2023 Annual FYE Award Recipients

Annual FYE Award Winners

FYE Teaching Innovation Award 2023

FYE Teaching Innovation Award 2023

Alexis Monteiro

The First Year Experience Teaching Innovation Award honors instructors who have implemented outstanding innovative teaching approaches shown to increase student learning and success. In his first-generation section of FYE, Alexis centered his teaching philosophy on developing self-aware global citizens. Through this lens, his first gen students were engaged in transformative activities and assignments, including interviews with first gen alum, and the creation of a communal poem entitled “I am First.”  

Through this innovative lens and instructional strategy, Alexis encourages the celebration of identity, creates grounding and a sense of belonging for his students.  


John T. Szarlan FYE Mentor Award 2023

John T. Szarlan FYE Mentor Award 2023

Jeilee Crespo

Last Fall, Jeilee was the mentor for a section of FYE dedicated to students who are part of the Center for Access and Postsecondary Success (CAPS). The CAPS FYE class sessions she organized were dynamic and engaging, encouraging her students to dig deeper in their learning and development. For instance, she independently developed and facilitated an entire class session in which students explored the relationship between personal well-being and academic development. 

Jeilee’s maturity and professionalism, combined with her ability to be vulnerable and connect with students, have made her an especially impactful mentor. As her FYE instructor noted, “One aspect of Jeilee's mentorship that truly stands out is her ability to create a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Her genuine care and concern for her mentees are evident in every interaction, as she consistently goes the extra mile to offer guidance, encouragement, and resources, tailored to their individual needs.” Jeilee is currently a TA in the FYE Peer Mentoring Program and is a leader among leaders.  

Madison Stevenson

Madison is a compassionate and thoughtful mentor. She leads from a place of genuine care and dedication to authentic connection with students and instructors alike. In the FYE classroom, Madison helps students dig deeper in self-reflection and independently designed and facilitated a high impact lesson about imposter syndrome which spoke to both students and professional staff alike. The lesson was relatable, provided examples of the manifestations of this pervasive syndrome, and concluded with students anonymously submitting their firsthand experiences navigating these challenges.  

 Madison collaborated with their FYE instructor to create a liquid syllabus that would be accessible and engaging for students and went above and beyond to ensure that each student’s needs were met, assessing, and responding appropriately. She reached out to students individually to encourage them before a big test, and even recorded instructional videos explaining their assignments. As Madison’s FYE instructor remarked, “They are a true example of a positive role model with consistent leadership and an impressive ability to relate to all students.” Madison is currently a TA for the FYE Peer Mentoring Program, and we are thrilled to see how they will lead the next generation of FYE Mentors.  

FYE Impact Award 2023

FYE Impact Award 2023

Dr. Sarah Scheidel 

As the previous director of FYE, Sarah was never eligible for an FYE Teaching award, though she has been deserving of all of them. Sarah’s impact on the FYE program has been tremendous. She embodies FYE and, during her tenure, was the face of the initiatives to create caring connections and to provide compassionate individualized support for each student. Sarah will always be known for her hands-on, innovative, and inclusive approach in and outside of the classroom. She has created a vibrant community of practice among FYE instructors, inspiring dedication and creativity within the community.  

Sarah has developed numerous cohorts of student leaders, contributed many lesson plans and activities to the FYE repertoire, and has left an indelible mark on the program. Most importantly, she has impacted countless students on their college journeys, serving as a role model academically, professionally, and personally. So, in this, her first year of award eligibility, we are thrilled to present the inaugural FYE impact Award. 

FYE Teaching Excellence 2023

FYE Teaching Excellence 2023

Zen Buraczeski 

Since 2011, Zen has taught an FYE course for students in the notoriously challenging Physiology and Neurobiology major. Through her holistic approach to student development, Zen has supported students’ transition to increased academic rigor and helped them navigate the mental and emotional pressures of being a pre-med student. Beyond this, she has fostered a community of students and mentors who stay connected and mutually support one another—which is not typical in many competitive majors.  

When Zen announced that it would be her last year teaching the course, a group of students rallied and approached FYP leadership to ensure that the course, in some way, could continue as they felt Zen’s contributions were essential to their success and that of other students. Through her commitment to instructional excellence and dedication to her students, Zen has changed the culture for students in the PNB major through FYE, a culture that will continue to foster their success for years to come.

Inclusive Excellence in FYE Award 2023

Inclusive Excellence in FYE Award 2023

Jia Cai

The Inclusive Excellence in FYE award recognizes efforts to integrate diversity and inclusion concepts into FYE courses and distinctive accomplishments that lead to systemic and transformational change. Jia is the course designer and instructor for UConn School of Business’ International FYE classes. Through these courses, she not only supports the transitional needs of international students but leads them in the exploration of intersectional identities, drawing connections between home cultures and UConn, resulting in making campus feel more like home. In addition to engaging her students in lessons around topics of DEIJ, Jia practices inclusive pedagogy from all developmental aspects, ensuring that each student is seen, heard, and valued.

