Two Fairfield University graduate students win scholarship award from Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress

Image: CT Down Sydrome Congress scholarship winnersTwo Fairfield University special education students in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP) have won the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress' Dr. Robert Greenstein Scholarship. Diana Muttitt of Orange and Gillian Thompson of Stamford were presented with an award of $1,000 each at the 25th Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress (CDSC) Convention on November 20 at The Hilton Hotel in Hartford.

The Greenstein scholarship is presented annually to a student or students pursuing a postgraduate degree in a field that will benefit individuals with Down syndrome. Recipients of the award are selected by a committee comprised of members of CDSC's Board of Directors as well as representatives from the University of Connecticut and Fairfield University.

Muttitt and Thompson share the Jesuit philosophy of "cura personalis," care of the whole person, by way of the passion with which they have integrated their calling in special education into their lives and into those of their students. Thompson sees her role as one that helps to better the lives and educational experiences of students with disabilities. While the importance of assisting her students in achieving their academic goals is prominent, she sees clearly that helping them learn life skills is crucial and will ultimately "allow them to be active members of society."

Special Education Assistant Professor Hyun Uk Kim, advisor to Muttitt and Thompson, congratulated her two students on their achievement: "Diana and Gillian are fine examples of the type of caring and committed students GSEAP and the special education program attracts. This scholarship award is the validation they so richly deserve for their work and the innate curiosity and determination they possess to better themselves and the lives of their students."

According to personal statements submitted for consideration of the scholarship award, Muttitt considered herself a teacher the first day she entered school as a child. It was not, however, until she enrolled in the master's degree special education GSEAP program that she had her first intense experience with a kindergartner with Down syndrome. Through her interaction with the student and the lessons the child taught her and continues to teach her, Muttitt has had her eyes opened to a multitude of possibilities.

Likewise, Thompson's profound experience with an individual student with Down syndrome, led her to enhance her skills as a reflective practitioner. She has discovered a new level of sensitivity as she has honed her social skills with her student. These skills have enriched her interactions with parents of children with a disability as she has become more in tune with, not only the student's needs, but with the parents' needs and struggles. "It is important to work with [the parents] to design a program that is best for the student," she said. Thompson recognizes the importance that sensitivity to the delicacy involved in dealing with each family member's perspective and concerns will have on her students' futures. "As a special educator being sensitive to these concerns and having patience not to rush through things with the families is necessary," she stated. According to Thompson, success in this whole-family approach to education will go a long way in preparing students for their future.

Photo caption: (L to R) Diana Muttitt, Dr. Robert Greenstein, Gillian Thompson at the Greenstein scholarship awards presentation at the 25th Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress, November 20, 2010, Hilton Hotel in Hartford, Conn.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950,

Posted on December 3, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 139

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