Student Success Story: Sabrina Uva

Sabrina Uva is a senior on the Stamford Campus majoring in Human Development & Family Sciences.

Tara Malone: Please introduce yourself including your major and career interest.

Sabrina Uva: I am a senior at the University of Connecticut-Stamford Campus majoring in Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) with Honors and minoring in Gerontology and Psychology. My career interest is being in a research-based profession where I contribute to creating a positive change in society and communities. I am currently participating in an entrepreneurial cooperative education experience with the Stamford Startup Studio (S3). I am excited to utilize my research background and people-based approach to solve industry-based problems and contribute to developing innovative solutions. After graduation, I hope to gain more knowledge and research experience in my field in a doctoral program within the field of HDFS and apply my experience to make a positive impact in the community. 

TM: How did you decide on your major and career path?

SU: I decided on majoring in HDFS because it is an interdisciplinary field of study. HDFS is an inclusive program where you can learn and grow and apply to different fields. The knowledge learned in classes about adulthood and aging and how the aging population is growing shows that the population is changing. This information can be applied to any industry. I also got involved in the HDFS Honors program which bolstered my experience at UConn because I got involved in research which was a great way to learn more about my field and build my knowledge.

I am currently studying the effect of anti-racism engagement on the psychological and academic adjustment among college students during the pandemic. This is important research for me because we are facing the pandemic and racial and political unrest in our society. These topics are important to me because I believe that we must understand how these constructs and engagement activities are affecting our communities. Research in this area can help improve the way we approach these issues and the ways we interact with each other in both academics and work. Having research experience gives me the ability to learn technical skills and makes me more confident in communicating about my field. The Honors program was a great experience because doing research within my field allows me to engage in an id-depth exploration of my interests with an advisor supported me every step of the way. My next step for my career path is to apply to a doctoral program to expand my research experience within HDFS. 

TM: In what ways have you been involved on campus? How have those experiences contributed to your professional development?

SU: I am President of Huskies for Charity which is a volunteer-based organization that focuses on service projects, volunteer opportunities, and fundraisers. Our mission is to make an impact on the community while developing professional skills. We’ve had Résumé Writing Workshops with the Center for Career Development and collaborated on a “Dress for Success” program to provide free professional clothing for students. We have donated and served at homeless shelters and created a virtual campaign for students to connect during the pandemic that helped bridge the gap of social interaction during a time of isolation. We see the needs of the community and create projects around it. We also supported over ten small businesses as they have suffered through the pandemic. We broaden the scope of how we help the community and adapt to the changing needs of society and what’s around us. This same idea of adaptation is also important for me when I choose a career because I hope to be in a place where I can learn, grow, and contribute to making a more impactful presence in the community through research and learning projects. I would like to address the gaps in current research and contribute to the knowledge about women, anti-racism engagement, and aging. 

TM: Tell us about your (current or previous) internship experience. What advice do you have for students who are looking to land their first internship?

SU: I was selected to be part of the first inaugural cohort of the Stamford Startup Studio (S3) working with a team of students and industry experts in the field of construction and real estate. I am very excited to be in this field gaining new skills and learning how to transfer this knowledge to create a positive community. I am particularly interested in aiding the development of technologies for vulnerable populations such as aging individuals. I hope to take this industry-based knowledge that I learn from the cooperative education experience and apply it to the field of HDFS and utilize research skills to have a broader impact on the community. 

My advice for students who are looking to land their first internship experience is– don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because you never know unless you try. I recommend getting out of your comfort zone and putting yourself into spaces that you can make an impact. Do not let fear stop you and go for it! Find mentors who believe in you and could give you valuable advice. I suggest going to the Center for Career Development for guidance on how to land an internship because they can help with resume writing, practice interviews, and how to navigate the internship search process. 

TM: What skills and professional qualities have been essential for your internship positions?

SU: Being involved in an internship experience during the pandemic has taught me that adaptability and willingness to learn are essential skills to excel in an internship experience. Learning how to communicate professionally was a critical part of my internship experience because I needed to express my thoughts clearly to others. I learned how to communicate about my research process and contribute to the knowledge base within my field. Teamwork is another professional quality that I have learned in my leadership positions.

TM: What groups, organizations, and resources at UConn do you feel have helped to contribute to your success so far?

SU: The Center for Career Development has been a huge part of my growth at UConn. I got involved by attending Résumé and LinkedIn workshops, one-on-one career coaching services, the Career Leadership Experience Certificate series, Career Fairs, Dress for Success, the Pre-Career Fair Mixer, and similar career events on campus. These enrichment opportunities contributed to my ability to effectively communicate with professionals, market myself as a confident leader, and create a professional online presence. I would recommend utilizing the Career Center’s resources as soon as you can because they will help you along every step of your career path starting with internships, cooperative education, and future career opportunities

Another resource that helped me during my time at UConn is the Netwerx Program which is part of the Werth Institute. This program connected me with one-on-one mentoring sessions with UConn alumni and industry professionals that helped me achieve individualized goals that included strategizing a plan to effectively communicate and build a strong connection with individuals from various fields. This semester was the second time I have utilized this resource and it has connected me with great mentors that have helped me achieve my personal goals. They not only helped me with organizational tasks, but helped me develop the skills necessary to be confident in any leadership position. 

I recommend getting involved in student organizations to develop leadership skills. Huskies for Charity (HFC) helped me grow as a leader because I learned how to connect with non-profit organizations, manage community-based volunteer events such as park cleanups, professional clothing drives, and collect food donations for veterans, the homeless, and children facing crises. I learned how to bring people together for a common cause and cultivate a sense of community involvement. HFC was an outlet for me to build on my leadership skills and connect with like-minded people who were also interested in being involved in the community. 

I also learned a lot from my research experience. I suggest getting involved in research opportunities if you’re interested in continuing your education and broadening your knowledge about your field. The Honors Program helped me to develop a broader mindset and gain access to various enrichment opportunities. 

TM: What advice would you give to current UConn students who are looking to follow a similar career path? 

SU: I would suggest getting involved in new opportunities to explore your interests. Get out of your comfort zone to discover other industries because you will be exposed to learning new knowledge and skill sets. 

I also recommend networking with alumni and professionals in leadership positions that interest you. LinkedIn and Handshake are great networking platforms that can help you get connected to organizational and business leaders within any field. Reaching out to them for informational interviews is a great way to build a connection and gain insight about their day-to-day experiences, leadership roles, benefits of the company/organization, changes in the industry, and career advice 

Get involved in research opportunities, attend webinars and career events, find reliable mentors, get involved in the community in any way possible. HDFS is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand ways in which people develop through their lifespan and it is a transferable science that utilizes a human-based approach to societal issues and makes a positive impact in the community. Getting involved in community and campus activities will expose you to other like-minded individuals that you can grow and learn from. 

A career path in the field of HDFS can range from anywhere from research-based fields, non-profit work, medical, policy, business, law, science, or any field. I am particularly interested in research and I am working on contributing more knowledge to the field of HDFS. 

Mentorship is also a crucial part of the student experience. I would suggest finding multiple mentors from various fields. After all, learning from people with different perspectives allows one to think outside the box about things you may have never considered before. Building genuine connections, getting valuable feedback, and learning from mentors is a crucial part of growing at UConn which aids in student success. Finding a core group of mentors from different departmental backgrounds can help you get better support through your academic and career journey. 

By Tara Malone
Tara Malone Associate Director, Regional Campuses Tara Malone