Learn more about their favorite UConn professors, best memories, plans for the future, and advice for incoming students. Congratulations, CLAS Class of 2016!
Hometown: Prince Georges County, MD
Major: Individualized Major: Urban and Youth Development
Minor: Africana Studies
Clubs and Activities: UConn Hip Hop Collective; Sankofa; SIS; Theta Delta Sigma; Community Outreach
Why did you choose an individualized major in urban youth development?
When I first came to UConn, I was an athletic training major. I got into the program, but there was something missing for me. I actually took a break from the university for about a year, and during that break, I explored what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to choose something that would be authentic to me. I looked back at my experiences and realized that I love working with young people, and I wanted to engage, empower, and educate them in meaningful ways that spoke to and resonated with them. Even though I wasn’t sure what job I would have after college, I’ve just tried to remain open.
In what ways did the Urban Semester in Hartford program influence you?
I see myself working within the urban landscape, and particularly within communities of color, or minority communities in general. So both my internships have built up my confidence. I’ve been able to have a lot of autonomy and freedom to say, “I think this is a great program, lets do it!”
I’m interning at two different locations. One is the Hartford Gay Lesbian Health Collective; they do a lot of work with HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. I am also interning at Connectikids, which provides after school and summer programing for youths grades two through eight. I’m helping design their summer curriculum. One program I’ve run for them is a trip to UConn. We’re doing a student panel, a couple of workshops on culture and awareness, a campus tour, and we’re going to eat at South campus dining hall. It’ll be a great experience for the kids.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know yet! I used to be such a planner. I’m trying to let my life evolve organically by being open and hopping on opportunities. I know that graduate school is definitely where I want to be within two or three years. I’m looking at programs that are focused on education policy, but also management. In the meantime, I’m thinking about doing an AmeriCorps or Peace Corps program.
How did founding the Hip Hop Collective enrich your student experience?
It started my sophomore year when I had an idea for a program. I wanted to do something simple where we would educate people about the culture and social movement of Hip Hop. But I remember having conversations with people and everyone was like “think bigger, do bigger!” I connected with people and it ended up becoming a three-day event that spring. We had a panel, a student showcase, a documentary screening, a rising artist concert, and an opening ceremony where student groups performed. For me, it was cool to see a small idea develop into something that really had an impact on folks. The next year, it ended up being an educational conference, and we had about 100 people come out to that. With the Hip Hop Collective, nothing has happened as I planned or anticipated, but I think it’s helped me learn to follow my heart and trust it.
Who has made the biggest impact on you at UConn?
I wasn’t going to be able to return to the University my junior year because my financial aid was cut and tuition was raised. I had to come up with $15,000. My professor, Mark Overmyer-Velázquez of the Department of History and El Instituto, ended up making it his mission to make sure I stayed here. He reached out to everybody on campus and rallied this team, which is how I got a $15,000 grant from the University! I have a lot of those stories where people have just really supported me. One of the greatest things about my experience at UConn has been the people. I have so many people that I feel like are in my corner and have my back.
Hometown: Manchester, CT
Major: History, Urban and Community Studies
Clubs and Activities: Student Support Services
How has being a first-generation student impacted your college experience?
Actually applying to the universities was difficult because I didn’t know what to look for when looking at colleges. I ended up going to my teachers and they really went above and beyond to help me. I could never thank them enough; if it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be here.
I try to be as involved as I can. I feel like I’m already a step behind because I didn’t have the same resources that other people did coming into college. I have to make sure that I’m working and making my resume and everything as competitive as I can. You just have to motivate yourself or find something that motivates you. For me, it’s probably my family and little brother’s specifically because I want to be a good example for them.
Who was your favorite professor?
Professor Lawrence Goodheart at the West Hartford campus was my favorite professor. He recently retired, but I took African American History Before the Civil War and American History with him. He would literally come into class smiling and just start jumping around. I’ve never actually seen a professor really love their job as much as he did. He made topics that most people wouldn’t like really interesting just by being so enthusiastic.
What is your favorite memory of UConn?
I was selected to speak in front of the Connecticut General Assembly this semester about UConn budget cuts. I only got a couple days to prepare the testimony, which was a little nerve-wracking. Once I was there, I tried to tune everything out, and I practiced a lot to make sure I didn’t stutter too much. I swear I wasn’t nervous until I turned on the mic, but then I was like ‘oh man, what am I doing?’ But it was an amazing experience, and it was kind of funny seeing myself on TV!
