2014 Commencement

Kyoko Thompson
Kyoko Thompson
Molecular and Cell Biology Major, Spanish Minor

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

My defining moment involved planning and leading a trip to Guatemala, where I and other UConn students worked in clinics in the region surrounding Antigua. I was able to not only assist an underserved community in a developing country, but also inspire a new generation of students to adopt humanitarianism as an integral part of their own lives.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I’m thrilled to say that this fall, I will begin medical school. I want to be an emergency physician and work for Doctors Without Borders. Eventually, I plan on obtaining a master’s in public health as well.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

A large university can cater to you. A wide array of student organizations ensures that you will find a close-knit group of students with similar interests. And with so many majors and courses to choose from, you will have every opportunity to study what appeals to you.

Write your memoir in six words.

Past struggles gave rise to strength.

Morgan Konney
Morgan Konney
Sociology

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

I had a rough year last year due to my transition to the Storrs campus and family issues, which led me to academic probation. I was given an advisor to help mentor me, and she helped me realize that I shouldn’t let other people and problems disrupt my career as a student. I focused on myself and school, and I have never had a better semester in all four years of my college career.

Where are you headed after graduation?

After graduation, I am planning on doing a six-month program to become a certified gemologist at the Gemological Institute of America headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. After I graduate from GIA, I will work with my mother as a jewelry appraiser. This is something I’ve been looking forward to, and I can’t believe that it is actually happening.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

I would tell someone that the UConn community is like a home. Although it’s a big school, it has many communities within it that bring students close together.

Write your memoir in six words.

Focus on achieving your own individuality.

Edwine Paul
Edwine Paul
English

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

A defining moment in my UConn career was having the opportunity to study abroad in fall 2012. Being in London, England changed my perspective on life, the way I see others, and the way I see myself. I have a new-found appreciation for diversity and being a global citizen.

Where are you headed after graduation?

After graduation, I will be participating in the AmeriCorps program, City Year. My program site will be in Providence, R.I. Upon the completion of my year of service, I intend to pursue a JD and/or a master’s in public service, and become involved with non-profits and practice law.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

UConn has amazing opportunities for students, with so many people who are willing to assist and support. Everyone’s experience will be different, but the uniqueness of your experience is what you’ll carry with you forever. From the great people you’ll meet, to the many organizations you’ll be a part of – there is room for you here to be great.

Write your memoir in six words.

I came, I saw, I conquered.

Bing Zheng
Bing Zheng
Nursing

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

Most of my defining moments occurred during my nursing clinical. Seeing my patients trapped by their illness made me determined not to take the blessings in my life for granted. My patients taught me that I can be a confident nurse.

How has being at UConn changed you?

UConn made me more independent and mature. I learned to step outside of my comfort zones. I came to UConn unsure of my nursing choice, but I took the risks and they paid off!

Where are you headed after graduation?

New York … where there is something new to do every day, and I can eat to my heart’s content. I would love to save enough money and time to travel the whole world!

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

Although your priority is your education, don’t neglect your precious youth. Learn, but also have fun!

Write your memoir in six words.

Unstoppable dreamer ready for the world.

Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown
Soil Science

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

Freshman year I got a job in the plant science department working in Cooperative Extension. I was looking for a place to live, and I moved into UConn’s Spring Valley Student Farm. That summer, I got a great introduction to academia, applied science, education, and field work.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I am traveling with a class from Pennsylvania to Wyoming to tour industrial agricultural infrastructure. Then I’m moving on to the University of California, Davis, to pursue an MS degree. I’ve accepted a research assistantship in the Soils and Biogeochemistry Graduate Group.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

There are tons of opportunities at UConn but you need to find them. Nobody will lay it all out on a silver platter for you, and if they try to, be wary. Look down on campus from Horsebarn Hill, and see where we are and what surrounds us.

Write your memoir in six words.

I have built up from clay.

David Mahoney
David Mahoney
Geography

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career? 

Definitely winning the Big East baseball championship last May. It was especially remarkable considering we were the #8 seed in the tournament. A Big East championship was our goal the moment we stepped on campus in August. Knowing the amount of work we put in and the many adversities we overcame throughout the year made winning it the sweetest feeling in the world.

Where are you headed after graduation?

After graduation, I plan on returning to UConn next year to play in my redshirt senior season while I pursue my MA in International Studies.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn. 

I’d tell them they are in for an experience of a lifetime. Not only will they receive a first class education, but they will make lifelong friends and memories in the process. The moment they step on campus, they’ll feel what it truly means to be part of the UConn family.

Write your memoir in six words. 

Already there, but just getting started.

Jamille Rancourt
Jamille Rancourt
Allied Health Sciences

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

A defining moment is hard to choose. But if I must say, becoming the President of SUBOG, the campus programming board, has been the most defining experience that I’ve had. But it also could be getting breakfast for dinner at Whitney every night of my junior year with one of my best friends.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I am off to New York City to attend Pace University! I will be pursuing my master’s in Physician Assistant Studies.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

I didn’t want to go to UConn at first because I am from Connecticut. Don’t let that be the only reason you do not come here. Coming to UConn was the best decision I’ve made so far. The opportunities here are endless, and I am grateful that I have had UConn as a platform to help me shape my future career.

