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.
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UHart to Hartford Alumni Episodes
Shanta Lee Gander M'07
Sabrina Trocchi M'96
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
Jessica Floyd '18
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.
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