SNHU Impact Magazine February 2024

Impact Magazine Logo
February 2024
Graduate smiling holding diploma with illustrative circles
Gabi Zolla headshot

Letter From Gabi

As the new Vice President of Institutional Advancement, I am delighted to welcome you to our latest edition of Impact, the SNHU magazine for alumni, donors, and volunteers.

Southern New Hampshire University has always prided itself on being more than just a place of learning; it is a lifelong community. SNHU transforms lives at scale, and our alumni community, more than 230,000 strong, is an integral part of this mission. Your dedication to our shared mission is a source of Penmen pride.

In the following pages, you will hear about how we are supporting our first-generation learners with our persistence teams and how we are exposing students to civic engagement through our Chandler Center. We will celebrate our alumni and honor SNHU President Paul LeBlanc’s legacy as our trailblazing leader.

Our commitment to building a community of engagement and giving is unwavering. We want to provide you with opportunities to stay connected, not only to the university but also to your fellow alumni. We want to foster a culture of giving, where your knowledge, time, and resources can be channeled into making SNHU’s work more impactful. Whether it is through volunteering as an interviewer during Mock Interviews, offering a student an internship opportunity, contributing to student scholarships, or organizing a volunteer service project for Global Days of Service with fellow alumni, your involvement is critical to our learners’ success.

Thank you for helping us to build a vibrant community of engagement and giving – a community that not only honors its past but actively shapes its future. Welcome to Impact, where your story is celebrated, and your voice is heard.

With gratitude,

Gabi Zolla
Vice President, Institutional Advancement


Daughter and parents smiling together in SNHU field hockey support merchandise
Group photo of people holding presents in front of a sprinter van that says amiko youth program
  • President
    Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc
  • Managing Editors
    Audrey Bourque
  • Erin McGonagle ’15G
  • Contributors
    Paige Cooke
  • Zach Davidson ’17
  • Melanie Drolet ’16
  • Katie Dugan ’20G
  • Olivia Gage, Class of 2024
  • Lauren Keane ’18G
  • Courtney Lawson ’16 ’17MBA
  • Siobhan Lopez
  • Lauren Maynard
  • Sophia Peguri ’23
  • Lisa St. Hilaire
  • Jen Salafia ’11 ’13G
  • Rachael Sears
  • Shayla Walsh ’08 ’10G
  • Graphic Design
    Krystal Siemon
  • Printing
    RC Brayshaw
  • Digital Magazine
  • Impact is published by the Office of Institutional Advancement
    Gabi Zolla, Vice President,
    Institutional Advancement
  • Changes of address may be sent to or to:
    Office of Institutional Advancement
    Southern New Hampshire University
    2500 North River Road
    Manchester, NH 03106-1045

    The mission of Institutional Advancement is to advance the University through engagement. We encourage generosity and build community so that our learners and alumni can succeed.
  • To learn more, visit
Man smiling with white hair, wearing a dark gray suit and a striped tie, sitting in lounge with students in the background

Reflecting on 20 Years of Service to SNHU

After 20 of the best years of my professional and personal life, it’s time that I step down from my role as President of Southern New Hampshire University.

When I came to SNHU in 2003, I found a home. In this small New Hampshire campus, I found a rock-solid commitment to mission, a dedication to students, and a hunger to do more and be more. At the time, I never envisioned we’d be the university we are today, but I knew that at this university I would find purpose and joy.

Group of men and women sitting around a table smiling
Throughout my tenure, our students have always been an inspiration to me. One of my favorite moments each year is standing at the end of the clap line after Commencement and meeting students eager to tell their stories. Those are often stories of triumph over loss or illness or other obstacles. They are about making their kids proud or keeping a promise to a parent no longer with us. They are veterans, parents juggling work and family and study, and front-line workers seeking better work and careers. They include parents and children marching together, grandparents fulfilling a long-held dream, and graduates who were long told they couldn’t now proving to the world that they indeed could.
Man in red collegiate robes, a hat with a tassel,  and a medal around his neck, standing next to a woman in black collegiate robes and a hat with a tassel in front of a blue background
Our students have fueled my passion and love for this university, and one of my greatest joys over the last two decades has been seeing our students join the alumni community – which has grown by more than 200,000 graduates since 2003. Our alumni are diverse and accomplished, enriching the student experience in so many ways and building authentic connections amongst students, alumni, donors, faculty and staff, and community partners. I love seeing alumni reunite at Homecoming each year or make new connections at the regional events we’ve held around the country. It seems that no matter where I’m traveling, near or far, I meet someone with a connection to SNHU and a story about how their education has profoundly impacted their life.

During my time at SNHU, we have navigated a global pandemic, achieved unprecedented enrollment figures, ensured financial stability, and assembled a formidable team to carry this work forward. I am so excited for Lisa Marsh Ryerson, and for the entire community, as she steps into the role of President. Lisa and I (pictured above) have been professional colleagues for years, throughout her leadership roles at Wells College and the AARP Foundation. As a former SNHU Board member and our current University Provost, she knows our people, our systems, and our students, and she is a passionate educator to her core. There is so much to look forward to for SNHU, and I can’t wait to see how our students and alumni continue to make their impact.

