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Past year a time of great transformation and growth for UConn
July 27, 1998

From the arrival of an impressive contingent of new faculty and staff, to the evolving campus landscape, the University experienced tremendous growth and change this past academic year.

"This year has been one of profound transformation for the institution, " says President Philip E. Austin. "We have reached significant milestones, initiated major new projects and advanced our academic agenda. I am exhilarated by our achievements and confident of our prospects for the future."

Additions to faculty and administration, important collaborations with existing and emerging businesses in Connecticut, and expansion of philanthropic support have had "extraordinary impact on the University," he adds.

The year got off to an auspicious start when UConn was ranked among the top 20 public institutions in the country, and the number one public institution in New England, by U.S. News & World Report.

As classes began, UConn welcomed one of the largest contingents of new faculty members in its history, while bidding farewell to a large number of faculty and staff who took early retirement.

The University also welcomed several new administrators throughout the year. M. Dolan Evanovich came on board as the new associate provost for enrollment management. Robert Smith joined the University as the new vice provost for research and graduate education and dean of the graduate school. Susan Steele is the new vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction. Vicky Triponey was appointed vice chancellor for student affairs. Wayne Locust was named director of admissions.

The UConn Foundation reported that $20.4 million in philanthropic gifts and grants were received for the University in fiscal year 1998. During the year, deans and directors called on about $8 million from the foundation to support students, faculty and programs.

Campus community programs included an exceptionally warm welcome to incoming students from faculty and staff volunteering as Husky Haulers, the opening of the Nutmeg Grille, and new programs in the Student Union, such as Lively Wednesdays and Great Moments at UConn. Spirited discussions on a range of issues enlivened the new University-wide email lis.

UCFORUM-L, Chancellor Mark Emmert's town meeting in the fall, and Vice Provost Bob Smith's academic community forum in the spring.

Focus on Academics

The Insurance Law Center opened at the School of Law, formalizing the school's offerings in insurance law, and the master's degree in insurance law began enrolling students in the fall. The center offers more courses in insurance law than any other law school in the country.

A focus on undergraduate education, an outgrowth of the strategic plan, led to a range of new program initiatives this past year.

A core group of faculty members and administrators began to promote strategies for student-centered, active learning, seen as the key to retaining knowledge.

The University received a three-year grant from the Hewlett Foundation to support innovation in the general education curriculum. Eleven faculty members representing five departments were named Hewlett Faculty Fellows. They will redesign a number of high-enrollment survey skills courses to include research experiences and other forms of active learning.

Large numbers of students who have not yet decided on their majors will receive advice and support in their decision-making, thanks to the Academic Center for Exploratory Students, a new advising center established in the spring.

To help increase the freshman yield, the Office of Enrollment Management launched a program in which enrolled undergraduate students telephone high school students who have applied to or previously sought information about UConn. In December, the University launched a new scholarship program, the Deans' Scholarship, to help attract more of the state's top students. High-achieving scholars from Connecticut high schools who were admitted to UConn participated in a special one-day orientation program introduced in the spring to encourage them to attend the University. The University also began producing a new set of recruitment materials.

A group of the University's highest-achieving students participated in the General Assembly's first annual Academic Day, and undergraduates from many disciplines presented their research results in poster sessions held during the first Frontiers in Undergraduate Research program.

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) operated for the first time under a year-round contract with Actors' Equity Association, casting professional actors in every mainstage production alongside students from the dramatic arts department. CRT also launched a new Playwrights' Lab for the development of new plays and received two awards from the Connecticut Critics' Circle.

Harnessing technology
Classroom technology at the University rose to new levels, with an emphasis on the use of technology in upgraded class settings and computer-based class assignments.

Chancellor Mark Emmert honored some of the University's leaders in the field of information technology for their efforts by creating the annual Chancellor's Information Technology Awards.

Reaching out

UConn also entered into a number of significant new partnerships in 1997-98.

The University and Pfizer Inc. announced a major new alliance through which Pfizer will construct a $19 million research facility on the Storrs campus: the Center for Excellence in Animal Vaccine Research will create a range of research opportunities for faculty and students.

