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The Year of Opportunity — Donors to Date

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Announcing UNE’s Year of Opportunity

The Vision 2017 ten-year strategic plan developed under the leadership of President Danielle N. Ripich is largely completed. But before we can declare the campaign a complete success, we still have a little more work to do in order to ensure that every student who aspires to be part of the UNE experience has the Opportunity to do so. That’s why contributions for scholarships and student support will be our primary focus during the final year of the Moving Forward campaign, the Year of Opportunity.

Creating Future Opportunities at UNE

Samuel Cushing, ’13, ’18 – Future Pharmacist

Cameron Russel

Samuel Cushing received his Bachelor of Science in Medical Biology from the University of New England in 2013, and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Pharmacy at UNE, which he will complete in 2018.

A Maine native and Cheverus High School graduate, Samuel knew about UNE’s reputation as one of the top colleges in New England for the medical sciences. He also knew from an early age — and from extensive experience with a medical condition that rendered it necessary for him to spend time in and out of the hospital — that he wanted to be a healthcare professional. This realization was further enhanced by the direct interactions he had with doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel that pointedly indicated a lack of communication expertise within hospital settings, where, for example, understanding of a patients, condition and empathy for that patient, were not always contemporaneous.

Samuel’s initial career path was not to become a pharmacist, but a medical doctor. A Presidential Scholarship from UNE provided Samuel with the opportunity to enroll in UNE’s undergraduate Medical Biology degree program. A change of jobs landed him in a part-time position within the pharmacy of his local Hannaford, providing early experience into the world of pharmacy his sophomore year at UNE.

 “As I was wrapping up my Medical Biology degree, I knew I wanted to go on to medical school. I went through the first rounds of applying for medical school, but it wasn’t until the second round of the application process that I decided to take a closer look at what I really enjoyed. I had blinders on as far as considering a career in pharmacy because I was so focused on wanting to get into medical school. It hit me all at once that I didn’t have to be a medical doctor to have interactions with patients. I realized that though my experience at this stage was retail pharmacy in a grocery store, I was still likely to be the last individual to have a medical interaction with a person picking up their prescription. This realization made me want to look into pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.”

Samuel quickly learned that a Pharmacy degree would afford him the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, such as a clinical pharmacist in a hospital, a researcher at a pharmaceutical company, a pharmacy instructor at a higher education institution, or a pharmacist in a retail store. “My understanding of studying to become a physician meant spending four years as an undergraduate, four more years as a graduate and some number of years as a resident honing your skills in one particular area of medicine, like working up the side of a pyramid. Pharmacy, on the other hand, almost seemed like the pyramid had been flipped upside down and as one worked the pharmacy program, your knowledge and skills only continued to broaden as the pharmacist is supposed to be the “drug expert”, not just some drugs or certain drugs but all drugs.

“As part of our licensure with the State of Maine, we have to not only have completed our four-year degree, but also have to complete a certain amount of hours obtaining real-world experience. Presently I’m in my third week of Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE). The last professional year in the program consists of APPE rotations, which are the Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience. With UNE’s global connections, students are able to gain advanced experience in different countries such as Thailand and France. One student I know went to Okinawa, Japan, with the US Navy. UNE also has connections with different organizations on the East Coast and West Coast, so if students want to be closer to home during this time, they can.

When I meet with undergraduate students who are interested in a pharmacy degree at UNE, I tell them that every professor and student has their own unique story as to why they chose to come here, which is pretty much synonymous with the pharmacy degree.

“Furthermore, there are also countless numbers of pharmaceutical organizations and UNE has some kind of student chapter for almost all of them. I’m a member of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), one of the larger organizations on a local and national level. It’s a great way to meet others, network and use as a spring board to launch your career. You’re investing in future opportunities by getting involved now, and UNE facilitates this investment.

“My personal medical experiences led to my desire to be a healthcare professional with the goal of being the most effective communicator possible for my patients. My early experience in retail pharmacy was the springboard that led me to pursue a career in pharmacy. UNE provided me with a great education and the opportunity to expand my knowledge and broaden my horizons. The beauty of the Doctor of Pharmacy degree is that it can take you as far as you want to go.”

Deqa Dhalac ’17 – Future Social Worker

Deqa Dhalac

Deqa Dhalac is pursuing her dream of becoming a Licensed Social Worker, and will obtain her Master of Social Work in May, 2017.

Originally from the Federal Republic of Somalia, Deqa moved to the United States 25 years ago. She initially settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where her children were born. However, she soon found the hustle and bustle of the big city, with long commuting times to and from work, detracted from her family time and the time she was able to spend with her children. In 2005, her uncle moved to Maine and shortly thereafter told Deqa about the state that bears the slogan, “The way life should be.” Deqa and her family followed her uncle’s footsteps and moved to Portland.

In her newly-adopted city, Deqa discovered two things: her passion for working with the city’s burgeoning refugee population and the slower pace of life, which made it easy for her and her family to access the city’s amenities. In 2007 she began working as a social worker with the Social Services Division of the City of Portland, where her caseload included immigrants and refugees. Her work was supported by the Survivors of Torture grant (SOT); a grant committed to assisting persons who have experienced torture abroad and who are residing in the United States. Her responsibilities were two-fold: provide holistic, strengths-based and trauma-informed services to survivors of torture and their families in order to assist them in the healing and recovery process, and help them assimilate into a new country and culture. Deqa enjoyed being a social worker, but longed to obtain a master’s degree in social work, a dream propelled by her father’s undying mantra, “Education, education, education.”

“My father was a very educated man who had a master’s degree in engineering. He always emphasized the importance of education. He believed that investing in your education was the best thing you could do for yourself. That’s why I wanted to get my master’s degree."

One of Deqa’s colleagues within the Social Services Division was an intern enrolled in UNE’s MSW program. The intern spoke positively about the program and suggested Deqa meet her intern supervisor, Craig Owens. Deqa found Craig to be welcoming and connected her with Shelley Cohen Konrad, director of the School of Social Work, professor in the School of Social Work and director of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC). Speaking with Shelley helped Deqa decide to enroll in the program, and it has turned out to be one of the best choices she has ever made.

“All of my professors at UNE are so supportive and all have worked so hard to help me seize this opportunity. Though I had been working in the field for a long time, I really needed the educational background to reinforce my experience.”

On several occasions, Deqa has been asked by her professor to explain to her fellow students the differences between refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers. She says, “I’m only too happy to explain this and give to UNE what knowledge I have on the subject, since UNE have given me so much.”

This fall, Deqa will be a school social worker intern at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland. When she graduates, she hopes to become a social worker within the Portland Public Schools. She believes it’s essential that Portland Public School employees are as culturally diverse as the student body. (Right now, over 60 languages are spoken within the district.) Deqa is currently educating school officials on the cultural and linguistic diversity found in Africa, a continent of 57 countries and over 3,000 languages. Deqa says, “UNE has provided me with an opportunity to see what work needed to be done within my community. I am now better equipped to work with students who are immigrants, refugees and asylees. I am now able to educate my community and be a part of their healing and rebuilding.”

Cameron Russell ’18 – Future Biologist

Samuel Cushing

Cameron Russell is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Biological science and is slated to graduate in 2018.

A resident of southern New Hampshire, Cameron first heard about the University of New England from an older friend who had applied here. Cameron’s interest in UNE was piqued when the friend told him about the numerous cutting edge research opportunities available to undergraduate students. With a strong interest in science, Cameron knew he wanted to be involved in research. He soon discovered that unlike other schools where he had applied, UNE would be able to provide him with several unique opportunities to do research.

Prior to enrollment, Cameron participated in Experience UNE Day, where he attended a mock group lecture with assistant professor Dr. Kristin Burkholder. During her research presentation, she informed the group of several research positions available in her lab. Burkholder’s idea was to have a select group begin in her lab as freshman and continue their research throughout their four years of study at UNE.

Cameron wanted to be one of those students. During his second trip to campus, he attended another mock presentation with Dr. Burkholder and expressed his interest in conducting research in her lab. Dr. Burkholder was receptive to the idea and accepted him as a laboratory aid. During this time, Cameron became more comfortable working within a laboratory setting and was able to network with other students. These students were helpful and shared information about internship programs in the area, and also showed him the ropes. His biggest networking opportunity came from participating in the Research Symposium, where he met others conducting research. Later, Cameron received the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Scholarship. As a SURE Scholarship recipient, he was able to work on an independent project involving the extraction from local seaweed in order to find antibiotic activity to combat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Cameron is grateful for all of these opportunities. “I realize how fortunate I am, as other universities don’t offer students the chance to get into a lab an start their research so early on in their studies.”

Cameron loves playing lacrosse as much as he loves doing research. His is member of the UNE lacrosse team and believes it has had a tremendous influence on his life as a UNE student. “Being a student athlete is not an opportunity everyone is fortunate enough to have. I hope to be able to continue to play lacrosse all of my years at UNE because it keeps me accountable and helps me manage my time wisely: balancing school, lab work, training, games, scheduling, everything!”

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Cameron intends to enroll in a doctorate program and continue his medical research. “UNE has given me all the opportunities that make being a student worthwhile; studies, research, athletics and having a social life, all aspects that make attending university so rewarding. These experiences will shape whichever career path I ultimately decide to take.”

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