March 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship education at the University of Connecticut, the UConn Innovation Zone (IZone) stands as a beacon of progress and opportunity. With a staggering 7,639 sign-ins recorded during the 2022-2023 academic year—an impressive 22% increase from the previous year, the IZone continues to grow and evolve to meet the changing interests and demands of our students. This is made evident by the growth of the program from the singular Makerspace, to now encompassing both the new Emerging Tech Center (ETC) and Recording & Editing Center (REC) under the Innovation Zone umbrella. This expansion has proven immensely successful in promoting hands-on learning and has become a hub for exploration, creativity, and skill development. In a world marked by constant change, the Innovation Zone has emerged as a vital catalyst for students, offering free access to cutting-edge equipment, materials, and expertise.

The numbers tell a compelling story—the 7,639 sign-ins represent not just a statistic, but a testament to the IZone’s popularity and its role in shaping the educational journey of countless students. This surge in usage underscores the program’s unique position as a resource that transcends theoretical knowledge, providing students with tangible skills that are invaluable in the real world. Moreover, the IZone’s impact extends beyond STEM disciplines, offering a diverse array of skills that cater to a broad student audience. Whether it’s mastering the intricacies of 3D modeling, gaining experience implementing design thinking, or learning the timeless art of sewing, the IZone fosters a learning environment that caters to a spectrum of interests and career paths. A trip to the UConn Innovation Zone or their upcoming Women in Making Forum and Modified Pinewood Derby is not just a visit; it’s an investment in one’s future—a journey that extends beyond the classroom, offering the practical know-how crucial for success in any field.

Get involved in upcoming IZone events!
– The Women in Making Forum is scheduled for Sunday April 14th in Werth Tower
-The Sixth Annual Modified Pinewood Derby is scheduled for Thursday April 18th 2-6pm on Fairfield Way, part of the Spring Weekend kickoff


Information provided by Cody D. Ryan, Makerspace Supervisor & Matt Chen, Makerspace Fellow

February 2024

In the fall of 2023, U.S. News and World Report ranked the UConn Learning Communities Program in the top 25 of programs nationally. Earlier this month the Office of First Year Programs, Learning Communities, the Academic Achievement Center, and Innovation Zone (FYPLCAACIZ) welcomed Learning Community collaborators from across campus, alumni and friends, and current students to celebrate the profound impact of Learning Communities on student success and engagement.  Read more about the ranking from U.S. News & World Report here. 


Watch the Learning Communities Impact video created for the event here: 

Learning Communities (LC) trace back to the early 2000s when they emerged from the First Year Programs at UConn, although there were a few Learning Communities on campus in the 70’s and 80’s. Initially conceived as themed First Year Experience (FYE) courses tailored to specific majors, LCs have evolved into holistic programs supporting first- and second-year students in their collegiate journey. Students receive guidance on navigating campus resources, mentoring, and socio-emotional support; all aimed at fostering personal and professional growth leading to graduation. Select LCs incorporate service-learning courses, experiential learning opportunities, and communal living spaces within Residence Halls, enriching the overall student experience.

LCs offer cohorts of students a unique opportunity to explore areas of interest, whether aligned with their major or interdisciplinary subjects, through guided courses and co-curricular activities. The overarching vision of these communities is to foster knowledgeable, responsible, and engaged citizens within a culture of inquiry. These communities provide a supportive environment for students transitioning to academic life, offering the intimacy of a small college setting amidst the vastness of the larger UConn campus. They facilitate meaningful interactions with faculty, staff, and student leaders. Over 44 percent of incoming students participate in a learning community, extending beyond the first year to encompass hundreds of sophomores as well as some upper-class students serving in peer mentor roles. 

Over the years, the LC program has spawned numerous traditions and initiatives, including the LC Kickoff, LC Field Day events, Research Connections, and the Month of Discovery. Notable
collaborative projects such as HackUConn with the Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Public Health House’s Health Innovation Projects, and the establishment of the Spring Valley Student Farm and the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower equipped with the UConn Innovation Zoneunderscore the program’s role as a catalyst for innovation and positive change.  

Recognized as a High Impact Practice (HIP) in higher education research, Learning Communities continue to shape the academic landscape by providing students with transformative learning experiences.  

View images from the celebratory event below!

January 2024

The Center for Access and Postsecondary Success (CAPS) is expanding student support across three regional campuses under the guidance of three inaugural Directors of Student Success, Equity, and Inclusion (SSEI).  

In September 2023 Nicole Ariyavatkul and Joanna Rivera Davis began their roles at the University of Connecticut Waterbury and Hartford campuses, respectively. In December 2023 they were joined by Alfy Roby at the Stamford campus. This expansion is part of the Synchrony equity-based initiative at UConn with additional support provided by Hispanic Association of Colleges and University (HACU) and Dominion Energy and The US Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions (DHSI) Program. 

