Month: March 2020

Meet Julia Czarnecki

Photo provided by Julia Czarnecki

By: Allison O’Donnell, Written Communications Specialist, UConn School of Engineering

Julia Czarnecki is a third-year Ph.D. student in Environmental Engineering, and received a  bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Marist College: “Transitioning into engineering was a bit of a change,” said Czarnecki. “I like the more system-based, quantitative approach.” 

Czarnecki’s passion for the environment translates into how she spends her free time. She enjoys gardening and photographing nature. In her undergraduate years, she rowed the Hudson River for sport.

Her current research keeps her in touch with water resources, as it relates to alternate water sources for greenhouse agriculture and plant uptake of contaminants.  

JLLA has helped Czarnecki reign in her passion and tailor it towards being an active and effective leader. 

“I had a general idea about aspects of my leadership, but bringing that together and figuring out the leader I want to be was what I hoped to get out of JLLA,” said Czarnecki. “I definitely think I have a better idea now.”

She says that JLLA members have the ability to make it into whatever they want or need it to be. Different members have different leadership styles and different strengths, which is why it is so important that the program can accommodate this diversity. 

“I see the results [of JLLA] showing themselves immediately because you have to learn your strengths and weaknesses,” said Czarnecki. “I hold roles as a researcher and club president that I exercise my skills.”

As president of the Student Association of Graduate Engineers (SAGE), Czarnecki values the skills-based focus of JLLA. She says that there is a fundamental difference between the two programs.  

“John Lof has a set curriculum that works on individual leadership styles, where SAGE is more social, generic resources provided by the university… John Lof teaches us how to maintain connections with people and develop professional personas.”

Czarnecki says she joined JLLA because she wanted to supplement her educational progress with professional advancements. She wanted to have an outlet to work on herself to better prepare herself for when she graduates. 

“From high school to college, involvement is so important. But the transition from graduate school to the real world doesn’t develop students in a holistic way, which is what sets [JLLA] apart.” 

Looking into the future, Czarnecki is interested in performing agricultural research for the government. Although, she likes keeping her options open and is always willing to adapt to change. 


New Tool To Help JLLA Members Measure Leadership Development

JLLA members attend a meeting on Feb. 18, 2020. Photo by Allison O’Donnell

By: Allison O’Donnell, Written Communications Specialist, UConn School of Engineering

John Lof Leadership Academy is getting a new tool- and it will serve to boost the leadership  strength of an already gifted group.


The program, Mind Garden’s multifactor leadership questionnaire(MLQ), provides a holistic assessment of individual leadership by comparing self-assessment to assessment by: higher level, lower level and same level peers. Comparing each of these evaluations will create individualized action plans to achieve transformational leaders. 


“This resource is a validated research instrument, and it’s important for [JLLA] to use tools that are recognized as accurate and effective. If someone rates themself lower than their peers, that is something we can address and improve upon,” said Vice President Stephany Santos, who investigated and introduced the new software to JLLA members.


Investing in the enhancement of the members will ensure the effectiveness of JLLA’s curriculumand guarantee that the members get the most out of the two-year leadership tenure. This tool will identify how individuals view their leadership in relation to others and assist in mitigating that disconnect and promoting further growth. 


“It is exciting to be able to measure the impact of our organization and quantify those initiatives,” said Santos. 


JLLA President- Randi Mendes- stated the salience of accessing  a personalized evaluation, so JLLA can cater to the needs of each member and promote the overall success of the program. 


“Getting [feedback] from different perspectives is especially helpful if someone learns they have a strength in something they did not previously realize. It is important for [JLLA members] to have this tool, because nobody can improve on their skills without a way to gauge where they are at,” said Mendes. 


The MLQ “Helps emphasize that leaders are, at the end of the day, individuals. So, we want to be sure our program is going to accentuate each individuals’ leadership abilities,” said Mendes.


Members have a diverse set of leadership capabilities, and thus require a program that can be adapted to those needs. JLLA will be reevaluating their growth throughout the semester to measure the success of the leadership curriculum and confirm the effectiveness of the program. 


For more information about JLLA, you can visit their website