Current Cohort Profiles

Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s Program
Class of 2023 Cohort


Undergrad: George Washington University
Major: International Affairs
Hometown: Arlington, TX
Assistantship: Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Bio: Hello all! My name is Sarah Abbey. I grew up in Arlington, TX but moved to Washington, DC, where I currently live, for my undergrad degree. Throughout my time in undergrad, I very accidentally fell into student government and student facing work at my university. These experiences very quickly developed into a passion for student affairs, which I was able to explore in many different capacities. Furthermore, I became fascinated by social identities and culture and the ways those lenses shape our understanding of the world. I am particularly interested in research around the intersections of race/ethnicity, sexuality/gender, and religion. I am fascinated by the ways that all of those identities interact with each other and create communities, bolster a sense of collective narrative, foster senses of belonging, and help students grapple with their self-conception.

While at UConn, I would like to learn to better acknowledge the impact of students’ lived experiences on their development, shift institutional and curricular methodologies towards those helpful for marginalized students, and develop the ability to implement long-term strategies that facilitate dialogue across differences. My long term goal is to become a Provost for Diversity and Inclusion or head the Retention and Graduation department at a University.

In my free time, I love to read-queer theory and YA fiction are my top two genres, love to cook and eat good food and have a high value for deep conversations. I am obsessed with cider and can’t wait to take advantage of all the cideries the Northeast has to offer! Looking forward to building community and learning together.


Undergrad: Missouri State University
Major: Communication
Hometown:Lee's Summit, MO
Assistantship: Office of Fraternity & Sorority Development
Bio:Hello! My name is Cara Connor (she/her/hers). I am from Lee's Summit, MO, right outside of Kansas City. I recently graduated from Missouri State University, where I majored in Communication with minors in Ethical Leadership and Advertising & Promotions. As a bright-eyed college freshman, I dove straight into all the leadership opportunities available at my university. I was fortunate enough to be involved in various student leadership positions in Orientation, Admissions, Fraternity & Sorority Life, and Student Government. Through these positions, I had so many impactful experiences that led me to find my passion in working with college students.

I want to work to provide an environment in which all students feel supported and appreciated. I am fueled by seeing all the inequities and injustices we still currently have in higher education. I believe that college should be a right, not a privilege, and I want to advocate for this throughout my work as a HESA professional. I have loved all the experiences I have had working in student affairs as an undergraduate, and I am looking forward to having many more at UConn.

Outside of work and academics, I enjoy hiking, trying new foods, hanging with my dog, and taking care of my vast collection of house plants. I'm excited for the opportunity to be a part of UConn's HESA program and further develop as a higher education professional. I can't wait to embark on this journey for the next two years at UConn! Go Huskies!


Undergrad: Kenyon College
Major: Psychology
Hometown:Dublin, OH
Assistantship: Dean of Students Office
Bio:Hello! My name is Claire Dutton (she/her/hers) and I'm originally from Dublin, Ohio. I graduated from Kenyon College in 2014 with a psychology degree. I lived in Boston for 5 years and now I live in Los Angeles.

Before I started college, I participated in the Kenyon College Community Service Pre-Orientation Program, where incoming first year students arrive on campus early to volunteer at local community service sites. Pre-O was an incredible, positive start to my college experience and I spent the next three years as a leader then head coordinator of the program. My time leading Pre-O helped shape my identity and my passion to create welcoming, inclusive communities, which I want to bring to a career in student affairs.

After graduation, I worked in the mental health field in Boston. As a mental health worker at a residential treatment program called Monte Nido Laurel Hill, I worked with clients who were recovering from eating disorders. When I was promoted to Program Coordinator at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Boston (a day treatment program), my role was both clinical and administrative as I supported clients with the admission and orientation process. In Los Angeles, I was the project manager for a mental health and wellness retreat company. I look forward to bringing my experience in mental healthcare to my work in student affairs.

During my free time, I enjoy playing ultimate frisbee, hiking, camping, and sewing. I am so excited to start the UConn HESA program in the fall and pursue a career in higher education where I can support students with their learning, growth, and wellbeing!


