The Charger Blog

Exceptional Lee College Seniors Look to the Future

Some of the most accomplished members of the Class of 2021 from the University’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences reflect on their time as Chargers as they prepare for the next chapter.

May 12, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Left to right: Tom Knecht ’21, Marissa Lehner ’21, and Casey Lupo ’21.
Left to right: Tom Knecht ’21, Marissa Lehner ’21, and Casey Lupo ’21.

When Marissa Lehner ’21 was a first-year student at the University of New Haven, she says she was quiet and often reluctant to speak up. In taking advantage of every opportunity she had as a Charger, she has enjoyed getting involved and growing as a leader, and she says her experiences have enabled her to come out of her shell.

Lehner’s education and her involvement in the University community brought her to Europe, where she studied at the University’s campus in Tuscany, Italy. She also visited France and Chernobyl while taking “The War Course” with Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., a national security and political science professor. Lehner, who spent a total of three semesters abroad, also visited Germany to attend a conference for Model United Nations, an organization that she says has shaped her view of the world.

“A lot of the conversations I have had in Model UN have been really impactful and have played a role in the way I think about the world today,” she said. “What I enjoyed the most about it is the atmosphere. It’s a lot of fun to learn about some of today’s most important topics with people of completely different backgrounds and majors.”

Marissa Lehner ’21 in Paris.
Marissa Lehner ’21 in Paris.

Lehner will accept her bachelor’s degree in national security as part of the University’s Spring Commencement. She is among the approximately 1,600 members of the Class of 2021 who will be awarded their degrees during two ceremonies on May 17.

Her classmate and fellow national security major, Tom Knecht ’21, also has fond memories of his time as a Charger. He says his time as part of the Army ROTC program has enabled him to mentor other cadets and help them to grow into confident, resilient, and humble leaders.

“This program has profoundly changed my life for the better, providing me the motivation and direction of where I want to go after college,” said Knecht, who will serve as an Army Officer in the Armor branch for four years, then transfer into the Military Intelligence branch. “The overall positive climate the University of New Haven fosters has helped me grow and thrive alongside all my classmates. With all the available clubs, programs, and amenities on campus, it is hard not to be involved with the University community.”

Casey Lupo '21.
Casey Lupo ’21 is a member of the Army ROTC program.
‘My old self would be so proud of who I have become’

Casey Lupo ’21, a national security and criminal justice double major, is also a member of the Army ROTC program, enrolling as a first-year student. A member of several honor societies, she has fond memories of attending a variety of Chargers games, as well as the University’s Midnight Breakfast, during which faculty and staff serve breakfast for dinner to students before exams.

Lupo, too, will commission into the U.S. Army after graduation. She plans to serve as an Active Duty Military Intelligence Officer for the next six years. She will begin a Basic Officer Leadership Course this summer, where she will prepare to be an MI Second Lieutenant.

“My involvement in the University community has helped me grow as a person,” said Lupo, who hopes to work for a federal agency, such as the CIA, following her service. “I developed life skills that I will be able to carry on to my position in the Army and in my career after that. I learned to multi-task well. I have built relationships with lots of people that I'll carry with me past college.”

Amanda Pappas '21.
Amanda Pappas ’21.
‘Become the leader I am today’

Amanda Pappas ’21, president of the Class of 2021, will earn degrees in criminal justice and legal studies. Vice president of operations for the University’s Undergraduate Student Government Association and a Center for Learning Resources tutor, Pappas will pursue her J.D. at Seton Hall Law School. She credits her internships with the University’s Tow Youth Justice Institute and with the Public Defender’s Office of Somerset County, New Jersey, as part of the University’s Bergami Summer Internship Program with helping to prepare her for success.

Pappas, who aspires to work for a federal agency, criminal justice think tank, or to become a practicing lawyer specializing in criminal law, says she is grateful for the many opportunities she had to develop her leadership skills.

“The University has provided me with countless opportunities that ultimately have taught me the importance of effective leadership,” said Pappas, a member of the University’s Honors Program. “When I look back at the person I was when I started school, my old self would be so proud of who I have become. I always wanted to be a leader, and the University helped me step out of my comfort zone and use my voice to become the leader I am today.”

Allison Yu '21.
Allison Yu ’21, a forensic science major.
‘I’m excited to start the next chapter’

Pappas’s classmate, Allison Yu ’21, also a member of the University’s Honors Program, will accept her bachelor’s degree in forensic science. A member of the University’s Women’s Club Volleyball Team and Asian American Student Union, Yu plans to pursue a career conducting infectious disease research. She plans to explore post-baccalaureate research programs to enable her to gain experience working in an infectious diseases laboratory before attending graduate school.

Allison Yu '21.
Allison Yu ’21

“Being at the University has allowed me to find my independence and grow both academically and professionally,” said Yu, who will continue working at Yale New Haven Hospital’s Specimen Processing Lab after graduation. “My classes and professors have helped me realize my true passions. My research as part of the Honors Program opened so many doors for me to further pursue my career in the biological sciences.”

Lehner, the national security major who studied around the globe, is also planning to continue her education after Commencement. She will pursue her master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution at American University in Washington, D.C.

“My time at the University has prepared me for success by helping me develop the skills I will need in grad school and beyond,” said Lehner, who completed internships in the Suffolk County, NY Legislature, West Haven City Clerk’s Office, and Nonviolence International New York. “I’m excited to start the next chapter and to build on all the amazing experiences I’ve had as a Charger.”