Write your memoir in six words.

I would not change a thing.

Justis Lopez
Justis Lopez
Education and History

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

Being elected as the Homecoming King will be a moment I will always remember throughout my UConn career. Homecoming is my favorite part of the school year, full of fun and festivities. Being able to serve as the ambassador for my favorite season of the school year will always be unforgettable.

Where are you headed after graduation?

This summer I will serve as an intern working for the Counsel for Opportunity in Education in their public policy and communications office. After becoming an educator, I hope to one day become involved with politics, and influence our nation on a national and international level.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn? 

Don’t think that you can’t, yes U Conn! You can do anything you put your mind to. The amazing people I have met here at UConn have proven that to me.

Write your memoir in six words.

Find a new way to flow.

Carl D’Oleo-Lundgren
Carl D’Oleo-Lundgren
International Relations

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

A major turning point was during the spring of 2012, when former UConn President Austin helped me achieve my dreams. I had been admitted to an intensive summer Arabic language institute, but couldn’t pay for it. A special scholarship from President Austin made the experience possible.

Where are you headed after graduation?

After graduation, I will complete a master’s degree in international and public affairs, either at the Tufts Fletcher, Harvard Kennedy, or Princeton Woodrow Wilson schools, and then join the Foreign Service in 2016. As a Foreign Service officer, I will work in American embassies around the world.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

UConn is a gold mine. Before college, I thought I preferred a small school, but I quickly learned that the sheer concentration of activities, people, and opportunities on UConn’s large campus create the perfect environment for ambitious students looking to forge their own path. Side note: campus is absolutely beautiful.

Write your memoir in six words.

Hard work achieves great things.

Jaunetta Hill
Jaunetta Hill
Molecular and Cell Biology

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

A defining moment for me at UConn was when my professor had Dr. Gene Likens as a guest speaker in class. He is the man who coined the term and originally researched ‘acid rain.’ It is a rare opportunity to meet someone who has been as scientifically and politically influential as he is. It really drove home the importance of research.

Where are you headed after graduation?

After graduation, I will be attending graduate school for a master of science in molecular and cell biology. Ultimately, for my civilian career, I would love to work in either research or medicine. Since I am currently enlisted in the Connecticut Air National Guard, I also plan on becoming a commissioned officer shortly after graduation.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

I would tell them to become active on campus. It will allow you to network with other future leaders, and it will expose you to the true UConn community. Networking is arguably the greatest advantage of attending a large university, so utilize it as much as possible.

Write your memoir in six words.

Discovery of self never stops happening.

Jesse Rifkin
Jesse Rifkin
Journalism

How has being at UConn changed you?

At the beginning of freshman year, I was secretly terrified to live so far from home for the first time – even though I was only half an hour away! Fast forward less than four years later, and I was unafraid to fly out to live in California on my own to pursue an internship working for the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

I can only pick one? How about the three amazing events that occurred within 24 hours on April 4-5, 2011: an opinion piece I had submitted to the Washington Post was accepted for publication, UConn won the national basketball championship, plus my birthday.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

My younger brother David was considering attending UConn. I don’t remember what I told him verbatim, but he’s now a sophomore here, so it must have worked!

Write your memoir in six words.

He did much in 137 years.

Gabrielle Levesque
Gabrielle Levesque
Journalism

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

A pivotal point of my UConn career was most certainly when I became the news director at UCTV, because it gave me confidence to follow my dreams. With what I learned in that position, and this past year as general manager, there is no doubt that I feel prepared for what people have talked up to be the real world.

Where are you headed after graduation?

After graduation, I will be working at 30 Rockefeller Center for NBC as a ‘page.’ As a page, I will be able to work on multiple shows that NBC broadcasts, in addition to being a tour guide at the historic building!

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

This school provides its students with countless opportunities to be the best student, friend, scholar, and person you can possibly be.

Write your memoir in six words.

Chasing your dreams should be fun.

Ragini Phansalkar
Ragini Phansalkar
Computer Science and Biology

How has being at UConn changed you?

I have learned something very important from each person I have connected with here, which has molded my outlook on friendships, ambition, commitment, service – being able to lean on and in turn support those I have become close to has allowed me finally to become the person I really wanted to be four years ago. (My threshold for cold weather is also probably higher.)

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

Working in Paris the summer after sophomore year was one of the best times of my life!

Where are you headed after graduation?

To an MD/Ph.D. program, where I will be on the hunt for free food and maybe some secrets of the universe.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

When you first get here, joining every club is a fantastic idea (but then just make sure you drop at least a few down the line!).

Write your memoir in six words.

Random choices were the best ones.

David Lyon
David Lyon
Philosophy

How has being at UConn changed you?

