Alumni Spotlight:  Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.

The Academics blog recently published a great article interviewing AMU alumni, Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.. Father Vincent came to Ave in 2006 to pursue a degree in pre-Theologate studies as a part of his discernment process after graduating from St. Olaf in Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in Music. He fell in love with Ave and dove into the community, joining the Esto Vir household, singing in the choir, and directing musical studies at Donahue Academy. Father Vincent recently traveled back to Ave for the first time since he graduated in order to participate in the Vocations Festival as a representative for his religious community, the Dominican Friars of the Province of Saint Joseph. To read more about his discernment, reflections on how Ave has changed, and current ministry, click here!


Student Spotlight: Margaret Payne

Margaret Payne, Senior biochemistry major and family and society minor from Nashville, Tennessee, is enjoying her last few weeks as an Ave student. This fall she will begin her studies as a Master's Chiropractic student at Palmer University in Port Orange, FL. Margaret is incredibly involved at Ave Maria and can be found working in Mission Outreach, doing research, and participating in service work with the Mother Teresa Project. Margaret is effervescent and will be so missed around campus.

How have you spent your undergraduate years preparing for a career in chiropractic care?

I’ve used my undergraduate summers to work in three different chiropractic offices. The summer after my freshman year, I worked in an office where I was the front desk secretary. It was modeled after massage envy and was somewhat impersonal. The patients came in, got their adjustment, and payed a flat fee. It was interesting, but it also showed me how I don’t want to run my practice. I think that patients should understand the quality of care that they are getting and be involved in the decisions regarding their treatment plan. The following summer, I worked for two doctors who were just opening up a new practice in Nashville. I was the secretary for them, as well, but they had a very different approach than the first office that I worked for. They had a very different style of adjustment, which was centered on holistic healthcare. The owner was a functional medicine doctor, and she helped me to figure out what I had going on with my own health. Working for her showed me that chiropractic care and nutrition go hand in hand, and in order to really heal ourselves, we need to integrate the two. Last summer I worked for a doctor as a chiropractic assistant. I was put in charge of teaching the patients the exercises that the doctor recommended and briefed them on how the office worked. I also was in charge of planning events, which I really loved. This office was different than the others that I worked for because they treated their patients as a whole person. That kind of chiropractic approach is what really drew me into the field. It made me think, “This is what a primary care doctor should be!”. I love that the future is heading toward a much more integrated system of healthcare. There is a place for medicine and a place for nutrition, but it is awesome to see how they can work hand in hand.

Did the Biochemistry program at Ave prepare you with the pre-requisite classes that you needed in order to be accepted into Palmer?

Yes, absolutely! I actually knew that Palmer was my first choice of chiropractic schools for a long time. It was the only school that I applied to, but I applied in enough time that if I didn’t get in, I could apply elsewhere and still meet the deadlines. I do feel really prepared for chiropractic school, which is why I chose to study biochemistry at Ave. With classes like medical terminology, nutrition, anatomy, biochemistry, and health science modules, Ave gave me the tools that I needed in order to know how to think and how to approach all of the sciences, as well as how to study. Because I took these classes, I have a deeper understanding of what is happening in the body at the most minute level. It’s really beautiful to understand the body and I am so excited to go forward with grad school and continue to learn about the human body. God is so unbelievable! There are hundreds of thousands of processes going on in the body at any given time, yet we just go about our day and take His craftsmanship for granted. If you treat your body right and try to give your body everything that it needs, it knows what to do and how to heal itself. I find that fascinating. 

Did your participation in mission work influence your decision to go into the health field?

I went to Honduras on mission trips twice when I was in high school and I also went with Ave to Calcutta to work in the children's homes and the home for the dying. I remember just looking at the older men and women with terribly hunched backs and thinking, “When I’m a chiropractor, all I need is my hands to provide relief and give them the tools to ease their pain.” I think it is so beautiful how one human can ease the pain of another. So much pain could be prevented with the simple remedies that we have access to and take for granted. The children in these developing countries, especially, are so hard to see…their suffering breaks your heart. I think it would be so cool to go somewhere and do as much good as possible. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the position to do something like that long-term, but I would love to set up a program to adjust homeless people wherever I live. You have nothing if you don’t have your health, so to be able to give that gift to someone would mean so much to me. Ave has taught me that mission work doesn’t have to be abroad, it can be right in your hometown. Just like Mother Teresa said, "Find your Calcutta".

