Awards & Honors Event

Wednesday, March 27, 2024
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Rome Commons Ballroom

We all know that the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) is a special place. At CAHNR, we recognize the importance of recognizing the outstanding and distinguished alumni, faculty, staff, and supporters whose hard work keeps our College going. CAHNR is pleased to partner with the Alumni Board to celebrate these phenomenal individuals. Special thanks to the members of the UConn CAHNR Alumni Board (UCAHNRA) and the members of the Committee for Excellence for identifying the exceptional 2023 awardees, and congratulations to all of our deserving recipients!

Awards of Excellence

Early Career Research Award

James Knighton, Natural Resources and the Environment
Dr. James Knighton, Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and the Environment, whose research program has focused broadly on understanding climate-driven conflict between societies and water. In Connecticut, Dr. Knighton’s lab is investigating socio-economic variations in perceptions of flooding risk, and the results are being communicated to stakeholders to target flood outreach programs to communities that show lower awareness of risk. On the national scale, Dr. Knighton is currently collaborating with FEMA Region 3 to explore how his lab’s modeling innovations could provide a basis for reimagining the National Flood Insurance Program. Since coming to CAHNR, Dr. Knighton has been awarded over $2.3 million in funding and has more than 30 publications, including one in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Prior to completing his PhD at Cornell University in 2019, Dr. Knighton worked as a licensed professional engineer on flooding risk mitigation within dense residential areas and for coastal nuclear facilities in both the public and private sectors. This gives him a unique perspective on the applications of research and the communities impacted by his work.

Excellence in Research Award

Ashley Helton, Natural Resources and the Environment
Associate Professor of Natural Resources and the Environment, Dr. Helton’s research is topically (and disciplinarily) diverse, melding concepts from the ecological and hydrologic sciences and integrating lab, field, data science, and modeling approaches. She has a strong history of participating in and leading large, collaborative, interdisciplinary team research, including as PI or co-PI 22 grants over the last 10 years with 38 unique collaborators from six academic departments within UConn, 10 universities other than UConn, and five non-academic organizations. This work has led to innovations in high resolution mapping of groundwater discharge to better understand climate resiliency in stream ecosystems, greenhouse gas emissions in coastal wetlands, and emergent dynamics of stream networks. In addition to her role in NRE, she serves as Deputy Director of UConn’s Institute of the Environment.

Graduate Student Research and Creativity Award

Sandeep Poudel, Natural Resources and the Environment
Mr. Poudel is a second-year Masters student who plans to continue his studies in a doctoral program. His research centers on socio-environmental relationships to understand the impact of flooding on the US coastal housing market. In his MS studies, Mr. Poudel has shown substantial capacity to develop new research ideas and carry out experiments to test them out. His ideas demonstrate not only creativity, but an understanding of how to work within time and resource constraints. Mr. Poudel has already published one peer-reviewed manuscript in Environmental Research Letters and has presented his work at the international American Geophysical Union Fall 2023 Meeting. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering from the Institute of Engineering in Pulchowk, Nepal. 

Graduate Student Research and Creativity Award

Christopher Sullivan, Natural Resources and the Environment
Mr. Sullivan is a PhD candidate whose research targets questions that advance our understanding of how environmental change influences fishes and focuses on how we can adapt current conservation practices. He has already proven to be an incredibly productive scientist, with 16 full papers authored – including three first-authored papers in 2023 alone – and proven success as a grant-writer. Mr. Sullivan is capable of communicating his work to a wide audience, having given invited talks to angler groups and authoring a translational piece for CT Wildlife Magazine. He has also served as a mentor for Masters students, and provides leadership to other NRE graduate students. He holds a Double BS from Purdue University and an MS from Iowa State University.

Kinsman CAHNR Excellence in Teaching Award

Sudha Srinivasan '14, Kinesiology
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Dr. Srinivasan demonstrates her passion for the physical therapy profession and patient care in every class and activity she leads. Her dedication to training the next generation of health care providers/researchers to improve quality of life for children with autism inspires students to persevere in pursuit of excellence. Dr. Srinivasan has spent time at UConn developing and integrating hands-on learning experiences in both foundational science and clinical courses. She has developed or revised several DPT courses, uses a variety of approaches and technologies, and created a video library of movement in children to help infuse more true-to-life elements to her classes. Dr. Srinivasan has mentored over 100 undergraduate and graduate students since 2019 and has a record of guiding students in their career journeys.

