Alumni

Aimee Roberge, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, July 2022

Aimee Roberge, Alumni Spotlight, July 2022Aimee Roberge grew up in Connecticut, attended UConn from 2010-2014 and graduated with a double major in Human Development and Family Studies and Human Rights. During her time at UConn, she volunteered and participated in many clubs and activities including Habitat for Humanity, Love 146, Alzheimer’s Association and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. She also studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. One of her favorite HDFS memories is assisting a professor with coding therapy session recordings using the Rapid Marital Interaction Coding Manual for clinical observation data.

Upon graduation, Aimee participated in a summer program called LeaderworX, where she helped to facilitate community service projects for middle and high school students and planned group discussions and activities to educate youth about community service and social justice. After taking some time to reflect on her time at UConn and spending time with some little kiddos at her neighbor’s day care, Aimee made a big move to the Big Apple for a volunteer program with Covenant House, a shelter for youth experiencing homelessness, where she worked with mothers and children. She worked at Covenant House for another year before returning to school at Baruch College to receive her Master of Public Administration degree. Her capstone project focused on an analysis of policies, practices, and nonprofit programs that impact children and their incarcerated mothers in New York State prison and city jail facilities. Aimee spent time in Washington D.C. during one of her semesters taking classes and interning, so decided to move there upon graduation.

In D.C, Aimee worked with the National Community Action Partnership for three years as a Program Associate with the Learning Communities Resource Center team and then as a Senior Associate for Learning and Dissemination. She helped to write multiple grant applications and manage virtual and in-person learning cohorts to provide training and technical assistance to a network of over 1000 Community Action Agencies in areas such as comprehensive services for children and families, equity, trauma-informed care, financial empowerment, and homelessness intervention.

Aimee recently transitioned to a new position with the Council for Exceptional Children as a Professional Development and Resources Coordinator. She enjoys living in Virginia and in her free time likes to spend time by the water, go on hikes, or curl up with a good movie or book. While life can get busy and there are so many opportunities and options available, Aimee tries to embody one of her new mantras: “people over plans:” don’t live life only by your to-do list or you will miss a lot right in front of you. Make time for a few things that are really important, then let life’s beauty and adventure unfold!

Diondra Brown, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, June 2022

Diondra BrownDiondra Brown graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology in 2015. She desired to merge her academic areas of interest and pursued a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania. While there, she studied evidenced-based therapy for children and families, in addition to conducting child-welfare policy research. During her time in graduate school, Diondra expanded her knowledge about family dynamics, trauma-informed treatment, and child development. Her field placements provided her with a wealth of experiences as she had opportunities to work in an early childhood learning academy, infant and child laboratory, residential treatment program, and outpatient mental health center.

Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017, Diondra worked as a child and family psychotherapist for several years with the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Her clinical work focused on play therapy, trauma therapy, and family therapy. Her clients’ diagnoses ranged from anxiety to attachment disorder. In addition to her clinical work, she pioneered the creation of a therapeutic preschool for 3- to 5-year-old children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or early childhood trauma and co-facilitated a maternal stress group for mothers and their infants. Given her passion for learning, Diondra mentored several graduate students during her time as a therapist and served as an adjunct professor at Thomas Jefferson University in 2020.

During the same year, she began to transfer her knowledge and skills into the world of children’s media, by serving as a consultant for global children’s media companies. She also took on a part-time role with Common Sense Media, as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion reviewer for children’s picture books and television shows. She is currently the Child Development & Education Manager at Twin Cities PBS. She leads content creation and curriculum development for the station’s newest Ready to Learn grant project, which aims to enhance executive functioning skills and career readiness for children in kindergarten through second grade. In her spare time, she volunteers as an officer for the Children’s Media Association. Diondra believes that her academic pursuits at UConn provided her with the foundation she needed for future success, and the ability to pursue various career pathways.

FS Undergrad Council hosts Social Sciences Career Night

On March 28th, the Family Sciences Undergraduate Council hosted a Social Sciences Career Night event.  Ten career experts offered their time to 70 UConn students.  The career experts included representatives from the fields of Marriage and Family (Emberleigh Luce, Jill Donohoue, Jennifer Anderson), advising (Kristin Van Ness ‘09 BA, ‘14 MA), entrepreneurship in real estate (Cheryl Hilton, ’91 HDFS), Early Childhood Education (Nancy Walsh), Career Development/Higher Education (Lisa Famularo), School Counseling (Wheeler Deangelis, ‘15), Social Work (Ashley Dyer ‘19), and the Juvenile Justine Judicial Branch (Catherine Foley, ’92 HDFS).

