Custom Class: post-landing-hero

Last spring we caught up with a dozen Rowland Hall alumni who are at various stages of medical school training at the University of Utah, and we featured their stories in the 2013-2014 Annual Report. We asked these alumni about their Rowland Hall education and their motivations to go to med school. The resulting article generated a lot of interest, so we've reprised it here.

The latest—Jerica Johnson and Chris Bossart—were matched with their respective residencies at the University of New Mexico. Check out this Fox 13 news story about University of Utah Match Day 2015.

After we published our Annual Report, our director of College Counseling pointed out that only one of these excellent students and future physicians completed an undergraduate degree at an Ivy League institution. In fact, most of them attended either large universities or private liberal arts colleges.


 

We'd like you to meet:

  • Neel Patel, Lawrence University '12
  • Isha Gupta, University of Utah '09
  • Jerica Johnson, University of Utah '11
  • Lindsay Hunter, Grinnell College '11
  • Noelle Teske, University of Notre Dame '06
  • Tim Mulvihill, Boston College '10
  • Katie Pavia, Wellesley College '12
  • Michael Chen, University of Southern California '12
  • Nicholas Larsen, Colby College '05
  • Chris Bossart, University of Puget Sound '09
  • Liz Schackman, Stanford University '08
  • Michael Sotiriou, University of Wisconsin '08

Medical School: What does it take and how do you get there?

The challenges and responsibilities of preparing to become a doctor are far more complex than memorizing a few thousand facts or functioning while sleep deprived—although those skills certainly help. According to our grads, it requires independent and critical thinking, handling the unexpected, making good decisions under pressure, and building trusting relationships.

It might come a as surprise that:

  • Writing is extremely important and highly valued in medicine.
  • The Rowland Hall teachers our med students identified as most influential taught all these subjects: music, world languages, literature, sports, psychology, science, and math.
  • Just three out of 12 of our featured alumni went directly from undergrad to medical school.
  • Many important skills for success in medicine are abstract: performing, decision making, trust building, delayed gratification, and open-mindedness.

In their own words, our grads recall the knowledge and skills they learned early on that helped them through the rigorous academic and personal challenges of medical school. At Rowland Hall they learned to: advocate for themselves, apply their acquired and intrinsic knowledge to work and life, become ever more efficient and organized, appreciate their families and educational opportunities, and embody the very qualities we all seek in the physicians of the future.

Nicholas Larsen '01
Undergraduate degree, Colby College '05; master's in marine biology, James Cook University, Australia '07

"I recommend that anyone headed for medical school take a few years off to experiment in other fields, travel, and enjoy life before launching into the rigorous program of medical school. Rowland Hall and college laid the groundwork for my academic success, and I particularly benefited from Peter Hayes's biology classes."

Noelle Teske '02
Undergraduate degree, University of Notre Dame '06; MSc in Psychological Research, University of Oxford in the U.K.; employed with the Sundance Institute/Sundance Film Festival for two years

"I always loved science and had some great teachers at RH, including Peter Hayes, whose energy was just infectious, and Keith Pankow, who really led me to love and be confident in my abilities in more mathematical science like physics. This was invaluable for my college courses like physics and organic chemistry to get me into medical school! I didn't decide until years later that I wanted to do medicine, but the science and math curriculum at RH definitely prepared me well. I'm actually even more grateful for the wonderful humanities preparation, as philosophy and psychology were my first academic loves, and my writing ability and analytical thinking have really served me well both in medical school and succeeding in this field."

Michael Sotiriou '04
Undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin '08, worked in a dermatology lab at the U, volunteered and shadowed physicians, worked at a restaurant

"I set a goal for myself to attend medical school at the University of Utah. When I was rejected my first go around it surprised and disappointed me. I had never experienced a set back of that magnitude. It was quite eye opening, and I realized I had to work harder for this than anything else in my life. I'm a goal oriented and driven individual, so I sought advice from the admissions office and set in motion a plan to strengthen my application. I felt research was already a strength, so I chose to focus on increasing my volunteer work and physician shadowing during my year off. The U seeks out balanced applicants that have strengths in several categories: research, leadership, volunteer work, patient exposure, and physician shadowing in addition to the applicant's MCAT score and GPA."