Nicole, Joanna, and Alfy will lead the implementation of new initiatives focused on student success, expanding access to and improving delivery of student support at their respective campuses.  They will serve as leading voices for advancing educational equity and promoting student enrollment, transition, and success at UConn for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education.    


Welcome to our THREE new Directors of Student Success, Equity, and Inclusion!


Nicole Ariyavatkul

Nicole Ariyavatkul started her career in higher education in 2011 working at ConnCAP at Naugatuck Valley Community College.  Within a year she transitioned to oversee ConnCAS, a program whose focus was to support traditionally underserved students through their college journeys.  There she worked closely with her cohort, intensely coaching and advising her students and collaborating with multiple stakeholders to deliver them innovative programming and support.  They were able to successfully move the needle with impressive gains in their students’ retention and graduation rates.  

Nicole started working at the University of Connecticut’s Hartford campus in 2016 where she worked closely with departments, faculty and staff to create the campus’ academic schedule. She also worked as the campus registrar, and most recently, the Director of Enrollment Management.  She was involved in many roles including supervising student workers, overseeing student services operations, faculty teaching coordination, space planning, was a UConn Connects Mentor every semester, and taught FYE where she was recognized with a teaching award in 2020. 

She grew up in Thailand, but moved to Michigan while in high school, where she went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, and a Master of Education in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. 



Joanna Rivera Davis

Joanna Rivera Davis has over 15 years of experience working with students in higher education.  She joined UConn in 2010 working as a counselor in the Student Support Services program providing first generation to college and historically underrepresented student populations access, retention, and graduation services.  

In 2017 she transitioned into a new position as Assistant Director of Academic Support in the Academic Achievement Center, where she assisted students in attaining their academic and personal goals through the coordination of campus-wide programs and services.  She assisted with the coordination of the UConn Connects Program, a volunteer mentor and academic intervention program, designed to provide students with the skills and support needed for academic and personal success. 

Joanna has been recognized for her commitment to students and service to the university through multiple awards including most recently the UConn Spirit Award for Unsung Hero in 2023.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Eastern Connecticut State University and a Master of Arts in Student Affairs and Higher Education from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.   


Alfy Roby

“I am honored to serve as the Director of Student Success, Equity, and Inclusion at the UConn Stamford Campus, having assumed this role on December 29, 2023. As a dedicated advocate for educational equity with a robust history of promoting student enrollment, transition, and success, I am thrilled to contribute to the advancement of underrepresented students in higher education and cultivate a campus environment that prioritizes inclusivity. 

With 27 years of experience in higher education, my focus has been on spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives. In my previous role as the Associate Director of Diversity Initiatives in the School of Business, spanning all regional campuses, I successfully implemented programs that positively impacted student access, academic performance, and post-graduation outcomes. 

Throughout my career, I have demonstrated leadership in designing frameworks to enhance student engagement and coordinating comprehensive support systems. Leveraging data-driven approaches, I identified areas for improvement and developed evidence-based strategies to foster student success. Collaborating with faculty, staff, and students, I created an environment that values diversity and offers tailored support to meet the unique needs of underrepresented students. 

A key strength lies in initiating programs that empower underrepresented students throughout their educational journey. By establishing mentorship programs, organizing workshops, and advocating for culturally responsive curricula, I ensured their participation in transformative and high-impact experiences. Strong partnerships with external organizations were forged to expand internship opportunities, cultivate industry connections, and provide career development resources for post-graduation preparation. 

In my capacity as the Associate Director of Diversity Initiatives, I actively collaborated with the campus and University community to foster a culture of inclusivity and equity. Engaging in dialogues on diversity, social justice, and cultural competence, I facilitated conversations among faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, I led diversity training programs to equip faculty and staff with the tools to create inclusive learning environments and support systems. 

Assuming the role of Director of Student Success, Equity, & Inclusion at the UConn Stamford Campus is an exciting prospect. Drawing from my extensive experience in designing and implementing successful diversity initiatives, I am confident in my ability to develop and lead new initiatives that enhance underrepresented student access, academic performance, persistence, and timely graduation. I am eager to collaborate with the campus and University community to promote educational equity and foster an environment that supports the holistic development of all students. 

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the University’s commitment to student success and inclusive excellence.” 


 As initiatives on each campus expand, so will the workforce. Each campus is currently seeking qualified applicants for the position of College Success Coach to assist undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in their academic, personal, and career development to promote retention and graduation. Coaches will provide individualized support through one-on-one and group sessions, connections to relevant campus and community resources, and coordination of student enrichment activities, while monitoring student progress. If you are interested in learning more, please visit: