Four employees with Naugatuck Valley ties have been recognized with Quinnipiac University’s most prestigious honor.
Stephen Allegretto, of Seymour, and Ansonia native Dominic Yoia have been recognized with Quinnipiac University’s most prestigious staff honor, the Center for Excellence in Service to Students Award.
In addition, Kiku Jones of Ansonia and Seymour High School graduate Courtney McGinnis have received the university’s highest faculty honor, the Center for Excellence in Teaching Award.
Allegretto, the university’s assistant controller, grew up in Ansonia. He graduated from Notre Dame of West Haven High School and Fairfield University, with a double major in accounting and information systems.
Allegretto, who will finish his MBA at Quinnipiac in December, and his wife, Tara, have a daughter, Charlotte, 2, and a baby boy on the way.
Jones, associate professor of computer information systems, grew up in Kentucky. She earned an undergraduate degree in computer information systems and an MBA from Western Kentucky University and her Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.
She then moved to Oklahoma, where she began teaching at the University of Tulsa and working as a consultant for non-profit organizations such as Feed the Children.
She stepped away from academia to become a vice president at Feed the Children.
“It was a very difficult decision because I was right on the cusp of getting tenure at the Tulsa, but I felt very strongly about helping them and in their mission of feeding kids across the world,” she said.
Jones worked for Feed the Children for three years. When she completed all her projects, she decided she was ready to return to the classroom. She was very picky when it came to selecting a new workplace, especially with a young family.
Jones joined the Quinnipiac faculty in Fall 2013.
She lives in Ansonia with her husband, Baron, and sons Michael, 13, and Matthew, 12.
McGinnis associate professor of biology at Quinnipiac, is an inspiration to her students in the classroom and out in the field, where together they have investigated pollution in the Quinnipiac and Naugatuck rivers.
“I give the students real-life applications of anatomy and physiology,” McGinnis said. “I try to get them to think outside the box and apply what they are learning as opposed to focusing on rote memorization. I bring that to my research as well. When I’m working with my research students, I try to make them independent and let them think about their research. I might suggest the next step or next experiment, but I hold them accountable for applying what they read in the literature and for synthesizing that information.”
McGinnis grew up in Oxford. She graduated from Seymour High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental theories and applications from Post University. She then went on get her PhD in physiology and neurobiology at the University of Connecticut.
McGinnis said an internship at Crompton Corporation, a chemical research, production, sales and distribution company headquartered in Middlebury, as well as teaching opportunities at UConn and Capital Community College helped prepare her for a full-time professor at Quinnipiac. She joined the university in 2011.
McGinnis lives in Hamden with her 1 ½-year-old twins, Brooklyn and Savannah.
Yoia, associate vice president and university director of financial aid, has worked in financial aid for 32 years, including the past 18 at Quinnipiac.
“Nick represents the best of the financial aid profession,” said Joan Isaac Mohr, vice president for admissions and financial aid
Yoia grew up in Ansonia, earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Central Connecticut State University and an MBA from the University of Bridgeport in 1998. He worked in financial aid offices at Bridgeport and at various for-profit technical schools before joining the staff at Quinnipiac.
“I can’t picture myself working anyplace else,” he said. “The people at Quinnipiac make it a special place.”
Yoia credits much of his success to his blue-collar background and the work ethic his parents taught him growing up in the Naugatuck Valley.
“I learned the value of a dollar,” he said.
Yoia and his wife, Marcia, live in Wallingford. They have two grown daughters, Lindsay (Gormley) and Lauren.
“I work for the best vice president that there is in Joan Isaac Mohr,” he said. “I have a very seasoned staff. I raised my family here. Both of my daughters graduated from Quinnipiac and are doing very well as a result of the education they received.”
The other Center for Excellence winners were Margarita Diaz, of New Haven, associate professor of journalism, and Anna Gilmore, of Wallingford, director of prehealth advising.
The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Service to Students encourages, supports and recognizes superior teaching and service to students at Quinnipiac. The center serves as an important vehicle in helping the university achieve its educational mission, consistent with its three core values: high-quality academic programs, a student-oriented environment and a sense of community. Honorees are nominated by members of the university community.