2023 Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Speakers from a broad range of fields and backgrounds will share their wisdom with UConn's Class of 2023

Close up of a UConn-decorated mortarboard

A decorated mortarboard at the 2022 School of Fine Arts Commencement ceremony at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. May 7, 2022. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

From business success to civil rights, from fine art to visionary mathematics, the honored guests of UConn’s commencement ceremonies bring a wealth of experience, insight, and wisdom to share with this year’s graduates.

Countdown to Commencement word mark

Speakers at the ceremonies, which begin on May 6, include:

Joshua D. Angrist, Ph.D. (Doctor of Science, Graduate School – Masters Ceremony – Monday, May 8, Gampel Pavilion, 9:00 a.m.)

Joshua Angrist is the Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a co- founder and director of MIT’s Blueprint Labs, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. A dual U.S. and Israeli citizen, Angrist taught at Harvard and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before coming to MIT in 1996. Angrist received his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1982 and completed his Ph.D. in Economics at Princeton in 1989.

Angrist and his collaborators develop and study innovative ways to harness the power of natural experiments to answer important economic questions. These new econometric tools help social scientists and policymakers discover the causal effects of individual choices and government policy changes. In dozens of empirical studies, Angrist explores the economics of education and school reform; the impact of social programs on the labor market; and the labor market effects of immigration, regulation, and economic institutions.

Angrist received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2021 (with Co- Laureates Guido Imbens and David Card). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society, and has served on many editorial boards and as a co-editor of the Journal of Labor Economics.

In addition to scholarship and teaching, Angrist and Steve Pischke co-authored Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist’s Companion and Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect. These texts are not only among the most widely seen in econometrics classrooms, they’re also the funniest. Through their books and their ongoing scholarship, Angrist and Pischke hope to bring econometric instruction out of the Stone Age.

Trisha Bailey, Ph.D., MBA, CFA, FnClt (Doctor of Humane Letters, School of Pharmacy – Pharm. D. – Sunday, May 7, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 1:30 p.m.)

At the age of 13, Dr. Trisha Bailey immigrated to the United States from Jamaica, leaving behind a family, hoping, and praying for her success. She faced many hardships including deprivation, poverty, and displacement. While many people may view her past as dark and traumatic, Dr. Bailey has taken those experiences and her life journey to create what she refers to as her own “yes,” whereby she refuses to let obstacles stand in her way. She was the first to graduate college in her family when she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut in 1999, where she also lit up the track as a star athlete. She would then attain a master’s degree in business administration in 2005 and a doctorate in management in organizational leadership in 2010. Her gritty background makes her no stranger to hard work, but it is her passion and kindness that have led to her success, making her by some accounts, the wealthiest Jamaican woman to date.

Dr. Bailey has proven herself to be the epitome of the word entrepreneur. She has taken over the home medical equipment industry as the only Black woman in this arena, establishing pharmaceutical and durable medical equipment facilities across the country. In 2021, she was a finalist for HME (Home Medical Equipment) Woman of the Year! An award recognizing a woman globally for their leadership in the market. Additionally, Trisha’s company, Bailey’s Medical Equipment & Supplies, placed as a finalist in the HME awards. Dr. Bailey has dominated the real estate market, owning land all over Jamaica and a plethora of commercial and residential real estate properties stretching from the United States to Jamaica. She is the first Black woman to own commercial real estate in the prestigious town of Vero Beach and Edgewood, Florida. Her business acumen and decision-making skills have placed her on the track to becoming one of the few women entrepreneurs to become a self-made billionaire and change the course of history. Dr. Bailey’s entrepreneurial and business successes are matched equally by her deep commitment to giving back and helping others. Her philanthropic support has helped countless individuals, institutions, and communities across the United States and Jamaica. Recently, the University of Connecticut bestowed the student body with a state-of-the-art facility named after Trisha Bailey— the Bailey Student Athlete Success Center. The naming of this center honors Dr. Bailey’s humble beginnings, hard work, accomplishments, dedication, and passion to help others.

