Student Spotlight: Nick Pullano

Senior, Nick Pullano, from Mundelein, Illinois, will be graduating this May with a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry. Nick has the heart of a servant and can always be found going above and beyond what is asked of him. After graduation, Nick plans to attend medical school, with the long-term goal of finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes - a cause close to his heart.

What did you do last summer? 

This past summer, I spent my time working at a local golf and country club as well as volunteering as a research assistant at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, which is one of the top research hospitals in the state. While I was at Lutheran General, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with two Family Practioners, one of which specialized in the genetic disorder of Down Syndrome. I was able to assist them in their research projects, which focused on reducing the cost of healthcare for both the providers and patients of down syndrome treatments, based on medical status. By working alongside these physicians, I was able to understand the dire need for affordable healthcare in America and think creatively to work toward a solution for the future.

What do you want to do when you graduate?  

After I graduate from Ave Maria University in May, I will be under review for medical school acceptance. During this time, I will be utilizing my Biochemistry degree by working as a chemist in a research lab either in Illinois or Florida. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Five years from now, I see myself completing my education at one of my top medical school choices and applying to a residency program as the next step in my healthcare career. 

What are you plans for this year to get closer to your goal?

I am currently devoting twenty-five to thirty hours per week to my online Kaplan course, which is designed to help me prepare for the MCAT examination. Additionally, I will be finalizing my applications for medical school.

Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?

I chose the medical field because I have always wanted the opportunity to bring joy to others by serving them. Before attending Ave Maria University, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. While it was initially difficult to adjust to this sudden lifestyle change, I believe that it was God’s way of calling me to the medical field; specifically, to work towards a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

How have you coped with your diagnosis?

Coping with Type 1 Diabetes is, and will aways be, a challenge for me, but I was referred to a phenomenal Endocrinologist down here in Naples by the name of Dr. Todd Brodie. He and his assistants have given me the most up to date information on how to manage Type 1 Diabetes, since I am still a newbie to this disease. The key to managing it, for me, has been to exercise regularly and stick to a healthy diet. Dr. Brodie’s insight on taking the correct amount of insulin and consistently making sure that I test my glucose 4-6 times a day has given me a tremendous blood glucose level (A1C) of 6.9!

What have you learned from participation in extracurricular activities?  

Through my participation in extracurricular activities, I have learned that it is essential to get along with others in order to create strong relationships with teammates and reach a common goal. In addition, by participating in baseball throughout my four years at Ave, I learned that time management is key in order to maintain balance in everyday life. 

Who are three people in history you admire most and why? 

I admire General George S. Patton for his bravery and extensive military knowledge while leading our country in WWII, Saint John Paul II for helping to bring an end to communism in Europe, especially his home country of Poland, and Michael Jordan for his tenacity and killer instincts which helped to lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships. 

What is the most memorable phone call you have ever received?

The most memorable phone call that I ever received was from one of my close family friends who happens to be former Cubs 3rd basemen, Ron Santo. During this phone call, Mr. Santo personally invited my cousins and I to go see him at the radio booth in historic Wrigley Field. As many of you know, I am a die hard Cubs fan, so this phone call was one of the most exciting moments in my life... besides, of course, when the Cubs won the World Series! It was great to listen to what he had to say about his life, because, like me, he is a type 1 diabetic who plays baseball. He gave me lots of encouragement to keep doing what I love, and told me to always pursue my passion.

What is the one thing you have always wanted but still don’t have? 

As the only child in my family, I have always wanted to have siblings. I always wonder what my childhood would have been like if I had had an older sibling to look up to or a younger sibling to take care of. 

What things are most important to you now? Why?  

My relationships with family and friends, my faith, striving to be the best person I can be, and helping others become the best person they can be. 

How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life? 

My childhood dreams and goals were greatly influenced by growing up in Illinois and being a huge Chicago Bulls fan. Because I saw Michael Jordan leading the bulls to many championships, I always envisioned myself being a professional basketball player. I also had an interest in meteorology because I was so fascinated by thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornados. While I do not specifically wish to pursue a career in meteorology anymore, I believe this early interest influenced my choice to pursue a science degree at Ave Maria. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes prior to attending Ave, my ultimate dream and goals evolved into a desire to work in the medical field to find a cure for Diabetes. I want to help other individuals, like myself, live a more enjoyable life.

Where in the world would you like to get lost?  

I am interested in traveling to so many places, but I think I would ultimately like to get lost in Spain. I’ve always wanted to spend time in Spain because it looks like such a beautiful country and is so rich in history. 

Do you have any good study habits to pass on?  

Throughout my four years at Ave Maria University, I have found that it is essential to establish relationships with your professors and regularly meet with them for help with material that you do not understand. After learning first hand from your professors, you can then help others understand the material better as well. This will not only help them with their studies, but also help you to solidify your own knowledge. 

If you could interview anyone, who would it be and what would you ask? 

If I could interview anyone in history, I would want to interview Jesus Christ. Not only is He the most interesting figure in history, but also our Lord and Savior. It would be absolutely incredible to hear an account of salvation history through the words of Jesus Christ Himself.

Student Spotlight: Josie Hartney

Josie Hartney, a senior at Ave Maria, is the definition of southern belle. With her contagious laugh and sweet drawl, Josie is a joy to be around. During her time at Ave Maria, Josie has taken the most difficult science classes that are offered, played many intramural sports, participated in a variety of clubs, and devoted her time and talents to the students as a Resident Assistant. This past December, Josie was accepted into Augusta University’s occupational therapy program and plans to begin her studies there, in her home state of Georgia, this fall. 

Advice for juniors/seniors applying to graduate school?

For me, getting experience in the field that I was interested in was invaluable in helping me figure out what type of graduate school I wanted to attend. When I was a freshman, I started exploring what was available in the medical field. A family friend advised me to create a master document to keep track of all of the experiences I would have over the upcoming years, both shadowing and working. She told me to note how I felt after each experience, so that a few years down the road, I could remember what I did or did not like about it and the different things I saw. It was really nice to have that record, especially when I was applying for graduate schools and determining my vocation. As someone going into healthcare, it was really important for me to be able to log all of my experience and count the patient care hours that I had completed. Employers and graduate schools want to know if you have seen the broad spectrum of the field that you are going into. By having accumulated experience, it shows them that you have been thinking about your future for a long time.

How did you make the decision that you wanted to go on to graduate school?

I think my field is unique because I knew even before I got to Ave that I wasn't going to stop learning when I got my bachelor's in Biology. I knew that it wouldn't be the finish line, because it is just a stepping stone that is going to get me to where I want to go. I looked at juniors and seniors in my major and got as much as advice from them as I could. I also weighed the options of what I could do with a bachelors degree, versus what I could do if I furthered my degree. The classes you take greatly impact what you are able to do in my particular field, so that had to be thought out. There are so many prerequisites to fulfill if you want to go on in the sciences, and many may not be included in what your major requires that you take. Early on, I looked at the prerequisites required for all of the graduate programs that I was interested in, and took those classes. That is really important to do, otherwise you will graduate and have to enroll in a community college to take a few more courses before being able to start grad school. 

What advice do you have for someone that is interested in applying?

Talking to your friends and family is really helpful because they notice things about you that you either do not notice or will not admit about yourself. There really is value to be gained from other people’s opinions. I am lucky to have a family who is medically oriented because they could both speak to my interests and help me throughout the application process. Being self-aware has really helped me to know what I like, what I don't like, and what my weaknesses and strengths are. Recognizing my capabilities allows me to know that I will be able to tackle grad school. I love to learn, and I know I will excel. I am not burnt out quite yet.

Do you think it is advisable to tell people to understand what their goal is in going to graduate school?

I definitely think it is important for people to have a goal going into graduate school, especially because going to grad school is likely going to introduce you to a lot of debt. I would not want to invest years of my life, and thousands of dollars, into something that I was not confident that I wanted to do. When you think about going to grad school, it is not just a program, it is a season of life that you are going to be in. Not only do you have to evaluate the program based on it’s credentials, you are also discerning if you are going to be able to do well with your faith, be in a good community, and be able to live out your vocation while going there. Also, what is going in your immediate family is important. Do you have siblings or family members that you want to be able to watch grow, or are you willing to move far away and miss that? In addition, if you are in a serious relationship and about to get married, that may impact your decision process as well. There are so many non-academic factors that have to be weighed, but for me, the biggest three were faith, finances, and family.

How did you choose Augusta University?

I had to decide how much I wanted to pursue a career in occupational therapy, and how much I would be willing to sacrifice to do that. Personally, my decision was driven by finances. It is so much more expensive to go to school out of state, and right now, I do not have anything that is drawing me out of state worth spending that much more money on. Among the OT programs I have looked into, there are a few great ones close to my hometown, and right now, my family is my base.

What kind of research did you do when you were looking at graduate programs? On what details did you focus your search?

I searched schools in Georgia and found the basic list, then I asked friends of mine who had gone to occupational therapy school about what they knew about those schools and their reputations. I also was interested in knowing about the student body. For example, one of the really good schools I was looking at had a student body entirely made up of girls. That steered me away from that school because I want to be around all kinds of people. I also chose schools in a certain location because I know the kind of area that I want to be living in for the next two years. In addition, of course, I looked into the financial side. For example, of my top schools, one was private, one was public. Those have very different expenses.

Augusta is a really good school with a great program, and a well accredited faculty and staff. I went to an open house there this summer and I learned so much about their values, as well as all of the mission trip fieldwork opportunity that they offer. It is very clear that they have a strong emphasis on service and compassion, which after going to Ave, I found very attractive. I knew that if I went there, I could live at home for free, which would save me from taking out thousands of dollars in loans. I applied to Augusta just because everything was pointing in that direction. For me, it had the best program that I had seen, it was the most affordable, and I would be able to be with my family. I prayed about the decision a lot and I felt like the Lord was opening all these doors for me, leading to Augusta.

If you were to have gone into an academic masters program, for example, a Ph.D in Biochemistry, instead of a professional masters program like you have decided to pursue, how do you think your discernment would have been different? 

Dr. Barbosa tried to talk to a few of the people in our Organic Chem class about going on to become biochemists, and I thought about it for a quick second. However, I realized that there is a difference between what you enjoy learning, and what your goals are for the future. For me, I enjoy learning simply for the sake of learning, but my long-term goal is to be able to use what I have learned to help people in the field of medicine. 

I think that if I had had the goal of going into an academic masters program, I would have sought out a school with the top professors in the field I was interested in, and looked into the connections that university could have offered me. It would also be very important to know if they had up-to-date labs and equipment for the kind of experience that I needed. Top-of-the-line technology is crucial in the sciences. If you are pursing academia, I do think that you have other things to consider. 

Do you have any advice for application process itself?

Check all of the deadlines for the programs that you are interested in. Make sure that you know what standardized tests you need to take, and how far in advance you need to take them in order for them to meet the application deadline of the schools you plan on applying to. You need to think about how long before those dates you need to start studying for the tests as well. Your timeline is huge. Also, if you plan to ask professors for letters of recommendation, you need to ask for those way in advance. You want to be respectful of the people that you are asking and give them plenty of time, because they are all so busy.

What would an ideal application timeline look like?

You should be creating a timeline during your junior year, and making sure that everything you need is going to be accomplished by the deadlines. A huge realization for me, was that you don't have until May of your senior year to decide what you want to be when you grow up. You need to be thinking of that long before, and I think so many people don't realize that. If you are a freshman or a sophomore, you should still be looking into these things and doing everything that you can to prepare. This is not like high school where grades during your freshman and sophomore years don't really matter, everything counts. Get involved! Do some service. Run for SGA. Go on mission trips. Study abroad. We have so many awesome opportunities here at Ave…do not miss out on them.

When you look back on your own experience at Ave Maria, are you happy with the way that you’ve done things?

Yes, but I think I would still change the way I did some things if I could. I did not realize until my senior year that it is okay if you don’t go straight into things. I sort of wish I had cut myself some slack, in all honesty. I think that it is really important to enjoy your college career, and if you get too caught up in getting a 4.0, you’ll let it slip by. I do care a lot about my grades and my involvements, so I am very fortunate that I have friends that call me out when I’m being antisocial. I just trust that where I am right now is where I'm supposed to be, and God is going to use it for the best.

What is your view is on gap years? Do you have a general philosophy as to when to take one?

I think gap years are very situation based. Personally, I think they are abused because many people don’t put in the preparation that they should in order to move on after college, and it is for that reason that they take a gap year. I don't think you need to take a gap year, but you shouldn't write people off as being failures if they take one. There is a lot of wisdom to be gained in a gap year, and in this time of life when we are growing so much, some people can get so much out of one. Having another year of experience isn't a bad thing, and it can help you in the long run. You don’t want to jump into something before you know that it is what you want to do. You don’t need to be a full blown adult when you are 22. 

Any final thoughts?

Don’t let fear of the future keep you from living in the present. Satan tries to make us fear to keep us from what we are called to be doing and experiencing. If we let him control our thoughts, we will miss the moment that we are in. 


10 Tips to Stand Out at the Career Expo


With Ave’s Career Expo quickly approaching, it is important to be preparing for the possibility of meeting your future employer. Career fairs are a gold mine of networking opportunities, and it is important to plan for them in a way that will set you apart from the rest. Internship and job seeking can be daunting, so here are some tips that will help you to catch the eye of the recruiters and put your best self forward. Remember, preparation is key!

1. Review the list of employers that will be attending, along with the job opportunities that they provide, to allow yourself to prioritize the booths that you plan on visiting. Visit the booth you have the least interest in first to allow your confidence to build as you go along, reaching its peak when you visit the booth you are most interested in.

2. Thoroughly research the companies that will be attending the fair. By doing this, you can formulate specific questions focused on positions that interest you, and impress them with your initiative to learn about their company’s mission and purpose.

3. Perfect your resume and tailor it according to the booths that you will be visiting at the expo. Your resume should showcase your entire professional life and highlight your talents. Talk about past accomplishments, rather than duties. Employers care more about what you took away from experiences, rather than what your job title says you did. Make sure to bring more than enough copies to give to each booth you plan to visit!

4. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Conservative business wear will allow you to make a good first impression. In addition, knowing you look sharp will give you confidence!

5. Formulate an introduction that will catch the recruiter’s attention, while showcasing your personal brand. Begin with a handshake, state your name, welcome them, and explain why you are interested in their organization. You may only have a few minutes to market yourself, so make the most of your time!

6. Stand out by going the extra mile. So many job candidates do only what is expected, making it easy for you to rise above mediocrity. For example, print your resume on linen paper so it feels differently than all the rest that the recruiter will have been given, showcase your personal brand by having business cards of your own to hand out, or wear a bold colored pant suit. Be yourself, and own it.

7. Take notes when you inquire about the next steps to be taken in order to move forward. Be sure to write down names, phone numbers, and email addresses of additional managers or contacts that they recommend that you get in touch with. 

8. Ask for a business card before you leave the booth. Promptly send a thank you note or leave a voicemail, using this as an opportunity to reiterate that you have interest in a second interview. This will show the representative that you appreciate their time and have genuine interest in moving forward. 

9. Follow up with companies that you are interested in moving forward with, using the information on their business card to set up appointments or interviews.

10. Create a database on your computer of all of the contacts you have acquired by entering business card information. You never know when one may be exactly what you are looking for to land your dream job, or even help out a friend!

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”