Jeffrey Alton (’06) interviewed for Insight into Diversity to talk about Asian American and Pacific Islander serving institutions

Asian American Students Find Academic, Cultural Support at UIC

Editor’s note: This story, written by Alexandra Vollman, was originally posted in Insight to Diversity in March, 2017

“It is critical to provide services to ELL (English-language-learner), first-generation, and low-income students because they are often the most vulnerable populations on our campuses,” says Jeffrey Alton, associate director of the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center (AARCC) at UIC. “Also, for Asian and Asian American students, the added notion of the model minority myth, that all Asians are successful and smart, may be hampering the institution’s recognition of their need for support.”


Asian American Students Find Academic, Cultural Support at UIC

Alumni Spotlight – Andy Nagy (’14)

by Carissa Rutkauskas

Cultural Center Director, Assistant Residence Hall Director, Assistant Director for Advising and Student Development, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, Academic Advisor, Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Leadership, Associate Director for Community Standards and Investigations of X College or Y University – these are the titles you would expect to hear for a Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) graduate early on in his career, not Senior Volunteer Specialist at the American Red Cross.

Community Outreach HESA GAs. Nagy, left, with Truth Hunter ‘14 and Jess Sokol ‘12.

M. Andy Nagy (’14) is living proof of the transferability of HESA skills and competencies to the non-profit sector. His first post-HESA job was that of Academic Advisor at the University of Scranton in Scranton, PA, but he lost that position last August. Wanting to stay in the greater Scranton area, but finding limited openings in the field of higher education and student affairs, he decided to expand his job search. Investigation of what fellow AmeriCorps alumni were doing – prior to his 2 years with HESA at UConn, Nagy had 4 years of work experience in civic engagement with AmeriCorps – he applied and interviewed for a position involving disaster relief with the American Red Cross (ARC). Nagy did not land that position, but soon after found himself working for the ARC as a Senior Volunteer Specialist. Reading the job description, he realized he had all of the required skills, just in a different context. He credits this epiphany to his experience in his HESA practicum with the Center for Career Development and Beth Settje’s mentorship.

None of Nagy’s current colleagues have a background similar to his, but they have embraced and quickly recognized the positive influence it has brought to their work. A knowledge of HESA brings a unique perspective to the table, specifically with the use of assessment, ability to strategize, and strong communication skills. Nagy also feels that the hands-on activities in the HESA classroom, HESA assistantships, and HESA practicum prepared him for intentional conversations, conflict management, mediation, and group dynamics which he utilizes with his colleagues and volunteers. While in the classroom, he did not always understand the purpose of certain topics or even entire courses. For example, he questioned why there was a course on group dynamics of “fun, random activities,” but by the end of the course, it clicked. “Everywhere you go there are group dynamics that you deal encounter. You have to learn how to pull from each other’s strengths,” he shared.

Cookout at the home of Dr. Christine Wilson (Assessment instructor) with “competent buttons.” “Christine used an adult-learning grading system in which we got to choose our own grades based upon how much we wanted to master the material. Everyone started with getting a “B” if you completed the minimum number of assignments proficiently. She made you keep doing assignments until she deemed that your understanding and application of the material was “competent”. Christine was such an important part of my experience.” Nagy, left, with Gilbert Valencia ‘14, Abby Chien ‘14, Dawn Savage ‘14.

Cookout at the home of Dr. Christine Wilson (Assessment instructor) with “competent buttons.” “Christine used an adult-learning grading system in which we got to choose our own grades based upon how much we wanted to master the material. Everyone started with getting a “B” if you completed the minimum number of assignments proficiently. She made you keep doing assignments until she deemed that your understanding and application of the material was “competent”. Christine was such an important part of my experience.” Nagy, left, with Gilbert Valencia ‘14, Abby Chien ‘14, Dawn Savage ‘14.

Nagy shared an anecdote from a recent ARC needs assessment project meeting, where he and his supervisor were still learning each other’s styles. Toward the end of a long meeting, colleagues starting packing up their belongings, anxious to move on to their next task. Nagy, a detailed-oriented thinker, saw too many loose ends and extended the meeting to ensure their strategy completely took into consideration and answered all the questions necessary to complete a successful assessment. It took guts for a new hire to speak up, but Nagy’s “big picture”-thinking supervisor commented that the two balance each other well. “If I am going to spend time doing something, I am going to make sure it’s done the right way,” said Nagy.

