2023 Press Releases All Stories

Faculty advice, leadership and study-abroad opportunities led to law degree for first-generation student from Danbury

Shiny Patel
Shiny Patel
Shiny Patel

DANBURY, CONN. —  It’s been seven years since Shiny Patel graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a B.A. in Political Science and dual minors in International Studies and Conflict Resolution — a feat she accomplished in only three years. She’s now an attorney and works for the employee compliance team at Citadel, one of the world’s leading alternative investment managers based in Miami. Such an ascension would be a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but it’s even more impressive because Patel is a first-generation American and a first-generation college student, whose hard work at Danbury High School landed her in the top 5% of her high school graduating class.

As a result of her high school performance, Patel was accepted into multiple collegiate honors programs, including WCSU’s Kathwari Honors Program, which offered a full tuition scholarship. “I applied to more than 15 schools all over the country,” she explained. “I was eager to travel and experience a different lifestyle. Despite my acceptance into other honors programs, WCSU’s was by far the most affordable and felt academically comparable to the other programs I was accepted into. The former director of WCSU’s Honors Program took the time to explain the perks of the program, and it felt like an opportunity I couldn’t refuse,” she added.

Patel fully took advantage of the opportunity. Reflecting on her time as a student, she said, “The best part about WCSU was how accessible and relatable all the faculty and students were. Everyone worked hard to be where they were in life and I learned how to take advantage of all the resources available to me. I had many opportunities to succeed and many people who wanted to help me do so. It was entirely up to me to capitalize on that.”

Capitalize she did. Patel held leadership roles in multiple campus clubs and organizations, including the International Students Club and the school newspaper, The Echo. “I was also the photographer for the Men’s Rugby Club and sat on the WCSU Student Government Association as well,” she said. “I worked on campus as a student employee in the Pre-Collegiate and Access Office, and I tutored students often.”

Even before she had arrived on campus, Patel knew she wanted to major in Political Science. “At the time, being a Foreign Service Officer was a dream of mine,” she said. “I studied abroad in Belfast with the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) during my second year at WCSU, and it solidified my passion for human rights and peaceful conflict resolution. Ultimately, I diverted my attention from seeking employment in the public sector, but my passion for international human rights has not subsided in the slightest.”

Like many WCSU alumni, Patel said the relationships she developed with her professors made a “profound impact” on her. “(Former Honors Program Director) Dr. Chris Kukk challenged me to succeed and showed a genuine interest in my growth. He helped me find ways to meet all the necessary Honors Program requirements to graduate in three years while also being able to study abroad and take classes I was interested in,” she said. “I was his Teaching Assistant for several classes, including an introductory Political Science course, and working alongside him to teach younger students about the field was a blessing. Dr. Averell Manes was my Conflict Resolution professor. She helped me research different post-graduate programs and provided insight on the various directions I could go in with my degree. One time, during a particularly challenging period of my life, she sent me a note asking me if everything was alright. She was able to show me kindness during a time when I needed it. Dr. Manes also wrote one of my letters of recommendation for law school.”

Patel said she met attorney and Professor of Justice and Law Administration Terrence P. Dwyer during her final semester of college. “He is the reason I even considered attending law school in the first place,” she said. “I took a Constitutional Law course with him, for which I was also his Teaching Assistant. It was the first substantive academic legal exposure I had, and it completely changed the direction of my professional goals. I strengthened my public speaking skills through his assignments. He also wrote me a letter of recommendation for law school. He helped me figure out whether I wanted to attend law school, whether I wanted to pursue a full-time or part-time law degree, and helped me validate my career change when I pivoted away from the traditional legal space into financial markets compliance.”

After graduation in 2016, Patel worked as an intake coordinator at a physical therapy office, tutored students at WCSU, and worked as a cashier at a hibachi restaurant. “I was studying for the LSAT and saving up money to move to Chicago,” she explained. “It was my dream to go to law school in Chicago, and my best friend from WCSU actually moved out with me. Once I settled in there, I took a month off working to get acclimated and figure out next steps. I ended up working as a legal assistant in the Legal and Government Relations program at a government-sponsored enterprise. It was my first exposure to a corporate setting. While working there, I started law school part time at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where I did a triple focus in business law, financial markets compliance and public interest.”

During her final year of law school, Patel connected with her current employer about a compliance position. “Citadel is a multinational alternative investment manager, and my job function is primarily to ensure that our employees stay aligned to firm compliance policies,” she said. “Every day I am challenged by the brightest minds in the industry from all over the world. I could not ask for a better manager or a kinder team.”

A lot has happened in seven years, and looking back, Patel said, “My best memories of WCSU involve sitting in front of the Student Center on the Midtown campus and always running into new and interesting people. I really liked sitting there in between my classes or other responsibilities and knowing that someone was bound to come by and chat.” As a student, she stayed in Honors housing on the Westside campus and still maintains close relationships with several of her former roommates. “I am grateful for the experiences we shared,” she said. She also fondly recalls the cheddar chicken and broccoli bowls with the Brazilian sauce at the Westside cafeteria. “I still have deep cravings for those bowls, even though I am a vegetarian now,” she added.

On a more practical level, Patel said, “WCSU is highly affordable and also highly underrated. The professors are brilliant, the faculty are kind and approachable, and the students are diligent and human. I felt like I got a real human experience at WCSU. If you want quick access to high-value opportunities, a small school is a great way to do it. The student-teacher ratio provides for a more intimate classroom experience and the ability to get to know your peers better. Also, it’s a very diverse population. This feels meaningful to me as a woman of color.”


Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.