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Biology Student Prepares for Next Challenge

When Clarisa Garcia graduates with a bachelor's degree in biology this May, she knows where she's going next. She's entering medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

You might describe a future medical student as driven, dedicated and even as a high achiever, and that certainly describes Clarisa. She is president of the American Medical Student Association on campus and has served as chair of the morale committee for the Life Science Club. She served as president of Alpha Lambda Delta, a freshman honor society.

Although her life seems to be well on track, it didn't seem so easy a few years ago. Clarisa became pregnant at age 16 and got married, but she never gave up her dream of pursuing a college degree. Both of her parents have degrees; in fact, they are alumni, and they always encouraged her to follow in their footsteps.

“It was difficult, but I actually feel I took the easy route because I was always interested in getting an education and not doing that would have hurt more,” she said. “My husband took the harder route because he put off his education to get a full-time job to take care of us. Now, he's back and he'll graduate in December.”

In addition to attending classes and spending time with her family, Clarisa works on campus. She currently teaches a cellular molecular biology lab, and last semester she worked for Life Services and Wellness in addition to her lab.

“I don't think I would have been as successful if I had taken the traditional route,” she said. “I wouldn't have been as motivated. Now, my son is at daycare, so if I'm going to be gone, it better be for something important.”

She credits her husband, Joshua, and her family with giving her the support she needed to succeed, but she also said that her choice of a university also made a difference.

“It's a smaller university and it's very diverse in terms of population. There are more leadership and research opportunities here,” she said. “Since it's smaller, it's easier for the faculty and staff to open up to you and really know you. I would never want to go to another university.”

In particular, Clarisa said the financial support she received really made a difference for her. She is the recipient of the John Talmer Peacock Scholarship in Mathematics and Science as well as the Lorena and Wood Patrick Scholarship and the Presidential Persistence Scholarship. She also received scholarships from the biology department. Without that assistance, she said she would have had to take fewer classes each semester.

“Everyone has the opportunity to pursue an education. I know some people have to work and support a family like we did, but if you really want it, there is a way,” she said. “There are people here who will help you.”

While she credits her family and the University for helping her persevere, Clarisa also gained inspiration from the ancient philosopher, Confucius. Her favorite quote is “Our greatest glory is not in ever falling but in rising every time you fall.”

After completing medical school and a residency program, Clarisa wants to specialize in oncology and would like to be part of a Health Science Center . She said she wants to practice medicine, but she also has a strong interest in teaching.


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