Rising Up and Celebrating the DPP Class of 2020

May 27, 2020

Rising Up and Celebrating the DPP Class of 2020

On the evening of Friday, May 22nd the Department of Public Policy (DPP) celebrated it’s 2020 graduates with a global online contingency to celebrate the 68 graduates. Our graduates included students from the Master of Arts in Survey Research (MASR), MPA Fellows, Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Public Policy (MPP) programs.

The evening included remarks by the DPP’s Department Head Mohamad Alkadry, UConn President Thomas Katsouleas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Dean Juli Wade, and DPP alums Melissa McCaw, Damara Cockfield and Alyssa Goduti. Associate Professor Kerri Raissian served as the mistress of ceremonies.

The program began with opening remarks by Professor Alkadry, who talked about public service values and how our network has responded to crisis. From students to alums, our members have worked alongside community partners to provide food, mental health services and personal protective equipment among other supports to neighborhoods across the country. It was noted that many entered our department in the hopes of “making a decent living while making a difference”, and already the Class of 2020 has done so much to serve.

President Katsouleas
Thomas Katsouleas, UConn President

President Katsouleas spoke next and added that in addition to “making a decent living while making a difference” our grads would also be “make living more decent”. The President highlighted the recent rankings of our Department as the DPP stands among the Top 40 for Public Affairs programs, and among the Top 10 in the specialty of Public Finance and Budgeting.  This year DPP interns provided over 36,000 hours of labor to state agencies, municipalities and nonprofits, noted the President. Throughout the evening this sentiment of serving the State was highlighted by numerous speakers. One anecdote that made many smile was when the President spoke about his transition to the University and an interaction with the Executive Director of Education Research at Gallup. This director was the DPP’s very own Stephanie Marken, who happily informed the President of her affiliation with the University as a MASR alumnus. At the of end of his remarks, President Katsouleas encouraged the graduates to “Go forth and make good policy. And go forth and make good huskies forever”.

Dean Wade was next to the podium and spoke about how our graduates were a good example of CLAS values within higher education but also in a global context. She encouraged the graduates to continue thinking broadly and creatively across disciplines. The students were noted for their ability to see problems from a wide range of angles, and they were urged to continue doing so. At the conclusion of her remarks, the Dean congratulated the graduates on their achievement.

Melissa McCaw
Melissa McCaw, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management

Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management for the Lamont Administration and DPP alum Melissa McCaw, MPA 2014 spoke next. Recently, McCaw was named a “Woman of Distinction in Connecticut” by the Hartford Courant and was named to the Hartford Business Journal’s “Power 50”. McCaw began her remarks by saluting the graduates and commending them on their hard work in joining the alumni ranks of the DPP. She spoke of how the DPP’s largest graduating class was “finishing large and strong”. On behalf of Governor Ned Lamont and Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, McCaw shared a “…sincere and abundant gratitude for [the graduates] commitment to public service”. It was important to McCaw that she highlight the achievements of DPP faculty and their impact on the graduates and alumni like herself. She noted how the graduates have already helped in pushing the state forward through their service and how they are “…defined by resiliency and an uncanny capacity to recover quickly.” Her remarks concluded with the words “Pursue your service with honor, resiliency and passion”.

The DPP’s student speaker for 2020 was MPA Fellow Padraig Barry. Barry compared the students to gems who entered the program with some “…starting off a little rough, some forming, but all requiring a little polish”.  With some research, Barry investigated the regalia for the day. Though many students were unable to obtain their cap and gown before the pandemic, Barry made sure to tell the students they would “…fly like the mighty peacock should”, a statement highlighting the peacock blue regalia of the graduates. He provided a brief history of the mortarboard and noted how it symbolized the holding of cement that would be utilized for building a strong foundation, like that of a DPP education in the pursuit of public service.  At the conclusion of his remarks, Barry quoted his fellow countryman Oscar Wilde and stated, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

The naming of the DPP’s 2020 award recipients began with the presentation of the DPP’s Distinguished Alumni Award to Damara Cockfield, MPA 2005. Cockfield has spent the last 15 years of her career at Booz, Allen, Hamilton as a military health subject matter expert and founded on process improvements in medical care for wounded, ill, or injured service members. She began remarks by addressing the cultural significance of graduating during a time of uncertainty, she completed her bachelor’s months after 9/11. These moments, she noted were opportunities to “investigate important problems” and live the DPP mission to provide “…high quality policy analysis, program evaluations, and survey research for investigating important public problems facing Connecticut and the nation”. Throughout the pandemic, Cockfield has been able to expand public health resources for the communities she serves. She spoke to how “every day a lesson is learned that can be taken forward into the next day”. A reminder we all need to keep moving forward and improving the services we provide.  After Cockfield spoke, the remaining award recipients were named. For a full list of awardees and Pi Pi Alpha Inductees please see our Annual Awards news story.

