University of Hartford Students Develop First-of-Its Kind Prosthetic Hand, Patient Testing To Begin

Five graduate students and their professor in the Prosthetics and Orthotics program at the University of Hartford have reached a significant milestone in the development of a first-of-its-kind prosthetic hand. The prototype of the potentially revolutionary device, after more than two years in development, is now ready to be tested on patients. Currently, amputees have a limited selection of sizes and designs for a prosthetic hand. The groundbreaking project, which has come to be known as the “Hartford Hand,” has a unique design that allows each patient to receive a custom-made hand that fits his or her exact needs. Because of the students’ technological ingenuity, the hand can be adjusted as the patient grows.

“It is the only hand at this time known to be completely customizable in terms of size and proportion,” said faculty advisor Michael Wininger, Assistant Professor of Prosthetics and Orthotics. (see video, below)hand

The five graduate students, due to graduate from the program in May, have spent thousands of hours on this project since 2013, with the goal of making the world’s first prosthetic hand that can be fully customized to patients’ needs. The students have joined the project through many pathways, either as part of their formal requirements for research in their master’s curriculum, though undergraduate honors theses, elective Independent study enterprise, or as extra-curricular collaborators in a not-for-credit research immersion.

“This has been one the best opportunities I have had in my life to design,” said Christopher Welch, one of the studuh_wordmark_stacked_large_2013ents currently working on the Hartford Hand initiative. Each week, Welch and colleagues Yonathan Moshayev, Jake Green, Amber Sayer, and Stephen Sousa, spend several hours improving the current design to make the unique Hartford Hand a reality for patients.

The University of Hartford’s College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions collaborates with Hanger Clinic to offer the Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO). It is one of only 13 accredited programs in the United States. The curriculum provides students with strong foundational coursework in biomechanics, neuroscience, and kinesiology.prosthetics

More than a great learning experience, the project has the potential to change lives as it prepares students for future career success. “They have more training than any other students in the country,” Wininger said, “which makes them competitive for their residencies. This is a good chance for students to train on cutting-edge technology.”

Two of the students presented the Hartford Hand at a national conference in San Antonio, Texas last year. “We were able to get professional feedback and network with people in our field,” said Sousa. Welch adds that everyone they talked with confirmed that there is a huge need for this hand. Both of them are planning to use the skills they have learned with this project to work in clinics after they graduate. “I am very grateful to have had this opportunity,” Sousa said. “I could not imagine a program without this great experience.” Previous students have presented at national conferences in Las Vegas, and have entered the Hartford Hand design into national engineering design competitions.

Wininger indicated that he anticipated tests with human subjects would begin by the end of the University’s spring semester.

The professions of prosthetics and orthotics are specialized allied health professions which combine a unique blend of clinical and technical skills. Professionals in this field design, fabricate, and fit orthopedic braces and artificial limbs for a broad range of clients from pediatric to geriatric.

PHOTO (at right): Yonatan Moshayev, Jake Green, Christopher Welch, Amber Sayer, Steve Sousa, and Assistant Professor Michael Wininger.

Mental Health and Community Well-Being Is Focus of Initiative Honoring Memory of Ana Grace Márquez-Greene

The  parents of Ana Marquez-Greene, one of the students whose life was tragically ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly a year ago, have announced plans to convene "Love Wins,"  a day-long conference for those concerned with mental health and community well-being to help build connections that prevent and cope with trauma.

 To be held on December 2 at the University of Hartford, the conference is the inaugural initiative of The Ana Grace Project, and is designed to “promote love, community and connection for every child and family,” and a day dedicated to honoring Ana Grace.

Nelba Márquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene have dedicated themselves to creating real solutions to the kind of violence that took their daughter’s life.  They have developed The Center for Community and Connection in partnership with the Klingberg Family Centers as a transformational initiative of The Ana Grace Project to identify the most effective ways to build community and interpersonal connection to prevent violence and promote recovery. The Center aims to accomplish this objective through research, practical tools, professional development and public policy.

The Center was inspired by the heart and soul of Ana Grace’s mother, Nelba Márquez-Greene, LMFT, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist employed by Klingberg Family Centers. Nelba Márquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene “believe that love and community are the antidotes for violence and are spurred on not onAna Gracely by their loss but by their faith and the belief that it is always best to “Overcome Evil with Good,” according to the organization’s website.

Nelba Márquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene are both alumni of the University of Hartford.

The program on Dec. 2 will feature Bruce Perry, MD, Ph.D., as its keynote speaker and is a collaboration of the resources of Western Connecticut State University, Central Connecticut State University, the University of Hartford, Klingberg Family Centers and Stanley Black and Decker.  Perry is the Senior Fellow of The Child Trauma Academy, a not-for-profit organization based in Houston, TX, and adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

A workshop on Creating Compassionate Communities by Christopher Kukk will address weaving compassion into the fabric of learning (schools) and living (cities and towns) communities, drawing upon ideas from neuroscience, psychology, evolutionary biology, economics and other social sciences. Dr. Kukk is Professor of Political Science at Western Connecticut State University and founding Director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation.

