2011 GOLD graduate Kristen Queenan shares her reflections on how UMass Boston influenced her life.

When I arrived at UMass Boston as a freshman in the fall of 2007, I had no idea just how amazing the next four years of my life would be.  I had always assumed that I would head off to a residential college so that I could have that “real” college experience.  Roommates, dining halls, late night study sessions, parties, and so on.  However, my family’s financial situation coupled with personal medical woes dictated that it would be best for me to remain at home.

So instead, I was embarking on a path that was somewhat atypical in the North Shore suburb of Melrose, MA.  Unlike many of my peers who were heading off to college with duffel bags and Ramen Noodles, I was equipped with my monthly MBTA pass.  Commuter school here I came.

“At this world-class university there is a
tremendous sense of community and
of belonging regardless of background.”

Kristen Queenan ’11

My first week of classes at UMass Boston consisted of the typical hustle and bustle one would expect with start of the new academic year: finding classrooms, fighting the lines at the campus bookstore (the first and last time I ever purchased there before pledging allegiance to amazon.com) and wondering if any of the myriad of faces that passed by would become future friends.

I said to myself from the beginning that if UMass Boston didn’t work out, I would transfer to a residential school as I had planned to do from the beginning.  Of course, as I soon learned, life has a way of surprising us in the most wonderful ways.

Shortly after starting classes, I found that it wasn’t so hard to meet people on campus.  Everyone was in the same boat, wondering if they would be able to fit in at a school where so many students were coming and going.  It wasn’t long before I made friends to have lunch with and hang out with on the weekends. Once I dove into my College of Management courses, in addition to some fantastic professors with whom I remain in contact today, I met some of my dearest friends, who remain as such to this day.

Then, things really started to take shape once freshman year came to a close.  I did something I had never done before: I got involved at school outside of classes.  I took an on-campus student position as a peer advisor with the University Advising Center. Over summer and winter break for the next two years, I worked with incoming students at their orientation sessions to help them understand degree requirements and to select classes for the upcoming semester.

It was a pleasure to work under such a devoted group of academic advisors who truly believed in the success of the students; and I was pleasantly surprised by how much joy working with students provided me.  Despite my management major, then and there, I decided that corporate life and the world of business (unless I was starting my own) just wasn’t going to be for me.

Not long after my time as a peer advisor drew to a close, another wonderful door opened for me.  The College of Management tapped me to work as a tutor.  Tutoring Business Communications 290, I had the privilege of working with primarily non-native speakers of English.  Many of these students struggled greatly with their writing.  To witness their struggles and to be able to play even a small role in their comprehension surpasses any other job I have ever held in my life.  To top this off, one of those very students is now one of my best friends.

In June 2011, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in Management and Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Studies. I also graduated debt-free thanks to so many generous alumni who make giving back to UMass Boston a priority each year.

While I may have graduated owing nothing to the big banks or the federal government, in my heart I carry an enormous debt.  My four years at UMass Boston were the happiest four years of my life.  At this world-class university there  is a tremendous sense of community and of belonging regardless of background.

UMass Boston was my home away from home, not because of ridiculous term paper deadlines or a scattered class schedule, but because of the people who made it feel like home. Too many recent college graduates are not thinking about giving back to their respective institutions, particularly amidst an economy that remains in shambles.

Others simply get in, plow through, get out, and never look back. People make their choices in life for a reason and that is why it is my privilege and joy to give as generously as I am able to the College of Management and to the UMass Boston Fund each year.

Kristen Queenan ’11 is senior program coordinator at Boston University Law School.