Dawn Stanton is the Director of University Access Programs (UAP). She came to Southern as a student in the Southern Educational Opportunity Program (SEOP) summer academy in 1986, which became a life-changing experience that shaped her values and belief in her ability to thrive academically in college. During her time as a Southern student, Dawn was a member of the women’s track team competing in short sprints, long jump, and triple jump and becoming a 5-time All American. She was also a Resident Advisor for two years in Wilkinson Hall, which was the spark for her passion for helping college students succeed.
Dawn has worked in residence life, student center management, student involvement and leadership, and access programs. After 30 years of experience promoting student achievement, she has come full-circle in her role as director of UAP. She appreciates the importance of access programs that serve and create opportunities for promising students in post-secondary education. Dawn cares deeply about students and is committed to helping them persist and graduate. She values academic accomplishment and believes in the power of education to improve social mobility. Dawn is a proud alumnus of SCSU, having earned a Bachelor’s in Communication (1990) and a Master’s in Business Economics (1998). She was inducted into the SCSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018 for her accomplishments in track and field. She lives in Hamden, Connecticut and has two children in college who followed in her footsteps as student-athletes.
Maribel Sanchez is the Associate Director of University Access Programs (UAP). She is a first-generation student who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and her Master’s degree in Organizational Management and Leadership, both from Eastern Connecticut State University. She earned her undergraduate admission to Eastern through a summer bridge program just like the Southern Educational Opportunity Program (SEOP) called Summer Transition to Eastern Program (STEP/CAP). She is forever grateful for the STEP/CAP program because it provided her with the support that was necessary for her to persist on to college and ultimately graduate. Maribel began her career in higher education at the University of Connecticut - Storrs where she was a TRiO Coordinator, promoting equal access to higher education for Pell eligible students for nearly 11 years. She then came full circle to pursue an opportunity at Eastern Connecticut State University within the department of Opportunity Programs, working directly with the STEP/CAP program and its many other opportunity programs. It was truly an amazing experience to be able to work directly with the program that had such an immeasurable impact on her academic career and ultimately her professional career.
Maribel is a native of Hartford, CT but currently resides in Vernon, CT. She is the proud mom of two daughters, one who is currently attending Central Connecticut State University and the other who is in elementary school. Some of her personal passions are running and being active but also fighting for Women’s access to reproductive health, LGBTQI rights and immigrant rights.
Laura McKay has worked at Southern Connecticut State University since 1997.
At that time, she worked as a clerk in the campus mailroom. In 1999, she transferred to the Information and Library Science Department, as their secretary.
In May of 2006, she found her dream job in the Office of Student Supportive Services, which is now known as University Access Programs. As the department secretary, she provides administrative support for the director and the associate director. In her position, she also helps UAP students attain access to academic and non-academic support services on campus. In short, Laura is the glue that holds the office together!
Niasia Mercado-Walters is a UAP Advocate. She is an alumnus Southern. As a student, she was a New Haven Promise and Gear-UP Scholar. Niasia was a first-generation college student and graduated in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health. She went on to earn an M.S in Counseling Education with a specialization in Student Development in Higher Education from Central Connecticut State University in May 2019. As an advocate, she provides additional support to students of color who have experienced challenges that resulted in academic probation/warning. Niasia believes in promoting student success through a holistic approach by counseling students in all aspects of their lives. She sees herself as a lifetime learner and educator. Beyond her career, she is a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend who enjoys reading books, listening to music, cooking, and most of all she loves family time.
Graduate Intern/Advocate (Underclassmen)
Kyle Augustine is a UAP Graduate Intern. He is a first-generation student of the 2013 Southern Education Opportunity Program (SEOP) and a graduate of SCSU in 2019. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Education. During his undergraduate years, he was involved in a variety of clubs and organizations around campus, including the Black Student Union, OLAS & N.A.A.C.P. He was also the President of the Caribbean Student Association & a founding brother of Brotherhood of Scholarship & Excellence. In 2019, He won Mr. Heritage Ball.
Kyle has a deep passion for social justice and helping his peers. As an advocate, he tries to help his student realize their full potential and to connect with the many resources and opportunities here at Southern. In addition to being an advocate, he coordinates the departments programming and co supervises the department's UAP student workers
Kyle also serves as the graduate advisor for both the Caribbean Student Association and Brotherhood of Scholarship and Excellence. and sits on the Multicultural Leadership Council.
