Our Chat with Nalini Ravishanker


by Melanie Banks  


Get to know our faculty and learn some tricks of the trade with advice they have to offer. To answer some questions about her personal and professional interests, we are giving the spotlight to Nalini Ravishanker, UConn Faculty Coordinator for Statistics and 2018-2019 award winner of the Thomas E. Recchio Faculty Coordinator Award for Academic Leadership.


  1. How did you get involved with UConn ECE?
    It was a while ago, when UConn ECE was called the UConn High School Co-op Program. I liked what I heard about the program either through the UConn Mentor Connection or from our Department Head, Uwe Koehn, and agreed to become the faculty coordinator for Statistics. I am sure I must have continued to like it a lot, since I am still here!
  2. Where did you go to college, and what attracted you to statistics?
    My Undergraduate major was in Statistics at Presidency College, Chennai, India. I got my PhD in Statistics from NYU. I have always been attracted to Mathematics and recall deciding to major in statistics when I heard someone say it combined Math with the randomness that arises in practical applications. I think this now has a cooler name: “Uncertainty Quantification (UQ)”.
  3. What is your philosophy of teaching and learning?
    I think my philosophy in teaching is to make sure the material reaches each learner. A friend recently suggested I do the semi-flipped classroom format, which I think both my students and I like a lot.
  4. What are your hobbies?
    I like gardening, indoor and outdoor.
  5. What was your favorite course you took in your undergraduate career?
    As an undergraduate, I liked Linear Algebra a lot.
  6. What is the best advice an instructor can give to their students?
    I like to ask my students whether they wish to really learn the material or be satisfied with the perception of having learned the material.
  7. What would you recommend students do to succeed in a UConn ECE course?
    The UConn ECE Statistics course is the first real introduction students get to statistics. I think the teachers in our high schools build enthusiasm through a variety of examples that resonate with their students. It would be great if the students catch the enthusiasm from their teachers, and if they are also strong in calculus, consider majoring or minoring in statistics. Their teachers and I can give them more information.
  8. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    As a South Indian (Tamil) girl, I should say “rasam sadam” (white rice with a tomato based thin soup), but I am going to go healthy and say spinach.

Spotlight on Laurie Wolfey!

By Melanie Ochoa

The Faculty Spotlight is a chance to get to know UConn ECE Faculty Coordinators and highlight the wonderful work they do. This year’s Faculty Spotlight is dedicated to Laurie Wolfley, 2016-2017 award winner of the Thomas E. Recchio Faculty Coordinator Award for Academic Leadership. Laurie is the UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for American Studies and Maritime Studies.


1. How did you get involved with UConn ECE?
About 10 years ago, Maritime Studies needed help coordinating its ECE program, and folks at Avery Point, where the MAST Program lives, knew that I’m a certified high school teacher who teaches lots of maritime literature and is deeply invested in interdisciplinary work; I guess I just fit a need at the time. I’ve been full-steam ahead since then


2. What is your philosophy of teaching and learning?
I believe that the students I teach need a safe, caring and compassionate environment in which to discover themselves as individuals; they need the freedom to think critically and creatively—to take risks and determine their own values through in-depth inquiry and discussion with others. They also need to be challenged to acknowledge and accept their responsibilities and to respond appropriately to those challenges. My goal is to encourage students to reach their own conclusions, find their own voices, and express those voices with clarity and confidence through a variety of communication mediums.


3. What do you consider to be one of your greatest achievements? Why?
Though perhaps not the greatest achievement of my life, what resonates here and now is my current success at surviving each day as a long-term substitute teacher at Fitch High School. I’m immersed in a several-months-long teaching gig that has me flat out every day, then doing my typical stint at UConn in the evening. I am grateful for the amazing support I’ve gotten from the Fitch faculty and staff—and from my terrific students…but I am dead tired. I’ve always applauded the work ECE teachers do, but this experience has provided me with tremendous appreciation for all the high school teachers I’ve worked with in the ECE Program over the years and for public school teachers in general.


4. What are your hobbies?
I love to cook, hike, kayak, ski, garden, and spend time reading in the back yard among the chickens. (I’ve hardly had a chance to consider these activities since the sub job started.)


5. What was your favorite course you ever took in college?
I think my favorite course was Children’s Literature, which I took with Bud Church at Connecticut College. I am fortunate enough to teach that course occasionally at Avery Point, where I still emulate much of what Bud did in my own class many years ago.


