Annual Award Recipients

First Year Experience Teaching Innovation 2019

Thomas Long, PhD

Professor-in-Residence, School of Nursing; Faculty Director of the Nursing Learning Community

Dr. Long joined the Nursing Learning Community as its Faculty Director in Fall 2019. His FYE classes were guided by two principles: "Presence is more important than programming" and "Students need character development more than resume development."

He has for more than three decades enjoyed a career as a scholar, writer, editor, and writing coach in higher education, including universities and community colleges. He has published a book (AIDS and American Apocalypticism: The Cultural Semiotics of an Epidemic) and articles on topics in the medical humanities (literary and cultural representations of the body, sexuality, and disease), has served as editor-in-chief of an international literary journal (Harrington Gay Men's Literary Quarterly, published by Haworth/Taylor & Francis), and has been a consultant for individual, business, and government clients. His PhD is in English (with a specialization in early American studies from Indiana University of Pennsylvania); he has two MA degrees (one in English from the University of Illinois, the other in Theology from the Catholic University of America). He serves on the core faculty of UConn's Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, as well as being Professor-in-Residence for UConn's School of Nursing.

First Year Experience Excellence in Teaching 2019

Noemi Maldonado Picardi

Associate Director for Advising, UConn Avery Point

Noemi serves as Academic Counselor at the UConn Avery Point Campus where she coordinates efforts across campus units to achieve initiatives around advising cohesion, student success, and diversity and inclusion.  With 16 years of experience in higher education, she has previously served as the Program Advisor for the UConn Upward Bound/ConnCAP Program, Academic Counselor for the SSS Program at the University of Pennsylvania, Academic Counselor and Coordinator of Diversity Initiatives for the UConn Neag School of Education.  Her passion for first gen, students of color, and overall student success and retention has led her to serve on several committees to enhance the opportunities for the UConn Avery Point students.  In Fall 2019, she restructured the FYE Program at UConn Avery Point, growing the overall course offerings, purposefully changing the curriculum, and implementing the FYE Mentor Program to provide a transformative educational experience for UConn Avery Point students.

As a UConn SSS alum, she received her Bachelors of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies and then went on to the University of Pennsylvania to obtain her Masters in Social Work with a concentration on policy and administration.  She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at UConn conducting research to better understand key factors Black males identify as supporting their persistence at a small PWI.

FYE Mentors of the Year 2019


Christian Olenoski

Allied Health Sciences, with Psychological Sciences and Human Development & Family Studies dual minors; Expected Graduation May 2022

Christian is originally from Derby, CT. On campus, he is a leader of Active Minds, a mental health advocacy club, and a member of the Public Health House Learning Community. In the future, he plans on becoming an occupational therapist specializing in cognitive and mental health.

Being a mentor has been a life-changing experience, allowing him to step out of his comfort zone and recognize the qualities of empathy and vulnerability. He knew he wanted to continue the lessons he has learned through FYE, and luckily he is a 2020 Teaching Assistant for the program! As a mentor, he worked with Cody Olson, and this semester he is mentoring with the Dean of Students, Dr. Eleanor JB Daugherty. His main goal through this program is to help others adapt and feel comfortable at UConn, whether that be through academic, social, or personal circumstances. College may have its ups and its downs, but being someone to help guide others along the way is a truly powerful experience.


Sheryl John

Physiology & Neurobiology (PNB) and Psychological Sciences dual majors, with a Neuroscience minor; Expected Graduation May 2022

Sheryl plans to be a doctor. She was born in Vellore, India and is from Trumbull, CT. Sheryl mentored with Justin Kyle Tanner this past semester. Being a mentor allowed Sheryl to hone in on her leadership skills and to understand what it really means mentor others. She prides herself in making the classroom a place where everyone could freely communicate their ideas and be respected by their peers. She always made sure that her mentees knew she was there for them and would be in contact with them throughout the week. Sheryl’s main goal of being a mentor was to show her mentees what UCONN has to offer and that they aren’t alone during their transition period to college. Being a mentor has opened many doors for Sheryl and she is glad she was able to have this opportunity to meet new people who come from diverse backgrounds. Besides being a mentor, Sheryl is a small group leader in CHAARG, a female health and fitness organization, and is a member of the pre-health fraternity, Sigma Theta Alpha.


 Archive of past winners