Governor William A. O'Neill Endowed Chair

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Edwin Vargas

Edwin Vargas is the current Chair Holder of the Governor William A. O’Neill Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Practical Politics since 2023. The O’Neill Endowed Chair is housed in the Center for Community Engagement and Social Research (CCESR), formerly known as the Center for Public Policy and Social Research until merged with the Office of Community Engagement at CCSU in 2022.

Mr. Vargas’ appointment reflects the Center’s renewed focus on community engagement, given his extensive career in public service spanning more than 45 years and dedication to his community. From 1972 to 2007, he worked in the Hartford Public Schools system, for which he taught American History at the high school level; supervised the Mathematics Lab; and served as lead teacher at the North End Adult School, which included teaching English to immigrant students. Vargas also served in several leadership roles in support of his fellow teachers, including president, chief negotiator, and grievance chair for the Hartford Federation of Teachers; executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut; and president of the Greater Hartford Labor Council for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Vargas was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 2012 and served the Sixth House District for five terms. He was appointed deputy speaker of the state House in 2020. Throughout his career, Vargas has highlighted his Puerto Rican roots and has held various state and national leadership positions that emphasize his commitment to the Latino community. Among other roles, he has been president of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, Public Policy Chair of the National Puerto Rican Coalition, and board vice chair of the Center for Latino Progress (formerly the Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum).

He also has served on many state and local boards and commissions, including the Hartford Hospital Corporation, Connecticut United Way of the Capitol Region, and the Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission, among others. Mr. Vargas holds a master's degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Hartford.

Honoring the public service legacy of the first Holder of the Chair, Governor William A. O’Neill, Mr. Vargas, as the fifth Chair Holder, will instruct within the Political Science Department and actively engage CCSU faculty and students in the public policy outreach of the Chair and Center. Mr. Vargas will also take a leadership role in the Center’s new committee, Boosting Engaged Citizenship through Collective Action (BECCA), which is dedicated to the development of opportunities for CCSU students that promote civic engagement and active citizenship.

Governor William A. O'Neill Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Practical Politics

The Governor William A. O'Neill Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Practical Politics was established in 2000 by Connecticut's Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Connecticut State University Board of Trustees to honor the late Governor William A. O'Neill, who served from 1980 to 1991.

The O'Neill Endowed Chair seeks to promote an understanding of the history, structure, people and policies of our State's government for both students and the larger community. The Chair's programs include active archival and oral history projects and collaborations with CCSU's Political Science department, History department, University Library, Media Services department and the United States Library of Congress.

The O'Neill Endowed Chair links CPPSR to students and faculty through a wide range of academic and applied research programs. The Chair Holder is a public figure recognized for an outstanding contribution to the understanding and shaping of public affairs in Connecticut.

O'Neill Public Service Scholarship for students enrolled in CCSU's Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)