January 2016

Internationally Recognized Real Estate Firm Invests in Students

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

< 1 min read

An international real estate company is giving $1.4 million to the UConn School of Business’s highly ranked Real Estate Center to continue offering a popular course that gives students a realistic, hands-on approach to real estate.

The gift from Hartford-based Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers will make the course, “Real Estate: The Practical Approach,” a permanent addition to the Center. Prior to 2015, Cornerstone executives had been teaching the course with UConn faculty on a trial basis for three years.

“This gift will help attract and retain talented faculty and enhance the educational experience of our real estate students by linking them to the realities of the current real estate market,” said John A. Elliott, dean of the School of Business.

“It’s almost as if you are in the industry as an employee of a real estate company that has to make a decision on the transaction,” said Alex Cattell ’16, of Falmouth, Maine, who is currently enrolled in the class. “It’s the most real-world applicable class I’ve had since I’ve been here to date.”

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UConn to Pursue New Funding Strategy for Athletic Facilities

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

< 1 min read

UConn trustees have endorsed a funding strategy that will allow the University to improve its athletic facilities to sustain their sports’ competitiveness while avoiding the use of tuition or state dollars for the projects.

The Board of Trustees on Wednesday authorized UConn administrators to develop a plan to implement the strategy, which relies on private philanthropy and revenue generated by UConn Athletics through a facilities enhancement surcharge on non-student tickets.

Joshua Newton, president and chief executive officer of the UConn Foundation, said Rizza’s gift and the donor-supported Burton, Shenkman, and Werth facilities “serve as evidence that UConn Nation can rally to support its Huskies.”

“The vote today by the trustees speaks directly to the important role philanthropy must continue to play in the success of UConn Athletics,” Newton said Wednesday. “The Foundation is eager to engage potential donors about these exciting projects. We’re also committed to our other major fundraising initiative launched by the Foundation in the last year: the Transform Lives Scholarship initiative, with a goal of raising $150 million for scholarships and student support.”

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Bank’s Gift Helps Disabled Veterans Become Entrepreneurs

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

2 min read

People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, has given a $7,500 gift to UConn’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities.

The gift will go toward the cost of educating veterans who go through the program. The bootcamp program is entirely funded by private donations from individuals, foundations, and corporate philanthropy made through the UConn Foundation.

The yearlong program, based at UConn’s Graduate Business Center in Hartford, gives disabled veterans the knowledge, skills and support to start and grow their own businesses and achieve financial independence. The program has helped veterans launch 97 businesses so far.

The program pays for tuition, room, board, travel and all other expenses for the roughly 25 veterans who go through the program each year.

“It’s really important that banks invest in veterans and veteran ownership,” said Bootcamp Program Manager Michael Zacchea, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. “It’s very important that veterans become bankable as they transition from the military to the civilian economy.

“For every dollar that comes into program we have produced $19,” he said. “This is really an investment by People’s Bank in the Connecticut economy.”

Established in 2007, People’s United Community Foundation was formed to help support programs and activities that enhance the quality of life in communities that People’s United Bank serves, from New York to Maine. The Foundation’s funding priorities include affordable housing, community development, and youth development.

“The UConn Foundation is proud to facilitate this important program, which not only helps veterans, but has a positive ripple effect on the state’s economy,” said Joshua R. Newton, President & CEO of the UConn Foundation.

Established in 2007, People’s United Community Foundation was formed to help support programs and activities that enhance the quality of life in communities that People’s United Bank serves, from New York to Maine. The Foundation’s funding priorities include affordable housing, community development, and youth development.

Now in its sixth year, the program has graduated a total of 135 veterans who have launched 97 businesses. Half of those businesses are in information technology or construction contracting. The rest cover a range of other ventures, including launching fitness centers and lines of clothing, starting farms, opening a biotech company, and starting a 3-D manufacturing businesses.

A typical UConn bootcamp business generates $150,000 to $200,000 in gross revenues and creates two jobs in addition to the principal after five years.

Half of the veterans who go through the program, run by UConn’s School of Business, are from Connecticut while the rest are from the northeast region.

UConn is part of an eight-school consortium administered by the Institute of Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University and offers the program nationwide. It is recognized nationally as a best-in-class entrepreneurial training program.