Man with white hair in black and red collegiate robes and a medal around his neck, taking a picture with two female students holding diplomas, flowers in the background
Man with white hair, taking a selfie with 13 students behind him
Man in red collegiate robes with one leg raised out in front of him, smiling at camera
I’ve always said I’d never work anywhere but SNHU, but I’m not well built for retirement. Starting July 1, I will embark on a sabbatical researching AI, human systems, and the future of higher education, and of course I’ll continue to be an ambassador for the university. As my wife, Pat, and I eagerly look forward to embracing the roles of grandparents, it’s even clearer to me that education is the most powerful tool we have for positive social change, and AI is a tool for improving education for all. I look forward to the work ahead and embracing new roles and opportunities, and I offer my profound gratitude to the SNHU community for these many years of partnership in our shared mission of empowering students to transform their lives.
Be well,
Paul LeBlanc Signature

Supporting First-Generation Learners at SNHU

By Lauren Maynard and Paige Cooke
Over 40% of SNHU learners identify as ‘first-generation,’ meaning they are the first in their families to attend college. The University views this as an opportunity to understand the unique needs of this population and identify ways to support them to help them succeed. As a result, the University has developed first-generation specific training resources for employees, as well as programming and resources available for learners.

Many first-generation learners don’t know what to expect when coming to college. Joie Gibson ’15 ’18G – an SNHU alumna, staff member, and faculty member – recalls her experience as a student: “I couldn’t ask my parents to help me with my homework because my dad dropped out of school in seventh grade.” As Helena Iaquinta – user experience researcher, DEI, and one of the First-Gen Workgroup representatives – states, “There often feels like there is a rule book for college that not all students receive. So the more we can illuminate confusing acronyms, terms that don’t make sense, and be explicit about how to get help with assignments, that is really important to make sure first-generation students do not fall behind.”

First Scholars Network

In order to help our faculty and staff support this unique population of learners, SNHU has joined the First Scholars Network, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation, demonstrating the university’s commitment to improving outcomes and success of first-generation college students. The network includes 350 colleges and universities and helps institutions support first-generation students to gain knowledge of resources and establish peer networks and communities of practice.

“As SNHU continues its commitment to access and social mobility, earning the First Scholars Network designation is a testament of our dedication to providing the support and resources that are so vital to the success of our first-generation learners,” said Dr. James Winfield, SNHU’s associate dean of first-year experience, general education, and retention strategies.

Four students in a lounge on green furniture, two are playing video games and two are watching
“Over the past four years, we’ve really prioritized empowering our first-gen students through a pilot sponsored by the SNHU Social Justice Fund and an ongoing resource group,” said Iaquinta. “This NASPA designation aims to spark a ripple effect across departments, uniting all staff in these efforts. We anticipate this intentional support for our first-gen population will help boost retention and success and we cannot wait to see those results.”

During the first year of membership in the First Scholars Network, member schools commit to building an understanding of first-generation student success by participating in a series of workshops, networking, and professional development opportunities, as well as participation in a peer community.

“Being named as a First Scholars Network member is an exciting opportunity for these institutions to join a dedicated community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country,” Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA, said in a release.

The designation as a First Scholars Network member is the first of four phases culminating in achieving the status of First Student Champion Campus.

Building a Community of First-Generation Learners

During the week of Nov. 6, 2023, SNHU celebrated National First-Generation College Student Celebration Week. On campus, about 100 first-gen students attended events such as a first-gen celebration lunch, Big Money Bingo, and a Mario Kart tournament, all of which were developed to cultivate a sense of belonging and deep care for these students, and to raise awareness about supports available to them. Many continuing-gen students also joined, supporting their friends and learning more about the first-gen experience.

“I hope this continues growing,” said Dr. Lynn Zlotkowski, senior director of campus student retention and success. “It’s important for SNHU to host events for first-gen students because we have a high percentage of first-gen students on our campus, and they need to see how proud we are of them. We want them to make connections with other first-gen students and with the faculty and staff who are here to cheer them on and support them.”

Two people playing video games looking at screen in distance while one eats a popsicle
As a resource for first-generation campus students, the First-Gen Lounge on campus, located in the Academic Center, room 107, was opened in the beginning of the fall 2023 semester. The lounge provides students with a place to relax, do homework, and develop friendships with others sharing the same lived experience. Abigail Mason, a campus sophomore, says that “the First-Generation Lounge makes me feel like I have a community with other first-generation students who understand what it’s like to be first in your family to come to college. Having students that also relate, and we can discuss and then help further generations down the road, is really special.”

In the online space, the First-Generation Learning Resource Group hosted a virtual panel featuring SNHU employees who were the first in their families to graduate from college: Academic Advisor Joie Gibson ’15 ’18G, Career Services Advisor David Munn, and Academic Advising Team Lead Hannah Hodes.

The panelists shared their journeys as first-generation college students – how they overcame challenges, what they learned along the way, and what they are doing now with their degrees. There were more than 130 students, faculty, and staff in attendance.

Panelist Hannah Hodes agreed and said that faculty and staff can play a critical role in supporting first-gen learners. “It’s essential for faculty and staff to continue (or start) getting involved and support first-generation students because they need the support. First-gen students are often left to navigate the maze of higher education on their own, and they simply don’t know what they don’t know. If we have a way of making these students more visible to student-facing departments, and we couple that with providing proper resources for supporting first-gen students, then we can provide real, proactive, in-time support without having to wait for the student to ask.”

Hodes said she encourages students to connect with their advisors and get involved. “Students can join the First-Generation Learning Resource Group on SNHUconnect, our virtual student union, and mention their first-gen status in their discussion posts each term. Branch out and make connections. We mean it when we say there is an army of people supporting them and cheering them on!


Partnership with Connection allows esports program to excel

By Katie Dugan ’20G

When the esports program was founded at SNHU in 2019, it consisted of just a few players and coaches in a dedicated room in Stark Hall. The program continued to grow with the opening of the Esports Arena in October 2021, sponsored by Connection. Two years on, thanks to the partnership with Connection, the esports program has continued to grow, by sourcing technology equipment for the program, and by providing students with experiential learning opportunities to help them find a career path in esports.

