As students prepare to return to Conn for the start of a new academic year, we look back at the top 10 stories of 2019-2020. Collectively, they document a year marked by jubilant new beginnings, an unprecedented move to remote learning amid a global pandemic and, ultimately, the resiliency, creativity and generosity that defines Camel Nation.
Conn and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy signed a new Memorandum of Agreement in January that renews and reinvigorates a nearly 40-year partnership between the two institutions. The MOA established a firm commitment from both the College and the Academy to continue regular dialogue on opportunities for collaboration; created a governance structure to identify, examine, propose and implement new resource-specific sharing arrangements; and continued long-standing arrangements for cross-registration of students and sharing of campus facilities. Prior to the shift to remote learning, the two institutions co-sponsored several events, including the talk “How to be Antiracist” with Ibram X. Kendi, bestselling author and Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.
The designation of Winthrop Scholar is the highest academic honor bestowed by the College. Reserved for students who demonstrate exceptional scholarship, the honor is named for John Winthrop the Younger, who founded the city of New London and served as governor of Connecticut. This year’s impressive group includes a 2019 Critical Language Scholarship winner, a dancer who has performed at the Kennedy Center, four varsity athletes, an entrepreneur, and—for the first time in Conn’s history—not one, but two sets of twins.
This year’s holiday greeting was a video montage of campus scenery featuring the closing lines of “The Essayist,” a poem by Charles Hartman, the Lucy Marsh Haskell ’19 Professor of English and Poet in Residence at Connecticut College. The stanza was read by Director of Race and Ethnicity Programs Truth Hunter.
Conn welcomed 11 new tenure-track professors in the Fall of 2019, each bringing to campus a breadth of expertise in their respective fields. Already, this impressive group has made an impact—Assistant Professor of Biology E. Carla Parker-Athill won a $10,000 Seed Grant from the Sloan Scholars Mentoring Network of the Social Science Research Council and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Milne Assistant Professor of Biology Maria Rosa was recognized as a 2020 Emerging Scholar by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine; and Assistant Professor of Government and International Relations Eric Fleury penned a Hartford Courant op-ed about police reform.
In September, U.S. News & World Report highlighted Conn’s innovative career and professional development program, “How Colleges Help Students Gear Up for Jobs.” The College was also listed among the most innovative schools and among the national liberal arts colleges with the best undergraduate teaching. When Conn went remote due to the pandemic, career advisers in the Hale Center for Career Development worked quickly to help students find virtual internships, apply for jobs, prepare for graduate study and, for the first time, offered a free summer career prep course for incoming students. At the same time, Conn’s faculty put their innovation on display with a quick transition to virtual instruction.
Conn alumni stepped up to help students after the College announced it was finishing the semester on a mostly remote basis. The fund raised more than $70,000 to support students with travel, housing, lost wages from campus jobs and other unexpected hardships that arose from the pandemic. The fund also helped students with their domestic and international travel. Other areas of financial assistance included ground transportation, moving and shipping expenses, computer and internet access, and more.
The Class of 2024 was selected from the largest—and one of the most impressive—applicant pools in College history. The group included students from 49 countries and 46 states, as well as Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. The admitted students got to know the College virtually this spring with a series of Camel Clips, and the newest Camels are set to arrive on campus in late August.
Conn welcomed Maureen “Mo” White, the first woman to serve as Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education at Connecticut College, on Oct. 1. Already during her tenure, men’s soccer completed a historic season during which they advanced to the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Division III championship tournament; goalie AJ Marcucci ’21 was named Division III’s top goalie for the second consecutive year; and a school-record three student athletes—Women’s Soccer’s Sara Kogelmann ’20, Men’s Ice Hockey’s Connor Rodericks ’20, Women’s Swimming’s Maddie Ford ’21—were named Academic All-Americans.
The 514 members of the Class of 2023 and 15 transfer students were welcomed to campus last August by student leaders. They would go on to become the first students in the College’s history to complete their first year remotely, and only the second group of first-years to live through the onset of a global pandemic. That didn’t stop them from accomplishing great academic, athletic and personal feats, with members of the class organizing a Summer Language Challenge that drew 170 participants studying 23 different languages; two swimmers qualifying for the 2020 NCAA Division III Championships and garnering CSCAA Scholar All-America honors; and one, Joseph Walewski ’23, challenging himself to run every street in his hometown.
Rounding out the top 10 is this story about the courageous Conn students working as EMTs and firefighters amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Hector Salazar ’20, a volunteer firefighter and an EMT with a local fire department and ambulance service, stayed on campus instead of returning to his hometown throughout the spring semester, balancing his distance learning coursework while working up to 32 hours a week on the ambulance, and responding to fire calls. Taylor Chafey ’20, an aspiring physician assistant, worked and volunteered as an EMT in Waterford, while Victoria Duszak ’21 served as an EMT in Wolcott, Connecticut, near her hometown of Southington. And Sydney Bryan ’21, who usually spends her summers at home in Wyoming as a member of the emergency medical department at Grand Teton National Park, instead stayed in New London County to continue working for American Ambulance Service in Norwich, Connecticut.