Author: Scott Slater III

UConn Will Name New Hockey Arena the Toscano Family Ice Forum

UConn Today – In recognition of a leadership gift that continues the transformational philanthropy of University Board of Trustees chairman Dan Toscano ’87 (BUS) and his family, the new state-of-the-art ice hockey arena being constructed at UConn Storrs will bear the name Toscano Family Ice Forum.

Undergrads’ Eyewear Startup Could Take Students from ‘Cool to School’ In Mere Seconds

UConn Today – As an eyeglass wearer, one of Brian Peng’s ’24 (CLAS) biggest complaints is the time it takes for his transition lenses to adjust from sunglass to clear mode when he walks into a building.

“Like 80% of the US population, my eyes are very sensitive to light, which causes strain and headaches. Sunglasses are essential to me,’’ Peng says. “But the traditional transition lenses just don’t adjust fast enough.’’

Our New Students: ‘They Take Your Breath Away!’

It does feel like a return to normal. After two years of COVID and virtual accommodations of various types, we are mainly face-to-face, and full of energy and innovation. My colleagues and I have been deeply engaged with new students in many of our programs.

The undergraduate students are arriving in record numbers with high accomplishments behind them and noble ambitions for their futures. They are accepting our challenge to be intentional about growing and learning in the next four years. I should say 4.1 years. That is the average time to earn an undergraduate degree at UConn. It is an extraordinary accomplishment that makes us a national leader in time to earn a degree. It does not happen by accident. We must provide them with the courses they need, when they need them, and we do. But that’s just a piece of the puzzle. We guide our undergraduate students, from the earliest days, to think about their education, their goals, their interests, and the ways they can develop leadership, knowledge, and industry experience. As a result, they become distinguished candidates in the job market.

Our graduate programs have become more diverse and complex. Last week, I was privileged to welcome students into multiple programs. The Online MBA (OMBA) and the MS in FinTech (Financial Technology) are new additions to our portfolio, aiming to be responsive to the needs of our students and to the needs of industry. Our corporate partners say they need every FinTech graduate we can produce, and the incoming students see those opportunities with crystal clarity. Our Online MBA provides flexible pathways to learning. During the COVID years we evolved our virtual learning delivery capability and can now deliver world-class learning opportunities to the students who want and need this flexibility.

Our well-established programs continue to attract talent, and it was wonderful to be with them again for in-person orientations and welcome. To remind you, we have multiple targeted graduate programs that continue to attract and serve high aspiration students: MS BAPM (Business Analytics and Project Management), MSA (Accounting), MS HRM (Human Resource Management) and MS FRM (Financial Risk Management).

On another morning I had the privilege of welcoming 10 new Ph.D. students. Each of our five academic departments added two students this year. And they take your breath away! They are intelligent, accomplished, and focused future faculty members. I told them they are ‘junior partners in the firm.’ And they are. They will open new avenues of thought. They will partner with our faculty to help advance ongoing learning and growth. We are very fortunate to have the ability to attract young people with their energy, enthusiasm, and promise.

There is a narrative out there about the irrelevance of education; a claim that nothing is changing and investment in one’s human capital is misspent. I find it confusing. When I look at what we are teaching and researching today, and compare it to 20 years ago: Wow!

Just look at the names of some of the degrees we offer today: Business Analytics, Financial Technology. My colleagues in the Marketing and Information Systems department are busy scraping websites to glean important insights into human behavior. The technology and the understanding of human behavior for this work did not exist 20 years ago, and today our students are expanding and defining it every day.

Some of the young people are talking about prior events as being at the end of the last century, and they are right. Twenty-some years into the new century, the future is rich and exciting, and UConn is contributing to our understanding of this world and preparing our students to thrive in it.


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School of Business To Offer Fully-Online Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management

UConn Today – In their infancy, corporate Human Resources departments hired and fired, and made sure employees got their paychecks on time.

But the profession has taken on much greater importance in recent years, with the HR executive becoming an essential strategic leader, recruiting, hiring and developing personnel that will shape the destiny of a company.

Global Pandemics Are Incompatible With Widespread Prosperity

As viewed over the long arc of history, there are lessons to be learned from both pandemics and vaccines that inform our understanding of global prosperity. Good health and longevity are cornerstones of prosperity.

Seventy years ago, in 1952, polio cases exploded in the USA. Grade school students felt the brunt as they were kept at home, unable to play with friends and kept out of swimming pools, all because the consequences were so dire. If it sounds reminiscent of 2020 and COVID-19, it should. Fortunately, the iron lung had been invented to aid breathing for the sick. Unfortunately, there were not enough. People died. Bodies were deformed.

In 1955, Jonas Salk created a vaccine, and became a hero. In a televised broadcast he was asked who owned the patents to the vaccine. He famously answered, “Well, the people I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

It took almost no time for a fearful community to accept the vaccine. Shortly thereafter, in the spirit of continuous improvement, Sabine refined the vaccination process. Children returned to playing together and swimming.

But this was not an American story. Polio did not respect national boundaries. Nor did the rapid vaccine adoption in the USA describe a global response. Vaccinations cost money. Distributing vaccine is a supply chain challenge. People are not all receptive to the good intentions of a “Western remedy.” The United States and the United Nations and other organizations championed a global response, funded a global response, and ultimately achieved most of the goal: decades later.

By 1979, the U.S. was declared polio-free. Yet globally, in 1980, only 22 percent of one-year-olds were vaccinated against polio. This increased to a coverage of 86 percent of the world’s one-year-olds in 2015. Cases of polio have fallen dramatically over time. In 1980, there were over 50,000 reported cases of polio worldwide. By 2021, this number was below 1,000 with various small estimates from different sources.

In his book “Enlightenment Now,’’ Steven Pinker focuses on public health and childhood mortality improvements such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as examples of global improvements in many aspects of life. By 2015, polio was very rare outside of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Germ theory, antibiotics, vaccines, and other medical interventions substantially increased life expectancies in the last century. In 1840, life expectancy was about 40 years; in 2020 it had risen to 75 years. Reduced childhood mortality was the major explanation.

In this context, an article in The New York Times (July 16, 2022) headlined ‘Sharp Drop in Global Childhood Vaccinations Imperils Millions of Lives’ catches our attention. A vaccination rate of 94 percent is generally thought sufficient to create herd immunity. From 2019 to 2021 vaccination rates for DTP3 fell five points to 81 percent. While UNICEF continues to be a major supplier of vaccine addressing a broad array of diseases, people must engage with programs to make a difference. There is reason to fear that the loss of herd immunity across an array of childhood diseases will allow them to remerge.

The 1918 flu epidemic, and the 2020 COVID pandemic both briefly shortened the pattern of increased life expectancy. Decreases in global herd immunities may do so again. In recent days, NPR, the AP, The Washington Post and The New York Times have all featured news of the first polio case in the U.S. in almost a decade.

How does all of this affect the UConn School of Business? It reminds us of the importance of history, of understanding human behavior and decision making, and of the global interconnections of lives today. Our students take about 50 percent of their coursework in the liberal arts and sciences. We seek to educate global citizens, as well as prepared professionals. The AACSB, our accrediting body for high aspiration business schools, refers to our collective mission as supporting global prosperity. It is important to frame that goal as a quality-of-life goal, not a personal wealth goal.


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Widespread Literacy: Key to a Functioning Democracy?

Dateline Scotland, UK, Summer 2022

After more than two years of virtual living without benefit of vacation, we landed in the UK for holiday. It created an opportunity to read (“Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis,’’ by Jared Diamond) and explore history up close and personal.

Diamond’s book explores crisis and change in seven countries over many decades: Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, Australia and the USA. A notable quote is: “Fundamental to any functioning democracy are widespread literacy, recognition of the right to oppose government policies, tolerance of different points of view, acceptance of being outvoted, and government protection of those without political power.”

These words evoke the notion of the Scottish Reformation, a process that led Scotland in the late 1500s to grow a Protestant tradition and move away from Catholicism. It led to a commitment to universal education. Schools were built and the university system was reformed.

“Upheaval” and Reformation created a fitting backdrop for exploring the area around Stirling, the former center of Scotland, and to visit the nearby Innerpeffray Library. Innerpeffray is the first free lending library in Scotland dating to 1680. The library kept careful records and today many people visit to learn what their relatives from centuries ago were reading and learning. Lara Haggerty is the Keeper of Books, a title associated with the library for hundreds of years. She oversees the 5,000 titles still managed in the library. As Lara points out, “Scotland became a real literary nation. This place was a little spark that started the flame burning.”

Lara shared some wonderful stories with us. We held some very old books, including “Cookery and Pastry’’ as taught by Mrs. MacIver (1787).
Reading that early cookbook, I should not have been surprised that it did not include cooking temperatures and times, since cooking was not done in devices where you could specify the temperature. It was surprising that recipes did not include quantities of ingredients, and the typesetting was strange. It seemed that there were two versions of the letter “s.” One of them was much like this “s” and one more akin to an “f”. Lara explained that it was a response to early printing presses where the traditional “s” had a tendency to attract blobs of ink and become illegible, especially when adjacent to another “s” or “e” or “a.” The larger “f” form did not suffer that problem, so this innovation made books more legible.

Their records allowed them to learn that the most popular books dealt with history, and many people were frequent borrowers. She shared the history of one borrower, John Barclay, who as a young man read history, went on to begin study as a minister, and then shifted his focus to natural science. He ultimately became a professor in the university system. As Lara and I talked, I imagined a borrower bringing a book home and during the month or so that books typically were outstanding, the borrower and the family would have read, perhaps together, perhaps out-loud. They would have discussed the material and have become the educated electorate needed for Scotland’s reformation and for Diamond’s notion of an effective democracy.

When we visited, they were celebrating innovation, and had on display a working model of a passive heat-dissipating device, a close-cycle heat engine, developed by one of their readers and patented in 1816. It was created by Robert
Stirling, hence its name, “Stirling Engine.” Over the years, refinement and redesign have made it faster, better and cheaper. It is now an element for temperature management in some laptops.

And of course, the very existence of Innerpeffray arose because of the invention of the printing press. The printing press was introduced around 1450 and was adopted rapidly. Jeremiah Dittmar of the London School of Economics has demonstrated that about half of the 100 largest European cities adopted printing technology. Early on it was a craft and early cities that adopted it not only grew the printing activity but had significantly higher, broad economic growth than non-adopting cities. Indeed, Innerpeffray Library was only possible because the printing press had enabled large-scale production of books at “affordable” prices. By 1680, David Drummand, the founder, had collected a library which could and did support the reading needs of a community.

The Scottish Reformation and Innerpeffray Library seem to exemplify Diamond’s quote above: “Fundamental to any functioning democracy are widespread literacy, recognition of the right to oppose government policies, tolerance of different points of view, acceptance of being outvoted, and government protection of those without political power.” At UConn, and in the School of Business, we champion free inquiry and access to information.

It was great to explore how those themes played out hundreds of years ago. Today, there are those who want to ban books and control information, but Innerpeffray exemplifies the right idea: share the books, encourage reading and exploring ideas. Who knows from whom the next revolutionary ideas will come? Reading and debating will prime the pump. I am privileged to work with faculty, staff, students, and alumni who believe in ideas, and in investing today for a better tomorrow.

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The heat is on: 7 things to know about Greater Hartford’s summer home sale market

Hartford Courant (Yahoo News) The Greater Hartford home sale market snagged a top-10 spot in a new national ranking of hottest housing markets in the country in June, adding to a string of similar flattering mentions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But how hot is hot?