Clubs & Organizations

Thank you, UConn Men’s Crew

The infamous dirty four cruising at sunrise
The infamous dirty four cruising at sunrise

I’m graduating a week from Saturday, so that means I’ll be seeing one of my last sunrises on Coventry Lake in the next few days. I have spent three out of my four years at UConn on the Men’s Crew team. Joining the ranks of this club sport was the best decision I made during my undergraduate career. After a rocky first semester in college, I decided that I wanted to be part of something bigger and worthwhile, so I decided to try rowing.

Over the years, crew has instilled in me discipline to strive for bigger goals, taught me how to be passionate about what I care about, believe in myself, and introduced me to the people who make me love my Alma Mater.

Crew is pretty intense. It’s a two-season sport, meaning that we have races in both the fall and the spring. To prepare for races, we practice every day at 5:00am. During the off-season, we also practice 3-4 days a week indoors in the wee hours of the morning as well.

Spring break training at Camp Bob Cooper
Spring break training at Camp Bob Cooper

Now, I am not a morning person, but, once you get hooked, crew is almost addicting. The people that stick with crew are athletes that are driven not only by winning medals, but by the kinship and comradery that comes with being part of the team. These athletes can also roll with the punches too because rowing does not come without making sacrifices. While balancing classes, work, and other activities, many athletes do not get the normal eight hours of sleep on a nightly basis that most people are used to. In addition, while some of your non-crew friends are going out two or three days a week, you won’t risk disappointing your teammates, and stay in on weeknights and nights before races. This is not to say we don’t have fun (or that we don’t go out), though.

As soon as we start warming up for practice, teammates are talking and laughing the whole way until we pick up the boat and carry it into the water. Coventry lake blesses UConn Crew with water that is typically calm and glassy; however, the windy, rainy, and snowy mornings are at some point inevitable. At the end of every practice, the team heads to Northwest or South dining halls for team breakfast. We apologize to all UConn students for being the most awake, loquacious people while you’re trying to ignore every single person ever at 7:30 in the morning. For new members of the team, this can be first point when you start to appreciate that being a part of this team is worth it. You realize that the day has hardly started already, and you’ve already accomplished so much.

First place at Fall Metropolitan races
First place at Fall Metropolitan races

As much as rowers compete against other crews, they also compete against themselves. This is very comparable to runners who are constantly trying to get their time down. What’s different about rowing is that each boat has a coxswain, the typically smaller person that steers the boat and motivates his or her teammates to row faster. Last fall, in the Metropolitan races, my boat immediately pulled ahead of four of our competitors right off the starting line. This was extremely exhilarating to me, someone who had never won a medal. Soon we’re more than halfway through the race and in second place. Our coxswain, Christine, bellows that we are inching up on the boat in first place and that only first place receives a medal. Previously oblivious of this fact, a switch turned on in my mind bringing me to a state in which I suddenly could not feel the burning sensation in my muscles. With several powerful strokes, we edged ahead of the boat, winning by a fraction of a second. Together we beat the odds, and I won my first race with most extraordinary group of oarsmen. In this regard, crew has helped me unleash potential in myself that I didn’t know I had. Through the sport and through my teammates, I have found courage in myself to achieve accolades I used to only dream about. This concept materializes not only in my success at rowing competitions, but in the classroom and the laboratory as well.

In this environment, I grew as a person and as a young professional as well. As a student and budding scientist, I know that this culture has been instilled into how I live. When it comes to academics and research, this means studying and getting lab work done late at night. Nonetheless, just like striving to get faster to earn those medals, I became more comfortable with working relentlessly towards academic and scientific goals. I will take this valuable wisdom with me beyond commencement into my next endeavor.

I get the impression that perspective of non-rowers about rowers is that they’re crazy considering the early mornings, the commitment to a club activity, and the intense workouts. Yet, when I see my teammates, my best friends, I see the most dedicated people that I’ve met at UConn. Rowers are people that have found a passion that drives them to want more from themselves and from others. Over time, the sport teaches you discipline and passion that translates to conducting yourself and approaching everything you do with determined conviction.

UConn’s First Agriculture Awareness Week

Vice President Mindy (left) and President Erin (middle) are shown tabling at the annual animal science ice cream social for agriculture advocacy club in Fall 2017.
Vice President Mindy (left) and President Erin (middle) are shown tabling at the annual animal science ice cream social for agriculture advocacy club in Fall 2017.