“When students think about getting jobs in esports, they are primarily thinking, ‘I can play video games professionally,’ ” said Tim Fowler, director of esports.

With this partnership, students can get insight into “a variety of different jobs that they could have, whether it be in sales for Connection, esports programs, communications or technology jobs,” said Fowler.

In the future, Fowler hopes to work with Connection to host career events for students to understand what their industry is like, better preparing them for career advancement after graduation.

announcers sitting up front at SNHU esports complex
The SNHU esports program now consists of 45 varsity players competing in five different games: League of Legends, Overwatch, Super Smash Brothers, Rocket League, and Valorant. In addition to competing, 30 work study students assist in running the program. The operations team handles the maintenance of the equipment via arena technicians. The event and tournament organizer coordinates events and tournaments. The content team consists of graphic designers, video producers, stream technicians, and commentators. Fowler says that students involved in the esports program come from a variety of educational pathways, including students who are working toward degrees in communications, computer science, sport management, and business.

An added bonus to the partnership with Connection requires that students on the content team learn how to work with a brand.

“The students are really the ones running the show from that perspective. They make sure that the Connection logo is on everything and that it’s being featured appropriately. It gives them a better understanding of how marketing works and how producing content that requires sponsorship works because we’re integrating that,” said Fowler.

SNHU and Connection have had a long-standing relationship. Roughly 25% of Connection’s workforce consists of SNHU alumni, including Tim McGrath, the CEO. Prior to the esports sponsorship, Connection has worked with the SNHU Professional Sales Program. Fowler says that Connection expressed interest in esports, wanting to understand the sport better, and support his advocacy for bringing esports to communities outside of SNHU.

“Connection has been really interested in getting high school esports off the ground. They’ve been working with me to try to put together packages for New Hampshire high schools,” said Fowler.

students smiling and fist bumping while sitting in front of computers at the SNHU esports complex
In addition to competing in their own tournaments, the esports team will host matches for high school players and the general public. The students organize and run the matches by inviting teams to play, streaming the matches on Twitch, coordinating video production, setting up equipment, and more. The esports team hosts a monthly Super Smash Brothers tournament that is open to the public, sometimes drawing in over 100 players. Partnered with the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA), the esports team supports tournaments in the Arena and on campus for 12 high school teams.

“[Connection] has had a huge presence within the SNHU community in various aspects,” said Ed Ithier, director of development for the Office of Institutional Advancement. “The relationship with Connection has provided students not only with an experiential learning aspect, but also teaches them how to work as a team.”

SNHU Students Make a Seriously Fun Impact in Ireland

By Olivia Gage, Class of 2024
front outdoor view of Barretstown castle
In August 2023, a group of ten Chandler Center students departed Boston for Ireland to serve as volunteers at a summer camp called Barretstown, which is part of a network of Serious Fun camps across the globe with the mission of providing camp experiences to children with serious illnesses and their families. For the past 20 years, Barretstown has allowed families to attend the camp at no cost. As of last summer, Barretstown has hosted 100,000 campers from across Europe.

Cara is the Irish word for “friend” and refers to volunteers, camp counselors, activity leaders, and any other support staff that ensures camps run smoothly. Ten students served as caras filling in the role of camp counselors. Each cara was assigned a cottage (the same as what Americans call a cabin at a summer camp) and spent the following seven days with a group of ten campers and fellow caras.

Upon arrival, students were given a day to acclimate to the time change and explore Dublin. The following day, students were bussed from Dublin to the camp for a full day of training. After approximately twelve hours of training, caras moved into their cottages and anxiously awaited the campers’ arrival the following day.

student posing in front of Barretstown castle
Once campers arrive, the life of a cara shifts from self-focus to camper focus. Everything revolves around the happiness and safety of the campers. Over seven days, caras are with campers for twelve to fifteen hours a day. Activities during the day included arts and crafts, music, canoeing, fishing, rock climbing, archery, low ropes, horseback riding, music, drama, studio (music video making) and scrapbooking.

One of the most special moments of camp occurred each night before bed. Every night the camp had a “Cottage Chat.” Cottage Chat was when all the campers were in bed and a reflection question was asked. The reflection question is typically focused on lighter topics early in the week and slowly shifts toward deeper questions that allow campers to process the emotions associated with their illnesses. These questions often left the campers feeling closer and the caras shocked by their emotional maturity and ability to handle their situations with grace. Most caras find themselves carrying around the answers from campers for years to come and take the lessons they learned from campers to heart.

The final evening of camp there was a celebration of the week with everyone gathered in the theater to watch a slideshow, hand out awards, and express thanks to everyone who made camp possible. After all campers are picked up, caras have a debrief session. At the debrief session, caras were commended for their hard work over the past week and were given the space to process emotions and say their goodbyes.

Barretstown allows SNHU students to gain valuable tools for their future academic years, careers and life in general. All students who participated in this year’s trip are thankful for their experience, the generosity of Laurie ’89MBA and Clarke Chandler, the Chandler Center, and SNHU for the opportunity to attend Barretstown.

The Chandlers remain committed to supporting the important work of The Chandler Center and the students it serves. Thanks to their dedication, The Chandler Center has been able to introduce students to new engagement and learning experiences, such as the trip to Barretstown.

After the trip, students had the opportunity to write letters of thanks to Laurie and Clarke. Brooke Rowell wrote in her letter, “I am forever grateful for this trip, and I will spend a lifetime remembering the girls, remembering the memories, and holding a special place in my heart for people like you who add positivity and wholesomeness to a complicated life. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you. Not only for the monetary value of this trip, but especially for the change I see in the world and in the people in it after this trip, and for the difference I got to make in someone else’s life. Thank you for being you and thank you for sharing the most magical gift of a lifetime with me.”