6. What is the best advice an instructor can give to students on their last day of high school and/or college?
Don’t sit around waiting to become the person you hope to be when you grow up. It’s too late; you’re already there. I was astounded to find that I was at 30 and then later at 50 the very same person I had been at 17. Take the reins and do your thing. Forgive all the stupid things you’ve done in the past, accept responsibility for yourself now, and move on.


7. What would you recommend students do to succeed in a UConn ECE class?
Recognize that you are an adult, and act like one: Take responsibility for your learning, push yourself to value learning over receiving high grades, ask questions, and think critically and creatively about your coursework. Look for the joy in learning.


8. If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
Superheroes are overrated. It’s hard enough simply being me; any more power or responsibility and I might just implode.Photo of Laurie Wolfley

In Boland We Trust: Connectcut’s 2017 History Teacher

By Jack Greenwood Jr.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute is the nation’s leading American history organization dedicated to K-12 education. This year, Katie Boland was a part of 52 State History Teachers of the Year who were awarded by The Gilder Lehrman Institute for their outstanding effort and ability to promote the understanding of American history.


Effectively teaching the subject of history can prove to be challenging since it is generally the relaying of the story of how something came-to-be, while at the same time, emphasizing the relevance of how past decisions affect and influence how we think and operate today. With that said, the subject of history can be fairly bland if the teacher just spends class time lecturing and not interacting with the students or getting them involved. Although Boland formally teaches the UConn ECE Political Science course (POLS 1602: Introduction to American Politics) at Trumbull High School as a certified ECE instructor, it is clear that she has the potential to make any space into a classroom. She wears a smile that is accompanied by an enthusiastic personality which brings her teaching to life. Boland was quoted in a Trumbull Times article saying, “The key [to teaching] is to make it interesting and interactive. I try not to do straight lectures, like what I grew up with.” To make the class more interactive, Boland would have students construct their own arguments for famous court cases, such as the Supreme Court’s United States vs. Texas 2016 decision, and have other students hear the case and make a final decision. This is just one example of an innovative way to get the students involved that is emphasized by the passionate teaching of Boland.


Katie Boland seems to understand the importance of having someone lay down the groundwork for something great to be built upon it. When asked what her favorite historical era was, she responded with “[The] founding of our nation is my favorite historical era because it not only lays the foundation of our country, but also gives us the mandate to keep the republic alive.” Here, it is the foundation of the history courses that has been established, but it is up to Boland to continuously implement relevant teaching methods to keep the subject of history alive and engaging in our ever-changing young generations.


It also appears that the founding of our nation is not just a personal interest for Boland, as her class enjoys this particular era too. Boland says, “My We the People students love debating the Founding Fathers. We often have discussions in class about the most influential Founding Fathers/Mothers and the most overrated ones.” Students have explored their founding-of-our- nation interests even further by completing assignments such as writing a eulogy for their favorite founding father/mother and then presenting it to the class. It seems to be clear that Boland has manufactured a way to truly connect with her students and immerse them into the world of history. Boland’s genuineness was reciprocated by her students when they surprised her with a birthday party shortly after they had just won the State Championship for the We the People competition, which is where teams of students compete against one another to test their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. When Boland entered her classroom, students jumped from their hiding spots and began to sing “Happy Birthday” while they presented her with a large, cardboard, cutout of her favorite founding father, George Washington, and a bobble-head figure of her other favorite, Alexander Hamilton.

Along with earning the History Teacher of the Year award, Boland will receive a $1,000 honorarium and an invitation to a 2018 Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar which is a weeklong program that offers teachers daily discussions with eminent historians, visits to historic sites, and hands-on work with primary sources. In addition to this, Trumbull High School’s library will receive a core archive of American history books and Gilder Lehrman education materials.
 Photo of Katie Boland

Check out Matthew McKenzie’s Faculty Spotlight!

