September 19, 2017

Peace Corps Props

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More Than a School

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Future Fulbright

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Destined for Dentistry

Jake Kalkstein came to UMW looking for change. This May, he’ll leave with a purpose.

Feeling lost after his first year of college, the soon-to-be-graduate transferred to UMW, enamored by its small class sizes, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, and potential for building relationships with professors.

UMW Senior Jake Kalkstein who's been admitted to dental school, in the office of local dentist, Dr. Theresa Y. Crawley, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. (Photo by Norm Shafer).
UMW senior Jake Kalkstein has been admitted to Howard University’s dental school. He hopes to one day start a nonprofit that hosts mission trips. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Just three years later, Kalkstein’s colorful story spans three countries and culminates with an acceptance letter and academic scholarship to dental school at Howard University. Sharing a vibrant narrative of eye-opening mission trips, engaging faculty mentors and hands-on dental experience, Kalkstein paints a picture that places Mary Washington as the canvas for his future.

Diving into a biology major his first year on campus, Kalkstein admits he was taken aback by the rigor of his courses and struggled with the academic transition. Then he found the spark that pushed him to excel at school.

“I could see myself being a dentist,” said Kalkstein, reflecting on his time shadowing his family dentist in Arlington, Virginia. “I would observe, help sterilize equipment and work directly with patients. I loved how hands-on it was.”

The one-and-a-half-month immersion was the taste Kalkstein needed to make academics his priority and seek out other experiences in dentistry. Over the next two years, he joined mission trips to Haiti and Panama as part of International Medical Relief’s dental team, helping dentists who performed extractions and fluoride treatments.

“I gained a ton of perspective,” said Kalkstein, who shared stories about patients with rotting teeth, decay and intense pain. “Oral health isn’t a priority in places like Haiti and Panama, which causes so much suffering.”

Besides assisting with dental procedures, Kalkstein handed out toothpaste and toothbrushes, and worked with translators to deliver pre- and post-operation reports.

“I realized how valuable and fulfilling it is to give back,” said Kalkstein. “The trips only motivated me further to become a dentist and possibly one day start my own nonprofit that hosts mission trips.”

Back in Fredericksburg, Kalkstein had the ideal network and pre-dental program within the biology department to support his vision and launch his dental career.

UMW senior Jake Kalkstein, who's been admitted to Howard University's dental program, spends time in the office of local dentist Dr. Theresa Young Crawley '77. Photo by Norm Shafer.
UMW senior Jake Kalkstein, who’s been admitted to Howard University’s dental program, spends time in the office of local dentist Dr. Theresa Young Crawley ’77. Photo by Norm Shafer.

“It’s not uncommon for Jake to drop by my office,” said Abbie Tomba, associate professor of biology. “We would discuss classwork or current topics in science. His curiosity about a wide range of topics led to some great conversations.”

Between faculty mentors and the department’s pre-medical/pre-dental club, Kalkstein had the tools he would need to land a spot in Howard University’s dental program. The club became a crucial key to Kalkstein’s success, providing career advice, entrance exam tips and speakers from representative programs.

“Joe Ferguson, a former professor at UMW, is now a family friend,” said Kalkstein, who often spent time talking with faculty during office hours. “My professors wrote letters of recommendation, mentored me and helped me with my résumé.”

Proudly wearing his new Howard University sweatshirt, he is proof that everyone’s efforts – especially his own – seem to have paid off.

“I’ve come a long way,” Kalkstein said. “Relentless hard work in a tough science curriculum has gotten me to where I am today. I worked hard and reached my goal.”

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Changing Cultures

When UMW sophomore Yoel Kidane first arrived in the United States at the age of 14, he spoke only conversational English. Adjusting to the American culture and English language was his first hurdle.

UMW's Student Transition Program helped sophomore Yoel Kidane adjust to college life.
UMW’s Student Transition Program helped sophomore Yoel Kidane adjust to college life.

Just three years later, he was applying to colleges, setting himself up to be the first of his siblings to attend a university in the U.S. When Kidane received his acceptance letter from UMW, it came with an invitation that made all the difference.

Diving into UMW’s Student Transition Program (STP), which begins with a five-week on-campus stint the summer before freshman year, gave the East Africa native the launching pad he needed to support his college experience. Now well into his second year at UMW, Kidane has found his niche as a political science major and member of the club soccer team.

“STP helped me discover the school,” said Kidane, who plans to major in political science and minor in yet another language – French. (He also speaks Italian, as well as his native tongue, Tigrinya.) “I was able to meet professors in different departments, ask questions and see what college classes were like.”

Through the yearlong program, designed to support first-generation and underrepresented students, Kidane joined a cohort of first-year students who lived in the residence halls, met with support staff, learned the layout of campus and even took introductory courses in their intended major. Going into his first official year of college later that summer, Kidane already had collected a peer group of friends and four credits toward his degree.

“STP helped Yoel adjust and understand what it takes to be successful as a student,” said Justin Wilkes, director of the transition program and Kidane’s advisor. “He came with a mindset to work hard but didn’t necessarily know what that looked like or how to apply it until he went through the program.”

Now nearly halfway through his UMW experience, Kidane is on a roll, both in the classroom and on the field.

Growing up in Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, when he wasn’t in school or at church, he spent much of his free time playing soccer. He pursued his passion for the sport as a student at Northern Virginia’s Herndon High School, where he played varsity, and now at UMW, where he’s building lasting relationships with his club teammates.

Most importantly, coming from a country that mandates education only through age 13, he feels like he’s done his job setting the stage for his younger siblings.

“I have to be a role model for my brothers and sister,” said Kidane, who knows that his experience could impact their own decisions about college. “I want to set an example for them.”

Marketing Down Under

Early this January, 13 UMW students took a 3-mile kayak trip across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland to Rangitoto Island. Hiking to the summit of the island’s volcano, the class watched the sun set over the city in the distance before paddling back under a star-filled sky.

The students were part of Marketing Down Under, a College of Business course that includes eight weeks of instruction on campus and a 13-day excursion to Australia and New Zealand for hands-on application of the material they learn. Led by Associate Professor Lance Gentry, the students evaluated each company, attraction and hotel they visited to analyze marketing efforts, customer experience and operational success. The group also met with an Australian marketing executive who worked on revolutionary ads targeting U.S. tourists in the 1980s and learn about both the campaign and its impact on the travel marketing industry.

Students white water rafting in Australia.

“I was stunned to learn that tourism is projected to surpass farming as New Zealand’s largest source of income,” said junior and international business major Jessica Roberson. “Australia and New Zealand attract a lot of tourists from China. This can be seen in large tourist attractions such as the Sydney Tower Eye, which had signs in both English and what appeared to be Mandarin.”

In Sydney, the group had the opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve on a cruise across Darling Harbour, see a show at the iconic Sydney Opera House, travel to the Blue Mountains, visit the Tobruk Sheep Station for a shearing demonstration and eat at the revolving Sydney Tower Eye. Then the class jetted to New Zealand, where students donned wetsuits and rode tubes through the caverns of Waitomo Caves, went whitewater rafting and attended a Maori cultural performance.

“Visiting the beaches, the Sydney Opera, and watching the fireworks from a boat on New Year’s Eve were all times to remember,” said sophomore and geography major Lily Van Horn. “This trip gave me a new appreciation for other countries and their cultures, and a stronger desire to travel more.”

To learn more about study abroad programs at UMW, visit the Center for International Education at http://international.umw.edu/.

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Find Your Purpose

Explore UMW at the Open House, Feb. 20