Summer 2021

UConn ECE Marine Sciences Symposium


By: Claudia Koerting, UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator, Marine Sciences


The annual Marine Sciences Symposium took place again this year, even though it looked a bit different than in past. The symposium featured student research that has been conducted over the academic year. This year over 80 students from six high schools joined in WebEx to present their work. The students who presented at the symposium are currently enrolled in MARN1003: Introduction to Oceanography with Laboratory or MARN 1001E: The Sea Around Us. The MARN 1003 students demonstrated the true experiential nature of the course by applying the fundamentals of oceanography to their field work and laboratory experiments. In addition, one Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern CT student enrolled in MARN 1001E presented on human interactions with the marine environment. The high involvement in this event was a testament to the dedication and creativity of high school teachers and the commitment of their students to find ways to meet and “do” science.



While some teachers, such as Mrs. Emily Lisy from the Morgan School and Mr. Kirk Shadle from The Bridgeport Aquaculture School were able to meet with their students regularly, others had to get creative. There was a presentation on methods for disrupting harmful algal blooms, as well as a study on shark behavior and how to entice bivalves to consume starch based microplastics. The Morgan School took advantage of their proximity to the water and went on field trips to conduct field sampling and analyses on Long Island Sound ecosystem quality. Ledyard High School students conducted thoughtful sampling on the Thames River and the shoreline for microplastics. Even though they had to analyze their samples either at home or safely spaced apart in school, they were still able to yield very interesting and surprising results. Mrs. Laura Francis’ Coginchaug High School students also presented very impressive research in the face of multiple hurdles throughout the year. What do basil and raising tilapia have in common? A Coginchaug High School student can tell you through his sophisticated hydroponics experiment he conducted at home! Lastly, Mrs. Kathy Howard’s student from her MARN1001 course did an outstanding job presenting on the state of plastics in the world’s oceans.



After hearing all the great research that has gone on this year in the morning presentations, the day concluded with Mr. Mike O’Conner’s Waterford High School students who introduced a community service component of their yearlong project with a 20-minute recording. The inspirational project showed students who are working with the town of Waterford to develop signage for Alewife Cove in Waterford. The signage includes information on the ecology of the marsh, its importance, and threats to its existence. Students have also proposed a new kayak launch to help protect the marsh.



This year, presenting a group project virtually at the Symposium made the most of limited time the students could be together. Even with all the obstacles the students faced this year, their work was very impressive. We appreciate the flexibility and willingness of the instructors and students to make this virtual format a success, and we look forward to next year when we can once again spend the day at UConn’s Avery Point campus together!


Disconnecting in a Connected Society




Nicole Bartlett

Southington High School

LLAS 1190: Introduction to Latin America and the Caribbean


When I need to disconnect from a connected society I spend time volunteering at my local dog pound. I have been a volunteer at the Wolcott Dog Pound for the past 8 years. I enjoy working fundraising events, fostering dogs, and meeting the everyday needs of those dogs who have entered the pound. They have been abused, abandoned and neglected. My goal is to help them trust again, be their voice, and find their forever home.



Olivia Olbrias

Windham Technical High School

HIST 1502: United States History Since 1877


In today’s society we are frequently stuck to our computers because of online classes. After a long day of sitting at my laptop I like to get outside and disconnect for a bit, I tie up my skates and play some music and get active! My picture represents disconnecting by showing a healthy activity that needs no technology at all!



Min Silva

Ledyard High School

ANSC 1602: Behavior and Training of Domestic Animals


To disconnect from society, I like to ride horses and take in the calmness that they give off.



Alexa Davidson

Sacred Heart Academy

FREN 3250: Global Culture I


My favorite way to disconnect from technology is by taking my dog on hikes. It is a fun and enjoyable way to spend some time in nature and bond with my fluffy friend!



