Author: Victoria Aviani

Humans of HESA: Bailee Raber

For current student Bailee Raber, pursuing a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) was a natural choice. As an undergraduate student at Eastern Michigan University, she was deeply involved with undergraduate admissions which spurred her interest in UConn’s program. Bailee Raber headshot

In her assistantship with off-campus student services, Raber advises commuters and other students living off-campus. She empowers her students so they can find their own answers and provides them with the tools to pave their unique paths. Although she can’t change an immediate outcome for a student, she pushes her students forward to achieve personal success.

As a student affairs practitioner, Raber takes self-reflection to heart especially in regards to serving her students in the best way she can. She understands that behavior and self-discovery are huge factors in improving your relationship with your students, as well as with yourself. Raber shares that helping a student, connecting them to resources, or simply providing them with a soundboard where they can freely express themselves, offer the most rewarding experiences. She strives to be a pillar of support to her students and aid in their individualized journeys to success.

Raber urges students to “Connect and vent to others going through the same experience.” She appreciates the friends and mentors who have stuck by her side through the ups and downs and says that the program has been “One of the best things that have ever happened.” Within HESA’s cohort model, Raber has been able to connect with like-minded individuals and create long-lasting friendships. Especially during times of doubt and apprehension, Raber says,

“These people become your family and help you through those more challenging times.” 

Despite her busy schedule as a full-time student and working professional, Raber emphasizes the importance of making time for yourself and practicing healthy self-care habits. Hanging out with her dogs, listening to podcasts, and learning about holistic and student development, are only some of the hobbies she enjoys outside of her professional work.

By connecting with people within her practicum, assistantship, and cohort, Raber grows both professionally and individually within her field. As a first-year master’s student, originally from a small town in Ohio, Raber works to acclimate herself to life outside of the Midwest and experience the Northeast for what it has to offer! Some of Raber’s favorite destinations are Not Only Juice, a vegan juicery, as well as CT Valley, one of CT’s most distinguished breweries. 

Although “Some days are easier than others,” the supportive students and faculty within her cohort push Raber to treat every day as an opportunity to guide students in a positive direction.

Humans of HESA: Alfredo Ramirez

Alfredo Ramirez (HESA ‘19) didn’t begin his undergraduate career thinking he would eventually pursue a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs. But thanks to his undergraduate experience at Montclair State University, Ramirez realized he had a passion for the field. As an undergraduate, he was actively involved in a host of student clubs and organizations such as residential life, student government, student programming, the student leadership office, and many more. These experiences led Ramirez to his current path in UConn’s Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) master’s program.

Ramirez has a busy schedule in the HESA program, including coursework, a faculty-led mentorship, and a graduate assistantship. In his assistantship for the Department of Student Activities-Leadership and Organizational Development, Ramirez works one-on-one with UConn students as they complete their undergraduate experience and transition into the next phase of their lives. “I enjoy getting to support my students and watching their growth as leaders from day one of the semester to the last day of the year. There is a special component of watching some of my students graduate and prepare to take the next steps in their journey, and it means so much to me that they allow me to be a part of their journey,” says Ramirez.

Balancing school and the rest of his life can be a challenge, says Ramirez. At the end of the day, though, Ramirez is thankful for the opportunity to build relationships with other members of his HESA cohort and to improve himself as a professional in this field. Ramirez says that his HESA cohort, faculty, and his advisor Dr. Castillo-Montoya have been an enormous source of support, in school and beyond, as well as his family, fiancee, and friends.

While the majority of his time is dedicated to HESA, Ramirez makes sure to spend time with friends and family. Originally from New Jersey, Ramirez enjoys exploring New England’s unique attractions: watching the Red Sox at Fenway Park, eating an authentic lobster roll, and visiting local breweries. Ramirez’s favorite local spot is the popular diner the Cosmic Omelette in Manchester, CT. Ramirez also enjoys baking, reading, and theatre. Nevertheless, says Ramirez, “it’s important to come back to these little things– they ground you.”

To prospective HESA students, Ramirez notes that graduate school is not easy: “In order to really learn, you have to know that you want to come here. You have to really want it– it can’t just be for fun.” Ramirez likens graduate school to being behind the scenes at an amusement park: “when you step from a student leadership position out of undergrad into a masters student affairs program, you go from being a participant of all the great things a park has to offer to the person who is making the decisions which can be a tough transition for folks. The process though is worth it.”

When faced with challenges, Ramirez urges students to keep an open mind in all areas of their personal and professional lives. “Navigating the system can be difficult at times,” he says. “It’s important to maintain your own sense of self and allow your personal values to flourish in the many relationships you will build.” Ramirez reminds students to “not be afraid to change or ask yourself questions. This is what grad school is all about.”