Is there anything that someone who wants to go into the medical field should absolutely do before senior year?

If you think you want to go into a certain field, in order to really know, you need to get a job in that field before you graduate. Be an office secretary, volunteer at a local clinic once a week, shadow a surgeon, it doesn't matter, but you need to see the day-to-day inner workings of the career that you plan to pursue. Doing this will really help you with your decision. The experience that you gain as an undergrad in the medical field may not show you exactly what you’d be doing as a working professional, because you’re not the doctor, but you get a great understanding. No amount of research on the internet competes with real life experience. You can Google all you want, but the experience of working with a patient and seeing hundreds of cases is something that you could never gain if you didn't step foot into an office.

What is the best class that you have taken at Ave? 

Catholic Social Teaching with Doctor Rezende, hands down. The importance of everything I had learned in philosophy, theology…everything I learned growing up in a Catholic community was communicated in a way that I had never heard it before. It gave me the tools for how to live day to day as a Catholic in this world. It’s our duty to make the world better and this class was sort of the capstone of my education here. It was easily the best class I have ever taken. Going forward, I know that it deeply helped to shape my viewpoint on my position in the world. I will be able to implement what I learned in my career, my daily life, and in raising a family someday. I came to Ave for the formation, and that is exactly what I got and more.


Transitioning to Palmer from Ave, how will you take what you learned from Ave and who you became? What will make you different as a chiropractor because you came to Ave?

I think that something about Ave is that, for example, in moral theology we learned that the virtue of chastity is supposed to help incorporate our sexuality into our whole being and moderate it to the point that we aren’t controlled by our desires. Everything is supposed to be incorporated into who you are as a person. You’re not supposed to be dominated by one part of you. I’m not going to be Margaret the chiropractor, I’m going to be Margaret. I will hopefully be a wife and mother and Catholic, and I am also going to be a chiropractor. I hope that people will see something of Christ in me and in my practice and how I treat them. That’s what we are called to do - be Christ and bring His light. One of my favorite things that Saint Francis said is, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”. I love that. If it comes to a point that I have interactions with people who want to have a conversation with me about Catholicism, I feel very well equipped to answer their questions, and if I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, I know where I can turn! 

Would you like to give a shout-out to a professor?

Thank you Doctor Peliska! He is the sole reason I am still a biochemistry major come senior year. I remember when he invited all of the biochemistry majors over to his house for a barbecue. He gave a little welcome at the beginning and said, “It is really cool to look around and see all of these people who want to study this amazing science and do it for the Church to help better the world.” He had tears in his eyes, and all I could think is, "This man is so passionate". He has conveyed that passion to all of us and has made such amazing strides in this program in the short time since it was created. He is one of those teachers who just makes you so excited to learn. You’re never worried to ask him a question because he never makes you feel like your question is dumb. Everything he teaches is taught in a way that can be understood. He stopped us in class one time when we were studying metabolic pathways and said, “This is one of those things that when you look at it, how could you not believe in God as the ultimate designer?!”. That is why you come to Ave. You learn from the best of the best in every aspect and your studies are always integrated with the faith. What a wonderful man. I am so grateful for him.

Student Spotlight: John Benz

If you know John Benz, you know that there is no one else quite like him. Perhaps the most joyful, sincere, and loving man on campus, John strives to follow God's will in all that he does. As a major in both business and humanities, John has a lot on his plate. However, you can still find him chatting with students in the RA office when he is on duty, working passionately for the development of Champions of Charity, and hanging out with the members of his household. As John would say, "You've just got to let the spirit work...he won't lead you astray".

What did you do last summer?

I spent most of my time last summer working at Barton Hills Country Club, which helped me to make some great professional connections. For example, I met the president of Ford Motors, the head scout for the Chicago Black Hawks, the head rep for Nike, and many other men and women that hold high positions in the business world. It was really great to be able to network while I was working. I still am in contact with some of those people, actually. I just had a phone conversation with a man who is the President of an insurance agency, and I talked with him about the insurance world and what his agency does. I’m trying to get a feel for all of the different opportunities that will be available to me with a degree in business. 

In addition to working at the club, I also took a few online classes. I came to Ave with the intention of being a doctor, so I was a Biochemistry major up until the second semester of my sophomore year. Now, as a double major in business and humanities, I have quite a few classes to catch up on, so it was nice to be able to do that over the summer.

Do you have any advice for people that are hesitant about switching majors?

It took me a year and a half to make the decision, but I switched from Biochemistry to a double major in Business and Humanities in the middle of my sophomore year. It was a great switch for me and the combination of the two majors works my brain in a number of different ways. Undergraduate education is all about reading, writing, and speaking, so if you can focus on those things throughout your education, all of the classes that you have taken will still have formed you as a person and had an impact on your mind. 

For example, I am really grateful that I took some biochemistry classes. Because I did, I am able to talk with people about different medical issues and understand the terminology as well as what is going on in the medical world. Even things that I have learned outside of my major still have a large impact on the way that I can communicate with people and understand the subjects of my own major. 

There are so many good things to do in the world, and so many working professionals switch jobs throughout their lives. We change and are constantly developing, so changes aren't bad. If you are at peace with making a switch, go ahead and make it! Don’t be tentative about it. Trust that Jesus is going to take care of you with the whole process. He’s molding you and walking beside you and leading you where He wants you to go. You ultimately can lead people toward Jesus through whatever you do, whether that is medicine, law, business…so many fields can have such a deep impact on people. You have to let the Holy Spirit move. 

Some decisions we make are nerve-racking but that’s okay! Jesus was fearful about a variety of different things. He understands human emotion. Ultimately, if you feel an underlying peace toward something, go ahead and do it!

Where do you see yourself after you graduate?

I certainly want to get involved in business. I think it can have a great impact on people, especially in insurance, real estate, or accounting. I’m drawn to business because there are quite a few options. It is a great way to truly encounter people and get to know them. Human beings are meant for relationship and it is through that relationship that you can grow as a person and help other people to grow with you. 

What do you plan on doing this summer to help you toward your goal?

This past weekend I was offered a position to do financial analysis work as a summer intern at McKesson, which is a fortune five company in the US that is now global. There are many pharmacy technology services, so I will be doing financial analysis work for that department. To be able to get into the corporate world and have that experience is something that I am really excited for. It's going to be a great opportunity and a good exercise to put what I have learned into practice. I had a few interviews with them, and the people who work there are really genuine individuals who I am looking forward to work beside. This is a company that has a great mission and a great vision. I know that it is large, but the branch that I will be working for is much smaller, so they have more of that team feel, which will be a great benefit for me. I can see it in the people who work there as well, that they enjoy working in smaller groups. Instead of having the individualistic feel of a large corporation, it is very team oriented. What they are doing is phenomenal. They are able to drive the prices down for a variety of pharmaceuticals and basic drugs because of the efficiency of the services that they provide, so that’s one thing that I really love about the company. To be able to tie the medical healthcare side of things in with the business side of things is something that I am really looking forward to doing.

What have you learned about yourself from being an RA?

It has been a great opportunity to interact with people and love them, even when they are not at their best sometimes. It takes a certain amount of confidence and faith that you can help someone out and also the ability to realize when you can’t. Certainly the team aspect of the job is critical and one of the most important things. Communication is key, and that is true for any real world position too, whether that's with your boss or your team. From being in the disciplinary role, I've learned that people want the truth and want to understand that you respect them to the point that you can notice when they are doing something wrong. People love to be communicated to in a very pointed way…not beating around the bush. Especially guys. Realizing that you are not right all the time too, is huge for me. You have to be willing to be critiqued to be willing to listen to other people. Ultimately it helps to form us as people. Teamwork, communication and humility are the three things from this job that have really been important to me.

Continue Reading

What will you take from this job into the real world?