Cam Begley

Suffield High School

NRE 1000E: Environmental Science


Hiking is a great way to unplug from phones, TVs, and even other people. Instead, you can see, feel, and appreciate the natural beauty of our planet… and it’s that much better barefoot! This picture is of me at the top of Croagh Patrick mountain in Ireland; I climbed it barefoot to participate in the tradition of making a centuries-old pilgrimage to the summit.



Isabella Maglio

Plainfield High School

AMST 1201: Seminar in American Studies


This photo represents disconnecting in a connected society because nature photography is my escape. There is so many beautiful things that the world offers if we were just to take a break from social media and take it all in!

School Counselors Leading the Way: Helping to assist students in their school adjustment, academic performance, and mental health in a post-pandemic school setting



By Clewiston Challenger, Ph.D., School Counseling Program,

Neag School of Education



The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued updated guidelines for schools for the upcoming academic year. They recommend schools to fully open and students to return to in-person learning. The updated guidelines signal a return to a new normal as it pertains to learning in a school building. These recommendations are in contract to those of the pandemic which forced a national lockdown, disrupting students’ learning, and turning homes into classrooms. Though the transition back will not come without challenges, school administrators can ease the transition by utilizing school counselors to advise them on ways to reopen their doors safely and effectively to welcome students back. You see, school counselors and other student support services (i.e. social workers, school nurses, school psychologists, school-based community organizations) are trained to provide counseling services to support students’ mental health, wellness, and personal-social development to increase academic performance. As schools emerge from the effects of the national lockdown due to COVID-19, school counselors are poised to serve as consultants and collaborators who can inform the rebuilding process of the school culture while planning for future crisis.


The opportunity within the opportunity
School counselors are boots on the ground-types of practitioners. These practitioners are usually in the halls, moving about the school, mingling with students and staff, all to be in tune with the school climate. This approach of having boots on the ground, creates roots in the ground by skillfully forming collaborative relationships with students, staff, and families. This type of relationship-building approach can help students—and staff—root themselves back into the school culture to feel welcomed and more involved. Counselors and other student support personnel should focus their efforts on students’ sense of belonging, resiliency, and their motivation towards school and academics. The opportunity has arrived for school counselors to sit at the table with administrators to offer their ideas on how to redesign the school environment and student achievement.


School counselors need to innovate to motivate
Transitioning to remote learning, for many, was cumbersome and inconvenient. Constant adjustments were needed to enable remote instruction to moderately garner student engagement, and school counselors were not exempt from this “clunky” transition. Like other educational professionals, school counselors had little to no guidance on how to effectively provide counseling services virtually. So, as in-person learning returns, school counselors need to creatively think about how to motivate students to return to school. A newly designed comprehensive school counseling curriculum should be school-wide, relevant and responsive, as well as inclusive. One that allows students to feel heard and cared for and stimulates academic engagement. It is also important that turf wars between student support services ends, replacing it with a vision of unified services. School counselors should collaboratively work with other disciplines as futurist planning for potential crises and how to deliver services without delay or disruption.


Putting it into perspective
First, it must be acknowledged that communities of color were deeply impacted by the effects of the pandemic and the lockdown in comparison to their White counterparts. Communities of color saw greater rates of illness, death, and financial hardship due to the COVID-I9 virus and the effects of the lockdown. School counselors would benefit from continuing their education around cultural competency as well as diversity training to successfully serve this population. In addition, school counselors should consider focusing on the noncognitive needs of their students which could lead to positive student adjustment, behavior, retention, and graduation rates in a post-pandemic era. More students having a positive outlook in these areas could lead to higher involvement in the school, community, and their homes.


