By Savanna Yelling
Chris Dabkowski ’21, a New Britain native, took a decidedly unconventional path to his undergraduate studies at Central. Rather than heading straight to college after high school, Dabkowski enlisted in the Marines, a unique journey that ultimately landed him at Central.
Though he graduated from Berlin High School, Dabkowski’s family has strong ties to the New Britain community. His father is a mailman who delivers on Stanley Street, and his grandmother is a retired New Britain High School administrator.
Dabkowski said he dreamt of going to college, but his family didn’t have the means to assist him.
“It was a big goal of mine to get to college,” Dabkowski says. “To go through college and excel.”
When he was told to find his own way to attend college, Dabkowski turned to the Marines. He ended up in the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa Japan. He ended active duty in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, then returned to New Britain.
Dabkowski said his time in service opened his eyes were to the expansive role of the military.
“It’s not just war,” Dabkowski says. “We provide a lot of humanitarian aid.”
Next stop: Central
Dabkowski began his studies at Central in 2017 and started working in the Office of Veterans Affairs.
“Transitioning can be tough,” Dabkowski says. “To be honest, the first semester I went back to school, it was my worst GPA.”
Dabkowski said he considered other colleges in the state but found Central to be the best fit for him.
“I really enjoyed CCSU. It was nice to be back in New Britain after traveling the world, and I was thankful for the opportunity,” Dabkowski says.
Dabkowski went on to earn the 2020 Great Elm VFW 9945 Wethersfield Veterans Scholarship. He graduated with a 3.38. GPA and a Bachelor of Science in Management and Human Resources.
What helped Dabkowski thrive, he says, is the small community at Central and individualized attention students receive.
“Going back and transitioning, I was not ready to go to a large college,” Dabkowski says. “I want that closer feeling. I want to be able to go to my professor after class and be heard and given advice. That was really important to me.”
Christian Gutierrez, Veterans Affairs Coordinator and Melina Lopez, Veteran Retention Assistant, are two people Dabkowski credits for his successful journey through Central.
“Great people,” Dabkowski says. “Melina is like a work mother. Being in that role helping veterans, it's really important to listen to them. They want to be heard. And Chris, I don’t have the words to describe that gentleman.”
Dabkowski says he took on the student worker job in the VA office to give back to other student veterans.
“I owed it to fellow student veterans to shine a light and steer them in the right direction,” Dabkowski says. “To make sure they knew the benefits and resources that are available.”
Dabkowski, two years post-graduation, now works at the Lee Company where he sees himself staying for the remainder of his career.
“I would love to retire here at this company,” Dabkowski says.
At the Lee Company, Dabkowski is a Human Resources generalist, working in hiring and onboarding new employees. Just recently, he was on campus for The Lee Company Day and the Fall Career and Internship Fair.
“It’s refreshing to work for a company that takes care of their employees,” Dabkowski says. “Those days where you wake up fine but you're just dreading going into work? Here it’s the opposite.”