The Charger Blog

University’s Celebration of Excellence Recognizes Multicultural Members of the Class of 2021

The University community recently celebrated the achievements of graduating students of color, multicultural students, and underrepresented students and welcomed them to the University’s alumni network.

May 18, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Erica Maggiore ’21 and Shania Wauchope ’21.
Left to right: Erica Maggiore ’21 and Shania Wauchope ’21.

Erica Maggiore ’21 says she was shy when she began her time at the University of New Haven. A computer engineering major and a mathematics minor, she says her time as a Charger has instilled her with confidence.

Maggiore fondly remembers the friendly and warm greeting she received when she first visited the University’s Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and she says it was an experience that helped shape the rest of her time as a student.

“I had no idea the Myatt Center would be my home away from home,” she said. “Every interaction has an impact, no matter how big or how small. As a Latina in engineering, I’m glad to break barriers for girls in engineering. I’m leaving the University as a strong Latina who is destined to succeed.”

Maggiore recently shared her reflection as part of the University’s Celebration of Excellence, an event held prior to each Commencement to celebrate the achievements of graduating students of color, multicultural students, and underrepresented students.

“The students we celebrate have made a difference on campus and in their communities,” said University of New Haven President Steven H. Kaplan. “We recognize the unlimited potential they have to make an impact on their world. I’m confident you will all make us proud as you move forward in your lives.”

‘Bet on yourself’

In addition to celebrating the graduates’ success, the Celebration of Excellence provided a meaningful way to welcome the Class of 2021 to the University’s alumni community, which includes more than 61,000 individuals around the world.

As part of the ceremony, Ayana Duncanson ’13, ’15 MBA, a player services manager with the NFL Players Association, gave the keynote address. A member of the University’s Alumni Association Board of Directors and Black Alumni Association, she encouraged students to be proud of everything they have accomplished.

“We all have purpose, and in that purpose, we have to find patience,” said Duncanson, who was recognized among Sports Business Journal’s 2020 New Voices Under 30 honorees. “Some of you might still be working on your purpose, and that’s okay. Stay true to yourself. Bet on yourself. Your only responsibility in this world is to be the best version of yourself. Be excellent at being you.”

‘The real reward is the journey’

The University’s inaugural Celebration of Excellence was held in January shortly before the Winter 2021 Commencement ceremony. The two events offered graduates the opportunity to share their experiences, reflections, and what they learned as Chargers with the University community.

Arely Parra López ’21, a first-generation student, expressed her gratitude for those who supported her. She told her fellow graduates what she has learned and offered her advice.

Ayana Duncanson
Ayana Duncanson ’13, ’15 MBA delivered the keynote address as part of the University’s Celebration of Excellence.

“You are capable of anything you set your mind to,” said Parra López, a forensic science and genetics and biotechnology double major. “Anything is possible. No one can tell you that you’re not smart enough or not good enough. You are capable of whatever you set your mind to.”

Shania Wauchope ’21, a forensic science major, encouraged her classmates to be doers, not just dreamers. She expressed her gratitude for the University community for believing in her.

“Define success for yourself,” she said. “Don’t let how other people’s beliefs determine how you feel about yourself. Find who you are on your own. Don’t let insecurities or anything else downplay your accomplishments. Be proud of yourself.”

As part of her keynote address, Duncanson, who, as a Charger, was a sport management major and a member of the University’s women’s basketball team, shared her own experiences with students. She told them that some of her moments of adversity have led to some of her greatest successes, and that what she has learned has also reframed the way she views success.

“When I was starting off in my career, I was driven by milestones of excellence,” she explained. “Along the way, I have started to look at the word ‘excellence’ differently. The real reward is the journey – the people you meet, the experiences you learn from, the changes you make and the legacy you leave.”

The Celebration of Excellence was a collaboration between the University’s Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Dean of Students Office.