So, as we return to the classroom in the fall for in-person learning, importance should be placed on providing support for students’ mental health and wellness as they reengage in the traditional learning process. School counselors can use the lessons learned from the pandemic to introduce new ideas to create an engaging and inclusive learning environment. We can agree that COVID-19 has changed the landscape of education and has caused us to consider new ways on how to instruct, counsel, and engage our students. There may be long-lasting traumatic effects from the lockdown and remote learning that could have a negative impact how students and staff return to the in-person setting. Research has shown that students have better academic performance and social interactions with peers when they have stable mental health and their noncognitive needs are met. It would benefit school counselors to prioritize addressing these areas to help students adjust to being in the building again. Additionally, school counselors have the opportunity to take on leadership roles in their schools, district, and community to use their influential voice for their innovative ideas on how to increase student involvement in the school and student motivation. These practitioners are best positioned to efficaciously implement these ambitious initiatives due to their specialized training and skillset, cultural competency, and collaborative approach to student and family service. Counselors, let’s go to work!


2021 UConn ECE Scholarship Winners


UConn Early College Experience recognized 10 outstanding UConn ECE Students this year, awarding each a $500 scholarship, which can be used at any institution. Winners are high school seniors, who have taken or are currently taking at least one UConn Early College Experience course and have excelled in the area in which they submitted their project. Learn more about the UConn ECE Student Scholarships on our Scholarships page.


Excellence in the Arts, Humanities, or Social Sciences


Winners demonstrate academic achievement and a potential for future academic and professional accomplishments in a field focusing on the Arts, Humanities, and/or Social Sciences.


Emily Tarinelli

Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern CT

Literary analysis essay: Feminism in the Absence of Independent Women



Ayushman Choudhury

Ellington High School

Rhetorically effective argument video: The True Cost of War



Kiersten Sundell,

Thomaston High School.

Portrait: Am I Next?



Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic


Winners demonstrate academic achievement and a potential for future academic and professional accomplishments in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Mathematics.


Conner Larocque

Hamden High School

Video: Autonomous Siphon Coffee Machine



Grace Pendleton

The Morgan School

Model: Gothic Cathedral



Emma Bator-Blanchet

Rockville High School

Video: How Soap Kills Coronavirus



Excellence in Civic and Community Engagement


Winners are academically successful, are already making a positive difference in their town or neighborhood, and are inspiring others to do the same. The students chosen for this award must be a UConn ECE Student who demonstrates ambition and self-drive evidenced by outstanding achievement in both school and their community.


Stephen Duhamel

Montville High School

Development and promotion projects that strengthen peer interactions and wellness



Lindsay Haukom

Edwin O. Smith High School

Quaraconcerts, free virtual harp concerts offered to anyone who wanted happiness and human connection



Matthew Keating

Holy Cross High School

Co-founder of Step by Step, a nonprofit organization that helps the less fortunate in the community



Anirudh Krishnan

Ridgefield High School

Founder of the Ridgefield Music Mentors program







By Carissa Rutkauskas


We asked UConn ECE Students how they’re planning on spending their summer and UConn ECE Alumni on advice that they would give current students. Here is what they said:


Summer Plans


Esther Deutsch
Bais Yaakov of Waterbury
Favorite UConn Class: ENGL 1011: Seminar in Writing through Literature
This summer I will be heading to Camp Kesher, a camp for children with special needs, where I will be a counselor for a child with special needs for four weeks. I view this a chance to give back, for so many people have helped me and guided me throughout my life; supporting me endlessly and caring and loving me. Now I will have a chance to help, support, and love a young child with special needs.


Isabella Maglio
Plainfield High School
Favorite UConn Class:  MARN 1001E: The World Around Us
This summer I will be diving straight into Marine Science Books and SAT practices to continue to educate myself and get ready to get that perfect score I need for college! I will also be working hard at Gus’s Pub to earn some money for college savings while continuing to cheer at East Celebrity Elite to keep my physical and mental health up to par for my busy schedule!


Alumni Advice


Fizza Alam
Waterbury High School
Class of 2017
Relax. Spend time with friends and family. College is a new chapter so just enjoy your present. Update your resume, personal statement, and cover letters before entering college, you may need these for work-study or programs your first year.


