by Apurva Patil
Engrossed within our own academic fields at the University of Pittsburgh, we often overlook the similar struggles and achievements of fellow peers. The depth of programs offered at Pitt tends to seclude students from partaking in or recognizing experiences within other programs. Four Pitt students in the departments of Engineering, Accounting, Neuroscience and English share their undergraduate journeys here to reveal the many differences and similarities among all us Panthers. Who knows, we might just be able to better appreciate Pitt from their different perspectives.
Tools for Future Success
Danny Koch, a junior chemical engineering major, recently finished his first co-operative rotation with the Dow Chemical Company in Charleston, WV. Danny describes his major as being both diverse yet challenging, appreciating that “as a whole, the ChemE program has the balance between math, chemistry and engineering that [he] was expecting.” He identifies the technical knowledge required within his field while acknowledging the importance of problem solving and interpersonal skills. Danny’s most important experience, however, is his co-operative education.
Also known as a co-op, it is a program where a student receives academic credit for a job experience under a supervisor. Along with enabling him to experience the work he will do after he graduates, Danny’s co-op has also had a profound effect on how he views himself as a Pitt student. Although he recognizes the seclusion caused by working and living in cities outside of Pittsburgh, his co-op makes him feel more accomplished by successfully utilizing the opportunities Pitt provides. “As a Pitt undergraduate student, I am encouraged to not only learn as much as possible but also to take advantage of unique opportunities our university provides while enjoying the college experience.”
Tori Wholey, a senior accounting major, has interned at an insurance and reinsurance company, ACE Group, her freshman and sophomore years and at Ernst & Young this past summer. Although inherently different, both co-ops and internships provide undergraduate students with valuable work experience and insight into their respective industries. Many different subjects and majors offer internship opportunities through the internship guarantee program that Pitt offers, in which any student that completes the prep program is promised an internship experience.
Tori describes her internship as the missing piece of a puzzle, which helped her “connect the topics from class to the working world and the accounting industry.” She explains how the corroboration of her internship work and class work led her to a greater appreciation of the professors and the subject matter. In addition to opening her eyes to future occupations, she describes her internship as a doorway to her future that gives her “insight into the work of private accountants across all industries of work.” She credits her Pitt education with not only preparing her for a successful accounting career, but also guiding her towards a successful path after college. “I think Pitt offers so many opportunities to meet people and explore the city and so being a Pitt student simply means happiness for me.”
Striking the Right Balance
Neuroscience major Brandon Eilberg recently graduated from Pitt with a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine and was the secretary of the medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, his senior year. Brandon is currently taking a gap year working as a patient care technician – or PCT – at UPMC in order to strengthen his application for graduate school and gain more experience. He believes his gap year will serve as an incredible opportunity to help him learn the ins and outs of a hospital.
Looking back to his undergraduate years, he describes how his neuroscience classes challenged him to improve organization and reasoning in addition to expanding his technical knowledge. With neuroscience being such an interdisciplinary field, Brandon has learned how to tailor his studying styles depending on the subject matter – such as absorbing conceptual material versus engaging in factual reading.
While at Pitt, he was also a research assistant at a neuropsychology lab where he studied cellular and animal models to examine Parkinson’s disease. Given his many hours spent in lab, Brandon highly recommends research for undergraduates wishing to enter the field. His experiences taught him "the importance of punctuality and the value of [his] contributions on a larger scale in the research community." He further emphasizes that, while research may be more isolated than one likes, it nonetheless strengthens one’s will to become a doctor, highlighting the importance of prioritizing in college while planning for the future and living in the moment.
“The balance was important to me because if I had focused on fun rather than school, or vice versa, I would have lost my sanity.”
On top of majoring in English Fiction Writing, junior Shannon Pender is pursuing a certificate in Children’s Literature as well as Public and Professional Writing. Outside of her classes, she is the nonfiction editor for the Honor’s College publication, Collision Literary Magazine and the business manager of Redeye Theater Project, which is a 24-hour theater festival where plays are written and performed within the span of one day. She outlines the importance of all of her classes in how “every class – from Women in Lit to Intermediate Fiction – has shaped [her] ability as a writer.”
She describes the profound effect that the class on Intermediate Fiction has had in helping her develop her unique creativity. Filling the blank pages of her notebook with stories enabled her to not “have to worry about writing something that was ‘perfect.’ Being able to let go of the urge to self-edit and make everything perfect does amazing things for creativity.” She credits Pitt for giving her a focus and a community of like-minded individuals. “Being surrounded by so many passionate people in such an amazing city has helped me grow into a more passionate person, and I wouldn't have been able to do that without Pitt.”
As we learn about the experiences of our peers, we come to truly understand the diversity present within our university. We may not all share a common technical knowledge base across the many majors offered, but our similar aspirations and drives for success pave common ground between all University of Pittsburgh undergraduates. Our education paths that provide us with distinct opportunities shape our years at college. In order to truly understand the Pitt experience, though, one has to realize the existence of the differing experiences that come together to create our unique university. With our unforgettable years behind us and many more prosperous ones to come in the future, let’s all adopt a new perspective and appreciate our positions in the world as proud Panthers!