Nagy spends much of his time working with volunteers, who constitute a vast 94% of the ARC and are all-important for the success of the organization. . The volunteers are a diverse group, from non-high school graduates, to college students, to retired folks who have had a successful career in another field – or who have never even used a computer. One of the reasons Nagy was hired was due to his experience with the college-age population, but what makes him successful is his ability to identify with people through generational differences. Understanding that many retired people want to volunteer, but get frustrated with the online application system, he has made it an initiative to accommodate and assist with the application. He has extensive discussions with potential volunteers regarding their skills, interests, and values – an aptitude that he developed from his HESA Career for the Common Good assistantship. Nagy also conducts screening interviews to make sure that the volunteer is a good fit for a particular position.

Currently Nagy is working on the needs assessment project, but in the near future, his focus will turn to recruitment – based on the results of the needs assessment. When data comes back, he will be setting up opportunities to recruit at health and safety days, community events, senior centers, and college fairs. He sees this as an opportunity for anyone who wants to volunteer stating that there is something for everyone. There are opportunities in disaster preparedness, developing new skills (such as learning PowerPoint or how to build a database), and blood donation, just to name a few. Nagy will be building partnerships with companies to donate in-kind goods (which might have otherwise been destroyed or recycled) and heading out into community to work with organizations that have mandated volunteer hours.

Since he was an undergraduate at Susquehanna University, Nagy thought he would spend his entire career in student affairs and is grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked as an Academic Advisor at the University of Scranton, commenting that, “everything, everything I learned in HESA, I applied in my first year of work. Sometimes it takes until you are in your first job to understand.” He hopes to someday look Dr. Sue Saunders (HESA Coordinator during Nagy’s program) in the eye and say “now I get it.” Getting it – the interpersonal interactions, assessment, group dynamics and conflict management skills, classroom knowledge, and assistantship, practica, and volunteer opportunities – has afforded M. Andy Nagy the understanding of the transferability of what HESA has taught him to extend that to the non-profit sector.

Jack Nguyen (’15) named Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs at the University of Florida

Multicultural and Diversity Affairs selects new APIA Affairs director

Editor’s Note: This story, written by Sara Tanner, originally appeared on the UF News website on June 29, 2017

After a thorough national search, the University of Florida’s department of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs (MCDA) is pleased to announce that Jack Nguyen has been selected as Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs. He will start Monday, July 17.
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Alumni Spotlight – Emerson Loisel (’15)

by Carissa Rutkauskas

MICA is pet-friendly, and you will often run into four-legged friends.

Curiosity led Emerson Loisel, UConn HESA ’15, to his current position as Assistant Director of Student Activities at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Although the VT native and University of Vermont alumnus (Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies ’13) didn’t know where he saw himself going when he started the HESA program, he knew he liked school and wanted to be in an education-related field.

At the beginning of his HESA studies, Loisel didn’t have an end goal other than to follow his curiosity, but he did know that he wanted to be in a place where he could challenge systems of power, especially in their overall intentions. He feels that HESA more than prepared him with a knowledge base of higher education and student affairs practices, giving him the tools to navigate unfamiliar situations and contexts. Upon his arrival at MICA, Loisel recognized that he did not share many of the identities of the people of Baltimore his students were working with but did hold a desire for them to have an exceptionally positive, productive, and self-directed education experience.  Loisel shares, “UConn taught me achievement is sticking to my beliefs and ethics, not just checkmarks. HESA gave me the tools to leave institutions better than I found them.”

Loisel is not an artist, but a self-described art appreciator. He enjoys and relates to the way artists engage in and question the world around them. MICA students’ sense of cohesiveness around pushing boundaries aligns with Loisel’s personal beliefs.  He started his position at MICA a couple of months after the death of Freddie Gray. Gray was a 25-year old Black man arrested by the Baltimore police for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade. While in police custody Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury which is widely believed to be the result of excessive force used during transport to the police station.  As a result of this injury Gray fell into a coma and ultimately died.  Gray’s death is widely considered murder.  Through the MICA students’ art-based activism related to the Gray tragedy, Emerson Loisel began to better understand and find his place in his new city, school, and student body. The art students have a refined skill to critique artwork; they were able to transfer these skills into their present surroundings by engaging in social justice and community service as a response to events leading to Gray’s death. Their actions helped deepen Loisel’s understanding of the ways a city and university can share a healthy symbiotic relationship, if forged properly.

Loisel at MICA’s 2016 orientation. He notes, “People take you more seriously when you wear a headset.”

MICA is a small private institution, home to just 1,850 undergraduate students and 250 graduate students, a drastic difference from Loisel’s previous experiences in large, public institutions. Aside from the regional transition, his transition from student to professional has provided him with a more realistic perspective of administration. He now understands the difference between high-value and low-value work – as a grad student it was sometimes easy to quickly complete the low-value work, but as a professional, prioritizing high-value work requires more focus. Loisel has also learned to make decisions with self-assurance and better understands what he functionally can do and ethically should do.

