Author: Jackson, Abigail

Amos Smith, MSW ’79

Amos Smith is the President and CEO at the Community Action Agency of New Haven, Inc., since May 2006. He manages a budget that serves approximately 25,000 individuals covering 5 towns across the New Haven regions. Mr. Smith currently serves as the 1st Vice President of the Connecticut Association for Community Action, a member of the Community Research Engagement Steering Committee at Yale, the Community Advisory Committee at Southern Connecticut State University School of Social Work, the Board of Advocates to the Dean of Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, former member of Governor Malloy’ Health and Human Services Committee, and lead connector to a new initiative between Smillow Cancer Center at Yale & Community Action Agency of New Haven’s commitment to explore ways to collaborate, serve, support, treat, educate and  improve community engagement.

Amos has served on the boards of Friends Center for Children in New Haven. Institutes for Community Research in Hartford, and the first man, to Chair the Board of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. Amos was appointed to serve on by the Connecticut Department of Public Health – Human Investigations Committee as a non-medical Advocate and Community Representative.

Before joining Community Action, Mr. Smith served as Director of Health Grantmaking at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (TCF). In addition to his Grantmaking duties, he served as the Principal Investigator for the New Haven Healthy Start project, whose focus is to eliminate infant morality among African American women, improve Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in New Haven. He has frequently demonstrated the intellectual acuity and temperament for addressing uncommon, chaotic, and complicated programs and organizations. He has often worked on issues and challenges that are cross- disciplinary and highly levels of rigor and complexities. Mr. Smith has been a panelist at the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) Summit: The Science of Eliminating Health Disparities with a focus on Health Disparities among Men of Color (National Harbor, Maryland). It is in this area where he has published in The American Journal of Public Health, entitled “Health Policy and the Coloring of an American Male Crisis: A Perspective on Community-Based Health Services.” Amos is a former adjunct instructor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work where he taught required courses entitled: Human Oppression from the African American and Puerto Rican Perspectives. Analysis of Social Welfare Policy and Social Services System.

Alumni Call to Action

Things will be unconventional this year for our SSW graduates, but we still want to shower them with love and welcome them as UConn SSW Alumni. We’re soliciting well wishes from the SSW community for our graduating class of 2020. If you’d like to submit content, please keep videos to under 1 minute and 30 seconds and text to under 250 characters. Content will be posted on the School of Social Work website, although we may not be able to use all the content submitted. You can use you phones to create the video and send pictures along with the text. Please send your well wishes to Abigail Jackson at by Friday, May 8th. If you have any questions, please reach out to Abigail directly.

Student Spotlight: Kelly Ha

Kelly Ha is a first year UConn Masters of Social Work student in the Individuals, Groups, and Family Practice concentration as well as a student in the Certificate in Foundations of Public Health program. She is the first one to attend college in her family, her advocacy work and want to address inter-generational trauma are an homage to her immigrant Vietnamese family sacrifices for her to have a better life. As an aspiring Medical Social Worker, Kelly will be doing her 2nd year placement at Connecticut Children’s. Kelly is incredibly involved as she chairs two positions in the Graduate Student Organization as the Social Media Specialist and PEERS Co-Chair. She is also involved with UConn Health’s Urban Service Track where she is able to work in an interdisciplinary team to serve under served communities.

As the Campaign Manager for #IAmNotAVirus, Kelly has helped branch the campaign worldwide to countries such as Brazil, Canada, and Vietnam. She leads the social media team and works to bring mental health into the mission. The campaign serves to bring awareness to the anti-Asian violence that has been rising due to COVID-19. As a healthcare worker, Kelly has already been working in the front lines to battle this virus. Now she is dedicating this battle to dispel racism and advocating for community. The mission of the campaign is for a world where compassion, kindness, and allyship prevails.

A Letter from Dean Heller

Dear SSW alumni colleagues,

I write to you from my home office where I am continuing to carry on the critical missions of the school. Like many of you, the SSW, our faculty, staff, and students are adjusting to a new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis. I am happy to report that the migration of our courses to a fully online format, has gone reasonably well, with the support of many of the departments at UConn. We made the difficult decision to withdraw our students from field education settings, due to our concern for their safety. Fortunately, we require a higher number of field education hours than our accrediting body, which means all students will be able to graduate on time. I am enormously grateful to our faculty, staff, and students who have made this transition with grace and hard work, supporting each other as a virtual community. We are planning a virtual commemoration for graduating students and will look forward to welcoming the class of 2020 back to campus in the fall, as alumni, for a celebratory event.

That said, I am aware of the economic and health challenges for our community, all of you, and importantly, the communities and people you serve. Many of you are on the front lines of this epidemic and I reach out to you in appreciation of all you are doing, while trying to stem the tide of the primary and secondary effects of this disease. As you are all painfully aware, the health disparities for many of our communities are staggering. While we were all aware these exist, this current crisis has put these in bold relief. This presents a moment for social work – a call to action – as we continue to identify, study and advocate for sweeping structural changes. In the meantime, we must reach out to others with kindness, help and professional expertise.

I wish each of you and your loved ones, good health, resiliency and sustaining social supports. Social workers have a vital role to play in this national emergency and its aftermath. We need you. So, please take good care of yourselves and each other. We look forward to engaging with you as we emerge from this crisis.

Best wishes,


Tessa Cugno

Tessa recently accepted the position of the Dean’s Administrative Assistant. Tessa has been with the School of Social Work since March 2018 as a Program Assistant in the Dean’s office, working with the MSW and BSW Program Directors. In her new role, Tessa will work closely with the Deans to assist in managing the administrative functions in the Dean’s office. Before her time at the SSW, Tessa worked on the Storrs campus in the Department of Communication. Having grown up in Connecticut, she comes from a family of Husky fans, and is appreciative to be a part of the UConn community.

Trisha Hawthorne-Noble, MSW

Trisha Hawthorne NobleTrisha is our new Coordinator for the SSW Office of Student Academic Services. Trisha is a 2018 graduate of the UConn School of Social Work’s Community Organization sequence. She completed her field placements at the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Community Outreach in the Division of Student Athletics. In the final year of her master’s program, she received the Outstanding Senior Woman Academic Achievement Award. This award, co-sponsored by the Provost’s Office, UConn Alumni, and the Women’s Center, is presented annually to women students who have excelled academically and demonstrated high achievement in research and service to the University community. Trisha’s effective leadership in her work with UConn students, her administrative experience and her MSW background all position her well to assume leadership in this critical position.

Lindsey Wessell

Lindsey joined the Office of Research and Scholarship/Finance Office staff in November. Lindsay is providing support for all aspects of ORS, including event planning logistics and support, communication, grant development and budget support. Lindsay serves as a liaison between the school and SPS, which will be an especially important role as we strive to increase our research grant writing/funding activities in the coming months and years. Lindsay is familiar with Hartford and with local community agencies.  She previously worked at Riverfront Recapture and at the Community Renewal Team.

Regina Lester-Harriat, LMSW

Regina recently joined the School of Social Work faculty as an assistant professor-in-residence. She earned her MSW in 2008 from UConn and was a long-standing field instructor for the School. While a student, Regina studied casework with a focus on women and children in families. She is a former school social worker with nearly two decades of experience working in public, charter and independent school systems. This spring, Lester-Harriat is teaching Practice with Individuals, Groups and Families and advising students. In addition, she is slated to teach the Direct Practice in Schools course next year. With her rich practice experience, she will be able to integrate her real-life experiences into the classroom. “I’m happy to be returning to UConn where it all started for me,” said Lester-Harriat.

Lester-Harriat’s research Interests include the role of religion in building emotional resilience in women; building emotional resilience in children and adolescents; trauma-informed practice with children and adolescents; child and adolescent mental health disorders; child and adolescent substance abuse; teens and suicide; and the experience of African-American families in the foster care system.

Abigail Jackson

Abigail recently joined the School of Social Work staff as the Alumni Relations Director. She’s a first-generation Haitian American and a first-generation college graduate. She earned her B.A. in Communications: Public Relations from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Afterwards, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA twice; first in Austin, TX then in Baltimore, MD. Originally from Atlanta, GA, she relocated to the Hartford area Summer 2018. Please email her at if you’d like to connect.