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Two WCSU students receive Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awards

Image of (l-r): Kathwari Honors House Director Dr. Chris Kukk, Sarah Hoegler, Farooq Kathwari, Melanie Jones
(l-r): Kathwari Honors House Director Dr. Chris Kukk, Sarah Hoegler, Farooq Kathwari, Melanie Jones and Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Keith Betts

DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University seniors Sarah Hoegler and Melanie Jones are the recipients of this year’s Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award for their outstanding academic achievement, on-campus participation and dedication to community involvement. Each year, 12 graduating seniors enrolled in Connecticut state universities (Central Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University and WestConn) are presented with the prestigious award.

Hoegler, of Bethel, is a psychology major, while Jones, of Stamford, is a music education major. It might be assumed that their academic paths were totally unrelated; but in fact, they were quite similar. Where they both connect is that each has a longing for seeking truth, spreading knowledge and teaching. They also have had the opportunity to be surrounded and supported by family, friends, peers and professors, which has kept them motivated to keep striving for success. It’s no surprise that both students are participants in the Kathwari Honors Program at WestConn.

Jones chose WestConn because she wanted to be a part of a community that was welcoming, diverse and open-minded, which she found in the Department of Music. Studying music education allowed her to find her true passion in education. “I am so passionate about teaching and learning and spreading knowledge to others,” said Jones. “Throughout my time at WCSU, I have taught the percussion ensembles at Stamford High School, Westhill High School, Danbury High School and Brookfield High School. I am currently student-teaching at Cos Cob Elementary School and Darien High School. I love learning and exploring different aspects of anything that interests me.”

In addition to the Honors Program, Jones has maintained a packed schedule of organization involvement as an academic resource mentor through Housing and Residential Life, member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, senior standards representative of Sigma Delta Tau sorority and president of the Percussion Club. “The friends I have created memorable bonds with, the projects I have pursued, the connections I have made, they have all, collectively, made my time at WCSU absolutely unforgettable,” said Jones. “My passion is undoubtedly travel and I have been to five continents so far. I want to travel for the rest of my life and I hope to continue exploring the world, while learning and growing as much as possible. Being able to travel and teach internationally would be my absolute dream.”

Hoegler had the rare opportunity to be homeschooled by her mother growing up. This helped her learn self-discipline and self-motivation. She chose WestConn because of the convenience to commute and stay close to her home, and thrived because of the Psychology Department and Honors Program. “At the end of my second semester here, I asked Professor of Psychology Dr. Mary Nelson if I could get involved in her research and she said yes. She also suggested I apply for the Honors Program so that I could do research with her as an honors enhancement,” said Hoegler. From this, Hoegler and Nelson have been able to present and publish research that has helped to make a difference in the classroom for students at WestConn and other universities. “After seeing the ways that our different classroom activities and interventions produced real improvements statistically in students’ performance, I’m really glad that we’ve been able to get our research out there — through an article, several presentations and an eBook chapter — because I want our work to help struggling students at other schools as well,” she said.

Hoegler said the most important aspect she learned while at WestConn is that a setback can be used as a stepping stone to be more humble. “I’ve learned that there is no room for pride in academia, or the pursuit of truth in general — it’s really about humility, about finding where you’re wrong/in need of improvement and using that as a springboard for growth. Learning to get back up after setbacks has helped me to see challenges as motivating rather than disheartening. Throughout my studies here, I’ve really learned to love challenges, rather than shy away from them.”

Jones and Hoegler received their awards on April 17 in Plantsville.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.



Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.