Undergrad: UConn and ECSU
Major: Animal Science and Sociology
Hometown: New London, CT
Assistantship: Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center
Bio: Hello everyone! My name is Julie Rosali Garay (She/They), I was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico but my family (im)migrated to New London, Connecticut when I was about 4 years old. I graduated with my Associates in Animal Science from UConn in August 2017 and a Bachelors in Sociology from Eastern Connecticut State University in August 2019.

My passion for student affairs works actually started in FRESH New London, a food justice non-profit that I have been working with for about 10 years now. I have been able to connect with and truly understand the needs of my community and the power young people have. Being able to understand my power as a young person in a leadership capacity helped me mentor and support students that would join our organization seasonally. Then attending UConn and being a part of the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center, I understood the ways in which I could help my peers gain a sense of belonging and create a community on campus. Becoming the Co-Coordinator of the METAS program within PRLACC created a space for me to be a part of a team that’s main goal was to create a support system and aid in Latinx student retention.

I am currently the Assistant Director of FRESH New London and I am proud to continue to serve my community. I am excited to start my journey at UConn this Fall and be able to continue to gain knowledge, mentors and friends!


Undergrad: Old Dominion University
Major: Business Management
Hometown:Ramsey, NJ
Bio: Hi! My name is Alicia Harlow, and I grew up in the small suburban town of Ramsey, NJ. I moved to Norfolk, VA to attend Old Dominion University for my undergrad years. After graduation, I worked in the retail sector for several years in Virginia & North Carolina. In 2015, I became a mother and many of my life & career goals and aspirations changed. By chance, I ended up working in an administrative role at the college of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA and fell in love with the world of higher education. In August of 2020, I was offered the Educational Program Assistant position at the UConn School of Pharmacy, and relocated to Connecticut amidst the pandemic. I am eager to continue my education, and look forward to being a part of the UCONN HESA cohort!


Undergrad: UConn
Major: Business management & Human Development and Family Sciences
Hometown: Milford, CT
Assistantship: Residential Life: Assistant Residence Hall Director
Bio:Hi everyone, I’m Shannon! I graduated from UConn in 2020 with a BS in Business Management and a BA in Human Development and Family Sciences. I have a 2 year old Sheepadoodle named Aspen and spend most of my time thinking and talking about her. I also love to play basketball (if you can’t find me, try the rec), enjoy reading, video games, swimming, and am on my way to becoming an expert hiker. During my UConn career I was an orientation leader and pack leader, volunteered with res life, and worked in the admissions office among other things. I was also a manager for the Women’s Basketball team, working practices and games and traveling with the team. During the summer of 2018, I worked abroad at a company called Immedis in Dublin, Ireland which was an incredible experience. While trying to figure out what was coming next on my journey, I compared my different business internships and my jobs worked across campus and realized that I felt much more myself working with and for students. I am really excited to see where my time in HESA leads me to next!


Undergrad: Clark University
Major: Women's & Gender Studies
Hometown:Old Bridge, NJ
Assistantship: Office of Institutional Equity
Bio:Hi all, my name is Tarah (she/they). I graduated from Clark University in Worcester, MA in December 2020 with a degree in Women's & Gender Studies and a minor in Political Science. My undergraduate studies directly impact my passion and work in student affairs. Higher education accessibility is extremely important to me, especially for disabled students and LGBTQ-identifying students. As someone who faced obstacles in my own higher education journey due to these identities, it's important for me to pave an accessible path to college for all students that takes into account their varying identities.

Most of my student affairs experience lies in Orientation—I was a Peer Advisor for two years working directly with incoming students, and as a senior I served as 1 of 6 Orientation Coordinators. I specifically planned and executed my university's Early Orientation Program for students registered with the accessibility office. It was this experience at the nexus of my passions for orientation, accessibility, and student leadership that really pushed me to pursue student affairs as a career. I also have experience in interpersonal violence and Title IX related issues which is what my assistantship will focus on, as well as study abroad experience; I studied in Perugia, Italy my junior year! Overall, I find that I am my best self when I am connecting and collaborating with others, advocating for and supporting students, and helping people find a home within their university.