Being within the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, I have learned a lot about One Health issues that I did not know much about previously. Specifically, the importance of agriculture and how it affects our everyday lives. In addition to learning about this in classes, my roommate Erin – an animal science major and dairy farm owner – taught me about agriculture. My interest and unawareness and Erin’s drive to educate others in agriculture, inspired the idea to spread the word about this industry through creating an agriculture advocacy club. In Fall 2017, UConn’s agriculture advocacy club was formed with the mission of planning an agriculture awareness week to engage students that may not be exposed to agriculture or realize how it affects their everyday lives. This would give students the opportunity to learn about food, sustainable agriculture, and livestock.

It is currently Agriculture Awareness week on campus and Wednesday, March 21  is National Agriculture day. Everyday for the rest of this week there will be Continue reading

How do I prepare for Medical School or Dental School?

Shaun getting involved in extracurricular activities – Husky Hungama

This is a question that most Pre-Med/Pre-Dental students ask themselves as they make the transition from high school to college to continue their undergraduate studies. As a Pre-Dental student, this was the same question I asked myself when I started my freshman year at UConn. When I first started thinking about dental school, I didn’t know where to begin or who to talk to about my future aspirations.

The first step is to do research about the field you are interested in to see if it is a potential career path that fits your interests. Most people will tell you to speak with a Pre-Med/Dental advisor first, but from experience, it’s better to read about the field first so you are well-versed about the opportunities available and requirements that need to be met prior to applying to a dental program. For me, I started to research dentistry while I was a senior in high school. Despite spending many hours researching different dental programs, I found that doing this was extremely helpful because it showed me what dental schools were looking for from a well-rounded applicant. After doing some research, I met with not only Pre-Med/Dental advisors, but also spoke with other students who were currently applying to dental programs to hear their advice about what they did to become a well-rounded applicant and what they would do differently if they were to change the way they prepared their application for dental school.

After taking all of these steps, one of the most important things in this whole process is to shadow a physician or dentist by contacting different medical or dental practices. I believe this is a crucial step because when you are shadowing a physician or dentist in the field, you can see hands on what kind of work they do on a daily basis and what the work entails. For most people, this is a checkpoint because it gives you an idea of what kind of work you may potentially do as a physician or dentist. If you feel passionate about this work and you are certain that this is the career you want to pursue, then every measure you take beyond this point will become easier. When I shadowed different dentists during my winter and summer breaks, I knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue in my life. For me, not only did the dental procedures and the work environment of a dentist inspire me greatly, but it was the impact a dentist can have on their patient’s self-esteem that truly touched me.

After the first two years of undergrad, I began my preparation for the dental admission test (DAT) where I scheduled study sessions for two and half months prior to taking the DAT. This was a very stressful point in my college career because I had to be very disciplined in keeping up with my study schedule so I could perform well on the DAT.  Despite this struggle, I can assure you that creating a tight schedule with breaks included will make this difficult time easier. After taking the DAT, I remember starting to write my personal statement which required a lot of time and effort to write. One thing I would suggest is to start writing your personal statement in advance because it is the one of most important factors of your dental application that admissions committees will review and it is not something that can be written overnight. My personal statement took three months to write and after doing many edits on it, I soon was able to reach a point where I was satisfied with my work by making small changes on it each day.

Among all of the pre-requisite courses, shadowing hours, extracurricular activities, research, and employment opportunities I had throughout my undergraduate studies, one thing I learned was never to give up. At some point, you will reach a roadblock, by not doing well in a class or feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities that you are given. When you reach this point, ask yourself one question, how bad do I want it? If you want something as bad as you want to breathe, I assure you everything will fall in place.

A Seat at the Table

Though the University of Connecticut is diverse in a myriad of different ways, and offers a number of different resources for minorities, it can still be difficult for minorities to adjust to this environment. I attended a high school that had predominantly minority students. It was definitely a challenge for me to adjust to a predominately white campus during my freshman year. I was curious as to whether or not other minorities on this campus felt the same way as I did. I sat down with a group of my peers to discuss their experiences as minorities here on campus.  

