UMass Amherst Alumni Association to Present 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards at Massachusetts State House

Michael Wessells
Michael Wessells
Suzin Bartley
Suzin Bartley
Robert Littleton
Robert Littleton
Danielle O'Connor Dean
Danielle O'Connor Dean
Melissa James
Melissa James
Léonce Ndikumana
Léonce Ndikumana

AMHERST, Mass. – UMass Amherst Alumni Association President Michaella Morzuch will present the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards at noon on Monday, April 24 in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House in Boston. This year’s recipients include:

Michael Wessells ’73 MA, ’74 PhD: Distinguished Alumni Award
Wessells is a professor of clinical population and family health in the Program on Forced Migration and Health at Columbia University. His work emphasizes the resilience of children, families and communities and impact of distress due to armed conflict, disasters, family separation and deprivation of basic needs. In addition to research and teaching, Wessells has focused on psychosocial and child protection supports for war-affected children primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Suzin Bartley ’80: Distinguished Alumni Service Award
Bartley is the executive director of the Children’s Trust, a non-profit organization with a mission to stop child abuse in Massachusetts. Bartley and her team are nationally known for developing, implementing and supporting evidence-based programs that partner with parents to help them make sure kids have safe and healthy childhoods. In her role as executive director, Bartley has established the Children’s Trust as a multimillion dollar organization that supports more than 100 community-based organizations throughout Massachusetts.

Robert Littleton Jr. ’71: Distinguished Alumni Service Award
Littleton is the founder and chief executive officer of numerous human service agencies, including the Evergreen Center and Criterion Child Enrichment. He has dedicated his career to providing children with developmental delays and their families with assessment, early intervention and education services. Littleton was the catalyst and key contributor to the development of several graduate training programs for behavior analysts including the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Cambridge College.

Danielle O’Connor Dean ’10: Distinguished Young Alumni Award
Dean is a senior data scientist lead at Microsoft Corporation in the Algorithms and Data Science Group within the Cloud and Enterprise Division. She leads an international team of data scientists and engineers working on machine learning solutions, within the field of artificial intelligence, that address a variety of business needs. Dean is also dedicated to mentoring young women. She is an active advisor with Girls Who Code and a board member of Microsoft’s Women@NERD (New England Research & Development) resource group. 

Melissa James ’10: Distinguished Young Alumni Award
James is president and CEO of The Tech Connection, a Boston-based recruitment firm that supports the professional development of diverse, underrepresented technical talent through individualized career planning and job placement. She is the founder of the first-ever Black Tech Boston Meetup and has also served on the board for the Youth Institute of Science and Technology and the Young Black Women’s Society. James recently received the U.S. Presidential Service Award and the 2015 Pursuer Award from the African Youth Excellence organization.

Léonce Ndikumana: Distinguished Faculty Award
Ndikumana is a professor of economics and the founding director of the African Development Policy Program at the UMass Amherst Political Economy Research Institute. His academic expertise and practical policy experience have made him one of the most prolific and influential researchers in his areas of expertise worldwide. Ndikumana’s research investigates critical development issues, notably the problem of capital flight, globalization, and the effectiveness of aid in African development.

Event sponsors include the Evergreen Center, Criterion Child Enrichment, Coca-Cola, and Mercer Consumer. Sponsor contributions support the UMass Amherst Alumni Association’s Leaders in the Making Scholarship Endowment Fund.

The UMass Amherst Alumni Association represents and serves a network of more than 260,000 alumni worldwide, and reflects an active and powerful community that generates positive outcomes for the university. For more than 143 years, the Alumni Association has played an integral role in the university’s success and mounting reputation. The association serves as a gateway for students and alumni to build relationships with each other and the university. Through campus traditions, alumni networks, awards and scholarships, professional development programs and volunteer opportunities, the Alumni Association creates an engaging environment that enriches the student and alumni experience.

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