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UConn opportunities attract outstanding freshmen

By Sherry Fisher - August 29, 2005

Heeren Makanji has been focused on a medical career for as long as he can remember. When he started to think about colleges, UConn came up instantly.

“The combined medical program really drew me in,” says Makanji, who graduated from Norwalk High School this year as valedictorian of his class with a combined SAT score of 1510.

“There are many opportunities at the University of Connecticut,” he adds – so many that he turned down an offer from Harvard.

Daniel Wakefield graduated first in his class at Manchester High School and earned a perfect score – 1600 – on his SATs. When the time came to make a decision about colleges, he too chose UConn.

“The Eurotech program was just what I was looking for,” he says.

A scholarship package offered by the University sweetened the deal. “I’ll be able to use the money I save on graduate school,” he says.

Today, Makanji and Wakefield join the most academically successful freshmen class in the University’s history.

Kathryn Grive, who graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in Trumbull, chose UConn over Tufts and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“I have aunts and uncles who went here in the sciences and were tremendously successful,” says Grive, who plans to study biology. “That was 20 years ago. Now the University has progressed even further – it’s gone from amazing to astounding.”

Grive says she likes the fact that she can do research here as early as her freshman year.

“At other schools, you couldn’t start doing research until junior year,” she says. “Since I’m not sure if I want to do research for a career, if I find during freshman year that my heart isn’t into it, I can move on to something else.” She plans to minor in statistics.

In high school, Grive, who plays the flute and piccolo, was a member of the chamber orchestra and a jazz band, and was a student ambassador.

She was a National Merit Commended Scholar and won the Cornell Book Award for ranking third in her class at the end of her junior year. Last summer, she took a class at Yale on the principles of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.

When she’s not making music or studying, she loves to read. “I like everything,” she says, “but my favorites are historical fiction and memoirs.”

Laura Weismantel chose UConn because it was close to home, and offered Women in Science and Engineering, a cluster of first-year residents who live and learn together. “I’m going to be a computer science major, and I wanted the extra support if I needed it,” says the South Windsor High School graduate. “What also sold it for me were the brand new facilities, particularly the new IT building.”

Weismantel, whose mother and brother are UConn graduates, says she is looking forward to “living more on my own and being more independent.”

Makanji says the combined medical program will give him “a lot of experience in the field and the opportunity to explore.” His older brother is in UConn’s pharmacy program.

In high school, Makanji ran varsity cross-country and was on the varsity indoor and outdoor track teams. He was also involved in a mock trial club and student government. At UConn, he is looking forward to “being exposed to different cultures, the social experience, and meeting many types of people – the subtle things that grow on us and make us the people we are.”

During his high school career, Wakefield was on the math team, the chemistry Olympiad, and was a founding member of the computer club. In his spare time, he enjoys ultimate Frisbee, soccer, strategy and war games, and video games. His parents, grandfather, and several uncles are UConn graduates. His brother is a junior here studying computer engineering.

As valedictorian, he gave his fellow high school graduates this advice:

“Take the classes you enjoy, and leave yourself a little bit of time to do what you want. Everything else will fall into place.”

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