Articles by Tom Hagerman

5 Things I Wish I Did Before Coming To DePaul

​​This time of year is pretty exciting because of all the looming change.  Whether you're getting ready to graduate high school or to start your senior year, it's time to start transitioning.  Change is fun!

Here are five things that I wish I did before starting college at DePaul:

(1) Identify a mentor for the next four years, someone that you will be able to look up to for guidance.  This may be someone in your potential career field or someone from back home that you're particularly fond of.  Whoever it is, it may be best that they are a bit older and ready to give honest advice.  This could also be a DePaul professor.  In fact, that would be excellent because they can help you navigate your four years while also being someone that will see you change through your time here.  I've had a faculty mentor (Dr. Caitlin Karver) and I can't stress enough how thankful for her I am.  So, take a leap and reach out to someone (a professor, someone in Chicago, someone back home).  Think about your support system, who you go to when you need help or support.

Four years go by fast! Make the best of every one of them.
(2) Do some introspection.  Think about the core of who you are.  You're going to be challenged by a lot of new things in college, but what are some things that you're not willing to give up?  What are some things you're ready to move past?  College is a fantastic time to let these changes happen :) 

(3) Make a list of goals.  Like real, solid goals.  They could be long term (4 years and above) or short term (1 year) goals.  Even goals that may seem impossible.  Challenge yourself to set expectations.  It may help you start taking advantage of the incredible things that DePaul and Chicago offer!  For example, "Tom's goal #1 as an entering freshman at DePaul: Ride on every single CTA ​bus line start to finish"- Such a great way to see new neighborhoods.  Goal status: incomplete (because I didn't articulate this goal before starting college!) :( 

(4)  Summer, Summer, Summer.  This summer you should do something life-giving.  Something that will give you energy that you can take with when you go to college.  For example, maybe get a job working at a summer camp.  You'll have countless stories when you get to college.  Or, get a fun job where you learn something new.  Make memories with your parents, family, loved ones.  Then, document your memories!  I can't tell you how many times freshman year I went through the pictures from my summer before.  It was comforting and helped me remember some of the people I loved when I wasn't seeing them all the time.      

(5) Get ready for a hell of an incredible experience!  I'm not sure how to prepare for this, but just get excited.  You're soon to embark on a fantastic journey.  Celebrate your success so far and prepare so that you can thrive in college.        

Undergraduate Research

It’s not everyday (everywhere) that you get to learn one-on-one next to a professor in the research lab as an undergrad.  But, that’s how I spent my afternoon.  And that’s nothing new either.  I’d say it’s a common occurrence at DePaul.

One of my favorite things about the science program at DePaul is that the small size and teaching focus means more face time with professors.  It means having a faculty research mentor and advisor to help you learn outside of the classroom.  I get it that this blog is a bit cheesy, but I can’t explain any other way how special this is.  

I started working in Dr. Karver’s lab my sophomore year when I was in organic chemistry.  I realized that I really enjoyed organic and I wanted to see how that classroom information was actually put to use (outside of the teaching lab).  So, I went to Dr. Karver’s office hours and told her I was interested and a couple of weeks later I was starting my first reaction.  

Being a part of a research lab has impacted my experience at DePaul substantially.  Not only has it offered a community of peers to look up to, but it’s made the information I learn in all my science classes more relevant.  It’s given me more motivation to learn in class and has fueled an interest to do research in the future.  Before I started in the lab, I thought that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it.  I thought something along the lines of, “I like
working with people and talking to people and that’s not necessarily what you get to do in the lab.”  While it may be true that it’s not the most social activity in the world, doing research as an undergrad has really made my time at DePaul special.  It’s provided me with a professor that I can always go to for advice, even if it’s unrelated to research or her courses. 


Once you get started at DePaul, try to search what kind of research the people are doing that are teaching you in your lecture classes!  You may be surprised by the research that some professors are doing.  Then, go meet them!  Find their email and set up an appointment and convince them of your interest and you’re well on your way to an incredibly worthwhile opportunity. 

Three Pre-Health Resources You MUST Know About

One of my favorite things about DePaul is the relationships that are possible with professors and staff.  Because of the small size of the science/pre-health programs​, and DePaul's commitment to an individualized education, there's a bounty of invaluable resources to help you navigate your time in college and figure out what to do after college.  

My main point is that it's NEVER too early to start getting prepared for these things.  Professors are an excellent resource to help with class and getting involved outside of class.  However, sometimes you need to talk to someone that can provide you assistance that a professor can't necessarily provide.  These people are pros (literally) at what they do.  They know how to help students get involved, how to mentor students to be more professional and job-ready, and how to help students in their preparation for life after DePaul.  

