Building Their Future – The Class of 2019

More than 3,000 members of the UConn Class of 2019 pose for a photo on the Great Lawn at the Storrs Campus on Aug. 29, 2015, at the start of their careers at UConn. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
More than 3,000 members of the UConn Class of 2019 pose for a photo on the Great Lawn at the Storrs Campus on Aug. 29, 2015, at the start of their careers at UConn. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Class of 2019 entered UConn in 2015 as the largest freshman cohort admitted to the University at that time. Out of nearly 35,000 applicants vying for admission, 5,200 were admitted. The Class of 2019 also set a record for the number of freshman accepted into UConn’s competitive Honors Program, with 535 enrolling in their freshman year.

Although they represented one of the most ethnically diverse classes admitted to the University, with almost one-third of the class being members of minority groups, still President Susan Herbst called for yet greater efforts to embrace diversity and ‘make sure that UConn reflects the diversity of the nation.’

For the year the Class of 2019 started at UConn, the central theme for the University was “Building Our Future,” ushering in a continued effort to develop new infrastructure projects around the state in support of its mission and academic plan. Notable milestones during the Class of 2019’s time at UConn, included the opening of the University’s new 727-bed STEM residence hall, now known as the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower, and the new Engineering and Science Building, and the return of the Hartford campus to its city roots with the opening of a downtown campus in 2017.

In the years since coming to UConn, these students have witnessed difficult news events, the rise of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, and increasing global climate concerns. These events have fueled a new generation of change makers, with mass school walk outs, sit-ins at Congress, and increasing political involvement.

Preston Bogan ’19 (CLAS) says of his experience as an Education Abroad student viewing the political climate in the U.S. during his time in France last fall, “We live in such a connected world right now, that if you don’t look outside your own comfort zone of what you think is the best way to do things, you are missing out. I think there is so much happening politically and culturally right now, it’s important to look outside ourselves and see that there are different ways things can happen.”

Undeterred and resilient, what is clear is the Class of 2019, and the youth of the nation in general, are hungry for change and have the zeal to effect that change. For example, 2019 has seen an unprecedented diversity of new and younger members elected to Congress.

In a world that is seemingly out of control, the Class of 2019 started their final year at UConn with a thrilling yet somber tribute to UConn hopeful and Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting victim Alex Schachter by the UConn Marching Band.

Members of the Class of 2019 are among the first to participate in a new era of service learning through corps model courses, like the Climate Corps, the Stormwater Corps, and the Connecticut Brownfields initiative, where they are helping create change in communities across the state.

Juliana Barrett, one of the educators behind the creation of the Climate Corps, says that despite the sometimes dire news, she is energized and gains hope for the future from the students she is educating and working alongside.

Marketing students took on ways to market sustainability to fellow students on campus, with the Connecticut Environmental Action Day in March. The students undertook this project as a group thesis, and agreed that it definitely changed the way they look at things in terms of sustainability.

Rebecca Demaio ’19 (BUS), one of the students involved, commented that sometimes, all it takes is one passionate person to create change.

In addition to these outreach efforts, this spring’s HuskyThon broke records, with $1.3 million raised for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Although it was not just seniors who participated, the fact that the event’s fundraising has broken records each year over the past several years is testament to the spirit of the graduating class and others at UConn, suggesting that their tenacity and energy will be channeled into great accomplishments in the future.

The future will be built by the younger generations of today, including members of the Class of 2019. With their talents, the skills they have learned at UConn, and their accomplishments as students, this year’s graduates will be a generation to watch as they build their future, together, and as Huskies forever.