Author: ftp17001

Think Globally, Dig Locally: Archaeology and Social Justice


By Brian Jones, Ph.D. State Archaeologist

Public Archaeology, aimed largely at increasing the public awareness of history, had been going on since the 1970s. This movement matured through the 1980s and 90s toward more socially active approaches intended to bring voices to those of the past, largely through working with local and often descendent communities.

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Walk for Water

The UConn chapter of BRAVE Girls Leadership is working on a semester-long, Service Learning project this Spring to support efforts to alleviate the global water crisis. The global water crisis refers to the lack of access to clean water and sanitation, which contributes to health, poverty, and even education.

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12th Annual Provost Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement

The 12th Annual Provost Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement were celebrated on November 14th in the Great Hall at the Alumni Center, UConn Storrs Campus. Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Teitelbaum and Director of Public Engagement Carol Polifroni hosted the reception and ceremony. Kevin Dieckhaus, M.D. Chief of Infectious Diseases Division at UConn Health and Director of Global Health and International Studies at UConn’s School of Medicine served as Master of Ceremonies.

Read more about the awards and winners here:

Environment, Architecture, Public Policy, and the Law School: Service Learning Faculty Spotlight on Sara C. Bronin, UConn School of Law Professor

The UConn Office of Public Engagement is excited to bring the latest news from Sara C. Bronin, a professor at the UConn School of Law who utilizes Service Learning in her courses. Professor Bronin is also the Thomas F. Gallivan Chair in Real Property Law and Faculty Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Law. Bronin is a Mexican-American architect and attorney whose engaged scholarship focuses on property, land use, historic preservation, green building, and renewable energy law. As the Gallivan Chair, she organizes annual public conferences and speaks frequently throughout the United States and internationally. She has been elected to the membership of the American Law Institute and is the lead author of the land use and servitude volumes of the forthcoming Fourth Restatement of Property. In addition to her teaching and scholarship responsibilities, she serves as faculty director for the Law School’s Center for Energy & Environmental Law. Professor Bronin serves as an expert witness and consultant to cities, state agencies, and private firms. Among other projects, she served as one of the lead attorneys and development strategists for the 360 State Street project, a mixed-use, transit-oriented, LEED Platinum project in New Haven. As chair of the City of Hartford’s Planning & Zoning Commission, she has overseen award-winning changes to the zoning, subdivision, and inland wetlands regulations for the benefit of the city of Hartford. As chair of the Hartford Climate Stewardship Council, she led a collaborative effort to draft and adopt the city’s first Climate Action Plan. Professor Bronin also chairs the city’s Energy Improvement District Board and serves in the leadership of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

OPE: What is your background? What led you to where you are today on your career and personal interests? Is there any one circumstance that made your path very clear?

SCB: As an undergraduate, I attended architecture school, enrolling in a 5-year program leading up to a professional degree. In that program, I realized that the built environment is influenced not only by design, but also by rules like zoning regulations and building codes. I knew I needed to learn more about law and policy, which led me on the path to a masters degree and then law school.

OPE: How are you balancing academia, legal/architectural practice, and public service?

SCB: Of course, my full-time job is as a professor at UConn, specializing in property, land use, and historic preservation law. I also run UConn Law’s Center for Energy and Environmental Law, which is a sprawling enterprise that oversees a full curriculum leading to a JD certificate or an LLM, offers conferences and symposia, and employs research assistants and a legal fellow doing work on sea level rise. After hours, I’ve been involved in public service at the state and local levels, which ties directly to my research interests. In 2007, for example, I became a commissioner on the City of Hartford’s Historic Properties Commission, and that experience really informed my work, including two books on historic preservation law that have since published. So I see public service as informing into my academic work, and vice versa. I also do some consulting work, usually related to land use or property legal matters.   

OPE: What are your latest projects?

