Provost recognizes faculty, staff, and students for community engagement

The University of Connecticut has recognized several faculty, staff, and students with the annual Provost’s Awards for Excellence in Community Engaged Scholarship. The awards recognize scholarly activities led by members of the UConn community that are in collaboration with local, regional/state, national, or global communities to create conditions for the public good, culminating in sustainable […]

Wilbur Cross framed by fall foliage

(Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

The University of Connecticut has recognized several faculty, staff, and students with the annual Provost’s Awards for Excellence in Community Engaged Scholarship.

The awards recognize scholarly activities led by members of the UConn community that are in collaboration with local, regional/state, national, or global communities to create conditions for the public good, culminating in sustainable change and dissemination of these activities. This activity takes many forms, including research, creative works, teaching, and community service.

The awardees for 2021 are as follows:

Undergraduate Award: Maria Kelley

Maria Kelley is an undergraduate student in her junior year with an individualized major in: Law, Social Justice, and the Family. She has served UConn in many roles as a program assistant for the UConn Rising Scholars program, president of Creating Caring Communities, mentor for the METAS program, Service Committee Chair of the Human Rights and Action Learning Community, and member of the Student Leadership Challenge as well as the Leadership Legacy Experience. Outside of UConn, she serves on the CT Department of Child and Families Youth Advisory Board, was a branch lead for the Be A(Part) initiative, and an intern for the Youth Catalyst Experience. Nomination materials highlighted Kelley’s passion to help students from marginalized communities, with a particular focus on independent, homeless, and foster students. She also actively engages with UConn and local organizations to create additional partnerships and opportunities for these student populations. Kelley’s RSO advisor, Alex Katz, describes her as someone who consistently blows Katz away and is “a force for good in our community.”

Graduate Award: Amanda Bunce

Amanda Bunce is a graduate research assistant for the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). She has been a strong voice in communicating the science of forestry as it applies to climate change through substantial research, communication, and outreach to practitioners, professionals, policymakers, and the general public. Nomination materials highlighted her tireless work with creating accessible information through social media and web-based toolboxes, her outreach efforts with the Society of American Foresters Yankee Division, and her engagement with K-12 and undergraduate students. Most notable is her collaboration with the national Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) program, which has engaged UConn in scientist-stakeholder collaboration to design climate adaptation research projects. She is also a principal researcher in the Stormwise program within CAHNR and the UConn Eversource Energy Center. Her efforts have not only established her as an expert in the field of forests and climate change, but also enhanced the reputation of UConn as one of the national leaders in this important topic area.

Staff Award: Charlotte Nelson

Charlotte Nelson, a UConn DPP 2020 MPA Fellow, has been a program coordinator for three grant-funded interdisciplinary graduate training programs in the Department of Psychological Sciences since 2018. She is also the program coordinator for a grant-funded transdisciplinary program in the Institute of the Environment as of June 2021. Nomination materials highlighted her as someone who blends a passion for higher education with a commitment to justice of all kinds. Nelson is a highly active member of a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee where she has organized successful programs around DEI education and training as well as outreach efforts to increase recruitment of underrepresented graduate students. Nelson is also involved with ForwardCT where she has supported a Syrian refugee family by organizing an English as a Second Language tutoring initiative and raising funds for rent and baby goods.  She has also submitted testimony (with a successful outcome) on behalf of a family facing deportation. For nearly seven years she has served in the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters program as a “big sister” to a “little brother,” who is now a high school senior in Hartford. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she coordinated resources that helped families file for unemployment, and provided information on food drives as well as mental and physical healthcare. Nelson is also a strong advocate for the environment and promoted anti-idling vehicle efforts with UConn’s Transportation Services and Office of Sustainability. Her department head characterizes her as “admired by all those students, faculty, and community members with whom she has connected.”

Emerging Faculty: Sohyun Park

Sohyun Park joined UConn in 2018 as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture in CAHNR. Nomination materials included numerous student testimonials that highlight her passion for teaching and commitment to her students as well as the broader community. A critical component of her courses is direct community engagement on projects of significance where she exposes her students to real-world problems in landscape architecture. By partnering with communities, Park’s students have been able to work on many projects across the state such as the Senior Citizen Park Design in Tolland, Eversource Pollinator Garden in UConn’s Hillside Environmental Education Park, South Cove Pocket Park Design in Essex, the Keney Park Informal Entryways Design, and Designing a Green New Deal: Bridgeport Waterfront Pathway. In these service-learning projects, students have had the opportunity to engage with project partners, local communities, design professionals, and numerous stakeholders. Communities have also benefited from the new developments. Recently, she led the effort to establish a Memorandum of Agreement between UConn and the Korean Institute of Landscape Architecture to promote joint academic and scientific activities, broadening the experiences of UConn students. Park’s department head has commended her engaged teaching approach and genuine empathy as a “life transforming educator.”

