The Charger Blog

National Security Major: ‘To Be a First-Generation Student Means to Be a Risk Taker’

Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22 is the first member of his family to go to college. An active member of the University community, he aspires to become an immigration lawyer. We acknowledge him and the more than 40 percent of our students who identify as first-generation student as we participate in a nation-wide celebration of first-generation college students.

November 4, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Manuel Cortes-Jiimenez in Barcelona with friends.
Left to right: Lindsay Donohue ’22, Emily Johnson ’22, Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22, and Aaron Ostroff ’22 in Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain

When Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22 was a senior in high school, he attended an Open House at the University of New Haven. He says he “felt a click” at the event and knew he’d found his home for the next four years.

Initially interested in studying criminal justice, Cortes-Jimenez soon discovered a passion for national security, and he says he became hooked. Now a national security major with minors in economics, criminal justice, and political science, Cortes-Jimenez will be the first member of his family to earn a college degree when he graduates next year.

Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22 with some of his fraternity brothers.
Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22 with some of his fraternity brothers at their annual Meet The Greeks event, Spring of 2020.

“To be a first-generation student means to be a risk taker and a hard worker,” he said. “It means attaining a better future – not just for yourself, but for your family and for those who come after you.”

Cortes-Jimenez is among the many members of the University community – including students, faculty, staff, and alumni – who identify as first-generation students. They make up an integral and vibrant part of Charger Nation. The University is recognizing them as part of the National First-Generation College Celebration, which is held each year on November 8.

“It’s so important for the University to celebrate this because first-generation students are a pinnacle cornerstone of the University,” said Cortes-Jimenez. “We are chasing after more opportunities to not just advance ourselves, but our community as well. We are mentors, classmates, friends, and peers.”

Manuel Cortes-Jimenez and brothers at a fraternity leadership development dat.
Left to right: Kenneth Jeffrey ’20, Trevor Maillard ’22, Ryan Rosado ’22, Cristian Garay ’18, Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22, Cisco Batista ’22, and Christopher Wilson ’20 at a fraternity leadership development day.
‘Valuable connections I will be able to use in my life post-graduation’

Cortes-Jimenez has immersed himself in the opportunities he’s had at the University, and he says he has developed both personally and professionally during his time as a Charger. An Orientation and Transition Leader, he is a second-year resident assistant in Bethel Hall, director of finance for the Undergraduate Student Government Association, and a member of Latino America Unida, Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity Inc. He urges his fellow first-generation students to take advantage of every possible opportunity.

“Don’t just sit by and watch all these chances to grow pass by,” said Cortes-Jimenez, who also studied at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, during the Fall 2019 semester. “Take control of them and make them your own. The opportunities that come outside of the classroom are just as important as those within the classroom, and they are crucial to your overall development and growth as an individual. The skills and experiences you attain are incomparable.”

Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22 with his parents in Florence, Italy, during his semester abroad.
Manuel Cortes-Jimenez ’22 with his parents in Florence, Italy, during his semester abroad.

Cortes-Jimenez is grateful for the support of the staff at the University, who he says have guided him and encouraged him to challenge himself. He aspires to become an immigration lawyer, and he hopes to offer reassurance and guidance to those struggling to gain legal status in the U.S.

“National Security gave me the opportunity to study more than just a singular branch of a subject, allowing me to explore passions that I may have never found without it,” he said. “Taking advantage of all the opportunities I’ve had at the University has led to valuable connections I will use in post-graduation and beyond. I can safely say that I am a better person in comparison to who I was when I first came to the University.”