2023 Faculty Excellence Awards: Karen K. Buffkin, Renzo de la Riva Agüero & Melissa McCaw

Photos of Faculty Excellence Awardees Karen K. Buffkin, Renzo de la Riva Agüero & Melissa N. McCaw

Renzo de la Riva Agüero, Assistant Professor

Renzo is an Assistant Professor of Public Management at the UConn School of Public Policy. He received his Public Policy Ph.D. at the ONeill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Political Science at Indiana University – Bloomington. His work engages with research on local administrative capacity, communitybased CSOs, collaborative governance, and environmental sustainability. His public administration and management research assesses how varying local governance conditions in the Global South may explain performance differences between more and less complex services. Using statistical analysis and intensive qualitative fieldwork related to waste management services in Peru, he examines how servicespecific municipal administrative capacity, the involvement of locallyembedded CSOs, and the contours of cogovernance may affect these performance differences. Renzo is the recipient of the NASPAA 2021 Staats Emerging Scholars Award. Previously, he was a public servant in the Peruvian public sector, a consultant at the World Bank in Washington, DC, and public sector manager at Deloitte Peru. He has a B.A. in Political Science from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and a Master of Public Policy from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

Melissa N. McCaw, MPA ‘14 Adjunct Professor
Finance Director, Town of East Hartford

Melissa N. McCaw is currently the Finance Director for the Town of East Hartford. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Wesleyan University and a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Public Finance & Budgeting from UConn. McCaw is a seasoned professional with over 20 years of executive budgeting, finance, operations and strategic planning experience in government and higher education organizations.

Melissas career background includes the appointment by Governor Ned Lamont to serve as the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, also known as the CT Budget Chief, from 2019 to 2022 where she managed a State budget of more than $20 billion and led the reformation of the finances for the State of CT, bringing Connecticut from fiscal crisis to fiscal strength. McCaw previously served as the Chief Financial Officer and the Director of Budget, Management & Grants for the City of Hartford for 3 years overseeing both the Budget and Finance functions. McCaw led the City through 3 years of intensive restructuring to avert bankruptcy. Prior to this, McCaw served as the Budget Director at the University of Hartford for nearly seven years. McCaw specializes in fiscal sustainability, economic growth and operational strength that balances the needs of constituents and longterm goals with positive financial stewardship.

Karen K. Buffkin, Esq., Adjunct Professor Exec. Director, Employee Relations, UConn

Karen has served almost thirty years in public service in both municipal and state government. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Employee Relations for the University of Connecticut. In that capacity Karen serves as the head of the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations. She is also a trustee of the State Employees Retirement Commission.

Beginning in 2011, Karen served in the Office of Policy and Management as the Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Deputy Secretary. Most recently, Karen served as General Counsel to the Governor. Prior to joining the Office of Policy and Management Karen was serving as General Counsel to the State Board of Labor Relations. Karen also served as the General Counsel to the State Comptroller beginning in 2002.

From 1991 to 2000 Karen worked in the Corporation Counsels Office for the City of Hartford and handled labor and employment matters involving uniformed service, professional employees and public works employees, as well as employment discrimination and retirement commission matters. She was in private practice in Hartford for two years handling union side labor and employment matters.