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Highlights from Community Outreach’s 20th Anniversary

On Sunday, May 3rd, Community Outreach celebrated 20 years of past and present achievements of the collective work and passion put into our organization by bringing together over 175 students, alumni, university staff and faculty, and community partners to the UConn-Storrs Student Union. The event provided an opportunity to reflect on the growth of Community Outreach over the past 20 years and to recognize and discuss the importance of service and leadership both within the UConn community and beyond.

The morning began with a personal reflection from the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Christine Wilson, and welcome remarks from Community Outreach’s Associate Director, Gina DeVivo Brassaw. Yessame Alemu ’15, a Community Outreach Public Relations student leader shared her video highlighting the growth of Community Outreach over the years before Mary Duggan ’10, shared her personal journey with Community Outreach and service after graduation as she introduced the keynote speaker.

Wendy Spencer, CEO Corporation for National and Community Service

Community Outreach was pleased to welcome the keynote speaker, Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS is a federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and other programs that champion community solutions and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.  Wendy spoke about the impact of service work at the national level and highlighted the need for continuing engagement with recent graduates into service work to assist with lowering unemployment and to support job training skills. Wendy challenged the office to find ways to measure the impact that we are making in communities and to continue to serve beyond graduation, whether it is through programs like AmeriCorps or volunteering with organizations in your free time.


Matthew Farley, Executive Director of CT Campus Compact

Matthew Farley, Executive Director of CT Campus Compact

Following the keynote, Matt Farley, past Associate Director for Community Outreach and current Executive Director of CT Campus Compact, spoke about the progress that we have made over the last 20 years and the need for continued work in our communities. He reminded us to seek to understand and remain aware of the issues facing members in our society so that we can find ways to collaborate with others seeking change.
Gina DeVivo Brassaw announced the new scholarship to support students and groups in engaging in service activities that enrich their learning and enhance the quality of life for others. The service award will work to decrease or eliminate financial barriers for individual students or groups of students interested in doing service.  Student Leaders, Carly Zerr ’15 and John Gerrity ’15, both student coordinators with Community Outreach and chairs of the Ignite team both shared the support they were able to gain through the Ignite competition where they received 2nd place overall with 234 donors, raising more than $10,000 through donations and challenges through the campaign.

We were then pleased to have Sarah Hodes from Tyco SimplexGrinnell join us to announce Tyco SimplexGrinnell’s support towards the students’ efforts with a donation of $30,000  to establish the newly endowed scholarship and $20,000 towards our 20th Celebration. Community Outreach is excited to continue the collaboration with Tyco SimplexGrinnell. Check back soon for more details about the scholarship!


Thank you to our sponsor!

The afternoon lunch event focused on celebrating our work this past year and recognizing individuals, programs, and partners who best exemplify the values and priorities of Community Outreach and thanking all those who helped make the year successful and impactful.

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Community Outreach Alumni

Congratulations to all of the 2014-2015 Community Outreach award recipients:


Campus Partner of the Year: Hilary Greer (St. Mark’s Episcopal Chapel at UConn)


Community Partner of the Year: Gina Lopez (Eastern CT AHEC)


Student Driver of the Year: Jonathan Zazzaro


Outstanding Initiative of the Year: Sarah Purtill


Program of the Year: UConn Brooklyn Collaborative


Student Leader of the Year: Carly Zerr


Emerging Student Leaders of the Year: Owen Hart and Katie Edelman

View the video on YouTube created by Yessame Alemu ’15:

View photos from our 20th Anniversary Events:

UConn Day of Service | September 27th

Art & Action: Art Exhibit & Panel Discussion on Homelessness in CT | November 3rd-21st

Beyond the Selfie Conference | November 14th

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service | January 19th

20th Anniversary Celebration Event | May 3rd

UConn Earns Distinction on the 2014 Presidential Honor Roll

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STORRS – UConn has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for three categories, earning an impressive “With Distinction” for the General Community Service category for the second time in three years.

