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Congratulations, graduates

by Karen A. Grava - May 1, 2006

Shelley Buchbinder, human rights
by Douglas Bullard, CLAS ’06

Shelley Buchbinder, CLAS ’06, a political science major and honors student, knows that caring about the world is one job that never ends.

Shelley Buchbinder

Aside from her close involvement with various human rights projects on campus, her humanitarian vision has extended far beyond UConn and into Africa. She is completing her honors thesis on the prevalence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

The project is not unlike her other human rights work at UConn. She is active in gay and lesbian rights groups, community service programs, and AIDS awareness campaigns.

Recently, she curated an exhibit in the Dodd Center’s Corridor Gallery, “Darfur Drawn: The Conflict in Darfur Through Children’s Eyes.” She also helped run a large condom distribution program, and managed many film festivals that focused on diverse topics such as genocide and Jewish homosexual identity.

Buchbinder is a native of Willimantic. She is applying to the Peace Corps, and also hopes to do social work at the graduate level at CUNY-Hunter.

And, though she graduates from UConn this year, she hopes that her work on campus has made an impact.

“I would like to see more people look at UConn as a human rights school,” Buchbinder says. “UConn has a fantastic human rights program.”


Diego Cupolo, journalism
by  Lauren Belliveau, CLAS ’06

Spring break this year was hard work for Diego Cupolo, CLAS ’06. Cupolo traveled with UConn’s Community Outreach Program to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward to volunteer in hurricane-damaged neighborhoods.

Diego Cupolo


Cupolo, news editor of The Daily Campus, wrote an article about his experience, titled “Spring Break in the Lower Ninth Ward.”

Picked up and published by the Associated Press, it describes everything from the bus ride to the cleaning efforts and the unforgettable stories of survivors.

“The workload was heavy,” says Cupolo.

“Aside from lugging around maggot-infested refrigerators spilling over with black, rotted food sludge, the volunteers filled wheelbarrows with everything from family portraits to Nintendo 64s.”

Cupolo, a journalism and communication sciences double major, has been a writer for The Daily Campus for the past three years.

His Feb. 22 story, “Finding Beauty in Parasites,” also was picked up by the AP.

While attending a recent Board of Trustees meeting at which Janine Caira, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was recognized as a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Cupolo was impressed by her dedication and commitment to improving the University community. Caira is an internationally recognized expert in the field of parasitology.

“It’s hard to find people so energetic and passionate about their job,” says Cupolo.

“I knew immediately that I wanted to do a story on her accomplishments.”

Cupolo plans to move to New York City after graduation, to find a job in the media.

“I chose journalism because I wanted to be able to do something different everyday,” he says. “I wouldn’t be happy sitting in an office for the rest of my life.”  


Soide Rodriguez, speech pathology
by Kayla Miller, CLAS ’06

Soide Y. Rodriguez of Hartford will graduate this week with a master’s degree in speech language and hearing.

Soide Y. Rodriguez

Rodriguez is fluent in Spanish and received a grant for bilingual graduate students who will work in the field of speech pathology.

“There is a shortage overall of bilingual speech pathologists,” says Rodriguez, “With Spanish being the most dominant second language in this country, it’s really important for inner city areas to have bilingual speech pathologists.”

As an undergraduate at UConn, Rodriguez majored in communication disorders.

She was awarded a leadership scholarship from the University, and an Alliance for Academic Achievement scholarship from The Hartford insurance company.

She is a member of the National Students’ Speech/Hearing Language Association.

Her goal after graduating is to find a job as a speech language pathologist in an inner city school, preferably in Hartford.

“I feel like I can relate to the students in Hartford and serve as a role model, since I went to Bulkeley High School,” says Rodriguez.

“I want to encourage students and show them that they can also get scholarships and go to college and help change the community.”

Rodriguez has two brothers who also graduated from UConn and are now teachers.

She says she would recommend UConn to others because of the range of majors and the diversity of the student population.

