Best and Brightest: Five Years, Five Degrees For One UConn Student - Higher Education
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Best and Brightest: Five Years, Five Degrees For One UConn Student

by Lelita Cannon

Devin Gaines is any university’s ideal candidate. An overachiever in the utmost sense of the word, the 22-year-old has earned five degrees in five years —all as an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut.

The Stamford, Conn. native says he loves to merge technical and creative elements, which probably explains his diverse areas of study. He graduated May 6 with bachelor’s degrees in computer science, theater studies, cognitive science and linguistic psychology. His final degree is in an individualized major: cinema, culture and cognition.

To achieve the five degrees in the time it usually takes to earn one, Gaines earned an average 21-24 credits per semester but racked up 38 credits one semester in particular. The very organized student created an agenda of priorities, what order he needed to do them in and how much time he would dedicate to each project.  To assist with the cost of his education, he was the recipient of a leadership scholarship from UConn and a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. 

But how did he manage studying for such divergent disciplines?

“That was always an adventure in itself,” Gaines says, but adding, “I was sincerely interested in each subject I was pursuing. When I went into computer science, I really loved it, but I wanted to apply it to different fields. It motivated me to go into different fields, such as theater, linguistics and film to learn and apply my knowledge of computer science within.”

Gaines says he became dedicated to education when he was a child after joining a local community center, the Yerwood Center in Stamford, and meeting a mentor who inspired him to achieve. “My father brought home a broken computer, and I was able to put it together.  When he saw that I did that, he decided to take me to a community center.  [There], I met up with a woman who became my inspiration in life.” 

His mentor, Kathryn Murdock, executive director of the center, has nothing but praise for Devin, who she has known since he was nine years old. 

“He is a charming, well-spoken, intelligent young man with a creative and sharp wit and a shining example of what a young African-American male from an economically distressed background can become,” Murdock says. Devin has returned the favor by volunteering at the Yerwood Center, where he has taught adult classes in computer literacy and basic computer applications. 

During his undergraduate career, Devin not only excelled scholastically, but also found time for extracurricular activities.  He was inducted into two National Honor Societies—Psi Chi and Upsilon Pi Epsilon—for psychology and information technology professionals, respectively.  He has also been recognized and honored by the 100 Black Men of Stamford for his exemplary achievements.  Devin assisted UConn’s Connecticut Repertory Theatre with shows and production, and was a member of the Undergraduate Student Government’s Funding Board, as well as People of Diverse Spirituality, an organization for religious and spiritual development.  

After graduating with a 3.2 GPA, Devin is taking a short break from grueling classes—at least for the summer.  In a couple of weeks, he will start his new job at Pension Associates in his hometown as an IT associate. In the fall, however, Devin will return to business as usual—working to obtain his master’s degree in educational communication and technology at New York University.

“Hopefully, I’ll pursue a PhD or EdD in Education,” Gaines says.

-Lelita Cannon


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