FYE Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award 2023

FYE Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award 2023

Yawen Gao

Last fall, Yawen (Kristie) taught 3 sections of FYE. She came through the FYE program as an undergraduate international student, then became a FYE peer mentor, and has grown to be a force both inside and outside the classroom for students.  

Yawen has taken on new challenges in her role as International Specialist for FYE, developing curricula and providing direct support for FYE international instructors. Yawen’s pedagogy encourages curiosity and self-awareness for international and domestic students alike. Her work is informed by a blend of research and practical experience which she eagerly shares with the FYE instructor community. Yawen goes above and beyond to perform individual outreach and follow up for students, including with other instructor’s classes. When instructors are struggling to reach a student, Yawen brings her unique skillset. She is open when listening to the individual experiences of international students and consistently shows a belief in each student's inevitable success. Yawen’s contributions to the FYE program and UConn students are truly outstanding. We could not be more proud to name her as the recipient of the 2023 FYE Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award.  

One UConn FYE Teaching Award – Avery Point Campus 2023

One UConn FYE Teaching Award - Avery Point Campus 2023

Susan McGuire 

The Avery Point Campus and FYE Leadership awards Susan McGuire for the FYE One UConn Award. She has taught both FYE/UNIV 1800 and 1820 courses since 2019. Her FYE/UNIV 1820, Creative Arts and the Sea, has been very well received by students. Susan’s exemplary dedication to teaching, innovative pedagogical approaches and teaching philosophy underscore her deep understanding of the evolving educational landscape.  

Susan’s emphasis on fostering creativity among her students-- evident through activities like creative drama, movement exercises, and hands-on projects--showcases her commitment to providing diverse learning experiences. Additionally, her dedication to cultivating a supportive and respectful classroom environment, where students feel empowered to explore and express themselves, further highlights her teaching excellence. Susan’s passion for teaching and her ability to connect with students have undeniably left a positive impact at Avery Point. Susan McGuire embodies the qualities of an outstanding educator and is undoubtedly deserving of this honor. 

One UConn FYE Teaching Award – Hartford Campus 2023

One UConn FYE Teaching Award - Hartford Campus 2023

Dr. Jeff Hines 

The UConn Hartford campus and FYE leadership awards Dr. Jeff Hines the FYE One Uconn award. Dr. Hines consistently uses skills and techniques that motivate, inspire, and guide students to maximize their potential for success both inside and outside the classroom. He is an active listener with excellent interpersonal skills that allow his students to feel seen and heard.  

One student shared that Dr. Hines empowered him in a way that he could maximize his academic potential while building confidence socially and emotionally along his journey. Dr. Hines has demonstrated strength in leadership and collaboration, during his time in FYE and has been a student-centered visionary for the program at Hartford.  

One UConn FYE Teaching Award – Stamford Campus 2023

One UConn FYE Teaching Award - Stamford Campus 2023

Raquel Lopez

The Stamford Campus along with FYE leadership awards Raquel Lopez with the One UConn award. Raquel co-taught a Learning Community FYE/UNIV 1810 course in the Fall for the new La Comunidad Intelectual in Stamford. In the spring, she taught an FYE focused primarily on time management, multi-tasking, stress relief, and setting up for success during the transition to college.  

Raquel’s enthusiasm for student support is contagious. She is always looking for activities to experiment with her students while requesting students feedback during this process.  What is most impressive about Raquel’s involvement in FYE is that she often remarks on what she learns from students themselves. Raquel is eager to innovate as an instructor, maintaining a fresh perspective for the student body. UConn Stamford applauds the work of Raquel Lopez for her commitment to FYE, supporting students to persist in the face of adversity and challenge, resulting in their inevitable success during their college journey. 

One UConn FYE Teaching Award – Waterbury Campus 2023

One UConn FYE Teaching Award - Waterbury Campus 2023

Tony Omega
Tony is Waterbury’s local The Major Experience (TME) expert and advising magician! He transforms student lives with his interactive approach to major identification and exploration. When Waterbury FYE/UNIV 1800 Instructors determined it would be helpful to provide more opportunities for major exploration in the fall classes, Tony worked closely with the FYE course coordinator to consider what a "Part II" could look like. Tony’s thoughtfulness around values alignment made the TME expansion of the class particularly meaningful for students.  
In addition to his consistent contributions to the fall FYE sections, Tony has spent the spring semester working with Karima Jackson, Assistant Director of Academic Support for the Waterbury Academic Achievement Center, to support students on academic probation. Karima says, "One of Tony's standout qualities is his genuine concern for his students' success. He goes above and beyond to provide additional support, create meaningful connections, and inspire a love for learning with students, especially those on academic probation. His enthusiasm and approachability foster a classroom atmosphere that encourages students to actively participate and excel in their studies."  
It is for these reasons the Waterbury campus community and FYE leadership have selected Tony for this year's One UConn award.