By Brian A. Boecherer, Associate Director of UConnECE
“Why does UConn run this program?” It is not uncommon for me to hear this question when I visit a new high school looking to partner with UConn ECE. The first time I heard it, eight years ago, I was taken aback.” Isn’t it obvious? We want your students to have a leg-up and succeed in college no matter where they attend.” Sometimes that answer falls flat. After I tell principals, guidance counselors, and instructors about the credits and advantages in the college admissions process, I start to talk about the student and faculty access to the library and academic conferences. Yes, conferences for students and faculty. This is when the conversation starts to be convincingly genuine.
In the central office, we know that rigorous coursework is the keystone to UConn ECE. But a bridge is not just a key-stone; you need extensions. Last October, like every Fall since the 1990’s, UConn ECE
and the French Department hosted the French Immersion Day and Quiz Bowl Competition. To me, this student event never gets old. Ninety to a hundred UConn ECE students, on campus, speaking French,
w a l ki ng ar ou nd c am pu s (occasionally getting lost), and competing in a Jeopardy-style French Quiz Bowl for huge shiny trophies. Finally, academic competition for the fun of it! We run student conferences because it inspires lust for higher learning. Incidentally, it is fun for more than just the students. People who love learning, want others to love learning. Karim Mabrouk, third-year doctoral student in French has been offering immersion classes for us for over two years. “As an instructor, the [UConn ECE] students’ excitement from the day’s activities is absolutely refreshing”, he observes.
This Spring we will be running the 6th annual Globalization Conference on the Stamford Campus. (Yes, it has huge trophies that tower over high school football trophies. The bigger the better. I love visiting a high school and the front office is cluttered with trophies, especially when they are educational.) In the years to come, we are discussing a STEM conference. Although these things take time, resources, and planning, they serve a vital purpose: academic socialization, self-motivated learning, you name it. Besides student conferences, we are very proud of our faculty development. Not only are we expanding our annual discipline workshops, but also we are in our third year of offering a three -day Biology Summer Institute. And for several years now Tom Recchio, the ECE English faculty coordinator, has been offering an annual writing conference for his instructors. It used to be nicknamed, the “English mini-conference”. That is a euphemism now as fifty -plus ECE instructors regularly attend. Now that the large NACEP conference is out of our system (remember Mystic 2011?), we are back to offering a regional conference on con-current enrollment. Reminder: hold May 29th on your calendar for our regional conference.
So, why do we do it? Well, as part of the UConn ECE community, why do you do it? It’s about the academic community, the faculty, the departments, and the outreach. But it’s about the students, really.