Interviewing with companies these past few months and bringing those three things up, specifically the importance of teamwork, communication and humility, has shown me that it is something companies love to hear that you value. They want to know that you see the big picture and that you realize that you aren’t always right. They love to see young people with a desire to learn more who understand that they don’t rule the world. It is also very important to them that you can communicate well, especially in real world situations and in a corporate environment. 

How did a company like McKesson react to the fact that you went to a small liberal arts school?

A big company like this certainly looks at your resume to see where you come from. I had a great personal connection going into my interview who was someone I knew from back home, which certainly helped. The things that they said stood out about me, though, was the service that I have participated in since I have been at Ave. They love seeing young people that are willing to be part of something bigger than themselves that give of themselves more fully. They also really enjoyed seeing that I was invested in Champions of Charity and that I am motivated to be a part of an initiative that serves so many people. The interview was mostly a reflection of my character and that is really what I wanted to portray to them…who I am as an individual and what I am able to bring to their company. It’s about creating value for them. They were pretty astonished about the things that I was able to talk about with them, such as the importance of integrity, honesty, and work ethic. Students here at Ave, in particular, learn those qualities in such a special way because we are in a unique environment that emphasizes them. I think that most employers respect those things beyond belief because they are the things that drive and motivate people and create value. 

What are some tips that you would give to people going into a interview? What kind of questions do you ask when you go in?

I always ask what I will be doing on a daily basis. Based on the feedback that you get from your employer about what you’re going to be doing, you’ll get a good sense of whether or not you’ll like the job. If you aren’t going to want to be doing what they’re asking of you, why are you doing that job? Definitely ask them about the daily tasks, but also ask their personal opinion about the company - how they got to the position that they are in, what they love about their position, why they chose the company. These are the questions that I have asked all of my employers. These people love talking about their company! They have a certain sense of pride, and to be able to bring that out from them will give you a lot of personal feedback from them about what the company is all about and how it has formed them. 

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring?

The first thing would be a bible, I think that that goes without saying for me. The second would be a picture of my family, and third, my notebook from this past year that has notes from the great thinkers. Descartes, Paschal, Niche, Hobbes, JPII…it’s a great collection of thoughts. 

What’s your best quality?

I think that it is my ability to listen. I want to hear about other people and what they are up to. You can really learn a lot from listening and refraining from speaking.

When have you been most satisfied in your life?

Honestly, right now. I think that that has a lot to do with my faith and entrusting everything to Jesus and what He wants to do with me. I am very open to where He wants to put me and because of that He has given me some amazing opportunities, like the job this summer. He’s given me my family, and my family is the bread and butter of who I am as a person…my dad in a special way. He has given me this university and the opportunity to educate myself and practice my faith, which is a very fragile gift. I am satisfied right now because I am starting to see what God wants for me in my life and not pushing anything on my own accord. I want to influence people in a positive way, trying to be joyful and humble and honest and a man of faith, as a whole. I always want to be in a position that I am ready to die. Jesus orders everything properly and critiques and humbles me when I need to remember that He is in charge of everything. The fact that He is in charge of all 46 billion light years of this universe and that he has also made the smallest cell in my body and keeps it all together is pretty cool. Entrusting everything to Him will always make me most satisfied. 

What is your proudest accomplishment?

It's an ongoing accomplishment, but Champions of Charity. Andrew Nussbaum, Alex O’Conner, Hunter Rose, Matt Eichorn and myself have been working a lot together and have been able to see it start to grow and get a lot of support. The positive impact that it is having and is capable of having on a large scale is something that we are starting to see the fruits of. Definitely that project is something I am very proud of. It is a project that we have entrusted to the Holy Spirit, and that has brought a lot of peace. Right now, we are finalizing a contract to enhance our mission. This opportunity has come along in a very sudden way and we know that the Holy Spirit is in charge of this whole thing. I am confident that it will bring a spirit of generosity and giving into the lives of so many students.

Would you like to give a shout out to any professors that you have had?