I see myself as an (anxious) extrovert who loves to hang out with others and explore new places. I enjoy spending time outdoors, going to concerts, shooting and editing photography, playing board games, drinking chai lattes, and snuggling my cats!


Undergrad: University of Connecticut
Major: Human Development and Family Studies
Hometown:Coventry, CT
Assistantship: Community Standards
Bio:Hello! My name is Nicki (she/her/hers) and I graduated from UConn in 2018 with a B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Psychological Sciences.

Being a UConn Connects Mentor in the Academic Achievement Center was one of the most meaningful experiences in my undergraduate career and inspired me to pursue a profession where I can help students navigate their personal, professional, and academic goals. I also had the opportunity to work in the Office of Student Financial Aid Services and serve as a mentor in the Rainbow Center. Following graduation, I had the privilege of joining UConn’s Office of Global Affairs. I worked in Education Abroad for just over two years before transitioning to Global Partnerships & Outreach.

Each of these roles have confirmed my passion for advocating for students as well as working to understand and actively address the inequities and challenges students are faced with, particularly those in marginalized communities. I am so grateful to be able to continue my education at UConn in a program that emphasizes continuous reflection and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Undergrad: Western Washington University
Major: Anthropology
Assistantship: SUBOG
Bio:Hello, my name is Keenan and I am from Bellingham, Washington. I graduated from Western Washington University (WWU) in the spring of 2021. I graduated with a degree in anthropology (cultural concentration) and minored in political science. I first became involved with student affairs during my sophomore year at Whatcom Community College as the Director for Health and Wellness on the Programming and Diversity Board. I planned events and conferences all year relating to student health and well-being. I fell in love with the work I was doing and felt I was making a positive impact on the students around me. I also grew as an individual and as a leader in that role and have become very passionate about leadership development.

When transferring to WWU I entered the role of Assistant Director in AS Productions (WWU’s event planning office) and spent the year supporting the event coordinators. During my second and final year at WWU, I was elected AS Vice President for Activities and have been supporting program offices and all the student clubs during the pandemic. As an elected official I dealt with many student concerns and educated myself on social justice and equity issues.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest has made me a very outdoorsy person. I love hiking and getting out in nature in the rain or sun. I also love to cook and spend time learning new recipes. I am excited to move to Connecticut and continue my education at UConn.


Undergrad: Wagner College
Major: English
Hometown: Staten Island, New York
Assistantship: Student Activities- Major Events and Programs
Bio: Hey y, all! My name is Pedro Santiago, and I am from Staten Island, New York. I attended Wagner College for my undergraduate degree in English with a minor in civic engagement and sociology. During my undergrad, I was a member of the Bonner leaders Program, which focused on community engagement and identity. Through this program, I was fortunate enough to work with many community partners and nonprofits, addressing issues within surrounding neighborhoods while thinking of solutions through the perspective and engagement of those within. I grew passionate about culture, race, identity, and systematic oppression, all of which impact the development of minority youth and limit our choices.

Growing up with a father incarcerated, a young mother, and being Latinx, I constantly was looked down upon due to these factors. Seeing that college wasn't expected of students in similar situations and identities pushed me by not allowing myself to be defined by my circumstances. Yet, I noticed that these disadvantages usually limited individuals. This realization caused me to become fascinated by the impacts of socio-economics, community, race, and identity had on the individual and their success.

These experiences cultivated my passion for Higher Education and its endless opportunity to spark changes through a vast network of outlets. I look forward to being part of the HESA community, obtaining new perspectives while fostering change to encompass all forms of identity within Higher Education for our future youth. Let's keep pushing for change!

P.S. I love listening to music, hiking, enjoying nature, designing and repurposing furniture, and intellectual conversations that get deep.


Undergrad: UConn Hartford
Major: Psychological Science and Human Development and Family Sciences minor
Hometown:Hartford, CT
Assistantship: Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Bio:Hola! My name is Crismar Santos, I was raised and born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States in 2015. I earned my Bachelor of Psychological Sciences with a Minor in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut in 2021.

