The silver-faceted dome of Gampel Pavilion may mark the home of UConn basketball, but that iconic landmark means a lot more than sports to Kyle Muncy and his daughter, Taylor Muncy.
It’s where Kyle first walked in his UConn cap and gown, earning his undergraduate degree in communications from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1992.
It’s where he worked, handling public relations for the UConn Men’s Basketball team, for 17 years – often bringing a very young Taylor with him for weekend games, where she’d be watching a kid’s show on television or coloring or playing, in his office below the arena, as the crowds roared in the stands and the players thundered down the court above.
“It’s a long way from her being two or three years old and Coach Calhoun walking in the office while she’s sitting there,” he says. “He was very focused, and not on the three-year-old sitting in the chair watching TV.”
“I couldn’t have cared less, either,” Taylor says with a laugh.
Gampel Pavilion is where Kyle and his wife watched with pride as their daughter accepted her own undergraduate degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – hers a double major in human rights and history – in 2019, crossing that same stage some 27 years after her father and mother, in the same building where they had met while working as students.
“I had been in that building for hundreds of games, where you couldn’t hear yourself think – nights where I thought I had the best job in the world, nights where I had the worst job in the world,” Kyle says. “But being at Taylor’s undergraduate ceremony – I remember thinking, this is the coolest time that I’ve ever been in this building. I mean, there’s something that hits a little different when you’re a parent and you’re watching your child graduate. And May 9 will probably be pretty close to that.”
He adds, “Where we’re going to be on May 9, it certainly was not the intent. It’ll just be a really awesome coincidence.”
On May 9, Kyle and Taylor will again walk through the doors of Gampel, and don their UConn regalia – both of them, together – as they each earn their second degrees, this time from the School of Business.
“They say the best-laid plans are not planned at all,” Kyle says, “and we didn’t plan it. Not a stitch of it, I promise.”
For Taylor, a passion for human rights and a strong interest in corporate social responsibility that grew during her time as an undergraduate led her to seek a master of business administration.
“My senior year, I wrote my thesis in human rights on the environmental impacts of fast fashion, and I got really into sustainability and kind of the human rights that go along with that,” she says. “I knew that was what my focus was going to be for my career, and I thought that business would be a good way to make the business case for that and to do that in a corporate world.”
She enrolled in the School of Business’s full-time general business track MBA program, taking five to six courses each semester to complete the program in two years. She was nervous initially, she says, because she’d only worked for a year after graduating and before starting the masters program.
“That’s not typical for an MBA, usually it’s more mid-career,” she says, “and I felt like a lot of my experiences here at UConn– whether it was the work experience I had or just the classes, the clubs –were a lot more relevant to what we were talking about in the MBA courses than I would have expected. The MBA program gave me a chance to reflect on that and realize how much I did do while I was here and how much I got out of it.”
Taylor knew from the outset that she’d finish her MBA in 2022, but what she didn’t know was that she’d end up graduating alongside her father – that came as a surprise to their entire family, even him.
“She had gotten a jump on me in terms of knowing that she was going to go in the program,” says Kyle, who is UConn’s long-serving director of brand partnerships and trademark management, overseeing the University’s trademark licensing and branding portfolio and exclusive brand partnerships.
“For me, it was more just on a whim. I literally came in on New Year’s Eve morning of 2019 and said, ‘Jeez, I’m turning 50 next year, and it’s 2020, and what am I doing with myself?’” he explains. “And I said, you know, why don’t I just apply for the program? I applied for it. One of my mentors sent in a letter reference that day. So, showed up in the morning with nothing on my to-do list, and by the afternoon I was like, ‘I think I’m going to be in grad school.’”
Kyle enrolled in the School of Business’s Master of Science in Human Resources Management program, because despite his now 28-year career with the University, he had little work experience with human resources administration or, at the time, managing a staff.
“I’ve kind of done the business thing,” he says. “But what I didn’t have, and what I feel like I have a much better handle on now, is people management and leadership development and the different types of personnel skills.”
Now on the cusp of becoming “double Huskies,” on the campus they both love, from the University they both deeply care for, the Muncys are both reflective about their time as UConn students, as undergrads and in graduate programs.
“Coming here, I was like, little fish, big pond,” Taylor says, “and I definitely found my way through the clubs and organizations that I was a part of, and I think that’s kind of the same story for a lot of students that come here. And it wasn’t just, ‘oh, I made some friends, and I got a degree, and now I can go get a job.’ I really grew as a person.”
“Part of my desire to get the masters was in thinking about how different her four-year experience here was than mine had been,” says Kyle, who was a soccer player as an undergraduate for legendary coach Joe Morrone. “Of course I thought I was going to be a professional soccer player, so I treated academics as such. I didn’t study abroad, and I didn’t join any clubs or groups or sorority-fraternity, none of that. I just attended. It was really, really cool to see her not just attend UConn.”
He continues, “In all the years I’ve worked at UConn, I’ve not just worked here, I’ve immersed myself in it. I thought the masters program would be a little bit of a way to get a do-over. I had an undergraduate degree that I got – I don’t know that I’d say I earned it. This one I’ve definitely earned, and so it’s a big difference. There’s no doubt.”
They’re both hoping that the weather is good for their graduation ceremony next month, and that they’ll get to cross the stage and accept their diplomas together, in that building that stands so large in both of their lives.
“UConn – obviously, it is a physical thing,” says Kyle. “But for us, UConn is something that’s very much a part of us. So yeah – I’m just hoping not to embarrass her.”