Feeling Good All Year Long: Highlights of the best UConn news from the 2019-2020 academic year

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Although the 2020 spring semester did not go according to anyone’s plan, there were still plenty of “feel good” moments along the way. From record breaking HuskyTHON totals to Soop Doop stickers, The Daily Campus breaks down some of its most positive news stories from the school year.   

May: 

UConn Gaming Club hosting Minecraft commencement ceremony 

The University of Connecticut Gaming Club spent weeks planning for an online Minecraft celebration for seniors, Devyn Lowry, president of the organization, said. 

The club has recreated iconic campus locations, including Gampel Pavilion and the Student Union, for a graduation ceremony planned for May 10 at 10 a.m. 

Graduate characters will “walk” across the stage when their name is called, receive a potion to make their character glow and get a book with their name and major written on it, Andi Duro, club member, said. 

Mansfield resident recognized as community hero 

Mansfield resident has been recognized by State Rep. Gregoy Haddad as a community hero for creating a community fund to help those who have difficulty affording groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Louis Goffinet, a Lebanon middle school teacher, has raised over $8,000 after starting a community fund to help low-income and at-risk households afford groceries.


File photo/The Daily Campus

File photo/The Daily Campus

He was nominated for the title of community hero by two other community members, Emmet Teran, Press Aide for the Connecticut House Democrats, said in a press release. 

Goffinet said he was hesitant to accept the nominat because he felt that helping the community is simply the right thing to do. 

“I’m reluctant to accept the title of ‘community hero’ because I really feel that this is just the human response to seeing others in need,” Goffinet said. 

April: 

UConn bookstore accommodates students off campus

The University of Connecticut bookstore is making it easier for students to return their rental textbooks. 

Len Oser, the general manager of the UConn Bookstore, said the deadline to return all rental textbooks has been pushed to July 15. This is to help aid students who left textbooks in their dorm rooms and are unable to currently access them. 

For students who do have their textbooks, they can mail them back to the Storrs location using a free UPS shipping label that can be filled out on the bookstore’s website. 

UConn Dining Services donates 7,500 pounds of food to Foodshare

University of Connecticut Dining Services donated 7,500 pounds of food to the organization Foodshare, which helps fight hunger in Hartford and Tolland counties. 

Although this wasn’t their first donation, this is UConn’s largest donation to Foodshare. Rob Landolphi, culinary operations manager at dining services, said dining services had a surplus of perishable food after the switch to distance learning and the majority of students leaving campus. 

The donation was approximately 6,000 pounds more than the typical donation.  

UConn takes part in inaugural National Collegiate Recovery Day 

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education surpassed its donation goal during its first National Collegiate Recovery Day on April 15.

According to the ARHE website, the National Collegiate Recovery Day celebrates staff, students and other supporters who help increase awareness to recovery. 

Participants, including the UConn Recovery Community, had options to celebrate remotely by posting using #CollegiateRecoveryDay, wearing purple to show support for the cause, signing up to attend a virtual Recovery Ally Training session on April 20 or donating $10 to ARHE. 

UConn Student Creates Online Cards for Positivity

A University of Connecticut fourth-semester physiology and neurobiology major created “kind cards” for UConn students to send positive messages to their friends. 

James Galske said that he created his virtual greeting cards so students can show their appreciation to friends that are missing seeing regularly on-campus.  

UConn students can pick between five designs with a variety of Husky patterns. After the student chooses to write a personalized message, Galske digitally sends them to the receiver. 

UConn club raises money to help children in foster care celebrate birthdays

A University of Connecticut club, Confetti for Kids, is working to fundraise money remotely to buy children in foster care birthday presents. 

Their GoFundMe page will help replace their previously planned in-person events. Jennifer Field, the organization’s president and fourth-semester biomedical engineering major, said their online fundraising will allow Confetti for Kids to still buy presents for kids with spring birthdays. 

March: 

Chicks hatching at UConn Extension Center shown in Facebook live streams

On March 20, University of Connecticut Extension began posting livestream videos of chicken eggs incubating at the New London County Extension Center. Some of the almost daily videos have been viewed over 1,000 times on their Facebook page. 

Pamela Gray, Educational Program coordinator at the New London County Extension Center, said that they set up the live stream so fifth graders in the STEAM 4-H club at Mahan Elementary School in Norwich could watch. 


File photo/The Daily Campus

File photo/The Daily Campus

The fifth graders were currently learning about poultry and  electricity by building model hen houses and watching can help them continue, Gray said. 

Mario Kart tournament raises money for UConn Health

The University of Connecticut organization Karts for Coins is hosting an online Mario Kart tournament open to all students to raise money for UConn Health. 

On April 4th, the tournament will consist of eight races. The person with the highest score will win $20 via Venmo. 

In order to participate, all students will need to send $5 to the Venmo @KartsforCoins and include their Nintendo Switch device name to get the tournament code. 

Christina Budzinski, founder of Karts for Coins and a tenth-semester biology major, said the goal of the tournament is to reduce stress while simultaneously raising money for UConn Health. 

