Alumni Spotlight - February 2024

Jessica Gagnon ('20)


Jessica Gagnon, HDFS Alumni Spotlight, Feb 2024

Jess Gagnon graduated from UConn in 2020 with a B.A. double major in HDFS and Psychology. While studying at UConn, Jess was involved with grassroots organizing through UConn Public Interest Research Group (UConnPIRG) and worked with first year students through the Honors office. Although initially unsure of her career path, Jess was inspired by the introductory HDFS class she took as a first-year student that introduced her to the broad range of possibilities within the helping professions.

Through HDFS, Jess gained an incredibly valuable foundation in human development that prepared her for a career in social work. During her senior year, Jess used her HDFS Honors thesis to conduct interviews with activists at UConn, eventually focusing on the diverse pathways that lead people to volunteer their time to causes that matter to them, as well as the factors that can so often to burnout.

After graduating from UConn in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jess moved to Boston to pursue her Master of Social Work from Boston College. She interned with Project Place, where she worked as a case manager with clients in South Boston who were facing homelessness, addiction, and mental illness during the pandemic. This experience, combined with her HDFS background, led Jess to focus the rest of her education on public health and healthcare.

When Jess graduated from Boston College, she was hired by her second-year internship placement, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, to rebuild an onsite volunteer program amid the pressures that the pandemic has placed on healthcare facilities.

Since starting her career at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Jess has had the privilege of developing and implementing programs with 100+ volunteers per week. Now a Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), Jess is passionate about building impactful programs and welcoming communities where people can use their authentic selves to help others.

She works closely with healthcare professionals throughout the Institute to identify opportunities for volunteers to contribute to Dana-Farber’s mission of providing supportive, patient-centered care to people with cancer and their families. Jess credits her time at UConn with helping her develop the knowledge and drive to build a career in healthcare.

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