On Sunday afternoon, a little after 2 p.m. life was just a bit different for Ally Winne.
That morning Winne, of Suffield, referred to herself as a student at the University of Connecticut, a Husky. Yet, as of 2 p.m. she had become something else. Winne, along with thousands of others this weekend, became a freshly minted alumni of the university that had, in part, shaped her worldly views and prepared her to work in the field of human development and family studies.
What remained the same is that she still is, and will always be a Husky.
“It’s a little nerve wracking, moving on,” she said after the ceremony, while calling the graduation experience “amazing.”
Sunday, thousands of family and friends watched more than 1,500 students from the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences entered the next phase of their lives.
Inside the arena that has become so familiar, UConn officials conferred degrees upon the first group of CLAS undergraduates in a commencement ceremony that moved smoothly and briskly. (A second ceremony was held later in the afternoon.)
Star student athletes Maya Moore and Kemba Walker led the procession of students into Gampel Pavilion, followed by university faculty and staff. A mere 90 minutes later, the seniors had officially finished their undergraduate careers.
Winne said one of her fondest memories, as a Husky was being a winner in the student basketball ticket lottery this past year. She was able to cheer on the historic UConn team with the other passionate fans in Gampel Pavilion. Winne said being in the building, especially during the Huskies’ championship season, was something she won’t soon forget.
Winne won’t take a break from student life. She has a graduate school interview at Central Connecticut State University on Wednesday, May 11. She was happy to have earned her degree, but felt disbelief at the idea that her time at the university was over.
“It’s a very surreal experience, the fact that four years went by so fast,” she said.
Winne enjoyed the CLAS commencement, but had one suggestion for the future ceremonies.
“I would have liked it better if maybe they read our names,” she said.
Political Science Professor and Associate Dean Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, a last-minute replacement, gave the featured commencement address in which he encouraged graduates to reflect on their past and take the best of what they've learned with them as they leave the Storrs campus.
The address, called “Visions of Scholars,” and enjoyed by nearly all, focused on Zirakzadeh’s own upbringing and experiences in college at Michigan. He connected themes he found in his own history to the rows of students flanking him.
Zirakzadeh pointed out the visions being seen in the building as he spoke, as families and friends watched their loved ones reap the reward of undergraduate labor.
“Right now they probably think you’re the most splendid and lovely creatures they’ve ever seen,” he said, followed by a round of applause from the audience.
Zirakzadeh mentioned the importance of those scholastic labors as well.
“You are being recognized for something society values deeply,” he said.
Zirakzadeh told the new graduates were more able to think deeply, eschew stereotypes, broaden their tastes, interpret information, change direction and explore new concepts.
“It’s important to branch out and get perspectives different from those you inherited,” he said.
Excited graduates displayed their exuberance with pictures, glitter and, in one instance, a plush dinosaur fastened to their mortarboards. Beach balls, a common site at the ceremony in past years, were not present but vociferous call-and-response cheers of “UConn! Huskies!” punctuated the event.
Besides the University of Connecticut students receiving Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Gampel Pavilion on Sunday, more than 4,000 students officially completed various undergraduate and graduate programs at ceremonies across the state this weekend. They earned degrees in disciplines from fine arts and philosophy to forensic medicine, law and social work.
The 18 students from East Hampton and Portland who received undergraduate degrees at the various commencement ceremonies this weekend were:
Alyssa C. Boutillier
Anna Maria Kierzkiewicz
Andrea Adel Vassallo
Kimberly Ann Widmann
Lauren Elizabeth Anderson
Juliet Frances Armstrong
Kevin Duane Armstrong
William A. Champagne
Rebecca L. Ruitto
Corey Elizabeth Scheer
Todd Robert Scheer
Erik Stephen Spohn
Nicholas James Visone
Stephen Lee Yarbrough
Kristen Marie Zapatka