Loisel speaking about a student he nominated during the MICA Involvement Recognition Ceremony.

Loisel’s inquisitiveness helps him frame potentially negative situations into positive experiences. Shortly after his arrival to MICA, a staff member left the Student Activities Office. Loisel chose to see this vacant post as an opportunity to advocate for a more effective office structure and create new positions within that space. He helped lead an initiative to restructure his office into one that functions well for student needs. Loisel may have had doubts during that process, but called upon his experiences with UConn Community Standards, under the guidance of Cathy Cocks, Kim Hill, and Jane Benoit-Bean, and in the Programs Office with Jess Gerum, and felt confident that he knew that he did indeed have the ability to form a solution.

Emerson Loisel describes higher ed as a “rad place to be” and advises finding a job that fits you – “you’ll find patience and resilience in yourself,” he says. Having a job in the saturated market of Student Affairs (the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook page has a following of over 27,000), is an achievement in itself, but Loisel offers this advice: You can find a job anywhere in the country if you want, or you can stay close to your family and network. You can make your job your life, or you can work a 40-hour week and have time to invest in other activities. Just make sure you remember to make time for yourself.

Loisel followed his curiosity to become a Higher Education and Student Affairs professional at the Maryland Institute College of Art. A fan of education, he has fulfilled his desire to be in such a space and is surrounded by students who fuel his desire to question the world around him as they develop their own interests and become conscious of the capacity they hold to disassemble systems of power.

Paula Milone-Nuzzo (’89)- alum in the news

Nursing dean named president of MGH Institute of Health Professions

Editor’s note: This story, was originally posted on the Penn State News website on March 24, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Paula Milone-Nuzzo, professor and dean of the College of Nursing, has been named the new president of the MGH Institute of Health Professions. Milone-Nuzzo will end her tenure at Penn State in August and a national search for her replacement will begin immediately.

MGH Institute of Health Professions is an independent graduate school in Boston founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and the only degree-granting affiliate of Partners HealthCare.

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Maria D. Martinez (’96) – alum in the news

Maria D. Martinez ’83 MSW, ’96 Ph.D. — Assistant vice provost at the Institute for Student Success in Undergraduate Education and Instruction at the University of Connecticut

Editor’s Note: This story, written by Neag School’s Shawn Kornegay, originally appeared on the Neag School’s website

Maria D. Martinez earned a master of social work degree from the University of Connecticut in 1983. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in professional higher education administration at UConn’s Neag School of Education in 1996. Prior to that, she earned her bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the City University of New York.

Martinez began her career at UConn in 1986 as a counselor within Student Support Services (SSS), where she worked with low-income, first-generation college students. She became the SSS program director in 1993. In 1995, Martinez became the director of the Center for Academic Programs, where she managed the operations of the TRIO Programs (Student Support Services, Upward Bound, and Talent Search).

In 2011, she was named assistant vice provost for ISS and UE&I, where she provides strategic and operational leadership for units and programs within ISS; oversees the delivery of services to facilitate the transition from secondary school to college; and manages the Institute’s budget.

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Alumni Spotlight – Meg Brannan (’16)

by Rebecca Nelson

Meg Brannan grew up in upstate New York, in Oneonta, and stayed in New York for her undergraduate career before coming to UConn to matriculate into the HESA program. Graduating from UConn in 2016, Meg now works as an Area Director at Lewis and Clark College. Much like the explorers for whom the college is named, Meg moved far west across the country to Portland, Oregon, where Lewis and Clark College is located.

 It turns out that Meg has more in common with the famous explorers than just moving west. She is constantly challenging herself and pushing herself to do things that scare her, much like an adventurer, within her own life. She says that she deliberately chose to complete her HESA practicum in the Office of Community Standards because it made her the most nervous, rather than choosing a path that felt safe or familiar.

“Push yourself to get involved in things that make you uncomfortable,” she said. “Things that push you and challenge you to grow.”

She attributes her growth and success in HESA to this adventurous attitude: doing things that made her nervous during her time in HESA, she says, prepared her to go out into the world and be a confident professional. The feeling of confidence and accomplishment that comes with successfully doing something you never thought you could is what Meg seeks out in every experience.

 The HESA program provided plenty of opportunities for Meg to challenge herself, from a practicum in the Office of Community Standards and a graduate assistantship at the Rainbow Center to regular facilitation experiences and public speaking. Thanks to HESA, Meg says she is much better at giving presentations and facilitating. She calls herself a hands-on learner, which made the HESA program a great fit for her. “I learned so much more than I would have if I was just sitting in a classroom being lectured at,” she said. Seeing the impact of interactive assignments and presentations in HESA made a powerful impression on her that she carries into her professional life.

 During her time at the Office of Community Standards, Meg discovered a passion for student conduct management, which led her to specifically seek out a job that incorporated both housing and conduct responsibilities, exactly what she found in her current position. In her first semester as an Area Director, Meg trained as a Title IX investigator and hearing officer, and spearheaded RA selection. She’s also been putting in extra hours at work to go to student conduct administrator conferences through the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA), and plans to go to the national ASCA conference next year. Her career path has been different from what she would have expected, in part thanks to the variety of experiences she had as a HESA student. “You can’t really plan out every single detail of your career for decades at a time,” Meg said. “The experiences you have will shape the direction you go in.”

Other than pursuing things that scare you, Meg says that one of the keys to success in HESA is to “get involved in things that are meaningful without spreading yourself too thin.” HESA has so many opportunities to learn and get involved in, she says, but you have to “whittle it down and dive deeply”. It’s a common temptation to try and do as many things as possible, to boost your resume with diverse experiences, but Meg recommends instead finding the most impactful experiences and putting your all into them. One experience, she says, like her practicum in the Office of Community Standards, can be “more than just one thing on your resume”, but a multitude of challenges rolled into a single experience. During her time in community standards, for example, she was the facilitator of the book club. “The book club was outside the realm of HESA, and wasn’t an academic expectation, but I took it really seriously,” she said. “It allowed me to connect with professional staff members.” Choosing a book and running the book club, she says, pushed her to be deliberate on what concepts she wanted to focus on in her work, and she “would see that show up in [her] daily life”, and saw that it left a lasting impact on the people who were part of the book club. She chose Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, which is about how embracing vulnerability takes great courage, but allows you to become a better person, colleague, leader, and friend.

During her graduate assistantship at the Rainbow Center, Meg says that “allowing [herself] to be vulnerable” was one of the greatest challenges and learning experiences, but also one of the greatest sources of success. In Brene Brown’s book, which Meg says is now one of her favorites, Brown says that “when we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof…we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable.” Embracing vulnerability, an important lesson that the book teaches, allowed Meg to experience great success during her time at the Rainbow Center. She proposed, developed, and ran a program which the Rainbow Center has sustained since she left. The F.A.M.I.L.E.E. Mentor program helps first-year UConn students adjust to life at UConn with the help of continuing students, focusing on academics, maturity, independence, leadership, and empowerment. Meg says that the experience had “a lot of autonomy to do everything and anything”, which was “scary at times”.

 While at the Rainbow Center, Meg was trained in Husky Ally Safe Zone facilitation, which taught her how to create safe spaces for people of all gender identities, expressions, and sexualities. She has taken the skills with her since then, particularly the focus on inclusion. Her experiences at the Rainbow Center challenged her and has made her confident enough to be “willing to confront or intervene” in problematic situations.

“I don’t really like a typical office job that’s the same every day,” Meg says. Instead, she pursues opportunities that are dynamic and surprising, as exemplified by her experiences at the Rainbow Center, and continuing now in her job as an Area Director. She says that no matter what she does, she wants to be “happy and healthy in her career”, which for her requires a job that allows her to make “really close and personal connections with students” so she can “hear their story, help support them, and help them be successful.”

Since completing her HESA program, Meg says she’s been pleasantly surprised by the amount of free time she has. At first, she says, she “didn’t quite know what to do with [herself]”, but has come to embrace the free time. “I didn’t realize how wonderful free time would be for my self-care,” she says. “And how it would give me the energy and motivation to be even better at my job.”

 HESA, Meg says, has contributed to her current success “in a million ways, from really small things to really big things.” Put yourself out there, she says. Find mentors who challenge you. Take on opportunities that scare you and force you to dig deeper within yourself and into the world. Get out of your comfort zone, and, according to Meg, you’ll go far. If Meg’s career and successes are anything to go off of, it seems that her advice is worth listening to.

HESA alum and current instructor Fany Hannon (’08)

UConn Leader Recognized for Contributions to the Hispanic Community

Editor’s Note: This story, written by UConn Communication’s Kenneth Best, appears in UConn Today’s September 16, 2016 issue

During the upcoming celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month on the American Spanish language television network Univision, one individual recognized for her contributions to the Hispanic community will be Fany Hannon ’08 MA, director of the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC).

Hannon’s work with UConn students will be seen by viewers of Univision’s affiliates in Connecticut and the Springfield, Mass., region as part of the network’s Nuestro Orgullo Hispano – Our Hispanic Pride – segments aired in commercial breaks as part of the month-long celebration, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Read the entire article here

Alumni Spotlight – Louis Cameron III (’16)

by Carissa Rutkauskas

Louis Cameron III wearing a dashiki
Louis wearing a dashiki and showing love for his beloved fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, incorporated.

Louis Cameron III (HESA ‘16) is no stranger to exploring new communities. Born in Würzburg, Germany, and having lived in or visited Georgia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Costa Rica, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Boston, New York City, San Antonio, Washington D.C., and San Francisco, Louis is a self-declared extrovert who identifies himself as a Black man who has worked at and attended predominantly White institutions. He believes that equity-minded policies, practices, and programs for people with marginalized identities are essential, both inside and out of institutions of higher education.

After graduating from East Carolina University, in Greenville, NC (2013), the University of Connecticut Educational Leadership Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) program was Louis’ next stop. He describes those 2 years as the most formative years of his life. He looks back fondly at his time at UConn and went so far as to say, “I love everything about UConn”. Louis misses being at graduate school and the learning perspective it affords, where his cohort offered him opportunities to reflect on his assistantship, practicum, and readings with like-minded individuals.

Now the Resident Director (RD) for 310 first-year residents of Hardey and Cushing Houses on the Newton Campus of Boston College, Louis supervises a team of 12 Resident Assistants, one Graduate Staff Assistant, one Programming Graduate Assistant, and one Graduate Minister. In this position, his priority is to assist residents transitioning into the college environment, which is a great fit, as Louis is energized by working with first-year students. Recently he completed training his RAs, with a focus on rejuvenating his staff, and is looking forward to the RA selection process. At BC the RDs change residences each year, so he is excited about interviewing and selecting strong staff who will remain at Hardey and Cushing Houses in the coming year, carrying on his vision and excellence even after he has left.

Louis with two of his best friends and fellow HESAs, Mike Malenfant and Aisha Folkes, celebrating at UConn’s 2016 Grad Prom.
Louis with two of his best friends and fellow HESAs, Mike Malenfant and Aisha Folkes, celebrating at UConn’s 2016 Grad Prom.

While he enjoys the challenges of working in an environment different from his UConn experience, he knows he won’t remain in residential life forever, even though he was an RA as an undergrad. When Louis accepted his position, he had in mind a piece of advice given to him as a first-year HESA student by a then second-year HESA student: Your first position out of graduate school doesn’t have to be your dream job or your forever job. Think about the benefits and opportunities for growth it can provide you. As an RD, Louis sees an opportunity to work somewhere that provides housing, and where he can gain experience supervising a staff, training undergraduate students, overseeing a community, and facilitating conduct hearings. It is a generalist position in an institution that is different from his HESA experience at a large, public, flagship research institution: BC is a private, smaller, conservative Jesuit institution, with a much different student population, especially in terms of race and class. Louis’ time at BC is providing him with unique experiences, which include serving in an on-call duty rotation, furthering his passion area through the department’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee, and working with a diverse group of students, as well as colleagues that have a variety of professional competencies.

Louis Cameron III at UConn HESA graduation with his family
Louis with family from Massachusetts and Virginia during his 2016 UConn HESA Hooding Ceremony.

Looking forward, this RD sees his future intersecting four competencies: student conduct, ethics and morality, equity, social justice, and inclusion, and assessment, evaluation and research. Two of those four were strongly influenced by his HESA faculty, Cathy Cocks, director of Community Standards, and Dr. Milagros Castillo-Montoya, HESA professor:. “Cathy is a friend and mentor and inspires me in my understanding of student conduct and ethical fitness,” Louis said. “And thanks to Milagros, I know more about equity-mindedness and I am now obsessed with assessment—going into HESA, I did not like research or assessment, but now I’m a huge Qualtrics fan.”

Only time will tell which college or University Louis will call home in the future, but for now, he is settling into his role at BC as a professional, after 20 years of being a student. He is using this opportunity to work on his self-reflection as a practitioner, and to discover how to adapt his learning and developing for a non-academic role. Louis is looking forward to auditing a course on higher education public policy to expand his knowledge, and you might even see him on campus in May for the HESA graduation ceremonies!

Felix (’08) Graduates with Doctoral Degree from BGSU

We would like to congratulate an alumnus of our program, Vivienne Felix (HESA Class of 2008), on receiving her PhD in Higher Education Administration from Bowling Green State University. Our program is always proud to see graduates continue on their respective journeys as scholar practitioners, and we are excited to follow your continued contributions to the field, Dr. Felix!