Liz Shackman '04
Undergraduate degree from Stanford University '08; master's degree in biology, Stanford University '09; worked for three years as a research assistant in the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at Stanford, traveled

"My time at Rowland Hall and Stanford definitely prepared me for the hard work of medical school. I still make the same types of study guides in med school that I started making in high school, just with 20 times more information in them."

Natasha Kwendakwema '05 (not pictured)
Undergraduate degree, University of Pennsylvania '05, ABC4 news intern

"I first thought about becoming a doctor while on a mission trip to Peru with (RH Spanish teacher) Matt Burnett and a few students from Rowland Hall during which we got to work with physicians. After college, though, I interned at a news station because I also thought I might want to go into broadcast news. After that experience, I decided to finish my premed prerequisites and apply to medical school. My family members were great mentors for me, especially my mom, who encouraged me to apply to medical school even though I hadn't followed a traditional route."

Chris Bossart '05
Undergraduate degree, University of Puget Sound '09; year off to work in a lab at the U, coach sports teams, and work in a restaurant

"I have decided on emergency medicine but liked every single rotation during third year, making the decision difficult. I would suggest to RH students to do what interests them the most in college, do your best, and keep all your doors open. Medical schools prefer students who have broad interests and experiences. Rowland Hall teachers Mr. Hayes, Jo Edwards, and Coach Derek Bunting helped shape my ideas about life."

Tim Mulvihill '06
Undergraduate degree, BS in economics, honors BS in biological chemistry, University of Utah '11; M.D./Ph.D. program; two years off and worked in a research lab at the U

"Diane Guido is the Rowland Hall teacher who had the greatest impact on my decision to go into medicine. I had never found biology classes to be that interesting, but it was fascinating to learn about psychology and the way that people think. Advice? Make sure you follow your interests through many different fields until you find the one you love."

Lindsay Hunter '07
Undergraduate degree, Grinnell College '11; conducted genetics research through a joint position with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Program and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

"Looking back at high school, the experience that I think prepared me best for the rigors of medical school was actually Mr. Wortham's French class. His class continues to be one of the hardest classes I have taken to date. Mr. Wortham encouraged us to push our abilities and taught us to not be discouraged by minor missteps. That mindset is vital when dealing with the challenges of medical school."

Jerica Johnson '07
Undergraduate degree in Exercise Physiology, University of Utah '11

"I just completed my third year of medical school. I want to specialize in either family medicine or internal medicine. The joy of building relationships with patients has ignited my interest in primary care. All my classes and experiences at RH helped to reinforce my desire to understand the 'why' behind how the world works."

Michael Chen '08
Undergraduate degree in Exercise Science, minor in music and chemistry, University of Utah '12

"It's important to know why you are interested in medicine, yet keep an open mind while exploring other fields. For me, medicine is the only profession I want to go into. Doctors have told me if I am interested in anything else, then I should pursue that because of the sheer amount of training involved in becoming a physician. Also, take time to do extracurricular activities. The well roundedness of my entire class amazes me and shows me that people who want to become doctors also have lives outside the profession."

Katie Pavia, '08
Undergraduate degree, Wellesley College '12; a year as a small-group interventional tutor at an inner-city middle school in Boston

"There are lots of places where you can learn good content, so pick your school based on the people you'll be spending your time with. Having the support of colleagues and family is critical to surviving and thriving in med school. I am grateful to all my RH teachers for building and fostering a love of math and science but also teaching me that the people you work with are at least as important as the content you're learning. Nancy Peterson, Sally Shepard, Peter Hayes, Janice DelMar, Mason Kjar, and Jo Edwards all shaped my thinking as a scientist."

Alumni

Diagnosing a Healthy Education

Last spring we caught up with a dozen Rowland Hall alumni who are at various stages of medical school training at the University of Utah, and we featured their stories in the 2013-2014 Annual Report. We asked these alumni about their Rowland Hall education and their motivations to go to med school. The resulting article generated a lot of interest, so we've reprised it here.

The latest—Jerica Johnson and Chris Bossart—were matched with their respective residencies at the University of New Mexico. Check out this Fox 13 news story about University of Utah Match Day 2015.