Renée Joskow, DDS, MPH (Doctor of Science, Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine – Monday, May 8, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 1:00 p.m.)

Dr. Renée Joskow is a dentist and a medical epidemiologist who has dedicated her life to service and leading change. She has inspired others through teaching and mentoring and has provided high quality clinical care and public health expertise in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Joskow proudly holds the rank of Captain (O-6) in the

U.S. Public Health Service whose mission is “protecting, promoting, and advancing the health and safety of the Nation.”

Dr. Joskow graduated with honors from Columbia University’s dual-degree Doctor of Dental Surgery and Master of Public Health program and completed both a hospital-based General Practice Residency and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dental Public Health Residency/Intramural Fellowship. She spent the first half of her professional career integrating teaching, clinical care, and public health. As faculty and course director at Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine and as an Attending Staff/Dentist at two hospitals, she cared for patients and taught and mentored medical and dental students and residents.

Concurrently, Dr. Joskow maintained a private dental practice in New York and founded a quality assurance/ quality control consulting business working with several healthcare entities in the tri-state area.

After nearly 15 years in the academic, corporate, and clinical sectors, Dr. Joskow was commissioned in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer, or “disease detective.” After her EIS assignment, Dr. Joskow joined the Office of the Surgeon General where she served as the Medical Readiness Manager/Training and Education Chief for the USPHS Commissioned Corps, responsible for the training of over 6,100 physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, scientists, and other health professionals. She went on to serve as a Senior Medical Epidemiologist and Program Manager in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. Dr. Joskow later returned to the NIH providing subject matter expertise and program management for a multi-million-dollar Clinical Translational Science Award research program to promote and accelerate the translation of scientific research discoveries into clinical practice and then community practice to improve health. Leveraging her diverse experience and depth of expertise, Dr. Joskow was then recruited to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a federal agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as their Chief Dental Officer. She spent 10 years at HRSA working across health disciplines and building public private partnerships to lead health care systems improvement, health professions training, and integration efforts. In 2021, she accepted a position as Senior Advisor to the Director of NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). In addition, she was appointed as the inaugural Director of NIDCR’s new three-year Dental Public Health Residency and Research Fellowship Program and Acting Director of the Office of Science Policy and Analysis.

Throughout her years of service, Dr. Joskow has responded to environmental and infectious disease outbreaks and has led medical, dental, and public health response teams during natural and man-made disasters including COVID-19, 9/11 – World Trade Center, Anthrax, Hurricane Katrina, and National Security Special Events such as the Winter Olympics, Presidential Inaugurations, and the State of the Union events.

Dr. Joskow has been recognized throughout her illustrious career with awards and honors for her service, achievements, mentoring, and leadership, including two Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medals. She holds leadership positions in numerous professional organizations and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Public Health. Dr. Joskow is also a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, and the New York Academy of Dentistry.

John C. Mather, Ph.D. (Doctor of Science, School of Engineering – Saturday, May 6, Gampel Pavilion, 9:00 a.m.)

Dr. John C. Mather is a Civil Servant and Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. He is also the Senior Project Scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope, extending the scientific discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope to look farther out in space and farther back in time.

He grew up in rural New Jersey living on a scientific research facility where his father studied dairy cows. He attended public schools, learned calculus from a book, received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and wanted to be like Richard Feynman, an American theoretical physicist. Yet his doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, led him into observations of the Big Bang, with an unsuccessful thesis project that nevertheless inspired the Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite (COBE) and a Nobel Prize in Physics.

As a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York City, he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer mission (1974-76) and moved to Goddard Space Flight Center to be the lead scientist for the mission.

Mather and the COBE team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million (ppm), confirming the expanding universe concept (Big Bang theory) to extraordinary accuracy. The team also measured hot and cold spots in the heat radiation; Steven Hawking said it was the greatest scientific discovery of the century, if not of all time.

As Senior Project Scientist (1995-present) for the Webb telescope, Mather leads the science team, and represents scientific interests within the project management.

As winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics, chosen by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Mather shares the prize with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their work using the COBE satellite to measure the heat radiation from the Big Bang. Mather put the prize money into the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts. Mather also sponsors summer interns to work on science policy on Capitol Hill, through the Society of Physics Students.

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, M.D. (Doctor of Humane Letters, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Ceremony 3 – Sunday, May 7, Gampel Pavilion, and 5:30 p.m.)

Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, also known as “Dr. Q,” serves as Chairman of the Department of Neurologic Surgery and is the Dean of Research at the Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. He also leads the Mayo Clinic’s Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory, where he has been recognized with the distinction of the William J. and Charles H. Mayo Endowed Professorship.

Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa earned his B.A. in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed his neurosurgery residency and a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and stem cell biology at the University of California, San Francisco. His career as a neurosurgeon started at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he was a Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology and served as the director of the Brain Tumor Program.

Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa’s practice focuses on the treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumors. He is a world-renowned leader in brain mapping techniques used to safely remove tumors close to eloquent brain regions and in minimally invasive endoscopic approaches required to operate on difficult-to-reach skull base tumors. Dr. Q uses his laboratory as an extension of the operating room, and together with his team of scientists, they look to better understand and elucidate multiple molecular drivers of brain cancer migration, invasion, metabolism, and determinants of the tumor microenvironment.

Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa has written seven books about brain cancer and neurosurgery that have been translated into multiple languages, and he has over 500 peer-reviewed publications. His research is supported by the National Institute of Health (NIH), where he also serves as reviewer in many NIH study sections such as the Clinical Neuroimmunology and Brain Tumors (CNBT).

Over the last 15 years, Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa has mentored more than 300 post-graduate students and neurosurgery residents, who are currently working in prestigious institutions of the United States such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MD Anderson, UCSF, as well as other institutions around the world.

Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa has received many honors and awards in recognition of his work. He has been named one of the 101 most influential Hispanics in 2008, 2018, 2021 and 2022. He is the 2014 recipient of the Gary Lichtenstein Humanitarian Award and Neurosurgeon of the Year in 2014, and in 2021 Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa received the prestigious Charles B. Wilson Award from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS).

Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa has also received multiple honoris causa degrees from several institutions around the globe, including Southern Vermont College, Lackawanna College, Dominican University, University of Notre Dame, Loyola University. Apart from his clinical and research activities. He is the co-founder and president of the non-profit organization Mission:BRAIN (Bridging Resources and Advancing International Neurosurgery), and a member of the executive committee of Voices Against Brain Cancer. He has also founded three companies to extend the reach of his discoveries and has filed more than 25 patents.

Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa has published his inspirational autobiography, “Becoming Dr. Q,” which covers his journey from a migrant farmworker to a neurosurgeon. Part of Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa life was included in the 2009 Peabody Award-winning ABC TV Series “Hopkins” and the 2021 EMMY/ BAFTA Award-winning show “The Surgeons Cut,” produced by the BBC/Netflix. Disney and Plan B Entertainment productions announced that his inspirational life story will also be featured in theaters.

Rashaad Newsome (Doctor of Fine Arts, School of Fine Arts – Saturday, May 6, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 6:00 p.m.)

Rashaad Newsome’s work blends several practices, including collage, assemblage, sculpture, film, video, animation, photography, music, computer programming, software engineering, community organizing, and performance, to create a divergent field that rejects classification. Using the diasporic traditions of improvisation, he pulls from the world of advertising, the internet, Art History, Black and Queer culture to produce counter-hegemonic work that walks the tightrope between social practice, abstraction, and intersectionality. Collage acts as a conceptual and technical method to construct a new cultural framework of power that does not find the oppression of others necessary. Newsome’s work celebrates Black contributions to the art canon and creates innovative and inclusive forms of culture and media.