During my Undergrad years at UConn Hartford I was part of the AAC. I started my journey as a peer mentor and eventually became an intern. Also my involvement in the Office of Student Services allowed me to have the opportunity to make more relationships, develop a passion for students affairs and also helped me find the path that I wanted to follow for my future career. My passion to support students and help them through their college journey and future careers led me to UConn HESA. I am excited to continue my education as a Husky now in UConn Storrs.

Besides work and school, I love to spend time with my friends, go shopping, listen to music & cook. I can’t wait to be part of this new experience!


Undergrad: UC Santa Barbara
Major: Communication
Hometown:Los Banos, CA
Assistantship: Residential Life - Student Welfare
Bio: Hi! My name is Stephanie (she/her/hers) and although I moved around a lot as a kid, I consider myself to be from Los Banos, CA. I graduated with honors from UC Santa Barbara in 2020 with a degree in Communication and minor in socio-cultural Linguistics. Upon graduation I began working at a law firm, aiding an attorney on mass tort cases for those that lost their homes from California wildfires. I knew prior to graduation that my passion lay within higher education and I am eager to get back to a college campus! I fell in love with student affairs from my on campus jobs including orientation programs, a peer mentorship program, working to combat food insecurity, and an internship in the office of the vice chancellor for student affairs. I’m keen to be an advocate for students on multiple fronts, especially mental health. In my free time you will typically find me at the beach, hiking, baking bread, reading, or snuggling with my cat.


Undergrad: Kalamazoo College
Major: Mathematics and French
Hometown: Dearborn, MI
Assistantship: Residential Life: Assistant Residence Hall Director
Bio:Hello there! My name is Ani (she/her) and my chosen hometown is Dearborn, Michigan. A few things that I love: indoor plants, astrology, traveling, my Armenian heritage, and bubble tea. As I write this bio, I am still processing the reality of starting my masters degree at UConn. Some may call it fate, destiny, or luck, but I truly believe that everything that happens in life, occurs to teach us a lesson and reach our higher selves. I graduated from Kalamazoo College with my bachelors degree in Mathematics and French. My undergraduate experience can be highlighted by my role as an RA for first year students, where I learned that Student Affairs was the path for me. I didn’t anticipate that experience to be life changing, but here we are.

I am coming to Connecticut after living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for two years, where I was an Assistant Director of Residential Life at Coe College. I am feeling equipped to dive into my masters degree with an open mind and grateful heart. I aim to focus my studies on the experiences of students who are children of immigrants, and amplify the needs of South West Asian and North African (SWANA) students. I am so thrilled to start my UConn journey, and I welcome all that comes with it. Go Huskies!

Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s Program
Class of 2022 Cohort


Jia Cai headshot JIA CAI

Undergrad: University of Connecticut
Major: Music Performance - Instrumental
Hometown: North Haven, CT
Assistantship: The Graduate School
Bio: Hello, my name is Jia Cai. I lived in Zhuzhou, Hunan Province of China for the first 14 years of my life before migrating to North Haven, CT for high more

Carlos Dos Santos HeadshotCARLOS DOS SANTOS

Undergrad: Western Connecticut State University
Major: Psychology and Pre-Med
Hometown: Danbury, CT
Assistantship: UConn Student Union
Bio: My name is Carlos Dos Santos and I’m from Danbury, Connecticut. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Western Connecticut State University... read more

Sarah Durning headshot


Undergrad: Roger Williams University
Major: Psychology
Hometown: New City, NY
Assistantship: Student Activities- Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG)
Bio: Hey there! My name is Sarah Durning (she/her/hers). I'm from New City, NY (about 30 miles north of NYC). I graduated from Roger Williams University... read more

Sade Erinfolami headshotSADE ERINFOLAMI

Undergrad: University of South Carolina
Major: Criminal Justice
Hometown: Irmo, SC
Assistantship: Law School: Graduate & International Programs
Bio: Hey there! My name is Sade Erinfolami and I am from Columbia, SC. I attended university at USC in my hometown where I majored in more