SCB: Outside the classroom, I’ve gotten much more involved recently with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. It is a nonprofit that advocates for the places we care about most, and facilitates preservation development.  This year, I helped lead a strategic planning process that pushes the Trust to build on its strengths and identify opportunities for future growth. My latest leadership role is as chair of the energy improvement district for the City of Hartford.  In that role, I try to help guide the city’s energy development efforts. Right now, we are finalizing a plan that identifies potential energy projects citywide, focusing on projects that would benefit low-income families. Incidentally, three former UConn Law students in one of my classes drafted the ordinance that created the energy improvement district.  

As for scholarship, I am the lead drafter for the land use and servitude volumes of the Fourth Restatement of Property Law. A Restatement aims to guide judges and others in the process of deciding cases in that area of law. It is a monumental effort, which happens once every thirty or forty years. Last fall, I finished the near-final draft of the land use volume and will hope to wrap that up in 2018.  This month, the second edition of Historic Preservation Law in a Nutshell came out, which is exciting. I continue to serve as co-author of a zoning law treatise, and I just published a few “popular writing” pieces, like an article for Planning magazine, which goes out to every member of the American Planning Association, on the elimination of mandatory parking minimums.

OPE: What are parking minimums, and what do they mean for cities?  

SCB: Nearly every zoning code in the country has strict provisions that require property owners to add a certain amount of parking when they build something new or change a use.  Hartford’s Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously in December to amend our zoning code to drop all mandatory parking minimums. As you may know, UConn Professor Norman Garrick has been an important voice in this discussion. He and others have produced several studies highlighting the hidden financial costs of excessive parking, the relationship between parking and car use, and the negative impacts of parking on the experience of walkers and bikers. We have gotten national attention for this change, which keeps Hartford at the forefront of zoning innovation. We expect it will spur on more development and create a better urban experience for bikers and walkers. We also hope Hartford will see a reduction in impervious pavement, which will decrease the urban heat island effect.  

OPE: Besides parking, can you discuss what you do with the City of Hartford’s Planning & Zoning Commission?

SCB: Over the last few years we’ve primarily been engaged in reform of our zoning laws. In early 2016, we completely replaced our outdated zoning code with a new, form-based code that aims to create a more livable and sustainable city. Building on that effort, we convened the Climate Stewardship Council in April of 2016, to focus specifically on drafting a Climate Action Plan. We have the opportunity to incorporate that Climate Action Plan into the 2020 comprehensive plan of development for the city of Hartford. We’re starting to scope out that plan now – it is truly an exciting time.  

OPE: Can you share with us the details of the Hartford Climate Action Plan? What kind of contributions are expected? Who should be involved in these projects and what are the potential outcomes?

SCB: The Climate Stewardship Council, which I just mentioned, is the group that drafted the Climate Action Plan (CAP). After robust community engagement, the CAP was formally adopted in January by the City Council, and we couldn’t be happier. The CAP is essentially a roadmap, providing goals and strategies for making Hartford a national leader in environmental stewardship and quality of life. It is organized around six focus areas: Energy, Food, Landscape, Transportation, Waste, & Water. For each focus area, the CAP enumerates specific strategies and provides suggestions to residents and businesses for actions they can take to help further each focus area of the plan. Overarching the entire document are our three core values: public health, economic development, and social equity. While Hartford has come a long way in the last few years, the CAP looks to take us even further by providing lofty goals.

Climate change is a huge issue, and it takes a coordinated effort to make progress. We’ll be most successful in our environmental stewardship efforts if we keep community organizations, residents, businesses, students, and public officials actively involved.  If the CAP drafting process was any indication, there are a lot of people in the Hartford community willing to dedicate their time and effort toward making our city as sustainable as possible. We also now have a grant-funded Sustainability Office working full time to facilitate community outreach and implementation.

OPE: How should local universities be involved in this project?

SCB: We’ve found that when it comes to a major research undertaking like drafting a Climate Action Plan (CAP), local institutions of higher education are critical partners. UConn Law students provided research assistance and helped to draft early versions of the CAP. Student interns from other local colleges like Trinity and University of Hartford aided the CSC with research, grant-writing, communications, community outreach, administrative support, and graphic design. We were even able to secure the help of a group of Berkeley public policy grad students. Their cost-benefit analysis helped determine the strategies and goals that ultimately ended up in the CAP. We are looking to involving colleges and universities in the region in the implementation phase.   

