Since entering UConn, major world events have marked each year. During their freshman year, President Barack Obama won re-election and the Boston Marathon bombing shocked the nation. The following year, human stem cells were cloned. During their junior year, the United Nations warned that the world was on course for the warmest year since records began and the largest outbreak of Ebola in history claimed thousands of victims, mostly in Africa. This year, NASA found liquid water on Mars, terrorists attacked Paris and Belgium, and the spread of the Zika virus was documented in newspapers around the globe.
On campus during the last four years, students had the opportunity to hear from a slate of distinguished speakers on campus, including current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former U.S. President Bill Clinton; ESPN creator Bill Rasmussen; former two-time president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Oscar Arias; feminist Gloria Steinem; author Doris Kearns Goodwin; and presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
During their UConn years, the University opened Discovery Drive, a new road connecting Route 44 to the Storrs campus and UConn’s new Technology Park; and opened UConn Health Medical and Dental Services in downtown Storrs. Dining Services also opened a new gluten-free bakery, debuted a food truck and ice cream truck, and students selected special flavors of ice cream for their ‘Senior Scoop:’ this year’s flavor is a mixture of coffee ice cream, Heath Bar bits, and fudge swirl.
Also within the past four years, the home of UConn football in East Hartford unveiled a new name – Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. And the Huskies secured seven national championships in three different sports, including the women’s basketball team’s historic fourth straight NCAA championship last month, making it the nation’s only college basketball program to have won 11 national titles.
And this year, HuskyTHON student-dancers raised a record $716,394 for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center during an 18-hour dance marathon.
In fact, the Class of 2016 continued UConn’s tradition of outreach to enhance the quality of life for others through many different initiatives, including one-day community service projects; ongoing local programs providing medical care to migrant farm workers; literacy training for students in low-income households; legal services to clients seeking asylum from political persecution; as well as domestic and international alternative breaks and Education Abroad programs.
Preliminary numbers indicate that more than 16,200 students engaged in over 1.3 million hours of service last year, says Gina DeVivo Brassaw, associate director for Community Outreach in the Department of Student Activities. UConn has been named to the (U.S.) President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for three successive years.
“This class has engaged with hundreds of non-profits to support initiatives throughout the state and worldwide,” Brassaw said.
Similarly, a record 18 percent of this year’s graduating class, or 769 students, participated in one of 275 Education Abroad programs offered in more than 70 countries.
Another noteworthy cohort in the Class of 2016 is the first-generation graduates. A total of 169 first-generation students will graduate this spring, said Bidya Ranjeet, director of UConn’s Student Support Services program. Included among this group are 13 McNair Scholars, the first graduates of a four-year old UConn program designed to prepare highly motivated, underrepresented students for careers in developmental psychology, immunology/parasitology, nutritional science, or public health.
“All 13 scholars have been accepted into medical schools and Ph.D. programs, or are beginning industry careers to prepare them for their respective fields,” Ranjeet said. “We are very proud of their accomplishments and look forward to their future successes.”
The Class of 2016 also includes 380 Honors Scholars, the largest number ever at UConn; two National Science Foundation graduate fellowship recipients; a Goldwater Scholarship winner; a Fulbright English Teaching grant recipient; and winner of a National Collegiate Honors Council Portz Fellowship. Additionally, there are 27 students graduating as University Scholars, UConn’s highest accolade for academic excellence.
Many of the graduate students who are leaving UConn this spring have also held prestigious national fellowships including the following: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowships, Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships, Fulbright Fellowships, and Boren Fellowships, among others.
Growing numbers of graduate and postdoctoral scholars are seeking advanced degrees from UConn, said Kent E. Holsinger, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School. “UConn is a great research university because it has world-class faculty training exceptionally talented graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in world-class graduate programs.”