by Karen McCormick, ’07
Kristine Folkerts believes big changes can come from helping small communities.
“Helping even just a few people is better than being apathetic,” she says.
| Kristine Folkerts with Philip Marcus, professor of molecular and cell biology.
Folkerts, a molecular and cell biology major with a minor in African Studies, went to Kenya with Operation Crossroads Africa in the summer of 2004.
Through this program, she shadowed doctors, gave patients bed baths, and helped run two free health clinics that provided care to more than 3,000 people.
After spending time in a hospital where nearly 50 percent of patients had HIV, she realized how much help was needed.
“I saw at least two children die from preventable diseases,” she said, “Ever since I came back, I’ve been interested in public health and health disparities, especially in Africa.”
While in Ghana during the summer of 2006, Folkerts studied the malaria care-seeking behaviors of mothers in four different rural communities.
With the help of a translator, she interviewed these women to learn about the different treatments used for malaria and to highlight factors that prevented timely and appropriate care.
Folkerts, who delivered remarks to the graduating class during the afternoon Commencement ceremony on May 6, entered UConn as a Nutmeg Scholar and has maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout her time at the University.
She says being in the Honors Program has been a “wonderful experience.
“Through the Honors Program, I was able to take many small classes and work one-on-one with professors,” Folkerts says.
“Also they have given me so much support for all my independent projects.” This includes research funding and scholarships for her work overseas.
She says she originally wanted to do graduate work in molecular biology, but her experiences in Africa altered what she wants to do in the future.
“It’s so rewarding to have personal contact with people and to feel like you are making a direct impact on their lives,” she says.
She has been accepted to medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she will pursue a combined medical degree and master’s in public health. She hopes to work in an international setting.
by Richard Veilleux
When Kevin Tyler was in high school, he was all about grades. And it showed.
The grades he received were excellent.
| Kevin Tyler, one of two class representatives, speaks during the morning undergraduate Commencement ceremony at Gampel Pavilion.
|Photo by Peter Morenus
Once he got to UConn, everything changed – except his grades.
“I had an educational transformation at UConn,” says Tyler, one of about 20 Honors Scholars in the class that graduated May 6.
“At E.O. Smith High School,” he says, “I was driven by grades, but when I got here I fell in love with the learning process in general. It was empowering. UConn is a great place for an undergraduate career.”
Tyler, who majored in electrical engineering, was named senior class representative and spoke during the morning ceremony.
He warned the about 3,100 graduates that their genius may not be noticed at times during their careers, but that shouldn’t stop them from striving to be their best.
“There will likely be times when you are exhibiting genius ... genius that is barely noticed by those around you,” he said, referring to a staged event when the famous classical violinist Joshua Bell played just outside a Washington, D.C., metro station, his violin case open at his feet for donations, and only seven of more than 1,000 people stopped to listen.
“Bell, the virtuoso playing to the rush hour crowd … is met with no applause, no acknowledgement of his genius. Yet he still played on with all his talent and heart …,” said Tyler.
“Today, we leave the protective circle of our friends and professors to exercise our talents in a world that may be indifferent to our efforts. Like Bell, we are no less committed to the field of our endeavors, and no less gifted in our contributions.”
It’s unlikely the world will be indifferent to Tyler’s efforts. He not only earned top grades, prestigious scholarships, and the Outstanding Senior Award in Electrical Engineering in 2007, he also conducted research at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven.
There he helped create an interactive toy designed to encourage speech development in autistic children, many of whom do not develop an ability to speak. His sister is autistic.
Tyler, who also earned a minor in mathematics, will work for Bridgewater Associates in Westport, doing “financial engineering,” creating quantitative tools for investing.