” to her students.
“For those individuals unfamiliar with the world of education,” they write, “she is able to paint accurate and informative pictures of what they might encounter within the classrooms and hallways. She effectively bridges the gap between what is learned in the university classroom and what will be used in the practical setting by ensuring that learning is not isolated to print but connected to everyday and applied experiences.”
‘Success is not a road traveled alone’
Chafouleas’ other awards include the Oakland Mid-Career Scholarship Award from Division 16 of the American Psychological Association (2016), the UConn Alumni Association Award for Faculty Excellence in Graduate Teaching (2009), and the Neag School of Education Outstanding Young Investigator Award (2003).
Her history of service to the university, region, and nation is extensive. At UConn, Chafouleas served for two years as associate dean of the Graduate School followed by two years as associate dean of research for the Neag School. She has continually served as associate or guest editor for primary journals in her field, provided invited expert testimony to those charged with determining directions that impact school and child health, and reviewed proposals for federal agencies, including IES, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Special Education Programs.
In addition, she has been a member of two state task forces on education-related topics and is currently a board member for Achieve Hartford!, an independent nonprofit organization founded by business and community leaders with the belief that strong schools lead to a strong city.
Chafouleas is an invited member and President-Elect of the Society for the Study of School Psychology, and a fellow in the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.
“Success is definitely not a road traveled alone,” says Chafouleas. “I am very grateful to have been blessed with tremendous support from many, many colleagues at UConn and throughout the nation who have provided — and continue to provide — mentorship throughout my graduate training, work in K-12 settings, and academic career.”