Andrew Connolly
Shelton High School
Class of 2019
Take the time to network and gain experience. Try to secure a summer internship, shadow a professional in your field, or take specialized courses and certifications. Learning and growth are continuous processes, and the summer is the time to capitalize on this, where you have the flexibility to choose what you want to do.


Adam Kajzer
Berlin High School
Class of 2020
Find an exciting summer job! I spent all my summers through high school working as a lifeguard, which taught me lots of skills that I have transferred outside of the pool and into my studies and professional development.


Photos: Finding Joy, Finding Beauty, Finding Purpose.

By Elizabeth Kindt





The artist who photographed the cover of this summer’s 2021 UConn ECE Magazine is UConn ECE student Cindy Santiago from New Britain High School. Cindy’s photograph titled “Tulips in the Springtime” was a photo taken during the month of May that reminded her of Copenhagen. In her submission Cindy writes that Copenhagen has, “the prettiest fields full of tulips which is what inspired me to take this photo. I made sure to angle it in a way that makes you look like you’re inside the field in a way.” Congratulations to our cover artist Cindy, and thank you for finding the joy and beauty in our Springtime Submission Contest.

Thanks to all who submitted photos and congratulations to the follow students whose photos appear in within the pages of the magazine:


Brian Carson, Seymour High School. The focus within the many. White flowers on the branch of a tree. One is in focus, despite them all being nearly the same, this sole flower is the most beautiful.

Jada Vercosa. Southington High School. Watch sweet magnolias in bloom! Magnolias are a beautiful flowering tree and the blooms are so delicate. The light pink color and petals can be seen where I live and they always make me smile.


Alessandra Sanchez. Montville High School. Pretty Little Thing. Just saw an email about this and I love photography so enjoy 🙂


Janeesa Libanori. E. C. Goodwin Technical High School, Life is like a flower, plant the seeds and watch them bloom. As life begins, the “flower” gets watered and grows. This refers to babies growing up into young adults and as they grow, you watch them bloom. Parents teach their children how to grow up and strive on their own.


Srilekha Kadimi. Amity Regional High School. Live Life In Full Bloom. Fully blossomed magnolia.


UConn Geoscience: Earth’s Dynamic Planet



By Robert Thorson, Ph.D., Department Head

and Faculty Coordinator, Earth Science


We know that high school and college students are manifestly anxious about the current climate crisis.  But how many also know that Earth isn’t fragile?  That climate comes from underground?  That ecology is only one part of earthly operations?  That radioactive decay keeps our planet habitable?  That petroleum is no less natural than water?  That oxygen was originally an exhaust gas pollutant?  That humanity’s most expensive mistakes involve ignoring the deep time of planetary history? 


NASA Image of Earth from the International Space Station. Reid Weisman, Sept. 4, 2014.


It’s an ongoing and societally expensive tragedy that few U.S. citizens know how the Earth works as the whole pie, rather than pieces carved up into arbitrary disciplines.  Typically, they were taught only nuggets of old-school geology in grades 8-10, rather than the mother lode of new school geoscience that remains undiscovered for most. I call this new school “whole earth environmentalism”, the idea that understanding how the planet works as a beautifully coherent integrated system is a prerequisite to best-practice management of the specific environmental problems that capture media attention.


UConn ECE is now offering an opportunity for students to learn about how it all works with a course that educates and also puts them on a pathway to important careers that will make a difference. 


Meghan Kinkaid, UConn ECE Instructor from CREC’s Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, is a pioneer.  This past year, she was the first instructor in Connecticut to offer UConn’s popular introductory geoscience course Earth’s Dynamic Planet (GSCI 1051). Her students now know that they are “impacted by geosciences daily and that this course gives us an opportunity to make them aware, take interest, and possibly plan a career around it.”


