At a time when many of us are dealing with our own struggles, it is important to acknowledge and commend the strength and courage it has taken to navigate through the past year, which proved to be very difficult for many.
LC Talks is an annual event at the University of Connecticut that is modeled after TED Talks and provides students and faculty with the opportunity to share personal stories about their own lives to inspire those around them. The theme for this year was “Stories of Resilience” and speakers shared thought-provoking glimpses into their own diverse experiences with resilience.
Dr. Tadarrayl Starke, associate vice provost for the Institute for Student Success, spoke about how he was able to defy the odds and overcome many challenges that he faced during his childhood. He grew up in poverty in Tallahassee, Florida, and was the youngest of seven children raised by a single mother. He said how he was determined to prove people wrong about how one’s background and socioeconomic status are defining elements in terms of a level of achievable success.
“My difficulties should have simply decided my fate and I should have just let that data that I look at so much turn correlation to causation,” Starke said. “But what the data doesn’t reveal is the strength that lies in the story.”
As someone who now studies statistics regarding the impact of a student’s background and socioeconomic status on their future success, he said that, if you only look at the data, he should never have made it to where he is today. Starke stressed the importance of writing your narrative to work toward breaking free from the stereotypical expectations and limitations associated with how and where you are raised.
“The people around me were a support system to fight harder, to prove my conditions did not dictate my destination,” Starke said. “Everything meant to stifle my voice and pull me down only served to make me work harder.”
“Everything meant to stifle my voice and pull me down only served to make me work harder.”Dr. Tadarrayl Starke, Associate vice provost for the Institute for Student Success
Starke went on to earn his undergraduate degree, master’s degree in higher education and his doctorate in higher education from Florida State University. He has held numerous roles at various Florida colleges and community colleges and is a shining example of how hard work, determination and a strong support system can help guide you toward achieving whatever goal you have in mind despite the many challenges that life throws your way.
Following Starke, Sage Phillips, a sixth-semester political science and human rights major, shared her story that she titled “Redefining Cultural Stereotypes and Creating Success.” As a Penobscot student, Phillips said how she was excited to enter college and work to find her true Indigenous identity. However, once she arrived at UConn, she quickly realized that there was very little representation for Indigenous students.
“The Native and Indigenous student population was so small we weren’t always accurately represented in the data,” Phillips said. “In fact, we didn’t always show up either. Instead, we were referred to here as ‘ethnicity unknown’ or ‘other.’”
“The Native and Indigenous student population was so small we weren’t always accurately represented in the data. In fact, we didn’t always show up either. Instead, we were referred to here as ‘ethnicity unknown’ or ‘other.”Sage Phillips, sixth-semester Political Science and Human Rights major
Phillips has been a driving force and advocate for enacting change on the UConn campus to allow for greater representation of the student body. She is the founder and president of the Native American and Indigenous Students Association (NAISA) at UConn which works to create representation for Native and Indigenous students on campus. She also played an instrumental role in creating the Native and Indigenous Scholars Community, which is set to launch during the fall 2021 semester.
“I found myself in spaces where I was ready to combat this,” Phillips said. “And I was essentially forced to embrace my true Indigenous self.”
To close out the event, Marissa Macaro, a sixth-semester communication major, spoke about how her experience playing sports growing up, which was once her greatest joy in life, took a sharp turn once she entered college. In her story titled “Happiness in My Failed Childhood Dream,” Macaro spoke about her passion for rowing which eventually earned her an offer to join the women’s rowing team at UConn. Initially, she was thrilled to have finally accomplished her dream of playing a division one sport. However, the negative team culture and lack of close friendships she had with her fellow teammates led the experience to be nothing she had dreamt of.
“Resilience is having the strength to carry on when things don’t go according to plan, which could mean walking away from something or reworking your goals in a different direction,” Macaro said.
“Resilience is having the strength to carry on when things don’t go according to plan, which could mean walking away from something or reworking your goals in a different direction.”Marissa Macaro, a sixth-semester Communication major
Macaro chose to leave the team and has since channeled her competitive energy into other endeavors and is now focused on becoming the best student she can be.
Phillips, Starke, Macaro and the other speakers each had their own experience with resilience, but one thing remained true across all stories: these seven members of the UConn community showed the importance of hard work, dedication, passion and most of all, believing in yourself and the ideas that you have to become a resilient individual who can deal with challenges and overcome adversity.
“Life is not linear; there are many unpredictable things that can change your dreams, your plans and your goals … Being resilient is accepting these changes as they come and having the strength to continue pushing yourself through the unpredictable changes that life can throw at you,” Macaro said.