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Award Winners

Student Awards

John G. Martin Scholarship

Catherine Brennan

Catherine Brennan
College of Arts and Sciences

Catherine Brennan, from the University's College of Arts and Sciences, will take her passion for mathematics to Oxford University in the fall as this year’s recipient of the John G. Martin Scholarship. She has a 3.95 grade point average and majored in mathematics with a minor in actuarial science. She was also a private and group tutor for the University’s Student Success Center and in the math and physics tutoring lab.

Planning to stay in school indefinitely, as a student and then a professor, Brennan’s scholarly instincts are undeniable. She continues to seek the answer to the one overarching question introduced by her Calculus II professor, and still at the forefront of her consciousness despite years of education and research: “What can math be used for?”

“I will spend the rest of my life searching for the limit of mathematics—if there is one at all,” Brennan said. “I wouldn't have it any other way.”

John G. Lee Medal

Kyle Hebert

Kyle Hebert
College of Arts and Sciences

Kyle Hebert, this year’s recipient of the John G. Lee award is double majoring in economics and mathematics, with a minor in actuarial science. With an almost perfect 3.98 GPA, he was selected last spring as a recipient of the Junior Regents’ Honor Award in the College of Arts and Sciences, given to the student with the highest GPA in his or her respective college.

“In my 30 years as faculty at two universities, I have rarely, if ever, come across a student as bright as Kyle,” said Farhad Rassekh, professor of economics and associate dean of the Barney School of Business.

Hebert has gained valuable work experience in internships at two industry leading insurance companies, Cigna and MassMutual Financial Group, and has already successfully passed two actuarial exams.

He wants to further his knowledge of statistics and plans to pursue a master’s degree in applied statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall. After graduate school, he intends to use his knowledge, skills, and expertise in the area of public policy.

Outside the classroom, Hebert is an active member of the University of Hartford community. He is a member of the Honors Program and vice president of the Alpha Chi Honor Society. He co-founded the University’s Actuarial Club and currently serves as its president. Hebert is also a mathematics tutor and serves as a mentor for students pursuing economics degrees as well.

Belle K. Ribicoff Prize

Nicole Kalmus

Nicole Kalmus
College of Arts and Sciences

Nicole Kalmus of the University of Hartford's College of Arts and Sciences will receive the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize. A double major in international studies and modern language (French), Kalmus was one of nine University Honors students who presented at the highly selective National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Lexington, Ky., in April. Her presentation explored how foreign aid was distributed in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Kalmus advocates putting aid data in one central location so governments and organizations can make sure it gets to those who need it.

“Niki’s enthusiasm is infectious,” said Dr. Jane Horvath, director of the economics and political economy programs for the College of Arts and Sciences. “So is her determination to make a difference in the world. I am convinced that Niki will find a way to make development her life’s work.”

From the dance and Ultimate Frisbee teams to the Red Caps, Gospel Choir, and several other groups, it’s hard to find an organization Kalmus has not involved herself with. Her ability to balance these extracurricular activities with the rigor of the University Honors program makes her an ideal recipient of this impressive award.

Faculty Awards

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. Three University of Hartford alumni—a top executive at Cigna, a prolific composer for television and film, and the director of NBC’s Meet the Press—will be honored during the University’s undergraduate Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 18.

Mark Boxer ‘83, who is global chief information officer for Cigna, will receive the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award during the main, University-wide Commencement ceremony on the University Green. The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually to a University graduate who has made an exceptional impact on his/her profession, community, and the University.

The 2014 Hartt Alumni Award will be conferred on composer Ed Alton ‘81 during The Hartt School’s diploma presentation ceremony in Lincoln Theater, immediately following the main Commencement ceremony.

In addition, Meet the Press director Rob Melick ’96, ‘98 will be recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of Hillyer College during Hillyer’s diploma presentation ceremony in Millard Auditorium, immediately following the main Commencement ceremony.

Alumni Awards

Mark Boxer ‘83 — University Distinguished Alumni Award

Mark Boxer '83


Mark Lewis Boxer ’83 is global chief information officer at Cigna, where he is responsible for driving the company’s worldwide technology strategy and ensuring that the company’s infrastructure and applications are innovative, flexible, and aligned with both the business strategy and the needs of customers, partners, and employees.