They’ve also learned that good jobs, high salaries, and rewarding careers are increasingly available, given the near-future shortfall of 175,000 geoscientists estimated by the American Geosciences Institute.  Beginning with this UConn course offered through UConn ECE, the vast majority of UConn’s geoscience majors following one of three tracks (Earth, Environmental, Atmosphere) go on to successful scientific careers: mitigating natural hazards, improving risk assessments, restoring landscapes, accessing clean water, obtaining mineral resources, developing geothermal energy resources, science communication, and education.


The other high school teachers in Meghan’s pioneering cohort of UConn ECE-certified instructors—Lewis from the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy and both Christopher Tait and Harold Condosta from Ridgefield High School—were ready for takeoff last fall, but the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic forced their administrations to delay.  Five high schools, including New London High School and Plainfield High School, have certified instructors. Next year, four schools are scheduled to offer GSCI 1051.  With school returning to in-person for the fall, Meghan McNichol (New London High School) quipped, “we won’t have to work twice as hard to accomplish half as much.”


Though Meghan Kinkaid is our pioneer, Kim Glazier, a science teacher from Plainfield, is our visionary. “Going forward,” she wrote, she “would like to see all of our AP classes replaced with ECE options.” AP or Advance Placement courses are those which high school students master content to “test out” of a college course during a grueling three-hour exam, provided the college accepts them, and they get a high score. UConn courses taught through UConn Early College Experience are those where the students experience the actual college course being taught in the comfort of their own school by a familiar teacher being supervised by a caring university or college faculty member. Kim’s vision aligns with our growing awareness that sit-down standardized testing is less accessible to under-represented groups, and less accurately reflects the diversity of approaches needed for STEM science careers. When reviewing the GSCI 1051 course description, Kim realized that UConn’s Earth’s Dynamic Planet “would meet the requirements of our required Integrated Science class and thought it would be awesome to offer a course that can lead to college credits for something the students have to take anyway.”


During our inaugural UConn ECE workshop of May 26, 2021, six of us—Meghan, Meghan, Jared, Harold, and me (with Kim included later)—bonded as a team dedicated to increasing the quality of geoscience education in Connecticut high schools. We invite you to join us by reviewing the GSCI 1051 course that unites us and contacting any of us for more information.  As UConn’s ECE Coordinator for Geosciences, I’m a good first contact. I look forward to hearing from you.




NACEP Re-Accreditation – An Editorial Not a Description



By Brian Boecherer


By the time you read this article, the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) Re-accreditation application will have been submitted. Almost 900-pages of paired syllabi, assignments, statements of equivalency, analysis, documentation, and testimony from the four-corners of the program and the highest levels of the University. This has been my third time engaging in NACEP accreditation, with my first time in 2006 when UConn Early College Experience entered into its modern renaissance. When you complete a task as big as accreditation it feels important in many ways. No matter how experienced you are in the program, after leading an accreditation effort, you feel more knowledgeable than ever before. You have synthesized huge volumes of information, have lead many professionals in a very detailed way, and have created and edited hundreds of documents until you feel they are perfect. You are ready to lead the next chapter of the program, because you see how complete some areas are and where new opportunities should develop.


NACEP accreditation makes me very proud. Not only because we have the status of third-party review, but because our program shines in ways that few other programs do in the nation. As you have heard time and time again, UConn ECE is the oldest concurrent enrollment program in the nation. It is also really one of the best too. We are seen by others as an ivy league in terms of concurrent enrollment. Like the character of every person, our collective and constant efforts make us who we are. We are passionate and dedicated. We work hard and value the fruits of our labor. We care. This is not only true around accreditation time; it is true every year, all the time.


I remember when I started with the program full-time in 2005 (having really started with the program in 1999) and setting the development plan for the office through a process of visiting all the high schools in the program to learn what we did well and where we needed to improve. The high schools and the departments—our great community—put the issues on the table and we ran with them. NACEP was an important part of that story, because it helped us set goals, meet them, and then we aspired to surpass them. The drive to surpass them is part of our character and we should all be very proud to be part of that story.