The application included information about UConn’s service and service-learning activities during the 2012-2013 academic year from student organizations and departments from throughout the University including the regional campuses, law school, and medical school. In total, more than 15,800 UConn students contributed about 1.4 million hours of service in the 2012-2013 academic year, including more than 6,000 contributing over 20 hours per semester. About 39 percent of UConn’s student participation was through academic service-learning.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an independent federal agency that coordinates the program, named a Presidential Award winner in each of four categories: General Community Service, Interfaith Community Service, Economic Opportunity and Education. A total of 766 colleges and universities were named on the Honor Roll overall and UConn was the only Connecticut school to be recognized with a category “With Distinction” selection.

The Honor Roll “With Distinction” is given to applicants that “display strong levels of institutional commitment, provide a compelling case for partnerships that produce measurable impact in the community, and have a Federal Work-Study community service percentage of 15 percent or above,” according to the description on the Corporation for National and Community Service’s website.

E. Carol Polifroni, director of the Office of Public Engagement, says “The President’s Honor Roll is affirmation of UConn’s ability and commitment to meet its mission of preparing our graduates as engaged citizens. It also affirms the reciprocal nature of our work which concurrently enriches the student experience and that of the communities with whom we partner. Engagement is a co-created venture with mutual benefit and rewards”.

CNCS has administered the award annually since 2006 to recognize institutions that achieve meaningful, measurable outcomes in the communities that they serve. The General Community Service category “recognizes institutions that have made a commitment to improving the quality of life of off-campus community residents, particularly low-income individuals” according to the CNCS website. UConn was also named on the Honor Roll for the Education and Economic Opportunity categories.

Programs highlighted in the General Community Service Category for UConn’s 2014 honor roll application included:

  • UConn’s Alternative Breaks: These experiences typically occur on weekends, winter break, or spring break and occur domestically and internationally and are organized across the University via Community Outreach as well as student organizations, departments, and religious communities. Alternative Breaks at UConn has grown significantly over the years and in the 2012-2013 academic year, 720 students and 34 faculty/staff participated in alternative break trips.
  • UConn Migrant Farm Worker Clinic: The UConn Migrant Farm Worker Clinic (UMFWC) was created to address the lack of access to health care for farm workers and their families, a majority of whom are low-income, transient, lack insurance coverage, and have limited English proficiency. CT AHEC, whose offices are located at the UConn Health Center, oversees recruitment and training of volunteers while medical, dental, and undergraduate student coordinators implement the clinics with licensed healthcare professionals. In 2013, 550 clinical and non-clinical students and 109 healthcare professionals volunteered. This included 53 UConn undergraduates from the Storrs campus.
  • Kids & UConn Bridging Education (KUBE): KUBE, a collaboration among the UConn cultural centers, is a unique one-on-one multicultural mentoring program for all interested middle school students (grades 5-8) from the Killingly Intermediate School and Windham Middle School. The goals of the program are to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation and to help students achieve academic success in science, writing, and 21st Century skills (Life/Career, Innovation, and Information/technology literacy). The UConn students consist of two program coordinators, ten group leaders, and approximately 75 mentors that meet monthly with the 75 middle school students at the Storrs campus.

Nominations for the Education category included Community Outreach’s partnership with Jumpstart, RUN with LC (Recruiting underrepresented individuals to nursing through learning communities) and Husky Sport. Nominations in the Economic Opportunity category included the Accounting Department and UConn School of Business’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Social Entrepreneurship Corps organized through the UConn Study Abroad Office in consultation with Latin American Studies and sponsored by the UConn School of Business and the Honors Program.

In addition to being on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in each year it applied, UConn has received the organization’s Katrina Compassion Award for Excellence in Hurricane Relief Service (2006), a General Community Service category designation “with distinction” (2012) and last year was named among five Presidential Award winners in the 2013 Honor Roll.

For more information about the Honor Roll and to see the full list of awardees visit

For additional information please contact E. Carol Polifroni in the Office of Public Engagement at or Gina DeVivo-Brassaw in the Office of Community Outreach at

Public Engagement at the University of Connecticut provides leadership to connect, coordinate, facilitate, foster, prepare and promote outreach programs and engaged scholarship which serve the public good, help prepare our students to be leaders in their chosen fields, and support faculty and staff in scholarly outreach efforts.

Community Outreach’s mission is to enrich learning at the University of Connecticut through preparing students to be active global citizens by engaging them in service activities that enhance the quality of life for both others and themselves.