Prior to joining Cigna, Boxer was group president for government healthcare at Xerox Corporation. He also served as deputy global chief information officer for Xerox, where he oversaw the development of all software products and information services. Prior to Xerox, he served in various leadership roles at WellPoint, Healthsource, and Hewlett Packard.

Boxer earned both a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in physics from the University of Hartford in 1983. He earned his Master of Business Administration in finance from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Science in information systems from Drexel University. He holds a doctorate in global public health from the Arizona School of Health Sciences.

A trustee of the Bushnell Performing Arts Center, Boxer also serves on the boards of the University of Connecticut Foundation and the Connecticut Children’s Law Center. He oversees Cigna’s venture innovation fund, serves as an outside director for Grange Mutual Insurance, and is a member of the advisory boards of Health Enterprise Partners and Parthenon Capital. Boxer has been recognized as one of Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Leaders and by Insurance & Technology Magazine as an Elite Eight technologist. He is a business advocate and champion of advancing the employment of the disabled, having received both the Tony Coelho Award, named after the coauthor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Justice for All Award, given by the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Ed Alton ‘81 — Hartt Alumni Award

Ed Alton '81


Ed Alton, BMus ’81, has had an impressive and prolific career in the Los Angeles TV, film, and recording industries for nearly 30 years. To date, he has composed scores for more than 530 episodes of 31 different prime time network TV series and performed as bassist on over 70 feature film soundtracks. He has received numerous honors, including five ASCAP Top TV Composer Awards, an Emmy nomination, and several Gold and Platinum record awards.

Some of Alton’s more prominent TV compositions include the scores for the 1980s hit series Head of the Class, the top-10 rated series Suddenly Susan, and The Single Guy, both of which ran during the peak of NBC’s successful Thursday night “Must See TV” reign. Recent well-known series have included My Boys on TBS and Whitney on NBC. His music is augmented by his multi-instrumental skills, since he personally plays many of the instruments used on his own soundtracks.

In 1998, Alton’s song performed by Bernadette Peters on the CBS series The Closer was recognized with an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music & Lyrics. In 1997, Daily Variety recognized Alton as one of TV’s top theme composers when it listed him as #5 among Nielsen’s "Top '90s TV Themesters." His Single Guy theme was included on the popular Greatest TV Themes of the ‘90s CD.

Alton’s work in the recording industry includes arranging and conducting on the Britney Spears multi-Platinum CD In the Zone, and performances on the Gold Record-winning albums Flying Cowboys by Rikki Lee Jones as well as the soundtrack to the film The Breakfast Club. Alton also has written scores for three musicals for the stage. As a studio musician, Alton performed bass on the soundtracks of such popular films as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Ghost Busters 2, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, City Slickers, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. He has also performed and toured internationally with The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Rob Melick '96, '98 — Hillyer College Distinguished Alumnus Award

Rob Melick '96, '98


Rob Melick ’96, ‘98 is the director of NBC’s award-winning Sunday morning news show, Meet The Press.

Melick earned an associate’s degree from Hillyer College and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication from the College of Arts and Sciences. While at the University of Hartford, Melick was highly motivated to get as much television experience as possible. He immersed himself in the Student Television Network, STN-2, and he had internships at Hartford’s NBC affiliate and at the Fox Network in New York City.

Melick’s career took off from there, as he directed news broadcasts in Rochester, N.Y., Hartford, and Philadelphia, earning a reputation for his talent, dedication, and tireless work ethic. His stellar reputation and his network of mentors helped earn Melick a spot as director of the weekly political television show Fox News Sunday, based in Washington, D.C. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Melick produced shows on the road in 26 different states, and he has directed everything from Oval Office interviews to broadcasts from Afghanistan.

Melick’s meteoric rise and his outstanding work brought him to the attention of NBC, and in 2010 he became the director of Meet The Press, the longest-running show on network television and a venerable institution in the worlds of public affairs, politics, and foreign policy.
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