Hoping to share some voices and perspectives from our current students, UConn HESA is happy to present “Why I HESA.” Each entry describes the lived experiences, passions, and motivations of those who call UConn home for their graduate studies.

Read about past cohorts.

Matt WenzMatt Wenz

HESA Class: 2019

Assistantship: Office of Community Standard

I chose UConn because I wanted to be involved in a program that focused on a theory to practice model. When I finish my two years, I want to feel both academically and professionally prepared to engage with a diverse student body, and I felt as though UConn would provide me the most opportunities to engage in meaningful practice while obtaining my graduate degree.

The cohort model provides an incredible extra dimension to in-course learning. Our cohort comes from a number of different schools and backgrounds, and everyone brings different perspectives from their academic/college/professional careers and their assistantships to class. I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to engage with coursework from my perspective while learning from the multiple perspectives of my classmates.

I came to student affairs because of the incredible mentors I had as an undergraduate that showed me I could make a contribution to this field. I have really enjoyed the para-professional experience that UConn has provided me; I love coming to campus everyday knowing that I can have an influence on a student’s future at the University and beyond through my work. If I wasn't completely sure about my career in this field before coming to UConn before, I certainly am now.

Joe Fisher.Joe Fisher

HESA Class: 2019

Assistantship: Pre-College Summer Program, Office of Early College Programs

UConn HESA provided me with the opportunity to pursue a post-graduate education at a top-ranked public institution without worrying about a heavy financial burden post-graduation. Additionally, I wanted to remain fairly close to home, and so, by choosing UConn, I was able to keep my family and friends within a reachable range. And lastly, the cohort and theory to practice models were essential to me, so that I could be able to directly apply learned material in the classroom, to my practice, while being able to form strong relationships with my cohort-mates.

Being the first HESA Graduate Assistant in my office has given me the ability to self-advocate and be creative in the projects I want to focus on. Being able to focus on challenges we faced during the summer program, and develop new and creative ways in addressing them has been both challenging and rewarding. And plus, I have a great professional staff supporting me along the way!

My journey into the field of Student Affairs all started with a simple motivation to create change at my Alma mater. And now, I have found a professional career where I am able to do what I love, while working in an innovative field, full of supportive mentors.

Alex Vann.Alex Vann

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: Student Activities/Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life

What drew me to UConn's HESA program was its dedication to diversity in all of its forms and my ability to customize my graduate experience through opportunities such as practicum internships. As a graphic designer interested in integrating art and marketing into my practice, this ability to build my own experience really drew me in. Furthermore, my courses truly supplement my GA and practicum experiences and vise-versa. I've truly witnessed the theory-to-practice model. I'll be in the middle of advising a student and find myself referring back to models and theories discussed in class that are directly applicable.

I never imagined that I would join Higher Ed & Student Affairs, I would definitely say (as many others would) "the field found me." I've really appreciated the support I have received from peers and faculty in the HESA program and in the greater UConn community who have supported me in my journey of integrating "traditional" Student Affairs practice with university communications. This program has afforded me internship and summer opportunities that have allowed me to mentor and advise students while still pursuing my passions of art and marketing.

Katrina Camerato with UConn husky statue.Katrina Camerato

HESA Class: 2019

Assistantship: Residential Life - Assistant Residence Hall Director

I first learned of the UConn HESA program as an undergraduate Husky working as a Resident Assistant and Tour Guide. After working professionally in Residential Life for a year, I knew it was time to start my educational journey again, and UConn's HESA program was at the top of my list. UConn HESA allows me to work in different functional areas of Higher Education during my time here as a student through assistantship, practice, and internship experiences.

My assistantship is currently in Residential Life at North Campus, the largest housing facility on campus! My professional staff team, and 43 Resident Assistants are what drive me to do my best at work, not to mention they make me laugh all the time! It feels great to know I have a family at work that supports me on my worst days, and congratulates me on my best.

Of course, I am not only a learning professional, but a student in the program. I have noticed that faculty strive to provide various assignments that allow students to be creative in the classroom. One of my favorite assignments so far has been our photo elicitation project. We used photographs to represent and explain contemporary issues of higher education, the role of student affairs professionals and more. We were able to engage in our own learning experience, while being creative.

Lisa Famarulo.Lisa Famularo

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: Center for Career Development

I really appreciate the UConn HESA Program's focus on reflective practice. The fact that all HESA students are required to complete a two-year assistantship and at least two practicum experiences in areas of their choosing allows for so many opportunities for us to apply what we are learning in the classroom to our work as practitioners right away as opposed to after we graduate. Additionally, the conversations we have in class are enriched as all of us bring stories from our assistantship and practicum experiences to the table. I learn best from practicing, so this model works well for me, and it's what attracted me to UConn HESA initially as well. My favorite class I've taken through the HESA Program so far is Assessment, Evaluation, and Research in Student Affairs. I was surprised at how much work was involved, but the experience I gained in actually conducting an assessment from start to finish and presenting it was so valuable. I've always been drawn to service-learning courses, and I'm really glad this one is built directly into the HESA curriculum.

