senior

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.

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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: Caitlin Grant

Caitlin Grant, a senior at Ave Maria University, has been a part of Ave Maria since the campus moved from the Vineyards, in Naples, here to its' new location. While her vocation has not always been clear, she has followed God's call for her life fearlessly and boldly and has decided to pursue a Master's degree in both Russian Studies and International Relations at NYU in New York City. In order to further prepare, this summer, Caitlin will be taking an 8 week Russian Language intensive course in Arizona and spend the remaining month immersed in the language while in the country of Kyrgyzstan. 

Have you always been interested in politics? 

Absolutely. I’ve always been in awe of different cultures and languages. I remember when I was little, I used to check out library books about other kids from around the world and look at what they did and what they wore. It was fascinating. I always wanted to learn languages… I wanted to be able to communicate with the people I saw and read about in the books. As I grew up, I became increasingly interested in what was going on around the world. My friend’s parents used to laugh at me because I would always know what was going on in Africa and Asia and South America. It made me wonder why more people were not as invested in international affairs. I guess that is how I originally got into politics. 

How did you decide to come to Ave Maria?

I looked into a number of different undergrad schools before I decided, but Ave gave me a great scholarship which of course helped my decision. I came down to visit for the first time in February of 2005, and when I sat in on Dr. Seana Sugrue’s International Relations class, I was sold. All I could think was “This woman is worth every penny that I will pay to go to this school”. I took her class when I came here and we read Henry Kissinger’s “Diplomacy”, which changed how I saw the world. I had grown up thinking that America was always “the good guy”, and I still believe that America is good and I love being American, but that book really kick-started my thinking about studying international relations. It's not that Americans are wrong, it’s just that we don’t always look at the whole picture…I want to change that.

I know that you are a non-traditional student. Could you explain the timeline of your studies?

I came to Ave in 2005 and I was here for 3 years before I felt that perhaps I had a vocation. I moved to Europe and discerned a religious vocation, living both in Spain and Italy. After I decided that the religious life was not my calling, I worked in Washington DC for the Art of Being a Woman Project. It was an amazing experience working for an organization with a mission that I felt passionately about. It was awesome to be able to get a feel for DC, but after that, I decided that it was really important to finish school, so I came back! I know that I’m a non-traditional student, but I’m so happy that I decided to earn my degree. I get so much out of learning from the new students, even though there is a big age gap. 

How has Ave changed since you started here in 2005?

I started on Ave’s old campus in 2005, and I was here the very first year that we moved out to the new campus. There were about 10 houses here at that point in time. There was no Publix, no Pub, no Field House… I don’t even think the Bean was here. There were only 3 dorm buildings and about 500 students, so that gives you a sense of how small it was. It’s funny to me now, because every day I see someone who I have never seen before, which is surprising! I think that there is more diversity, insofar as there are people who are coming here for different reasons. I love that. It is also amazing to me how many new majors that there are. Celebrating Tom Monaghan’s birthday last weekend just made me realize how one person can deeply touch so many lives. I hope Ave Maria never gives up on its dream of becoming a big school that is strong spiritually, academically, and athletically.

What did you do during your time abroad that helped you to develop your skills? 

After living in Europe, I really knew how to work with other people that thought differently than I did. I was in Spain for two years and Italy for another two, which was absolutely incredible. I did go to Europe to discern, I just wasn’t a religious the whole time that I was there. Part of the time, I worked for a news agency translating from Spanish to English. It was very humbling because my co-worker was a man whose first language was Portuguese, and he was translating from Spanish to English. We would check each other’s work, and he would correct MY grammar. He was translating from one foreign language to another and he was correcting me in my first language! It is just incredible how smart some people are.

Another amazing thing was being able to help with an organization called Aide to the Church in Need. I was in charge of working the camera or doing the interviewing, so I was able to meet some spectacular people. Being able to see and learn from so many individuals from all walks of life was a very moving experience. The most memorable was a man I interviewed who was from Iraq, who wouldn’t let us take a headshot. He was afraid for the safety of his family back in Iraq, so we had to take many precautions. It made it very real that people are living much differently than we are.

What are your plans for the summer?

