The Catholic University of America

May 13, 2014 

Seniors Plan Post-Graduation Lives

On Saturday, May 17, students will be awarded degrees at the 125th Annual Commencement Ceremony. Students will then take the next steps in their professional careers with internships, jobs, and graduate programs. Below, a few graduating seniors provide details about what they’ll be doing once they leave Catholic University.

  Felicity Quynh Dang, far right, with friends in a chemistry lab.

Felicity Quynh Dang
Major: Biochemistry major with a minor in math
Hometown: Saigon, Vietnam
Future plans: Will attend Howard University College of Dentistry

What made you want to study dentistry? Growing up in Vietnam, I remember crying at the sight of my great grandmother’s smile because her teeth were black. While babysitting me, my great grandmother patiently explained how dyeing her teeth black with special herbs could prevent tooth decay and other diseases. It was a Vietnamese tradition for thousands of years. I was no longer afraid of her black teeth, and I admired her effort to keep them healthy. Having passed away at 85, with her perfectly undecayed black teeth still intact, she left me a little life lesson: Healthy living is dependent on oral health. Her example sparked my interest in dentistry.

In Vietnam, according to a recent dentistry conference in Hanoi, at least 60 percent of children never receive a dental exam. Children suffer from tooth decay during the baby-teeth period because their parents assume those teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth. Besides, annual checkups are a luxury for many families. There is always an urgent demand for dentists and oral health education, especially for those who are limited financially. Therefore, I left my family in Vietnam, came to study in the U.S. when I was just 17. Coming from a different culture and seeing unfamiliar faces every day, it was hard for me at first to adapt to American life. However, my goal of pursuing dentistry helped me to push through the fear of not being understood and the culture shock, and to become the strong person I am today.

What made you select the dentistry program at Howard? I got to shadow an oral surgeon in summer 2012 back in Saigon. She was the one who inspired me to pursue oral surgery as a specialty after four years of dental school. Howard has a very good oral surgery department. Also, during my sophomore and junior years at CUA, I was a member of the National Children's Oral Health Foundation and the Students United for America's Toothfairy chapters in Washington, D.C. Hence, I got to talk to many Howard dental students, and they all were very happy and proud of their current achievements.

How did CUA prepare you for this graduate program? Dental school requirements are very intensive. They look not just at your GPA or Dental Admission Test score, but also at your research work, volunteer work, jobs, leadership skills, dental clinic shadowing hours, and extracurricular activities. CUA has given me great opportunities for academic improvement. I had a very close academic relationship with my professors. I got to be a teaching assistant in a chemistry lab, which gave me not just academic experience, but also leadership skills. I have participated in great volunteer work through Campus Ministry. I helped out at places like Little Sisters of the Poor and So Others Might Eat. I like how CUA emphasizes service as one of the important aspects of a successful student. Also, I have made such good friends here. Even though I’m halfway around the world from home, CUA is forever my second home.


Amy Faris


Amy Faris
Major: History
Hometown: West Palm Beach, Fla.
Future plans: Internship with the Disney College Program

When do you start your internship? August 2014

What will be your main responsibilities? I will be working as a lifeguard.

How did you find out about this internship and why do you think you were selected for this position? I've been wanting to do the Disney College Program since before I even started college. I think I was selected for the position because I had confidence in my interview and truly felt well-versed in what kind of position I would be getting into in Disney World. I also have loads of experience as a lifeguard, and being a Disney fan didn’t hurt either.

Where do you hope this internship leads career-wise? Although being a lifeguard is not the most glorious job after graduation, I expect to gain a lot of experience working for a huge corporation, especially one that I love so much. I'm hoping the experience will lead to a full-time offer with the company.

How did CUA prepare you for this internship? CUA gave me the confidence to get an internship that requires a lot of personality. Before coming to college I was pretty reserved, but now I am much more eager to put forth my best qualities.


  Andrew Kueppers

Andrew Kueppers
Major: Accounting
Hometown: Mendota Heights, Minn.
Future plans: Financial Management Leadership Development Program (FMLDP) with Travelers Insurance

When do you begin your job? Beginning of June

What will be your main responsibilities and how does the program work? The FMLDP is a three-year rotational finance program. Participants spend each year in a different position within the company, learning new skills and gaining a new perspective. The goal is to prepare the participants for future leadership positions within the company.

How did you find out about this job and why do you think you were selected for this position? I interned as part of the FMLDP program over the past summer. I had a phenomenal experience getting to know the people in the program and learning more about Travelers, while at the same time gaining lots of valuable experience in the business world. At the end of my internship, I applied for a full-time position with the company in the FMLDP program and I was offered the job at the end of August.