Emily Fiagbedzi.Emily Fiagbedzi

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: Careers for the Common Good / Center for Career Development and Department of Student Activities, Community Outreach 

My journey into Student Affairs and the UConn HESA program was unexpected. After receiving my undergraduate degree in international development and political science, I spent 5 years working in the community development and entrepreneurial training sectors in Ghana. It was through my work with technology entrepreneurs at a post-undergraduate training program that I started thinking carefully about holistic student support and discovered Ghana’s emerging field of student affairs. This discovery led to a personal exploration of the student affairs field and relevant graduate programs. I was attracted to UConn’s HESA program because it incorporates a Graduate Assistantship and practicum experiences which allow for continued professional growth while acquiring essential knowledge in the classroom. As the Careers for the Common Good Graduate Assistant, I plan programming and an annual career fair that encourages and supports students in their exploration of socially responsible career paths. It is a joy to walk alongside students as they think about tangible ways to make a positive impact in society through their work. It is my hope that students fully embrace the words of the late Minor Myers Jr.: “Go into the world and well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”

Jen Cheng.Jen Cheng

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: Puerto Rican/ Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC)

UConn was one of the top institutions recommended to me by my colleagues. I really like the practical experience that is built into the HESA program because it matches my own learning style. Seeing classroom learning applied directly in our assistantships is rewarding. I feel like I am a part of a family at UConn’s Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC). The professional staff and students have all been so welcoming and sweet, and I am so grateful to be surrounded by their warmth. I'm happy to be in courses with my cohort mates. Their energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, and passion for HESA is inspiring, and I am proud to be their future colleague in the field. We are in it together! I would not be the same person I am today without these people in my life. After I graduated, I had trouble finding a job in the biology field. My mentor, Delia Cheung Hom, inspired me to think about my passions and to see my own growth from student organizations and leadership positions. I worked as an interim position with Delia at the Asian American Center at Northeastern University for half a year. Then, my family at Wentworth Institute of Technology gave me a chance to further my professional steps into HESA, which continued my growth. I want to give back to the field that gave so much to me, and hope to inspire future students in finding their path too.

April Cano in front of snow covered tree

April Cano

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: Student Union/Student Activities

“When I became a Resident Assistant during my second year of undergrad, I knew that pursuing a career in Student Affairs was what I wanted to do! UConn HESA provided everything that I wanted in a Graduate program: a strong community, theory to practice model, small cohort sizes and various opportunities to engage with undergraduate students. I sincerely feel that this program will prepare me for any position in Student Affairs and Higher Education, once I graduate.

In regards to my assistantship, I love how all of the professional staff in my office has been so welcoming! I know that they support me in and outside of HESA. They also provide the prospect of me customizing my assistantship to fit my needs, growth, and development. Furthermore, I enjoy gaining supervision skills, as I supervise student staff, and I appreciate that the professors are willing to help students outside of class. Lastly, professors, faculty, and staff provide lots of feedback because they truly want us to succeed.”

Michelle Meek in front of Machu Pichu

Michelle Meek

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Alumni Relations

“I was looking for an institution similar to one I wanted to work in: large, public, research-driven, strong pride & tradition, and overall a dynamic place to be. I found all that and more in UConn's HESA program, which implements practitioner-based teaching, vast opportunities for varied work experience, and a great cohort size! The program is also extremely well-funded and offers its graduate students excellent tuition benefits and the ability to live off of a stipend, which was so important to me coming back to grad school from a professional position.

My assistantship is based in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which is where I hoped to be! Working in an academic unit is a unique experience in Student Affairs and I appreciate the opportunity to connect with students and alumni on the basis of their academic and greater UConn experiences. I hope to continue to make connections across the university and better serve CLAS students by my programming within the college.

My courses are challenging me everyday, which shows me that I am learning! They are taught by a mixture of academic and practitioner faculty members, which is so valuable to me to learn from different perspectives. I enjoy the range of focus as well; we are engaging in intergroup dialogue surrounding race, learning the history and foundations of student affairs, and working on a year-long assessment project for an office at UConn. These and future courses combined will develop us into well-rounded professionals who engage in grounded and intentional work in the field."

Morgan Sutton next to UConn campus sign

Morgan Sutton

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: The Graduate School

“Choosing UConn HESA was among the easiest decisions I have ever made. The unique opportunities provided through the work being done both in and outside of the classroom are only the beginning of the numerous reasons UConn HESA is such a great fit! I strongly believe that my experiences in the HESA program will prepare me to be the professional I desire to be. I look forward to continuously developing my professional identity at UConn by strengthening my research skills and increasing my theoretical and practical knowledge. Fall in New England and the inevitable community built within the cohort are certainly compelling aspects of the experience as well.