Alexia Umugwaneza ’23 and fellow graduates sitting at a table decorated with blue and yellow items

SNHU’S Global Education Movement

By Rachael Sears

At Southern New Hampshire University, our commitment to transforming lives has never stopped at the boundaries of our campus in New Hampshire – we work worldwide to provide access to education to learners. There is no better example of this mission than SNHU’s Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM).

SNHU GEM launched in 2017 as the first higher education program to offer refugees the opportunity to earn high-quality, U.S.–accredited degrees and gain real-world skills that open pathways to employment and self-determination.

Globally, 110 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes by war, climate change, and other conflicts. It’s a troubling reality that many displaced people face barriers that prevent them from learning or working in their host communities. Creating pathways to education and employment can be transformative not only for our graduates’ lives but also the lives of their families and communities as well.

SNHU GEM has grown so much since its earliest days – our program has expanded from one site to span six countries and 13 locations. We have served more than 3,500 students in Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Lebanon, Turkey, and South Africa.

Partnership is at the heart of SNHU GEM’s growth and success. At each site, we work with in-country organizations that provide vital wraparound support services to help students succeed. Whether they choose to continue their education, start their own businesses, or find career opportunities across the globe, SNHU GEM graduates have the tools they need to embark on the next steps of their journeys.

In November, President Paul LeBlanc and I had the opportunity to visit our SNHU GEM sites in Rwanda and Kenya, where we work alongside our on-the-ground partners – Kepler in Rwanda and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Kenya. During our visit, we met with faculty, staff, and students to learn more about how we can better support the unique needs of displaced learners. We made powerful visits to the Kibera slum in Nairobi and the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where we heard stories about the many challenges that these communities face. And we had the immense pleasure of celebrating graduation with the SNHU GEM Class of 2023.

Alexia Umugwaneza ’23 wearing her black graduation cap with a white blazer with gold buttons while standing in front of a table display with a blue table cloth and flowers and diploma sitting on it
Alexia Umugwaneza ’23

We often say that no one does Commencement better than SNHU, but watching refugee learners from SNHU GEM accept their diplomas is always a special joy. This fall, SNHU GEM and our in-country partners gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, and Nairobi, Kenya, to witness 163 displaced learners receive their diplomas and celebrate their accomplishments with their classmates, friends, and families.

During our trip, I connected with many refugee learners who were generous enough to share their personal stories with me. Two of the alumni I spoke with, Alexia Umugwaneza ’23 and Mupenzi Niyomugabo ’23, described journeys that I believe embody the dedication, talent, and skill of our graduating class.

Alexia Umugwaneza, a Class of 2023 alumna and refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), graduated with an associate degree in General Studies and is currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in Business from SNHU GEM and JRS Kenya.

Like many SNHU GEM students, Alexia is the first person in her family to graduate with a university degree. Her father was passionate about Alexia continuing her education, but her parents did not have the funds to support her university education. Alexia was thrilled to receive a scholarship to attend SNHU GEM and JRS Kenya.

Prior to graduation, Alexia accepted a job as a program assistant for a non-government organization (NGO) in South Sudan. She attributes her success in the role to her degree and the practical experience she gained in the SNHU GEM program.

Alexia’s goal is to become an advocate for displaced people – “a voice for the voiceless” who reminds international decision makers of an important truth: “that refugees are also human beings; that refugees can have access to education, and equal rights.”

Mupenzi Niyomugabo ’23 standing outside in between two rows of classrooms wearing his black graduation cap, a black suit with a blue tie, and a green stole around his shoulders
Mupenzi Niyomugabo ’23

Mupenzi Niyomugabo, a Class of 2023 alumnus and refugee from the DRC, accepted his bachelor’s degree in Management with a concentration in Logistics and Operations at the graduation ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda.

When he discovered that he had been accepted into the program, Mupenzi seized the opportunity to pursue his education, and leveraged his education to pursue new employment opportunities. Today, he works as a Business Associate at Inkomoko, a Kigali-based organization that provides training, advisory, and low-cost financing to entrepreneurs. He credits his education at SNHU GEM and Kepler for his quick advancement at the organization.

According to Mupenzi, a first-generation graduate and father of two: “Graduation is a big milestone for me. It provides hope for the future, that I can achieve more things. I hope to show my two boys so much with my degree – including that hard work pays off, and nothing is impossible.”

Our work at SNHU GEM is not done, and 2024 promises to bring more exciting developments. Recently, SNHU GEM opened a new site in the city of Gaziantep, Turkey. Together with our longtime partner Multi Aid Programs (MAPS), we will provide refugee students in Turkey with access to fully accredited degrees and wraparound academic and livelihood supports that pave the way for brighter, more secure lives.

In the new year, SNHU GEM will continue to increase its impact and reach, and remain committed to supporting refugees as they become leaders in their own communities and drive conversations about refugee rights around the globe.

We will also continue to increase the number of students we serve – at the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum in December, SNHU GEM made a commitment to serve 5,000 refugee learners in higher education by 2030.

We do this work because we know that while talent abounds, opportunity does not. Education has the power to level the playing field, and we are committed to providing refugee learners worldwide with the support and opportunities they need to pursue brighter, more secure lives.