Newsome lives and works between Brooklyn, New York City, Oakland, and Los Angeles, California. He was born in 1979 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he received a BFA in Art History at Tulane University in 2001. In 2004, he received a certificate of study in Digital Post Production from Film/Video Arts Inc. (NYC). In 2005 he studied MAX/MSP Programming at Harvestworks Digital Media Art Center (NYC). He has exhibited and performed in galleries, museums, institutions, and festivals throughout the world, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (NYC), The National Museum of African American History and Culture (DC), The Park Avenue Armory Drill Hall (NYC), The Whitney Museum (NYC), Brooklyn Museum (NYC), MoMAPS1 (NYC), Museum of the African Diaspora (SF, CA), SFMOMA (CA), New Orleans Museum of Art (LA), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Hayward Gallery (London), CA2M Centro de Arte dos de Mayo (Spain), The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture (Moscow), and MUSA (Vienna). Newsome’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Studio Museum in Harlem (NYC), Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), The Brooklyn Museum of Art (NYC), The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (CA), The de Young Museum (CA), The Oakland Museum of California (CA), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LA), McNay Art Museum (TX), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VA), The Chazen Museum of Art (WI), National Museum of African American History and Culture (DC) and The New Britain Museum of American Art (CT). In 2010 he participated in the Whitney Biennial (NYC), and in 2011 Greater New York at MoMAPS1 (NYC).

His many honors and awards for his work include the 2022 Berkeley FILM Foundation grant, 2022, Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica Award For Computer Animation, 2021 Knight Arts + Tech Fellowship, 2020/2022 Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence artist residency, 2020 Eyebeam Rapid Response Fellowship, a 2019 LACMA Art + Technology Lab Grant, a 2019 BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship, a 2018 William Penn Foundation Grant, the 2018/2019 Live Feed Creative Residency at New York Live Arts, a 2017/2018 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, a 2017 Rush Arts Gold Rush Award, the 2016 Artist-in-Residence at the Tamarind Institute, NM, the 2014 Headlands Center for the Arts Visiting Artist Residency, a 2011 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, a 2010 Urban Artist Initiative Individual Artist Grant, and a 2009 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Visual Arts Grant.

Talitha M. Washington, Ph.D. (Doctor of Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Ceremonies 1 and 2 – Sunday, May 7, Gampel Pavilion, 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.)

Dr. Talitha M. Washington is considered a visionary mathematician who has committed her career to advancing, transforming, and diversifying the fields of mathematics, data science, and STEM education. She is the current President of the Association for Women in Mathematics, recipient of the 2019 BEYA STEM Innovator Award, the 2019 Outstanding Faculty Award from Howard University, and the 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Director’s Award for Superior Accomplishment. She is a fellow of the African Scientific Institute (ASI), the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Dr. Washington is the inaugural Director of the Atlanta University Center Data Science Initiative, a Professor of Mathematics at Clark Atlanta University, and an affiliate faculty at Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College. She is a former Program Officer for the National Science Foundation where she established NSF’s first Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program and is the Director and lead principal investigator of the NSF-funded National Data Science Alliance, a national network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, industry, government, and academic partners applying equity-centered approaches to increase the number of Black data science professionals.

Dr. Washington grew up in Evansville, Indiana where her favorite classes in high school were AP Chemistry and an English course on classical plays. She graduated from Bosse High School a semester early and studied abroad in Costa Rica for six months on an exchange program with American Field Service. She then entered college as an engineering major but on a whim switched her major to math because it didn’t require laboratory work! Little did she know, she would fall in love with the subject and lead a long, distinguished career in mathematics.

Dr. Washington completed her undergraduate studies in mathematics from Spelman College and studied abroad at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in Mexico. She earned her masters and doctoral degrees in mathematics from the University of Connecticut. While she was in graduate school, she gave birth to her first child and now has three vivacious STEM teenagers who are in pursuit of computer science, engineering, and biology.

