Programs a home run with pre-med, pre-law students

April 16, 2021 / by / 0 Comment

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

It was an exciting semester for pre-health and pre-law students as the Honors College rolled out new Professional, Academic and Career Programs.

Over the years, Honors College Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli saw a need for additional support for students pursuing medical or law school.

This semester brought the third iteration of the Pre-Health P.A.C. Program.

“We originally started with the 10-week professional development program, and that was very inclusive of all areas and all majors,” Naegeli said. “Through that, we started to meet students who said, ‘OK, well, what’s next?’ or ‘Can I dive a little bit deeper into what I want to do post-graduation?’

“Not everyone is planning on going straight to the workforce. They know they need graduate school, law school, medical school, something of that sort, and we were finding that a lot of students were feeling a little bit overwhelmed with the application process and everything it takes to be competitive.”

That’s when a solution came to mind.

Last spring, Naegeli implemented the P.A.C. Program for pre-health students, which would become one of multiple programs/events that would have to make alterations to fit in an online format because of COVID-19 precautions. With the program running in both fall and spring semesters, Naegeli and her team saw multiple opportunities to grow the new program in the online format, progressively getting better with every session.

This semester, with the assistance and guidance of College of Science, Engineering and Technology Assistant Dean Dr. Jon Valla and Academic and Career Excellence Advisor Kayla Koehn, students got to hear firsthand what they could expect when apply for medical schools.

“Dr. Jon Valla is a content expert in that program and provides a ton of insight. He donates his time to really work with students, and we couldn’t do it without him,” Naegeli said. “Kayla has been a major player because she does a lot of the pre-health advising for the general student body, and she participates in this program as another content expert.”

The Pre-Law P.A.C. Program was a new addition to this semester’s offerings to help students prepare for graduate school.

The eight-week program allows students, whether they’re in the Honors College or not, to attend Thursday afternoon Zoom sessions led by Valla or Koehn to learn more about the ins and outs of how to get into medical school. From topics ranging from how to submit applications to how to secure a letter of recommendation and maintain a competitive edge, students gained a wealth of knowledge.

It was a service Valla says he was grateful to be a part of.

“All in all, it was a great experience,” Valla said. “We (Koehn and Valla) were really excited to do it and really looked forward to it. It was the highlight of my week.”

While the Pre-Health Program kicked off its third round this semester, Naegeli wanted to take the idea one step further by implementing the Pre-Law P.A.C. Program.

With the recent hiring of Honors College Program Manager Joe Perez, at attorney who is experienced in preparing for law school, Naegeli decided to debut the Pre-Law Program this semester.

Honors College Program Manager Joe Perez ran the first iteration of the Pre-Law P.A.C. Program this semester.

“I know one of the main things that Bre was excited about bringing me in was my law background, as a practicing attorney, and wanting to further develop what the Honors College likes to do in terms of developing some major specific programming for students,” Perez said. “It’s been really eye-opening and a credit to Dr. Bre for understanding there was a need there.

“It’s been really satisfying for me as a new employee, a program manager, to bring that.”

Much like in the Pre-Health Program, Perez would assist students with topics such as choosing a law school, what undergraduate students should be working on to get into law school, as well as the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Zoom sessions were held on Tuesday afternoons and allowed students to join in from anywhere.

David Salgado was one of the GCU alumni who spoke with aspiring law students.

In addition to sharing his experiences with students, Perez also brought in several speakers, some of which are Grand Canyon University alumni who are  in law school. Other speakers included professionals from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; Snell & Wilmer; Kercsmar, Feltus & Collins LLP and the State of Arizona Office of the Legal Defender.

“It was great for them to hear from peers — colleagues — who are right in the thick of things,” he said.  

With its debut this spring, Perez says the Pre-Law P.A.C. Program will likely be an annual occurrence.

“From my point of view, it was very helpful and very informative,” said Government student Madeline Landes, who attended all of the Pre-Law P.A.C. sessions this semester. “I think Mr. Perez did a fantastic job leading this program, especially considering that this was the first time it had been run.

“Joe mentioned that he would bring in a variety of different speakers (next spring) so I would absolutely be in when it comes to hearing those other perspectives and other viewpoints in that field.”

Landes believes it’s just another resource students can use to better prepare themselves for after they graduate.

“I would recommend this because I think it’s a very informative program,” she said. “It’s also a really great opportunity to make connections for students; they get to go and meet the speakers.”

Honors College leaders said they’re taking what they’ve learned to continue to better the programs. Naegeli said the department hopes to establish a hybrid model for the programs moving forward, allowing for both in-person and virtual options..

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].


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