Tania Flores headshotTANIA FLORES

Undergrad: Middlebury College
Major: Psychology and Education
Hometown: Gary, IN
Assistantship: Women's Center
Bio: While my Virgo sun would like to say that most of my life's trajectory has been based on calculated 5-year plans, the truth is that my moon lies in Aquarius ... read more

Deanna Gallegos headshotDEANNA GALLEGOS

Undergrad: University of California, Davis
Major: English and Chicana/o Studies
Hometown: West Sacramento, CA
Assistantship: Pre-College Summer Program (Office of Early College Programs)
Bio: Hello! My name is Deanna Gallegos (she/her/hers). I am originally from the East Bay in California, but have most recently called West Sacramento... read more

Jose Garcia headshotJOSE GARCIA

Undergrad: UCLA
Major: History
Hometown: Los Angelos, CA
Assistantship: Office of Fraternity & Sorority Development
Bio: Hi y'all! My name is Jose (he/they) and I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. For undergrad, I attended UCLA... read more

Nikko Garmendiz headshotNIKKO GARMENDIZ

Undergrad: SUNY Geneseo
Major: Sociology
Hometown: Pine Bush, NY
Assistantship: Residential Life - Assistant Residence Hall Director
Bio: Hi everyone! My name is Nikko Garmendiz and I am from a small town called Pine Bush, which is about an hour north of NYC ... read more

Cassandra Gonzalez headshotCASSANDRA GONZALEZ

Undergrad: Rutgers University
Major: Public Policy
Hometown: Lakewood, NJ
Assistantship: Student Activities: Leadership & Organization Development
Bio: Hi friends! My name is Cassandra, but you can call me Casey! I received my Associate's Degree in Mathematics and my Bachelor's ... read more

Olivia Hankins headshotOLIVIA HANKINS

Undergrad: Northern Arizona University
Major: Psychology and Criminal Justice
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Assistantship: Residential Life: Assistant Residence Hall Director
Bio: Hello! My name is Olivia Hankins and I am from Huntington Beach, California. I graduated from Northern Arizona University... read more

Mya Johnson headshotMYA JOHNSON

Undergrad: Cornell College
Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Assistantship: Community Outreach
Bio: Hi! My name is Mya Johnson and I'm from Long Beach, California. I attended a very small school in eastern Iowa where I more

Trevor Madore headshotTREVOR MADORE

Undergrad: Saint Michael's College
Major: Political Science and Peace & Justice
Hometown: Milford, CT
Assistantship: Residential Life: Assistant Residence Hall Director
Bio: Hi! My name is Trevor Madore (he/him/his), and my path towards a career in HESA has been largely shaped by my drive to disrupt systems ... read more

Dominque Moore headshotDOMINQUE MOORE

Undergrad: University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Major: Africana Studies & History
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Assistantship: Center for Career Development: Experiential Learning
Bio: Hello! I'm Dominque (she/they), and I'm from the Bronx, NY, but I lived in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina for the last 8 years of my life.... read more

Brittney Ortiz headshotBRITTNEY ORTIZ

Undergrad: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Wilmington, NC
Assistantship: Residential Life: ARHD
Bio: My name is Brittney and I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. I relocated to the beachside town of Wilmington, NC when I was 19 and... read more

Ashley Reed headshotASHLEY REED

Undergrad: Rollins College
Major: Business: Social Entrepreneurship
Hometown: Lake Mary, FL
Assistantship: Rainbow Center
Bio: Hi! My name is Ashley Reed and I'm from Lake Mary, Florida, which is a city east of Orlando. I graduated from Rollins College in 2018 ... read more

Darlene Rodriguez headshotDARLENE RODRIGUEZ

Undergrad: Ithaca College
Major: Communication Studies
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Assistantship: Office of Alumni Relations in College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Bio: Hello everyone, I am excited to be joining the Husky family in the Fall! I was born and raised in the Bronx in New York City ... read more