Reception Unites GK-12 Stakeholders

The high-tech, sleek backdrop of UConn’s Graduate Business Learning Center on Constitution Plaza in Hartford proved the perfect stage for a Monday, May 10 reception uniting the key stakeholders in a pioneering new collaboration between UConn and the Connecticut Technical High School System.

The event marked the formal initiation of the School of Engineering’s new Ingenuity Incubators graduate training program, which recently garnered $2.7 million in competitive grant monies from the National Science Foundation for a novel suite of activities that enfold UConn graduate and undergraduate students, and technical high school students and their teachers in cross-cutting sustainable engineering research. The five-year project aims to produce better Ph.D. instructors, to invigorate and strengthen STEM curricula for Connecticut’s technical high school students, and to foster a stronger pipeline between the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) and UConn.

Underlining the expected significance of the proposed program on state-wide education, the reception was attended by Dr. Michael Meotti, Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Mark McQuillan, Commissioner and Secretary to the State Board of Education, and Dr. Patricia Ciccone, Superintendent of the CTHSS.

Dr. McQuillan remarked, “We are very excited. The timing of this partnership couldn’t be better. As you know, the legislature passed educational reform legislation just last week that will result in more rigorous educational standards for our students, particularly in science, math and foreign language study. . .Connecticut is engaged in the federal Race to the Top, and a key emphasis is the importance of STEM.” He noted that the state will need everyone’s support to succeed in securing Race to the Top educational reform funding, which Connecticut missed out on in first round. Round 2 of the $4.35 billion initiative begins soon, with an application deadline of June 1, he said.

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The GK-12 team members, including principal investigator Douglas Cooper, recently appointed Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Regional Campuses; Dean of Engineering Mun Y. Choi; and Kazem Kazerounian, Associate Dean for Research & Strategic Initiatives, outlined the overarching goals and ambitions of the pioneering collaboration. The fourth UConn member of the team, associate professor-in-residence (Molecular & Cell Biology) Ruth Washington, will provide leadership in recruiting a diverse population of graduate students to the program.

Other UConn officials who shared their insights were Dr. Lee Aggison, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education and Dr. Lee Melvin, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Planning. Dr. Aggison spoke of “silos, pipelines and bridges” and noted that the unique Ingenuity Incubators program will help to erode academic silos, enhance and invigorate the pipeline linking the K-12 school system and UConn, and foster bidirectional bridges among the different stakeholders.

Attending the May 10 event were nearly 70 individuals, including top officials from Connecticut’s Department of Education, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, Connecticut Clean Energy and Connecticut Innovations, the Connecticut Science Center and Connecticut FIRST! In addition to Dr. Patricia Ciccone, superintendent of the entire Connecticut Technical High School System, principals and other officials from the Norwich, Bristol, E.C. Goodwin, Grasso Southeastern, Emmett O’Brien, Vinal and Howell Cheney technical high schools attended. Industrial advisory board members also lent their weight to the event, including Heidi Douglas, managing partner of Nuventus, LLC, Kevin Bouley, CEO of Nerac, Inc., and David Carter, VP of Engineering Technology with Hamilton Sundstrand.

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