By Melanie Ochoa

The Faculty Spotlight is a chance to highlight UConn ECE Faculty Coordinators and the great work they
do. The first spotlight goes to US History Faculty Coordinator, Matthew McKenzie, 2015-2016 award
winner of the Thomas E. Recchio Faculty Coordinator Award for Academic Leadership and star of UConn ECE’s first Welcome Video. Matthew joined the UConn ECE community as the American Studies Faculty Co-Coordinator, and has additionally taken the role as the United States History Faculty Coordinator.
1. How did you get involved with UConn ECE?
It was part of the job. NO one had told me that when I applied, but I was thrilled to learn that I would be
working with ambitious, talented, and creative High School teachers. It seemed to me the best of both
worlds: I could enjoy working with my students and could support others working with theirs.
2. What are your current research interests?
I’m finishing a history of the 20th century New England fisheries. As a follow up, I am speaking with
researchers in Canada and Australia about expanding that project to examine the ecological and social impacts of the global expansion of otter trawling (dragging). Pretty arcane stuff, but it’s important.
3. What is your philosophy of teaching and learning?
Care. A lot. That’s pretty much it. If you care about your students, colleagues, and institution, you’ll do
your best. If you care about those people who have passed, you’ll be a better researcher. Just care.
4.What do you consider to be one of your greatest achievements? Why?
Raising my son: he’s an amazing kid: happy, considerate, smart, kind, tough, and at only eight years old,
argumentatively precocious (he’s going to be a lawyer, I can see it already). The extent to which I had anything to do with who he is today, well, I’d be proud of that. The truth is, though, he is who he is: he made that.
5.What are your hobbies?
I love being outside. I hike, camp, canoe, kayak—the usual mix. I’m also a bow hunter—a hobby that taught me to look at forest ecosystems entirely differently. If I ever get any time again, I might build another boat: then again, I don’t use the one I did build—but it was a lot of fun doing it.
6.What was your favorite course you ever took in college?
I took a History of the Enlightenment course with Jan Golinski in grad school. He assigned David Wilcox’s Measures of Times Past, and Kuhn’s Copernican Revolution. Those books showed me how fluid scientific understandings—and even our understanding of measuring time—have been. I wasn’t expecting that and the course blew my mind.
7. How many UConn ECE U.S. History instructors are currently certified?
80 instructors.
8.What is the best advice an instructor can give to students on their last day of high school and/or college?
Pay attention—to everything you see. And travel, as much as you can.
9. What is your all-time favorite book?
Wow. Probably Tolkien’s works (I know, I’m cheating with that answer). As a folklorist, he was a master of inventing histories with the quirks and surprises that made them seem real.
10. What would you recommend students do to succeed in a UConn ECE class?
Pay attention.
11. If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
Seriously? Do I really have to answer that? I think I would be a mean fiddle player. I’m not sure that’s a
superpower, but good violin players are superheroes to me.
Photo of Matthew McKenzie