After we published our Annual Report, our director of College Counseling pointed out that only one of these excellent students and future physicians completed an undergraduate degree at an Ivy League institution. In fact, most of them attended either large universities or private liberal arts colleges.


 

We'd like you to meet:

  • Neel Patel, Lawrence University '12
  • Isha Gupta, University of Utah '09
  • Jerica Johnson, University of Utah '11
  • Lindsay Hunter, Grinnell College '11
  • Noelle Teske, University of Notre Dame '06
  • Tim Mulvihill, Boston College '10
  • Katie Pavia, Wellesley College '12
  • Michael Chen, University of Southern California '12
  • Nicholas Larsen, Colby College '05
  • Chris Bossart, University of Puget Sound '09
  • Liz Schackman, Stanford University '08
  • Michael Sotiriou, University of Wisconsin '08

Medical School: What does it take and how do you get there?

The challenges and responsibilities of preparing to become a doctor are far more complex than memorizing a few thousand facts or functioning while sleep deprived—although those skills certainly help. According to our grads, it requires independent and critical thinking, handling the unexpected, making good decisions under pressure, and building trusting relationships.

It might come a as surprise that:

  • Writing is extremely important and highly valued in medicine.
  • The Rowland Hall teachers our med students identified as most influential taught all these subjects: music, world languages, literature, sports, psychology, science, and math.
  • Just three out of 12 of our featured alumni went directly from undergrad to medical school.
  • Many important skills for success in medicine are abstract: performing, decision making, trust building, delayed gratification, and open-mindedness.

In their own words, our grads recall the knowledge and skills they learned early on that helped them through the rigorous academic and personal challenges of medical school. At Rowland Hall they learned to: advocate for themselves, apply their acquired and intrinsic knowledge to work and life, become ever more efficient and organized, appreciate their families and educational opportunities, and embody the very qualities we all seek in the physicians of the future.

Nicholas Larsen '01
Undergraduate degree, Colby College '05; master's in marine biology, James Cook University, Australia '07

"I recommend that anyone headed for medical school take a few years off to experiment in other fields, travel, and enjoy life before launching into the rigorous program of medical school. Rowland Hall and college laid the groundwork for my academic success, and I particularly benefited from Peter Hayes's biology classes."

Noelle Teske '02
Undergraduate degree, University of Notre Dame '06; MSc in Psychological Research, University of Oxford in the U.K.; employed with the Sundance Institute/Sundance Film Festival for two years

"I always loved science and had some great teachers at RH, including Peter Hayes, whose energy was just infectious, and Keith Pankow, who really led me to love and be confident in my abilities in more mathematical science like physics. This was invaluable for my college courses like physics and organic chemistry to get me into medical school! I didn't decide until years later that I wanted to do medicine, but the science and math curriculum at RH definitely prepared me well. I'm actually even more grateful for the wonderful humanities preparation, as philosophy and psychology were my first academic loves, and my writing ability and analytical thinking have really served me well both in medical school and succeeding in this field."

Michael Sotiriou '04
Undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin '08, worked in a dermatology lab at the U, volunteered and shadowed physicians, worked at a restaurant

"I set a goal for myself to attend medical school at the University of Utah. When I was rejected my first go around it surprised and disappointed me. I had never experienced a set back of that magnitude. It was quite eye opening, and I realized I had to work harder for this than anything else in my life. I'm a goal oriented and driven individual, so I sought advice from the admissions office and set in motion a plan to strengthen my application. I felt research was already a strength, so I chose to focus on increasing my volunteer work and physician shadowing during my year off. The U seeks out balanced applicants that have strengths in several categories: research, leadership, volunteer work, patient exposure, and physician shadowing in addition to the applicant's MCAT score and GPA."

Liz Shackman '04
Undergraduate degree from Stanford University '08; master's degree in biology, Stanford University '09; worked for three years as a research assistant in the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at Stanford, traveled

"My time at Rowland Hall and Stanford definitely prepared me for the hard work of medical school. I still make the same types of study guides in med school that I started making in high school, just with 20 times more information in them."

