student spotlight

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.

The Low-Down on Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a critical part of any application process in order to secure a spot in graduate school. College admissions officers take these letters very seriously, and before you are accepted for an interview, you have to come across as a desirable candidate. Letters of recommendation allow you and your character to come to life in the mind of the reader and fill in the gaps of your resume. This being said, you want to ask people to write letters who will be able to craft recommendations that will be compelling and unforgettable for the reader. There are many things that you can do during your undergrad to obtain a glowing testimonial. By following this guide and thinking about the process early on in your college career, you will have a mailbox full of acceptance letters the spring of graduation. 

Letters of recommendation are important for three reasons:

  1. They illustrate your resume - allowing your future employer to get to know you in a way that your GPA and test scores can't.
  2. They attest to your personality and character - you want the writer to be someone who can deeply communicate your strengths and potential and back it up with stories and examples of times that you have excelled. 
  3. They show that professionals, whether professors, coaches, or employers, are impressed by your accomplishments and believe in your future success.

The first step in obtaining great letters of recommendation is to make sure to establish relationships with working professionals early-on in your college career. 

As far as professors go, this is best done by frequently asking questions in class and staying engaged, as well as attending office hours to ask other insightful questions which show that you are doing your own research and putting in the hours after class to make sure you thoroughly understand the material. This will put you on their radar as a student who possesses great potential and allow them to get to know you on a deeper level than many other students. A professor will be more likely to write a letter for a student that is a willing participant and frequent inquirer than a student who sits quietly in class and gets all A's. Don't get me wrong, an A is impressive, but a persistent learner with a curious mind  is even more impressive. 

Talk to the professors in your field of study about the career path that you plan to follow. Listen to them when they give you advice about grad school and make sure that you are doing your own research on each school as well. Before writing a letter of recommendation, a professor will often ask the student, "Why do you want to go into this field?" Be prepared to answer this question. You wouldn't make a $100,000 purchase without thorough research and thought - you shouldn't go into grad school like that either. Weigh your options and make sure that each program you apply for adequately suits the career goals that you aim to achieve. 

Create a time-line during the beginning of your junior year which lists the dates that each of the schools/programs you plan on applying for need your application and letters of recommendation. After this, set a rough date for when you will approach those whom you would like to write your letter. 

Know the specifications for each program - Do you need five letters from professors? Do you need a letter from a past employer? Is it not specified? It is important to know exactly how many letters of recommendation are required by each post-grad institution to which you will be applying. Each school may have different specifications as far as the number of personal and professional references needed, so make sure to double check and make note of that early on!

Choosing the right people to write your letters of recommendation is the most important part of this process. Students will want to follow these five tips when it comes to choosing the perfect candidate to write their letters: 

  1. Choose people that will give strong recommendations - not people that know you vaguely. 
  2. Choose people with high ranking credentials/experience in your field that will explain why you are a good fit for the position that you are applying for.
  3. Choose someone who will speak to your growth.
  4. Choose people that will help your resume come to life (those who will explain why you excelled in either school/work/sports etc. and what you, uniquely, are able to bring).
  5. Choose people that will give insight into both your personality and your character.

Always, Always, Always ASK IN PERSON! It is important to approach the professional that you are asking in the right way when asking for a letter of recommendation. Plan what you are going to say, and most importantly, BE BOLD! You shouldn’t feel nervous about asking your professors to do this for you because professors with juniors and seniors EXPECT to be asked for letters of recommendation.

However, it is important to remember that professors are very busy people. Although most would love to help you out, they may not have enough time if you ask them to write a letter too close to your deadline. Try to ask at least 3 months before your letters need to be submitted in order to ensure that you have allotted more than enough time for the letter be written and sent in to the correct institution.

Here are some steps you can follow to make sure the process goes smoothly:

  • Write down a list of your accomplishments on a “brag sheet”, or provide a copy of your resume, and talk about your plans and goals with them so that their letter is appropriate and reflects upon your achievements 
  • Provide the writer with all necessary information that is given to you by the schools to which you are applying, such as the exact details/website/date for submission. Do whatever you can to make the process easier for them. They are doing you a favor and will appreciate the help.

Waive your right to read the letter. I know it may sound scary and you are probably dying to know what the writer has said about you, but keeping the letter confidential allows the reader to know that all of the information in the letter is candid and truthful.

Write a thank you! Professors or other professionals are not required to write these letters, they do it as a favor! make sure to thank them for their time and detailed recollection of their time with you.



An Introvert's Guide to Networking

As a college student, I am often asked 3 questions:

What do you want to do with your life? (Yikes.)

How do you intend to get there?

