The Charger Blog

English Major’s Coursework Enables ‘Life-Changing’ Discovery about Family History

For Rose Robles ’20, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard, her studies sparked a passion for the nonprofit sector and led to a significant finding about the work of her late father.

December 4, 2019

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Rose Robles
Rose Robles ’20 (second from left) receiving an award on Women Veterans Day while stationed in Puerto Rico in 2011.

During the second semester of her first year, Rose Robles ’20 took a course about the work of the Black Panthers. The experience changed what she knew about her family and her past. While exploring the history of the organization founded to challenge police brutality against the African American community, she discovered that her father, who passed away in 2014, was a Black Panther in the 1960s.

"It was a memorable and touching experience to learn that my father was involved in such a powerful moment in history," said Robles, an English major. "This was a life-changing experience for me."

Discovery was an important part of her education at the University of New Haven. It was in Dr. Diane Chiriani Russo’s "Women’s Literature"class that Robles discovered the work of Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American novelist whose work focuses on the lives of women. She is now her favorite writer.

Robles will be among the more than 700 undergraduate and graduate students awarded their degrees during the University’s Winter Commencement ceremony on December 15.

Before she began her studies at the University, Robles served in the United States Coast Guard. After enlisting in 2007, she was stationed on the USCGC Jarvis, a high-endurance cutter, for two-and-a-half years. She handled message dissemination, managed electronic warfare programs, and translated conversations between detainees and officials during interrogations for drug crimes.

"It was a memorable and touching experience to learn that my father was involved in such a powerful moment in history. This was a life-changing experience for me."Rose Robles '20

Later stationed in Puerto Rico and in Connecticut, she served as a search and rescue coordinator. While in Connecticut, she and her fellow servicemembers were recognized for their lifesaving endeavors.

"A boat had capsized, leaving two people in the frigid waters of Long Island Sound," she explains. "Two men were rescued, and, later, our crew received the American Red Cross Military Heroes award."

As treasurer of the University’s chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta, an international English honor society, Robles discovered a passion for a different type of service that, she says, was the beginning of her journey toward a career in the nonprofit sector.

Robles credits a proposal she wrote for one of her English classes with enabling her to earn an internship as a grant writer at Columbus House, a nonprofit organization in New Haven that provides solutions to help the homeless.

"This tremendous experience has already opened doors to other potential employment opportunities," said Robles, who plans to pursue her Master of Public Administration degree. "From the moment I arrived, University of New Haven staff members have done an amazing job of helping me prepare for success."