The Neag School of Education honored several faculty, staff, and students on Friday, May 5, with its annual awards recognizing research, teaching, and service. The Neag School’s Dean’s Office solicited nominations in March from current students, faculty, and staff and presented the awards at the end-of-year School Meeting. The 2023 award recipients are:
Dr. Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award – Danielle Filipiak
The Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award is awarded annually to a full-time faculty member in the Neag School. Alumnus Perry A. Zirkel is a university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University, where he formerly was dean of the College of Education and more recently held the Iacocca Chair in Education. The 2023 recipient is Danielle Filipiak, who has been an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction since 2018.
Filipiak is an expert on literacy and English education in plural contexts, civic learning, and critical digital literacies, and the identity construction of urban education school administrations and academic achievement. As a faculty leader in the English Education concentration, Filipiak advises 30-40 students each year and works with Neag School advisors and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of English faculty on admission and course sequencing, ensuring the program meets accreditation standards.
In addition, she has established a national reputation through her scholarship on civic literacy and Youth Participatory Research and her service to professional organizations.
Filipiak recently revamped the English education curriculum to incorporate more diversity in course readings, engage students more intentionally with social justice issues in education, and expand students’ exposure to multiple technologies and emergent literacies. Under her leadership, the number of English education students has grown significantly. For the past two years, the concentration has admitted cohorts of over 15 students. This is nearly double the cohort sizes in the years prior to her leadership. Notably, more than half of the students in these cohorts are students of color.
Outstanding Mid-Career Researcher Award – Jennie Weiner
This is a new award category this year, recognizing an accomplished associate professor who has completed at least 3 consecutive years at UConn and, over the course of their career, has made significant research contributions to their field of study. The inaugural recipient is Jennie Weiner, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership.
Weiner’s scholarship focuses on policy and leadership for school improvement at all system levels while accounting for the cultural contexts in which systems are situated. She has published 50 peer-reviewed articles, two books, and numerous book chapters, reports, and other publications to date, including 10 peer-reviewed articles in the last 15 months alone.
Weiner has received over $2.5 million in grants from the Spencer Foundation and U.S. Department of Education and recently worked alongside students to launch the first ever Neag School graduate student focused research journal, The Neag School of Education Journal. She has accomplished all of this while carrying an extremely large advising load: in the last 3 years, she has shepherded 15 Ph.D. and Ed.D. doctoral student advisees through dissertations and graduation.
Outstanding Early-Career Researcher Award – Ido Davidesco
This award is given to a pre-tenure faculty member in the Neag School who has completed at least 2 consecutive years at UConn. The 2023 recipient is Ido Davidesco, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology.
Davidesco is conducting truly groundbreaking research at the intersection of education, psychology, and neuroscience. He and his colleagues were the first to use portable neuroscience technology to measure the brain activity of students and teachers in real-world classrooms. This pioneering research revealed that synchrony in brainwaves between students and teachers can capture a range of cognitive and social factors.
Since joining UConn just two-and-a-half years ago, Davidesco has won three National Science Foundation awards as a principal investigator. His work reflects a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in science education, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration. He is currently working on joint projects with researchers in psychology, engineering, computer science, and math.
Outstanding Student Researcher Award – Ashley Taconet
This award will be given to a student whose research during study with the Neag School demonstrates a pattern of excellence and represents potential to make an impact in their field of study. This year’s recipient is Ashley Taconet, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Educational Psychology studying Special Education.
Taconet is a fellow of NeXXus II, a doctoral leadership grant funded by the Office of Special Education Programs within the U.S. Department of Education. As a fellow, she supports multiple projects within the Special Education program. Her research is focused on independent living skills for youth and young adults with disabilities. In her dissertation study, she proposed to use the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012, a large-scale dataset.
Taconet’s research productivity is astounding for someone so early in her career. In fact, it could earn her tenure in many universities. To date, she already has 16 peer-reviewed publications in top special education journals. She has also been instructor of record in five courses and by all accounts is a great teacher.
Valerie J. Pichette Outstanding Staff Award – Megan Pichette
Named in honor of the late Valerie J. Pichette, this award recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond in their work at the Neag School over the past academic year. Pichette had a 30-year history of service to the state of Connecticut, including having served as executive assistant to the Neag School dean for nearly two decades. This year’s recipient is Megan Pichette.
Meg is program administrator for the Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG). Meg started in 2012 as the TCPCG program assistant at the Avery Point campus and in 2019 she moved up to the role of program administrator. In the past year, Meg took on a leadership role for the entire program, supporting and training the new TCPCG coordinators at the Hartford and Stamford campuses and serving as the primary program liaison for recruitment, scheduling, certification, and numerous other issues.
Meg is very responsive, a creative problem solver, and a tireless advocate for students. Her co-workers say she has gone above and beyond in a professional capacity but is also considerate of their personal lives and always expresses concern for their work-life balance. The TCPCG program is dedicated to helping students progress and succeed as future educators, and Meg’s co-workers say the program would not function as well as it has been without her guidance.