OPE: Have you involved UConn in implementation? What do you think about service learning courses?

SCB: UConn’s Office of Public Engagement is actively connecting students and professors with the Sustainability Office.  Their work – tackling discrete “action items” in the Climate Action Plan – will help Hartford realize more of the Plan’s goals, more quickly. Of course, in general, I think service learning is really important. I am proud that UConn is more formally embracing public service through the Office of Public Engagement and exposing the students to opportunities to engage in service learning. The broad array of courses already being offered is promising. My hope is that it continues to increase and expand into different areas over time.

OPE: And what about service learning at the Law School?

SCB: The Law School prides itself on a culture of engagement that goes back decades. We were one of the first law schools to institute a “practice-based learning” requirement, which requires students to complete a semester-long activity, like an externship at a public agency, that applies their skills in practice. Students can also fulfill this requirement by serving as student interns, supervised by attorneys, in the Law School clinics. In the clinical program, law students serve real clients seeking assistance on a range of issues from criminal law to immigration law to intellectual property law. My experience with the clinical programs comes from the Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative, which I chaired for a few years and which provides top-notch, free or low-cost legal services to non-profit organizations and others, particularly for real estate projects. Another new initiative that the Law School has undertaken under the leadership of Dean Fisher is the Community Law Center, which pairs new attorneys who are seeking to start their own practices with people who might not otherwise have access to legal services. And the Law School has an impact through our lectures and conferences. These events often tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time, including criminal justice reform, environmental degradation, free speech rights, and constitutional questions. We attract about two hundred people, from all professions and backgrounds, at each conference. For the most part, the programs are free. So, in that sense the Law School provides an educational service that goes beyond just the classroom experience. Finally, as you know, professors often incorporate service learning into their classes.

OPE: You are one of those professors. What has been your favorite project that has involved service learning?

SCB: Certainly the most significant in terms of the number of students and impact has been the zoning code reform to the City of Hartford. A few dozen UConn Law students, enrolled in my classes over the course of a few years, worked on that project. The whole commission was impressed by their work to identify best practices in land use regulation and present that to the commission. At the same time, the students received a chance to apply their research in a real-life setting by making presentations in real time to decision makers who had the authority to act on their recommendations. And in fact, almost every student project that was presented to the commission was adopted by the commission. And so, you see the imprint of UConn Law research throughout the zoning code, to the long-term benefit of the people of the City of Hartford.

Constitution Day

By Christine Lowe

Each year the Office of Public Engagement hosts Constitution Day. Constitution Day commemorates the actual signing of the United States Constitution which occurred on September 17th, 1787. All educational institutions that receive Federal funds are required to develop a Constitution Day program for their students. This program must coincide during the week commemorating the actual signing of the constitution.

SchmeiserThis year the Office of Public Engagement along with the Department of Political Science presented a two-part Constitution Day Program: Loving v. Virginia: At the Heart of Racial and Marriage Equality. The first part of the program occurred on September 18th, 2017 with a screening of the Oscar-nominated movie “Loving” in the Student Union Theater. This movie which depicts an interracial couple whose landmark legal battle for their right to marry would result in the Supreme Court’s historic 1967 decision: Loving v. Virginia.

The Constitution Day events continued on September 19th, 2017 with a student poster presentation and discussion with Susan Schmeiser, Ph.D., J.D. in the Wilbur Cross South Reading Room.

Dr. Susan Schmeiser is a faculty member of the UConn School of Law and holds a  Ph.D. in English Literature from Brown University, where she spent five years as a teaching assistant and advanced teaching fellow, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Students from Dr. Virginia Hettinger’s POLS 3837: Civic Rights and Legal Mobilization course created six posters for the event each with a specific perspective on the landmark decision. After the poster presentation, Dr. Schmeiser concluded the program with a presentation and discussion on the landmark decision.

2016-2017 Student Reflection

By Mackenzie Rafferty

Hello readers, my name is Mackenzie Rafferty and for the past academic year, I served as the Communications Assistant for UConn’s Office of Public Engagement. I’m quickly wrapping up my junior year at UConn and reflecting on the experience I had with at Office of Public Engagement this past year. I applied for this position over the summer of 2016, eager for the opportunity to engage in my first professional employment position at UConn.

At UConn, I’m studying both Political Science and Communication. These two areas of focus, when partnered together have aided in giving me a unique and creative voice. This voice, from the beginning of my education experience at UConn, craved an environment to be further curated and refined. The Office of Public Engagement seemed like the perfect match, and I couldn’t have been more correct. At the Office of Public Engagement, I was able to use the skills I learned through my communication courses in a way that furthered some of my very own political agendas and passions.

For those who need a brief refresher, the mission of UConn’s Office of Public Engagement is as follows: “Our mission is to assist in the development of engaged citizens through coordination, advocacy and capacity building for engagement activities.” Taken directly from our website, the mission of the Office of Public Engagement is full of promise for civic engagement and community development. This is accomplished through offering “service learning, engaged scholarship, university-assisted community schools, strategic partnerships, and communities as partners and collaborators.”

This office acts as a facilitative resource for faculty, staff, and students to incorporate this form of education and engagement into their academic journey through research, programs, etc. Together, this office aims to further the University’s impact on local communities with whom it engages, by enabling relationships and fostering long-term, reciprocal partnerships within the community.

Throughout the past two semesters, I’ve had first-hand experience this mission in action. Before my employment here, I had never been exposed to Service Learning at the University of Connecticut. Once exposed, my entire perspective of education and the potential role of the university had changed.

It’s important to add in that one of my classes during the Fall Semester of 2016 was coincidentally a Service Learning course. So, for the first time, I was in a Service Learning course and also working with the very office that made these courses possible in the University. The course I was enrolled in was Constitutional Rights and Liberties with Doctor Kimberly Bergendahl. Our Service Learning Component was to help the Office of Public Engagement hold their annual Constitution Day Celebration. If you’d like to read more about this particular event and how our class pulled it off, check out the article here:

This experience allowed for me to garner a better understanding of Service Learning and gather my own unique perspective. I mention this further in the article, but this element of Service Learning really transformed the classroom atmosphere and our student-teacher relationship. When the responsibility was put on us, as students, to curate this event and present it on our own, we were given an entirely new role in the classroom. At that moment, we were no longer strictly students, but collaborators with responsibility with a real, tangible, product to show as our own.

This is simply one example of Service Learning and how it is applied to courses in our University. Service Learning, as I learned this past year, is a discipline of education that can be applied to any area or focus of study. For example, I wrote an article on Dr. John Redden at the University of Connecticut and his Service Learning Science course. What was so amazing about Dr. Redden’s course, was that it partnered with a global-community partner. His partner was Jolly Lux, the founder of Guiding Light Orphans, a non-for profit organization based in Uganda. (My apologies for self-promoting, but this information is too good to keep all to myself). If interested, I urge you check out the article here:

Dr. Redden’s example of Service Learning really encapsulated the future potential that Service Learning can have for the University. Redden and his students created a service that reached far beyond the walls of the University of Connecticut; their impact can be felt across borders. Service-Learning doesn’t have to simply impact the local communities (despite that being a very important and beneficial goal), but it can reach far beyond into international and global affairs.

These are just two of an abundance of first-hand examples of Service Learning that I experienced during my time at the Office of Public Engagement. I’m eternally grateful for this position, as it instilled in me a knowledge that I could not have learned inside of a classroom. This knowledge is that there is more than one correct form of teaching. I also learned that education can have an effect far beyond the educator and student. Education has the potential to strengthen relationships outside of the university, create tangible products, and have a lasting charitable impact.

Additionally, Service Learning really transforms the student experience. With Service Learning, students become active “stakeholders” in their education, as often cited by my manager and mentor Julia Yakovich, the director of Service Learning here at the Office of Public Engagement. Yakovich is correct, this form of learning allows for students to take real responsibility and foster a sense of confidence and awareness that is crucial once entering the workforce. Additionally, Service Learning allows for students to create and strengthen bonds with their local community. Once created and strengthened, these bonds foster a potential for students to stay in their local communities post-graduation.