My passion for student affairs was born from a serendipitous email inviting students to join the Campus Activities Board (CAB) at my undergraduate institution. Now here at UConn, my supervisors and the people I work with are truly those that make me the happiest in my assistantship in the Graduate School. The professional relationships I'm building now are helping to shape who I will become as a student affairs professional. My experiences in Higher Education & Student Affairs grew in breadth and depth over my time at my undergraduate institution, however, as I continued through these fruitful experiences, my passion to pursue graduate studies in this field was unwavering.

The most crucial, and hopefully encouraging, piece of feedback (and hopefully encouragement!) I can share is to truly trust the process. There is a reason, a place, and a purpose for each move that will be made throughout this journey. Trust it! You will end up exactly where you belong.”

Julia Anderson Headshot

Julia Anderson

HESA Class: 2018

Assistantship: Rainbow Center

"I feel like I chose UConn for a thousand reasons. My mentor and advisor in undergrad is an alumna of the HESA program, so first and foremost, I knew that UConn could guide me to be the type of practitioner that made me interested in Student Affairs in the first place. Beyond that, I applied because I felt the overall mission of Student Affairs was reflected in the HESA program’s mission. When I came for interview days, it was the incredible assistantships, the brilliant faculty, and the instantaneous personal connections that I made with HESA students that solidified my decision.

I work for the Rainbow Center, which is an LGBTQ+ cultural center, and absolutely everything about my assistantship makes me happy. I serve some of the most incredible students on UConn's campus. These students are brilliant, brave, and dazzling. The way that they view the world changes my perception every day, and I am constantly inspired by them. I work with spectacular supervisors, and they inspire me to work intentionally every day.

We are beyond lucky to be doing this work. I am thankful for each one of the HESA faculty, and I am excited to grow with them over these two years."

Jonathon Gomez headshot

Jonathan Gomez

HESA Class: 2017

Assistantship: Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center

“UConn HESA was my number one choice program I wanted to attend. The HESA program has given me the opportunity to grow as a professional and practitioner through various academic courses, and my various experiences at the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center. I have always enjoyed being able to apply what I was learning in the classroom to real world situations and the focus this program has on our holistic development allows me to see many concepts being applied by the professionals I work with in the field.

During the HESA application process I was feeling so many emotions about what was going to happen with my life after graduation if I did not get into a program. Three words that people always told me during this entire time were "trust the process" three words that I started to hate but when it came down to it they really did help me remain calm through the hard times. Some things in life are a process and we need to trust that things will always be okay and we will somehow end up where we need to be.”

Niimo Nix next to Northwest Quad sign

Jeronima "Niimo" Nix

HESA Class: 2017

Assistantship: Residential Life - Assistant Residence Hall Director

“I chose to come to UConn HESA because of the holistic approach it took to my education and experience. Although I had an idea of which field within Student Affairs I would be going into, I wanted to make sure I had a variety of skills and experiences in a wide arrange of areas. I also wanted to keep challenging myself in regards to the people I would be working with. Coming from a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), where the culture shock was indescribable, I knew how hard I worked to educate others and deciding on a graduate school made me ask myself, ‘do I want to finally be comfortable or keep challenging myself and others?’

What makes me happy at my assistantship are the immense amount of opportunities my supervisor grants me on a daily basis. I am able to continue working in areas I love but also develop in areas I have never been able to experience. I feel as though in just a couple of months I have learned so much about how I handle situations and how I ask for help. My Resident Assistants (RAs) also make me smile every single day, even when I’m not in the office, and happy to be where I am. I know I will always look forward to my 1-1 meetings with them because not only do they make my day but I also do my best to make theirs.

I absolutely love how much I am learning about this field. Although readings are in abundance and tedious, everything I have learned has put my undergrad experience into perspective. I understand policies and structures better (for better and for worse), which will help me to create better and more meaningful change wherever I go.”

Tia Roy with event in background

Tia Roy

HESA Class: 2017

Assistantship: Off Campus Student Services/Dean of Students Office

“UConn's program is simply incredible! I am not sure words can really do justice to what this program offers and does to support future student affairs professionals. I chose UConn's program for the purposeful theory to practice model. The way I learn best is through practicing what I learn, and I knew the practitioner model of UConn's program would benefit me greatly. The passion, experience, and enthusiasm of UConn's faculty also was a strong draw for me.

I have a unique assistantship where I spend 10 hours per week in the Dean of Students Office, and the other 10 hours in Off Campus Student Services. The dual experience allows me to really delve into two different departments/offices within Student Affairs. I feel valued through the work that I do at both sites, and feel truly supported by my supervisors. I oversee 10 fantastic student workers in Off Campus Student Services and I appreciate their dedication to supporting students who live off campus.”

Alyssa Paquin with fall background

Alyssia Paquin

HESA Class: 2017

Assistantship: Orientation Services

“I chose the HESA program for a variety of reasons- the academic rigor, practitioner model, cohort based learning, practicum/internships and the wonderful faculty, but it wasn't until I actually started the classes and my assistantship that I realized how all of these reasons were connected and intertwined in some form. I find myself making connections between my work, classes and other experiences that members in my cohort bring to the table. I knew that I wanted a program where I could directly apply what I learned in class to what I was doing in my assistantship, and that pushed me to make those critical connections between the two.

My assistantship has taught me a lot and I've only been here for two months. I've learned that it's not all about the face time you get with students, but also about the logistics. In order to make a program run successfully, you need to have all the scheduling and behind the scenes work done first.

Additionally, I wanted a program with a diverse cohort. Every time I talk to one of my "cohort-mates" I learn about a different lens they have on a situation or topic. We all bring experiences from our undergraduate institutions, the working world or just life in general to share with each other, and I am so happy that we are able to discuss how those experiences inform our work in the program and in our future professions in student affairs.”

Roberto Valentin with office background

Roberto Valentin

HESA Class: 2016

Assistantship: Residential Life - Assistant Residence Hall Director

“I wanted to attend a program that was going to challenge me and offer me a different collegiate experience than what I had at my undergraduate institution. The student affairs professionals that I knew praised UConn's HESA program as being one of the best in the country. The program's emphasis on research & assessment, practicum opportunities and renowned faculty really set UConn HESA apart to me. Going to university in the Midwest (the holy land of student affairs) gave me great insight into the field while I was an undergraduate student. To diversify my experience I wanted to attend graduate school at a great program elsewhere in the country. Thus, I came to the University of Connecticut.

The HESA program at UConn has changed me profoundly in a positive way. I feel more confident and realistic about what a career in student affairs is and that I have the knowledge AND experience to really make a difference in the lives of students going forward.”

Alessia Satterfield outside of UConn CLAS building

Alessia Satterfield

HESA Class: 2016

Assistantship: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Alumni Relations

“I cannot rave enough about how much knowledge I have gained while in this program. The integration of learning and practical applications has provided me with building blocks I need to begin a student affairs career. This is all due to the invested and considerate faculty who dedicate their time to each and every student.

I chose UConn HESA because when I left campus after UConn HESA Interview Days I wanted to be a part of an unprecedented community of learning and support. The faculty and staff presented an authentic window into the world of UConn HESA and I was honored to be chosen to join the journey.”

Christina Harney outside of UConn building

Christina Harney

HESA Class: 2016

Assistantship: Center for Career Development

“I chose to come to UConn HESA because of the experiential nature of the program. I know I learn best through experiential learning and that the many practicum opportunities and assistantship requirement would give me the learning experiences I was looking for in a program. I also received an assistantship in career development, which is exactly what I wanted.

I love working with the students. I give two hours of résumé critiques and one hour long practice interview per week. This one-on-one time with the students is extremely rewarding and never fails to remind me why I chose to change my career. I also run the two internship courses through the Center for Career Development and I have been able to tweak the course materials based on what I see the students need. The fact that my supervisor trusts me enough to give me this freedom is extremely empowering.”

Jordan Walsh next to inspirational posters

Jordan Walsh

HESA Class:  2017

Assistantship: African American Cultural Center

“My favorite part about going to courses is seeing my cohort mates. On some days I may feel frustrated or annoyed, but being around people who care about the well being of students on campus is an incredible feeling. I value their contributions to the classroom experience and value the lessons all the faculty members have taught us. I love that I can be a "HESA nerd" and enjoy talking about things like accreditation and institutional finances. My favorite part about my courses is that I get to gain knowledge from some of the most incredible practitioners in Higher Educations-that's pretty awesome.”

Yihra Perlata in front of computer

Yihra Peralta

HESA Class:  2017

Assistantship: Residential Life - Assistant Residence Hall Director

"I like to think that student affairs chose me. Being able to work with students and shape their experiences in college is so important. My mentor Sherrod completely shaped my college experienced, he believed in me when I didn't believe in myself and that was so powerful. His continuous support and encouragement motivated me to work hard towards the change I wanted to see. He also pushed me to get my masters and continues to support me through this process. It is because of Sherrod and the incredible impact he has had in my life that I am here, and one of the many reasons why I want to provide that same love and support to the students I will be working with.

My assistantship I feel is preparing me for all of the different things I can encounter in the field. I love that I get to supervise RA's and get to build a great relationship with them. Being able to supervise students has taught me a lot about the kind of supervisor I am and what I am striving to become."