WCSU’s top tick expert and ‘role model’ earns the highest rank a state professor can achieve

RIDGEFIELD — A celebrated Western Connecticut State University faculty member who is an expert in Lyme disease prevention has won the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a state university professor.

Neeta Connally, professor of biology at Western Connecticut State University, was unanimously named a professor at Connecticut State University by the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities’ Board of Regents for “achieving extraordinary levels of achievement in research, teaching and service,” according to a WCSU announcement.

Connally, a resident of Ridgefield, has taught at WestConn since 2011 in the graduate and undergraduate programs of the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences. She oversees the Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Laboratory at the university.

“I believe that the most successful teachers recognize that every aspect of their work is inextricably linked to the next, and that nurturing and cultivating those connections is an essential part of being a successful and well-rounded scholar and educator,” Connally said in a statement. “I always try to find those common threads connecting my experience as a scientist to the subjects I teach, and to encourage students to make their own connections between their lived experiences and the process of scientific research.”

A medical entomologist, Connally is nationally recognized as an expert in the ecology of blacklegged ticks and the prevention of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. She has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications focused on Lyme disease risk and tick-related prevention measures.

Patrice Boily, assistant dean of the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences, said Connally “is an effective role model and ambassador for WCSU, its faculty and students, and the CSCU system as a whole.”

He noted that Connally, who received the CT Campus Compact Community Engaged Scholar Award and twice won the CSCU Board of Regents Faculty Research Award, consistently gets “very positive” reviews from students and peers.

“She always goes the extra mile to enrich our students’ educational experience by implementing evidence-based learning strategies…and conducting her own educational research to investigate the effectiveness of different teaching strategies. “Boily said in a statement.

She also provided summer research opportunities to nearly 40 undergraduate students. Under her supervision, she and the students of the WCSU Tick Lab study the ecology of tick-borne diseases and collaborate on prevention projects with several academic, scientific and community partners.

“I am extremely grateful to have a position that not only allows me to do work aimed at solving the public health problem of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, but also to be able to share this process of scientific discovery with students from Western Connecticut State University. said Connally, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island and, before joining WCSU, oversaw Lyme disease studies as a research associate at the Connecticut Emerging Infections Program at the Yale School of Public Health.

“The WCSU Tick Lab would not exist without the support and encouragement of my department and so many members of the WCSU community,” she added. “I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful job and am both humbled and honored to be selected to serve in the faculty role at CSU.”

A position with her is “coveted” among the student body, said C. Thomas Philbrick, professor emeritus, WCSU’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

“His grant-making abilities are unmatched in the department,” he said in a statement. “On top of that, he’s a kind person…and a powerful motivator.”

CSCU selects faculty for this honor who have “substantial and continuing professional achievements recognized by their peers,” an “effective teaching record (including) an ability to make a candidate’s discipline intelligible to those who are not not specialists” and makes “contributions to the general welfare of the university.

CORRECTION: An original version of this article misspelled one of the professor’s names. His name is Patrice Boily.

Rebecca R. Santistevan