Here they are, three resources that you MUST know about.  I recommend that you meet these women first thing at DePaul, how about the first month you're here?!
Lindsey Burdick
Lindsey is The Pre-Health Advisor at DePaul (I put a capital T in THE because she's a very important resource).  Lindsey is an incredible resource for anyone looking to go in to a health related field after college.  She'll help you make sure you are on track for success in the future.  I appreciate Lindsey because she is very approachable.  There have been many times in my admissions process for medical school that I needed to ask a question, maybe a silly question, and Lindsey has always been there to help.  A few times I have made appointments with Lindsey just to chat and make sure that I'm on the right track.  And the best part is that Lindsey has always been perfectly fine with this.  She's very informed of application processes and realistic with you about your progress and position.  She'll give you advice so that you're better informed and prepared for whatever will come after your time at DePaul. ​

 
Hilarie Longnecker
Hilarie is the Career Specialist for the College of Science and Health (CSH).  When I was receiving feedback for a committee letter recommendation, the major message from my advisor was to meet with Hilarie as much as possible.  My advisor spoke of Hilarie as a type of professionalism skills goddess.  My advisor said that Hilarie would be able to get me in the place I need to be with interview, professionalism, and confidence skills.  I've met with Hilarie multiple times and she's exceeded all the expectations I had from her based on my advisor's recommendation.  Hilarie was clear with specific actions I needed to take to improve, and she was encouraging yet realistic of how I can overcome some of my interview struggles.  Every meeting I have with Hilarie I walk out with a sense of excitement for the practical suggestions that Hilarie gave me on how to improve.    ​    ​

 
​Michelle Johnson
Michelle just started a new position as the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Resource.  I met Michelle because I started as a biology major at DePaul and Michelle was the biology academic advisor at the time.  Even when I switched my major to health sciences and then chemistry, I still went to see Michelle once (I probably technically wasn't supposed to do this) for her wisdom.  Michelle is really easy to talk to, yet you won't leaving a meeting not knowing the next steps.  I especially appreciate the way that Michelle makes you feel encouraged, supported, and motivated.  You can tell that Michelle really does care about the success of her students.   


Sometime vs. Some Time

A couple of weeks ago I was completing an assessment for a potential job.  One of the sections measured my proficiency in English by asking me to correct sentences if necessary.  In one question I was given a sentence containing the word sometime and asked to correct the sentence if it was used incorrectly.

It's unfortunate that it wasn't until then that I really wanted to investigate the difference between sometime and some time.  It's also unfortunate that I couldn't just Google it because the exam was proctored via the internet by a company that had control of my computer and webcam. 

As students growing up in a world where we can search the internet for almost any fact or information that we're looking for, our approach to education is certainly going to have to change.  This isn't a novel idea, people have been talking about it for a long time.  Check out this short video about that. 

But, here's why this is so relevant.  As learners and future productive members of society, we have to figure out how we're going to adapt.  We have to figure out what it means if we're not sure how to use sometime and some time.  Today in the clinic I volunteer at another volunteer was translating for a patient.  The volunteer knew Spanish well, but there were a few words that were difficult.  I had Google translate on call, ready for the moments when I was asked to look up a word.  And it worked.  The communication was much faster and easier than looking up the words in the Spanish medical dictionary sitting right next to us. 

Thinking about how we (as students) should respond is kind of frightening.  Not only do we have to think about how we will adapt to these changes, but we will have to think about how to teach our kids.  In biochemistry it's imperative to know the amino acids structure, pKas, and properties without having to look them up.  It's part of the language.  It's not possible to effectively interpret biological/ chemical information without "knowing" these things.  In this case, knowing definitely implies knowledge that require no consultation of external resources.  But, using this definition, I didn't "know" the difference between the uses of sometime and some time when I was taking my assessment, and I kind of felt ashamed.

I offer no answer or solution.  I'm just beginning to think about what all of this means.  This fascinating issue is becoming increasingly relevant to us as students.  We need to figure out how to find, process, interpret, and store the information that we come across.  It's our job as students to figure out how we'll use the technology we have to enhance our education.  We'll have to adapt to learn new skills applicable to the jobs we'll be performing. 

You must be wondering, if you haven't Googled it yet. Here's the difference between sometime and some time:
(Source: Grammarly.com)



My Pre-Health Advising Committee Letter Interview

This past Wednesday I had my Pre-health Advising Committee (PAC) letter of recommendation interview.  The letter is a component of the medical school application process that is important for showing schools who I am outside of my academic experience.  My committee adviser is Dr. Southern in the Chemistry department.  She has been my main point of contact in the committee as well as the person who I will meet with to receive feedback from the interview.

The process for a PAC letter of recommendation started a couple of months ago when I submitted four letters of recommendation from individuals (two from professors, one from a current doctor, and one from my current work supervisor).  I also submitted a personal statement, a few essay responses, my transcripts, and my resume.   

Most medical schools are now looking for a committee letter of recommendation from a pre-health committee at your school, so it's an important process and I'm happy to have the chance to bring many voices into one letter.  I've definitely felt supported by my professors and advisers in the process of applying to medical school.  The PAC letter is something students generally do as juniors or seniors, depending on when you are looking to apply to medical school.  So far, my main piece of advice in the PAC letter process is to start thinking early about your decision to apply to medical school and to think deeply about why you want to become a physician.