Kerri Raissian
Kerri Raissian, Associate Professor

Once the awards were completed and the GAPPS-ICMA Officers were highlighted for their service, Professor Raissian began reading the names of the graduates. At the conclusion of the list, the mikes were un-muted, and the graduates and their families roared with applause in celebration of their accomplishments. Shortly after, Alyssa Goduti, MPA 2002 who serves as the President of the DPP Alumni Council welcomed the DPP’s newest alums to a network that now stands at over 1,200 alums. Currently Goduti is the President & CEO of Ädelbrook as well as an adjunct faculty member of the DPP. Goduti shared her deep enthusiasm for making a difference, and how this common thread is shared among all DPP alums. She talked about how this enthusiasm is a secret to success and she hopes that the graduates “…do something [they] love and continue to find enthusiasm for what [they] love”. Similar to what we tell our students at orientation, Goduti emphasized how the graduates have a strong academic foundation, enthusiasm, and network of support that can help them “realize their dreams to make a difference”. A difference the DPP has been promoting for the last 48 years.

The celebration concluded with final remarks from our Mistress of Ceremonies Professor Raissian. Throughout the celebration Professor Raissian provided anecdotes about our speakers and spoke to how their words and experiences show the impact of public service in our communities. She summarized President Obama’s commencement speech from earlier in the week and highlighted a need to “not be afraid”, to “do what is right”, and to “build community”. Three pieces of advice that our graduates have already taken to heart. Our celebration ended with the Alicia Key’s song “Underdog” in tribute to the public servants who have risen to the occasion and our students who will continue to rise in the years to come.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020, may you continue to rise up and meet every challenge that you face.

For a full list of 2020 graduates please see our earlier Celebration article to honor Commencement 2020.

Celebrating the Class of 2020

May 5, 2020

Join us in Celebrating the Class of 2020!

Congratulations to all our graduates! Over the past few years, you have put in valiant efforts in your courses, made new connections, and gained invaluable experiences in the public and nonprofit fields. We are sad not to be celebrating in-person, but wish our graduates well in their bright futures.

Our virtual celebration will be held on May 22, 2020, from 4:30 – 5:30pm. To RSVP for our virtual event, please complete the Virtual Celebration RSVP form.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020 Graduates!

Master of Arts in Survey Research:
Kelly Bell • Zachary Bikus • Caitlin Divver • Jacquelyn LaCoste • Shauna Robinson


MPA Fellows:
Andrea Alexander • Padraig Barry • Dana Begin • Michael Bzdyra • Boyd Canfield Jr. • Maria Cappuccitti • Tara Downes • Carease Gadson • Melanie Goodin • Maureen Goulet • Michelle Huggins • Jessica Muirhead • Charlotte Nelson • Olivia Otto • Kara Sene • Theodore Shafer • Kendra Shakir • Judy-Ann Staple-Stewart • Dyshawn Thames


Master of Public Administration:
Kyle Abercrombie • Valeria Alfano • Adriano Cirioli III • Michael Cocchiola III • Sarah Croucher • Jillian Cundari • Rachel Dzialo • Kelly Flannery • Alexandra Garcia • Lauren Gauthier • Benjamin Hensley • Grant Hobbs • Autumn Ives • Keron Johnson • Najoua Khadrany • Rosa Kleopoulos • Katharine Lange • Megan Leavenworth • Karla Little • Rachel Mascitelli • Conor Merchant • Brendan Mitchell • Claire Morris • Hannah Nguyen • Nicholas Pigeon • Shirley Pilkey • Michael Powell • Michael Proscino • Thomas Scheinblum • Amanda Sierpinski • Samantha Staffin • Samuel Sweikert • Tiffany Tran


Master of Public Policy:
Frederick V. Augur • Steven Della-Giustina • Haley Gillman • Lauren Goulet • Peter Hopko • Catherine Lindsay • Carol Miranda • Noah O’Connor • Andrew Oravecz • Alison Riith • Nicole Simonsen • Jessica Weaver


Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Public Management:
Benjamin Christensen • Michael Mallery Jr. • Amanda Sierpinski • Jessica Weaver


Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management:
Bryan Bierman •  Todd Crevier • Lauren Gauthier • Keron Johnson • Lian Kish • Rachel Mascitelli • Somaya Mcdermott • Shi Pu • Robin Rodrigue • Dennis Rinaldi


Graduate Certificate in Public Financial Management:
Adriano Cirioli • Benjamin Hensley • Rosa Kleopoulos • Noah O’Connor


Graduate Certificate in Survey Research:
Frederick V. Augur • Tara Downes • Lauren Goulet • Catherine Lindsay

Current 2020 Job Placements & Promotions
(continually updated)

  • Fredrick V. Augur, MPP – Stanford University Law School, Candidate ‘23
  • Steven Della-Giustina – UConn Law, Candidate ’23
  • Tara Downes, MPA Fellow – Assistant State Comptroller, State Of Connecticut Office of the State Comptroller Kevin Lembo
  • Kelly Flannery, MPA – University of California, Santa Barbara, Resident Advisor
  • Benjamin Hensley, MPA – Strategic Development and Initiative Specialist, Capital Workforce Partners
  • Peter Hopko, MPP – Leadership Associate, State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management
  • Catherine Lindsay, MPP – Peace Corps
  • Carol Miranda, MPP – Data Analyst, Beacon Health Solutions
  • Andrew Oravecz, MPP – Coordinator for Youth Development, Education, and Literacy, University of Connecticut
  • Shauna Robinson, MASR – Health Associate, Mathematica

Have news to share? Let us know at dpp@uconn.edu!

A Letter From Department Head Mohamad Alkadry

A Message from the Department Head

DPP Professor and Department Head Mohamad Alkadry stands in front of the UConn Hartford Times Building.
Mohamad Alkadry, professor and head of the Department of Public Policy, at the UConn Hartford campus on September 5, 2017. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Dear Students, Alumni, and Friends,

Much has happened in our world since our January newsletter. Our economy is struggling and the organizations that typically employ our students and interns are witnessing unprecedented fiscal and/or service demand challenges. Our students are learning online for the rest of the Spring semester as well as all Summer Session courses. Our community was not able to celebrate our alumni, students, staff and faculty at the DPP Annual Alumni Awards and PPA Induction Ceremony. And, we were not able to hold our ceremony to honor our graduating students. However, there is much to celebrate even during these times.

We are living through a pandemic lock-down that tests the core of public service and articulates like no other time the relevance of the public sector in responding to crises like this one. Ironically, proponents of a smaller public sector suddenly see the relevance of government in aiding the economy and society out of a messy crisis. DPP alumni are at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 crisis in Connecticut. They are working hard to ensure that public services are not disrupted because of a drastic drop in state and local government revenues. They are working hard to ensure that food banks’ stock and distribution networks are able to meet the drastic increase in demand for services. They are working on procuring masks and ventilators that will save lives. They are leading mental health service organizations that are providing even more services in a challenging social distancing environment.

We have always been proud of the contributions of our alumni to the welfare of people, but we have never been prouder than today. On behalf of our faculty and staff, I want to express our gratitude to our alumni who are at the forefront of the public and nonprofit sectors’ response to this crisis.

Congratulations to our MPA, MPP and MASR Class of ’20. Congratulations to the alumni, students, staff and faculty recipients of awards. Congratulations to the students who were inducted in our honor society. Many thanks to students, staff, faculty and alumni for all they have done to survive and to help others during this crisis.

Sincerely yours,

Mohamad G. Alkadry, Ph.D.
Professor & Head

Spring 2020 Alumni Job Updates

May 3, 2020

Spring 2020 Alumni Job Updates

We take great pride in our Alumni and their accomplishments. This spring, we have some exciting news about several of our alumni:

Lara Beecher accepted a International Trade Analyst position with a federal contractor at the Department of Commerce, ITA. Lara graduated with her MPA in 2016 with a certificate in Leadership and Public Management.

Liana Cunningham accepted a Senior Director of Education & Training position at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. Liana received her MPA from in 2015.

Kyle Livernoche was named the Acting Assistant Chief of Planning at Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families. Kyle graduated with an MPA in 2018.

Doug Shipman accepted a new position as the Executive Director of the Windsor Historical Society. Doug was previously the Senior Nonprofit Support Program Officer for The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Doug received his MPA in 2016.

Tyler Terbrusch was named a Senior Analyst at McLagan. Tyler completed his MPP in 2019 along with a Master of Science in Quantitative Economics.

