May 2023 Heritage Celebrations

To the UConn Community:

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Provost’s Office would like to remind you of several celebrations, commemorations, and moments of raising awareness for members of our community during the month of May:

Heritage Month Celebrations:

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This national heritage celebration began in 1978 when Congress established a week to honor the contributions Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have made to the United States. Congress selected the first ten days of May for this celebration to commemorate two important milestones in US history: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and the completion of the trans-continental railroad (May 10, 1869), which was built primarily by Chinese workers. This celebration was expanded to a full month in 1992. UConn celebrates Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders contributions in April, so students, faculty, and staff can participate in events and celebrations.

Haitian Heritage Month: This national heritage month celebrates Haitian culture and traditions. It is an expansion of Haitian Flag Day (May 18th), which commemorates Haiti’s revolution from France and the formation of the world’s first Black republic. Haitian Flag Day is honored both in Haiti and by Haitians living in diaspora, especially in the US, which is home to the largest Haitian diaspora in the world. Haitian Heritage Month was first celebrated in Boston in 1998 and became a national celebration after President George W. Bush honored it in 2005. Events include parades, flag raisings, and exhibits honoring Haitian culture, art, food, and traditions. UConn has two organizations for Haitian and Haitian American students: Aiding in Haitian Education, Advancement, and Development (AHEAD) and the Haitian Student Association.

Jewish American Heritage Month: This national heritage month recognizes more than 350 years of Jewish contributions to the United States, paying tribute to generations of Jewish Americans who helped form the fabric of American history, culture, and society. Though first recognized in April 2006, this month is commemorated in May to honor the first Jewish migrants to North America, who arrived in New York (then called New Amsterdam) after fleeing persecution in May of 1654. There are several organizations for Jewish students, staff, and faculty at UConn, including Hillel, Chabad, and the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Life (Storrs and Stamford), which sponsors the American Jewish Year Book to provide the most up-to-date information about Jewish life in North America. The Center also has several educational resources and lectures available for free, and sponsors a 1-credit course on Confronting Antisemitism.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Mental Health Awareness month raises awareness about our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and educates the public about mental health, living with mental health conditions, and strategies for improving mental health and wellness. Of particular concern is suicide prevention. Over the last few years, many people have reported feeling that current events are taking a toll on their mental health, whether from the stress, isolation, and uncertainty in a pandemic, or from social justice issues and political unrest. These have been particularly hard on historically minoritized peoples, who have increasingly been targeted for harassment and violence.

Whatever you may be going through, UConn has tools, resources, and programs to support you: Student Health and Wellness (SHaW)’s resources for mental health at Storrs and at the regional campuses; student wellness resources at UConn Health; HR’s mental health resources; resources for suicide prevention; the Student Care Team, which responds to concerns about individual student health and wellness; Holistic Huskies, a podcast on student mental health experiences; and UConn’s Wellness Coalition, a space for students to come together and develop innovative solutions to health and wellness issues on campus. The Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs (VAMP) also has on-campus and off-campus resources specifically for military veterans.

Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day (May 30): Memorial Day began as a day set aside for families and friends to visit and decorate the graves of loved ones lost during the American Civil War. Congress made Memorial Day an official holiday in 1971, setting aside the last Monday in May to honor all who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States. Congress began recognizing Military Appreciation month in 1999 to honor all service members past and present, as well as those associated with them including children of fallen soldiers, spouses, caregivers, and others who served and sacrificed along with military members. Military Appreciation Month includes Military Spouse Appreciation Day (5/12), Children of Fallen Patriots Day (5/13), Armed Forces Day (5/20), and Memorial Day (5/29), and coincides with Military Caregiver Month.

UConn honors members of the military and their families. Because Memorial Day falls after the spring semester has ended, The Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs (VAMP) will not be holding a UConn specific event. The office would like to encourage everyone to attend an event to remember and mourn the U.S. military members who have died while serving our country. A list of some events happening throughout Connecticut can be found here: Memorial Day Weekend 2023 in Connecticut – Dates (

UConn also recognizes that veterans and service members face unique challenges in higher education. VAMP provides student support services specifically for veterans, active service members, and their families who are attending UConn. Their services include certifying VA educational benefits, assisting students in their transition to life at UConn, and providing supplemental programs and activities to student veterans. VAMP works closely with the Center for Students for Disabilities (CSD), which has a wealth of resources for veterans regardless of ability status.

Older Americans Month: This heritage month was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to acknowledge the contributions of older persons in the country and raise awareness about this community’s growing needs and concerns. Ageism is a systematic issue in the United States, despite a rapidly aging population. While this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, which prohibits discrimination against workers over the age of 40 during all stages of employment, there is still a long way to go in ensuring the wellbeing and care of older populations. This year’s Older Americans Month theme is “Aging Unbound,” which offers opportunities to explore diverse aging experiences, as well as to discuss combating stereotypes. This month provides an opportunity to promote flexible thinking about how we all benefit when older adults remain engaged, independent, and included.

