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Student Success Stories

Jessica Ashkinaze A’17 ’19: Hillyer College

Jessica AshkinazeNow that she has earned her associate degree from the University’s Hillyer College, Jessica Ashkinaze will continue her UHart career in the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions. This Montvale, N.J. native plans to major in elementary education with a focus on special education.

Despite being in a serious car accident during her first year at the University, Jessica is at the top of her class. “The professors were so understanding while I was recovering and made my health the first priority,” Jessica explains.

Jessica decided to study education because she wants to make a positive impact and serve as a role model. “I love helping other people reach their potential and seeing them succeed, which is what I hope to accomplish as a future educator,” she says.

Jairus “Jay” Baker '17: Barney School of Business

Jay BakerA course in intermediate macroeconomic analysis was all it took for Jay to find his passion. The economics and finance major and member of the University Honors Program has successfully balanced academics while serving as a resident assistant on campus and completing two internships.

In 2015, he was one of 35 students from across the country to be recruited into Aetna’s summer finance internship program and was invited back in 2016. This June, he will join Aetna full time in the financial leadership development program.

Jay, who is from Fort Washington, Md., will be addressing his fellow Barney School undergraduates as the School’s 2017 Commencement student speaker.

Jessica Briere ’17: Barney School of Business

Jessica BriereWhen she first stepped onto UHart’s campus in 2013, Jessica remembers giving herself one directive: embrace busy. Staying true to her words, the insurance and economics major in the Barney School of Business finished her degree in three and a half years, held two internships at Acadia Insurance in Rocky Hill, Conn., and completed The Hartford’s Early Career Leadership Development Program as a financial analyst. The end result? After accepting a part-time position at Enfield-Conn.-based Symetra Financial in October 2016, she was offered a full time underwriting analyst position in January 2017.

Jessica, who is from Wolcott, Conn., says launching her insurance career early has given her an “insider’s perspective,” and helped her discover the varied career paths available within the industry—from underwriting, claims and risk management, to IT, human resources, and marketing.

While at the Barney School, Jessica was a business mentor to first and second-year students and served on the Barney School Leadership Council. She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Society.

Savannah Brown '17: College of Arts and Sciences

Savannah BrownSavannah, a biology and health science major from West Haven, Conn., will work for Companions and Homemakers upon graduating, helping elderly people who wish to remain at home. She is planning to earn her Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification this summer, after which she plans to work as an EMT for a couple of years.

Savannah’s long-term plans are to attend graduate school to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist's assistant or a pathologist's assistant.

Toni Harrison '17: University studies

Toni HarrisonToni is graduating with a Bachelor’s in University Studies. She began her degree journey seven years ago. She is hoping to use her degree to become a consultant in the family court system.

Toni, who lives in Bloomfield, is a UHart legacy student. Her sister Cindy Harrison-Odom earned a bachelor's in 2002 and a master's in 2012.

sara Huelsman '17, college of engineering, technology, and architecture:

Sara HuesmanSara's future is taking flight as she begins her journey toward a career in aeroacoustics. The aerospace engineering major with an acoustics concentration won a NASA summer internship funded by the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium. She will be heading to Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., to research the impact of aircraft noise, and then to Georgia Tech, to pursue her master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

Sara was originally interested in restoring the acoustics in historical theatres, until a course in fluid mechanics captured her interest. With plans to obtain her PhD in aerospace engineering, Sara intends to focus on noise control engineering within the aerospace industry.

Ariana Lacerte '17: college of Education, Nursing and Health professions

Ariana Lacerate At first, Ariana wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon after suffering injuries as a gymnast. But she changed her mind after completing three internships at law firms. After graduation, she will attend the New England School of Law in Boston, Mass. to study health law with a focus on elder law and medical malpractice. She is also going to work for a law firm in Boston.

"Though I am not taking the traditional health science route, I feel this major has helped me in more ways than just academics," Ariana explains. "This major has helped me become mature by letting me experience labs and critical thinking scenarios. This major has also helped me with time management, communication skills, and leadership techniques. These are all important qualities I will need as an attorney, therefore, I am forever grateful I chose health sciences as my undergraduate major."

mollie sharples '17: The Hartt school

Mollie SharplesMollie accepted a contract from the Awaken Dance Theater (ADT) in New York City before she had even completed her BFA degree in dance performance. She is currently rehearsing with the ADT, which is focused on making bold statements on social and political issues through dance. Her yirst performance with the company will be on May 19, two days before graduation.

While at Hartt, Mollie, who is from Detroit, Maine, studied with renowned choreographers Adam Barruch, Gemma Bond, and Autumn Eckman. 

lucas "luke" shearer: college of engineering, technology, and architecture

Luke Shearer“If there’s a challenging environment, that’s what I’m drawn too,” says Lucas Shearer, ’17 of Parker, Colo., This statement couldn’t be truer when you consider where the marine has been and where his future is taking him. He recently secured his second summer internship at NASA and is headed to the University of Texas in the fall to pursue a Master’s in mechanical engineering and acoustics.

After interning in 2016 in the Structural Acoustics Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Lucas applied and landed a 2017 internship at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

A mechanical engineering student with a concentration in acoustics within the University of Hartford’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), and a drummer since the age of 10, Lucas served four years as a U.S. Marine Corp. sergeant, and was a percussionist in “The Commandant’s Own,” The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.

Gabrielle Sinotte '17: college of education, nursing, and health professions

Gabrielle SinotteGabrielle was born without her left hand, so she was always very aware of prosthetics. As she grew older, she realized that she wanted to study prosthetics, as it would allow her to interact with people in a positive way and connect with them on a personal level. After Gabrielle graduates in May, she is going to California to complete a six week prosthetics and orthotics internship, before she returns to the University of Hartford to finish her master's in prosthetics and orthotics.

While at UHart, she was also a Red Cap, a resident assistant, a member of student government, a musician in the pep band, and an ultimate frisbee player.


Kris SpenceKris is going to work for Plainville Community Schools as a summer special education teacher after graduation. Kris discovered her passion for teaching during her 14 years working as a secretary for special education department at Plainville Community Schools.

"Our office was located at one of the schools and during my time there, we had many students come into our office to do daily jobs," Kris explains. "I was incredibly intrigued by the students and their teachers and longed to be the person who worked with them. I began mentoring students in the school system and volunteering in classrooms and found that I truly loved each experience. That's when I knew that I needed to go back to school and finish my degree."

rianna travaglini '17: College of Arts and Sciences

Rianna TravagliniThis summer, Rianna is taking a first step toward a career in criminal justice when she begins an internship as a correctional counselor at York Correctional Institution, a women's prison in Niantic, Conn. This Hartford, Conn. native is planning to gain as much experience as possible so she’ll be ready when a permanent position becomes available. In addition, she’ll continue to serve as the manager of Bare Bones Boxing Gym in East Hartford, Conn., where she’ll also be training for the Women's Golden Gloves Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in July.


Anissa WhiteAfter graduation, Anissa will head to Marquette, Neb., where she will be a resident ceramics artist through October at the Art Farm, an artist and writer residency organization. She plans to continue her ceramics work and apply for additional artist residencies and opportunities around the U.S. Anissa is a ceramics major from Oxford, Mass.

Anissa helped lead the Hartford Art School’s Dirty for a Reason Clay Club, which is open to the University community and supports the ceramic arts. In addition to holding clay parties on campus, the Club makes charitable contributions to the Empty Bowls project to fight hunger, and raises funds for an annual trip to the National Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference where students learn more about the ceramic arts.