I was told about a few different summer intensive Russian language programs when I spoke to Georgetown about grad-school, so I applied to a few of them and got in! The program that I will be participating in this summer is through Arizona State University, so I will be spending the summer in Phoenix! I was blessed to receive a scholarship too, which of course always pulls you closer to something. The neat thing about the program is that 8 weeks of learning will take place in Phoenix and for the last 4 weeks, we will be in Kyrgyzstan! I am super excited about that! Kyrgyzstan isn’t part of Russia, but it used to be, so it has very deep cultural Russian roots. The London School of Languages and Cultures has a satellite school in Bishkek, which is the capitol of Kyrgyzstan. That is where the intensive study will take place and we will be living with host families as well, in order to get the immersion aspect. Every weekend we will do an excursion to a different part of the country, which will allow us to see quite a few cultural sites. I am so excited because I know that this will help me to understand Russia from a different point of view.

Where are you going to grad school?

I have decided to go to NYU, which is an amazing school for politics. They are ranked #3 in networking for their alumni in the country, which is huge in the world of politics for gaining connections. NYU has awesome professors and really great alumni. I’m really open about what I will do with my degree because I know life takes you places and that you never expect, but of course you need goals, so my goal is to work as a foreign diplomacy officer for the State Department. I feel like by knowing Russian, I will be able to work with the people on a personal level. I don’t want to go over there and come across in a way that conveys, “We are the good guys, you are the bad guys, would you please behave?” I have never been to Russia before, but at NYU, you have the chance of going pretty much anywhere in the world that you want to study for a semester. My time at NYU will be two years, and then I’ll see where life takes me! My degree when I graduate from NYU will be a joint degree in Russian Studies and International Relations.

What is a goal that you have for the future?

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When I was in Europe, I discovered that I really love photography. I want to teach the West about the East, so I would love to do something like Humans of New York, but over in Russia.

What is the hardest part about learning a new language?

The embarrassment! When you’re learning a new language, you really need to put down your guard and make the sounds that seem weird to you, because if you don’t make them, you sound weird to them! You’ve got to come out of your shell in that sense. I don’t feel like you can really capture the essence of a country without learning their language. 

What gave you a desire to learn Russian?

Everyone knows that the Middle East is important, but Russia is an incredibly pivotal country as well, and no one thinks about them nearly as much as they do the Middle East. Historically, Russia has had a way of making their presence felt internationally through violence. I just want the West to see that we are open to listening in other ways. I want the world to see that Russia is more than Putin and communism. The passion to make that known grew in my mind and my heart and lead me to choose to learn the language. I enrolled in a Mango language course and have been learning Russian online for the past year, thanks to the Ave Maria library! I am so grateful that they provide that resource. I actually wasn’t going to go to Grad school for a couple of years, but then I realized that most people wait to go to grad school so that they can learn about themselves and I have already had that time to learn about myself. I also want to learn Russian because at NYU you need to be advanced in Russian so that you know Russian by the time that you graduate. In addition to the summer program that I have enrolled in, I will probably audit advanced Russian classes just to immerse myself.

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To help support Caitlin in her dream of becoming a U.S. Ambassador to Russia, contribute to her GoFundMe Campaign.

 

Student Spotlight: Anna Kunza

Anna Kunza, a senior from Burbank, California, is a shining example of what it means to be an Ave Maria student. Her love for God is not only the most important thing in her life, but is evident to all that she comes in contact with. As a double major in both Music and Humanities, Anna plans to go on to graduate school to pursue a career in either Human Resources or Public Relations.

What did you do last summer?

This past summer was amazing! I spent the summer in Europe, working for two different companies as an intern. In addition to my internships, I traveled to Slovakia to attend the Free Society Seminar, which is a society that was founded by Ambassador Novak. 

The first half of the summer, I was an intern for the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. The GMF is a non-partisan American public policy and grant-making institution, dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. The particular department that I worked for provides grants to companies and corporations who have shown leadership in civic society. Each summer, GMF selects a few citizens from America to come to Germany and spend six weeks traveling throughout European countries, getting to know the policies, politics, and the people, while interns from Germany go over to America and do the same. In addition to grant making and diplomatic efforts, GMF also does think tank work and research into political events which focus on issues going on in the political atmosphere. For example, when communism was prevalent in Eastern Europe, GMF worked to help create democracy by encouraging civic participation at a high level. It is a really interesting program! I would highly recommend that Ave students with an interest in pursuing careers in Politics and International Relations apply. 