Oh my, there are so many amazing faculty members here that have had a lasting impact on me. Dr. Curtright’s course on Thomas More was a life-changing one for me, and the work that he does is certainly very unique. Michael Sugrue is also an incredible man and has done amazing work with the humanities, being able to really educate me as a whole person, especially to see trends throughout history in the way that man has thought and acted. All of the great works that I have been immersed in have helped me to see where we are today and how we got here. Those are two professors that I admire greatly.

10 Tips for Managing your Time Like a Pro

College is strange. On one hand, you have infinitely more time out of class than you did in high school, yet it always seems as if you are being blindsided by the deadlines of impending papers and exams. As a junior, between juggling homework, my job, extra curricular activities, and attempting to feed myself and sleep, I often joke that my spirit animal is a chicken with its head cut off. Time management is the most critical skill that you will learn during your college career, and while it may take some time to figure out exactly what works for you, it will save you so much stress in the long-haul! Here are 10 tips I wish I had known coming into college that will (hopefully) make your life a little less hectic.

Establish priorities at the beginning of each day by making a list of the tasks that need to be completed before you go to bed. There are always a few essential things to accomplish, so make sure to star those and number them in order of greatest importance to least. Making a conscious effort to devote the entirety of your attention to the work at hand by avoiding distractions like cell phones and loud spaces will help you to finish tasks quickly and efficiently. Know when you should delegate tasks and when you can set them aside, too.

Stay organized. Not only is it important to set priorities and goals on a daily basis, but it is also very important to be able to plan ahead and create weekly and monthly “at-a-glance” schedules. Doing this will allow you to write down all of your due dates and test dates, along with your work schedule, which will help you plan to finish your work so that you can attend birthday parties and fun events too! You don’t want to realize that you have a test the day that you walk into class, so make sure to consult your syllabus once in a while…your profs actually gave it to you for a reason.

Know how you work best. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Determining this and using it as a guide to help you study during your peak hours of concentration will help you to focus while you work. Just because your best friend studies at a certain time does not mean that it is the best time for you. Schedule your sleep around this study time so that you always wake up refreshed and ready to take on the next day!

Be flexible with your schedule. Build it in such a way that you are getting everything done long before it is due…don’t be that guy that plans to turn in a paper at 11:59pm on the due date and has their computer crash at 11:58pm. Life can get crazy and things pop up that need to be taken care of, forcing you to push your school work aside. Don’t let little things throw you off.

Learn how to say no! Seriously, it is okay. Taking on multiple responsibilities is a great way to learn to manage your time, but more often than not, it can be overdone and result in you putting forth a mediocre effort toward 9 different things. When you are asked to do something, really consider if it is something that you care about and are truly able to handle in your schedule. 

Set time aside for yourself. THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. You need 8 hours of sleep to function at your peak. You need to have time to sit down and eat proper and nutritious meals. Get outside and go for a bike ride or a run for an endorphin boost! Read a book that isn’t a textbook. Feed your passions with the things that you love, whether it be art, movies, or a day at the beach. If you work hard, you have got to let yourself play hard too.

Complete homework assignments on time. Even though you may not suffer a big penalty if you don't, it is great practice to be timely and do your work when it is assigned. So many students put off their assigned reading as optional, especially if your teacher doesn't quiz you or call on people in class, but come test day, you will be much more prepared it you actually did read. It will also cut down on your study time later on.

Be realistic. Do you have four hours on just one day allotted to write a 6 page research paper? Space projects out in manageable chunks of time over one or two week periods, instead of scheduling yourself to do it all in one day. Doing this will allow for thorough completion days ahead of the due date. Only you know how you work best, so plan accordingly.

Assess the successes! Did you get your best test grade of the semester after using flashcards to study? Did you rock your history test when you chose to study for 2 hours per day for a week instead of 10 hours the day before the test? Were you more refreshed on exam day when you got 9 hours of sleep instead of 5? Remember those things and use them in the future! Every person is unique when it comes to how we best function. Learn about yourself and use your strengths to your advantage!

Know when to buckle down…even when it’s hard. How does it always happen that exam week is full of great university events beckoning you to attend? While it may seem as if a few hours away from your studies won't be the end of the world, don't compromise your final grade for a pool BBQ or movie night.