She adds, “The University offers students the opportunity to learn and spread their wings.”  


Joshua Kallen, radiology
by Jane Shaskan

It may not seem surprising that Joshua Kallen, the son of physician parents, would pursue a career in medicine.

But it wasn’t always his goal.

Joshua Kallen

He was interested in engineering and architecture, and also considered being a history teacher.

But when he was 16, he had surgery, and began to change his mind.

“I had a great doctor and that planted the seed,” says Kallen.

“In high school, I did a senior project with that doctor – four days a week in his office and one day in surgery – and I started thinking about medicine as a serious option.”

As an undergraduate at Tufts University, Kallen majored in Greek and history.

Then, after graduating with highest honors, he took a position as a clinical research associate at the New England Medical Center/Floating Hospital for Children, and volunteered at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

A year later, equipped with both research and clinical experience, he was confident that medicine was his future.

“I did many things to be sure a medical career is what I wanted,” he says. “My parents always supported, never pushed. They wanted me to make my own choices.”

Kallen says he liked what UConn had to offer – the curriculum, the small class size, and a faculty whose sole responsibility was to teach.

Initially, he planned to specialize in pediatrics or pediatrics and internal medicine, but the rotation in radiology pointed him in a different direction.

“I loved it,” he says. “I found diagnosis very interesting. I knew it was a very competitive field, but I didn’t want to regret not trying for a residency in radiology.”

The only downside, he says, is limited patient contact, but as medicine evolves, he expects there will be more opportunity for that. He also hopes teaching will be part of his future.

After commencement, Kallen will go to St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven and then Hartford Hospital to complete a residency program in radiology.




Niamh Cunningham, creative writing
by Cindy Weiss

Niamh Cunningham, CLAS ’06, will spend her first year or so out of college writing a novel.

Niamh Cunningham

Cunningham, an English and journalism major, will work with New Haven attorney Walter Bansley III on a fictionalized account of his recent experience in Iraq as the only civilian lawyer to defend a court-martialed Marine.

Bansley, a former Marine himself, was the subject of the 1992 hit movie, A Few Good Men, about the trial of three Marines charged with murdering a fellow private who had complained about Marine life.

Bansley, portrayed by actor Tom Cruise in the film, was the Marine lawyer who successfully defended the three, arguing that the death was an accident and that higher-ups had sanctioned hazing against the private.

The story of Bansley’s successful defense in Iraq last summer of a Wallingford Marine accused of dereliction of duty and larceny, among other things, is even better, says Cunningham.

And she has been commissioned by Bansley, a family friend, to write it. Niamh, whose name is Gaelic and is pronounced “Neev,” had planned to be an engineering major in college.

As a senior in high school, however, the cross country runner was asked to write a student athlete journal for the New Haven Register.

Walking into the Register’s newsroom for the first time, her reaction was, “Wow, this place is great,” she says. She enrolled at UConn as a journalism major, and later, inspired by a class with English professor Regina Barreca, added an English major, too.

Her favorite author is Fay Weldon, and she was one of 10 students tutored recently by Weldon, when the famous British author visited UConn as an Aetna Visiting Writer.

Bansley knew of Cunningham’s interest in writing. He has “great stories and is great about telling them,” she says. “He trusted me with the story.”

She already has the trial transcript to read, adding to the frenzy of finishing college. A member of the cross country indoor and outdoor teams, Cunningham also has the Big East championships to look forward to, hosted by UConn on the weekend of graduation.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” she says. “I’ve got my track and my graduation.”  


Krystal Kliger, environmental research
by Douglas Bullard, CLAS ’06

Rivers can tell us a lot about the world around us. That’s why Krystal Kliger, CLAS ’06, a geography major, has decided to study them.

Krystal Kliger

She spent last summer doing just that, working on her senior research project.

Using techniques such as slope measurement to study the Eight Mile River in Salem, her work may help calculate future habitat conditions, predicting how the river and the environment around it will affect each other.