Who do you know who will help you achieve that goal?

The first question is huge and sometimes overwhelming. The second question is also big and confusing, and requires a lot of Providential input. But the third question— this is the one I have the most control over, and the question which has the potential to control the other two. 

The pressure of building a solid professional network is already present in the minds of career-seeking students. But it can be difficult to get out of your comfort zone to speak with someone new. You're not alone if you find networking scary, pointless, or confusing. Here are a few reasons to network, and some tips for doing it well.


Before you enter a professional event or social situation, ask yourself what you want to walk away knowing. For myself, I always want to walk away knowing a person. I desire to know where she is in life, how her past led her there, what brings her joy, and where her hopes lie. In short, I desire to establish a relationship by knowing and being known by another. At the end of a good conversation, I will exchange contact information with the individual in order to maintain the relationship, and BAM! I have inadvertently added a real person to my network..

If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. We typically make friends by falling into conversation about some mutual point of interest, and if we want to keep in touch we will exchange phone numbers. Networking does not just mimic relationship-building; it actually is relationship-building.

If you have friends, you can network.

I would advise introverts (and, well, everyone) not to enter a professional event with the intention of building your network. With such an intention, the people in the room may become “potential connections” rather than people. Conversation goes differently if you are eager to display your resume and inquire about job opportunities. Often, people can tell when they are being used as a means to some end. They do not appreciate it, and ultimately neither will you.

Talking to People

This might be the scariest part. To ease your nerves a bit, feign confidence up front. Stride toward an individual or a small group, depending on what you are most comfortable with, introduce yourself, and express interest in the person or persons. Try to pose meaningful, open-ended questions. “Where are you from” and “How long have you been with this company” are fine, but they tend to bring conversation to a halt. 

Instead, try to get a feel for what the person enjoys talking about. Maybe he is proud of his latest project at work or the progress his toddler is making with the alphabet. This should go without saying, but when the person speaks, listen to him. Do not let your mind wander away from the conversation, and certainly do not interrupt.

When it is your turn to speak, talk about what you enjoy. Tell stories and be vulnerable. The more you reveal about yourself, the more this relationship-turned-professional-connection has the potential to benefit you. If you have no idea what you want to do with your future and the question comes up, lay out your options and interests. Perhaps your new friend can help, or perhaps he has a connection who can help you take the next step.

Talk In-Person

One of the biggest temptations for introverts is to do the majority of their networking online. Online networking—for instance, through email or LinkedIn—is a great tool for publicizing your name and repertoire for future employers. But it should not be your primary tool. 

Before going digital, I maintained a physical portfolio of the professional relationships I had formed, including individuals’ names, occupations, contact information, how we met, and something memorable about them or our encounter. 

With this information, I could call or email someone with the following:

“Hi,Jared! We met last year at the Pro-Life luncheon in Tallahassee. You might remember that you helped me clean up after I dropped a glass of water on the floor! How have you been?"

"Last time we spoke, you mentioned that your daughter was deciding on which college to attend. Where did she end up?"

'Right now, I’m looking for a summer internship and would love the opportunity to work with your pro-life organization if there are any openings. If not, do you know anyone in the field who I could get in touch with?” 

It's far easier to find commonalities with someone you've me and spoken with than with someone who you've only emailed. Try giving people a call first, and following up with an email later.

Digital Connections

After joining LinkedIn, I began to form my digital network out of my preexisting relationships, which made remembering personal information much easier! LinkedIn also provides a huge advantage in your networking--the ability to see friends of friends. These people, called 2nd level connections, are individuals you are not connected to yet, but whom you could be connected to easily through your mutual friend.

As a result, LinkedIn allows you to find many more people than you could have found otherwise, including people that are in exactly the field you wish to enter.

A mistake introverts might make with online networking is connecting with as many people as possible…including strangers. One time, an older man with an unusual name and strange profile picture asked to connect with me on LinkedIn. No note of introduction, and the only thing we had in common was a mutual friend. I reached out to that friend and asked her how she knew the man. “I don’t,” she replied. “He wanted to connect with me, so I let him.”  

These sorts of individuals will most likely not make or break your employment opportunity. I advise you to only connect digitally with people you are familiar with in reality. We would not approach a stranger on the side of the road and request them to join our professional network, and the same prudence should be applied to the internet. 

The Secret Weapon

Often, I imagine that networking means reaching out into the big world, blindly searching for people who might be able to help me find a future career. With this image, networking seems daunting. Here is my preferred image of networking: looking to my right and left at those who are already near to me. 

Yes, it may not seem like “networking,” but establishing a professional relationship with the people you already know and love is—in my experience—the most useful form of networking.

In the spring semester of my freshman year, I was considering a career in law. Before undergoing preparation for law school, I wanted to discern this path by participating in a legal internship. I began applying for all sorts of law internships, but because I was a first year undergraduate with no experience in the field, nobody wanted to hire me.

During a casual phone conversation with my younger sister, I explained that I was frustrated because I could not find an internship. To my surprise, she replied that her AP Calculus teacher told the class earlier that day that her husband—an Assistant United States attorney—was going through internship applications. I asked my sister to put in a good word for me, assuming nothing would come of the encounter. 

The next evening, the teacher’s husband called my cell phone and said, “If you want an internship with the United States Attorney’s Office, send me your resume, cover letter, and transcript first thing tomorrow morning.” I got the internship and spent my summer writing legal documents, organizing discovery, transcribing prison calls and interviews, meeting with federal agents, and attending court proceedings. 

The experience was exciting and enriching. Through the internship, I formed relationships with individuals who then became part of my professional network, and they connected me with other professionals in varying fields. In addition, the internship taught me enough about myself to dissuade me from pursuing a career in law. But I never would have had the experience if I hadn’t turned to the people who were already around me.

So what's the secret to networking? Don’t discredit the power of your closest relationships, and be open to finding relationships at every turn. 

Student Spotlight: Judah Stone

Orlando native, Judah Stone, whose name means "Thanks and praise", certainly glorifies God with his life. Through his involvement as a member of the football team and Student Government, Judah is a valuable asset to Ave Maria University's Freshman Class. As an Environmental Science major, Judah enjoys being outdoors working with youth, and plans to become a ranger in a State Park after college.

What did you do last summer?

I am a part of a non-profit, Christian, children’s urban sports camp called Kids Across America which is located in Southern Missouri on the border of Arkansas. For the past few years, I have been working maintenance for them, but this year, since I am in college, I am getting moved up to be a counselor. I got the job in 2014, because my sister is a director of the camp there. For the past three years, I was a part of the three year program through KAA called Higher Ground. This year, I am getting my passport so that I can travel with Higher Ground to the Dominican Republic and Belize. I am really excited for that! Kids Across America has camps all across the country, as well as Internationally.

Has your time working for Kids Across America helped you to discover what you would like to do post-graduation? 

It certainly has. The camp life is what I enjoy because it is out in the middle of nowhere. I am very conservative when it comes to our natural resources, so being outdoors is why I picked Environmental Science as my major. I use my time at KAA as an outlet to have fun outside while mentoring youth. I like working with kids because they are the next generation, and on top of that, it allows me to pour into them the energy and passion that I have for Christ.

How do you think technology has impacted the way that kids view the outdoors?

Technology has kept our generation indoors because fun is at the tips of our fingers. When I was little, we were always outside! We would go in the pool, ride bikes, play on the tire swing…we were outside all day! Growing up, the only technology I had was a Nintendo 64, and I didn't get a cell phone until I was 16. Technology really consumes our generation. It is strange that the same thing that connects us to the world, disconnects us as from it as well. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

After graduation, I would love to give back to the community I grew up in. I want to work for the state or county recreational parks. In my free time, I would also really like to volunteer in a recreational center for kids.

What are you doing this year to help you get closer to your goal?

Last semester, I was involved in One-by-One, which is a mentorship program that allows us Ave athletes to go to Immokalee High School and work with the students there. Each time we visit, we are given a theme for the day, which gives me an opportunity to share my faith. I am also studying hard, continuing to go to church, and getting involved, especially with Student Government. It is such a big opportunity that I have [being on SGA] to make a difference in the Ave Maria community. My motto is “Ask not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school”. I believe if you are unhappy with your environment, why sit there and complain about it if you are not going to do anything about it?

What do you think your three best qualities are?

Passion, Energy, and Kindness.

If you won a million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with the money?

I would invest a lot of it, buy my parents the house the deserve, get myself a Range Rover, and pay off my student loans. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Unlimited endurance

What does success look like to you?

The world says make your money, live the lavish life - that is not success. Just because you are able to have a bunch of material things does not make you successful. Success is accomplishing something that you truly desire in life.

How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life?

I remember growing up, I wanted to be a vet, I wanted to play in the NFL, I wanted to be a hero, but you know, reality hit me like *boom*. It is for the better, though, because James 1:2-4 says, "Consider your tough times to be a joy, because it only produces fruits." I know that everything I went through helped to build my character and made me who I am. Between football, SGA, school, relationships, and my faith, it has been tough to find balance, but through God’s strength, I am able to do it.