By Melanie Drolet ’16
On November 18, 2023, Southern New Hampshire University welcomed graduates from all 50 states and 50 countries to the SNHU Arena. Our three fall ceremonies celebrated 2,700 associate degrees, 14,000 bachelor’s degrees, 5,700 master’s degrees, and eight doctoral degrees. Graduates ranged from ages 14 to 85. Our 22,500 eligible Fall 2023 graduates, including 2,572 military-affiliated learners, have joined a community of more than 230,000 SNHU alumni.

Read on to meet some of our newest graduates, and check out some of our favorite moments on video at


By Melanie Drolet ’16
On November 18, 2023, Southern New Hampshire University welcomed graduates from all 50 states and 50 countries to the SNHU Arena. Our three fall ceremonies celebrated 2,700 associate degrees, 14,000 bachelor’s degrees, 5,700 master’s degrees, and eight doctoral degrees. Graduates ranged from ages 14 to 85. Our 22,500 eligible Fall 2023 graduates, including 2,572 military-affiliated learners, have joined a community of more than 230,000 SNHU alumni.

Read on to meet some of our newest graduates, and check out some of our favorite moments on video at

Eyleen Dias ’24
Eyleen Dias ’24 moved to the United States from Brazil when she was 16, and quickly learned English and adjusted to life in the United States. Adapting to a new language, environment, and way of learning was tough on Eyleen, but she forged through and graduated from high school with a 4.00 GPA and several honors. When Eyleen arrived at SNHU as a freshman, she quickly became engaged actively in campus life. Through her time at SNHU, Eyleen served as a Resident Assistant, a Team IMPACT Fellow, President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and more. As the captain of the Volleyball team, she recently led the team to the NCAA Regional Quarters. Eyleen graduated from SNHU in December 2023, nearly two years earlier than anticipated. Eyleen has many accomplishments to be proud of, but she is most proud of her resilience and the connections that she has made at SNHU.
Sheila Barnes ’23 and Sharla Barnes ’23
Sheila Barnes ’23 and Sharla Barnes ’23 are identical twin sisters from New York who both earned criminal justice degrees with SNHU. The duo worked as school security officers in the city, and hope to use their education to pursue careers in the court system.
Marilyn Barth ’23
Marilyn Barth ’23, a 75-year-old performing arts instructor and world champion ballroom dancer from Las Vegas, achieved her bachelor’s degree after a remarkable 50-year journey. Marilyn had paused her education to focus on her career and family, but when COVID forced her studio’s closure, she decided to resume her studies while running her business virtually. At Fall Commencement, she earned her general studies degree, and hopes to show her kids and grandkids it’s never too late.
Samiyah Muhammad ’23 and Diana Sanda ’21 ’24G
Samiyah Muhammad ’23 and Diana Sanda ’21 ’24G are a couple from Arizona. The duo has taken their share of challenges in stride, facing homelessness, discrimination, and health complications, all while raising their son and earning their degrees. Diana is hoping to use her degree to pursue a new path in IT. Samiyah, leveraging her degree and her journey as a woman of color with disabilities, aspires to transition into advocacy work within the healthcare and justice systems. Samiyah chose to walk with her partner and forgo her own undergraduate ceremony, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. 
Roberto King-Williams ’24
Roberto King-Williams ’24 is an Army veteran and father of five from Maryland. He managed to finish his psychology degree while juggling two jobs and launching his very own nonprofit organization. Combining his education and personal experience, Roberto hopes to support other service members facing difficulties with substance abuse and mental health. 
Josh Tolentino ’23
Josh Tolentino ’23, a U.S. service member, completed his SNHU studies while deployed in the Middle East, wrapping up both his deployment and IT program at the same time. Josh immigrated from the Philippines as a child, and crossed the stage as a first-generation graduate, with a very proud family as his cheering squad. 
Luis Nieto Benitez ’23
Luis Nieto Benitez ’23 immigrated from Columbia at age 10 in pursuit of the American Dream. After completing high school, he underwent a brain surgery that temporarily halted his plans to attend college. After two unsuccessful attempts in higher ed, he finally found the right fit at SNHU. With his business degree, he secured a new position and is now using his studies to improve his company’s bookkeeping and marketing strategy. He also aspires to start a nonprofit to support the LGBTQ+ community at home and abroad.
Marisa Fertitta ’23 and Michael Fertitta ’23G
Marisa Fertitta ’23 and Michael Fertitta ’23G are fraternal twins from Massachusetts who opted for different modalities at SNHU to suit their individual needs. Michael pursued his degree on campus, focusing on communications with a minor in esports. As a broadcast technician for SNHU’s esports team, he aims to build a career in the esports industry. Marisa, on the other hand, prefers online learning and hopes to pursue a career in book publishing with her communications degree.

Student Voices:
Echoes of Gratitude

Kayleigh Philip headshot
Vyshnavi Muskula headshot
headshot of woman wearing an SNHU shirt
headshot of soldier smiling in uniform

What is Sponsored Scholars?

With a gift of $2,500 or more, you can have a remarkable impact on the life of a scholar and their family. The Sponsored Scholars Program creates a current use scholarship in your name, or the name of your choosing, for a student with financial need. Oftentimes, that scholarship is the extra boost an SNHU learner needs to reach the finish line. Supporters of the Sponsored Scholars Program receive a letter of thanks from the recipient of their scholarship. Since its inception, this program alone has awarded more than $440,000.
Want to make your own meaningful impact?
Name your own Sponsored Scholarship and make a difference in the life of a deserving student, visit
Gary St. Hilaire headshot
“While reading a story about a student being provided the opportunity to attend my alma mater because of a scholarship, I realized I owe a great deal to SNHU. While my parents gave what they could to pay for my college education, I relied on income from part-time work, student loans and scholarships. I started thinking that it was time for me to give back.”

