The Charger Blog

First-Generation Student Passionate About Fostering Sense of Belonging

Arely Parra López ’21 will soon become the first member of her family to earn a college degree, and she will be awarded two bachelor’s degrees at the University’s Spring Commencement. She is already looking forward to continuing her education.

April 28, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Arely Parra López ’21
Arely Parra López ’21 took a weekend trip to Paris while studying abroad during the Fall 2019 semester.

When Arely Parra López ’21 arrived at the University of New Haven from her home state of Colorado, she immediately felt like she belonged.

A first-generation student, she was especially grateful for how welcome she felt at the University’s Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and she has enjoyed the chances she has had to help ensure that her fellow Chargers also felt that same sense of belonging.

Arely Parra López ’21 at the University’s International Festival.
Arely Parra López ’21 at the University’s International Festival.

“I remember being welcomed with smiles and hugs from my friends every time I walked in to grab a coffee or to study,” said Parra López, who is double majoring in forensic science and genetics and biotechnology. “It was the kindness I experienced and bonds I formed at the Myatt Center that made it a big part of my favorite memories of my time as a Charger.”

A diversity peer educator, Parra López has taken every opportunity to learn from and connect with others – both in and out of the classroom. She has pursued three minors, in Arabic language and culture, race and ethnic studies, and chemistry. She has also been involved in a variety of organizations at the University, including the University’s NAACP chapter, Latin American Student Association, First-Year Leadership Experience, and Forensic Science Student Association.

“What I enjoy the most about the organizations and activities I have been involved in is the opportunity to learn something from a new perspective that I may have never considered before,” she said. “As humans, we must recognize that every moment in our lives is a learning opportunity. My participation in all of these activities has allowed me to expand my perspective from what I have known prior to my time at the University, enabling me to further understand my peers when we have differing viewpoints regarding politics, the criminal justice system, or other aspects in our lives.”

Arely Parra López ’21 with research mentors in Italy.
Arely Parra López ’21 (front, center) and her research mentors at the Laboratorio di Evoluzione Microbica e Moleculare at the University of Florence in Sesto Fiorentino, Italy.
‘I have had countless opportunities’

Passionate about science, Parra López took the opportunity to explore science in a new culture while studying at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, during the Fall 2019 semester. There, she served as a laboratory intern for the Laboratorio di Evoluzione Microbica e Molecolare (LEMM) at the University of Florence. While conducting genomic DNA extractions and isolations from bacterial strains, she assisted researchers with their experiments, helped identify bacterial species, taught second-year undergraduate students how to conduct basic genetic research experiments, and studied Italian.

Parra López plans to pursue a career in research and fieldwork as a forensic molecular biologist. Specifically, she hopes to work with human skeletal remains and take part in challenging forensic casework, such as missing-persons cases. She hopes to research and further develop methods to permit portable and accurate field testing kits for forensic DNA analysis of human remains. She is looking forward to beginning to pursue a Master of Forensic Sciences with a concentration in forensic molecular biology at George Washington University this fall.

“I have had countless opportunities to further develop as a scientist, researcher, and scholar through the constant support and mentorship from my professors at the University of New Haven,” she said. “My mentors have helped me to prosper against all odds as a first-generation, immigrant university student. I have also been able to further my leadership, advocacy, and global perception skills by becoming actively involved in my community to foster diversity and inclusion efforts alongside my peers.”