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What HESA Graduates Think

The "In their Own Words" series ran prior to 2013.

Christina Neilsen (2012)

UConn HESA was my first choice because of how committed the graduate program is to connecting to theory to practice, creating a huge support system, providing a wealth of experiences to learn, and creating a multicultural environment. My expectations for this program were exceeded in the first few weeks when I started teaching an undergraduate level course, supervising a student staff of 22, and connecting with several mentors who truly cared about my personal and professional growth and goals.

Throughout those two years, I completed an ACUHO-I internship, worked for one year at the University of Hartford developing a mentor program, and supervised staff in three different residential areas and five learning communities. I worked with one of the largest residential communities in the nation and gained concrete experiences that helped me easily navigate the job search and transition into my first professional position.

UConn HESA has given me the skills to succeed in the field of student affairs and strengthened my love and commitment to higher education. I spent many hours researching which graduate program would be the best fit for me and without a doubt, UConn HESA was my number one choice and still would be if I could do it all over again.

Alex Matiash (2012)

“There were pieces of the UConn HESA program that I was expecting coming in. I expected a challenging yet enriching course load, the practical application of theory to my assistantship, and the dynamic nature of moving through this program in a cohort. I think what really made this program special to me were those unexpected pieces. The relationships that I built with my practicum and assistantship supervisors really set the foundation for my own supervision style. Additionally, the lessons they taught me about the job search process, professional image, the political environment of the university and how to get involved at a regional and national level have given my career that much more meaning.

The importance of these lessons have given me the tools to navigate my first position successfully. Circumstances that would have frustrated me two years ago, now seem like challenges I am excited to take on. More importantly, I feel as if I have been prepared for this first job and the questions I have are not about student development, but rather about institution specific culture. The confidence I have in this program has only grown and I highly recommend it to anyone who is seriously considering a long term commitment to the field of student affairs.

Morgan Cottrell (2012)

After graduating HESA I was able to contribute value to my new institution immediately. This is due, in large part, to the resources and practical opportunities I gained as a UConn HESA student. The content of HESA courses, the practicums and graduate assistantship experiences are all relevant and directly applicable to the work that I do advocating for students every day. I find myself frequently looking back at texts, consulting with former cohort members, and recalling important classroom discussions and assignments to bring clarity and direction to my new role. I am fully confident, that the mentorship, support and challenge that UConn HESA provided me will continue to benefit me long into my career.

John Pepin, (2009)

The program offers a great emphasis on creativity and personal ownership of work in our classes, which allows HESA students to delve deeply into new and exciting issues in Student Affairs with each class we take. UConn’s program seemed to be the most comprehensively balanced between theory, practice and research. I wanted to find the most well-rounded Master’s program in the Northeast, and UConn was the best fit for me. I’ve been happily surprised by how supportive all my supervisors and advisers have been, from classes to my assistantship and practicum. One of the most important elements that has impacted my practice this year was the study of ethical decision-making in Student Affairs. I feel more comfortable with making difficult decisions, especially regarding my assistantship in Residential Life. I also feel that I can offer concrete examples of what we study almost every day in the classroom, and that helps me tie my experiences to theory and research. I love being able to interact on a professional level with the administrators and faculty members at such a large and diverse institution–I truly feel accepted as a practitioner in the field, and I can learn a lot from the experience and wisdom of so many professionals.

Kate Daniel, (2009)

Our classes are small, interactive, adaptive, and promote student engagement. I chose UConn for a variety of reasons: the small cohort, the great assistantship, the location, the practitioner based structure of the 2-year program, and the generous stipend. The classes impart theories, general knowledge, and great discussion which prove to be beneficial when interacting with students in my assistantship. The assessment class has given me an understanding of program analysis, which I have already been able to apply in a project for my assistantship. My experience at UConn has been enhanced tremendously by the support and challenge I receive in my assistantship. I have found opportunities to explore other functional areas and have also made it a point to get involved in activities and organizations outside of HESA. Balancing HESA with other activities that I’m passionate about has greatly enhanced my UConn experience.

Billy Dunn, (2008)

This program excels at meeting students at any and every level of student affairs knowledge and skill. I know I never would have made it through my first semester, let alone my first month, without a staff of concerned professionals willing to work with us! My resume is jam packed now with amazing practical experiences, and I learned a lot in our classes that will help me translate these experiences into personal and professional development. I was comfortable coming from North Carolina to Connecticut because I knew I wouldn’t be the only one in the program who didn’t consider New England “home”. Working and learning with people from so many different backgrounds is one of the biggest strengths for this program. I’m thankful everyday that HESA has a spirit of community rather than competition. You don’t always see that in a graduate program, and I think it is one of the areas where we succeed most.

Michael Sarra (2007)

In looking to fill future positions, I would be more likely to hire a graduate of the UConn HESA program – not because I’m an alum, but because I know – though firsthand experience – that UConn HESA grads are well prepared in the area of assessment. As the UConn HESA program becomes more widely known, I think other higher-ed professionals will feel the same. Thanks for all that you have done to have made the experience of UConn grads rigorous and meaningful. I use what I learned every single day.

Amber Ulmer (2006)

I’d say that HESA prepared me to be a full time professional by the incredible number of exciting experiences I was given the opportunity to take part of. Because HESA packs so much into your lives, and is overwhelming at points, it really does help to prepare you for the workload of being a new professional. Whenever I feel pushed to my tipping point I know that I can call any of my HESA-ites for advice or just vent from across the country! Finally, I feel prepared, working with other new professionals has really shown me that UConn is doing something right with the HESA program. I have been ready for every challenge that I have been given so far, and I feel that between my fellow OG cohort and other recent HESA alumni I am extremely well connected to people all over the country.

Kara Acken (2005)

Throughout life we all have the opportunity to explore new horizons. In the course of studying student affairs, I did just that. I first grew passionate for the field through my undergraduate involvements in Orientation and athletics. From those experiences it became clear to me where I belonged. Since then, I have continued to experience a fulfilling journey of living, learning, and leadership in student affairs. The University of Connecticut has provided me with wonderful opportunities, and my involvements in residential life, athletics, and campus activities have all been educationally and personally rewarding. Now, with graduation in sight, I look forward to obtaining a job in the field of student affairs that fits my individual needs and utilizes my strengths. By being a motivational leader and friend, I plan to instill within each student, the confidence and initial drive they personally need to find their purpose, place, and direction in life.

Margaret Rothe (2002)

“UCONN taught me to always remain a student and reshaped me as a seasoned professional.  After 10 years in student affairs I returned to UCONN HESA for a graduate degree. Pulling upon my work experience, critically examining processes in light of new information, I was given new ways to see the larger campus role and responsibility beyond student to the further community.  HESA held strong to the expectation that we would be leaders in campus services, proud to defend holistic campus practices that provide necessary scaffolding for each student’s academic growth. Many of us entered in as rough and tumble Resident Directors but now I recognize classmates names as campus leadership.

When we graduated, we knew it was inevitable that we should push ahead, fearlessly asking questions and absorbing purpose.  This is what HESA prepared us for and charged us to do upon graduation.”

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