Diane Valesky Diaz is the new Vice President of Municipal Credit Research position with DWS Group. Diane graduated with her MPA in 2014.

Have an alumni update to share? Email the dpp@uconn.edu to be featured on our social media and in our next newsletter!


A One Credit COVID Course and Public Policy

April 30, 2020

A One Credit COVID Course and Public Policy

Specializing in Disaster Response, there is arguably no better person to have helping COVID-19 response than our own Professor Amy K. Donahue. Last month Professor Donahue assisted in the development and distribution of the University’s one-credit COVID-19 course.

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Impacts on Health, Business and Society” finished May 1st and drew upon faculty from Allied Health, Public Health, UConn Health, Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, Pharmacy, Nursing, Psychology, Management, Finance and Public Policy. 

The course provided a multi-disciplinary guided approach through the science of the virus, the social impacts, and business, financial and legal implications.

Over 5,000 students attended the course making it the most popular in University history. The course was highlighted by the Hartford Business Journal (HBJ) and UConn Today.

This fall the course may expand to a 3-credit opportunity as information continues to evolve and update.

Addressing Child Neglect and Policy-making with UConn DPP and SSW

April 27, 2020

Addressing Child Neglect and Policy-making with UConn DPP and SSW

April was Child Abuse Awareness month, and Department of Public Policy (DPP) Associate Professor Kerri Raissian and School of Social Work (SSW) Assistant Professor Megan Feely with their collaborators published both a brief and alert with UConn’s Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH) on preventing child neglect.

Their briefing argued that researchers and policymakers should address “Preventing Child Neglect” by “looking at the problem through a macro lens”. This brief was also co-authored by Research Specialist Helene M. Marcy of Educational Psychology and InCHIP (Affiliate) and undergraduate researcher Daniel Schwartzman. 

In order to conduct macro-level research the brief recommends:

  • A standard definition of child abuse and neglect.
  • To clearly delineate the causes of neglect.
  • Access to data on neglect and economic factors.
  • To collaborate across disciplines.

Later in the month Dr. Raissian and Dr. Feely published an alert with Assistant Professor Lindsey Bullinger from Georgia Tech and Assistant Professor Will Schneider from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Their alert was issued by The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) and addressed “Practical Steps to Prevent Child Neglect in the COVID-19 Pandemic“.

The alert addresses the risk posed by “…drastic changes to families’ financial well-being, community resources, and overall concern for society..” in regards to child well-being. The impact of child-serving agencies and their decision makers were noted for being able to “…help reduce the risk of child neglect.”

UConn Today featured the alert through an article entitled “As Families Struggle During Pandemic, Children At High Risk for Neglect”.


Feeding Connecticut with Foodshare and Jason Jakubowski

April 23, 2020

Feeding Connecticut with Jason Jakubowski

Jason Jakubowski
Jason Jakubowski, CEO and President of Foodshare

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought intense hardships for many families around the country. In Hartford and Tolland counties, Foodshare works to provide millions of meals each year. A member of Feeding America, Foodshare has worked to provide up to date information regarding access to food assistance in the area.

Jason Jakubowski is the President and CEO, and we are proud to say a 2001 MPA alum! Jakubowski and the Foodshare team consist of staff and volunteers who have been working to distribute food and protective equipment to families across Connecticut.

Foodshare’s Partner Programs Coordinator Yahaira Escribano, is also MPA alum. Escribano has been working to ensure that all programs meet food safety standards while building and strengthening relationships. 

With a large portion of their volunteer force in the at-risk population, they have had to rely on the generosity of the community to fund overtime for staff and purchase additional food packages for the community. Foodshare has most recently opened up a new donation center at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

To Jason, Yahaira and all the staff and volunteers at Foodshare, thank you for all of the work you have been doing to provide food assistance to residents in the Greater Hartford area!

For more information about Foodshare and Feeding America programs in your local area please visit Feeding America’s  Find Your Local Food Bank page to see ways to volunteer or find food.

Melissa McCaw Named to Hartford’s 2020 Power 50

April 20, 2020

Melissa McCaw Named to Hartford’s 2020 Power 50

Photo of Melissa McCaw
State Secretary of OPM, Melissa McCaw

Last week, UConn DPP Alumna Melissa McCaw was named one of Hartford Business Journal’s 2020 Power 50. Coming in at #24, McCaw is noted for her major role regarding policy and fiscal decisions that impact communities across the State. 

Currently, McCaw serves as the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management for Connecticut. She brings 18 years of finance and operations experience in government and education to OPM, graduating with her Masters of Public Administration in 2014. 

Lately, the Office of Policy and Management has been integral in Connecticut’s COVID-19 response – working around the clock to develop economic projections and deliver needed aid to communities around Connecticut.

Congratulations Melissa!


Take An Online Summer Course with UConn’s Department of Public Policy

March 31, 2020

Take An Online Summer Course with UConn’s Department of Public Policy

Whether you are fulfilling an undergraduate requirement or earning electives towards a graduate degree, UConn’s Department of Public Policy is offering a variety of online courses this summer! At the undergraduate level, the DPP is offering a Content Area 2, a W, and a course on research methods. At the graduate level the DPP is offering coursework in Nonprofit Management and Survey Research. Please see our summer offerings below.


  • Nonprofit Management
    • PP 5324: Grant Writing & Fund Development – SS1 (June 1 – July 2): This course provides the student with the essential knowledge of the tools and practices for developing a funding portfolio that supports the work of a nonprofit organization. While the course looks at diverse funding practice it provides specific guidance on grant and proposal writing and government contracts.


  • Survey Research
    • PP 5388: Introduction to Multipopulation Survey Research Methods – SS1 (June 1 – July 2): This course provides an introduction to methods for designing multilingual and multicultural survey research projects. It will also introduce some of the key considerations for designing multinational surveys. Students will be introduced to unique methodological considerations for multilingual/multicultural studies throughout the project life cycle, including: sampling, questionnaire design, fielding, data interpretation and analysis.
    • PP 5332: Advanced Quantitative Methods – SS2 (July 13 – August 21): This course covers a number of basic and advanced statistical methods for public policy and survey research. Students will review some of the basic concepts of statistical analysis, study methods for hypothesis testing appropriate to frequency counts and percentage, discuss methods to analyze data in interval and ratio scale format, and study quantitative methods for conducting and analyzing multiple regression. Students will also explore minimizing error through scale construction and the use of exploratory factor analysis. The end of the course will provide a very brief introduction to the basic ideas underlying confirmatory factor analysis.


  • Undergraduate Coursework
    • PP 1001 Introduction to Public Policy – May Term (May 11 – May 29): Public policy history and institutions, government administration and systems, policy analysis, contemporary policy issues, polling and influences on policy making. (Content Area 2)
    • PP 3020W Cases in Public Policy – SS1 (June 1 – July 2): Exploration of policy analysis using case studies on various contemporary policy topics.
    • PP 2100 Survey Research Methods – AS2 (July 13 – August 21): Theory and practice of surveys, including overall project design, questionnaire development, sampling, methods of data collection and data analysis.


Interested in taking a summer course or enrolling in a program? Contact Outreach Coordinator Lian Kish at Kish@UConn.edu to learn more.

DPP 2020 Teaching Recognition Awards

DPP 2020 Teaching Recognition Awards

Faculty Teaching Recognition Award: The first Distinguished Faculty Award, voted on by students, goes to a core faculty member who:  “has intriguing research, accessibility to students, and engaging teaching style.”  This year’s award goes to Bill Simonsen. Bill’s research focuses on public finance, financial management, capital finance, citizen participation techniques, and public policy. He teaches “PP 5340: Introduction to Public Policy and Management”, “PP 5370: Applied Research Design”, “PP 5373: Budgeting in Public Service Organizations”, and “PP 5376: Applied Quantitative Methods”. 

Adjunct Faculty Teaching Recognition Award: The second Distinguished Faculty Award, also voted on by students, goes to an adjunct faculty member who:  “has accessibility to students and engaging teaching style.”  We have two winners this year!

Penny Davis

Penny Davis

Penny teaches “PP 5365: Human Resource Management”, and comes to the DPP with 2o years of public sector experience across all dimensions of Human Resources. She has a track record of partnering with business leaders to develop solutions from design to implementation, and has practiced working within highly unionized environments. Currently, Penny is the Chief Human Resources Officer for the State of Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS).

George O’Brien

George O'BrienGeorge teaches “PP 5325: Labor-Management Relations, Negotiations, and Contract Management”, and has practiced labor and employment law for more than forty years. Currently George works at Littler Mendelson, and is a longtime member of the New Haven Inn of Court and the Executive Committee of the Labor and Employment Section of the Connecticut Bar Association. He has also served on the boards of Connecticut nonprofit organizations involved with the arts, education, legal services and charitable activities. Fun fact about George, he met his wife in the Hartford Times Building where he now teaches!