“I’m comfortable continuing to support SNHU because of the direction the university has taken to hold down the cost of education and make it so accessible with online learning and other programs. University leaders have been good stewards with my giving, and I very much believe in the importance of giving back.”

Gary St. Hilaire ’86

woman wearing a flower crown and holding her college degree
man with his two daughters
headshot of person wearing glasses and a blue shirt

Hear from some of the students who have directly benefited from the Sponsored Scholars Program.

One of the most impactful reasons to fund a Sponsored Scholarship is the ability to make a personal connection with your recipient. Below are quotes pulled from students’ thank you letters, which are shared with the partners who stepped up to support SNHU learners’ educational aspirations.
“With this funding, I can pursue my goals and make a meaningful impact in my field. I am grateful for the opportunity that you have given me, and I promise to work hard to justify the trust you have placed in me. I look forward to updating you on my progress and sharing my successes.”
“It is an honor to be writing this letter of thanks as your kind and selfless donation will allow me to secure housing for the summer months which otherwise, I would not.”
“I chose to attend SNHU primarily because of the exceptional level of care and dedication exhibited by the faculty and staff towards the success of each student. SNHU prioritizes its students’ well-being and academic achievements in a truly remarkable way.”
“Your support is what changed the trajectory of this past year for me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
“Thank you to those that support student scholarships, you’re helping hard-working individuals achieve their dreams.”
“Your generosity has left me speechless, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“When I felt like there was no hope, you showed me the light at the end of the tunnel. You gave me the push I needed to not give up. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to live out my dreams.”
“Your support has had a profound impact on my educational journey and has allowed me to continue to pursue my goals with enthusiasm.”
“I am forever grateful for you and what you are doing for me and will remember this during my lifetime and hopefully someday I am able to give back to someone in my shoes.”
“The last few months have been difficult, and this is truly the blessing I needed, so that I could continue with school and get back on track.”
“Your kindness has not only lightened my financial burden but also inspired me to strive for excellence in my studies.”

Linking Basic Needs to Persistence

By Siobhan Lopez
In its commitment to supporting learners in all areas of their higher education journey, Southern New Hampshire University is always looking for ways to improve the student experience: whether it be through updating programs to fit workforce needs or to help address any barriers our learners may face on their path to a degree. Launched in 2022, SNHU’s Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice (CHEPP) seeks to advance higher ed policy for all students, not just at SNHU, by collaborating with policymakers to develop scalable, sustainable policy solutions from a learner-centered perspective. One area CHEPP is focused on is the importance of students having their basic needs met to stay enrolled and succeed in their studies. In a two-part series, CHEPP examines the use and impact of federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants at SNHU during the pandemic and the national challenge of accessing basic needs for today’s learners.

Released in the fall of 2022, the first report in the series, Basic Needs Funding for College Students: What Southern New Hampshire University Learned During the Pandemic, detailed SNHU’s findings that students’ most identified basic needs in 2020 were housing, food, and transportation. SNHU received a total of $107 million in HEERF support and distributed the funding in three waves as emergency basic needs grants to over 50,000 students. While HEERF funds could be used for institutional needs, SNHU chose to pass all the aid directly to students. SNHU students who received support reported the emergency funding came just in time and helped them persist in their academic programs.

While the federal funding helped students stay enrolled during a national crisis, many of the learners SNHU serves continue to have similar needs as we have emerged from the pandemic.

“Thank you so much for your generosity in extending funds to me,” said an SNHU student who received HEERF funding. “It means the world to me to be able to pay two of my medical bills and get some needed groceries. I appreciate what was offered and hope someday that I can return such an act of generosity. Because of your generosity, I am able to stay in school for my next semester and that means the world to me.”
“Just as these needs existed before the pandemic, they are certainly existing post-pandemic, particularly as individuals feel the cost of living continue to rise,” the report said. “Reducing barriers to access and creating more efficient means for learners to access funds, such as through automatic eligibility across programs or through applying for financial aid, will be essential to ensuring funds are reaching those who need them.”

The latest paper released in October 2023, Does Basic Needs Funding Improve Persistence Among College Students? Findings on How HEERF Dollars Impacted Student Persistence at SNHU, examined whether HEERF funding had a significant positive impact on learner persistence, and found SNHU students who received grants during the second round were 15.5% more likely to still be enrolled eight months later than those who didn’t get emergency funding. While the difference decreased following the third round of funding, recipients were still 8.6% more likely to be enrolled.

As a result of these findings, SNHU approved funding to pilot an emergency grant program for learners in need. Findings from the pilot conducted during the 2023 spring and summer terms will be used to inform future projects related to this topic at SNHU. CHEPP’s advocacy around improving basic needs funding for learners continues through additional research and educating policymakers and the public on the issue’s link to student persistence.

CHEPP also recently launched a new 50-state map outlining SNHU’s “new traditional” learners across the country. Higher education learners look very different than they did decades ago, with fewer traditional-aged high school graduates and more older adults balancing work and family with their education. The map will be a helpful resource for the CHEPP team, policymakers, the media, partners, and more to understand the complexities facing adult learners today and how we can help more students succeed.

To learn more about the work being done by The Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice, visit

Connecting Community Through Outdoor Classrooms

By Siobhan Lopez

Connecting Community Through Outdoor Classrooms

By Siobhan Lopez
Since launching in the summer of 2021, the SNHU Office of Sustainability has made university-wide impacts not just on campus but throughout the entire SNHU community and most recently at several public schools in Manchester, New Hampshire. With the mission of empowering SNHU learners, staff, and faculty to advance a sustainable organization and culture and share knowledge and successes, the Office of Sustainability connected with several city schools to help them integrate environmental learning in their curriculum.

