November 2019

Going Above and Beyond for UConn Students

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

3 min read

Meet the staff members who are changing lives at the UConn Center for Students with Disabilities.

Christine Wenzel
Name: Christine Wenzel
Position: Associate Director

Students’ success is often measured by their GPA, however, we know that for many students, it is those things not directly measured by their GPA that retain them at the University.  Beyond Access works with students on creating strategies to help them navigate life in and out of the classroom. The individual growth I have seen from students doing the program cannot be quantified and have served them well beyond their time at UConn.

 

 

Sophie Rodenbush

Name: Sophie Rodenbush
Position: Strategy Instructor

“For me, the biggest impact I’ve seen working with students in BA is that it gives them the strategies to work toward their goals, based on their strengths. People are more likely to use strategies that work for them and play to their strengths, which is why I think the personalized aspect of BA is so important.”

 

Rachel Finlaw

Name: Rachel Finlaw
Position: Strategy Instructor
“Beyond Access allows students to grow and excel in a productive, nurturing, respectful environment on the Stamford Campus. The biggest impact I have experienced is watching my students become more confident in their skills and become better advocates for themselves. It has been a privilege to help guide students and give them the proper skillset needed to have success at UConn.”

 

Emily Sears

Name: Emily Sears
Position: Strategy Instructor
“Beyond Access acts as a holistic approach to encouraging student success not only through placing an emphasis on academic support systems but social-emotional ones as well. The transition from high school to college is one that students may find to be particularly difficult, as the increase in autonomy and workload can cause stress and anxiety levels to rise. Beyond Access looks at all identities of the student and I work with each student individually, highlighting and utilizing their natural strengths to help them both define their personalized idea of success, and help them reach their goals. Seeing the increases in self-confidence, self-determination and self-advocacy in my students from the beginning of the semester to the end further proves the benefits of the Beyond Access program through CSD.”

 

Benjamin Briskin

Name: Benjamin Briskin
Position: Strategy Instructor

What I have seen to be the biggest impact of the program: In my experience with the Beyond Access program, its impact has positively affected students in several ways. Students grow more comfortable being at UConn and feel supported through weekly meetings and the relationships built over the course of the semester(s). And students learn about themselves, in terms of the strategies that guide how they effectively study, complete work, and everything in between. The Beyond Access program helps students navigate through the challenges of any given semester, and equips them with resources for problem-solving for any situation that comes up.” 

 

Sundari Birdsall

Name: Sundari Birdsall
Position: Strategy Instructor

From my perspective, BA helps students get out of ineffective habits and helps them build better ones. Having a Strategy Instructor to thoroughly examine and critique how a student is planning, studying, and managing their time truly does help students waste less time and get better grades with less effort. For incoming freshmen, I have seen BA be especially helpful because it provides consistency; students can count on talking to someone who will listen and has knowledge of campus resources. Honestly, this kind of goal-focused consultation would have been helpful to me when I was in college!” 

 

You can impact the lives of students at UConn by supporting programs like Beyond Access.

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The Power of Beyond Access

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The Beyond Access program at UConn’s Center for Students with Disabilities is an imperative part of the college experience for students like Jason and Nicole.

Participation in the program could be (and has been) the difference between students reaching graduation or dropping out.

Meet Jason

When I was a student at UConn in 2010, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s after decades of never truly knowing who I am. After my entire adolescence of holding onto this mystery as to why my behavior and personality left me ostracized by my peers, I was finally given that answer in the form of a psychological title. And for the first time in my life, I felt far less alone knowing there were many others in my same position.

But it was a horrifying revelation as well. I may have been given a spot under the diverse umbrella of autism, but what I was supposed to do next? I was given a reason for my idiosyncrasies, sure, but there was no cure, no set instructions on how I can resonate with people any better than I did before. In a way, I felt like I now just had a mental handicap, trapping me with my depression and anxiety with no way to escape.

Beyond Access, then known as SEAD, couldn’t have been offered to me at a better time. It had been mere days since I received my diagnosis when Christine Wenzel offered me a spot in her program. It was a chance not just to learn more about my ASD by taking part in its activities, but also to see how I can learn how to live with my spectrum and still be able to grow into someone who can better communicate with others.

Almost a decade later, I can better see how it had helped. The years haven’t been easy and I’ve felt like a lost cause more times I could count, but now I’m in a spot where I feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m able to go to my stable full time job each day with a smile and I’ve never been closer to my family and friends, using the skills I’ve learned to be more empathetic and engaging with them. Beyond Access taught me that my ASD wasn’t a handicap; it was just another part of me that I can still live a normal life with.

I’m still growing with small social goals I want to accomplish each day, but Beyond Access was the first step that pointed me in the right direction. Christine and her program had offered me a helping hand, and it gave me the boost that lead me to a far greater spot today than I could’ve gotten to just on my own.