Student Profiles

Class of 2015 @ Tolland High School
1. What are your future plans for college and career?
Starting this autumn, I’ll be an Engineering Physics major at Fordham University in the Bronx. Within the Engineering Physics program I’ll be concentrating my studies on biomedical engineering; I hope my degree will get me a job in the corresponding field and will work hard to that end.
2. What was your best experience/project/lesson in your UConn ECE Course(s)?
I think the best lesson I drew from the ECE courses I took (Chemistry 1127 & 1128 and Physics 1201 & 1202) was how to strategically approach problems, gathering the relevant scientific and mathematical principles and equations before using my calculator to help fill in the blanks.
3. What would you recommend future UConn ECE students do to become successful?
The number one thing is to try to enjoy the course. As a big fan of science, I happened to be already pretty deeply invested in the subject matter. For any students out there who are finding themselves bored in the classroom, though: a positive outlook might not hurt, while a negative attitude will not help. Another thing to keep in mind is just to stay focused. You might have the distraction of stressful external events or of your crush being in the class (I actually had both problems concurrently), but remember that you, not just the teacher, need to put in the effort. Having a good set of lecture notes was critical to
my success, and the same could very well go for you— or a good friend of yours who asks for an update after an absence. With the help of those notes, you can develop and maintain a good hold on the course material. Having a good working knowledge of “what’s going on” will give you confidence and allow you to stay relaxed and clear-minded even when facing difficult exams.
4. Any other comments about UConn ECE?
The Early College Experience was a wonderfully academically rigorous opportunity. Though I know my
studies at Fordham will still pose challenges, I think the ECE program has provided both an excellent preview and unmatched preparation for college course-work. I’m very happy to have been part of the ECE program and wish current and prospective participants all the very best.
Class of 2015 Salutatorian
@ Trumbull High School
1. What are your future plans for college and career?
I will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall to major in chemical engineering in the honors program. I am not exactly sure what I would like to do within chemical engineering as a profession, but definitely something with a focus on biology.
2. What was your best experience/project/lesson in your UConn ECE Course(s)?
For my Intro to Biotechnology ECE class we transformed E. coli to express a pGLO gene. The lab experience was one of a kind and it’s pretty awesome to say that I’ve made bacteria glow. The lab format for college labs is very different than the ones I was used to writing in high school, so having already written a college lab report will undoubtedly help me in the future.
3. What would you recommend future UConn ECE students do to become successful?
My biggest piece of advice: do not procrastinate! ECE courses are much more independent work. There
are usually only a few tests but they are on a lot of material, so cramming the night before does you no
good. If you study the material in increments, the subject matter becomes manageable.
4. Any other comments about UConn ECE?
Unlike AP courses, UConn ECE courses follow the same curriculum as the classes taught at UConn. I
believe that my ECE experience has prepared me better for college than AP classes because they are actual college courses instead of “college level courses”.
Class of 2015 Salutorian @ Oxford High School
1. What are your future plans for college and career?
Starting this fall, I will be attending the University of Connecticut as a Chemistry major. I plan to apply to the Neag School of Education at UConn for the IB/MA program to become a secondary-level chemistry teacher, meaning (if all goes according to plan) I will spend five years at UConn before entering the workforce. I have always dreamed of being a teacher, and I am excited to see how my years at UConn help me reach this goal.
2. What was your best experience/project/lesson in your UConn ECE Course(s)?
I took a UConn ECE course for Spanish, and I absolutely loved the opportunity to take a more sophisticated approach to the material, specifically the focus on culture. In previous Spanish classes I had taken, the curriculum was based on vocabulary and grammar, which were obviously important to setting a solid foundation in the language, but in the ECE course we were able to focus more on implementing the skills we had already acquired into more functional use and to learn more about the language through the culture of the people who speak it. This meant everything from watching modern statement films to performing comical skits for the class, and it was all part of what made the experience so positive for me.
3. What would you recommend future UConn ECE students do to become successful?
I would recommend that future UConn ECE students make sure to remember that this is a real college course and that they should therefore take it seriously and be committed to the work. It is an amazing opportunity to challenge oneself and reach beyond the limits of the normal high school experience, and so it deserves to be respected and appreciated. I greatly enjoyed the course I took, but it did require real focus and dedication to succeed.
4. Any other comments about UConn ECE?
The UConn ECE program, in my opinion, was completely worth the effort it required, and I would  definitely make the same decision to take the class again were I given the opportunity. The courses are designed to engage you in a way that is deeper than you are used to seeing, and I was truly impressed by this. I am grateful to have gotten the opportunity to get a jump start on my college career through this course, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is considering it.
Class of 2015 Salutatorian @ Daniel Hand High School
1. What are your future plans for college and career?
I am excited to say I will be attending Wheaton College in Illinois this fall, and will be studying  mathematics and computer science. Post-college, I plan to pursue a career that allows me to combine my own interests and skills with the ability to help make peoples’ lives better.
2. What was your best experience/project/lesson in your UConn ECE Course(s)?
I honestly cannot pick out one simple example that was “best,” because that would not do the courses I would consequently not name justice. I thoroughly enjoyed each ECE course I took in high school for a variety of reasons; whether I was learning optimization in calculus, creating reactions in chemistry, or studying a cultural novel in Spanish, I enjoyed both being challenged and learning in differing academic
3. What would you recommend future UConn ECE students do to become successful?
Work hard. Realize that in order to do well, you need to want to learn; you must allow yourself to enjoy working hard and seeing yourself succeed as a result of it. If you go into an ECE class with high expectations for yourself, and you work to exceed those expectations, you will not only be successful, but you will also find yourself enjoying the challenge.
4. Any other comments about UConn ECE?
Take as many UConn ECE classes as your school offers. The credits you can carry into college with you are invaluable! Plus, it is a good way to expose yourself to college level work as a high school student.
Caleb Veth Student Profile Julia Provenzano Student Profile Leonard Chiang Student Profile Taryn Wisnirwski Student Profile


2014 New England Poet-of-the-Year Award
NEATE’s Poet-of-the-Year Competition is open to all teachers of English/ language arts who are members of NEATE or one of its state affiliates. Based on a selection of five unpublished poems, finalists are chosen by a panel of judges and are invited to read their poetry at a reception in their honor at the annual NEATE Fall Conference in October 2014 in Mansfield, Massachusetts when the Poet-of-the-Year were announced. The poems of the finalists will be published and distributed at the reception. This year’s winner is Theresa Vara-Dannen of University High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford, Connecticut. Her first book of poetry, Profligate with Love, was published by Antrim House Press in 2006; she has just completed a second collection entitled, Through Sea, Salt and Time
2014 National Council of Teachers of English High School Teacher of Excellence Award
The 2014 National Council of Teachers of English High School Teacher of Excellence Award recognizes and celebrates high school teachers who are nominated by their state affiliate. Nominees must provide recommendations from three constituencies: supervisors, students and parents. The New England Association of Teachers of English award was presented to Theresa Vara-Dannen of University High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford, Connecticut at the Secondary Luncheon on Saturday, November 22 at the NCTE Conference in Washington, DC. For further information, please see:
Theresa Vara-Dannen

