Sage Phillips ’22, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

"Having those connections and people behind me to support me has helped me get to where I am and where I’m going."

Sage Phillips standing in UConn's Homer Babbidge Library.

Sage Phillips '22 (CLAS), a political science and human rights major, at the Homer Babbidge Library on April 20, 2022. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Why did you choose UConn? 
I’m a member of the Penobscot Nation in Maine. My high school was only a couple of minutes away from our reservation. I was lonely in the classroom in terms of Indigenous representation. When it came time to look at colleges, I assumed I would go to the University of Maine. But I also thought about getting away from home. I was looking for a good tribal program and Native community. When I came across UConn, my dad said that I knew what I wanted in the community, so I should take the opportunity to give help elsewhere. It stuck with me, and that’s what brought me here.  

What’s your major and why did you choose it? 
I’m a double-major in political science and human rights. I have a minor in Native and Indigenous studies. I was originally accepted for sociology, but I soon realized it was not for me. I started going to events put on by departments to see what would fit my interests. I came across an event for political science, and I said, “This is right.” I also wanted more of a human rights perspective on the topics we were discussing, which fit with the work I was doing with the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP). 

What are your plans after graduation?
Last year, I received the Truman Scholarship, so I get to go to the Truman Summer Institute in Washington, D.C. I’ll be interning at the Council for Opportunity in Education and networking with the Truman community. After that, I’m not sure where I’ll end up. I eventually want to go to law school. I’d like to pursue a JD and master’s degree in American Indian studies. 

What activities were you involved with as a student?
I got introduced to HackUConn my freshman year, which was fun, but it wasn’t what I felt like I was here to do. My First Year Experience (FYE) mentor, David Ouimette, approached me and asked what my ‘real’ interests were, and he got me the job with the NACP. I founded our student organization, the Native American and Indigenous Students Association. I also sat on the President’s Council on Race and Diversity and was involved with Undergraduate Student Government (USG). I’ve been very involved, but it all comes back to NACP.  

How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?
UConn has prepared me with opportunities for mentorship. I’ve had faculty and alumni mentors. I was in the Leadership Legacy Experience (LLE) program and connected with alumni there. Having those connections and people behind me to support me has helped me get to where I am and where I’m going. I wouldn’t have been connected like that if I wasn’t at UConn.  

Any advice for incoming first-year students?
In high school, I didn’t embrace my Indigeneity very much. I didn’t feel accepted. When I got here, I knew that it was time to do that. My biggest piece of advice would be to drop every expectation that you think people have of you. By letting go of that and expressing my values and culture, I was able to get to where I am.