Recently, she researched a fellow Evansville native, Dr. Elbert F. Cox, who is the first Black person in the world to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. And like Cox, she became faculty in the same department at Howard University some 80 years later. She has shared his story on radio and television stations, as well as in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, easily the most visible journal to all mathematicians. With her applied background, she led various undergraduate and graduate research projects from modeling the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to modeling calcium homeostasis to the construction of nonstandard finite difference schemes. With her passion for education, she led a youth conference, Stepping Up, that encouraged youth to pursue viable careers through higher education. She also led a one-week research-based summer camps for middle schoolers to explore current trends in mathematics and the sciences. She remains committed to shaping the nation’s science and engineering enterprise and ensuring that underrepresented groups and diverse institutions across all geographic regions are included in the scientific enterprise of the nation

Mone Zaidi, M.D., Ph.D. (Doctor of Science, Graduate School – Doctoral Ceremony – Monday, May 8, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 6:00 p.m.)

Mone Zaidi graduated in medicine from King George’s Medical College, India, and trained clinically at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, under the tutelage of Professor Iain MacIntyre, FRS, who discovered calcitonin. After obtaining a Ph.D. and M.D. from the University of London, Dr. Zaidi held faculty appointments for over 8 years, before he was recruited to Mount Sinai School of Medicine as Professor of Medicine and Founding Director of The Mount Sinai Bone Program.

Dr. Zaidi is currently the Mount Sinai Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of the Center for Translational Medicine and Pharmacology. Zaidi has made ground-breaking discoveries on mechanisms of skeletal homeostasis in health and disease. These studies, spanning over 30 years, included the first description of calcium sensing in the osteoclast and the discovery that locally released nitric oxide acts to suppress bone cells. In 2003, Zaidi’s group published the first evidence for a pituitary–bone axis, a breakthrough in physiology in which pituitary hormones could affect the skeleton directly.

In two recent ground-breaking papers in Nature, he found that inhibiting FSH not only increased bone mass, but also reduced body fat and prevented neurodegeneration—in essence, laying a firm foundation for a single anti-FSH agent to treat osteoporosis, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. This corpus of work was selected by Nature Medicine as one of eight “Notable Advances” in biomedicine for 2017 and was editorialized in the New York Times. Constituting a total of over 450 publications in journals, including Cell, Nature and PNAS, Zaidi’s research has been funded continuously by the NIH.

He was elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation (2000), Association of American Physicians (2004), Interurban Clinical Club of which he is President (2004), the Practitioners’ Society (the oldest medical society in the U.S.) (2016) and the Association of Professors of Medicine (2014). Zaidi was made Master of the American College of Physicians, received the Harrington Scholar–Innovator Award, elected as Fellow of the American Association of Advancement of Science and of the National Academy of Inventors, won the Austrian International Research Prize and the Special Recognition Award from the Association of Professors of Medicine, was bestowed upon with an Honorary Fellowship by the British Pharmacological Society, and is recipient of five honorary doctorates. Dr. Zaidi currently serves as Deputy Editor for eLife, an HHMI– supported journal, where he leads the journal’s medical sciences portfolio.

Deborah Archer, JD (School of Law – Sunday, May 14, UConn School of Law, 10:00 a.m.)

Deborah Archer is president of the American Civil Liberties Union and an associate dean at the New York University School of Law, where she serves as co-director of clinical and advocacy programs, professor of clinical law, and co-faculty director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law.

Archer was raised in Windsor, and is a graduate of Smith College and Yale Law School. She clerked for Judge Alvin Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and served as a legal fellow at the ACLU and then as assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she litigated cases involving voting rights, employment discrimination and school desegregation.

Before joining the NYU faculty in 2018, Archer was a faculty member at New York Law School for 15 years. Her teaching and scholarship focus on civil rights and racial justice, and she regularly shares her expertise with national media outlets. She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union since 2007, and in 2021 was elected president of the organization, the first person of color to hold that position.

She is also a former chair of the American Association of Law School’s Section on Civil Rights and the Section on Minority Groups. She previously served as chair of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the nation’s oldest and largest police oversight agency.

Janie Simms Hipp, JD, LLM (College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources – Saturday, May 6, Gampel Pavilion, 6:00 p.m.)

