About the Program:

The University Scholar Program is one of the most prestigious programs for undergraduates at the University of Connecticut. Available to students from all of the University’s schools and colleges, the University Scholar Program allows students to design and pursue an in-depth research project and to craft an individualized plan of study that supports their intellectual interests during their final three semesters.

Graduating as a University Scholar is considered the highest academic achievement the university bestows on undergraduate students. No more than 30 University Scholars are selected each year.


Admission to this selective program is made on the basis of an application submitted during the first semester of a student’s junior year. Applications are reviewed by an interdisciplinary faculty committee that looks for innovative projects and academically rigorous course selection.


Sylvestry_ScholarW Victoria Sylvestre 2016 University Scholar 

Hometown: Newark, DE

Mentors: Ruth Lucas, Cathy Schlund-Vials, Cem Demirci

Desired nursing specialty after graduation: Pediatrics or NICU

Proudest nursing moment: My proudest nursing moment was in the school health setting. While it was an amazing learning experience to see school nursing as more than ice packs and bandaids, my favorite moments are the simple interactions with the students who are regular visitors and are excited to see me every week or who will only come to me for their care. In addition, there was one particular student who needed to remain in the office, but he was crying and upset because he was away from his class. To keep him calm, engaged, and laughing, the nurse and I used about 20 bandaids of all different shapes and sizes. We fixed his “boo-boo,” and he promptly enjoyed taking them off and then putting his finger out for another. For me, it was the highlight of continuing to assess the patient, while also focusing on positive patient care.

Most exciting scholar moment: Presenting my paper, “Type 1 Diabetes: The Liminal Space Between Ability and Disability” at the Society for Disability Studies national conference in Atlanta, GA last summer was the highlight of my scholarly career. It was an amazing experience of networking with other scholars and sharing my work and research that could have an immediate impact on those around me.

Sylvestre’s study:  “Type 1 Diabetes and Health Care Providers: Understanding social perceptions, Sigma, and Shame”, looks to develop a better approach in working with adolescents to promote more effective self-care, subsequently decreasing the risk of complications later in life.

Faculty Advisor: Ruth Lucas

Research Funding: SURF Award (pending)


Laprise_ScholarW Jessica Laprise 2015 University Scholar 

Hometown: Bristol, CT

Mentors: My mom is my greatest mentor. She has instilled the qualities in me to make an incredible nurse and an even better human being. My advisor Jacqueline McGrath is also my mentor. She has been there for me providing unwavering support each and every step of the way. Mary Ellen Hobson is also a mentor to me, not only in her professional career, but in her travels, and the way in which she continues to inspire students each and every day. I am so grateful to be surrounded by these three special individuals as well as many others.

Desired nursing specialty after graduation: NICU or pediatric oncology

Proudest nursing moment: My proudest nursing moment happened this summer after the delivery of twins in the back room of the NICU. It was the first moment the dad met his twins. I was able to be apart of this delicate moment, and to provide support in education of all of the tubes, medications, and beeping surround his precious new babies. My skill was in my knowledge, compassion, and the care that I could provide him in that moment. As a student, I find myself focused so much on learning my skills that it can be easy to forget the significance of moments like these. This is why it is my favorite.

Most exciting scholar moment: My most exciting scholar moment was the successful data collection of my survey in the school of nursing. After hard work and determination my revised recruitment measures were successful. The moment was even more satisfying because my fellow classmates were the reason it was made possible.

Laprise’s study: Identification of Student Nurses’ Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Pediatric Pain

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Jacqueline McGrath, Dr. Cheryl Beck, and Dr. Renee Manworren

Research Funding: IDEA Grant


Forte_ScholarW Shaina Forte 2015 University Scholar 

Hometown: Canton, MA

Mentors: Xiaomei Cong and Wanli Xu

Desired nursing specialty after graduation: Pediatrics/Nurse Practitioner

Proudest nursing moment: Spending a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa

Most exciting scholar moment: Dedicating a summer to complete a SURF project and graduate-level courses.

Forte’s study:  The Accumulated Pain/Stressor Scale (APSS) Measures How Early Life Stress Alters the Gut Microbiome of Preterm Infants” more accurately measures the accumulated stressors that preterm infants are subjected to in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in order to examine the relationship of cumulative early life stress and the microbiome patterns of these neonates.

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Xiaomei Cong

Research Funding: SURF Award

For more information on the University Scholar Program, please visit The University Scholar Program page.