Natasha Kwendakwema '05 (not pictured)
Undergraduate degree, University of Pennsylvania '05, ABC4 news intern

"I first thought about becoming a doctor while on a mission trip to Peru with (RH Spanish teacher) Matt Burnett and a few students from Rowland Hall during which we got to work with physicians. After college, though, I interned at a news station because I also thought I might want to go into broadcast news. After that experience, I decided to finish my premed prerequisites and apply to medical school. My family members were great mentors for me, especially my mom, who encouraged me to apply to medical school even though I hadn't followed a traditional route."

Chris Bossart '05
Undergraduate degree, University of Puget Sound '09; year off to work in a lab at the U, coach sports teams, and work in a restaurant

"I have decided on emergency medicine but liked every single rotation during third year, making the decision difficult. I would suggest to RH students to do what interests them the most in college, do your best, and keep all your doors open. Medical schools prefer students who have broad interests and experiences. Rowland Hall teachers Mr. Hayes, Jo Edwards, and Coach Derek Bunting helped shape my ideas about life."

Tim Mulvihill '06
Undergraduate degree, BS in economics, honors BS in biological chemistry, University of Utah '11; M.D./Ph.D. program; two years off and worked in a research lab at the U

"Diane Guido is the Rowland Hall teacher who had the greatest impact on my decision to go into medicine. I had never found biology classes to be that interesting, but it was fascinating to learn about psychology and the way that people think. Advice? Make sure you follow your interests through many different fields until you find the one you love."

Lindsay Hunter '07
Undergraduate degree, Grinnell College '11; conducted genetics research through a joint position with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Program and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

"Looking back at high school, the experience that I think prepared me best for the rigors of medical school was actually Mr. Wortham's French class. His class continues to be one of the hardest classes I have taken to date. Mr. Wortham encouraged us to push our abilities and taught us to not be discouraged by minor missteps. That mindset is vital when dealing with the challenges of medical school."

Jerica Johnson '07
Undergraduate degree in Exercise Physiology, University of Utah '11

"I just completed my third year of medical school. I want to specialize in either family medicine or internal medicine. The joy of building relationships with patients has ignited my interest in primary care. All my classes and experiences at RH helped to reinforce my desire to understand the 'why' behind how the world works."

Michael Chen '08
Undergraduate degree in Exercise Science, minor in music and chemistry, University of Utah '12

"It's important to know why you are interested in medicine, yet keep an open mind while exploring other fields. For me, medicine is the only profession I want to go into. Doctors have told me if I am interested in anything else, then I should pursue that because of the sheer amount of training involved in becoming a physician. Also, take time to do extracurricular activities. The well roundedness of my entire class amazes me and shows me that people who want to become doctors also have lives outside the profession."

Katie Pavia, '08
Undergraduate degree, Wellesley College '12; a year as a small-group interventional tutor at an inner-city middle school in Boston

"There are lots of places where you can learn good content, so pick your school based on the people you'll be spending your time with. Having the support of colleagues and family is critical to surviving and thriving in med school. I am grateful to all my RH teachers for building and fostering a love of math and science but also teaching me that the people you work with are at least as important as the content you're learning. Nancy Peterson, Sally Shepard, Peter Hayes, Janice DelMar, Mason Kjar, and Jo Edwards all shaped my thinking as a scientist."

Alumni

Explore More Alumni Stories

At the Intersection of Homelessness, Healthcare, and Humanity

Rowland Hall alumnus Jeff Norris lives his purpose treating and advocating for underserved populations as the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego When Jeff Norris ’03 applied to medical school, the admissions office at the University of Utah called him in for a rare second interview. He had submitted a personal statement focused on the connection between medicine, public health, and social justice, and that intersectional approach raised some eyebrows.
 
Admissions officers asked Jeff if he was sure he wanted to go to medical school, and not study public health or social work. But he assured them: he knew he wanted to be a clinician who worked with, and advocated for, underserved populations.

Jeff credits Rowland Hall with launching his career trajectory. In high school, under the mentorship of then-faculty member Liz Paige, he volunteered with Amnesty International and prepared and served food at local youth groups. The positive experience of serving others and making an impact—and relevant content in history and psychology courses—got the wheels turning in Jeff’s brain: “I started reflecting on my role in the world and how I could try to do something to make a difference for others. What is my purpose for being here?”

Jeff's self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success.

The service and activism Jeff began at Rowland Hall carried through his years as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a med student at the University of Utah, and as a Family Medicine resident at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. His self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success: in 2016, Jeff became the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages, an award-winning nonprofit that provides integrated services to people experiencing homelessness in San Diego.
 
Jeff’s day-to-day work requires a breadth of skill, knowledge, and tenacity: he estimates he spends about 40 percent of his time treating patients and the other 60 percent engaged in clinic administration, fundraising, and advocacy—including ensuring that state and federal legislation supports nonprofits like his. He serves on a number of boards, including a large network of clinics with over 100,000 patients in the San Diego area. For Jeff, it’s about more than staying connected and representing the interests of Father Joe’s Villages. “It is being present in the community to advocate for the needs of not just those experiencing homelessness, but underserved populations more broadly.”


At the clinic he leads—which serves walk-ins along with residents of Father Joe’s Villages and people receiving assistance from other local agencies—Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health. “The challenges our patients face are pretty unique, compared to most patient populations,” he said. “Their lives are very chaotic, and they have a lot going on medically, psychiatrically, behaviorally, socially…in all senses.” A significant portion of his time is spent managing programs to deliver medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD)—drugs such as buprenorphine (suboxone) or naltrexone—and for alcohol abuse. 

At the clinic he leads, Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health.

Among the most recent and cutting-edge programs Jeff and his team at Father Joe’s Villages are running is the Street Health Program, which launched this spring and is already impacting lives for the better. As the name suggests, the initiative involves going out into the streets and providing healthcare directly to people experiencing homelessness. So far, they’ve reached a number of people who’ve avoided or been underserved by traditional healthcare. One example: a man who had been using heroin for 30 years and had never before been interested in treatment. Pending a grant, the street health team hopes to treat patients with OUD at the first point of contact. In the meantime, they wrote a prescription for this particular patient because, as Jeff said, “it was the right thing to do.”
 
One of the long-term goals of the Street Health Program is to develop rapport with individuals so that they will visit the clinic for treatment. Additionally, the launch has created quite a buzz throughout San Diego, so Jeff hopes other clinics and treatment centers will consider similar programs (which do already exist in other large metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco). “It can’t just be us,” he said. “There are enough folks experiencing homelessness that we certainly cannot meet the need unilaterally.”
 
Jeff is rightly proud of his advocacy work and the impact his clinic makes on a daily basis, and he speaks passionately of the need for everyone to recognize the homelessness crisis—not just in San Diego, but also in Salt Lake City and urban areas throughout the country. While rising housing costs and relatively stagnant wages are the two primary drivers of the problem, Jeff doesn’t discount the power of the individual to make a difference, whether through volunteering, donating goods, or elevating the dialogue to fight the stigma against those experiencing homelessness.
 
When he’s not working, Jeff stays active outdoors, taking advantage of all that San Diego’s famously temperate climate has to offer. He also prioritizes time with his family: two-year-old daughter Alex keeps Jeff and wife Sonia Ponce—a practicing cardiologist—quite busy.
 
Rowland Hall’s Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund is not at all surprised that Jeff is making a difference in the lives of others. He recalled how, as a high school student, Jeff was always highly engaged and motivated to serve, often being the last to leave a volunteer event. “Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion,” Ryan said. “It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare.”
Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion. It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare. —Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education

Just as Jeff credited Rowland Hall for sparking his interest in a life of service to others, Mr. Hoglund credits Jeff for setting an example of genuine student leadership at the school. And, to the student leaders today, Jeff sends these words of encouragement: “Figure out what gives you energy and makes you feel like you're contributing to the world in some positive way, then grab that bull by the horns and don’t let go of it. That’s where you're going to be able to make a difference, to be satisfied with who you are and what you're doing in this world.”

 

All photos courtesy of Father Joe's Villages.

 

Alumni

Portrait of a Gap Year: Work, Activism, Writing, Self-Care, and Self-Discovery

Editor’s note: Gap years have long been common in Europe, and they’re on the rise in the US. So what happens when a high-achieving Rowland Hall alum takes a break from the classroom? Read on for our 2018 co-valedictorian’s account.

By Allie Zehner ’18

Ever since middle school, I had my life all planned out: graduate from high school, launch straight into college, graduate from college, and immediately enter grad school or a career. Straying from this pin-straight path didn’t seem like an option; however, here I am, writing this piece at the end of my gap year.

At the end of my junior year, certain projects arose that I was extremely passionate about pursuing. However, I knew that juggling these opportunities with the intensity of school would be extremely challenging.

Looking back, I don’t remember the exact moment I said, “Hey, mom and dad, I’m taking a year between high school and college.” Because this option did not pop up on my radar until eleventh grade, the only way to describe my decision is as the perfect collision of four distinct circumstances. First: at the end of my junior year, certain projects arose that I was extremely passionate about pursuing. However, I knew that juggling these opportunities with the intensity of school would be extremely challenging. Second: in the fall of my senior year, my family hosted two young women, Priya and Winona, who were in the middle of taking gap years to travel the country, interview people about their intersectional identities, and write a book on racial literacy. Third: I met Abby Falik, the founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year, an organization dedicated to making bridge years between high school and university a socially acceptable norm. Fourth: after continuously pushing myself throughout high school and becoming co-valedictorian, I was afraid of burning out. 

So, I committed to Barnard College of Columbia University in New York last spring and asked for a deferral of admission, elucidating my gap year plans. Barnard approved my request, I filled out a one-page form, and just like that, I was taking a gap year. 

And so the year began.

In the summer, I worked part-time jobs and saved some money.

In the fall, I worked with Sonita Alizadeh (pictured top, right, being interviewed by Allie at a Surefire conference), a young activist who uses music as a tool to catalyze social change, particularly looking to end the detrimental traditional practice of child marriage. Through my work with her and a nonprofit, Strongheart Group, I conducted research, interviewed young activists from around the world, and traveled to the United Nations Foundation’s Social Good Summit in New York City. 

In the winter, I started focusing on curating a book about the next generation of young women. Formatted as a collection of essays, I will write about half of the chapters and other teen girls will write the rest. From omnipresent social media to an extremely divided political climate to gun violence, this book will speak to the most pressing, serious issues my generation is facing on our journey to adulthood. Learning through doing, I taught myself how to write a book proposal, draft a query letter, reach out to agents, and build a website. 

In the spring, I was extremely fortunate to travel to Colombia, where I used my Spanish (gracias, Señor Burnett), attended a women’s conference, and shadowed an incredible nonprofit, Juanfe, that works with teen moms in Cartagena. And, coincidentally, I met another teen who is taking a gap year to live in South American cities, work, become fluent in Spanish, and volunteer. I have also spent the spring loving (pretty much) every second of learning how to write a book. 

The other key aspect of this year is that, having struggled with a chronic illness since the seventh grade, I made time to see doctors and get necessary testing. While I still do not know the root cause of my health issues, I am better equipped to manage my symptoms and look after my own well being: two things I did not prioritize in middle and high school.

And that is my gap year in a nutshell. 

Spending a year outside the classroom has given me time to nurture other facets of my persona: I am an activist, daughter, employee, sister, and global citizen. 

Let me just say that taking this year and venturing from the extremely narrow life path I had envisioned has been one of my best decisions. From around the time I could walk, I was in school five days a week, seven hours a day. For 15 years, being a student was absolutely core to my identity. Spending a year outside the classroom has given me time to nurture other facets of my persona: I am an activist, daughter, employee, sister, and global citizen. 

I will be attending university this fall. Contrary to what is sometimes believed about gap years, I will be going back to school with an immensely stronger sense of self, more direction, and a readiness to return to the classroom. I could not be more ecstatic to finish my book throughout freshman year and continue to grow as a person.

Gap years are not for everyone, but they should be considered a viable alternative to going straight to college. My hope is that society recognizes the immense possibilities bridge years can hold.

alumni

Claire Wang at Rowland Hall graduation in 2015.

Rowland Hall alumna and Duke University senior Claire Wang '15 has added a prestigious new title to her already impressive list of achievements: Rhodes Scholar.

Claire Wang holding climate action now sign

The Rhodes Trust on November 17 announced the names of the 32 Americans to win the 2019 scholarship, one of the most famous academic awards available to US college graduates.

Claire emailed some of her former Rowland Hall teachers Sunday, overjoyed to share the news. "I'll be Oxford bound next fall," she wrote. "Thank you all so much for your support over the years."

Claire is the sole Utahn among the 2019 scholars, and one of 21 women—a record for an American Rhodes class. Here's her profile as published by the trust:

"Claire R. Wang, North Salt Lake, is a Duke senior majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. She is a Truman Scholar and a Udall Scholar, and has a perfect GPA. She is President of the Duke Climate Coalition, was appointed by Duke's president to advise on campus sustainability and climate policy, and has led numerous environmental policy campaigns. Claire also has worked at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and for Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. She aspires to a career as a climate-change policy advocate and to work at a global level to develop clean energy alternatives to replace fossil fuels. Claire will do master's degrees at Oxford in Environmental Change and Management, and Global Governance and Diplomacy."

At Rowland Hall, Claire felt supported and encouraged on her quest to make the world a better place.

Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest and best-known award for international study, provide all expenses for up to four years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Scholars must display academic excellence, good character, leadership skills, and commitment to service.

Claire has previously said she's fortunate to have attended Rowland Hall, where she felt supported and encouraged on her quest to make the world a better place. The valedictorian for the class of 2015 also said she appreciated her alma mater's emphasis on writing, which helped her as a student and an organizer. She credited her middle and upper school debate experience for giving her many of the skills she uses in her advocacy work: "Just like debate, running campaigns involves strategy, negotiation, and analysis," she said. Read our November 2016 Fine Print story about Claire.

More Information

Alumni

Ikwo Frank and peers on National Academy of Medicine stairs

Ikwo Frank '13 and her peers from American University recently took the stage at the National Academy of Medicine to pitch their solution to the sixth-annual DC Public Health Case Challenge. The competition engages teams of students from DC-area universities in an intensive two-week process of researching solutions to a significant public health issue, culminating in the presentation of a proposal to a panel of expert judges at the Academy's annual meeting. This year's challenge was "Reducing Disparities in Cancer and Chronic Disease: Preventing Tobacco Use in African American Adolescents."

Ikwo, who is about six months away from completing her master's degree in health promotion management, joined American's team at the invitation of another program student—she thought it would be a good academic challenge. Plus it's a subject she and her team members are passionate about, which served them well during the strenuous research phase and at the panel presentation on October 14.
 

Left: Ikwo with fellow American University students Liz Fam and Elizabeth Taormina. Right: Ikwo on stage.

Her cohort spent hours working individually and as a team, sharing ideas for the best and most practical ways they could tackle the case. Ikwo, who has been living in Washington DC for almost a year and a half, found herself focusing on what students do after school. "It's a big city," she said. "Where do all these kids go?" Her team devised an idea for an after-school program built around mental health and wellness—the program would help kids become more mindful, teach healthy strategies for coping with stress, and provide a safe space when school lets out.

Ikwo's team devised an idea for an after-school program built around mental health and wellness—the program would help kids become more mindful, teach healthy strategies for coping with stress, and provide a safe space when school lets out.

Even though her team didn't win the competition, Ikwo regards the experience as extremely worthwhile. The conviction they brought to their presentation earned positive reviews from the panel, and the collaborative energy of participants was inspiring. Furthermore, all teams' proposals will be summarized in an upcoming National Academy of Medicine publication.

And there's one more benefit not to be overlooked: the competition requires students to apply a narrow lens—and look for feasible solutions—in a field where the scope and volume of problems often seem daunting. "The health world is so broad, and there's so much work to be done," Ikwo said. "I wish we could save the world, but we have to be realistic. One small thing really does go a long way."

Ikwo is already applying her studies to the greater community. When not in school, she works at the World Bank as a fitness specialist and instructor. Prior to attending American, she earned her bachelor of science from Weber State University in human performance management (the program has since been renamed).

 

Banner photo: 2018 DC Public Health Case Challenge Participants. Photo credit: National Academy of Medicine.

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