Many of the career experts that participated were UConn HDFS alumni—professionally, products the career experts have become widely recognized and accredited by the state of Connecticut, published novels, and have taught their own classes.  Thanks to Ryan Watson, the faculty advisor, who helped the FSUC members organize the event!

Kate Kellet, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, May 2022

Ph.D ’13 HDFS

Kate KelletDr. Kate Kellett graduated summa cum laude from Saint Joseph University with a bachelors in Psychology and received her masters in Human Development/Gerontology in 2003, also from Saint Joseph. The following year, her educational journey continued at UConn where she began doctoral studies in HDFS/Gerontology. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Kellett held numerous graduate assistantships, received a Summer Research Specialist Award, a Graduate School Summer Fellowship Award, and a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. She also received a Graduate Certificate in College Instruction at UConn under Dr. Keith Barker. Dr. Barker’s dedication to graduate students and to the improvement of the teaching faculty sparked Dr. Kellett’s interest in course development and classroom instruction at the college level and beyond. For several years, she taught at UConn Hartford and UConn Waterbury. Currently, she teaches Clinical Research Design and Qualitative Research Methods to Geriatric Medicine Fellows in the Academic Leadership program at the UConn School of Medicine where she helps train students for leadership careers in geriatric medicine.

In addition to teaching during her doctoral studies, Dr. Kellett worked as a Clinical Research Associate at the Braceland Center for Mental Health and Aging, Institute of Living/Hartford Hospital. While there, she collaborated with several psychiatrists, psychologists, and research scientists to conduct mental health research. One of her first study projects involved assisting the Newington, CT police department with a probe into possible explanations for numerous cases of self-immolation that had occurred within a short period. This research led to other studies involving people with mental and behavioral health disorders. Dr. Kellett has worked at UConn Health Center on Aging since 2005. She collaborates with researchers at UConn and other institutions who are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people with disabilities, and older adults and their families. She manages various research project teams and contributes to all aspects of the research process in furthering disability and aging policy, clinical geriatric research and education projects.

During the past 18 years, Dr. Kellett has belonged to various workgroups committed to pooling the efforts of CT state agencies and non-profit partners to bring help and hope to people with significant needs. Workgroups include: The CT Workgroup on Challenging Behaviors; The CT Older Adult Behavioral Health Workgroup, and most recently the CT Housing Engagement and Support Services (CHESS) Workgroup, an effort to bring coordinated healthcare and housing services to people with mental health, substance use and other health conditions.

Over the years, Dr. Kellett has authored many legislative, public policy, and health policy reports with colleagues. Some of these include:

Connecticut’s No Wrong Door Business Case Development: Veterans Community Based Services Pilot and Program (2019-2021)
Navigating Dementia: LiveWell’s Dementia Capability Project to Build the Abilities of People Living with Dementia, their Care Partners and Communities (2019-2022)
CT State Unit on Aging: National Family Caregiver and Connecticut Statewide Respite Care Program—Assessment Report (2017)
Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration Evaluation (2013-2018)
Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitative Services Needs Assessment (2010, 2013, 2022)
Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services and Mental Health Pilot (2011)
Medicaid Infrastructure Grant Evaluation (2006-2011)
In 2003, Dr. Kellett began serving on the Board of the South/South West Elderly Housing Corporation, in Hartford, CT and since 2007 has been President. The Board oversees a 36-unit complex that provides low-income housing to older adults and people with disabilities.

Dr. Kellett is a longtime resident of Farmington, CT where she and her husband raised three children. She continues to enjoy her family, including two grandsons, and can often be found in the garden or enjoying a walk on area trails.

Elizabeth (Beth) Wilke, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, April 2022

BA ’15 HDFS

Beth WilkeElizabeth (Beth) Wilke graduated from UConn in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, concentrating in Early Childhood Development and Education. She received the State of Connecticut Office of Early Childhood’s Early Childhood Teacher Credential (ECTC) after completing Fieldwork & Supervised Teaching Practicums in UConn Child Labs’ Preschool 2 and Infant Blue Room.