The University of Connecticut supports senior citizens through free educational initiatives, including Senior Citizen Audits for learners over 62, UConn Extension’s Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) for retirees and other adults from all walks of life, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) where learners over 50 can expand their minds and connect with other learners.

Cultural and Federal Holidays:

Cinco de Mayo (May 5th): Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration of the Mexican military’s defeat of the Second French Empire in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This holiday is not widely celebrated in Mexico; rather, it is often treated as a drinking holiday in the United States, often erroneously celebrating Mexican Independence Day, which is on September 16th. Unfortunately, treating Cinco de Mayo as a drinking holiday often results in rampant cultural appropriation and negative stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican Americans. A good way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is to read the real story about the holiday and to support Mexican-owned businesses in your community.

Mother’s Day (May 14): In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. While other countries have similar days of commemoration, dates and traditions vary. The American version of Mother’s Day was created in 1905 to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Though originally a day of celebration for individuals and families, it was heavily commercialized after President Woodrow Wilson declared it a federal holiday in 1914. The Women’s Center offers an ongoing group for mothers at UConn, Moms4Moms. Open to mothers employed or enrolled at UConn, this group works to enlighten, empower, engage, and educate moms. It also provides opportunities to network and build community, as well as an inclusive space to talk about the joys and hardships of motherhood. For all the mothers and the mothers-at-heart, thank you for your care and kindness. For those who have lost a child, lost a mother, or are yearning to be a mother, we see you and honor you.

National Nurses Week (May 6th-12th), International Nurses Day (May 12th): International Nurses Day is celebrated globally every May 12th, the birthday of Florence Nightingale. In the United States, the week leading up to International Nurses Day is National Nurses Week, which celebrates the profession and provides opportunities to promote understanding and appreciation of the invaluable contributions nurses make to our society. This year’s theme is “You Make a Difference,” which honors the unparalleled impact nurses have on healthcare, the varying roles nurses play, and the positive impacts they have on everyone’s lives. We especially appreciate the nurses who work to meet the healthcare needs of the UConn campus communities, including the Registered Nurses and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses at Student Health and Wellness, whose invaluable contributions make it possible to provide outstanding student-centered healthcare, and who work on the frontlines of advocating for student health and wellness and supporting students’ efforts to develop health and wellness knowledge. Thank you for all you do!

There will be several National Nurses Week celebrations across the UConn system. The UConn School of Nursing will be honoring National Nurses Week by promoting current students and alumni on social media, reposting nursing photos that include #UConnNursing. School of Nursing faculty and staff will also attend recruitment events throughout the state to promote the school’s role in building a resilient and highly qualified nursing workforce. UConn Health will also recognize its nurses and the important work they have been doing for the people of Connecticut. UConn Health will also highlight the 2023 Nightingale Award winners for their excellence in nursing. Make sure to check out their YouTube channel and UConn Today for more!

Religious Holidays:

Shauvot (May 25th – May 27th): Shauvot commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai over 3,300 years ago. Traditionally, Shauvot is celebrated by staying up all night reading Jewish texts (especially the Book of Ruth), listening to the Ten Commandments in synagogue, and enjoying dairy foods.

Buddha Day (May 26th): Buddha Day, also known as Buddha Jayanti, celebrates the birth of the founder of Buddhism, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became the Gautama Buddha. Buddha Day is a lunar holiday and usually falls during the first full moon of May. Buddha’s birth is celebrated as part of the Vesak festival, which honors the three major events in his life: his birth, his enlightenment, and his death. Buddhists celebrate Vesak by decorating temples with flowers, singing hymns and laying down offerings, and “bathing of the Buddha,” a ritual in which water is poured over small statues of the Buddha to cleanse bad karma and to reenact the events following his birth, when devas and spirits showered him with sacred waters from the sky. Buddhists are encouraged to do small acts of kindness, to refrain from any kind of killing, and to eat vegetarian food.

We welcome the celebration of each of these holidays on our campuses and encourage support for those requiring accommodations. You can find information and guidance about academic accommodations for religious observations on the Provost Office’s webpage.

To see more information about resources and events happening this month and throughout the semester, please visit our events page at ODI writes these letters in collaboration with our partners across the UConn system. If we inadvertently omitted a cultural or religious holiday, please let us know by emailing us at


Frank, Anne, and Jeff

Frank Tuitt
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer

Anne D’Alleva
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Jeffrey F. Hines, MD
Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, UConn Health