Engaging first-year students in UMassD campus values

This year's This We Believe winners wrote and read three heartfelt essays and allowed the Class of 2021 to share in their experiences.

UMassD Believes - essay contest winners

By: Chelsea Cabral

When the new school year began at UMass Dartmouth, incoming students were asked to join an exciting summer project as an introduction to academic life. The Class of 2021 was involved in a blogging project called This We Believe. It is an online blog meant to engage new students in campus values and have them join in on a larger student-wide conversation. 

This We Believe asked students to reflect on topics that resonated with them, ranging from anxiety, faith, family, loss, gratitude, justice, living in the moment, love, perseverance, and self-esteem. With over thousands of views and comments, the university blog showcased the power of dialogue within the campus community and its values of diversity, collaboration, and civic engagement.

Students who wrote to longer essays competed in the Provost's Essay Contest, and the top three winners read their pieces aloud at Convocation. The longer essays also served as a way to help incoming students earn the opportunity to speak on something that truly mattered to themselves as individuals.

The top three student essayists were all College of Arts and Sciences students. Crime and Justice major Jade L. Figueoa of Bellingham, MA earned the first place ribbon with her essay "Perseverance Through Resilience." Jade, who is interested in a career in the military, plans to enroll in the ROTC program.

"I believe in the ability of self-control to push and work through problems,” Jade said. “I plan to trust in my belief and set an example for those who are unable to be as resilient as I.”

The second place winner was mathematics major Brianna N. Johnson of Plymouth, MA. Her essay, "I Believe in Ketchup," used the popular condiment as a symbol of American culture-to be shared with the world even as we learn about other countries' ketchups.

"I plan to utilize being a member of the Endeavor Program to help build community outreach through community service and help one another realize the differences in each individual's life," Brianna said. 

Biology major Lexus Vasques earned the third place spot with her essay, which was titled "In Faith, I Believe." The essay told the story about her father's heart attack and her own faith journey. She is a biology major with an interest in dental medicine.

"I plan to put my faith into action by taking risks, getting involved, and living my life every day the right way through faith and leaving no stone unturned," she said.


College of Arts and Sciences