Graduate Student Teaching Award

Sarah Klionsky, Natural Resources and the Environment
Ms. Klionsky is an extremely enthusiastic and dedicated educator, committed to improving her teaching and student learning outcomes. She has engaged in a range of pedagogical professional development opportunities, and she applies best practices in the classroom, engaging students in think-pair-share activities, and drawing on multi-media sources to make course material authentic. Ms. Klionsky is also an outstanding mentor both to peers and undergraduates as she is sincere, engaging, and an effective communicator. She fosters an open and welcoming learning environment among peers and mentees by facilitating discussions about anti-racism in STEM or scientific imperialism in the environmental field. She has completed all her coursework, successfully passed her qualifying exams, submitted her prospectus, and intends to defend her dissertation in May 2024.

Excellence in Engagement and Outreach Award

Rebecca Stearns '08, '12, Kinesiology
Dr. Stearns is Associate Professor in Residence and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of CAHNR’s Korey Stringer Institute (KSI). She has dedicated her career to research and advocacy to keep athletes safer around the country. Dr. Stearns’ entire professional tenure has been at KSI, where she was a founding staff member in 2010 and has progressed to COO as of today. She has traveled to 33 states (since 2017) to meet with state leaders to advocate for the adoption and implementation of these life saving measures for high school athletes via the Team Up For Sport Safety (TUFSS) program. In the past five years the work of Dr. Stearns and the TUFSS program has allowed hundreds of athlete health and safety policies and laws to be enacted. In addition to TUFSS, Dr. Stearns has been closely involved with the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR) and the NFL-led Smart Heart Sports Coalition, both of which also support improved player safety around the nation.

Excellence in Extension

Jennifer Cushman '07, '08, '12, UConn 4-H
Ms. Jennifer Cushman serves as Center Coordinator, Associate Extension Educator, and Co-4-H Program Leader. In these roles, Ms. Cushman provides outstanding outreach by delivering high quality research-based Extension programming to multiple stakeholders within UConn, to the residents of Connecticut, and throughout the Northeast. She has made significant contributions at the national level as a panelist, reviewer, and committee member for various 4-H programs. Ms. Cushman is a role model for students, staff, and faculty with whom she interacts thanks to her desire to promote excellence throughout the university. She builds relationships to enhance the success of all partners and participants, which has led to over $2 million in grant funding. Ms. Cushman’s continues to display excellence in Extension programming coupled with significant service, and a strong commitment to UConn’s Land Grant mission.

CES Grant for Innovative Programming in Extension

Mayra Rodríguez González, Extension
Dr. Mayra Rodríguez González, Assistant Extension Educator in Urban and Community Forestry, is committed to empowering communities through a new initiative: Building Knowledge through Innovative Community Learning. The initiative is rooted in a commitment to collaboratively develop solutions, recognizing disadvantaged communities as essential stakeholders in addressing climate and environmental challenges. It acknowledges the interconnectedness of climate and environmental justice. Dr. Rodríguez González has demonstrated exceptional dedication to engaging Latine communities, particularly in the Hartford, CT region. Her program serves the land-grant system by working with adults and children, promoting intergenerational learning and engagement in relation to urban forests, and facilitating trainings that support practitioners engaging local communities in urban forest issues.

UConn 4-H Awards

UConn 4-H Alumni Award

Elaine Pelizzari
Ms. Pelizzari was a former Litchfield County 4-H member and is now a very active leader of three 4-H clubs in Litchfield County. She also serves as a Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association director and is always the first leader to respond to a call for help on any 4-H initiative. The most recent example of Ms. Pelizzari’s commitment to 4-H and community service is her club’s very successful sock drive for homeless shelters. The club surpassed their collection goal and were able to deliver socks to nine different homeless shelters across the county just before the holidays. Ms. Pelizzari has also volunteered to lead the county’s first after-school enrichment program at a local elementary school in Torrington. There are now requests from seven different elementary schools for this programming. Ms. Pelizzari’s enthusiasm for 4-H has attracted many youth to join as members and each club has many successful activities throughout the year. 

UConn 4-H Leadership Award

Amanda Thomson
Ms. Thomson is currently a teacher at Middletown High School in the Agricultural Science and Technology Program who has been a 4-H leader in Middlesex County for six years (Mighty Minis 4-H Club) and four years with the Middletown High School 4-H Club. The Mighty Minis often work at a horse rescue facility to provide service or education to the public. The Middlesex High School Club works with the greater agricultural community in Middlesex County, and has a wide-reaching net, helping facilitate learning experiences at their school, and within other events. This involvement is, in large part, thanks to Ms. Thomson’s outstanding leadership and dedication to agricultural education. Her involvement in 4-H is changing lives and directly impacting the communities in which she works.