After a stop in Croatia to see my family, I went to Bavaria for my second internship, where I led a work camp. It was a two week camp for youth from all over the world, designed to encourage them to come together, speak English, and work collectively on a project, while setting aside their differences. Together, we renovated a youth room and helped plant a field. We were able to explore castles in our free time and go on picnics in the park. It was a such an eye opening and rewarding experience!

How did your experiences from this past summer help you to shape your goals for the future?

They helped me to realize, even more so, what I am interested in, as well as what my most marketable skills are. For one, I really fell in love with Germany. If I could go back there for grad school, or a job, that would be great! What I loved most was the contact that I had with so many different people, both through the work camp, as well as through the German Marshall Fund. To have conversations with people coming from all different walks of life was not something that I had ever done, but it is such an important thing, especially with all of the cultural tensions going on right now.

What do you want to do after you graduate this year?

I plan on taking a gap year, hopefully abroad. During that time, l will be looking into possible options for graduate school.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Part of me could see myself in Germany, doing something like what I did at the German Marshall Fund, because it was an experience that I really loved. I could also see myself having a career in singing. I don't have a distinct “dream job”, honestly. I have a feeling of what I want to do with my life, and if it comes through my job, great, but if it comes through who I am as a person and the interactions that I have with people, that is great too!

What do you think are your three best qualities?

Insightfulness, articulation, and the ability to see and communicate beauty. These qualities have brought so much peace and joy into my life. In the book by C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, the artist was told that he could see things that other people couldn't because it was his job to help them see it. That is what I want to do for other people, whether it is through my work, my singing, or the way I live my life.

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

I would love to travel through all of Europe! I’ve been to Europe quite a few times before because my mom is from Croatia, but I would love to keep going back. Every time I’m on a train over there I feel like I'm in a fairytale!

What brings you the most joy?

Taking time to see beauty. Watching sunsets, walking outside and talking to the people I pass by, listening to good music, and sitting outside in nature.

How would you like to help out our world?

I think there needs to be so much more dialogue about what causes the division and labeling that is going on in society right now. You hear people say things like, “I don't understand how people could think…” and that is the problem. When someone talks like that, it is a sign that they need to learn how to understand why someone is thinking that way. If society began doing this, rather than passing quick judgements, we would have dialogue, rather than blatant disrespect and hot headed disagreements. I think that is really important. I want to be able to help people see things more clearly and to desire to learn about all of the perspectives that go into an argument. 

What is your favorite book?

Lord of the Rings. There is so much depth and beauty in the books and the characters. What I really love is the overarching theme of light and hope and good versus the evil and despair and darkness that is encroaching on it. It is so important to realize that you have to fight for what is good and that it is worth fighting for, even in the darkest moments. One of the most difficult things is to see good things destroyed, but there is a deeper beauty that comes out from it, and I think this series really captures that.

What is your best study habit that you can pass on to the student body? 

I have been taking quite a few philosophy classes, and recently, I stared dialoguing with the book by writing in the margins. I know it sounds like a small exercise, but it has really helped me to get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the text, even if I disagree with what is being said. When it comes to our education, we need to shift our mentality about how seriously we take our studies. Schooling is not about the grades, it is more about growing as a person, especially because we came here to get a liberal arts education.

Student Spotlight: Nicholas Cummons

Nick Cummons, well-known around campus for being the Jesus-loving skater dude from Ohio, has a bright future ahead of him. He is a senior, graduating in May with a degree in Economics and a minor in Business Administration. Nick recently accepted a job offer from Collier County Public Schools as a substitute teacher and will continue to spread his infectious joy to the kids of Immokalee through his service. He and his fiancée, Hailey McNeely, plan on staying close to Ave after graduation.

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

I initially spoke to Hailey about this when she was a Theology major because she has such a charism for teaching and working with children. I told her that if she wanted to change the world and change the way people live their lives, she should be teacher. I always kind of wanted to be one, but I never gave it much thought because I was an Econ major and I just assumed that was where my life was headed. Not too long after I spoke to Hailey, I read a Career Services blog about Collier County Public Schools, and it was at that time that I was talking to Zach and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Being a teacher worked its way to the top of my list of possible job opportunities and we agreed that I should try to pursue a career in teaching. I learned that CCPS had a desire to hire more Ave students because of their outstanding work ethic, so I got a trial run with them and essentially got a job as a substitute teacher to try to see if this is really want I want to do. I guess I chose trial by fire.