“Underrepresented, unfair, interesting, annoying,” are just a few of the ways that the women I spoke with described their paths at UConn. K.C. (of Haitian American Descent), spoke about how the common “stereotypes about African Americans can cause additional pressure on students.” For instance, it is a common misconception that minorities are only on this campus as a result of Affirmative Action. Some people even believe that minorities are incapable of producing the grades to earn a position here at this University, just as any other student. UConn’s position of 18th on a list of top public schools proves that acceptance into this university is no small feat. K.C. describes this undermining of minorities, specifically African Americans, as “unfair.” This is not only an issue on this campus but throughout the nation, such as the Fisher v University of Texas case.

“Minorities are not represented in many of the student activities.”  S.E., a Jamaican student, expressed how the lack of representation affects how much our voices are heard. Whether it be through faculty members or our student body, issues that pertain specifically to minorities are often ignored as a result of this underrepresentation. “Our voices are not heard; we do not receive the equality.” One issue S.E. spoke about was how some campus programs that all students could potentially benefit from are not properly advertised to the entire student body; specifically minorities. Thus, lack of representation can cause missed opportunities for minority students.

Many of the issues that my peers spoke about resonated with me and my experiences as a Jamaican American student. I find myself being one of the few minorities, and/or the only black student in the programs that I’m involved in that aren’t specifically geared towards people of color. And in most of my classes I am the only black student. The intersection of lack of diversity, misrepresentation through the media, and lack of exposure, has often put me in a position where I represent my entire race. In everything I do on campus, I think of how I represent Black people, and Jamaicans, to all my peers, some of which have only experienced minorities though the media. Though this is a role that I have long played, it still adds a certain level of pressure on me as a student in these situations.

My experiences as a minority student on this campus have been trying in some ways; in contrast, I’ve been exposed to so many valuable experiences and people as a result of it. I have personally gained from my participation in the African American Cultural Center, the Women’s Center, and the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center. These centers have connected me with students and faculty members that understand and have faced similar issues as I have. In these safe spaces, I have a voice and I am represented. Through involvement in academic programs such as The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), I have been connected with a community of STEM scholars that are all underrepresented on campus. Through LSAMP, I learn about valuable opportunities that I may have otherwise missed, I am connected with other STEM majors that face similar challenges, and I have gained mentors and have had the opportunity to act as a mentor to other students. As a member of the National Council of Negro women, I have found a safe space to connect and develop with other black women on campus. Though many of the members come from different walks of life, and have different experiences on campus, we are all able to bond over a shared culture, and uplift one another through the challenges we face specifically as black women on and off campus.

Like me, many of the minorities that I’ve interacted with on campus have faced similar issues; on the other hand, we have also found solace in similar programs geared specifically towards the culture we identify with. For this very reason, the cultural centers, the programs they house, and other academic programs specifically for minorities are vital at UConn. There is a need for more diversity in all aspects of campus life at UConn.  Though the resources that I’ve touched on have a powerful impact on many students, there is still much to be done. It is incumbent upon those that hold positions of privilege on this campus to step out of their comfort zone, communicate, listen and take a seat at the table with minorities, to understand and help foster true diversification at UConn. I believe that through education, and more exposure, UConn can begin to alleviate some of the challenges minorities face on campus.

A Simple Hack to Improve Your College Experience: Get Involved!

Brite with her two Collegiate Health Service Corps site volunteers, Radha (middle) and Mehak (right).
Brite with her two Collegiate Health Service Corps site volunteers, Radha (middle) and Mehak (right).

College is the land of opportunity. Although everyone who attends has the same goal of walking away with a degree, academics are only a small portion of the experience. There are over 300 student-run extracurriculars you can choose from, including Undergraduate Philosophy Society, 3D Printing Club, and even UConn Kendo, a Japanese sport that uses bamboo swords to spar. It’s not difficult to discover new interests and find your own niche.

I began my college career trying out different activities. For me, getting involved with Community Outreach has been a very life-changing experience. It is a student-run volunteer organization that coordinates various programs to work with local underserved populations. Some are one-time or weekend service events, while others are semester-long programs that fall under one of the three categories: youth development and education, health, and language learning and literacy. I am currently a site leader for Collegiate Health Service Corps (CHSC) and Windham Hospital Volunteer Program. Out of the two, CHSC has impacted me the most. Every semester, teams of three are assigned to specific local populations to teach health topics to, where each team has the freedom to design their own lesson plans and incorporate interactive activities. Continue reading

Starting College in a Living Learning Community

To some, the first few days of college are overwhelming and lonely because they struggle to find common ground with the people around them. However, if you’re lucky enough to come into UConn in a Living Learning Community (LLC) such as the Women in Math, Science, and Engineering (WiMSE) learning community, then that adjustment is really already made for you. Living Learning Communities are groups of students that live together based on a common application into that program. For example, there’s WiMSE, Business Connections, Engineering, Innovations, Scholars, EcoHouse, and many more.

WiMSE is a group of women in STEM disciplines. I have lived in the community for two years in various residence halls.  First WiMSE was located in the Watson building of the Alumni residence area, and it has since moved to the NextGeneration Connecticut residence hall.  The group of girls has changed from year to year, but I am still particularly close with the now sophomores of WiMSE. The best part of WiMSE is the mutual understanding between everyone. We all are familiar with the very challenging classes that accompany a STEM major, and find fellowship in the stress of attempting to be accepted into graduate school. WiMSE has given me my best friend, a wonderful position in undergraduate research, many personal and professional connections, as well as Continue reading

Meeting New People in a Stress Relieving Environment

SHAMEE RANG Showcase at Rutgers University
SHAMEE RANG Showcase at Rutgers University

Like most incoming freshmen students, finding a hobby or passion in college is always a struggle in the beginning. Trying to balance your schedule, choosing the required classes, and finding time to study or exercise can be very stressful. As a commuting freshman, it was hard to find a place on campus to let myself go and do something I loved, especially when I did not know anyone coming to UConn. College can make or break you, as preparation for making life choices and becoming independent. For me, my first year in college was tough because I struggled to find an efficient method to study for classes such as Biology 1107, while seeking a place to de-stress. Despite struggling to excel in school during my freshman year, eventually I figured out how to balance my schoolwork, working three jobs at one point, and making time to hang out with friends. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy because I was always stressed about school. Luckily, I took a chance last semester and went to the Fall Involvement Fair, and found an Asian Fusion Acapella group with members who Continue reading

The Transition Nobody Warns You About

When I was in high school, I always had this preconceived idea of what college is supposed to look like, and how it is supposed to be the best four years of your life. That’s why I eagerly applied to schools all outside of New York, with the hopes of meeting new people, discovering myself, achieving success, and being independent. Now as I am halfway through the second semester of my sophomore year, I can proudly say I have accomplished these dreams of mine, but it did not come as easily as I thought it would or should.

Brittany with members of her sorority helping new girls go through Panhellenic recruitment for Fall 2016.
Brittany with members of her sorority helping new girls go through Panhellenic recruitment for Fall 2016.

Before I left for college, I spent 18 years of my life living in the same town as my entire family; this includes my mom’s twelve brothers and sisters and all of my fifty something cousins (yeah I know crazy right?). I was used to seeing my family almost every day, hanging out with my friends who I have known since we were in diapers, and spending much of my free time going to the mall, the beach, the city, or other places where I was constantly surrounded by other people and loud noises. I had received all A’s in my classes while managing to work five days a week and participating in various clubs and extracurricular activities. I thought I really had my life together, and I was expecting to be able to just continue what I was doing in college with ease.

Nobody ever warned me how difficult the transition from high school into college can be for some people. I walked into UConn without knowing anyone, and I remember how scared and lonely I felt those first few weeks. I remember looking at my home friends’ social media accounts and Continue reading

10 Ways to Have a Successful Second Semester

  1. Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.
    Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.

    Let go of last semester – First semester is over, let go off all the stress and bad experiences you’ve had. The best thing about second semester is that it gives you a clean slate and new opportunities. Take advantage of all that UConn has to offer.

  2. Get Involved – A new semester means another involvement fair, another Greek week, and more possibilities. If you aren’t a part of any clubs or organizations step out of your comfort zone and sign up for some. Even if you only go to one meeting you are at least trying out new things. If you are already part of some clubs/organizations, join another if you have time! It never hurts to make friends and be involved in the UConn community. You can also try going to body wise classes that UConn Recreation offers. They are organized fitness classes ranging from yoga to HIIT. Getting involved and trying new things helps you submerse yourself in all UConn has to offer. It will make you feel more comfortable and a part of the community.
  3. Eat breakfast – Eating right gives you the energy to make it through the day. I always eat a balanced breakfast with eggs, toast, and some form of fruit. Last year I always skipped breakfast and found myself getting tired and taking a lot of naps. Now that I make time for not only breakfast, but also lunch and dinner, I feel like I have so much more energy.
  4. Fix your sleep schedule – Along with getting up early enough for class and having enough time to eat breakfast, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good amount of sleep each night. After winter break your sleep schedule is probably all messed up. People sleep until noon maybe even 2pm during break and stay up late or go to bed too early because they’re bored. Being back at school you need the break the habits you just made and fix your sleep schedule. Getting 6 to 8 hours a night gives your body enough of a break to relax and get ready for the next day.
  5. Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.
    Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.

    Plan ahead – After syllabus week you should gather all the important dates from each class and transfer them into your agenda pad/planner. Having exams and quizzes written down will help you plan for studying and plan for weeks that are “free” enough so you can travel that weekend without having a load of homework. Planning ahead is also beneficial not just with course work, but also courses in general. Planning out your semesters in advance will help ease the course picking chaos and allow you to put courses together like a puzzle in terms of labs, discussions, and hard/easy classes. It is good to have a mixture to not overwhelm or underwhelm yourself.

  6. Apply to internships – I don’t know about you but I procrastinate so much during winter break, I don’t want to do anything. However, when I go back to school I need to make sure I’m productive by applying to
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.

    internships because they are very important. They provide you with real world experience in your field of study and can be a stepping-stone toward your future job. If you haven’t already started looking I recommend you do so soon! Summer internships normally have their applications open from early January until mid-February and require information like transcripts and letters of recommendation. UConn’s Center for Career Development has a lot of awesome information and advice that helped me when I applied.

  7. Apply for scholarships – Scholarships are so important these days because college is so expensive and debt is piling up. There are thousands of scholarships that can help lessen the financial burden. Topics range from being within your major all the way to writing an essay about a certain book or living in a certain town. UConn has an Office of National Scholarships, which is very helpful in finding specific scholarships, but a classic Google search is also informative.
  8. Find the right ways to study for class – Doing well in your classes is an essential part of having a successful semester! However, all classes and professors have such different teaching methods and testing strategies. Students can go talk to their professors about what material they should be studying, which is very
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.

    helpful. And sometimes the first test or quiz might not go to well but when you get the hang of how your professor tests you can find the right ways to study for future assignments. Different ways to study could be how you take notes in class. Some people handwrite notes, print power points, type notes, or just listen. Another way to study would be to rewrite your notes or study every night for a single class for a certain amount of time.

  9. Spring Break!!! – Working hard in school is very important, however, relaxing and having fun is important too. Going somewhere for spring break gives you something to work towards and look forward to for the first 2 months of the semester! It’s also a great opportunity to relax for a week and clear your mind before you finish off the year.
  10. Budget your money – it’s so easy to spend over a thousand dollars a semester on food, clothes, and other random things. Then at the end of the semester you are going to wonder where all of your money went and wish you saved it or spent it on something else. It is important to budget your money and realize how much you’re spending when you order/buy something.
  11. Overall, keep going – On the days when you feel like you can’t look at another textbook or hear about another rare bacteria found in the middle of the rainforest, just breathe. Course work can be so stressful and overwhelming, however, it will get done and you will be okay. The key to a successful semester is to not give up and to keep going.

Finding Your Voice in College

Djion in Voice of Freedom Gospel ChoirThe transition into college is understandably a difficult process for any student, especially at such a large university like UConn. My first semester on campus was difficult mainly because I struggled to find my niche; where I was completely comfortable. Though college is a great environment to step out of your comfort zone and try new things it is also important not to forget about the things that you are most passionate about. Throughout my entire high school career I was involved in musical theater; I’ve always had a passion for singing, dancing and acting. I was also raised in a religious family. I can honestly say that I did not fully feel at home on campus until I found an outlet that encompasses the things that I have always been passionate about; singing, and my faith. I found the epitome of what I love and missed the most from home though the UConn Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir (VOF).

Joining the Gospel Choir helped me in a multitude of ways. It gave me a place where I could sing without judgment, surrounded me with people with similar upbringings and values, and most importantly brought me closer to my faith. Though I was new to UConn joining the gospel choir felt like coming home. Joining the Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir also gave me one of the most memorable and spiritual experiences of my life thus far; the annual spring break concert tour. On our last tour we traveled and ministered to congregations in Connecticut, New York, Washington DC, North Carolina, and Georgia. Going on tour not only gave me an opportunity to further build my bond with the other members, but also was a beautiful experience to minister to different people through song along the east coast. Continue reading