Annelieses Lapides, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, March 2023

Anneliese LapidesAnneliese graduated from UConn in 2020 with a B.A. in HDFS and a B.S. in Biological Sciences. As a pre-med student who hoped to become a pediatrician, she added an HDFS major in order to foster an understanding of physical, social, and emotional child development. By pursuing HDFS, she was able to emphasize the multidisciplinary human side of medicine. Anneliese is currently in her third year of medical school at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (LCOM) and is completing her clinical rotations at the school’s Connecticut Campus in Norwalk and Danbury. She plans to apply for pediatrics residency in September, and will either focus on primary care, developmental/behavioral pediatrics, or pediatric oncology. She also is interested in medical education and mentoring.

Anneliese’s other passions include social justice and advocacy for racial equity, including working to dismantle systemic racism that has led to health inequities and understanding the social determinants of health. She developed this passion while taking Research Methods in HDFS. During her time in medical school, she served as her class representative on the Medical Education Antiracism Task Force. In December 2020, she co-founded a local non-profit in her hometown of East Lyme, CT: the Southeastern Connecticut Organization for Racial Equity (SCORE). She currently serves as the group’s Director of Community Engagement. The organization has worked to provide scholarships for graduating high school students of color, presented to the town Board of Selectmen to discuss racism as a public health crisis, and worked with the Board of Education on their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Anneliese is dedicated to using her platform as a future physician to ensure that everyone has equitable access to healthcare, and believes that pediatrics is a great place to enact social change to break harmful systemic cycles.

Andrea Lopez Salazar, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, February 2023

ANDREA LOPEZ SALAZAR Andrea Lopez Salazar is a researcher, educator, and leader with a history of working in the K-12, higher education, and nonprofit sectors. Andrea graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2014 with a B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She credits her experience at UConn as fundamental to instilling a love of and curiosity for the social sciences. During her time at UConn, Andrea was engaged in research, particularly on projects related to ethnic-racial socialization among Black and Latinx families. She was the recipient of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Award, OUR Travel Award, and the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Research Experience (SHARE) Award.

After graduating from UConn, Andrea worked at the Stamford Public Education Foundation in Connecticut where she managed the organization’s flagship mentoring program. Currently, she works at Columbia University’s Community College Research Center where she conducts and publishes research on advising reform among first-generation college students and students of color. She is working on an IES-funded longitudinal, mixed-methods project to study the personal support networks of first-generation college students over their first and second year.

Outside of college access and equity, Andrea is very passionate about community-based research, arts education, and multilingualism. She works as an ESL teacher at Columbia’s Community Language Program and has taught and tutored students from all over the world. Most recently, Andrea received a prestigious award from the American Education Research Association to lead a project on the experiences of predominantly limited-income Latinx families in a music education program during the COVID-19 shutdown. The study was funded by the association’s Education Research Service Projects program, an initiative created to encourage education researchers to offer their pro bono expertise to educational organizations, institutions, or other community groups. She presented at the National Association for Music Education last fall and is looking forward to publishing her findings in English and Spanish this year.

Andrea holds an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages (TESOL) from Teachers College, Columbia University.

In her spare time, Andrea enjoys swimming, playing piano, and learning new languages. She speaks Spanish and French and always enjoys experiencing new cultures!

Marea Tsamaase, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, January 2023

Marea TsamaaseMarea Tsamaase received her Ph.D. from HDFS in May 2019. Prior to joining the UConn doctoral program, Marea attained a Masters of Science in Family and Consumer Science from Ball State University as a Fulbright Scholar. She also earned a Masters of Education in Educational Management and a Bachelor of Education in Home Economics from the University of Botswana. Marea is an active member of the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Her extensive wealth of experience in Early Childhood Development (ECD) training, curriculum development, and program reviews at institutional and national levels is highlighted in her several published articles in early childhood and family studies. Marea has served and made tremendous contributions to communities and the ECD field in Botswana for over 20 years. At the institutional level, Marea has developed courses and programs in ECD. At the national and international levels, she participated in the development of the Botswana 0-3 years and 3-6 years National Early Childhood Curriculum frameworks, which were funded by the Botswana Ministry of Education in partnership with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Marea has ample consulting experience; she was contracted by the Botswana Police College to develop a curriculum for their preschool program and to train their teachers. Additionally, she worked as a consultant for Marang Child Network Trust Fund, where she designed a training program for caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children.

After graduating from UConn, Marea served as a human development specialist on multiple platforms. She assumed her position as a lecturer at the University of Botswana, where she continues to teach family and child development courses as well as coordinate the University of Botswana Child Development Laboratory. She has been appointed as her department’s quality assurance team member, and she represents the Department of Family and Consumer Science at the Faculty Executive Board. Marea is also teaching several undergraduate courses and is supervising both graduate and undergraduate research projects.

Since graduation, Marea’s scholarly work has been in multiple areas. For instance, she has published a paper with UConn HDFS faculty Sara Harkness and Charles Super on grandparents’ expectations about early childhood in Botswana. She also participated in a Virtual Round Table at the Society for Research in Child Development in April 2021 with Sara Harkness, Charles Super, Saskia van Schaik, Kofi Marfo, Silvia Koller, and Florrie Ng on avoiding ethnocentrism in behavioral science.

Marea’s passion for quality in ECD has led to her effective involvement in promoting and transforming ECD in Botswana. In June 2022 she successfully reviewed the ECD academic program at the University of Botswana to align it with the new accreditation requirements for Botswana Qualifications authority. Marea has twice been invited by the Department of Rural and Community Development of the Ministry of Local Government as a keynote speaker at the South and Northern regions’ Early Childhood Development Pitso (Forums) to discuss ECD in Botswana. The ministry of local government further engaged Marea in the development of national guidelines for child minding/drop-in services.

Marea’s work has moreover involved participating in live television discussions on topical issues in her country. She was invited twice as a studio guest on Botswana Television to provide expert advice and guidance on the topics of children’s success and COVID-19. Marea also recently collaborated with other ECD professionals and a UNICEF consultant to develop the National Early Learning Standards for Botswana. The knowledge, skills and experience that Marea acquired from UConn- HDFS have opened endless opportunities for driving and directing ECD mandate and fostering quality programs in Botswana.

Samantha Shaak, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, December 2022

Samantha Shaak, PhDSamantha Shaak (formerly Goodrich) graduated with her Master’s in Human Development and Family Studies from UConn in 2011 and went on to complete her Doctorate degree in 2014. She was drawn to the program because of the perspective it provided in understanding the interaction of personal and environmental influences on people’s development over time. During her time at UConn, she focused on prevention and intervention, program evaluation, and quantitative and qualitative data analysis. She had the opportunity to work with HDFS faculty on research evaluating child welfare, foster care, home visiting, and other social programs throughout the state of Connecticut and through the Center for Applied Research for Human Development. Core to this work was partnering with the agencies and organizations implementing programs and initiatives, including the Department of Children and Families, Supportive Housing for Families, Child FIRST, Jumpstart, and others.

As Samantha finished her degree and time at UConn, she was interested in continuing to work on applied, translational research outside of the academic environment. She accepted a position as a Senior Research and Evaluation Scientist in the Department of Community Health at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) in Pennsylvania. In this position, Samantha continued her program evaluation work, applying her Human Development and Family Studies perspective to health-related issues. Many of the influencers of social outcomes are also influencers of health outcomes, which led to her working on evaluations of a pediatric asthma program, a TimeBank, and a program for super-utilizers of the healthcare system. 

In 2015, Samantha was invited to participate in the Rider-Pool Foundation Collective Impact Fellowship. This experience broadened her perspective to not only understand the impacts of a particular program but also the systems in which the program operates. This led to more of a focus on cross-sector approaches to build community, using data to inform and mobilize community change. Still focusing on partnerships, this work requires cross-sector collaborations between the healthcare system and community and governmental agencies, fostering trusting partnerships to address social needs. She is now the Director for Community Innovation & Evaluation at The Leonard Parker Pool Institute for Health at LVHN, working full time on creating systems-level changes to address deep-rooted social influences on health.  Samantha and her husband live in Allentown, PA and recently welcomed their second daughter into their family in May.

Ashley Dyer, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, November 2022

Ashley DyerAshley Dyer graduated from UConn in 2019 with a B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Development. While at UConn, she was very fortunate to be involved in many club organizations and mentorship programs such as the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), Preparing African American Students to Sustain Success (PASS) Program, Sisters Inspiring Sisters, and volunteer work through her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Inc. Her participation in these activities fueled her passion for working with children and families. She started at UConn wanting to be a sports medicine doctor and was on the pre-kinesiology track. As she went through her college career she quickly realized that that was not her true calling and ended up switching her major a few times. It was only when she took her first intro class in HDFS that she was hooked on a major. It was the HDFS 1070 course (Individual and Family Development) that really sealed the deal for her! It not only helped her learn a lot about herself but also led to her passion of finding a way to make an impact in families’ lives outside of the classroom.

After she graduated, Ashley became an Early Intervention Service coordinator with a nonprofit organization under the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health (MDPH). In this position, she was able to help the families of children from birth to three years old learn about child development and resources within their area for children with developmental delays. While working at MDPH Ashley was grateful to get into the world of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy, through working with these same children. Two years later, she became a registered behavior technician and moved back to Connecticut where she now works with school-aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neuro-diverse developmental delays.

Being part of the HDFS community at UConn not only gave Ashley a sense of belonging but also allowed her to explore her interests to find out who she wanted to be and do in this world! To all those who may have thought about taking an HDFS course but are unsure… do it! You may never know what impact it might have on your life as it did on Ashley’s. She is forever grateful to UConn’s HDFS department and advisors for allowing her to find her purpose and true calling!