Hometown: Oxford, Connecticut
Major: American Studies
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Arts in American Studies
Activities: Kathwari Honors Program, WCSU Football Team, President of Adventure Club, President of Honors Students of Compassion, worked in Admissions for a semester, working in Career Services office for past 2 1/2 years
Honors and Awards: Dean's list seven out of seven semesters, GPA: 3.88, Full merit scholarship, MASCAC All-Academic Team (Fall 2013 - present), Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities (Winter 2016), College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District Team (Fall 2016), invited to Division III Senior Bowl Classics Football Game (Fall 2016), Student Government Association Student Award of Merit recipient (Spring 2016)
Brennen Diaz says he decided to come to Western Connecticut State University because of its academics, diversity and athletics. "I got into the Kathwari Honors Program here and was recruited to play football," he says. "I was also accepted to a couple other schools with similar circumstances. The deciding difference was the diversity and the environment that WestConn represented to me."
Diaz says he didn't consciously factor in Western's proximity to his family when selecting where to study, but it ended up having an impact. "I have four sisters and three brothers -- eight kids total, including me -- plus two parents. I come from a big family and they are always there for me. Literally, ALL of my success in life can be traced back to having a big, close-knit family. Growing up in that house has instrumentally helped me succeed in academics, athletics and social life. Love ya guys."
When it came to declaring a major, Diaz had no question. "I have always loved history. I think it is the most important subject to learn in school. To paraphrase an old English proverb, 'In order to understand where we are headed, we must understand where we have been.' The ability to understand our nation’s history, not just one group of people’s story, but all of its citizens' stories (minority groups), is important. Thus, I figured if I can understand my nation’s past, it will help me in the future because my country’s history is part of me."
Diaz says, "The biggest mentors in my life have been the professors at WestConn. I know I am biased, but the history and English departments have the best professors. Professors who are passionate about teaching and providing thought-provoking discussions while creating an environment that is conducive to learn and develop in. Most of all, these professors have taught me the need to read and write, and its importance in developing a free-minded individual in a global and complex world. Professors like Dr. Gagnon, Dr. Murray, Dr. Lindenauer, Dr. Hagan and Dr. Duffy have been a tremendous influence on the person I am today and I cannot thank them enough. Outside of these dedicated professors of academia, I also have to say Dr. Kukk and Pano Koukopoulos have had a major impact on my life. Dr. Kukk, the director of the Kathwari Honors Program, is someone who I owe a lot of my success to. He gave me an opportunity to excel at WestConn by admitting me into his program. His teaching never stopped at the classroom, but continued outside of it. I know this because I only had him for one class, but his presence and how he conducts himself have had an outstanding impact on how I want to live my life. Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge Pano Koukopoulos. He has been the adviser of the Western Adventure Club for the past four years and has helped me grow as a leader. There are not enough words or even actions to demonstrate the amount of gratitude I have toward these people."
Asked what he will remember most about his Western experience, Diaz says, "My most memorable experience, outside of playing football at Western would be when I went on a four-day, three-night backpacking trip with the Western Adventure Club. I was only a freshman and I went with nine other people who I did not know that well. That experience completely changed my involvement at WestConn. Yes, I was on the football team and in the Kathwari Honors Program, but once I got involved in that club I became truly invested in the social life of the university. I eventually became president of this club and met a great mentor and person, Pano Koukopoulos. And it was all because of this backpacking trip during spring break of 2014. How many people can say their spring break trip completely changed them as a person?"
After graduation, Diaz is considering several options. "I'm currently applying to jobs and looking at graduate school for American history. I have also a strong interest to go into the military."
Diaz’s advice to new students entering WCSU is to focus on both academics and having a social life: "Academics: read, read, read, read. Have passion toward whatever you want to study. Question the reading and evaluate it. Also, time management is the biggest factor. You are here to get an education. So, get it. Social life: join clubs, get out of your comfort zone, and once you get involved start taking leadership roles."