Meet Nicole

I am a First Semester Freshman and I am enjoying my college experience so far. I am taking a bunch of different courses in different areas, but my favorite so far is Sociology. I am learning about the study of different groups of people in that class, and that is allowing me to connect with my peers and see how they might be different from me too.

I struggle with anxiety and migraines. Both make it hard for me to get my work done on time sometimes. For me, anxiety makes it hard for me to focus and entering college made me struggle with it even more, especially with the large amounts of homework. Sometimes, I struggle with staying organized and knowing deadlines too.

Beyond Access has helped me keep track of all the work I have to do, and helps me stay focused. Every meeting, we go through my syllabi, and write it down in my planner class by class. It is helpful to have somebody to help me to stay organized.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, my strategy instructor helps me identify the source of my anxiety, and then works with me to talk me through it. We also talk about different learning strategies that help with studying, test-taking, and stress management.

Lastly, Beyond Access lets me find answers to questions I have about schoolwork. My strategy instructor encourages me to meet with my professors even though sometimes it’s intimidating. Sometimes she helps me write emails to them too.

 

Small scholarships are available to students, but the program is in need of support. A gift of any size to the Center for Students with Disabilities can support any of their programs, including Beyond Access, and will make a large difference to a student working to succeed with a disability.

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KeyBank donates to UConn Business Bootcamp for Veterans

UConn Foundation
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HARTFORD, Conn. – On Thursday, November 7, the KeyBank Foundation gave a $75,000 grant to support a University of Connecticut program that helps U.S. veterans become small business owners.

The grant will support the UConn School of Business’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV). The free program combines online coursework; an intense 10-day, on-campus experience; and 12 months of ongoing support and mentorship to veterans for creating and sustaining entrepreneurial ventures.

KeyBank’s Connecticut market president and U.S. Navy veteran James R. Barger presented the donation Thursday to EBV program director and U.S. Marine veteran Michael Zacchea ’12 MBA at a meeting in the UConn Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford with board members and program graduates.

In the past 10 years, UConn’s EBV program has graduated more than 200 veterans and caregivers, who have launched over 175 businesses, producing more than $150 million in gross revenues and creating 430 jobs.

Recent graduates include U.S. Navy veteran Jorge Rodriguez and his wife and caregiver Jessica Rodriguez, who have used what they learned in the program to launch Bees with Purpose in Griswold, Conn. Jorge’s military career was cut short when he sustained a brain injury during his deployment to Iraq. He has found a new sense of purpose and a new career path in beekeeping.

For more information, visit https://veterans.uconn.edu/eb/

 

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Otis Elevator executive gives back with law school scholarship

Grace Merritt
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Laurie Havanec was just 27 years old when she felt a lump in her neck.

It turned out to be cancer and instantly turned her world upside down. She remembers looking at her two-year-old son and thinking she might not get to see him grow up.

“That had a huge impact on me personally,” Havanec ’82 (BUS), ’94 JD said. “It made me think that life is short, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. It made me think about the things I hadn’t done and could control and made me think of going back to law school.”

Laurie Havanec

It was the best decision she ever made. UConn Law School taught her how to spot issues quickly, make decisions, and assert herself, skills that have served her well in her successful corporate career.

Now Havanec, who heads Human Resources at the Otis Elevator Co., wants to help other women by smoothing their path to law school.

Havanec, who didn’t finish paying off her own school loans until 10 years ago, recently endowed a need-based scholarship that will help generations of women afford to go to UConn Law School. She knows from personal experience that a scholarship can make all the difference for a student just beginning to develop her career.

Her scholarship is the first graduate-level scholarship to be provided by UConn Women and Philanthropy, a network that raises scholarships for and provides mentoring to female UConn students.

A Connecticut native, Havanec grew up in Hamden and went to UConn as an undergraduate. Her family has a rich UConn heritage. Her father and sister are graduates and her nephew is currently attending the school.

After graduating with a degree in marketing, she worked in sales, got married, and had two sons, Ryan and Zack. Later, while at law school, she sold real estate and did a summer internship at Pepe and Hazard. Upon graduating, she passed on an offer to go into private practice after receiving an offer from United Technologies. Her long and successful career path has taken her from UT to Sikorsky, Aetna, and now to Otis, where she is responsible for 68,000 employees worldwide.

Havanec feels strongly about supporting other women, who are often trying to balance careers, family, and other obligations.

“I have had women who sponsored me throughout my career, who have made me stronger and better and have taken risks on me. I’m pretty passionate about doing that in my professional, day-to-day work—to make sure I’m sponsoring women. This scholarship gives me the chance to do it in a somewhat new and different way that has the opportunity to be incredibly impactful.”

Havanec was recognized for her meaningful gift at the annual Women and Philanthropy scholarship brunch held at the law school Saturday.

Find more information about the Law Women’s Scholarship Fund and how you can support future female lawyers.

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