A session to be led by Alice Forrester will describe New Haven's efforts to reduce the impact of adverse childhood experiences using a two-generational approach.  Participants will discuss how collaboration and grass roots activism can impact children and families facing mental health challenges.  Dr. Forrester is the Executive Director of the Clifford Beers Child Guidance Clinic in New Haven, a community-based, mental health center for excellence for the treatment of children and families.  She was appointed by Governor Malloy to sit on the Sandy Hook Commission and has served as the Project Director of two National Child Traumatic Stress Network grants.

“For anyone whose child has been the victim of senseless violence it can seem almost impossible to go on. Grappling with anger and despair, you search for a way to redeem what has been lost, said Nelba Márquez-Greene on the organization’s website.  “And here we stand, knowing we must do something, something meaningful, to help all of us turn the page and begin the next chapter. Our hope as a family is to invest in creating solutions that will draw these individuals away from violence and replace it with the powerful love and connection that can only be found in a healthy community of caring.”

Additional session topics include the human cost of unmet mental needs in our cities, Mental Health First Aid, Circle of Security Parenting and Teaching and Learning with Compassion.

Conference participants will learn about and contribute to best practices in building community and interpersonal connections to prevent violence and promote recovery. Organizers anticipate that conference outcomes will contribute to a shared body of knowledge for community members, parents, and professionals to create their own roles in building connections that “will enable love to win.”

The program will also include presentations by Steven Girelli, Ph.D., President & CEO, Klingberg Family Centers; Bryan Gibb, M.B.A., National Council of Behavioral Health; Deborah McCarthy, O.T., Mindfullness Collaborative for Youth and Schools; Adi Flesher, M.Ed., Garrison Institute; Isabel Pacheco Logan, L.C.S.W., Office of the Public Defender;  Keith Gaston, M.S.W.,  Village for  Families and Children;  Charlie Slaughter, M.P.H., R.D., Department of Children and Families; Geoffry Scales, Hartford Juvenile Probation;  Karl Koistein, L.C.S.W., DCF;  and Iran Nazarrio, COMPASS Youth Collaborative.

There will also be a performance piece about gun violence by Janis Astor del Valle and Lara Herscovitch, and a performance by the Connecticut Children’s Chorus.  CEUs will be available for teachers.  Registration and additional information is available at

Founded in 1903, Klingberg Family Centers is a private nonprofit charitable organization offering an array of treatment programs. The organization’s programs are designed to serve children and families whose lives have been affected by trauma in its various forms, family difficulties, and mental health issues.

University of Hartford Student Athletes Win Conference in Academic Performance

Reporting on the academic performance of its student athletes with a level of statistical precision normally reserved for sporting events, the University of Hartford announced that it has clinched its second-straight America East Academic Cup in 2012-13 after posting the highest grade point average of any school in the 18-year history of the award, according to data from by the America East conference.

Compiling a 3.24 GPA in 2012-13, the Hawks' winning GPA was six points higher than the next highest mark, which belonged to New Hampshire (3.18 GPA). Binghamton University and University of Vermont tied for third (3.12 GPA), followed by University of Maine (3.11), Stony Brook University (3.08), Boston University (3.07), University at Albany (3.01) and UMBC (2.83), the university reported.

“We are all so proud of our student-athletes who have proven once again that we do things the right way: we excel on the field or court and in the classroom,” said University of Hartford President Walter Harrison. “Here at Hartford, the term student-athlete has meaning.”  Harrison has served as Chair of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Committee on Academic PerforNCAA-mance.

The Academic Cup, established by the America East Board of Directors in 1995, is presented to the institution whose student-athletes post the highest grade point averages during that academic year.  Last year, Hartford student-athletes earned a 3.17 GPA, edging out the University of Vermont by one one-hundredth of a point to clinch UHart's first Academic Cup since 1996-97. In 2012-13, the Hawks surpassed last year's mark by seven one-hundredths to take home back-to-back Academic Cups for the first time in school history.

The Hawks set a record in the classroom in the Spring 2013 semester, posting a combined 3.23 GPA, edging the previous school mark of 3.22 set one year ago. This past spring, Hartford boasted 252 student-athletes with GPAs of 3.0 or better, with 150 of those student-athletes notching at least a 3.5 and 20 out of 358 student-athletes earning a perfect 4.0 GPA for the semester.

“Congratulations to the University of Hartford, most notably its student-athletes, on this historic achievement,” said America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen. “It is indicative of the hard work put in and the value placed on academics not only by Hartford, but by all nine of our institutions and student-athletes, who consistently excel academically year in and year out, which is a core pillar of this conference and what sets us apart from so many others.” America East After a season in which its mens basketball team was ineligible for post-season play because of substandard academic performance a few years ago, UConn received the news earlier this year that they would again be eligible for post season play in 2014.

According to the NCAA's explanation of the Academic Progress Rate (APR) system which determines eligibility, each athlete earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for remaining academically eligible. The team's total points are divided by the number of possible points, then multiplied by 1,000 to reach the APR.