In 2023, the Office of Sustainability launched an initiative to build out a network of outdoor classrooms at three Manchester public schools: Southside and Hillside Middle Schools and Webster Elementary School. Made possible by a grant from the Bosch Community Fund, the “EcoSTEM Outdoor Classroom Network” links Manchester students to the SNHU Arboretum. In addition to providing much-needed outdoor learning spaces, the classrooms include environmental sensors and monitors, allowing students to take ownership of their school’s environment and generate meaningful learning opportunities.

“When we spoke with the principals, they were absolutely thrilled that we were bringing in these resources for their schools,” said Pamela Beckvagni, assistant director of sustainability programs at SNHU. “This is a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the outdoors, experience nature and learn about the environment.”

On October 25, students at Southside Middle and Webster Elementary schools rolled up their sleeves alongside Office of Sustainability staff and student worker “Eco Reps” and other SNHU employees utilizing their Volunteer Time Off (VTO) to install materials needed for the outdoor classrooms, including picnic tables, chalkboards, and raised flower beds.

“One of the functions within the community impact team is eliminating barriers to education,” said Nicole Cate, community impact program manager at SNHU. “Partnering with the Manchester community specifically gives us a ton of pride, and these kinds of projects allow children to have a new experience and can further their education in different ways, not just inside the classroom, but outside the classroom.”

Roselyn Ramos is a senior studying environmental science on campus and one of several Eco Reps working in the SNHU Office of Sustainability to assist with the outdoor classroom installation at Southside Middle School. The project was an opportunity for her to reflect on her own grade school experiences and bring her passion for environmental studies to younger students.

“We had an outdoor classroom at my elementary school, but it was hard when we transitioned to middle school and we didn’t get as much time outside,” Ramos said. “The fact that we’re here at a middle school and giving them that opportunity to be outside more is really great.”

“A project like this is really unique and a great opportunity for students to get outside the classroom and do some experiential learning,” Beckvagni said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t get that opportunity and I think this is wonderful for some of those students who need to move around, get some fresh air and see the outdoors.”

Weather stations were also installed at the locations, allowing students across the community to draw on data from any site, collaborate with peers, and carry authentic learning and problem solving into high school and college, strengthening the local STEM pipeline.

For Ramos, data collection is part of her everyday work as an SNHU Eco Rep. She says it’s just some of the experience she’s been able to gather to prepare her for a future career doing similar work.

“We also get skills in public speaking,” Ramos said. “As an Eco Rep, I’ve done a lot of public speaking trying to educate others about waste centralization.”

Unforgettable Legacies

Honoring SNHU’s Best
By Sophia Perguri ’23

2023 SNHU Alumni Awards

The Southern New Hampshire University Alumni Association and the Office of Institutional Advancement take immense pride in honoring some of our most outstanding community members each year within three categories of prestigious SNHU Alumni Awards: the Alumni Hall of Fame Award, the Distinguished Service Awards, and the Emerging Leader Award. From groundbreaking contributions in their respective fields to making a positive difference in their communities, these exceptional individuals exemplify the spirit of excellence that SNHU instills in its students. Join us as we celebrate the remarkable impact of these outstanding individuals honored with awards in 2023!

SNHU Alumni Hall of Fame Award

Recognizes an individual who graduated ten or more years ago and has made outstanding contributions to their profession, community, and the university.
“Every conversation I had with Sid began with him saying, ‘How can I help?’. It was just who he was.”
– Ed Ithier ’87 ’93MBA, Director of Development
Sid Casel ’71
Sid Casel graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and achieved remarkable success in his career. Throughout his life, he showed immense generosity and support to SNHU students, helping them pursue their educational dreams and succeed. Even after his passing in July 2022, Sid’s legacy lives on. By setting up an endowed scholarship, he will make a lasting impact for years to come. Sid’s story is filled with kindness and commitment to SNHU and will be forever treasured.
Jade Smith smiling wearing hoop earrings, black blazer jacket, and black shirt underneath

Emerging Leader Award

Recognizes alumni who graduated not more than five years ago and have demonstrated leadership and support to the Alumni Association and to the university.
Jade Smith ’21
Jade Smith is an esteemed leader who’s made an indelible mark at SNHU. From mentoring to holding key positions in student organizations, Jade has demonstrated her dedication to fostering inclusivity and community engagement. Her Penmen pride continues to shine through her involvement and volunteerism as an alumna. Jade’s leadership skills have made a lasting impact and her ongoing support and commitment to her alma mater continue to be felt.
Kibar Moussoba smiling outdoors wearing prescription black framed glasses and a grey wool sweater

SNHU Distinguished Alumni Service Award

Honors an individual who graduated six or more years ago, and recognizes their leadership, dedication, and loyal service to the university and alumni community.
Kibar Moussoba ’06 ’08G
Kibar Moussoba has made an incredible impact on SNHU employees, students, and alumni. From his time as a student, to his current role as senior program manager, his unwavering dedication for the SNHU community has remained constant. Kibar has shaped the SNHU work culture by bringing new opportunities, celebrations, and recognition events to employees. He is truly inspiring and sets a remarkable example for those around him. For 20 years, he has been a true champion for the university.
Matt Sharp headshot smiling in blue blazer jacket and light blue button up underneath
Matt Sharp ’04 ’06G
Matt Sharp is an incredibly positive individual with a genuine passion for helping others. He dedicates his time as an active SNHU Global Days of Service project leader and has maintained a strong connection to his campus roots, despite living states away. Matt has found creative ways to bring students, alumni, and employees together in his area through networking and social events. A strong advocate for SNHU, his positive impact will continue to be felt for years to come.
Tim Gerardi headshot smiling in blue blazer jacket and white button up underneath
Tim Gerardi ’04
Tim Gerardi has made a profound impact on the SNHU community through his leadership and dedication to SNHU. As the President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, he played an instrumental role in creating the Alumni Leadership Scholarship. Tim also enjoys mentoring students, sharing his wealth of professional sales experience. His dedication to both alumni and current students exemplifies the spirit of community and support that is at the heart of SNHU.