Students look to start consignment store on campus

UConnsign is a new project to bring thrift shopping to Storrs, Caitlin Daddona, a fourth-semester environmental studies major and one of the leaders of the project, said. 

Daddona said that she and nine other students have been working on creating thrifting options to Storrs, whether it be in a pop-up shop or a permanent store. She said the team is in the early planning process but they have received positive responses from a student interest survey. 

Daddona said she wanted to address the feeling of hopelessness a lot of students experience in the face of climate change. She hopes that UConnsign can help. 

Asha for Education to host benefit concert for Mumbai school

The University of Connecticut’s chapter of Asha for Education will be hosting a benefit concert on March 7 with the British artist Mumzy Stranger. 

Parth Patel, a sixth-semester molecular and cell biology and political science major and president of the UConn chapter of Asha for Education, said that the all money from the concert would be going to support the Mumbai school, Chehak Trust, which is a school for children with disabilities. 


Photo by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus

Photo by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus

“Our mission is to catalyze socioeconomic change through the education of underprivileged children in India,” Patel said.  

February: 

HuskyTHON brightens tomorrow by raising over $1.5 million ‘For the Kids’

The 18-hour dance marathon, HuskyTHON, raised a record-breaking $1,520,234.98 for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, over $190,000 from the year prior. 

Marisa Nazzaro, HuskyTHON 2020 Vice President of Communications, said that more than 3,330 students and 100 teams registered to participate. 

More than 40 patient families and their miracle children were paired with student teams to dance and hang out with. 

The dance marathon also honored Cole Montefusco, who passed away Feb. 1 in a car accident. He was actively involved in HuskyTHON as a morale captain. HuskyTHON organizers announced a Connecticut Children’s Foundation created a fund in his memory and Montefusco was this year’s top student fundraiser. 

Sheep blankets for a cause

The University of Connecticut’s animal science department is working with the Connecticut Sheep Breeders Association to sell wool blankets made with wool from both UConn and Connecticut sheep.  

All proceeds from blanket sales will benefit the farms these sheep live on. 

Blankets come in four different sizes and are only sold one each year. They  can be purchased from the animal science department. 

Michelle Lewis, academic program assistant, said each blanket has its own certificate of authenticity and series number. 


File photo/The Daily Campus

File photo/The Daily Campus

“This is a really great piece of history, because they last a really long time and it’s a great way to own a product from the UConn and Connecticut sheep that you can’t get anywhere else,” Lewis said.  

UConn raises almost $300,000 on Day of Strength 

The University of Connecticut raised a record-breaking $291,630.79 on Day of Strength 2020, HuskyTHON 2020 Vice President of Communications Marisa Nazzaro said. 

The Day of Strength exceeded their goal of $170,000, Nazzaro said. 

The event is a 24 hour fundraising event in order to try to “brighten someone’s tomorrow.” 

Student Health and Wellness challenge aims to decrease student stress

The University of Connecticut’s Student Health and Wellness  department has challenged students to increase healthy habits and decrease stress on campus. 

The Innovate Wellness Challenge allows all UConn undergraduate students to present original ideas for how on-campus resources can help improve student’s mental health. Project Coordinator Tara Watrous said that not only can students learn how to present professional ideas, they may be able to see their idea in action. 

The winning participants can win up to $2,250.

January: 

‘Koala-ity’ cookies for a quality cause

A University of Connecticut student raised $214 for Australian wildlife by selling koala-shaped cookies. 

Liv Schoenbeck, an eighth-semester biology and psychology double major, said that she wanted to donate to the bushfire crisis but couldn’t donate as much as she would like on her own. 

Being an avid baker, she said she had most of the supplies to make sugar cookies in the shape of koalas. Her “Buy and Sell” Facebook post led to her $5 cookies being sold quickly and accumulating $214 to donate. 

UConn student appears on ‘Jeopardy!’

A University of Connecticut physiology and neurobiology graduate student took home $2,000 after he appeared on “Jeopardy!” on Jan. 16.  

Shanu George said that he was always good at retaining facts and wanted to try and do something that would highlight his talents. 

To study for the show, he focused on topics that frequently appeared on the show. 


File photo/The Daily Campus

File photo/The Daily Campus

“For example, one of the questions during my episode was showing a picture of [a] waterfall in North Dakota,” George said. “It’s useful in that respect just to know certain things just because they might ask something tangentially related to it.” 

December: 

UConn’s first Rhodes Scholar, Wawa Gatheru

Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru became the first University of Connecticut student to become a Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Scholarship program guarantees its scholars a free graduate degree education from University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Scholars are typically there for two years and have up to four years and $250,000 in scholarships available to them. 

Gatheru, the first daughter of Kenyan immigrants, is the first black person to earn a Rhodes scholarship, as well as the Truman and Udall fellowships earlier in the year. 

“I also get to represent first generation Americans everywhere,” Gatheru said. “My family comes from Kenya and being able to really exemplify the goodness that our immigrants bring to this country and those ideals that were cast down to me, having two parents that were Kenyan immigrants, I am able to represent that and it is something that I am so thankful to be able to do.” 