Armed with measurements of the physical properties of streams and rivers, researchers can create models that accurately project the impact of pollution and provide important clues for environmental restoration.

The research is timely, as residents of East Haddam, Lyme, and Salem are trying to secure a National Wild and Scenic River status for the entire watershed of the Eight Mile River, to protect it from future development.

Kliger’s enthusiasm helped earn her a $500 undergraduate scholarship from the National Geography Honor Society last fall. She spent her final semesters studying other rivers, including the Fenton, Farmington, and Salmon.

Kliger, who works under the supervision of Professor Melinda Daniels, recently showcased her findings at the American Association of Geographers conference in Chicago, meeting and speaking with some of the most prominent figures in the field, an opportunity she describes as “amazing.”

She will soon return to the Eight Mile River for the final measurements needed to complete her study.

“It’s really validating to use things you’ve learned in the classroom and apply them to real-life situations,” she says. “It made me want to go to graduate school.”


Jessica Kukielka, agricultural and resource economics
by Kayla Miller, CLAS ’06

Preserving open space and farmland has been Jessica Kukielka’s passion since she was in middle school.

In 2005, she received a prestigious national award for her work on farmland conservation and environmental literacy, as one of 80 recipients nationwide of a Morris K. Udall Scholarship. Udall, a U.S. Representative for 30 years, was responsible for many pieces of environmental legislation.

As a youngster working at a boarding stable in Cheshire, she watched while open fields used for grazing horses were subdivided for housing. That sparked her interested in environmental issues, she says.

Kukielka, CANR ’06, from Plainville, says she chose UConn because it provides “excellent opportunities” and is close to home. A student in the Honors Program, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and resource economics.

Kukielka has been involved in a variety of activities at the University. At UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy, she worked on projects involving the sustainable land use, fleet fuel efficiency, and water conservation on campus.

She has been a co-coordinator of EcoHusky, a student environmental organization that plans projects and events in coordination with the Office of Environmental Policy and other groups.

She also has been president and treasurer of the UConn chapter of Future Farmers of America, and is a member of the Connecticut Horse Show Association.

Kukielka has also assisted in fund-raising efforts at the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association and is an active member of the Young Farmers Committee. She attended public hearings of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, and has monitored legislative proposals on agricultural, environmental, and land use issues.

Kukielka plans to return in the fall to start work on a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics.


Brian Shaughnessy, pediatric dentistry
by Jane Shaskan Brian Shaughnessy practiced as a licensed physical therapist for more than 10 years before coming to UConn’s dental school.

Brian Shaughnessy

“I thoroughly enjoyed my career as a therapist and soon learned that the patients I worked with were my best educators,” he says.

While working in the area of home health, Shaughnessy met a retired dentist and former dental school dean who helped convince him to take up a career in dentistry.

“Ironically, my experience as a physical therapist was essential to my eventual career choice of dentistry,” he says.

“The idea of prevention is a natural segue from my former practice as a physical therapist.”

Shaughnessy says his family have been very supportive while he’s been at dental school. His wife and three daughters offered motivation and support, he says, and his father and sister would drive hours from Massachusetts to help him fulfill the clinical and licensure requirements.

“I performed my first root canal on my dad,” Shaughnessy says. “Naturally, I mentioned this to him after the fact.”

Shaughnessy was awarded the Health Center’s Auxiliary Scholarship three years running. He served on the class and honor boards and the Committee for Helping Impaired Professional Students, and volunteered in off-campus clinics and shelters, including the Connecticut State Special Olympics/Special Smiles and Give Kids a Smile outreach programs.

During his third year of dental school, he traveled to Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, as part of a dental outreach mission to treat underserved children.

“My experience abroad strengthened my resolve to help people who haven’t had the privileges my family and I have enjoyed,” says Shaughnessy. A native of Boston, he will attend Children’s Hospital/Harvard University for specialty training in pediatric dentistry.

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