Student Success Story: Efrain Torres III

Efrain Torres (he/him/his) earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Community Studies and a Minor in Human Development and Families Science in May 2020. Since graduation, Efrain has gone on to pursue certifications in Construction Project Management and secure a full-time position with Green Hub Development as the Property Manager at the Brown Building Student Living. Hear Efrain’s story and how he took advantage of the location and resources of the UConn Waterbury campus to get where he is today. 

How did you choose your undergraduate major?

Everything fell perfectly into place, but it took a lot of time and there were challenges along the way. When I entered UConn, I declared my major in Fine Arts with a focus on Illustration. You see, as a young boy growing up in Puerto Rico, I developed a passion for the arts. This passion deteriorated because of bullying throughout middle school and parts of high school. But it became a bigger part of my life due to the efforts of teachers and mentors. They encouraged me to enter competitions, work on commissioned projects, and create artwork for neighborhood revitalization projects such as Waterbury’s Chase Park mural in collaboration with KaBooom!, a national nonprofit organization that improves community recreational facilities around the country. In my Sophomore year after taking URBN 1300, an introductory course with Professor Ruth Glasser I decided to change my major to Urban and Community Studies even though I received awards in Excellence in Studio Art.  Life has a way of making you question the path you are taking academically. I dedicated my academic goals to majoring in Urban and Community Studies with help from the mentoring of several UCS professors, such as Dr. Glasser and Phillip Birge-Liberman. You see, my passion for art was never about just the finished product but about the process of creating art. Urban and Community prepared me for a career in public and community service allowing me to use processes to tackle large projects.

How did you find out about your position?

During a URBN 1300 field assignment, Professor Glasser introduced me to Joe Gramando the Managing Partner of Green Hub Development (GHD). GHD is a commercial property development and management company that specializes in renovating and repurposing historic property. In the summer of 2017, I received a call from him, and began to help with the important tasks during the renovation and opening preparation of the 75,000 square foot historic Art Deco building, the Brown Building Student Living.

I was very fortunate to meet and now work with Joe Gramando. During my last few years at UConn, I had opportunities to work on both small and large projects independently at the Brown Building as well as another historic property, the Howland Hughes building which is now occupied by Post University. Such opportunities were synonymous with topics of viable sustainable redevelopment. Sustainability piqued my interest in the Urban and Community Studies curriculum.

What experiences during your time at UConn Waterbury contribute to your current success?

I take pride in the unique experience during my time at the UConn Waterbury campus. You see, it is not the same to say my experience at UConn contributed to my success without highlighting the City of Waterbury. The campus experience at the Waterbury campus teaches you to adapt independently to time manage school, work, and home life. The across-the-street location of the Brown Building where I live made it easier to prepare me for student life while offering resources such as academic mentoring, advising, and the resources in student services. I feel confident that other students can relate to the similarities of their experience at the Waterbury UConn campus.

During my time at the UConn Waterbury campus, I was able to learn from many different types of relationships – my professors and other key faculty along with mentors were my support system and always at arm’s reach to guide me through my undergraduate years.

What groups, organizations, or other resources at UConn Waterbury contributed to your career success?

There are many student clubs and organizations. I was unfortunately not able to join many of them due to the lack of time. I dedicated time to academics, studying, work, and life as an independent student. However, I always took the time to get involved in events the Associated Student Government hosted.

Growing up I was told I needed to find religion to “fix” my interests in the arts and my sexual orientation. My life today revolves around a lot of advocacy and volunteerism in the LGBTQ+ community and contributions to non-profits.

On different occasions, the Student Services office helped with Financial Aid questions to help me lighten the weight of managing tuition costs. During high-stress parts of the year as an undergraduate, the Mental Health Resources assisted me with managing life as a student. The Center for Career Development really dedicated the time to help me with resume building and other decision-making processes.

UConn overall has many helpful resources and host numerous student events, both on and off-campus. The Student Service office’s open doors always allowed me to get answers to questions quickly and get results fast. Throughout my academic career living less than 100-feet from the campus at the Brown Building Student Living contributed to my attending classes and improving my grades.

What advice would you give to current UConn students’ who are looking to follow the same career path?

My one piece of advice to current and incoming students is to communicate with your advisors and be sure to follow your academic plan as it is required for any intended major/minor. Be sure to ask lots of questions. It does not matter how dumb one may think the question is, as there is always someone else who has the very exact same question. Also, explore other options. Take elective courses you would enjoy taking because it could open doors to opportunities you never knew you think you could have. This is how I was able to discover the career path I am following today.

By Susan Hyde-Wick
Susan Hyde-Wick Career Counselor