Megan Rivera graduated cum laude in 2015 as a one of six members of the first graduating class in Biochemistry. This summer, she heads to medical school at Florida State University.
Megan didn’t initially plan on attending AMU for college. As a long-time resident of Naples, it felt a little too close to home. She wanted to go out of her comfort zone. But by dual enrolling at the University during her junior and senior years of high school, Megan had the unique opportunity to experience what life at Ave is like firsthand. “Ave completely surpassed my expectations,” she recalls. “One of the things that attracted me to enroll full-time once I graduated high school was the student culture. At Ave, you are surrounded by students who build up your character and encourage you to be a better person, both by words and by example.”
Megan was also attracted by the academic excellence she found at AMU. “I was pleasantly surprised,” she shares, “to find so many opportunities and resources to direct me toward medical school. The labs are well equipped, and the professors have research projects that students can participate in.” Not only are the professors incredible resources, she explains, they also are personable. They make themselves available outside of class and they encourage their students to gain pertinent experience directed toward their future careers. “The professors really take an interest in your interests and fuel your desire to pursue excellence… I never wanted to miss a class!” Megan exclaims.
“It’s hard for me to talk about one class as being my favorite,” she goes on. “All of them have had an impact on me and helped form the lens through which I view the world. What is really apparent in hindsight is that the liberal arts curriculum sets me apart from my peers. I am going into medical school with an understanding of beauty, of truth…of things that I wouldn’t have gained anywhere besides Ave Maria.”
Under the guidance of Dr. James Peliska (Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Department Chair of Chemistry & Physics), Megan worked as a medical scribe in a Naples emergency department while taking classes at Ave. She later helped to establish the Braden Clinic in Ave Maria, and has worked there for the past year as a head medical assistant. “I didn’t have to go to a big university to find opportunities for clinical experience during my undergraduate studies. Because Ave is still new, there are opportunities to take the lead in your extracurricular activities and to do something different,” Megan says.
Moving forward, she feels that Ave has given her a solid foundation on which to build. “It has given me a clear compass and the tools I need to navigate what’s ahead. I feel confident entering medical school with my education at Ave.”
Her final thoughts? “You can go to a small school and still do great things. If you set your mind to something, you can achieve it—and there is no better place to equip you for that than Ave Maria University!”