Janie Simms Hipp was nominated by President Joseph R. Biden to the position of general counsel for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, she is the first Native American woman to serve in that post. She supervises a team of lawyers located in Washington DC and field offices across the United States and through this team provides legal counsel to each of the agencies and mission areas of USDA.

Ms. Hipp previously served as the founding CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund, the nation’s largest philanthropic organization serving the needs of Native farmers and ranchers and Native food systems.

Prior to her work with the Fund, she was the founding Director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law, which was created to assist Tribal governments in the creation of laws and policies to support agriculture activities and investments.

Before she launched the Initiative, Hipp served in the Obama-Biden Administration as the Senior Advisor for Tribal Relations to Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack and Director of the Office of Tribal Relations and previously served as a National Program Leader within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture with program leadership responsibilities of the farm financial management, risk management, trade adjustment and beginning farmer and rancher programs.

Between 1992 and 2007 she served in the National Center for Agriculture Law as staff attorney and ultimately director of the center and throughout that period taught agriculture law, environmental justice, administrative law and other courses at the University of Arkansas’ School of Law, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering and Honors College.

She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and received her JD from Oklahoma City University. She holds an LLM in Agriculture and Food Law from the University of Arkansas and was recognized as a Distinguished Alumni at both University of Arkansas and Oklahoma City University.

She received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama for her national commitment to volunteer service and was the recipient of the National Center for American Indian Economic Development’s 2017 Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award.  She was also the recipient of the 2021 Trailblazer Hunger Leadership Award from the Congressional Hunger Center, awarded annually to those whose careers contribute to the alleviation of hunger in the United States.

Amanda Slavin ’08 (ED) ’09 MA (The Neag School of Education – Sunday, May 7, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 9:00 a.m.)

Amanda Slavin is the co-founder of CatalystCreativ/CatalystU, a creative agency that empowers brand success by forging deep audience engagement. Slavin’s work has merited Cannes Lion Awards, and the business of such clients as Google, the New York City Ballet, NPR, the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL, and more.

Slavin is a marketing strategist fostering impactful engagement with innovative brands. She does this by using her well-tested proprietary method for quantifying and scaling engagement for employees and customers, which was adapted from her thesis work at the Neag School. Known as the Seventh Level Engagement Framework, it has been released as a book, quickly becoming an Amazon bestseller in multiple categories.

She has spoken at SXSW, TED, Summit Series, and INBOUND, and her groundbreaking thought leadership has been covered by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, and Time Magazine, among others.

Melinda T. Brown ’77 (BUS) ’85 MBA (School of Business – Saturday, May 6, Gampel Pavilion, 1:30 p.m.)

Melinda Brown has over 40 years of accounting and financial experience with publicly traded global consumer product and luxury retail companies.  From September 2012 until her retirement in March 2019, Melinda was Senior Vice President and Controller of Tapestry, Inc..  During her tenure, she played a key role in all major initiatives, including the acquisition and integration of Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, major business and technology transformations, and a complete redesign of finance, control, and audit organizations.

Prior to Tapestry, Melinda spent 30 years with PepsiCo, Inc., and was a key member of the leadership team responsible for nearly 50 bottler acquisitions and integrations, the spin-offs of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, the bottler spin-off and re-acquisition, and the acquisitions and integrations of Gatorade, Quaker, and Tropicana.  As Controller of Pepsi’s $20 billion multi-brand North America Beverage segment, Melinda also served as the Business Lead for their North America SAP implementation, which, at the time, was the largest SAP roll-out, and piloted their first enterprise risk management program.   In Melinda’s final role, she led the company’s North America shared services centers, and developed PepsiCo’s global outsourcing strategy and business case.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Precision BioSciences and is Chair of the Audit Committee.

Melinda holds a B.S. and MBA from the University of Connecticut. She is a CPA and member of the AICPA and Connecticut Society of CPAs. Melinda has served as Chair of the UConn Foundation Board, Foundation Audit Committee Chair, and a member of their Executive and Finance Committees.   She was inducted into the School of Business Hall of Fame in 2012.