Meritorious Service to UConn 4-H Award

Windham County Agricultural Society
The Windham County Agricultural Society, the organization that oversees the Brooklyn Fairgrounds, has been a crucial partner to UConn 4-H for more than 50 years. They are always a gracious host to the Windham County 4-H fair, doing whatever is necessary to ensure that all 4-H youth, families, and the public have a positive and meaningful experience. Several of the Windham County 4-H clubs also hold their meetings at the Brooklyn fairgrounds, and many 4-H members have gone on to serve as members of the WCAS in adulthood. This organization continues to serve as a model community partner and supports the core values of 4-H in Windham County.


UCAHNRA Outstanding Staff Award

Camilla Crossgrove, Nutritional Sciences
Ms. Crossgrove is currently an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, a position in which she is responsible for the total operation of the department’s administrative services. She is an outstanding staff member who exceeds her office's normal expectations to assist faculty, staff, and students. Her professionalism and commitment to excellence in every aspect of her work have significantly contributed to the department’s collective success. During her time in the College, she has proven herself to be an exceptional and valuable member of the CAHNR team who has helped the Department of Nutritional Sciences grow and evolve to meet current challenges and opportunities.

UCAHNRA Excellence in Teaching Award

Stephanie Singe '00, '05, Kinesiology
Associate Professor Dr. Singe’s ability to motivate and stimulate learning is largely due to her vulnerable presence with her students. She identifies herself as a lifelong learner to her students, and always shares humanistic aspects of herself. Dr. Singe is an invaluable resource to other professors, junior faculty, and doctoral teaching assistants. As the Director of Teaching and Learning in her department, she mentors all faculty on syllabus organization, course objective writing, and assessment strategies. To support CAHNR’s Strategic Vision focused on Health, Dr. Singe developed study abroad experience for the Exercise Science program. Dr. Singe plans and structures trips to complement learning about exercise and sport, healthcare collaboration, and always includes cultural and diverse experiences. This is just one example of the desire, care, dedication, and commitment to students’ success and learning that is at the forefront of Dr. Singe’s endeavors as an educator.

UCAHNRA Distinguished Alumni Award

Linda Yamamoto  '99, '06, '10, Kinesiology
Dr. Yamamoto is a three-time UConn alum, having earned a BS in Actuarial Science and MS and PhD in Kinesiology. Her contribution to her professional environment includes her current position as an Assistant Professor and Founding Program Director of Exercise Science in the Department Health Sciences at the University of Hartford. In this role, she excels in overseeing undergraduate research in exercise physiology and strength and conditioning, develops community relationships for student internships, consistently develops strategies to recruit and retain students. Her ability to implement innovative teaching practices is remarkable. She has also leveraged her relationships with UConn’s Department of Kinesiology and UConn Health’s Center on Aging to establish collaborative research initiatives. While Dr. Yamamoto’s path has not been traditional, she has established herself as a leader in her field and an inspiration for colleagues and students alike.

Longevity Awards

5 Years

Molika Chea ’06, ’09, ’17
Amy Salai ’15
Eleni Diakogeorgiou ’04
Breno Fragomeni
Sohyun Park
Zeinab Helal
Oh Sung Kwon
Christopher Lewis
Lisa Nulton
Shuresh Ghimire
Chadwick Rittenhouse
Sudha Srinivasan ’14
Zhev Zhu

10 Years

Chandi Witharana ’09, ’14
Virginia White ’07, ’22
Laura Cisneros ’14
Ashley Helton
Mary Ann Amalaradjou ’09, ’10
Dennis D’Amico
Shelley Durocher
Haiying Tao ’07
James Civitello
Jessica McBride ’07, ’17
Stacey Stearns ’02

15 Years

Winnie Lunt
John Inguagiato
Paul Bureau ’78
Richard Anyah
Paulo Verardi
Ock Chun
Steven Szczepanek ’09

20 Years

Denise Anamani
Mary Smith ’91
Denise Long
Kristen Govoni ’98, ’02, ’03

25 Years

Sylvain Deguise
Bedford Lawrence
Xiuchun Tian
Thomas Meyer
Yi Li
Linda Pescatello ’77, ’81, ’86
Dawn Pettinelli

30 Years

Umekia Taylor ’83
Kirklyn Kerr

35 Years

Nancy Wilhelm ’87
Richard Meinert
Mark Brand
Steven Geary ’74, ’81
Lisa Nowak ’86