Student Success Story: Michelle Pesantez

Michelle Pesantez is a current Allied Health senior at UConn-Storrs, graduating in the spring of 2021. Her path to success took advantage of every opportunity UConn had to offer, from regional campus stepping stones to Student Support Services. Michelle’s hard work coupled with meticulous planning leads to this point in her journey, where she will realize her dreams of helping others through the field of medicine. She plans to continue her studies by attending Physician Assistant school next year.

Why did you choose Avery Point for your first four semesters?

A unique part of UConn is its regional system of four campuses: Avery Point, Waterbury, Stamford, and Hartford. I used Avery Point as my stepping stone as it was close to home in South Eastern Connecticut. For me, this reduced the cost of attendance because I could commute from home but still take advantage of the intense UConn academic programs offered at every campus. It made sense because I could get the same quality of education at half the cost compared to living on campus at Stamford or Storrs. I also want to mention how beautiful Avery Point is as it sits right on the Ocean on the mouth of the Thames River (that may or may not be the most significant factor on why I went there)! 

Were you able to use Student Support Services? How did they help?

The most beautiful part about my first year at Avery Point was my initial summer there. That summer, after my high school graduation, I was accepted into the UConn Student Support Services (SSS) program.  For those who don’t know, SSS is an opportunity for high potential first-gen students or students from traditionally underserved communities to get a jump start on their college careers. The program offered multiple general education courses over five weeks, and we were assigned an SSS counselor that would help us during the program and throughout our undergraduate careers. What has stayed with me all these years from the SSS program are the friends and networks I have built. We all wanted to put our stamp on the world, and our passion burned bright together! I am still friends with many of the other students that participated in the SSS program at Avery Point, and I want to recommend it to every first-gen student out there! 

Describe your transition to UConn? How does the Storrs campus compare?

Leaving Avery Point was hard personally, but UConn staff and faculty made the transition as smooth as possible. Like most regional campus students, I only attended Avery Point for two years before leaving to live on-campus at Storrs. Many of my SSS friends also left for Storrs when I did, so I had a network of trusted people to support me. If I started initially at Storrs without a network, I feel as if my academic success would have faltered. On-campus living was a different experience itself. The incredibly diverse and driven student population that surrounded me drove me to push myself further. I loved the labs and passion of the Storrs professors and the increase in hands-on learning. The most significant difference between Avery Point and Storrs was the sheer number of resources, physical and advisory. The Homer Babbidge Library is where I found myself the most; studying and working together with peers towards a common goal. The atmosphere was infectious in the best way possible!   

What is the primary motivation to succeed academically and in your career?

The idea of service runs deep in my family. My older brother served in the Air Force to do his part, and I want to help my community by practicing medicine. My parents came here with one goal: to make sure myself and my brother are successful. It is a cliche reason, but it means more when you experience that ultimate love and sacrifice. I learn to help others. I work to save the lives of others.  I serve to represent a class of people who have been neglected by a failed system. I do it for my family and my community. 

Useful Links:

Student Support Services | Center for Academic Programs (

The University of Connecticut | Avery Point (

By Ethan Couillard
Ethan Couillard Ethan Couillard