For the better. The time I have spent at the University of Connecticut has been critical to my intellectual and philosophical growth. In the past four years, I have developed a much greater sense of the person I would like to become, and I am appreciative of the University of Connecticut and its wonderful faculty for their role in my development.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I will be heading to graduate school to continue my philosophical studies. This would not have been possible without all the help I received along the way from my professors; I am very thankful to all of them not just for helping me to understand the material, but for doing so in such a way as to foster my love of wisdom.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

I would tell them that the University of Connecticut is what you make it. My focus has been for the most part on academics, and in this regard I feel the University of Connecticut has served me well. But whatever your intent, the University of Connecticut has something to offer.

Write your memoir in six words.

My memoir? But I’m only twenty-one!

Natalia Svirshchevsky
Natalia Svirshchevsky
Business

How has being at UConn changed you?

Being surrounded by a diverse student and staff population has allowed me to look at issues and problems from different viewpoints, thus broadening my perspective on numerous topics.

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

The defining moment during my UConn career was my semester abroad in London under the School of Business Economics & Business Program, because I was able to conduct research in an international environment and apply what I had learned in the classroom.

Where are you headed after graduation?

Graduate school at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Write your memoir in six words.

Knowledge is your most powerful weapon.

Joshua Andrade
Joshua Andrade
Molecular and Cell Biology

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

At the conclusion of my freshman year, I wasn’t satisfied with my collegiate experience. The move from home got to me, I wasn’t performing as well academically as I would have liked, and simply wasn’t enjoying my time here. I reflected for a bit, and decided the following year to fully immerse myself in campus life and dedicate myself to my classes. The next three years were a complete turnaround from the first. I picked up my GPA, became involved in organizations I cared about, and have loved my time here ever since.

Where are you headed after graduation?   

After graduating, I will be working as a Corps Member for Teach for America in New York City. I am looking forward to playing my part in combating educational inequities and educating young minds in the sciences. Later, I plan on attending medical school and beginning my journey toward becoming a physician.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

UConn is your oyster. There are endless opportunities here to not only receive a quality education, but also to explore life, grow, and really find who you are.

Write your memoir in six words.

Oh, the places you will go.

William Gionfriddo
William Gionfriddo
Internal Medicine

How has being at the UConn School of Medicine changed you?

The study of medicine will change anyone’s view on life and illness. My time at UConn has provided me with a deeper understanding of the human condition.

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

The real teachers in medical education are the patients. Each new patient encounter is a defining moment for me.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I will be moving to Boston for my Internal Medicine Residency at Tufts Medical Center.

What would you tell someone who is considering the UConn School of Medicine?

A career in medicine is challenging and tiring, but ultimately, rewarding. UConn will provide you with a strong clinical foundation second to none. I encourage prospective applicants to contact a UConn medical student who can give them advice and mentorship.

Write your memoir in six words.

Why six when five suffice?

Chelsea Murphy
Chelsea Murphy
Dentistry

How has being at the UConn School of Dental Medicine changed you?

The doctor-patient relationship is very different from any other relationship, so navigating this was an interesting and often awkward process. I maintained my sense of humor and optimism  throughout the four years, while becoming more decisive and assertive – necessary traits in modern health care, where teamwork is a daily occurrence.

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

The transition from classroom to clinic is a humbling experience because the learning curve is so steep. My first patient asked why I hadn’t put “that pink stuff” on his teeth, and I realized I didn’t even know where to find it in the clinic! We all had no idea what was going on for a few weeks. The defining moment for me was the first time I didn’t feel that way.

Where are you headed after graduation?

Washington, D.C.! I am very excited to have matched into an orthodontics residency program at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.

Write your memoir in six words.

Sweet dreams were made of teeth.

Evan Timme
Evan Timme
Public Health

How has being a graduate student at UConn changed you?

I have been fortunate to be a part of an organization that has fostered, encouraged, and challenged the ways I perceive and interact within a community. Mutually beneficial positive-relationships are underrated.

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

Working for Husky Sport. If you don’t know Husky Sport you should: @UConnHuskySport. (www.huskysport.uconn.edu)

Where are you headed after graduation?

I am headed down south to continue growing through another year of AmeriCorps service.

What would you tell someone who is considering graduate studies at UConn?

Place importance in learning through the process. Gain and hone transferable life skills. Be genuine and authentic in whatever you do.

Write your memoir in six words.

Listen more; radiate positivity; thank you.

Luis Organista
Luis Organista
Natural Resources and the Environment

Was there a defining moment during your UConn career?

The defining moment of my UConn career was the chance I had to study abroad in the summer of 2012. I went to South Africa to study African Field Ecology and be immersed in their culture and view the amazing wildlife, such as giraffes. It was there where I cemented my true passion for the environment and decided to pursue a career in conservation.

Where are you headed after graduation?

After graduation, I want to continue with my education and pursue graduate school. I want to study fisheries management and travel across the country. As well, I feel there are so many opportunities available and with the knowledge I have acquired at UConn I want to try other things, such as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. I may be contributing to research, working, or doing service, depending on the opportunity that arises.

What would you tell someone who is considering UConn?

Definitely apply! Being a Husky is a great honor, there are so many wonderful people and programs that make up the school. One will always have fun with all that goes around and you will discover what you are passionate about and become involved.

Write your memoir in six words.

UConn, the playground for all Huskies.