As the director and the curator of the NACEP application, I know our re-accreditation package will be well-received. I also know that it took a community to create. It is the UConn ECE Community that creates the program, the accreditation package is a recording of your fine work. Thank you for all that you do, I am proud to be a part of this inspiring community.

2021 UConn ECE Professional Recognition Award Winners


By Carissa Rutkauskas


The UConn Early College Experience (ECE) community and the University of Connecticut publicly recognize and thank outstanding instructors and administrators whose dedication and commitment help make UConn ECE successful. Those recognized have exceeded program expectations and excelled in preparing their high school’s students for the next level in their education.


The UConn ECE Professional Recognition Awards Show premiered on YouTube on Thursday, May 13 in front of a live virtual audience. Ten instructors and administrators were spotlighted in the production, as well as UConn’s Associate Vice Provost, Peter Diplock, and many UConn undergraduate musicians. Congratulations to the recipients:


Thomas E. Recchio Faculty Coordinator Award for Academic Leadership
Anthony Rizzie, Mathematics, University of Connecticut


Principal Award for Program Support & Advocacy
Frances DiFiore, Cromwell High School


Site Representative Award for Excellence in Program Administration
Ka Man (Mandy) Cheung, Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Science Magnet School


Instructor Award for Excellence in Course Instruction
Dr. Thomas Vrabel, Sustainable Plant and Soil Sciences, Trumbull Regional Agriscience and Biotechnology Center
Margaret Kimmett, Chemistry, Valley Regional High School
Lalitha Kasturirangan, English, Eli Whitney Technical High School


Library Media Specialist Award for Excellence in Enrichment and Collaboration
Liza Zandonella, Newtown High School


“Rookie of the Year” Award for Excellence in First-Year Course Instruction
Kelsey Kapalczynski, Statistics, Wethersfield High School
Christopher Wisniewski, Biology, Berlin High School


Jan Pikul Award for Continued Excellence in Instruction
Aaron Hull, Political Science, Greenwich High School



Next Generation of Student Registration



By Jessica Dunn


The UConn Early College Experience (ECE) Office is very excited and proud to announce that we will be launching a “new to UConn” student registration system,, this fall. helps Concurrent Enrollment programs, such as UConn ECE, streamline and automate the enrollment of high school students in college courses. This improvement from a 5-step process has been a long time in the making. Our vision of a seamless online registration system and process is now a reality many thanks to the hard work and dedication of the UConn ECE community. We would like to extend a special thank you to University departments including the Office of the Registrar, Office of the Bursar, and UConn’s Information Technology Services as well as our high schools who instilled in us their trust and patience to improve the over student experience.


We would be remiss if we did not recognize and show our appreciation for the countless hours our high school Site Representatives and Instructors have dedicated to the student registration process in the past. Without their commitment to navigate the old registration system and assist students through the 5-step process, thousands of students could have missed out on the opportunity to participate in UConn courses while in high school.


In researching new registration systems, we were looking for a few very important features and found them all in We are happy to be implementing the following major positive changes:


  • 2021-2022 Student registration for Fall, Spring and Full-year courses will occur in the Fall between August 17 and October 6. Students’ schedules should be finalized by that time, and registration should only take 5 minutes.
  • Students will Apply & Enroll at the same time.
  • Paper Consent Forms will be eliminated. There will be no need to collect or upload paper forms.
  • NetID’s will not be used during registration. The NetID is an important interface for engaging in the academic resources of the University, and that is what it will continue to be used for.
  • Student fee bills will be generated at the time of registration and program fee waivers will be processed automatically before payment is requested.


Dual will provide broader access to the high school students in Connecticut by eliminating the 5-step process that inadvertently lost students along the way, as well as provide a true college experience where students can easily register and then focus on the course material rather than the enrollment process. We are proud to implement a tool that will be true to our mission statement of providing access to, and preparation, for higher education.


We look forward to continuing to work with the UConn ECE Community to successfully launch and appreciate the support as we navigate the new system together!