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Alumni Podcasts

Welcome to UHart to Hartford. We're so glad you're here to listen. 

Abe Hefter, applied assistant professor of communication at the University of Hartford, talks with alumni about their journey after graduation, their work, and the way their UHart learning continues to influence their professional success. 

Have a great story to tell? Email us at alumni@hartford.edu.

UHart to Hartford Alumni Episodes

Shanta Lee Gander M'07

Shanta Lee Gander M'07, is a multi-faceted professional and artist. Shanta Lee has experience in writing prose, poetry, investigative journalism, and photography. Her work has been featured in PRISM, Rebelle Society, Ms. Magazine Blog and The Commons—a weekly newspaper covering Windham County in Vermont. Shanta Lee graduated from the University of Hartford in 2007 with a MBA in management and marketing. While working and managing her own and other’s arts, Shanta Lee noticed that artists don’t have the entrepreneurial skills to promote their art. “One of the things that was missing is for creatives to think about entrepreneurial inclination or see themselves as businesses or business owners”. This has led her to establish Obsidian Arts L3C, where creatives can attend workshops and develop a connection between their creative practice and business. Shanta’s latest book of poetry, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreaming of Mama While Trying to Speak Women in Tongues comes out on June 15. To discover more about Shanta Lee Gander and her extensive work, visit her website: https://www.shantaleegander.com/slg. 

Sabrina Trocchi M'96

Sabrina Trocchi M'96, is the President and CEO of Wheeler, a community health center that provides healthcare, addiction treatment, behavioral health, special education, and many other services to patients across Connecticut. Born and raised in Hartford, Trocchi graduated from UHart with a master’s degree in public administration. Trocchi credits her time at the University of Hartford for giving her a foundation for her role as President and CEO of Wheeler by preparing her for nonprofit management and administration, as well as developing her leadership and management skills. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trocchi and her team at Wheeler had to adapt quickly, with the help of telehealth services, to ensure that their patients get the proper care that they need. “I’m in absolute awe in what my staff has been able to accomplish in this very difficult year,” says Trocchi. “We’ve had so many challenges and in spite of all of that we continue to be there, we continue to deliver care, we continue to be responsive to our patients and to our communities.”

Ryan Speedo Green '08

Ryan Speedo Green '08 is a world-renowned opera performer sought after by international opera houses for his powerful bass-baritone voice. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music from The Hartt School, Green has performed at the Vienna State Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera regularly since his debut in 2012. Green is a Grammy Award-winning musician as part of the cast of The Metropolitan Opera’s 2019/20 production of Porgy and Bess which received the 2021 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Green is also the subject of a biography titled Sing for Your Life, written by New York Times journalist Daniel Bergner. The biography details Green’s life story, from his troubled childhood growing up in a violent home to being incarcerated in a Virginia juvenile detention center. “At 12-years-old—that was the bottom my life has ever been,” said Green. With a strong will to survive a difficult environment, and with the help of supportive educators—including the late Joanna Levy, a Hartt School voice teacher—Green developed a passion for opera singing. Learn more about Ryan Speedo Green and his distinguished opera career at his website, https://www.ryanspeedogreen.com

Steve French '03

Anyone who watches TV or movies has likely heard the voice of Steve French ’03. He has been the voice for National Geographic nature documentaries, NASCAR commercials, and is currently the promo voice for the Disney+ hit show, The Mandalorian. Steve had always had an appreciation for voice-over performers, such as Mel Blanc of Looney Tunes  characters, however, he didn’t realize that voice-over acting was a viable option for a long-lasting career. In 2011, he got his first steady voice-over representation and began pursuing the craft of voice acting seriously. Thanks to his voice and speech training from The Hartt School, where he earned a degree in theater arts, in addition to his training as an actor, French was able to forge a successful career in the voice-over acting world. In this episode, French discusses the process from auditions to the recording booth, what it’s like to voice act from home, and how it can be strange to hear his voice during commercials. Samples of his impressive work can be found at https://www.stevefrenchvo.com.

Jessica Floyd '18

Jessica Floyd '18 has already forged an impressive career in the media, with stops at MSNBC, NBC News, and WNPR—gaining experience at these organizations while still a student at UHart. Jessica first pursued her love of writing as a writer with the campus publication, Heartbeat Magazine, and went on to become editor-in-chief. She says her work with Heartbeat Magazine elevated her writing and led to other broadcast-related opportunities such as one at Hartford Public Access Television, which served as a springboard for internships with MSNBC and WNPR. After UHart, Jessica earned her Master of Science in Journalism at Northwestern University, after which she worked as a national field producer for the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Jessica joined us from Washington, DC, where she is currently a Politics Producer and Correspondent at TheGrio.