What does a typical day at CCPS look like for you?

Well, the day of a substitute is always interesting. Each day is a new class and a fresh start, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. I have actually taken a job for the next month with the same class every other day (and college classes on my other days). That will be my first time being able to build longer standing relationships with the students and the school staff. Up until now, I have been going to different elementary schools in Immokalee as well as the middle school almost every day. After signing in at the office and asking a billion questions about the brand new school that I've never been to (which has been the case almost every time so far) and receiving my lesson plans for the day that the teacher has left me for their class, I usually scramble for the next 30 minutes preparing to deliver the lesson that the teacher intended all while trying to learn the routines of the classroom and the school. After my scrambling time, I pick up the students in my homeroom from wherever in that school that they meet in the morning and then go about class as normal (usually with a million questions about who I am, since I'm still a new face), or at least as normally as it can go with a substitute. I facilitate the classroom activities as best as I can, from interactive computer programs on the whiteboard to simple math worksheets, social studies readings and discussions, and homework reviews. At some point, I drop the students off at lunch and during this time I get to eat lunch, catch my breath, and ask the other teachers for advice, tips, and help. It's pretty straightforward, except for the part where it could be an entirely new set of faces in front of me everyday with an entirely new lesson plan/classroom structure. It’s awesome and crazy.

What is the best part of working for Collier County Public Schools?

First of all, when I was welcomed aboard at CCPS as a guest teacher, I felt right at home in the schools I started going to. The staff members at each school were welcoming, supportive, professional, encouraging, and very helpful. CCPS has an incredible amount of resources for their employees to continue learning and become the best educators that they can be. I really like the amount of support that the school district gives to all of their teachers and guest teachers. Additionally, the kids have been so wonderful to serve and work with. There hasn't been a day when I haven't come back from teaching with a big smile on my face telling Hailey all about the funny stories and crazy things that happened that day. It truly has been a joy to be a part of CCPS. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Probably still around here in the Naples area. I initially I started going to the Immokalee schools for substitute teaching, as well as for FIAT and some other after school programs, and I fell in love with the people I met over there. I’d really like to stay around here for the first couple of years after we graduate to give back to the community.

What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?

First and foremost, my faith, because it gives me the motivation to be the best I can be, which is who God designed me to be. This motivation manifests itself as the desire to serve others. It’s for Hailey, who's going to be my wife, and also for the people I work with and the people I love.

What is the best compliment you have ever received? 

*Laughing* That I have nice hair.

No, but in all seriousness, my football coach and my dad gave me the best compliment when they described me as a servant leader. I know I don't stand out, but I am a hard worker with perseverance. That’s really important to me.

How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life?

Oh man, they’ve changed a lot. I know when I first graduated high school I was determined to be either a rockstar or a guitar technician. The first year out of high school, I never thought I would spend time doing missionary work, but when I ended up serving for NET Ministries, it was two weeks before I left for Franciscan, I already had my classes and my roommate set up and I left that all behind. After I finished working for NET, my dad convinced me to go to college, but I didn't see myself getting a four year degree. As I progressed through my time here at Ave, a whole world of opportunities opened up.

What do you think older generations misunderstand about yours?

They probably fit all of us into a category that doesn't believe in traditional values. I wish they would realize that some of us really do have strong family values and lives rooted in faith.

Describe your most rewarding college experience?

Dr. Sugrue’s American Civilization class. She was just so challenging and I don't think I have ever worked harder for an A- in my life. It was so rewarding to see my final grade that semester.

In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?

Definitely one where everyone works together toward a common goal. We might not all be doing the same thing, but having that unity and structure and camaraderie is where I find myself to be the most comfortable. 

Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence? How has it helped you in your life? 

Persistence, for sure. I’m not always really good at something when I start it, but that has allowed me to do things that I naturally wouldn't be able to do. Especially with teaching, my persistence helped me to find my way in and get the substitute teaching job. It has helped me to do well in school if i keep trying, and succeed in ways that I never knew I could.