You’ve had several internship and program experiences in the Connecticut public sector. Which ones influenced you the most?
I participated in Leadership Greater Hartford, which was a program that brought students together to impact Hartford with a pro-social project. My group wanted to impact the education system, so we organized a career fair in Buckley High School. Especially in an urban community, there’s pretty much this mindset that you might not be able to go to college. We put together a video aimed at encouraging these students, but then we also brought resources to them. We had admissions officers from all the universities that we attended come to the event as well to talk about college and answer their questions.
Then I interned at the Newington Board of Education in the transportation department, which provided good insights into how to balance a budget. It was nice because I’m going to need to have basic budgeting skills if I’m going to be an administrator someday. Maybe one day I’ll work at UConn; I’d love to work here!
What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?
When you come into a big university like UConn, you can feel kind of lost. At times you probably question if you’re really supposed to be here. Just keep an open mind and don’t despair. Make sure you don’t feel depressed about things like not knowing anyone, and if you do, talk to someone because there are so many people here willing to help. Most of my closest friends I met at the end of my sophomore year and junior year. Don’t feel bad if it hasn’t happened for you yet.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I’ll be attending the Masters in Public Administration program here at UConn. When I finish that I hope to work in a job where I can analyze policies that affect education. Once I get some experience and feel like I have a good foundation to build upon, I hope to go for more of a leadership position. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a job where I get to have my voice heard. I’d love to become a Senator one day, but I’m taking things one step at a time for now!
Hometown: Northfield, VT
Major: Geography, Urban and Community Studies
Scholarships: UConn Merit Scholarship, UCS Department Scholarship
Clubs and Activities: UConn Moot Court Competition Team, The Writing Center, Leadership Legacy Experience, Holster Scholars First Year Project
Why did you choose to study Urban and Community Studies and Geography?
I knew that I wanted to study urban planning, and I thought I was interested in land use and development law because my grandfather worked in environmental and natural resources for the Vermont state government, and I was always fascinated by the work that he did. As soon as I started to get an introductory knowledge into the technical side of geography, I really fell in love with it and made that my niche area.
What was the most meaningful experience you had in your clubs and organizations?
I was so happy when I was hired as a sophomore to work at the Writing Center. We tutor about ten hours a week, so we get to meet 100 people or more from different majors in that time, and that’s really cool. I still remember a student that came in my first semester of tutoring with a personal statement for an application to be a bridge designer for a prestigious firm in New York City. That was something I had never even heard of before. So in addition to meeting cool people, it also teaches you a lot about how the world works and how other people are trying to go after their goals, which I find really inspiring.
Tell us about the many internship opportunities you’ve had.
My first internship was at the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission. I took inventory of road infrastructure, so I would dive into ditches and take pictures of culverts, which are the pipes that run under roads. My second internship was at the Connecticut State Data Center, located in Babbidge Library. By the end of the internship, we had put together a regional planning data browser. Then I interned at Travelers Insurance, and currently, I’m an intern at a non-profit called New Haven Promise, a scholarship organization that’s also a long-term economic development engine.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I have accepted an offer at Travelers. When I interned there, it was a game changer for me, and we both agreed that me working there was a good fit. I’ll be working as a geospatial analyst. Organizations like Travelers have a lot of data, but that kind of data is only valuable if it is presented and analyzed in useful ways. Occasionally, a great way to present or analyze certain information is to do so spatially—often on a map. So I work in information delivery, working on applications and performing analyses that involve a spatial component.
Do you have a favorite class or professor?
I took Canon of American Legal Thought with Richard Michael Fischl in the School of Law. People say that you take classes that teach you how to think, and I don’t know if I’ve ever really thought about classes that way, but I would say that I’ve had to think harder for that class than in any other class I’ve taken. It was immensely challenging. The readings were complex, they were dense, but it was rewarding to see how leading influential thinkers of multiple periods in history have thought. And he’s just an amazing professor.
What have you learned about yourself since coming to UConn?
I thought I could have given you my ten-year plan the day I walked onto campus. That’s just the kind of person I am! But UConn has taught me the virtue of being flexible in a lot of situations. I had the resources that a large, public research university can offer, so I had time and the opportunity to play around with many options. And even though it’s not what I had envisioned when I first showed up, I’m so grateful for it every day.
Photos by Sydney Lauro
Profiles courtesy of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences