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University of Hartford Will Honor Exceptional Faculty at Commencement


Posted 04/23/2014
Posted by Meagan Fazio

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The University of Hartford will honor six faculty members for their exceptional teaching during the undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 18. All of them are being recognized in part for their commitment to their students.

Glen Adsit: Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching

Director of Bands Glen Adsit


Being told that you are one of the most important teachers and role models a student has ever had is one of the most powerful compliments a professor can receive. For Adsit, director of bands for the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School, this is not an isolated sentiment. It is shared by many past and present students who have had the privilege of playing in his ensembles, participating in his conducting workshops, and taking his classes.

“Consummate artist,” “nurturing teacher,” and “creative academic entrepreneur” are among the many phrases Adsit’s colleagues and students have used to describe his passion and dedication in working with students.

Adsit conducts the Wind Ensemble, the Symphony Band, and the Foot in the Door ensemble, as well as guiding all aspects of the graduate wind conducting degrees. He directed Hartt’s summer programs for five years and served as associate director of instrumental studies for six years.

Hisham Alnajjar: Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Award for Sustained Service to the University

Associate Dean Hisham Alnajjar


Alnajjar is associate dean of the University of Hartford’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), as well as a professor of electrical, computer, and biomedical engineering. He has worked in steadily advancing administrative roles in CETA for the past 16 years. He has also served on numerous committees, commissions, task forces, and community outreach programs at the University almost from the day he arrived on campus in 1995.

It is apparent that all of Alnajjar’s service to CETA and the University has been about one thing: serving the students who attend this institution. That is why he is being honored.

“His service is clearly among the most effective and valuable that I have encountered,” said Louis Manzione, dean of CETA, in his nomination letter. “The core of his service is service to students. He understands that students have placed a tremendous confidence in us by entrusting their educations and careers to our institution among the many others they could have selected. He takes this trust personally and he delivers on it,” Manzione said.

Monica J. Hardesty: Roy E. Larsen Award For Excellence in Teaching

Professor Monica J. Hardesty


Hardesty, professor of sociology and criminal justice in the University of Hartford's College of Arts and Sciences, excels in teaching. Her contagious passion and excitement for the material engage students. She expects a lot from students and helps them reach their potential by encouraging them and by making it clear they are partners in the ownership of their own learning. Hardesty prepares students for life after Hartford by teaching them how to think sociologically and how to engage in research. Throughout all, she helps them gain confidence in their own intellectual abilities.

A mentor, role model, and advisor, Hardesty involves students in her research. She has served as a master professor in the University Scholar program and a thesis advisor in the University Honors program. Involved in many grants focused on improving teaching and learning over the last 25 years, Hardesty has been engaged in nearly every teaching innovation at the University.

Nels P. Highberg: Donald W. Davis All-University Curriculum Award

Associate Professor Nels P. Highberg


Highberg, associate professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, has a commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship that began very early in his academic career. In his 12 years at the University, Highberg has expanded that commitment in everything he has done for the All-University Curriculum (AUC), an innovative program that allows students to explore the depth and breadth of a liberal arts education through integrative, cross-disciplinary courses.

Highberg has taught AUC courses in multiple disciplines, from rhetoric to film to medical humanities to technology in society. His wide-ranging interests led to his writing a blog, “ProfHacker,” for the Chronicle of Higher Education from 2009 to 2011, and writing film, art, and performance reviews for a number of publications.

“His teaching also extends beyond his own courses: for example, he has regularly and generously shared his expertise as guest lecturer in others’ AUC courses over many years, including Discovering America, Gender and Identity, and Epidemics and AIDS,” says Marcia Seabury, professor and chair of the English department in the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College.

Ivana Milanovic: James E. and Frances W. Bent Award for Scholarly and/or Artistic Creativity

Professor Ivana Milanovic


It’s not often that a letter of recommendation for a faculty award comes from a NASA colleague and scientist, but that is the case for Milanovic, professor of mechanical engineering in CETA. Khairul Zaman of the NASA John H. Glen Research Center said, “Also noteworthy and important is the fact that Dr. Milanovic’s students at the University of Hartford benefited from these research efforts. She had at least six undergraduate students over the years who conducted computation research to asses the impact of turbulence models in the numerical simulations.”

Milanovic joined the University in 2001 and almost immediately began doing research at the NASA Research Center in Ohio. Among her accomplishments, four stand out: using a novel numerical computational method to calibrate instruments to take measurements, characterization of supersonic leading-edge vortices, work on synthetic jets, and advanced understanding of unsteady wake vortices.

Over the years, Milanovic has sponsored and mentored more than 60 undergraduate and graduate projects. As an educator, her areas of expertise are STEM education research, collaborative learning strategies, and program assessment and accreditation.

Jessica Nicklin: Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize

Assistant Professor Jessica Nicklin


Since arriving at the University of Hartford in 2009, Nicklin, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, has proven herself to be an innovative and enthusiastic teacher, a respected and prolific scholar, and a valuable contributor and leader within the University community.

“I honestly believe that Jessica’s true excellence is in her ability to do so many things so consistently well,” says Professor Jack Powell, co-chair of the Department of Psychology. “It is a balance that few are able to achieve, and certainly not at the level of excellence that Jessica has maintained.”

Nicklin is director of the undergraduate program in psychology, and she teaches a wide range of courses, from first-year seminars for freshmen to graduate courses in the Master of Science in Organizational Psychology program. She teaches traditional classroom-based courses as well as distance learning courses; she advises first-semester freshmen through the dialogue program; and she advises students who are working on their honors and master’s theses and doctoral dissertations.

The Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize recognizes an outstanding junior faculty member in a tenure-track position who has not yet been tenured. It is made possible by a generous gift from Belle K. Ribicoff, a life regent of the University.
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