Athletic Hall of Fame, Class of 2023

The SNHU Athletic Hall of Fame honors those individuals who, through participation, support, or interest have made outstanding contributions in the field of intercollegiate athletics and have brought recognition, honor, distinction, and excellence to Southern New Hampshire University. The SNHU Athletic Hall of Fame was originally created in 1967 and revived in 1988. Learn more about the Class of 2023 and all 125 inductees at
Joe Collins in yellow and blue uniform on the ice rink holding hockey stick
Joe Collins ’16 ’17MBA
Men’s Hockey Team 2012-2017
Jonathan Lupinelli in yellow and blue uniform playing soccer on field
Jonathan Lupinelli ’14 ’16G
Men’s Soccer Team 2012-2015
Jay Dufour in huddle on basket court near benches
Jay Dufour
Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach 1985-2018
Ali Maloof pitching ball during softball game
Ali Maloof ’15 ’17G ’18G
Softball Team 2012-2015
Nacho Hernando-Angulo in uniform during race on track
Nacho Hernando-Angulo ’17
Men’s Cross Country 2015-2016
Junior Mendez pitching during baseball game
Junior Mendez ’17
Baseball Team 2011-2013
Al Molin smiling wearing New Hampshire athletic shirt
Al Molin ’88
Baseball Team 1985-1988
Rodney Sanders in uniform on basketball court during game
Rodney Sanders ’16
Men’s Basketball Team 2012-2016
Alena Mukdaprakorn with tennis racket in hand during match
Alena Mukdaprakorn ’13
Women’s Tennis Team 2009-2013
Stan Spirou holding 600 wins sign on basketball court inside of gym
Stan Spirou
Men’s Basketball Head Coach 1985-2018
Jake Nutter swinging club during golf session
Jake Nutter ’15
Men’s Golf Team 2013-2016
Derrick Sylvester about to pitch ball during baseball game
Derrick Sylvester ’14
Baseball Team 2010-2014
Dominic Samuel kicking ball during soccer game
Dominic Samuel
Men’s Soccer Team 2012-2015
Ariel Teixeira in white uniform kicking ball during soccer game
Ariel Teixeira ’12 ’15G
Women’s Soccer Team 2008-2011


The SNHU campus in Manchester, NH, is home base for 3,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Check out what’s new on campus for this vibrant community!
students hanging out on community hammocks and swings on the new Kingston Green Space
The Student Government Association sponsored community hammocks and swings on the new Kingston Green Space, providing a fun and relaxing place for students to hang out and connect.
two students with drinks and bags in front of an orange and pink balloon arch in front of a Dunkin'
Last year, we opened an Einstein Bros. Bagels and a Dunkin’ on campus, adding to the variety of delicious food options that help make campus feel like home.
looking down on the SNHU Homecoming Street Fair on campus
In October 2023, we celebrated Homecoming with events across the country and right here on campus, including the famous SNHU Homecoming Street Fair.
man giving a speech at a podium with another man behind him at the Labyrinth Memorial
The University created the Labyrinth Memorial to recognize loved ones lost and the hardships experienced during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors walk along a path surrounded by beautiful landscaping, natural stone seating within sustainable pods leading to a central place of reflection, and a solstice stone sourced from a local quarry that is set off in the distance and can be seen from all areas within the Labyrinth.
Innovation and Design Education Building
The Innovation and Design Education Building (IDE) is a 67,000 sq. ft. building for students to design, create, and collaborate in STEM learning.
micro-farms in the Dining Center under a sign that reads Welcome to the SNHU Micro-Farms
We installed micro-farms in the Dining Center to grow our own salad greens and herbs on site, bringing new meaning to locally grown.
two volunteers carrying a piece of wood through the woods
Volunteers carry supplies to help build bridges in the SNHU Arboretum, an outdoor classroom space on campus that serves as a community learning resource.
Phi Delta Theta brothers past and present gathered in the Zachos Café
Phi Delta Theta brothers past and present gathered in the Zachos Café in the Wolak Library Learning Commons during Homecoming to connect with each other and celebrate their fraternity’s 40th anniversary.
a group of SNHU Global Days of Service volunteers take a photo while on a rock with the ocean in the background
a man and a woman cutting vegetables in a kitchen stop to smile for a photo

SNHU Global Days

SNHU Global Days of Service (GDS) is a two-month-long community service event, where alumni, students, faculty, and staff come together from across the globe to strengthen our communities.

In 2023, more than 1,600 individuals completed over 9,100 service hours through seven global DIY projects and 36 in-person projects. 

Interested in leading a project in your area for an organization you love? Learn more about serving as a site leader at

We’re always adding projects and opportunities. To learn more, visit

five people wearing shirts that read Junction 311 and Global Days of Service put their arms around each other for a picture
a tall man and three youths smile together while standing in a garage full of stacked boxes
volunteers wearing SNHU and Global Days of Service t-shirts smile while standing in front of a shed that holds a sign that reads: New Hampshire Food Bank Production Garden
Impact Magazine Logo
Thanks for reading our February 2024 issue!