UConn's score for the 2011-12 academic year was 947 out of 1,000, giving the program two consecutive years with scores surpassing the NCAA benchmark. With a two-year average of 964, UConn surpassed the NCAA's two-year standard of 930 and will be eligible for postseason play in 2014, The Hartford Courant reported.

Five Quinnipiac University teams have received a Public Recognition Award from the NCAA for earning high scores in the most recent Academic Progress Rate (APR) compilation, according to the school.

The Quinnipiac squads recognized by the NCAA include: men’s indoor track & field, women’s cross country, women’s golf, women’s indoor track & field and women’s outdoor track & field. All five teams are rewarded for scoring in the top 10 percent in each sport with respect to their Academic Progress Rates (APRs).

Rizzotti, Like Auriemma, Signs Through 2017-18 Season

Let the “Jen will succeed Geno” rumor mill begin.  Again.

A month ago, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma signed a new $10.86 million contract, a deal designed to keep him at the university through the 2017-18 season.

"This is just a unique place and a unique situation," Auriemma reportedly said at the time. "I'm fortunate that I'm here and that I've been here at the perfect time and the perfect place."

Speaking of timing, the University of Hartford has now announced that women's basketball coach Jennifer Rizzotti has agreed to a contract extension, which will run - you guessed it - through the 2017-18 women's basketball season.

Rizzotti, 38, first signed with Hartford in September of 1999 and has since led the Hawks to six NCAA Tournament appearances and the program's first win in the NCAA Tournament. Her previous contract was to last through the 2013-14 season and will now be folded into the new contract, the university said. The terms of the new extension were not disclosed.jen geno

Auriemma, the 59-year-old Hall of Famer, has coached at UConn since 1985.  He will make $1.95 million in salary, speaking fees and media fees in the next year, according to the Associated Press. That will gradually increase to $2.4 million in the final year of the five-year contract. The Huskies have played in 14 Finals Fours under Auriemma, including the last five, winning the National Championship for a record-tying eighth time earlier this month.

Rizzotti was one of the most highly recognized UConn stand-outs at the start of the Husky dynasty, and went on to a successful pro career before settling in at Hartford.  In recent years, the Hawks and Huskies have squared off in early season match-ups, first at the XL Center and last year at the Hartford campus.  With each match-up, the questions about Rizzotti’s future and Auriemma’s successor are rekindled.

UConn announced that Auriemma will receive a base salary of $400,000 for each year on the contract, which runs from April 15 to April 14 of each year. In 2013-14, he will receive $1,550,000 for institutional speaking engagements and media related appearances for a total of $1,950,000. The payment for institutional speaking engagements will increase by $110,000 each year, except in the final year when it will increase by $120,000.  Auriemma's total compensation for each year of the contract will be: 2013-14-$1,950,000; 2014-15-$2,060,000; 2015-16-$2,170,000; 2016-17-$2,280,000; 2017-18-$2,400,000.

A three-time America East Coach of the Year, Rizzotti has amassed a school-record 276 wins, which is the most among all current and former America East coaches. Her five America East Conference Championships and 23 league tournament victories are the most in the history of the conference. This June, Rizzotti will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, one of six members of the Class of 2013.   Rizzotti has also amassed a 13-1 record as a USA Basketball Head Coach, leading the United States to Gold Medals at the 2011 U-19 FIBA Championships and the 2010 U-18 FIBA Americas.


Photo Credit: Geoff Bolte / Southcreek Global


Connecticut as College Soccer Hotbed?

Connecticut is well known for its fans devotion to college basketball, but apparently college soccer in the Nutmeg State is gaining some notice as well.  The University of Connecticut finished the 2012 with the second highest average attendance in the nation, with 4,228 fans per game.  That’s just behind UC Santa Barbara, which finished first for the sixth consecutive season, with an average of 5,543 fans per game. Now comes word that the University of Hartford men's soccer team has developed notice in the Greater Hartford soccer community, and it shows in the NCAA's final attendance rankings for the 2012 season. In their seven home games, the Hawks drew an average of 998 fans per game to Al-Marzook Field at Alumni Stadium, which ranked 27th best in Division I men's soccer.  (Season total attendance was 6,985.)

The Hawks drew more fans to their games in 2012 than any other team in the America East. Part of the reason for Hartford's high attendance numbers in 2012 is attributed to support from the Red Army, a student fan group.

In 2011, the University of Hartford’s average game attendance did not reach the top 50 nationally.  UConn was #4 in 2011, averaging 3,600.  College sports historians will recall that UConn was #1 in 2000, 2002, and 2006, the last time any university has outpaced UC Santa Barbara in average game attendance.

Highlighting the Hawks' home slate was their 2012 debut at Alumni Stadium, a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over neighboring rival Central Connecticut State University on Labor Day. Junior Anthony Santaga, who was later named to the America East All-Conference Second Team, scored both UH goals, including the game-winner 147 seconds into the extra period.  The 1,504 spectators who packed themselves in to Alumni Stadium proved to be a record-breaking crowd for the Hartford's men's soccer program.

In case you’re wondering, Maryland (3,153) Akron (2,778) and Cal Poly (2,709) rounded out the top-five in average game attendance during the2012 season.