How did CUA prepare you for this job? First, the School of Business and Economics gave me the knowledge to be financially literate in my internship. Without their preparation and teaching, I wouldn't have been able to thrive in the business environment. I've also worked in the Office of Campus Activities for the past two years, and my time there gave me hands on experience with finance and accounting. It also developed my skills in communicating effectively and professionally. Finally, the number of activities I have been involved in here at CUA have cultivated great time management skills.


Madeline Minich, left, visits Wall Street with her business school classmates.

Madeline Minich
Major: Finance
Hometown: Lumberton, N.J.
Future plans: Operations Analyst at J.P. Morgan

When do you start your new job? July 28

What will be your main responsibilities? I will be working in the Corporate and Investment Bank sector. My first two years in the program will be mostly inputting data and finding ways to make processes easier for different departments.

How did you find out about this job and why do you think you were selected for this position? Being a finance major, I was looking to work in a large bank that was global and diverse. I applied for and earned an internship with J.P. Morgan. The bank uses the 10-week internship as a “working interview.” I believe I was then selected for a job due to my dedication. I come in early, stay late, and work through lunch when necessary. Whenever you need me, I am there.

How did CUA prepare you for this job? CUA has not only prepared me within my major, but overall has helped me grow and mature into the adult I need to be to succeed. I have learned about writing papers, political theory, philosophy and more. Being at CUA has allowed me to get involved in multiple organizations and take on executive roles that developed my leadership and group skills. The small school environment has allowed for professors and staff to give me personal attention along the way, which has allowed me to get the most out of my education and cultivate myself.


  Audrey Pranka

Audrey Pranka
Major: World politics with an interdisciplinary minor in Asian Studies
Hometown: Denver, Colo.
Future plans: Civilian employee at the U.S. Department of Defense

When do you start? Summer

What will be your main responsibilities? I will be assisting the military with security issues both domestic and international.

How did you find out about this job and why do you think you were selected for this position? The position was offered to me in early September after spending the summer in an intern development program within the Department of Defense. The program, along with other intern experiences all over the country, prepared me well for this job. I also have strong ties to the military coming from a multi-generational family of officers in the Army and Air Force. It was always my goal to assist the warfighter in some way.

How did CUA prepare you for this job? CUA really set me up for this job by never saying "no." Regardless of what I wanted to do, what I wanted to learn about, there was always a professor, a dean, or an entire department behind me, encouraging me and offering advice. CUA allowed me to specialize my study of politics to focus on the areas most important to me: Asian politics and security studies. The Office of Career Services also provided a huge amount of assistance throughout the years. Between the workshops and the one-on-one attention from Associate Director Kathryn Marshall, I felt very confident going into my interview for the internship last summer and ultimately that made the biggest difference in setting me up for my job now. Without the educational support and the encouragement of the CUA faculty, I would not be walking into my dream job two months after completing my undergraduate studies.

Peter Schramm  

Peter Schramm
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Butler, Pa.
Future plans: Operations Leadership Development Program (OLDP) engineer at Lockheed Martin

When do you start your new job? July 7

What will be your main responsibilities? Over the next two years I will experience four different job rotations that are designed to introduce me to four key areas of the business rhythm at Lockheed Martin. The knowledge and experience gained through these six-month rotations will enhance my understanding of how critical business operations — like production operations, manufacturing, supply chain management/sourcing, and quality — perform and contribute to our success. I will be working on multiple projects from an engineering and business perspective.

How did you find out about this job and why do you think you were selected for this position? I found the OLDP position application while applying to 40 other jobs at Lockheed Martin over the past two years. In total, I applied to more than 120 full-time positions since 2012. I was a good candidate for this position due to my strong academic and athletic backgrounds. Success in my rigorous academic schedule showed the employers that I was able to not only balance, but excel in, two sports while taking a full engineering class load. I set a goal for myself to be hired by a company that others thought was out my league. I was persistent during and after the application process in networking and using all resources available to me to give me the best opportunity to have my application considered. My hard work and determination to reach my goal paid off when I was offered this position at the end of the fall 2013 semester.

How did CUA prepare you for this job? CUA first helped me freshman year in the Office of Career Services. I worked closely with staff members Virginia Damron, Kathryn Marshall, and Tony Chiapetta to finalize my resume and draft numerous cover letters. The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) gave me a feel for meeting and collaborating with other young leaders like myself. I got involved in many other extracurricular activities that required me to use communication and time management skills when working on multiple team projects simultaneously. All the while, I was on two athletic teams at CUA: basketball and track. The athletic experiences that I gained outside of the classroom were invaluable and did a great job of preparing me for the plethora of interviews that I had this past year. CUA molded me into a very balanced individual religiously, academically, and athletically. I am very grateful to all of those who have helped me over these past four years. I owe a very special thank you to my parents and younger brother. Without their support and sacrifices, I would not be where I am today.


