The Charger Blog

Accessibility Resources Center Director Passionate About Supporting Students’ Dreams

Meet Linda Copney-Okeke ’91, ’94, ’02 M.A., director of the University’s Accessibility Resources Center, who cherishes time with her family and who, coincidentally, first met her husband of more than 30 years in a business law class at the University of New Haven.

September 21, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Linda Copney-Okeke and her “natural family”, arm-in-arm, at a family reunion in Pennsylvania earlier this year.
Linda Copney-Okeke and her “natural family” at a family reunion in Pennsylvania earlier this year.

The lifeblood of the University of New Haven are the faculty and staff members who dedicate their lives to helping our students reach their goals. Periodically, we’ll introduce you to a member of the staff so you can learn more about them – beyond their day to day work.

Next up is Linda Copney-Okeke ’91, ’94, ’02 M.A, director of the University’s Accessibility Resources Center, who likes spending time enjoying nature and eating at her favorite Indian restaurant.

Renee Chmiel: What motivates or inspires you?

Linda Copney-Okeke: There are a few things that motivate and inspire me. First is my faith, second is my family, and third is my work. All three motivate and encourage me. My faith gives me strength and encouragement to be who I am and to live life to the fullest, while helping others to do the same. My family is my rock, whether it is my natural family, my faith family, or my cultural family. My work motivates me to get up every day to see whose life I can encourage, whether it is by meeting an immediate need or by helping someone reach a long-term goal.

Linda Copney-Okeke and her “church family” pose for a photo.
Linda Copney-Okeke and her “church family” at a picnic in Stratford, Conn.

RC: What is your favorite place to be?

LCO: My two favorite places are being outside in nature and anywhere my family gathers. All of my life, from when I was a young child until today, I have enjoyed being outdoors and just taking in the sights and sounds of nature. I enjoy the silence and peacefulness in the forests, seeing animals skittering by in their natural habitats, birds flying overhead and butterflies alighting on flowers, and hearing the sound of ocean waves and creeks babbling.

What I love about nature is that it has a way of centering you and giving you a new perspective. When you live in a place where you can notice that seasons change, you can come to an understanding that you should expect that life also changes. The old dies off and the new arises. Each has its challenges and its triumphs, and we have to embrace them all.

When I say that anywhere family gathers is my favorite place, what I mean is that my family is one of the most important parts of my life. I grew up the middle child of seven, and our bond is unbreakable. When you hear a lot of folks talk about those dreaded family gatherings, that’s not my family. Though we have lost some of my siblings, we (siblings & offspring) try to get together every year, and when we do, it is always one of the most enjoyable times of the year. We all look forward to it no matter where we get together. Whether we gather in Florida, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or the Caribbean, we have a great time together.

RC: What about the current academic year are you most looking forward to?

LCO: What I look forward to most about the academic year is the opportunity to welcome and support students’ individual dreams. I am grateful to have the opportunity to meet students where they are and watch them transform over their time at the University.

Linda Copney-Okeke, shoulder-to-shoulder, posing for a photo in matching purple 'disable the label' shirts.
Linda Copney-Okeke (center) at a “Disable the Label” event.

RC: What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

LCO: Since I, like a lot of people, am afraid of heights, I would say the most courageous thing I have done was to go up inside the Willis Tower in Chicago. I stepped out into a glass-encased room 1,000 feet above the ground and looked down, trusting that the glass would not break.

RC: When you were a student, what was your favorite subject?

LCO: When I was a student at the University of New Haven, I had several favorite classes, but a few in particular stand out, such as business law, college algebra, and any class with Mike Morris, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology. Business law stands out because that is the class in which I met my husband of 34 years.

College algebra stands out because I didn’t have a very good algebra teacher in high school, so I was sure after taking that class that I wasn’t good at math. But when I took the class at the University, I understood that I actually was good at math. My instructor knew how to teach math.

I enjoyed any class with Dr. Morris because it was in his classes that I felt I learned the most. He had high expectations, and I worked hard to meet them. I loved Dr. Morris while I was in class with him because he was funny and witty and made the material engaging, but we hated him when we were doing the homework because it took a lot of effort.

RC: If you could go back to when you were in college and give yourself advice, what would you say?

LCO: I would tell myself to do college right out of high school. I did not have that opportunity, so I completed all of my college degrees while working full-time and after getting married and becoming a mother. College life is easier, I believe, if you don’t have a lot of responsibilities added to everything you are trying to do to complete an education.

Linda Copney-Okeke poses for a photo along with her colleagues at an awards ceremony.
Linda Copney-Okeke (third from right) attending a University awards ceremony in April 2019.

RC: What are your favorite restaurants in the New Haven area?

LCO: Coromandel in Orange, Conn., is my favorite restaurant, as I love Indian food. I don’t have a favorite dish there, as everything I have eaten there has been delicious. A close second would be Solun in Woodbridge, Conn., a tapas restaurant with a Spanish influence. I absolutely love their diablo calamari!