Alumni updates – class of 2019


Cassandra DiPierro

High School: Fairfield Warde High School 

College: Dickinson College, BA in Psychology, 2023

Favorite UConn ECE Memory: My favorite UConn ECE memories were the role play debates that I participated in for my US History and Modern European History courses.   

Best UConn ECE Benefit: The most useful benefit of ECE was the college credit I gained, which allowed me to take additional electives in college and further explore my academic interest in public health.  

What are you currently doing? I am currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at the University of Toronto in Canada through the support of a Fulbright Graduate Studies Award. With the knowledge I gain from this experience, I hope to work to improve the access and quality of LGBTQ+ healthcare in the United States.  

Amara McNeil

High School: Classical Magnet School – Hartford, CT

College: Fordham University/Lincoln Center – B.A. in Theater Design and Production, 2023

Favorite UConn ECE memory: My favorite memories are the heated debates that we would all get into in Philosophy class. Even our teacher would get passionate! Everyone cared, and those early conversations sparked a love of philosophy that I carry into my artistry.

Best UConn ECE benefit/ takeaway: Having an insight into materials, I would be able to study more in-depth in college. There were many moments were I remembered a text or topic that was touched on in my ECE class. 

What are you currently doing? Now, I am a freelance lighting designer. After wrapping up my post-grad fellowship as the Howell Binkley Fellow, working on shows such as The Wiz and Come From Away tours. I am now prepping my own design here in NYC, as well as getting ready to assist Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons!

Karissa Touma

High School: Wolcott High School

College: Western New England University, B.S. Actuarial Science degree, 2022

Favorite UConn ECE memory: In one of the UConn ECE courses I took we had a huge party to celebrate everyone passing the final exam! It was so great to celebrate everyone’s hard work in the course and the amazing accomplishment.

Best UConn ECE benefit/ takeaway: The best UConn ECE benefit was having enough credits to graduate college an entire year earlier than expected. This saved me money in tuition and allowed me to begin my career sooner.

What are you currently doing: I recently got married in October 2023 and work full time for the Cigna Group as a Senior Actuarial Analyst. I am in a reserving role for our Vision and Individual and Family Plans (IFP) blocks of business. I have passed 6 Actuarial exams, all ASA pathway modules, and 3 VEEs.

Morgan Nace

High School: Daniel Hand High School

College: UConn, College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, 2023

Favorite UConn ECE memory: My favorite UConn ECE memory was getting to do hands on labs in physics.

Best UConn ECE benefit/ takeaway: The best benefit of my ECE course in physics was learning how to study for freshman year courses at college. Experiencing UConn level exams helped me feel confident for my future after high school.

What are you currently doing? I am currently a Product Engineer at Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense (EBAD) in Simsbury, CT. EBAD makes mission critical hardware for the aerospace and defense industry. At EBAD, I get to be on a team that makes separation stages and flight termination systems for launch vehicles and missiles.

Keegan Eveland

High School: Middletown High School

College: University of New Hampshire, B.S. Zoology with a minor in Animal Behavior

Favorite UConn ECE memory: I really enjoyed learning how to customize and design enrichment suitable for the species that you’re working with. There is something about seeing an animal’s mind at work and how they approach and solve puzzles that is so telling about their perception of the world and gives a glimpse into the inner workings of their cognitive processes.

Best UConn ECE benefit/ takeaway: Getting to learn about advanced subject matter that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to during high school was highly beneficial. Enrolling in dual-enrollment courses guided me to the line of work that I am passionate about and currently work in today.

What are you currently doing? During my undergrad years, I focused on studying population acoustics of Brazilian Free-Tailed bat swarms in New Mexico, as well as the acoustics of various bat species in Brazil. I got to dip my feet into some field work gathering acoustic data for Little Brown bats in a large hibernacula in Vermont. This year I am a post-baccalaureate research fellow at Johns Hopkins investigating the navigation behaviors of Egyptian Fruit bats. When I am not doing that I also assist in neurological surgeries and experiments for Big Brown bats that are looking at how they process sounds in the auditory pathway of the brain.

Jonas Goemans

High School: Edwin O. Smith High School

College: Hasselt University, Bachelor in Biology, 2023

Favorite UConn ECE memory: I truly loved taking these advanced classes with like-minded classmates, it made our interactions and lessons really interesting. I would say my favorite memory would be the dissection of a fetal pig in Biology.

Best UConn ECE benefit/ takeaway: Due to taking these college level courses I was ahead of my cohort when starting my Bachelor in Biology in Belgium.

What are you currently doing? I am currently doing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems (TROPIMUNDO). I also recently completed an internship at Chondrolab in Chile studying juvenile sharks and have been pursuing my passion in rock-climbing, both indoors and outdoors.


News to Know

Concurrent Enrollment Review Banner





Concurrent Enrollment Review (CER) – co-founded by Boise State University, Syracuse University, and UConn ECE – will be launching its first call for papers this summer and is looking for all professionals in this space to consider submitting. The journal seeks to explore the identity, impact, and application of dual/concurrent enrollment. The broad audience of the CER includes, but is not limited to, dual/concurrent enrollment practitioners, researchers in all disciplinary areas, policy specialists, secondary and post-secondary education decision-makers, community leaders and organizers, and civil administrators. UConn ECE will share the call for papers with our community upon release.


Welcome to 168 newly certified UConn ECE Instructors. This number includes brand new UConn ECE Instructors as well as veteran instructors who are adding an additional certification. Seven of the newly certified instructors for the 2022-2023 school year became certified in more than one discipline. All new instructors attended our virtual New Instructor Orientation on May 25th and met with their discipline specific Faculty Coordinators. ENGL 1007 and EDCI 1100 topped the list with a tie for the most newly certified instructors!


English Summer Institute was held in-person June 28-29 at UConn’s Hartford campus. UConn’s ECE English department is working to “rematerialize,” after a long period in a virtual space, and ease the transition for Instructors from ENGL 1010 & ENGL 1011 to ENGL 1007. This year, ENGL 1004 instructors are also trying to understand the ways that 1004 leads to and supports 1007. The two-day seminar & workshop engaged ECE English Instructors in current scholarship and practices in composition studies and provided a supportive, collaborative environment for experiments with classroom application. They invented, explored, and tweaked course materials in a spirit of shared inquiry and discussion.


UConn ECE was a proud sponsor of UConn’s 13th Annual Writing Center Conference for Secondary Schools on March 25th Schools from around the state attracted teachers and students to share strategies for starting and sustaining peer writing centers, specifically bouncing back to in person experiences after the shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Marine Science Symposium on June 2nd. Claudia Koerting, UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Marine Sciences successfully organized another Marine Science Symposium on June 2nd at the Avery Point Campus for UConn ECE students enrolled in MARN1003: Introduction to Oceanography with Laboratory or MARN 1001E: The Sea Around Us. This year, student participants included those from Marine Sciences Magnet High School, Ledyard High School, Coginchaug Regional High School, Fishers Island School, and Plainfield High School.

2021 - 2022 Workshops. The 2021-22 school year saw an impressive 44 professional development workshops, with 11 of the workshops (212 instructors participated) in May alone! Virtual events allowed us to host workshops in December through early March which traditionally we would be hesitant to schedule in person due to weather threats.

Chemistry Day. On Thursday, April 21st, UConn ECE Students from New Britain High School, Berlin High School, and Orville H. Platt High School came to the Storrs campus for Chemistry Day. Drs. Alfredo Angeles, Jie He and Gael Ung hosted activities on how chemists are trying to reduce the impact of the high levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. Special shout out to UConn ECE Chemistry Faculty Coordinator Dr. Fatma Selampinar for organizing this wonderful event.