Mansfield Winter Welcome plans to bring holiday joy

The Mansfield Downtown Partnership will host their seventh annual Winter Welcome, full of activities for all ages, event coordinator Denise Kegler said. 

Events will include a Trim-A-Tree contest, where Mansfield businesses, organizations, groups and clubs compete to decorate a tree and have a chance to win prizes, a visit from Santa and the Snow Queen and a performance with the UConn Marching Band Tubas. 

November: 

UConn comes together for students’ dad in renal failure

The University of Connecticut community is coming together to help students Emreen Bharara’s and Ashiespal Bharara’s father who is in need of a kidney. 

Their father, Gurvinder Singh Bharara, is 56 years old and, due to a nearly 20-year struggle with type II diabetes, is now in end-stage renal failure, according to Emreen’s change.org petition. 

Their cousin, Gursimran Singh Bharara, is a medically declared match and is willing to donate his kidney, but he lives in India and can’t get to the United States, Emreen’s Instagram post said.

Huskies for Refugees and Huskies for Human Rights collaborated to host a letter-writing event at the Women’s Center. The letters will be sent to the U.S. Embassy and Immigration Services “in support of visa approval to save Gurvinder’s life,” as stated in an Instagram post by Huskies for Refugees (@hruconn).

Elizabeth Warren proposed to her husband…in a UConn Law lecture hall?

Former Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said in a recent CNN interview that she proposed to her now-husband Bruce Mann in a lecture hall after he finished teaching a law class. 

Although Warren does not specifically state UConn in the CNN interview, she said in a 2016 Facebook post that Mann was teaching in Connecticut when she popped the question. 

According to the blog Western Mass Politics and Insight, Mann taught for two years at UConn Law, which coincides with the proposal. 

October:

Resident good boy is feeling good

Jonathan XIII, the University of Connecticut’s retired canine mascot, is recuperating nicely after a cluster of seizures. 

Marie-Claire Meadows, husky co-chair for the Husky Committee of Alpha Phi Omega and a seventh-semester global health major, said that Jonathan XIII was adjusting to anti-seizure medication. 

According to Jonathan XIII’s brother’s Instagram, @jonathanhusky14, Pieper Memorial Veterinary Hospital’s neurologist was able to get the seizures under control after using an MRI to determine the underlying cause.

“Jonathan XIII is doing great,” Meadows said. “He is enjoying Dairy Bar ice cream and running around with brother, Jonathan XIV.” 

Students sell stickers in honor of ‘Soop Doop’ employee

A group of University of Connecticut business students are creating and selling stickers of the UConn Student Union dining employee Luis Diaz, better known as “Soop Doop Guy.” 

As a project for the business management course “Opportunity Generation, Assessment, and Promotion,” students Matt Ternullo, Ellen Chikiros, Sydney Wojeski, Kat Fletcher and Giana DiNatale had to create something to sell for two weeks. 

The stickers, with Diaz posing with his typical thumbs-up and the words “Soop Doop,” sold for $2 a piece. All proceeds will be donated to HuskyTHON. 

September: 

Omelettes, Quesadillas and Crocs: Oh my!

An unidentified student was spotted making an omelette and a quesadilla in University of Connecticut lecture halls, much to the amusement of his classmates.

The Instagram page @blacksheepuconn posted a video of the student making an omelette on Friday, saying a student has “found the perfect solution” after skipping breakfast. 


File photo/The Daily Campus

File photo/The Daily Campus

None of the students interviewed for the article knew who the student was. Some of them noted that he was wearing a child-size black croc around his neck on a string. 

Fifth-semester biomedical engineering major Nick Tauken said it was an unforgettable lecture. 

“Skipping breakfast is tough so sometimes you’ve got to multitask.” Tauken said. “It takes a special person to wake up and say, ‘I’m going to cook eggs in lecture today.’” 

Alexa can now tell you what’s for lunch at UConn 

University of Connecticut students can now ask Alexa when the yellow line will get to Towers, thanks to fifth-semester computer science major Andrew Burns. 

Burns created a skill, called My UConn, that can be downloaded to the Alexa app. Students  first have to ask Alexa to “Open my UConn” and then they can ask their UConn specific questions. 

“This is incredible! I can lay in bed and find out what’s on the menu at any dining hall at UConn,” said one Amazon reviewer.

August: 

Class of 2023: the most diverse in UConn history 

The class of 2023 broke multiple University of Connecticut records, according to a class of 2023 fact sheet.  

The incoming freshman class has the highest percentage of students of color, the most valedictorians and salutatorians, highest number of incoming honors students and the most applications. 

Vern Granger, director of undergraduate admissions, said every year the university tries to obtain a academically prepared and diverse class. Class of 2023 met that goal.  

“This year’s class reaffirms my belief that quality and diversity are not mutually exclusive, as we anticipate an increase in the percentage of the class who are students of color and the second-largest reported SAT average in UConn’s history,” Granger said.  


Rachel Philipson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.philipson@uconn.edu.

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