UConn ECE Supports a Disney Internship

By Brian A. Boecherer
UConn ECE Student Alumni
Spotlight: Kayla Hoynes
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Disney (College)! That’s where Kayla Hoynes (ECE Alumnus 2012
Cheshire High School) will be spending her spring semester, interning at Walt Disney World and taking
classes as part of the Disney College Program. When I asked Kayla how she found the opportunity, she told me she attended an involvement fair and found their booth.  Finding the internship may be simple, but getting the internship never is. The Disney College Program is a competitive national internship where interns work at Disney to learn different aspects of hospitality management as well as take classes on history and marketing. Approximately 20 percent of those who apply get an offer.
The wonder of Disney will allow a great learning experience, impressive networking, and it is a tremendous resume builder. However, Kayla is quick to add that she would not have been able to participate in the Disney program if it were not for UConn ECE. What’s the connection? UConn will not accept the Disney internship or the classes to transfer to her UConn transcript. Thus, this internship would delay her graduation by one semester if she did not come into UConn with 11 credits from the ECE program. During her junior and senior years at Cheshire High School, Kayla took Biology 1107, Biology 1108, and Human Development & Family Studies 1070.
“The courses helped with the transition to college,” Kayla tells me. “They’re certainly helping now too.” Kayla is now a sophomore majoring in journalism and communications. She wants to work as a journalist and focus on the entertainment side of her field. No doubt, her contacts at Disney will help in that future as well. When asked for advice to give high school students, she says, “Find opportunities;
opportunities will not find you.” This is true when participating in activities, pushing yourself to take UConn classes while in high school, as well as when applying for highly competitive and rewarding internships.
Kayla finds opportunities by being an actively engaged student at UConn; working on campus (in the UConn ECE office), volunteering for UCTV (UConn’s student-run television station), volunteering with disabled children, and belonging to Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She says that persistence is an important part of success. It keeps you engaged with your commitments and allows you to develop into the person you want to be.
Mickey Mouse Disney Castle Kayla Hoynes

ECE Teacher Travels to South Africa

By Karen Cordero, UCONN ECE ENVIRO instructor, Bolton High School
A few years ago my principal at Bolton High School came to me and asked, “Karen, how would you like to teach a UConn ECE Environmental course?” After 22 years of teaching the same ole same ole, I said “Absolutely”!
The UConn ECE workshop and preparations for the course chal- lenged me to find more meaningful, real-life experiences to include in the curriculum. Dr. Morty Ortega, the faculty coordinator of the ECE Natural Resources and the Environment program, hosted several professional development sessions and has observed me several times in the classroom. I admire his passion for the environment and desire to allow his students to experience the many different biomes that he has traveled to. When he mentioned that he was looking for a high school teacher to accompany his group of UConn students in his African Ecology course to South Africa, I never thought twice. I said “Yes, without a doubt”! Even when I had a chance to think about leaving Bolton, my family and my summer vacation time, I did not hesitate! I attended Morty’s Wednesday evening African Ecology classes from January to March, and met the eighteen UConn students who were traveling to the Entabeni Re- serve in August. Morty and I discussed the possibility of bringing high school students to the re- serve if the program deemed fit for juniors and seniors. My plan was to participate in all of the Entabeni Guide Training programs just as the students did, then decide whether the program was adequate for high school students.
The trip was amazing! We camped in the middle of the Savannah, truly roughing it. We went on over forty game drives in twenty one days. We learned how to track wildlife, identify habitats, hold snakes (even cobras), and locate and identify scorpions. We got certified in CPR, first aid and Bushveld first aid and went spelunking through three amazing caves. We studied bats, birds and Bushveld vegetation. And after twenty-one absolutely awe inspiring days we decided that this is definitely an experience that is
worthy of high school juniors and seniors. I presented my trip to my students and the Bolton Community with the hopes that I can recruit up to eighteen students for a fourteen day trip of my own to
South Africa in the summer of 2014.
The UConn ECE office is thrilled to have this opportunity to work with the Entabeni Reserve and hopes the partnership can become a permanent part of the program.
Karen Cordero in South Africa Karen Cordero in South Africa Karen Cordero in South Africa