Travelers Group and the University announced an agreement designed to bolster the development of the financial services industry in Hartford. The three-year agreement provides UConn the use of space at the Travelers Education Center for classes in finance, insurance and business.

The opening of the new Stamford campus - with its state-of-the art teaching and research facilities and the Connecticut Information Technology Institute, a collaboration with area businesses - positioned the University as a major presence in downtown Stamford and Fairfield County.

The University also launched a new partnership with the Hartford schools, a coordinated effort to support and promote faculty, staff and student activities in the urban school district.

Campus landscapes

Many UConn 2000 and other construction projects have gone up with impressive speed at the Storrs campus, Health Center and regional campuses. The University unveiled a master plan for the Storrs campus that will give coherence to the physical environment and a new visual identity, including a logo, that will provide a distinct and unified identity for the entire University.

Among the most notable construction projects this past year were the chemistry building, South Campus residence halls, the parking garage, and the Stamford campus. In addition, repairs to Homer Babbidge Library's exterior were completed and the library embarked on an ambitious renovation to its interior. Construction began in the spring on a new fine arts center. Renovation of the Field House greatly enhanced recreational facilities on the Storrs campus, and construction began on a new ice skating rink.

UConn in the media

UConn received positive coverage in both state and national media, including front-page articles in The Hartford Courant on Niloy Dutta and Chandra Roychoudhuri of the Photonics Research Center, the Nutmeg Scholars program, and Professor Tom Terry's group exam. The University also was the focus of an enthusiastic Courant editorial on UConn 2000 titled "The Earth Moves at UConn." Television coverage included Regina Barreca on the CBS show 48 Hours, a PBS documentary on the Lewis and Clark expedition for which John Allen served as a consultant, and a segment about Ross Buck's research on how boys communicate on ABC's 20/20. In addition, CPTV aired a special segment on the development of the University's master plan.

Some mentions of the University were more controversial, including public debate about the possibility of building a football stadium, and the troubles of University Weekend.

Gaining recognition

Several UConn faculty and staff received prestigious national awards this year. These include:

  • History professor Richard D. Brown, awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue his study of an early 19th century incest rape trial in Massachusetts.

  • Bahram Javidi, a professor of electrical and systems engineering, elected a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

  • Lawrence Hightower, a professor of molecular and cell biology, elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Marilyn Nelson, professor of English, a finalist for this year's National Book Award for poetry, for her collection of poems, The Fields of Praise.

  • and Michael Turvey, professor of psychology, named one of four American Psychological Association 1998 Distinguished Scientist Lecturers.

Others won major national and international awards for their research: Anthony DiBenedetto, emeritus professor of chemical engineering, received the Plueddeman Award for composite interface research; Janine Caira, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was recognized as outstanding parasitologist of the year in North America; and William Stwalley, professor and head of the physics department, received the William F. Meggers Award from the Optical Society of America for his work in spectroscopy.

In addition to the new technology awards, the Chancellor established awards to recognize outstanding researchers. Four faculty members received the first awards. A further three faculty served as 1997-98 University Teaching Fellows.

In the athletics program there were 20 All-Americans in seven different sports during 1997-98. Basketball coach Jim Calhoun and field hockey coach Nancy Stevens were each named Big East Coach of the Year and Len Tsantiris, women's soccer coach, was named National Coach of the Year.

Both the men's and the women's basketball teams were Big East champions and made the NCAA final eight, and the women's soccer team reached the NCAA national finals. The women's field hockey team was Big East champion and also reached the NCAA final eight. Both men's and women's indoor track and field teams were New England indoor champions.

Prominent speakers

Visitors to campus included former U.S. President George Bush, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, eating disorders expert Peggy Claude-Pierre, political activist Angela Davis, the president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, former Congressman William Gray, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, Nobel Prize-winner and UConn alumnus David M. Lee, leading Irish novelist Edna O'Brien, and a series of noted environmentalists.

Sherry Fisher