  Gretchen Wade

Gretchen Wade
Major: Biology
Hometown: Rye, N.H. 
Future plans: Full-time staff member for U.S. Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte (N.H.) in the senator’s state office in Manchester, N.H.

When do you start your new job? June 2014

What will be your main responsibilities? Being on staff for a Congressional member is a position offered to recent undergraduates on Capitol Hill. In D.C., they are in charge of daily office activities such as Capitol tours, flag requests, referring constituents who are calling for assistance from their representatives, and overseeing interns. In district offices, staff assistants perform similar functions. I will be the first line of communication between New Hampshire constituents and the senator and her staff. I am very excited for this opportunity and look forward to being a full-time member of Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s outstanding staff.

How did you find out about this job and why do you think you were selected for this position? I found out about this job through networking. Prayer was a big factor in my ultimate decision; I asked “Lord where do you want me? Please open up that door.” I believe I was selected for this position for two reasons: the first being my experience as a current intern for Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), and second because of my personality and work experience. I pay close attention to detail, enjoy assisting others, and have a positive personality. A political office works like a clock. Paperwork, votes, news briefings, and meetings must be on time and detailed. Anyone who has had that experience knows the environment for a congressional office requires attentive employees willing to learn and maintain a positive attitude. After my time in Congressman Ryan’s office, I have the necessary skills needed to transition into Sen. Ayotte’s office. I chose to work for her office because she has an outstanding reputation on local, state, and national issues. I desire to serve my community and this position is a great opportunity to do so.

How did CUA prepare you for this job? Many offices and experiences at CUA prepared me for my first post-college job. My many outstanding professors in the biology department as well as other departments wanted me to be a successful student-athlete, student-employee and serve my local community. I was given the unique opportunity to be and do all three at The Catholic University of America.

In my biology courses I learned about new and exciting topics that inspired my science enthusiasm over the past four years here at CUA. I was also given the opportunity to do laboratory research outside of my required lab courses. My long-term plan is to focus on biomedical ethics. I would love to work on health and science policy issues based on my undergraduate background in biology, research, and my passion for politics. I don’t think there are enough female scientists interested in politics. There are many organizations that currently work on particular issues related to science and policy as well as a standing committee titled The Science, Space and Technology Committee. I have not determined whether I will work in the private or the public sector on biomedical ethic issues, but I hope to eventually serve the science community at large in politics.

I am very grateful to Congressman Ryan and his staff for the opportunity to work in his office, and I am looking forward to my new job in Sen. Ayotte’s office starting this summer. Although this time of year is bitter sweet with friends of four years going off in many directions, The Catholic University America will always be my home away from home.


Katie Wall, right, with her Best Buddy Kimberlee   

Katie Wall
Major: English
Hometown: Spring Lake, N.J.
Future plans: Graduate program in occupational therapy on full scholarship at Kean University in New Jersey

What made you want to study occupational therapy? Occupational therapy perfectly combines my interests inside and outside of the classroom. I am an English major, so I love to read, write, and analyze, but my major also has allowed for a large amount of flexibility in terms of classes. I was able to take a significant number of natural and social science classes where I developed my love for learning about the functions of the human body as well as the mind. As for outside of the classroom, my involvement with CUA Best Buddies has inspired me to work in a career where I can help people live fuller, more independent lives.

When do you start the graduate program? September 2014

How did you obtain a full scholarship? Kean University offered me a graduate assistantship, which means that in addition to being a full-time student at Kean, I will work closely with a professor in the occupational therapy department for 15 to 20 hours per week. I will assist that professor on research projects in exchange for my tuition being covered by the university.

How did you find out about this program? I found out about Kean University because it is one of the few occupational therapy programs in my home state of New Jersey. I was not aware of Kean’s graduate assistantship program until shortly after my interview when the director of the occupational therapy program informed me that they select two incoming students every year to become graduate assistants with the department.

How did CUA prepare you for this graduate program? During my time at CUA, I have consistently been challenged academically, which created a passion for learning more about the human person — whether that came in the form of reading stories in novels and poems for my English classes or learning about the functions of life in my science classes. CUA also instilled in me a passion for serving others, and my experience with CUA Best Buddies has been such a big highlight of my time here as a student. Through Best Buddies, I am now able to see the full dignity and value that every single person has to offer, despite whatever obstacles they may face. As an occupational therapist, I will use that mindset to help all people become more successful in whatever occupation they choose.




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