What are you doing now? Are you where you imagined you would be in your career at this point in your life prior to graduating, or did things work out differently than you planned?
Once I graduated, I moved back home for the summer and got accepted into the Public Health Associate Program with the CDC, which relocated me out to Fort Collins, Colorado. While at my placement, I am working for the Health District of Northern Larimer County on the Evaluation team. As part of this team I am working on doing a lot of data analysis and dissemination of triennial community health survey data collected from the community. On top of the Health District, I am also working at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment on the Community Health Improvement Plan team which is essentially the same as being on the Eval team. I'll be doing a lot of the same work at both buildings, as well as helping with collaboration between the departments in regards to the dissemination of any overlapping information.
I would say that I am where I hoped I would be, but at the same time things are definitely working out differently than I planned (but when do things every actually go as planned?). There is only a 6% chance of being accepted into the PHAP program, so I applied without actually expecting to get accepted. I had planned on staying in the east coast and finding some job over there or going back to school. Once I was accepted, I knew I had the chance to do something that I imagined would be an amazing opportunity, but didn't think was really a possibility. I am very happy with where I ended up at this point post-grad.
What made you choose St. Mike's?
Much like a lot of other people at the school, I loved the sense of community and acceptance that is embodied by St. Mike's. I still remember the day that I chose to go to St. Mike's. It was March 5, 2012 on my accepted student day, and I remember picking that day because I got to miss a day of school right after one of the semester breaks. I remember walking around the campus thinking about how happy everyone had seemed even though it was wicked cold, and people would smile and say hi to me even though I didn't actually go to the school. That was the first deciding factor. The second was the student panel - I loved hearing the stories from the current students and it sounded like a great place to call home. I remember thinking about how badly I wanted to be part of those panels, and I ended up being on almost all of them for the next four years, as well as becoming the Open House and Yield Event Coordinator during my junior year. By the end of the day I had seen the campus, got mistaken as a student by a parent, spent the afternoon with my cousin, and when it came time to leave I felt like I only needed to walk across campus to my dorm instead of drive 3 hours just to go back to high school the next day. Choosing Saint Michael's was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
What was your most memorable experience at St. Mike's?
I would say that my most memorable experiences at St. Mike's were being an Orientation Leader for two years, participating in the LEAP retreat for 5 semesters, and being a tour guide for over 3 years. They were all some of the most incredible experiences, which I will never forget. I met some of my best friends through these programs. Just as a first year going to my own orientation, I made friends that I remained friends with until graduation, and will continue to be friends with for many years to come.
Who was your favorite professor, or a professor that influenced you in a significant way?
My favorite courses were in both the Bio and Psych departments. I loved Epidemiology with Professor Lippert, Drugs and Behavior with Ari Kirshenbaum, and Immunology and Parasitology with Professor Loisel. However, probably the class and professor that influenced me the most was Health Psychology with Professor VanderKaay-Tomasulo. I knew prior to taking the class that I had an interest in Public Health, but this course helped me better understand where psychology and biology overlap. I loved this class and strongly recommend it to anyone that has room to take it. On top of loving her course, she allowed me to conduct my own research study with the Psychology department, just because I thought it would be fun. The best part was that I met with her, Katie Petrozzo, and Lindsey Rogers thinking that I would become an assistant in the lab for one of her projects a couple days a week. By the end of the meeting, the project got spun into my own semester long sleep research project that I later presented on at the Psychology departments research symposium. I really cannot thank Professor Tomasulo for all of her help my last two semesters at St. Mike's.
How did you come to be where you are now?
It was not an easy process. I went through a lot of different career path changes during my first 3 years at the school. It was always within the biological field, but it didn't stay consistent for more than 2 months at a time. I eventually landed on public health after taking Epidemiology and Health Psychology. Once I decided to pursue public health I learned about PHAP with the CDC from Professor Weaver, and was able to focus my efforts in a certain direction which really helped.
What was it like adjusting to the 'real world' after graduating?
It didn't really hit me that I had entered the "real world" after graduating until around June, but it hit me the hardest in August. When I first graduated, I moved home to New Hampshire and worked a summer job just like I normally would. The adjustment to being home wasn't anything big. Then, I got accepted into my program and told I would be relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado, at the end of June. I was very excited about this, but at the same time it started to hit me that I wouldn't be going back to school. Come August, I had to start thinking about my move across the country, which involved finding an apartment, buying a new car, visiting the area, and paying lots of bills. On top of all of that, my friends were posting pictures of orientation and moving into school, while I was still sitting at home not being at school. When I finally moved out here at the end of September, the adjustment was very hard. I had just moved to a new state, on the opposite of the county, by myself at the same time that my partner was flying off to Hong Kong for a few months for an internship. The adjustment period after moving out here was incredibly challenging, and it turns out making adult friends outside of work is REALLY hard. It took several months and a second road trip across the country to move my partner out here, but I'd say I have definitely become adjusted to the "real world", even though it is still hard being across the country and so far away from my friends.
Where do you think you would be right now if you had not gone to Saint Michael's college? How would your life be different?
Honestly, I don't really like to think about it. If I had not gone to St. Mike's I have no idea where I would be right now. I don't know if I ever would have found public health or the Public Health Associate Program if it weren't for the relationships that I had made with my professors at school.
What would you say to current seniors who will be graduating soon?
My biggest advice to people that are graduating soon would be to make sure that you make time to hang out with your friends. The end of the year is crazy, but make time for your friends and go on adventures. It's sad to think about, but it could be the last time that you get to see your friends for a long time once you graduate, so make it count. I would tell them to go on those adventures that they have been putting off, telling themselves they’re going to do it ‘soon’. Graduation creeps up really quickly, and it most definitely caught me off guard. Also, don't be afraid to start packing your stuff early (like before senior week or graduation day). It will save a lot of stress in the end after graduation. Finally, just enjoy your time there. The last few months will fly by, but make sure you fully enjoy it.