Chairman Rodney Butler ’99: ‘You’re Here for a Reason’

UConn Today – This past spring, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler ’99 (BUS) addressed a large audience of students, faculty, and staff at the Student Union Theatre. One member of the audience paying especially close attention was Samantha Gove ’24 (CLAS), a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation who worked extensively with UConn’s Native American Cultural Programs during her time in Storrs. Shortly after Butler’s visit, he and Gove connected over video call for a conversation about Butler’s time at UConn, what he’s learned in two decades of leadership in the Nation, and what he wants Native students to keep in mind. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Erica Dean ’24, School of Business

UConn Today – Erica wants everyone to find the joy in every experience—even if that experience is a little bit scary. If you can learn something new at the same time, that’s icing on the cake. The School of Business graduate student and Double Husky took classes in Italian and floral arrangement, joined a sports team and a sports ministry and numerous other clubs, and says there are broadening opportunities at UConn for every person and interest. Erica plans to bring her skills in business analytics home to the family business after graduation. And she’s taking her own advice and continuing to plan new experiences, like a hike across Spain for the fall. And her whole family will continue to visit the Dairy Bar, because broadening your horizons doesn’t mean you forget the pleasures of your own backyard.

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Danielle Harrington ’24, School of Business

UConn Today – Basketball fandom drew Danielle Harrington to UConn, and the strength of the School of Business kept her here. Harrington’s interest in math and finance, as well as a desire to make a positive impact on organizations, led her to major in Business. Guiding younger students as a Resident Assistant and a Husky Ambassador, and making friends across campus through activities and volunteering, helped her grow her interpersonal skills. She attributes a boost in her strategic thinking to her advanced business courses. But devising ways to score front row tickets to basketball games can’t have hurt, either!

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New Year, Bright Future

One of the seasonal greetings I received recently wished me “Love, Light & Everything Bright.” It made me smile, and reminded me that this is the time of year for upbeat messages of good cheer. Most often the message celebrates family and friends and special moments. The greeting evoked several upbeat messages of recent days. Let me share them, focusing on our UConn School of Business, Connecticut, and the world.

At the School of Business, we just concluded a strong year and a robust semester. Many new programs and efforts are underway, new degree programs are being created, some departments have been restructured, and our students are thriving and successful.

The COVID pandemic had a remarkable impact, some good, some definitely not so good. Our newest students suffered during their final years of high school, but are recovering nicely with strong support and encouragement from our faculty and staff. During that time, we learned how to take maximum advantage of virtual platforms for education, and have launched a fully online MBA and transformed other programs. Our students have more options, more focused tutorials, and other support for learning, built on what we discovered during COVID.

Importantly, while the popular press cannot get past doom-and-gloom assessments about the status of higher education and the “irrelevance” of education to personal growth, happiness, and success, our applications continue to soar. Young people still see education as a pathway to a brighter future. And at UConn, applications to the School of Business in Storrs are up 33 percent since last year.

In the School of Business, we embrace our role as an agent of economic growth and success within the state. We work with companies, the legislature, the governor, local communities, and non-profits to grow our future. Perceptions of the state of Connecticut’s economy have not kept up with an improving reality. Tax revenues have grown, enabling the state to refill its contingency funds while paying down some long-standing, underfunded pension obligations.

I recently attended a meeting of our Future Climate Venture Studio, a UConn initiative to identify, support and collaborate with startups addressing the most critical dimensions of the climate challenge. UConn President Radenka Maric and Dan O’Keefe, commissioner designate of the Department of Economic and Community Development, were featured speakers. People are aware of President Maric’s inspiring leadership around sustainability and climate change. She is leading UConn as a forerunner among universities in the quest for carbon neutrality. O’Keefe is a newcomer to Connecticut, whom the governor recruited. He spent 25 years in the private sector before being appointed to a newly created role as Chief Innovation Officer. Now he is heading up the DECD.

In a world with more choice for the workforce about where to live and work, O’Keefe asks: Why not work where the quality of life, the quality of education and the quality of health care is high? Both personally and professionally, I welcome this invitation to grow our state’s population with even more talent. He pointed out that last year, Connecticut was the seventh-fastest growing state by GDP in the union. In the last two years, our population growth points to a light and bright future.

At the world level, there is also a lightening and brightening in our future, although clouded by war and conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East. Future Crunch is a newsletter authored by economist and journalist Angus Hervey that just published “66 Good News Stories You Didn’t Hear About in 2023.” He reminds us that the 24-hour news cycle thrives on attention grabbing bad news that gets refined and updated minute by minute. Looked at closely, the bad news stories are usually urgent, short-term, attention-grabbing moments that, in the aggregate, feel like an inescapable, overwhelming worsening of the world. The headlines and news anchors bombard us with statements like: inflation is up, there was another mass shooting, the warming world is attacking us with tornados and droughts, and worse.

In contrast, Hervey looks back at the year 2023 and summarizes often surprisingly good news. The distinction between the minute-by-minute bad news and the reflection on a year of progress reminds me of the Martin Luther King quote: “….the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

There are 66 items in Hervey’s list and I will mention only a few. Since I just mentioned UConn’s sustainability focus and our Climate Studio, it is important to note how many of the 66 items are linked to sustainability, regulation of human polluting behavior, and the surprising progress being made. The production of electric vehicles; the shift to carbon-neutral solar, wind and geothermal sources, extreme reduction of reliance on fossil fuels …..all change the landscape in such a way that it is looking more and more likely that limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius may be possible.

The EV story is eye-opening. Global sales increased by 36 percent last year. Just two years ago, one in 25 cars sold was electric. This year one in five will be, and by 2025, one in two.

Global health is another good-news story. Polio, tuberculosis, river blindness, and HIV are but a few of the menaces against whom mankind is winning. It is not just vaccines and technology creating this revolution, but also good practices including clean water, breast feeding, prenatal care, support for birthing and more. Almost everywhere worldwide improvements continue. Beyond health, there are upticks in education, especially for young women. The overall instances of poverty are in sharp decline.

As we enter 2024, we at the School of Business wish you a wonderful year and the continued realization of these light and bright aspects to our collective future. We share our hopes that world leaders can find ways to moderate the conflicts that have the potential to imperil that future.


Back to the Dean’s Corner

Student Spotlight: Adrianna Empaynado

Adrianna Empaynado is a Marketing major and Communications minor graduating in May 2025. During Adrianna’s undergraduate career she quickly grasped the importance of networking, noting “Every conversation you have is possible a connection”. Adrianna was highly involved in the Business Connections Learning Community during her first two years at UConn, as well as Women in Business and now serves on the Executive Board of the student-led organization. “Both of these organizations motivated me to start my career search early, explore my passions, and grow my network.”, She shares.

Adrianna currently works as a Marketing and Communications Intern for Steel Sports. While she has been in this role since June 2023, she had worked for the company for three years prior. “I was familiar with the company, their values, and the staff. I didn’t experience a normal interview process with Steel Sports due to the networking I had done previously while working my summer job. My boss recommended me for the internship and I was quickly directed to HR and onboarding.”, Adrianna recalls.

Adrianna’s responsibilities include managing the Steel Sports Instagram and Facebook accounts though posting, making graphics on Canva, and working on branding strategy. She has weekly meetings with her boss, Nathan, to stay on task as well as the branding team to brainstorm social media campaigns and other branding techniques. However, Adrianna’s tasks highly depend on the sports season, camp schedules, and tournaments that Steel is a part of.

Adrianna’s favorite professional experience so far has been connecting with professionals at Island Records. “My dream is to work in entertainment, but more specifically the music industry. I was able to connect with SVPs this summer in New York. Meeting with them one on one was an amazing experience that offered so much insight into the industry. It was really eye opening and definitely confirmed that music is the industry I want to be involved in.”, She shares.

Adrianna’s greatest advice is to keep your options open and never stop networking: “You never know where your next opportunity will come from. I never thought about going into the sports industry, but the company I ended up interning for was right in front of me for years. I kept my options open and I gained great foundational experience that is very applicable to my other roles and future opportunities. Keep an open mind and connect whenever possible!”

Student Spotlight: Nathan Miller

Nathan Miller is a current Senior graduating May 2024 with a double major in Marketing and an Individualized Major of Humane Technology Design. In order to prepare himself for the professional world, Nathan “made sure to stand out on paper”. Nathan took advantage of his first few semesters at UConn being online and started to develop his resume with various professional experiences. He started small, doing some branding and design work at a local historical society, joining campus organizations, and building an online portfolio.

“I made sure that I wasn’t just joining organizations or doing things to look good but contributing to my interests and growth in a meaningful way,” Nathan recalls.

This past summer, Nathan completed a ten-week Experience Design Internship with Travelers Insurance. During this time, Nathan was able to work with people both internal and external to Travelers; as an intern under an operations manager, he learned all about how design and marketing fits into Travelers’ different business units. Nathan’s days would vary between working on research/design projects, setting up meetings and benchmark evaluations, and sometimes even attending intern-oriented events that Travelers hosted. He even got to spend a whole week at the PGA tour for the marketing team!

“I met so many amazing people during my time at Travelers and learned a lot about corporate operations and culture,” he says.

Nathan’s favorite experience from his internship was being given the opportunity to participate in Travelers’ internal hackathon, InJam.

“This was a spur-of-the-moment project that I developed after a sidebar conversation about AI in a team meeting,” Nathan explains, “For the hackathon, I prototyped an AI-powered web browser tool that would allow users to more easily navigate “terms and conditions” pages for digital products and services. Both the purpose of this project and the nature of its development made it one of the best parts of my internship”.

Nathan originally had applied for a generic marketing position at Travelers but was placed into a more specialized role that aligned more closely with his skills and background in design. Nathan looks back on the Traveler’s interview experience positively, stating “My interview was the shortest I had experienced all season; I felt the hiring manager and I had a strong connection that made us both feel comfortable and ready for more conversation. I received a call back within 24 hours, and accepted the position!”

This experience was vastly different from his application process, which Nathan described as “arduous” and “frustrating”. To other undergraduate students going through this stressful process, Nathan offers the following advice:

1. Don’t mindlessly apply: I applied to maybe one hundred internships last season, and a lot of my applications would consist of sending in a briefly tailored resume and a template-based cover letter. Not only was this a poor reflection of my capabilities as a potential employee, but also the constant stream of rejections I faced was demoralizing. I would suggest applying to each job like it is your dream company–strive to stand out. I’m not referring to the rhetoric you use in your cover letters and resume bullets, but rather the strategies you use to gain connections within your target company. Take advantage of your alumni network, become a LinkedIn personality, and get creative with how you can differentiate yourself!
2. Start early: Get all of your documents and interview preparation ready as soon as possible. Internship applications are opening all the time, both before and after the seasonal surge. Start researching companies on LinkedIn, Reddit, etc. Practice your interviews with Google’s Interview Prep Tool. Have your resume looked over by a writing center resource, your professors or your advisor.
3. Keep learning: If you feel like you aren’t where you would like to be in terms of career competitiveness, there are many resources which can help advance your position. I love keeping up with the School of Business’s events, attending career fairs, and following career-oriented professionals on social media (particularly TikTok). By subscribing to newsletters and signing up for opportunities, you open yourself up to networking and learning potential that can help you get one step closer to a position!

Student Spotlight: Josephine Kaufman

Josephine Kaufman, a Marketing major with a concentration in Digital Marketing and Analytics, is set to graduate in December 2024. Josephine’s academic journey reflects her commitment to success. She actively engages in her courses by asking questions in class and completing assignments thoughtfully. She approaches her coursework as if they were real-life job assignments, enabling her to think more critically and understand the relevance of her studies in the business world. This dedication to her studies helped her develop a strong foundation for her professional career. Josephine also works as a Teaching Assistant for BUSN 3005 and is an Administrative Assistant at UConn Rec.

This past summer break, Josephine secured a Merchandising Internship at the Staples Headquarters in Framingham, MA. When she first began applying to internships, the role at Staples stuck out to her because it would allow her to demonstrate her knowledge from her courses at UConn. She applied via the Staples website and was invited to a phone interview with a recruiter, and then a Zoom interview with her future manager.
“The questions were based on the job qualifications, and I was very pleased that my coursework and previous job opportunities had provided me with experience to discuss in the interview,” Josephine recalls, “When I was offered the role, I was very excited since I connected with my manager and was very confident in my responses to their questions”.

A typical day in her internship involves a diverse range of tasks. At the start of the week, Josephine updates financial reports using tools like Excel and PowerBI to reflect sales volume from the previous week. She then forwards these reports, along with a summary of the data’s insights, to various team members. She also took part in daily meetings with different departments, including Pricing, Marketing (creative), Inventory, Promotions, Planogram (store layout), and more to make sure that all parts of the business are on the same page.

Her favorite professional experience during the internship was the opportunity to present her internship work to her team, fellow interns, and C-Suite members at Staples. During her presentation, Josephine was able to reflect on how she discovered her passion for working with data. “I enjoyed Merchandising because it emphasized collaboration with many different departments and teams across the company,” she states, even though she initially expected to be more drawn to creative and digital marketing work.

For undergraduate students seeking internships or full-time roles, Josephine offers: “My advice is to keep your options open, make connections with as many people as you can, and move at your own pace!”

Study Says Black Households Pay Higher Heating Costs, Seek Cold-Related Medical Care More Often

UConn Today – Ticking up the thermostat a degree or two is going to cost anyone more money, but a new study from UConn researchers suggests Black households pay more to keep their homes comfortable, in part due to increased cold sensitivity.

The finding, published this fall in Energy Economics, spans the socioeconomic spectrum and also states Black people who can’t afford those couple extra degrees end up seeking medical attention more often than white counterparts.

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