Danielle Cross ’22 (CLAS) has been deliberate in picking the extracurricular activities she’s participated in over the last few years.
She volunteered with the UConn American English Language Institute to help people improve their fluency in English and U.S. cultural knowledge and worked with adult English language learners in the English as a Second Language Family Literacy Program in Vernon.
Additionally, Cross was a volunteer with UConn Community Outreach Alternative Breaks, partnering with organizations in Detroit and Birmingham, Alabama, to work on issues of urban poverty and environmental justice and teach about the civil rights movement.
These activities have prepared her for what comes next: a law career focused on immigration and diversity in the legal field with a touch of public policy.
Why did you choose UConn?
I chose UConn because of the excellent programs in psychology and political science. I really liked the campus feel when I visited, and it was a place where I knew I would have the resources to be able to engage in some really great experiences.
What’s your major and why did you choose it?
My majors are political science and psychological sciences. I chose them because of my interest in law and public administration, and because I wanted to learn about how people think and understand the social world around them. Double majoring allowed me to combine these interests.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I have been accepted to and will be attending the University of Connecticut Master of Public Policy program. I began as an undergraduate student in its Fast Track in Public Policy and will be getting my master’s in a fifth year. I will additionally be interning with either a governmental agency or a nonprofit during this time as part of my Master of Public Policy program.
What activities were you involved with as a student?
While my involvement varied depending on the year, during my time at the University of Connecticut I was involved in Cru at UConn (a Christian organization), the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Leadership Board, two alternative break trips through UConn Community Outreach, the English as a Second Language volunteering program through UConn Community Outreach, and the Honors Initiative for Prospective Students (HIPS) program, among others. I also got the opportunity to do research through both the UConn IDEA Grant program, and through completing an Honors thesis in the Department of Political Science. I have really appreciated student organizations on campus for allowing me to explore my interests more deeply and connect with genuine friends.
How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?
UConn has given me a firm academic foundation that has helped to develop practical skills like critical thinking and time management. I have also gotten a great theoretical foundation in psychology, political science, and public policy, which will help my further studies in the Master of Public Policy program, and afterward law school.
What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?
One thing that surprised me about UConn was the vibrancy of the campus life. Before coming, I was worried that because of the rural location, there would not be that much to do. I found being on campus though there was always more to do than I could even keep track of with the different events being put on by student organizations or different departments.
Any advice for incoming first-year students?
I would recommend that you do not limit yourself. There is so much that you are able to accomplish even as a first-year student at UConn whether that be doing research, getting involved in clubs, etc. You can really start to make an impact right out of the gate. The flipside to that advice is that you do not need to do everything all at once. Be sure to use your years at UConn wisely and be able to slow down and ask yourself serious questions, like do you enjoy what you are currently doing? Is there something that you would enjoy doing more? Be honest with yourself about your interests and abilities, work hard, and breathe, and you can accomplish a lot in your years at UConn. I recommend making a four-year plan for yourself with all the things you might want to do. Know that that plan will change and be open to that change.
For first-year students of color especially – UConn is a place where you can succeed. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and your interests, and call things out when you don’t think they’re OK. Find people to support you. Find the organizations, centers, and professors that are really committed to your thriving and excellence and know that your future is bright.
What’s one thing every student should do during their time at UConn?
I think that every student experience is so unique, and UConn has a lot of great opportunities to explore different interests. My recommendation would be for everyone to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. Whether that be going on an Alternative Break trip or going to a networking night, or taking an anti-racism course, whatever it may be. I think every student should try something new and beneficial. It may introduce you to a new hobby, a new group of friends, or even a new career path that you never considered before.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
I really cannot choose one favorite professor because I have had such great professors during my time at the University of Connecticut who have pushed me to be better. I am really grateful for Professor Shareen Hertel in the political science department who was both my thesis advisor and the professor for my Comparative Perspectives on Human Rights course. I took that course when most classes were online, and Professor Hertel was still able to make the discussion-based course interactive and find interesting and hands-on ways to not only learn but apply our knowledge of international human rights law.
I also really enjoyed my courses taken with Professor Bergendahl in the political science department because of her ability to foster great in-class discussions, and to really push all her students to think critically and produce their best work. I also truly enjoyed my Black Political Thought course with Professor Jane Gordon in the political science department. My one regret is that I didn’t take more classes with her as she is an excellent professor who deeply cares about the mental and emotional needs of her students while at the same time pushing them to think about things in new ways and produce their best work. These are just a few of the excellent professors I have been able to learn from at UConn and I really can’t pick just one favorite!