Dylan Gaffney headshotDylan Gaffney, New Fairfield High School In 2021, I graduated summa cum laude from UConn with dual degrees in Political Science and History. I was a three-time Babbidge Scholar, an Honors Scholar, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I am currently a 1L at Columbia Law School, where I am pursuing my JD. My ECE experience as a senior in high school was a major asset in accomplishing these goals, as it provided me a crucial head start in developing college level academic skills, such as scholarly research and writing.














Sylar Pearse headshot

Skylar Pearse, Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut I recently graduated from UVM with a Neuroscience Major and an Anthropology minor. My UConn ECE courses helped me stay well rounded while being at a marine science high school. I feel as though my high school was too science focused and made me feel science was the only option. However, the ECE courses I took were some of the only humanities classes I was able to take in high school. This pushed me to be a more well-rounded person in college and I ended up minoring in Anthropology. I ended up with a 3.8 GPA and I received honors from UVM when I graduated. In my senior year, I published a thesis on perinatal antidepressant usage which won the judged portion the UVM Student Research Conference. The first research paper we had to write for one of the ECE courses was ever present in the back of my mind while I was writing my thesis. I also volunteered as a psychology TA at the local woman’s prison. I was able to do all of this because my ECE courses prepared me for some of the more rigorous college courses I would have to endure.







Ryan Palzere headshot

Ryan Palzere, Bristol Eastern High School The UConn ECE courses that I had the opportunity to take in high school better prepared me for the courses I took during my time in UConn’s School of Engineering. In my experience, the ECE courses I took in high school translated nicely into my studies in college. While this “preview” of the caliber of college level classes was challenging at times, it ultimately better prepared me for my time at UConn, allowing me to begin developing my planning and time management skills. I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for Mr. Kelly’s Calculus ECE course nor Dr. Bittel’s Physics ECE course. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have taken those courses, and I encourage any student thinking about enrolling in them to do so.




Leslie Imse headshot

Leslie Imse (MUSI 1011 and MUSI 1012) is the K-12 Music Department Chair for the Farmington Public Schools in Farmington, Connecticut. Under her leadership the Farmington music department has been recognized with numerous performance and education awards. Most notably the town of Farmington was named one of the Best Communities for Music Education and won the CT Arts Administrators Association’s News to Know continued from page 11 continued on page 13 EARLY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE MAGAZINE 13 Excellence in Arts Education Award for their outstanding K-12 music program. This year, Leslie was celebrated by the Connecticut Music Educators Association and awarded as the CT Arts Administrator of the Year.













Cover of original novel by Maria Rivera titled 'Chasing the Wind'

Maria Rivera (ENGL 1011), Information Technology and Software Engineering High School at the Fairchild Wheeler Campus, published a fiction book last year (Chasing the Wind) and its sequel, Chasing Shadows, released this May!




















Katie Boland (POLS 1202, POLS 1402, and POLS 1602), from Trumbull High School has been awarded the prestigious 2022 Teacher of the Year Award from the American Lawyers Alliance (ALA). She was selected for the award from a competitive group of nominees from across the country. The ALA is a national organization affiliated with the American Bar Association, whose aim is to promote civic- and law-related education.

Faculty Coordinators

Congratulations on the following promotions!

Eric Rice, Music (Promotion to Professor), UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Music

Thomas Abbott, Molecular and Cell Biology (Promotion to Associate Professor In-Residence), UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Biological Sciences

Jason Courtmanche, English (Promotion to Associate Professor In-Residence), UConn ECE Assistant Faculty Coordinator for English

Natalia Smirnova, Economics (Promotion to Associate Professor In-Residence), UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Economics

What an honor!

Alexia Smith, UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Anthropology, was recognized as the Honors Faculty Member of the Year Award recipient during the 2022 Honors Medals Ceremony, held on April 30th in Jorgenson Auditorium.

Natalia Smirnova, UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Economics, was recognized for the 2022 Broader Impacts, Service, and Visibility Award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty and Staff Awards, where she showcased her work with UConn ECE.

Jason Courtmanche, UConn ECE Assistant Faculty Coordinator for English, was recognized for outstanding undergraduate teaching by the UConn Foundation and the Office of the Provost with the 2022 Alumni Faculty Excellence Award

In Rememberece

It is with great sadness that we share that Laurietz Seda, former UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Spanish, passed away in December 2021. We appreciate her support of UConn Spanish courses to high schools throughout the state. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences/ Literatures, Cultures, and Languages will hold a memorial for Dr. Seda on September 15, 2022.


Sheila Lafferty, UConn ECE Library Media Specialist Coordinator. Shelia has been with UConn for 37-years, and the LMS for UConn ECE since 2016. She was instrumental in creating a library resources web page specifically for UConn ECE Students and facilitated annual training for high school LMSs. Sheila plans to visit with family and become more involved with historical genealogical societies in retirement.


Kenneth Gouwens, UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for History 1400, arrived at UConn in 1998, and served four years as coordinator for both HIST 1300 and HIST 1400. He took leave from the position when he went abroad for a year on a fellowship, but resumed the position as Faculty Coordinator for HIST 1400 again in 2016. It’s hard for Dr. Gouwens to pick a single memory most dear to his heart. He states, “This has been the most meaningful “service” I’ve done in my career, and I found it both edifying and fun to work both with Brian Boecherer as my supervisor and with the teachers. The one thing that stands out, and of which I’m proudest, is that with strong support from Brian, I was able to assemble a team of four outstanding teachers to help me design and edit a new proprietary course reader, a substantial project which we completed in January. I’m really proud of the product and of my collaborators, Mark Peters, Trina Bowman, Jen Dufault, and Martin Glasser.” The UConn ECE HIST 1400 200-page reader, exclusively for ECE-certified history instructors, is now posted on the HIST 1400 HuskyCT site! Dr. Gouwens and his wife have retired to Ft. Lauderdale, which they love. He explained that his retirement so far includes, “While we have lots of travel plans now that the pandemic has let up (Machu Picchu just a month from now, for example), I am continuing with my scholarship: in February I sent off the final version of another Latin edition and English translation of a work by Paolo Giovio (a Renaissance humanist), submitted an article to an Italian journal in March, and just now am completing another article for a different Italian journal. After that I’ll return to work on my book project, which concerns how Renaissance intellectuals used descriptions of monkeys to talk about human nature, and vice-versa. Now of course I can work at my own pace!”


Frederick Turner, UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Political Science, had retired from his department back in 1997, spent some time at the Universidad de San Andres outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then held a second career teaching at Hartford’s Bulkele  High School from 2003 until 2016. Dr. Turner graciously acted as the UConn ECE Political Science Faculty Coordinator from 2004 through the end of the 2021-2022 school year. Dr. Turner’s fondest memory as Faculty Coordinator is New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie’s visit for the 2022 UConn ECE Political Science Professional Development Workshop. A long-time admirer of his writing, Dr. Turner shares, “[I] learned that both his parents were in the Navy, so he grew up in Virginia Beach, and that his most cherished academic memory is of a seminar at the University of Virginia where the professor had students read Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine and then debate the French Revolution as though they were observing it then. Bouie said that he thinks back to that seminar all the time. I saw Bouie give a lecture to a large audience on Thursday night
and then interact with our ECE instructors for hours on Friday. Being able to encourage his visit felt really good.”

As for the future, Dr. Turner plans to garden in Storrs and in Ocean Park, Maine, to travel with his wife Leslie, and to read extensively. “In Ocean Park we have flowers and ajuga to cultivate, for the tenants as well as for ourselves, and in Storrs we are expanding our vegetable and herb gardens. Here we grow rhubarb for pies and sauce (with Dairy Bar ice cream), tomatoes, and many herbs. We love to cook for each other, and now we have more time to do this and to try new recipes. We read the New York Times over tea and coffee in the morning and the Washington Post online during the day. My sister is 93 and mentally sharp, so I hope to keep my wits for many years.”