Jeffrey Welsh '07

Jeffrey Welsh '07 started playing saxophone in the fourth grade. “That was the first time in my life that I felt like I found my calling,” says Jeffrey. Welsh’s musical abilities developed quickly, which led him to the Hartt School. At UHart, he studied under Professor Carrie Koffman, “an exceptional educator and my first professional mentor.” However, Welsh’s career took a turn in 2010, when he entered Pepperdine University Law School. During his first year of grad school, his soon-to-be partner offered him a position doing cannabis-specific criminal defense work. After graduation, the two of them moved to California and launched a business focused cannabis law firm. In 2015, they founded Frontera Law Group, helping entrepreneurs and businesses navigate the complex legal and regulatory landscape of the emerging cannabis industry in California. Through it all, however, Jeffrey has maintained his passion for music, and he continues to perform in the greater LA area. 

Michelle Hart '89

Michelle Hart '89, program administrator of Westchester County, NY’s Department of Community Mental Health, knows first-hand what it's like to battle COVID-19 as an essential worker. Since February, she has been helping patients and providing them with the emotional support they may need. In fact, Michelle worked on the very first suspected case of the coronavirus in the county. Her time at UHart as a psychology major and health sciences minor is what led Michelle down the path of helping those in need of emotional support. She went on to earn her master’s degree in applied psychology from New York University in 1994. In times like these, she says it's important that everyone knows help is there for everyone who needs it. "It can be heartbreaking at times knowing you were talking to a family member who just lost a relative to COVID-19," says Michelle. "Being human, you also at times worry about your own safety and those you supervise when dealing with vulnerable populations, but knowing they need assistance now more than probably ever before."

Jim Ford '04

Jim Ford '04 is a self-described “troublemaker,” actor, stuntman, and the author of the book, My Take on All Fifty States. His memoir features highlights of where his career has taken him throughout the years. Along with the busy schedule of a Hartt student, Ford also spent a year as Howie the Hawk. In this episode, Ford shares his experiences as a professional stuntman, including details of the scene in The Irishman for which he received a Screen Actors Guild nomination last year. A compilation of roles Ford has played can be watched here.

Christiana Lang '12

Christiana Lang '12 is a peace builder, an activist, and an upholder of equality. Since her time at UHart, she has worked in six different countries in a range of sectors including grass root efforts and with local, state, federal, and international entities. Lang is a former Peace Corps volunteer and has collaborated with members of the nonprofit community on issues involving public health, youth education, women’s empowerment, and social equality in Thailand, Sweden, and within the United States. She is currently working in the United States with the non-profit More in Common which looks at what underlying factors drive polarization and uses research to try and build more inclusive societies.

Latoya Hampton '03

Latoya Hampton '03 works as a mitigation specialist with men and women on death row—a far cry from her early aspirations of being a comedy writer on Saturday Night Live. Hampton began her career working with teens who were part of the juvenile and welfare systems, spending four years working with youth frustrated by not being able to connect with social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. In 2008, she earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. During her time at UHart, she was able to be her true authentic self, being creative and humorous in classes. One piece of advice she would give to anyone in a profession involving advocacy is, “Listen and learn.” 

Nina Vásquez '19

Nina Vásquez graduated from the University of Hartford in 2019, earning a dual degree in criminal justice and political science with an emphasis in racial and ethnic relations. She is currently an MA student in the University of Connecticut’s El Instituto of Latinx, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies. She is grateful for her time at UHart because she feels the program she was in and its faculty best prepared her for the real world. During her time she was president of two clubs, Criminal Justice Club—for which she was president all of her four years at UHart—and Race Together. She was a founding member of Race Together, created to provide a safe space for people of all color on campus where they could discuss racial issues. She says she was able to interact with faculty and students being a part of these two clubs.

Dan Robinson '16

In this episode of UHart to Hartford, Abe Hefter interviews Dan Robinson '16 about his experiences in the workplace after graduating from The Hartt School's music management program. Robinson currently is a project manager within the strategic operations team at Capitol Records