October 2016

CLAS Professor Reveals the Science of Political Surveys

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

3 min read

You might remember from a long-ago history class that in 1948, a young pollster named George Gallup found that Gov. Thomas Dewey won the presidential election—a prediction featured dramatically on the Chicago Tribune’s front page. Harry Truman, as we know, actually won.

What went wrong?

dewey trumanGallup began polling representative samples of the population in 1936 using in-person interviewers, who would knock on doors and ask people who they were likely to vote for. What he didn’t account for was basic human bias—interviewers were more likely to visit houses in neighborhoods they felt comfortable in, asking people who looked like them. Furthermore, results were mailed in, meaning that polling stopped two weeks before the election and didn’t account for late deciders.

While pollsters have since corrected for these errors—interviewing is now much more likely to take place on the phone or the Internet using random sampling, for example—this shows you can’t always take all political polls at face value.

That was the scope of UConn public policy professor Jennifer Dineen’s CLAS College Experience session. The CLAS College Experience, which this semester took place during Huskies Forever Weekend, gives alumni the chance to head back to the classroom to learn from UConn professors in the liberal arts and sciences.

“Caller ID, cell phones, and do-it-yourself survey tools have greatly affected polling,” said Dineen. “We’re now being inundated with surveys. There have been significant changes to the media too—the cycle is much shorter now, there are 24-hour content needs, and shifting budgets.” As a result, news outlets are often pressured to conduct quick-hit polls on their websites, or use surveys that are less rigorous in their methodology.

So what questions should you ask when you see political poll results?

  • Who conducted the survey—and who paid for it? Some polls are known to have a bias in favor of one political party or another. “I have no incentive other than to be right,” said Dineen, “but other organizations might have other goals.”
  • How was it conducted? Was it a live poll or conducted by interactive voice response (IVR), otherwise known as “robocall”? IVR polls, Dineen found, have fewer undecided voters than live surveys; live surveys tend more Democratic.
  • Who was polled—and when? Polling the general public might make sense 18 months before the election, when people are just starting to think about voting, but good pollsters narrow the field to registered voters as the timeframe narrows—and to likely voters when there are only weeks or days left before Election Day. Other effects—conventions, scandals, national crises—might impact the results of political surveys, too.
  • How long was data collected? Computers can now not only generate random phone numbers; they can also apply an algorithm to call times so that if you’re not home during dinner on Tuesday, you’ll get flagged to get another call Saturday afternoon. But a daily tracking poll doesn’t account for that, so the sample may be skewed.
  • How were the questions asked? “Even if you ask the right questions, if you ask them the wrong way, your efforts will be for naught,” said Dineen. Good pollsters switch the order in which they list candidates and ask similar questions during the same survey to ensure a respondents’ answers make sense.
  • Can I find information on how the poll was conducted? All credible polling organizations will give details of how the surveys were conducted—who was surveyed, what questions specifically they asked, and what their margin of error was.

Keep in mind, too, that even the most rigorous and well-regarded pollsters can produce varying results. This could be due to errors in population sampling, analysis based on potential political bias, or other factors. Most polls are 95% confident in their results. So to get a better idea of who’s ahead you could refer to poll aggregators like FiveThirtyEight or Real Clear Politics—or better yet, take a breather from relentless daily poll results and check in every week or so.

Want more insight from the UConn community on the 2016 election?

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Celebrating UConn’s Greats

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

3 min read

On Friday, October 7, UConn recognized four faculty members for their integrity, accomplishments, and commitment to their students. The UConn Faculty Excellent Awards, awarded by the UConn Foundation Office of Alumni Relations, is a nomination-based recognition award that acknowledges the dedicated members of the UConn family.

 

photo of Debra A. Kendall, Ph.D.
Debra A. Kendall, Ph.D.
School of Pharmacy
Faculty Excellence in Research and Creativity – SciencesKendall, a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, joined the School of Pharmacy faculty in 1989. Her research focuses on G protein-coupled receptors. These include the cannabinoid, which is the target of medical marijuana, as well as opioid receptors, the target of fentanyl and the basis of many overdoses. She aims to deepen our understanding of these receptors to help develop more specific therapeutics with fewer side effects.
photo of John E. Mathieu ’80, Ph.D.
John E. Mathieu ’80, Ph.D.
School of Business
Faculty Excellence in Research and Creativity – Humanities, Arts, and Social SciencesMathieu, a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, joined the faculty at the School of Business in 1999. His primary areas of interest include models of team and multi-team effectiveness, leadership, training effectiveness, and cross-level models of organizational behavior. He is inspired by working with Ph.D. students to not only advance science, but to enhance the workplace for employees, customers, patients, and others.
photo of Eldridge S. Adams, Ph.D.
Eldridge S. Adams, Ph.D.
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence in Graduate TeachingAdams joined the UConn faculty in 1997 and studies the behavior and population biology of highly social insects, especially invasive ants and termites. He enjoys field biology in the summer and data analysis in the winter and spends an inordinate amount of time in swamps and marshes. His teaching includes undergraduate courses on ecology, social insects, and scientific writing as well as graduate courses on population ecology, biostatistics, and teaching methods.
photo of Steven Zinn, Ph.D.
Steven Zinn, Ph.D.
College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources
Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate TeachingZinn who has been at UConn since 1990, is an endocrinologist and growth physiologist working with cattle, sheep and pigs. He studies the hormonal mechanisms involved in the growth and development of farm animals. Put in simple terms, he studies how small animals grow up to be big animals. He says the most inspiring part of his job is working with freshman students in FYE to help them to not only transition from high school, but to mature as they move from their freshman year through to graduation and beyond.

Learn more about the Faculty Excellence Awards

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Changing the Mammogram Experience

Tiffany Ventura Thiele
Tiffany Ventura Thiele

4 min read

UConn Health’s new state-of-the-art Beekley Imaging Center aims to reduce stress, enhance women’s care

For many women, mammograms can be a stressful exam, compounded by the wait for results. Thanks to a $500,000 gift from the Beekley Family Foundation, the new Beekley Imaging Center at UConn Health’s Women’s Center will help women feel more relaxed and, perhaps, less anxious.

During a reception on Thursday, October 13, approximately 25 people toured the center as patients would – starting in a brightly colored reception area surrounded by windows. Next, the group traveled through a hallway and entered the waiting room with its welcoming amenities: comfortable chairs, plants, a complimentary snack and drink station, and soothing music.

Outside of these aesthetic touches, the Beekley Imaging Center will provide the best in imaging technology, offering 3D mammography, ultrasound, and even same-day imaging results and follow-up testing.

The goal? To alleviate the stress and concern many women experience when waiting for results.

“This state-of-the-art facility is just an amazing addition to our Women’s Center,” said Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, chief executive officer, UConn Health and executive vice president for health affairs. “It’s making a real difference every day, one patient at a time. Tomorrow morning, there’s going to be a woman who will walk in here, and she will experience this modern, beautiful atmosphere and enhanced care created by the Beekley Family Foundation.”

photo of the new waiting room
A serene, welcoming entrance awaits women receiving exams at The Beekley Imaging Center, located at the UConn Health Women’s Center.

The members of the Beekley family are the shareholders of Beekley Corporation, a Bristol-based company and a world leading supplier of medical and hospitality products. The corporation, which includes Beekley Medical, specializes in products to help medical imaging, surgical, and radiation oncology professionals improve communication, productivity, and patient care. Specifically, the new imaging center features a Beekley product – TomoSpot ® skin markers for Digital Breast Tomosynthesis.

“I’m pleased that our patients get to benefit from all the wonderful devices [the Beekley Corporation] makes,” said Dr. Bruce Liang, dean, UConn School of Medicine. “The accuracy makes a great deal of difference for our patients. We’re extremely grateful and honored to house this wonderful facility for our patients.”

Thursday’s reception was a night of gratitude for the Beekley Family Foundation and the many people who made the Beekley Imaging Center possible, including Anne Diamond, chief executive officer, John Dempsey Hospital; Anne Horbatuck, interim vice president, University Medical Group Administration; and their teams who worked on the design and operation of a serene, welcoming space.

“We are very fortunate to have so many passionate people here that worked together to make this center a reality,” said Dr. Agwunobi. “We cannot thank them enough for their hard work and dedication.”

A Partnership Over Lunch

The story begins with a conversation at lunchtime between two friends and UConn alums: Nat Messina ’74 (BUS), ’81 (LAW), president and a director of the Beekley Family Foundation, and Mark Sinatro ’88 (CLAS), a UConn Foundation board member.

“At our lunch, Mark mentioned the great things going on at UConn Health,” said Messina. “I told him of the interest of the Beekley family in health-related charitable opportunities. Mark than arranged lunch with UConn Foundation President and CEO Josh Newton…and it took off from there.”

Messina began representing W. Mason Beekley III in 1990. Originally, the Beekley Family Foundation was created to be the recipient of Mason’s collection of skiing fine art, sculpture, collectibles, and reference books. After Mason’s death in 2001, the Foundation evolved to address his and his wife’s Eliza Q. Beekley’s vision: providing financial support to establish and sustain initiatives that further education and the arts and sciences for the benefit of the public good.

“When the opportunity arose, my guidance was ‘What would Mason do?’” said Messina. “I look around [the center] and think, ‘This is what Mason would have done.’”

The vision for a state-of-the-art addition to the Women’s Center reflects the corporate persona of the Beekley Corporation, a Bristol-based organization committed to giving back to the community and whose workforce is 80 percent female. The corporation’s chief executive officer, Ayn LaPlant, was delighted to partner with UConn to construct a world-class imaging center.

“We are devoted to women’s breast health care in general, and to be partnered with UConn, another world-class organization who has the same mission and goals as Beekley, is so exciting,” said LaPlant. “I think it’s a great partnership.”

Recognition for Two UConn Health Employees

photo of Dr. Aleksey Merkulov and Kim Sokol
Dr. Aleksey Merkulov, assistant professor of radiology and section head of women’s imaging, and Kim Sokol, radiologic technologist. pose with their Scientific Excellence Awards.

During Thursday’s reception, representatives from Beekley Medical presented UConn Health employees Dr. Aleksey Merkulov, assistant professor of radiology and section head of women’s imaging, and Kim Sokol, radiologic technologist, with Scientific Excellence Awards.

“It’s been clear working together that [Dr. Mekulov and Kim Sokol] focus on better patient care, the advance of medicine, and together we share the goal of assuring the highest quality of care was provided to all medical imaging patients,” said Martha Flannery, vice president of sales and marketing, Beekley Medical. “Thank you for being a great partner in the community.”

The Beekley Imaging Center is currently open and located on the eighth floor of the Outpatient Pavilion on the UConn Health campus. During October, patients will receive a pink rose and gift bag to note National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer remains the most common cancer among American women. About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. Early detection remains the best defense against this deadly disease.

To learn more about the UConn Health Women’s Center and the Beekley Imaging Center, visit http://health.uconn.edu/women/.

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Trustee Helps UConn Scholarship Drive for Women

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

3 min read

UConn trustee Marilda Gándara ’78 JD is helping to launch a new group called Women and Philanthropy that will be dedicated to fundraising, mentoring, and advocating for female students at UConn.

Gándara and co-chair Melinda Brown ’77 (BUS), ’85 MBA have already launched its first project: a scholarship drive called Women Transforming Women.

The idea is simple: Get 100 women to donate $500 each to endow a permanent UConn scholarship for a female student. Each of the first 100 women to donate will be considered founders of the group.

The fundraiser has been wildly successful with 30 women donating a total of $25,000 so far. Brown has agreed to match the first $50,000 donated, dollar for dollar.

The idea of starting a women’s philanthropy initiative at UConn has been kicked around for years but never got off the ground. The new group follows a national trend at colleges and universities as the percentage of women in college has grown significantly and as women’s wealth has increased.

“I just started asking women I knew who were UConn alums if they would be interested and we’ve had a really good response,” Gándara said.

As an immigrant and a UConn trustee, Gándara knows doubly well just how important scholarships are.

Gándara, who emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba at age 10, is familiar with the hardship of being uprooted and plunked down in a country where one doesn’t speak the language. She knows what it’s like to survive on very little money and to try to find a way to pay for college.

Now, as a UConn trustee, she also sees the growing importance of scholarships from the other side, particularly during period of budget challenges in state government.

“For me, as a trustee, it is really critical to our mission because we want to make sure that, as a state institution, we are giving as much access as possible to talented young people,” Gándara said.

The group’s fundraiser dovetails with the UConn Foundation’s Transform Lives initiative to raise $150 million for scholarship aid. The Women and Philanthropy group also welcomes donations from men.

Gándara immigrated with her mother in 1960 as a political refugee. They settled in West New York, N.J. Her mother, who had been a teacher in Cuba, got a job as a factory worker. Her father, who escaped to Mexico after being jailed under Castro’s regime, eventually joined the family in New Jersey.

Gándara had finished 5th grade in Cuba, but when she arrived in the U.S., she was sent back two grades.

“The principal took one look at me and said ‘She’s too small.’ All of a sudden, two years of my life was sliced away, along with my achievements,” she said.

She worked hard, became class valedictorian, and applied to many colleges.

“I received a wonderful scholarship from St. Peter’s University [in Jersey City, N.J.],” she said. “That really allowed me to go to a college.”
After college, she enrolled in the UConn School of Law, specializing in real estate law. She remembers how difficult it was for women at the time.