All in all, my experience at the University of Connecticut’s Office of Public Engagement has been extremely formative for me as a student-employee. I hope to take this knowledge and experience with me as I further strengthen my civic and political voice. I know that the Office of Public Engagement will continue to grow and foster community partnerships and student engagement, while also implementing a new, innovative, and vital pedagogy throughout the University.

UConn Cities Collaborative

By Johanna Tiarks

To coincide with the upcoming move of the Hartford Campus to its new Downtown Location, UConn Cities Collaborative has been working to build a platform to aggregate and disseminate information on volunteer and internship positions within Hartford. Launching in fall 2017, this platform will be available at the Office of Public Engagement website. The development of this platform has been a collaborative effort between many community-based organizations within Hartford and UCC. If you are interested in posting a position, please follow this link and fill out the form to publicize an opportunity.

Following the interest expressed after the launch and presentation of the Diversity Training Module in Spring 2017, UCC has been working to develop a classroom-based diversity curriculum for implementation in Service Learning and other courses. The Diversity Training Module was presented at the Eastern Region Campus Compact Conference hosted by New York University in March 2017. During this presentation, the need for an interdisciplinary curriculum to teach diversity in the classroom was a theme voiced by many attendees from the numerous universities represented. Starting in Fall 2017, the diversity curriculum will offer classroom-based instruction on salient issues of inequity occurring as a result of power differentials between groups of people holding minority status and those in positions of privilege. This curriculum will be available as a series of short lectures and discussions that can be utilized in and customized for any class. An implementer training is in development to assist professors who wish to incorporate this diversity curriculum into their course.

If you have any questions about the volunteer and internship platform or the developing diversity curriculum, please contact Johanna deLeyer-Tiarks at

Spring Service Learning Event

By Barbara Jacoby

On Tuesday, April 4th 2017, The Office of Public Engagement held its spring Service Learning event. The focus of this event was to highlight Service Learning pedagogy as a driving economic force for the future of Connecticut. For the event, we were fortunate enough to have Barbara Jacoby as our keynote speaker for the event. Jacoby is the current director of commuter affairs and community service at the University of Maryland, College Park.

In addition to her role at the University of Maryland, Jacoby is also the adviser to the president for America Reads and the editor of the book Service-Learning in Higher Education. Due to her shining credentials, Jacoby is a highly sought after scholar and speaker in connection to Service Learning. As the keynote speaker, Jacoby related her personal experiences with Service Learning to introduce the various positive implications it can have on a community. These positive impacts were far-reaching and impacted the local communities through business growth and economic development. During her speech, she defined Service Learning for the audience. According to Jacoby, Service Learning is “a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes.” She argued that Service Learning “adds depth and breadth to meaning by challenging simplistic conclusions.”  This reflection in Service Learning is all about challenging these conclusions and comparing and examining different perspectives.

She noted, “civic engagement is the mechanism that connects economic development, and education for democratic citizenship… economic development in the higher education context is the philosophy and practice of generating measurable economic returns in communities through university engagement.” She gave examples of various ways in which Service Learning had impacted the economy of their local communities.

She gave an example from a town in rural Tennessee, near East Tennessee State University. The small town’s economy was suffering due to the new interstate, which bypassed the town. Due to the interstate, the town’s main street was no longer the main road. Thus, many of the local businesses suffered and had to close down. One of these local businesses was a theater, which had to shut down due to lack of business. Jacoby segued, “here’s where the reciprocity of Service Learning comes in.” At the same time, the university was also facing budget cuts, both the history and theater department weren’t attracting enough students, and there were rumors of the departments being cut.

In response, a history and theater professor joined together and collaborated to create an interdisciplinary Service Learning course. The course required students to research local history and write plays based on their research. Thus, the students created plays and presented the plays in the main street theater. Jacoby noted, “Eventually, their productions grew large local audiences, and also began to attract tourists.” Jacoby also discussed how the revitalization of the theater was catalyst to the revitalization of Main Street in general; “Main Street has changed and developed because of this service learning class.”