Distinguished Faculty: Fiona Vernal

Fiona Vernal is an associate professor of History and Africana Studies who joined the university in 2005. Working closely with public, academic, and community partners such as the Hartford Public Library, Hartford Stage, the West Indian Social Club, UConn’s Dodd Center for Human Rights, Capital Community College, and Trinity College, she has conducted extensive research to produce a range of exhibits exploring migration, child labor, anti-apartheid activism, and housing. Her projects such as the exhibit, “From Civil Rights to Human Rights: African American, Puerto Rican, and West Indian Housing Struggles in Hartford, Connecticut, 1940- 2019,” have sparked important conversations about the legacies of exclusion and inclusion in Connecticut and helped create new visibility for the history of housing, labor, migrant, and immigrant communities in Hartford. Her dedication to collect, expand, and share oral histories from Caribbean, Puerto Rican, and African American communities have led the History Department to launch the Engaged, Public, Oral, and Community Histories (EPOCH) initiative. Nomination materials also highlighted Vernal as someone eager to mentor undergraduate students interested in archival research and creating opportunities for them to co-author and co-create exhibits and other research projects. Currently, she is collaborating with Greenhouse Studios and alumnus James Kolb on a public facing digital humanities site,, that offers new visual and spatial histories of race, ethnic belonging, community formation, and community succession in Hartford.

Faculty Team: Environment Corps (E-Corps)

The Environment Corps (E-Corps) is a program that combines classroom instruction, service learning, and extension outreach with hands-on practica in the community. The program is structured around a 3-credit course focused on practice-oriented instruction, followed in the next semester by a 3-credit independent study/practicum in which groups of students work directly with officials from Connecticut towns on a range of environmental projects related to the topical theme of the course. E-Corps has successfully reached schools and colleges across UConn to provide students from many different disciplines with opportunities to bring their own perspective and talents to a central environmental issue. E-Corps students have worked on 76 projects with 60 unique town partners throughout Connecticut. The efforts of E-Corps have been noticed and appreciated with a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation in 2019 from the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program. E-Corps has also received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the EPA, and private donors.

Team members:

  • Chester Arnold, Educator, Department of Extension and Director, Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR)
  • Carol Atkinson-Palombo, Professor, Department of Geography
  • Juliana Barrett, Extension Educator, CT Sea Grant and Department of Extension
  • Nefeli Bompoti, Assistant Research Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Mark A. Boyer, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Department of Geography
  • Rebecca A. Campbell-Montalvo, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Todd Campbell, Department Head and Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Marisa Chrysochoou, Department Head and Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Hannah Cooke, Research Assistant and PhD candidate, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
  • David Dickson, Educator, Department of Extension and CLEAR
  • Michael Dietz, Educator, Department of Extension and CLEAR, and Director, Connecticut Institute for Water Resources (CIWR)
  • Peter Diplock, Associate Vice Provost, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL)
  • Keith Esch, Science Education Researcher, Horizon Research Inc.
  • Bruce Hyde, Educator, Department of Extension and CLEAR
  • Gladis Kersaint, Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives
  • Suzanne LaFleur, Director of Faculty Development, CETL
  • Byung-Yeol Park, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Joan Pasley, Vice President, Horizon Research Inc.
  • Timothy Vadas, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Jason Vokoun, Department Head and Professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
  • John Volin, Provost, University of Maine
  • Michael Willig, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Executive Director, Institute of the Environment

Student Team: School of Pharmacy Student COVID-19 Vaccination Education Team

With the impending release of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., a group of 15 students, four faculty, and a staff member in the School of Pharmacy planned a public facing YouTube Video series to provide rapid factual vaccine information in multiple languages. The completed videos were shared with the public through social media channels in an effort to combat the rampant misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and vaccine options. In the videos, students answered some of the most common questions surrounding the vaccines and then discussed the comments that arose through social media platforms. To date, the team has created over 83 videos in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Polish that have been viewed nearly 30,000 times. Both the faculty and students involved in this effort made these videos on top of their regular jobs, schoolwork, and involvement in the state vaccination effort.  The videos can be viewed on the School of Pharmacy’s YouTube channel.

Student team members:

  • Adlin Garcia Betancourt (Pharm.D., ’23)
  • Hiu Lan Chan (Pharm.D., ’23)
  • Bailey Conkey (Pharm.D., ’23)
  • Roshica Dehaney (Pharm.D., ’23)
  • Madeleine Depinho (Pharm.D., ’22)
  • Kyra Durfee (Pharm.D.,’22 )
  • Xin Dong (Pharm.D., ‘24)
  • Isabella Hernandez (Pharm.D., ’23)
  • Kylie Price (Pharm.D., ’23)
  • Cara Rotatori (Pharm.D., ’22)
  • Jasmine Tankard (Pharm.D., ’21)
  • Lindsey Taupier (Pharm.D., ’22)
  • Alex Theriault (Pharm.D., ’23)
  • Leanne Varga (Pharm.D., ’22)
  • Lyla White (B.S. ’25, Pharm.D. ’27)

Faculty and staff team members:

  • Michael White, Department Head and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice
  • Diana Sobieraj, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice
  • Jennifer Girotto, Clinical Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice
  • Grzegorz Rdzak, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice
  • Karin Whiting Burgess, Publicity/Marketing Administrator, School of Pharmacy