Upon graduation from UConn, Beth attended Bay Path University in Massachusetts for two years and received a master’s degree in occupational therapy. She briefly strayed from her early childhood roots during her fieldwork experiences as an occupational therapy student, completing one fieldwork experience with the geriatric population and another with school-age children. Although she was not working with young children during this time, her undergraduate training as an early childhood educator was critical to her success as an occupational therapy student. During this time, she discovered that the concepts of developmentally appropriate practice and reflective practice were invaluable even outside the field of early childhood.

Beth returned to the early childhood field shortly after receiving her master’s degree; she accepted her first position as an occupational therapist at an autism-specialty program for the Connecticut Birth to Three System. Although the demands of a therapist’s first job typically elicit much anxiety, Beth found that she adjusted to the field of early intervention relatively seamlessly. She credits much of her initial success in the field to her training and experiences at the UConn Child Labs. The experience of creating developmentally appropriate curricula for children of varying ages, as well as building and maintaining rapport with children and families, created solid foundations for her future work in early intervention.

After almost two years at an autism-specialty Birth to Three program, Beth accepted a new position at a general program that serves children and families of children with a variety of needs. She frequently works with infants and toddlers who were born prematurely, are experiencing delays in their feeding and/or motor development, as well as those on the autism spectrum. Her professional interests include early signs of autism, particularly the potential association between early motor delays and later diagnoses of autism. To further her development in the early childhood/early intervention field, she is currently training to administer autism assessments such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), and TELE-ASD-PEDS, a tool to support the identification of autism via remote assessment. She is also enrolled in an interdisciplinary training course for early interventionists at UConn’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service to enhance her skills building capacity in parents and caregivers of young children.

Beth recently purchased her own condo in Farmington, Connecticut, where she lives with her cat and dog.  Outside of work and school, she spends time with friends and family members that live locally.  Her hobbies include cycling, swimming, and yoga.  She recently started trying to grow houseplants and is a big fan of Taylor Swift!

Dr. Rona J. Karasik, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, March 2022

BA ’96 Psychology, MS ’89 HDFS

Rona J. KarasikRona J. Karasik, Ph.D., FAGHE, FGSA is a Professor and Director of the Gerontology Program at St. Cloud State University. Rona, daughter of UConn alumni Gail Zieky Karasik (BS ’58 Pharmacy) and Sheldon Karasik (BS ’57 Pharmacy), graduated from UConn with a BA in Psychology (1986) and an MS in Family Studies with an emphasis in Gerontology (1989). Using the skills she learned from her Family Studies mentors (Dr. Nancy Sheehan, Dr. Tom Blank, Dr. Steve Wisensale, and Dr. Lucille Nahemow), Rona went on to earn her doctorate in Individual and Family Studies from the University of Delaware in 1993. That same year, Rona joined the faculty at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud MN (where hockey, not basketball, reigns). She has taught Gerontology and conducted research there ever since.

 

Over the years, Rona’s research focus turned from family caregiving and senior housing to experiential learning and gerontological pedagogy. She is the author of numerous publications and presentations on gerontology internships, service-learning, classroom- and community-based activities, and incorporating anti-racist pedagogy into the gerontological curriculum. Teaching has become a passion for Rona – a fact that may surprise her Family Studies classmates who knew her to have a fear of public speaking.

 

Rona holds fellow status in both the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) and the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and is the recipient of local and national teaching awards, including AGHE’s “Distinguished Faculty” award. Currently, Rona is working with colleagues, including UConn HDFS Professor Dr. Laura Donorfio, on a textbook for gerontology interns. Most recently, Rona was appointed editor-in-chief of Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, the official journal of the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education. 

 

As for her greatest accomplishments, Rona points to the two daughters she and husband, UConn alum Laurin Hafner, Ph.D., have raised. Their eldest is currently a doctoral candidate at Cornell University and their youngest will be graduating this spring as a 3rd generation UConn Husky!

Alumni Elise Siegel featured in UConn Today for love story

Alumni Elise (Berman) Siegel, BA ’89, was featured in UConn Today in an article about eight couples who met at UConn more than 30 years ago, and are still married. You can learn more about Elise and the other couples, here: Read the article here.   Also note that Elise is Eva Lefkowitz’s cousin, and when Eva first told her about becoming the HDFS department head at UConn, Elise mentioned that she remembered taking HDFS 1070 in the 1980’s from a young new professor, Ron Sabatelli.