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Cinthya Grajeda ’17 talks about overcoming culture shock, going with her gut, and doing things her way.
Unorthodox is a word that could be used to describe Cinthya Grajeda’s route to the University of New Haven. When Cinthya was one year old,
her mother moved to the United States from their
home country of Guatemala, working three jobs in
order to provide a better life for Cinthya and her
three siblings, who stayed behind and were raised
by family members. Cinthya followed eleven years
later. At the age of 21, just two classes shy of an
associate’s degree at a local community college,
Cinthya was recruited to join the U.S. Army. After
serving for eight years, including two deployments
to Iraq — the second of which earned
her the rank of sergeant — Cinthya returned
home and enrolled at the University of New
Haven, majoring in cyber systems — a program
now called cybersecurity & networks — at
the Taglietela College of Engineering. In May
2017, she became the first person in her family
to graduate from college. Today, Cinthya is
a master’s candidate at the University with
a focus on cyber forensics and security.
Where do you think your tenacity comes from?
My father died when I was six months old. My mother did her best to raise me and my siblings, but it was difficult to make ends meet. She sacrificed, living alone in an unfamiliar country. She was brave. There
have been times in my life where every day was about survival. I thought about my mother in those times. I channeled her courage. I’ve always wanted to make her proud.
What was the hardest thing about moving to the
Middle school was a challenging time for me. It was
an incredible culture shock, and I had difficulty at
first learning to speak English. I would come home
after school and watch TV in English — The Dragon
Ball series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Bill Nye
the Science Guy. The hardest thing for me was trying
to communication with my peers in English. I was
also a little shy, so that did not help me much.
How did you become interested in having a career
When I moved to the United States, I took a community education class where all of the students built their own computers. I had my own station in
the classroom. I was surrounded by all sorts of tools,
parts, and software. There were instructors, but I had
difficulty understanding them since I was not fluent
in English then. Despite that, I was able to build my
own computer from scratch. I still consider this to be
one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences
of my life.
How is your time in the Army a part of the fabric
of your story?
When you think of a soldier, you don’t picture a fourfoot-
ten female fighting in a war. I saw it as a huge
challenge that gave me purpose. Through the military, I found myself. I found my voice. I found an inner
strength that helps me to never be afraid. The idea
of having a job took on a whole new meaning. Every
day, I was defending my country. That was my life.
What makes University of New Haven your home
away from home?
I joined the Cyber Forensics Research and Education
Group at the University as an undergraduate. The
members of this group are exemplary individuals.
They push me to be the best. They influence how
I approach every day. Being a part of this group has
exposed me to new people and new places. I’ve partnered
with professors on groundbreaking research.
These people are my peers and my colleagues —
but they are also my family.
My advice is to take risks for things that you are passionate about, and to never give up on following your dreams. So many strong women before us have paved the way by doing just that. They proved that we are just as capable of making an impact on the world as men are.Cinthya Grajeda ’17
What advice would you give to other women who
work in male-dominated fields?
Women can do anything that they set their minds to. My advice is to take risks for things that you are passionate about, and to never give up on following your dreams. So many strong women before us have
paved the way by doing just that. They proved that we are just as capable of making an impact on the world as men are. We should be role models for the
next generation of women coming up.
When you look back on where you’ve come from and all that you have accomplished, how would you
summarize where you are at this point in your life?
I have always tried to excel. I feel driven to continue growing in life both personally and professionally. I have found purpose and I have served. And I’m not