“Women of a certain generation, my generation, we really were the first ones to come out in larger numbers to do things like go to law school,” she said. “I took the boards the first time in 1970. I actually had a few guys come over in the exam room and one of them said in the nastiest tone, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘Taking the boards. What do you think?’ I guess if you want to be a lawyer, you aren’t going to be the shy type. But some people would have been rattled by that.”

Gándara knows a thing or two about fundraising. She was president of the Aetna Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, before retiring in 2008. During her 30-year career at the Aetna, she also served as an attorney specializing in commercial real estate for 13 years and managed the company’s troubled loan and hotel real estate portfolio.

Larry McHugh, chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees, has known Gándara since her days at the Aetna Foundation.

“She is dedicated to UConn and has a great track record with her years of experience at Aetna,” McHugh said. “I think that any time we can establish scholarships for students it is very important. We have students who really can’t afford college and this really can make a difference in a young person’s life. It is gratifying to see a member of the Board of Trustees using her talents to raise funds to support this cause.”

In addition to her work on the board of trustees, Gándara serves on the board of The Bushnell Performing Arts Center and has long been active in the Hartford community. Among her various endeavors, she helped found the annual Connecticut Veteran’s Day Parade in Hartford. She has taken the UConn master gardener course, as evidenced by thriving rose gardens surrounding her Scarborough Street house in Hartford, and loves spending time with her grandchildren, ages 2 and 4.

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Transformed Lives: Scholarship Students Say Thank You to Donors

Tiffany Ventura Thiele
Tiffany Ventura Thiele

2 min read

How many ways can you say “thank you?” That was the job of approximately 30 scholarship students during the Transform Lives Scholarship Dinner on Thursday, October 7.

Throughout the evening, students had the opportunity to meet personally with scholarship donors, sharing their stories and progress so far at UConn. During the speaking portion of the evening, each student also shared what the gift of a scholarship meant to them and their families. With emotion and detail, many described how their scholarships eased stress and anxiety in the face of family illness, financial difficulties, and other hardships.

“This scholarship has really helped ease my financial burdens, but also has allowed me to worry less about finance and to get involved with clubs on campus,” said Jennifer Skoog, a sophomore from Monroe majoring in chemical engineering. “I’m really grateful for that, so thank you.”

Approximately 100 people were in attendance, including UConn Foundation Board members, many of whom are also scholarship donors; UConn President Susan Herbst; Provost Mun Choi; and Wayne Locust, vice president for Enrollment Planning and Management. Locust said it was important that the investment in student support continue.

“The investment is a true partnership that draws from family resources, University funds, and contributions from private donors and friends of the University,” he said. “We are very grateful for this important partnership and the fact that many students are able to benefit from the generosity and support provided by our donors and University friends.”

This gratitude was expressed by all students.

“The scholarship has really changed my life in unimaginable ways and has allowed me to focus on my academics and career,” said Riyad Twal, a senior from Stamford majoring in accounting. “Thank you so much.”

 

Scholarship Recipient Jennifer Skoog

Some spoke to the importance of giving back to UConn in the future.

“The scholarship has been so meaningful to me and my family,” said Sarah Schatz, a freshman from Columbia majoring in accounting. “It really shows to me and all the other scholarship recipients how hard work really does pay off. Thank you all for investing in my future and all of our futures, and I can’t wait to pay it forward.”

UConn Foundation Board Chair Dan Toscano thanked the donors for their support and commitment to the students.

“For the donors, and people who have been able to help, thank you doesn’t do justice for how we feel about what you do,” he said. “But it’s not just about your financial resources, it is the connection you have with the students, [and] it is your willingness to be here with your time and advice and ability to help in other ways. Thank you for that.”

Since launching the $150 million Transform Lives Scholarship initiative 18 months ago, the UConn Foundation has raised $54.5 million for student support – one-third of the way to goal.

“To continue the greatness of this University, we need our partnership to continue to be strong,” said Locust. “I have every confidence that UConn will remain in its rightful place among the national leading institutions in the country.

“Are we transforming lives? Indeed we are.”

Join Wayne Locust and transform a life today
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Hugo DeSarro ’50 (CLAS)

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

< 1 min read

Hugo DeSarro ’50 (CLAS), published his first book of poetry, Stone Steps, in 2015 at the age of 96. This publication comes after a long and respected writing career in publications throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. DeSarro has received numerous honors for his writing and currently writes a weekly column in the Rivereast News Bulliten. He has been appointed Poet Laureate by the Town Council of East Hampton, Conn. and his work will appear in an anthology of Connecticut poets laureate in late 2016.

Hugo DeSarro lives in East Hampton, Conn with his wife of 70 years, Marietta.

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