Graduate Intern/Advocate (Underclassmen)
Gabriela Vazquez is a UAP Graduate Intern. She is a first-generation student, and she was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her outstanding performance in the athletics and her academics allowed her the opportunity to obtain her undergraduate degree at Southern Connecticut State University. Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration in Finance. Throughout her four years at Southern she has been involved in multiple organizations and leadership roles that had a great impact on her college experience. She was a team player for the Southern NCAA Volleyball team, a Peer Mentor, a Programs Council member, a Resident Advisor, and graduated as an honors student.
Her involvement within Residence Life allowed her the opportunity to develop a strong interest in higher education. In addition, she hopes to represent the Hispanic community in colleges and fulfill the need for bilingual staff to better assist students. Her goal as a UAP Advocate is to inspire students from underrepresented communities and help them understand that they can do anything they put their minds to. She wants to help students who are determined to achieve their goals and take full advantage of all the opportunities that Southern offers.
Rochelle was born in the beautiful island of Saint Lucia and migrated to the United States at age sixteen. She is also bilingual, speaking French Creole which is the second most spoken language in Saint Lucia. In 2021 she starts her master’s program in Public Health at Southern. Rochelle completed her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with concentrations in Public Health and Psychology at Southern, in 2020. Prior, she earned her associate’s degree from Norwalk Community College in General Studies, Allied Health.
The past two years, Rochelle has volunteered at the Norwalk Health Department in the Immunization department. She earned her diploma as a Pharmacy Technician from Penn Foster, and just completed her certificate in contact tracing. From her passion for helping others, she sees herself involved in educating and nurturing the youth to become more open to success and challenges. She loves dancing, singing and socializing. Her smile and stellar personality help others warm up to her, and makes her connect to help others. Rochelle looks forward to this new journey as a UAP Advocate.
Genna Altman is the UAP PASS Coordinator. She was born and raised in Bridgeport, CT, she is a second-generation student. Genna attended Johnson C Smith University HBCU in Charlotte NC. Before taking the role as PASS Coordinator, Genna has worked various Executive Assistant positions as well as being a Team Advisor/Training coach for the University of Phoenix & Post Axia college. Genna is very passionate about Mental Health Awareness and understands you need to be in a good head space in order to succeed. Genna is a Wife, Mother of two and loves to Cook, organize, read, and just enjoy living to the fullest.
Karina Aviles is a UAP Advocate for the PASS Program. She was born and raised in New Haven, CT, and is a first-generation student. Karina recently obtained her Bachelor's in Communication Disorders with a minor in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University in 2021. Before taking on the role as PASS Advocate, Karina worked with the PASS Program and for SEOP Summer Academy (2019 & 2020) as a Writing Specialist. As an undergraduate student, Karina was a New Haven Scholar. She was a member of various clubs and organizations, including CurlFriendz, F.A.C.E. Models, and Greek Life Council. Karina is also a proud member of Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc., which she joined Fall 2019.
Starting in the Fall, Karina will be attending the University of Bridgeport to pursue her Master’s in Counseling with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is very passionate about mental health and wellness. Karina’s goal as an advocate is to provide the best support to her students through positive encouragement and informing students about resources and opportunities on Southern’s campus. Karina also loves to cook, read, and spend time with loved ones.
Camryn Arpino-Brown is the UAP AmeriCorps VISTA. She is a Southern Alumnus. As a student, she was a first-generation college student and served as an Orientation Ambassador, Orientation Coordinator, Resident advisor, and Diversity Coordinator. She was also involved in OLAS, N.A.A.C.P., SGA, and S.I.S.T.A.S. In her final fall semester, she co-hosted the university's Black Lives Matter March in September 2020. Upon graduation in May of 2021 she received her bachelor's in Psychology as well as the prestigious Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award, the Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa Service Award, the University Leadership Award, and the Diversity Scholar Excellence Award.
Through her life experiences and involvement at Southern, she grew a deep love for helping and serving her community. She finds enjoyment in working with students and their families to help provide the best experience for them. She hopes as the VISTA, working on the Sankofa initiative, she will create an environment for first-generation families to feel welcomed and hopeful about learning more about their student's college journey and how they can best support them.