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Largest Human Rights Gift to UConn To Provide Scholarships, Build Endowment

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

3 min read

Philanthropist George Soros and UConn alumnus Gary Gladstein ’66 with his wife, Dr. Phyllis Gladstein, announced a $4 million gift to the UConn Human Rights Institute, the largest donation to the internationally renowned program.

The gift, which requires the UConn Foundation to raise an additional $2 million in matching funds, would give the Institute a $6 million endowment and provide scholarships to undergraduates majoring in human rights.

“The vision and generosity of our donors continues to make an incredible impact on this program and is helping to make UConn a global leader in human rights education and scholarship,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “We could not be more grateful to both Gary Gladstein and George Soros for their support and commitment to our university and the field of human rights.”

The Institute, with its interdisciplinary focus, is one of the top human rights programs in higher education worldwide. Faculty members are drawn from most schools and colleges across the university, including anthropology, political science, business, and law. The program has a strong focus on collaborative research and scholarship. The Institute has a rapidly growing student population and its graduates have landed key humanitarian jobs.

a photo of uconn students on an internship in guatemala
UConn Students on a human rights internship in Guatemala.

“I was a child in Hungary when the Nazis invaded. I then lived under Soviet rule, so I know what it is like to live under brutal regimes that deprive people of their basic human rights,” Soros said. “I am pleased to support UConn’s critical work in researching and promoting human rights. I am glad to partner with Gary to help build UConn’s program.”

Gladstein, who has been the Institute’s primary benefactor, is giving the Institute a gift of $2 million. Soros, a businessman, philanthropist, and political activist, has pledged to give a $2 million challenge grant. Soros’s grant is through the Open Society Foundations, his grant-making network dedicated to building democracies with accountable and open governments.

Soros’s grant requires the UConn Foundation to raise an additional $2 million in matching funds from donors. Once completed, the $6 million endowment will provide scholarships, fellowships, internships, and program support for signature programs, such as the Scholars-at-Risk Initiative.

Gladstein said he was pleased to partner with Soros, a friend and colleague who first raised his awareness of the vital importance of human rights.

“All civilizations must learn to share and respect the human rights of others,” Gladstein said. “The true differences around the world are not between different religions or races, but more about those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it. We can all do much better when we work together.”

“These gifts are transformative because they provide us with a financial foundation that we haven’t had before,” said Dan Weiner, UConn’s vice provost for global affairs.

The Institute is a leader in human rights education and scholarship. It has the largest number of undergraduates studying human rights in the U.S. with 80 students majoring and 55 minoring in human rights. Another 35 participate in the Institute’s graduate certificate program.

“On Martin Luther King Day, as we celebrate a man who stood for civil rights and justice, it is a fitting time to announce a gift that will strengthen UConn’s own commitment to human rights,” said Joshua R. Newton, president and CEO of the UConn Foundation.

The Institute’s cross-disciplinary research teams of faculty and graduate students focus on three distinct areas: economic and social rights, humanitarianism, and global health and human rights.

“This gift will sustain cutting-edge, interdisciplinary scholarship on human rights at the University of Connecticut,” Institute Director Kathryn Libal said.

Program graduates have gone on to hold positions at leading universities and in the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International USA, AmeriCares, and Jewish World Watch.

“We are educating the next generation of human rights scholars, teachers, and practitioners,” Weiner said.

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UConn Students Show Middle Schoolers How Fun Engineering Is at Science Center

Grace Merritt
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4 min read

Vanessa DeJesus examined a human skull, slowly turning it over in her hands at the Connecticut Science Center on a recent November night. She was trying to figure out whether the skull was from a man or a woman based on clues a couple of UConn students gave her.

DeJesus, a sixth grader from Two Rivers Magnet Middle School, was among 275 middle school students who got to interact with dozens of UConn engineering students as they conducted kid-friendly experiments, such as walking barefoot over eggs and riding on a hover board.

“I like how the UConn students are teaching us to do things,” DeJesus said. “I like the experiments because I’m a hands-on learner. We touched real human bones.”

It was Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) night at the museum. The event was designed to engage younger students, particularly girls and minorities, in fun experiments to get them excited about engineering and the sciences. Girls and most minority groups are underrepresented in many STEM fields, particularly engineering and computer science, so the intent is to get them interested earlier.

The event was run by the UConn Engineering Ambassadors, a student service group committed to promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in grades K-12.

“We show them what engineering is like. We want to show them that it is not only powerful knowledge, but it’s also something that is fun and obtainable,” said Alex Choi ’16, co-president of UConn’s Engineering Ambassadors.

While the number of women and minorities earning degrees in STEM fields has risen over the past 20 years, it remains well below that for white men, according to the National Science Foundation.

The Engineering Ambassadors is the brainchild of Al Brockett, Pratt & Whitney’s vice president engineering module centers. Brockett noticed a deficit in minority and female leadership positions, so he decided to try engage students at an earlier age. It is important to bring more viewpoints to the table to come up with better solutions, said Kevin McLaughlin, director of Engineering Diversity and Outreach at UConn said.

“When you solve a problem, the more varied the backgrounds of people are, the more of a variety of solutions you’ll get,” McLaughlin said.

The program is underwritten by United Technologies Corp., which has been a generous donor to the UConn Engineering Department, and has given UConn students internships and jobs over the years.

The Engineering Ambassadors reached out to the Connecticut Science Museum and, together, came up with the idea of hosting the STEM night at the museum.

After some pizza and brief instructions, the students, drawn mainly from greater Hartford middle schools, rotated through the students’ presentations and the museum exhibits.

One of the most popular experiments was the “oobleck” exhibit, where students watched a gooey mixture of corn starch and water dance around on plastic wrapped-amplifier in time to music. When the oobleck jumped up, it briefly turned into a solid before falling back into a liquid.

“It looks like a liquid, but it feels dry,’ said Lauren Anderson, of the Carmen Arace School in Bloomfield, as she touched the green goo.

The experiment was a way to visibly illustrate sound. The sound waves cause enough pressure to give the oobleck solid properties.

“It’s a cool concept to see,” said Esther Kim, an Environmental Engineering major who helped run the experiment.

“As engineering students we want to show them what you can do,” she said. “We want to plant the seed. It’s an amazing feeling just seeing their reaction and knowing that we are making a difference in their future in STEM.”

In other areas of the museum, UConn students demonstrated a homemade hover board and made a pumpkin glow green by burning a mixture of rubbing alcohol and light copper sulfate inside it. Another group helped middle school students walk over cartons of eggs without breaking them to illustrate the structural strength of the arch as seen in the shape of the egg.

Several other students made “elephant toothpaste.” Katie Bradley, a biomedical engineering major, mixed hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and food coloring together in a large beaker. She swirled it around a few times and grinned as students gasped at the green foam began spouting out the top in a long, thick tube.

“The kids are very interested in it,” Bradley said.

And that is the whole idea.

“We’re trying to be a role model and mentor and show how exciting math and science can be,” McLaughlin said. “They love it. We try to make it as visual as possible.”

The Engineering Ambassadors targets middle school age students to try to engage them early and give them a taste of what lies ahead in high school.

“Typically math and science is all you get in middle school, and it’s not always too exciting,” McLaughlin said. “We’re trying to show them that there is all kinds of stuff out there. When they go to high school, they can try it and continue to challenge themselves.”

The UConn students visit certain schools in Bloomfield and Hartford three to four times a year to help foster a bond with them. They also invite the students to campus where they give them personal tours of the Engineering Department and the university’s co-generation plant.

Aside from feeling good about making STEM seem fun and accessible, the organization has benefits for the engineering ambassadors as well.

“We want them to get the experience teaching. We also want them to feel the social obligation of mentoring, especially the kids that don’t have a lot of models around them,” McLaughlin said.

The Engineering Ambassadors program originally started at four colleges: UConn, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Worchester Polytechnic Institute, and Penn State. The program quickly proved successful and other colleges, such as Union College and Cornell University, have started their own chapters as well.

New club members go through a specially designed leadership and communications workshop to learn how to effectively communicate technical information to a variety of audiences and engage the younger students in the excitement of engineering.

This is the group’s first collaboration with the Connecticut Science Center, and it was so successful that they hope to hold it twice a year moving forward, McLaughlin said.

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