My First Year Story
S1E13. Judy & Justis Lopez

S1E13. Judy & Justis Lopez

May 6, 2021

In celebration of Mother’s Day, we have a special treat for our listeners with two guests on this week’s episode!  Tomaso sits down with mother/son duo and UConn alumni Judy and Justis Lopez. Judy currently works with the UConn Women’s Center, while Justis is the CEO of his educational entertainment company Just Experience, LLC, and a consultant for the Council for Opportunity in Education. The discussion begins with Justis and Judy describing their transformational journeys with UConn, explaining the full circle feelings of helping and inspiring each other through their educational goals.  As the conversation shifts to their professional pathways, the positivity and enthusiasm both guests exude becomes even more evident as integral to how they approach the “firsts” they’ve experienced in life.  Tune in to learn more from this inspirational mother/son pair about the importance of relationships and resilience in achieving your dreams.

S1E12. Sage Phillips

S1E12. Sage Phillips

April 22, 2021

This episode features Sage Phillips, a junior Political Science and Human Rights major, who was recently named a Truman Scholar.  The Truman Scholarship is a tribute to the late 33rd President and public service with the goal of inspiring the next generation of public service leaders.  Listeners will quickly learn why Sage was selected for this premier graduate fellowship as they follow along with her conversation with Tomaso.  As the conversation begins, Sage shares her experience of being a member of the Penobscot Nation and growing up in Maine. Sage goes on to talk about the impact that her family and heritage continues to have on her and how they helped with her decision to come to UConn. Never losing her passion for advocating for the rights of Native American and Indigenous people, Sage discusses her involvement in the Native American Cultural Programs and how she became a member of the UConn President’s Council on Race and Diversity, created the Native American & Indigenous Student Association, as well as how she became involved in the coalition for banning the use of Native American mascots in Connecticut. Tune in to learn more about Sage’s inspirational journey, her activism for creating a more inclusive community for Native and Indigenous people and how she has become a public service leader. 

S1E11. Yiyi An

S1E11. Yiyi An

April 8, 2021

Joining Tomaso this week is Yiyi An, a first-year international student from China. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UConn partnered with institutions around the world to offer international students ways to complete their coursework elsewhere while still connecting and engaging with other international students attending those schools. One such institution is the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), which is where Yiyi studied for the fall 2020 semester. Now taking classes fully online through UConn, Yiyi talks about the challenge of being in a different time zone than her peers and professors while simultaneously enjoying the flexibility of online courses and the freedom to create her own schedule. Although still early in her Actuarial Science major, Yiyi is excited to begin searching for future internships and explore other ways to gain experience in the field, but most of all, she cannot wait to arrive on campus in person and experience all that UConn has to offer, particularly meeting new friends and visiting the Dairy Bar.

S1E10. Myra Cerrato

S1E10. Myra Cerrato

March 25, 2021

This episode welcomes Mrya Cerrato, a first generation college student double majoring in Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies. Myra shares her story of how she transferred from UMass Dartmouth to UConn Stamford, and then arrived at UConn Storrs in the spring 2020 semester. Now, as a junior, she participates in virtual clinical psychology research, collecting qualitative data from mothers with PTSD, through UConn’s McNair Scholars Program. She gives valuable insight about McNair, explaining how it’s not only a gateway to research, but also to graduate school and post-graduation life. Beyond academics, Mrya is involved with Jumpstart, which is an early childhood education program. While learning the best ways to engage young children, she is also gaining experience in her field that could lead to many outcomes, from social work to family policy and advocacy, to child psychology, or all of the above! Listen along as our host, Tomaso, sits down with Myra, getting curious about her story as a first generation student and how she plans to accomplish her goals within her areas of passion.

S1E9. Colin Cleary

S1E9. Colin Cleary

March 12, 2021
Colin Cleary, a Ph.D. candidate studying Physiology and Neurobiology at UConn, lets us in on the studying secrets he discovered as an undergraduate and explains that for him, different STEM classes required different approaches. During his first year at UConn, Colin developed a passion for science but wasn’t sure about which direction to pursue. After completing coursework in Physiology & Neurobiology (PNB) and Molecular & Cell Biology (MCB) courses, he decided to declare his major in those areas. Beyond the classroom, Colin’s passion for the medical field brought him to the UConn Medical Humanitarian Society where he and other club members organized a transformational and impactful trip to Guatemala. Join our host, Tomaso, as he sits down with Colin and learns more about how and why he developed such a strong passion for research and what advice he has for any student eager to explore research early on.
S1E8. Exploring Entrepreneurship with Kathy Rocha

S1E8. Exploring Entrepreneurship with Kathy Rocha

February 25, 2021
In this week’s episode, Tomaso chats with the Operations Director of the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UConn, Kathy Rocha. Kathy talks about the nonlinear path from a major to career, using her Political Science major from Providence College as an example. Kathy had planned to enter the field of law, but upon graduation, she felt drawn to the business world, ultimately pursuing her MBA and a career in high tech, persisting proudly in a male-dominated field. Listen to this episode to hear how she found herself at UConn and working at the Werth Institute connecting students with opportunities to cultivate their own entrepreneurial mindsets. Kathy even shares one of many stories about a recent UConn student who was able to maximize the opportunities the University has to offer to create an intriguing venture, Levo International. Listen to learn more about what Kathy has to say about finding your path, exploring entrepreneurship, and connecting with the Werth Institute.
S1E7. Dr. Thomas Long

S1E7. Dr. Thomas Long

February 11, 2021
"Faculty should always be willing to challenge students but also not...overwhelm them," says Dr. Thomas Long, Professor in Residence for the UConn School of Nursing and Director of the Nursing Learning Community. With our host Tomaso, Dr. Long transports us back to his early years of college as he reminisces about difficulty in finding a parking space while Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” played on the radio. He also talks about how one of his own professors “shaped the trajectory of [his] thinking and teaching for the last 50 years.” Throughout the conversation, Tomaso and Dr. Long discuss the importance of connections while acknowledging the difficulties both faculty and students are experiencing in forming those connections in today's reality of so much remote working, learning, and teaching. Tune in and learn more about how “students and faculty are much more alike than they are dissimilar” and how faculty-student dynamics greatly impact student success.
S1E6. Damani Douglas

S1E6. Damani Douglas

January 28, 2021

Join Tomaso as he sits down with Damani Douglas, the first Chief Diversity Officer in UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government history, to talk about his journey and involvement in student government. In this episode, Damani explains his beginnings as a member of the ScHOLA²RS Learning Community that inspired him to explore different leadership roles. Throughout the discussion, Damani reaffirms the “cliché that there really is a club or organization at UConn for everyone”, no matter what their passion is. The conversation then shifts to the importance of the new Chief Diversity Officer position in USG and how it came to fruition. Listen to learn more about satisfying your need for involvement in important dialogue and activism while on campus and beyond.

S1E5. Professor Jamelia Morgan

S1E5. Professor Jamelia Morgan

January 14, 2021

This episode features Associate Professor of Law at UConn, Jamelia Morgan. Through her education at Stanford University and Yale Law School, Professor Morgan gained expertise in criminal law, critical race theory, equality law, disability law and policy, prison law and policy, and policing. Professor Morgan talks about how she supported creating the 'U.S. Anti-Black Racism Course' at UConn alongside other faculty because of student demand for the course. Although she began her career as a paralegal, teaching was important for her to explore because she believes education is the key to changing structural racism which still exists today.  Our host Tomaso echoes how important it is to have conversations like theirs in university settings.

S1E4. David Ouimette

S1E4. David Ouimette

December 31, 2020

In this episode, Tomaso sits down with the Executive Director of UConn's Office of First Year Programs and Learning Communities, David Ouimette. David shares his own experiences as a first-year student at Gettysburg College, and as the conversation continues, listeners will hear about how David's strong passion for “student success from the start” helped to pave the way for the development of UConn's First Year Experience Program, Learning Communities, the Academic Achievement Center, and the LCIZ Makerspace. Under David’s leadership, these innovative initiatives strive to provide holistic guidance, opportunities, and resources to enable students to actively engage and thrive at UConn.

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