Neag School Class of 2023 Elsie Torres

Elsie Torres reflects on her time at UConn

Portrait of Elise Torres

Portrait of Elise Torres, taken March 29, 2023. (Sydney Herdle/UConn Photo)

When Elsie Torres ’18 ELP, ’23 Ed.D. came to East Hartford schools in 2018 as its assistant superintendent of elementary schools, she was impressed by the system’s community approach to learning, which includes many supports to help students and families.

At UConn, it’s those types of resources that Torres says helped her the most in compiling and writing her research – like the library’s “ask a librarian” service that allows students to submit queries online, by phone, via text, or through email.

“It is important to be aware of all of the resources and support centers that are readily available,” she says. “I benefitted so much from the technology and research data services, as well as access to the student study spaces and meeting rooms.”

Why did you choose UConn?

In 2018, I completed the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) and 093 certification at UConn. I appreciated and enjoyed the cohort experience and had the opportunity to build connections through networking and relationship building. It was also through the ELP program and experience that I became connected with East Hartford Public Schools, the district in which I currently serve as Assistant Superintendent. It felt natural to continue in my educational experience with UConn and to build upon my previous experience.

What’s your major/field of study, and what drew you to it?

My major/field of study was the Ed.D. Program in Educational Leadership. I have served as a Connecticut public school educator for my entire career. I am passionate about leadership at all levels, particularly in urban settings. My problem of practice and Capstone was directly aligned with school leadership and my work with school leaders as we serve to increase growth and academic achievement for all children.

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

All the professors who I was fortunate to work with were incredibly knowledgeable, patient, and supportive. The caliber of professors at UConn, in my experience, has been exceptional. While difficult to name a preferred one, Dr. Jennie Weiner, who also served as my advisor, was a critical influential support in my successful completion of the Ed.D. program. The level of support and expertise that she provided was insurmountable. I sincerely appreciate her and all of the UConn professors within the Neag School of Education who I have had the privilege of learning from and working with.

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?

As a graduate UConn student who commuted in, participated in virtual classes, and utilized satellite campuses to study, I was impressed and thankful for the ease in which I felt a part of the community. I experienced and appreciated that all students are treated with the same level of support and access to all resources that the university has to offer.

What are your plans after graduation/receiving your degree?

After graduation and completion of my degree, I will continue in my current role as Assistant Superintendent for the East Hartford Public Schools. I have also joined the UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP), in which I will work with aspiring school and district leaders. The opportunity to put into practice the research that I have conducted and the privilege of being a part of the journey of leaders preparing to lead schools in the state of Connecticut cannot be measured in words. I am humbled to be a part of this very important work.

How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?

The doctoral program experience at UConn was an undertaking like no other that I have had in my educational career. As a PreK-12 school district practitioner, the programs of study and certifications that I had previously experienced had been more practical than theoretical in nature. The doctoral program challenged me beyond my comfort zone, which forced me to grow both personally and professionally. I had to accept the fact that I was not a researcher, nor the best writer, and that this experience was not going to come easy. Maintaining a growth mindset, persisting even when questioning my ability, asking for help, and never giving up when faced with challenges along the way is an experience in mental fortitude that I will carry with me indefinitely.

Any advice for incoming students?

As adult learners with full-time jobs and families, maintaining balance helped in successfully completing my degree at UConn. Prioritizing different roles and responsibilities simultaneously can be overwhelming and demanding. Practicing self-care, setting attainable goals, understanding and embracing my learning style, and adopting a “fail forward” mindset were integral in my UConn doctoral experience. I encourage all incoming students to consider life’s variables when committing, remain realistic, build an attainable plan, but also prepare to pivot based on what the experience presents.

What’s one thing everyone should do during their time at UConn?

At a university as large as UConn, it is important to be aware of all of the resources and support centers that are readily available for students and how these resources are accessible. I benefitted so much from the technology and research data services, as well as access to the student study spaces and meeting rooms. There is a feature called “ask a librarian” that offered online, by phone, text, or email support while I navigated my research. Aside from that, every student should go and visit the Student Union for some good food!

What will always make you think of UConn?

How the UConn Husky super fans bring people together! I have enjoyed the pleasure of living in the downtown Hartford area. I enjoy UConn crowds who fill the city for games at the XL Center. In addition to maintaining the relationships that I have built with fellow students in my cohort, I will always think of UConn every time I walk out my apartment building during an event and take in the energy, excitement, and joy.