By REBECCA TURNER
“Think really why you want to be a doctor,” said Jackie Mikulski, UT’s new academic program specialist. “The answer cannot be ‘because I like Grey’s Anatomy.’ You have to really, really be invested and want to help people.”
Mikulski began working at UT in May and her focus is helping students prepare for pre-professional programs, including the clinical health field and the law field. Her position is new and Mikulski is still developing means to help students.
“I’m happy that I’ve been able to do a lot of things so far,” Mikulski said. “For example, we had the law school fair a couple of weeks ago. We had a great turnout — about 90 students showed up and 60 law schools, so that was a great thing to do within my first few months.”
Junior political science and philosophy double major Ioana Zanchi found the event helpful, as she will have to apply to schools next year.
“I thought the law school fair was very informative and helpful to have actual representation from various schools in order to ask those specific and intricate questions,” Zanchi said.
Mikulski came to UT from the University of Maryland where she worked in MBA program management. Prior to that, she worked at Florida International University as an academic advisor to nursing students. Mikulski said she realized she wanted to become an advisor a few months before graduating from University of Florida with an undergraduate degree in business. She then went on to pursue a master’s degree there in higher education, cementing her love for the Gators.
“I’ve enjoyed my past few jobs getting experience in different areas, working with different student populations, in different departments and categories and seeing a whole wealth of services to be able to kind of fine-tune what I want to do going forward,” Mikulski said.
In addition to putting on a successful law school fair, Mikulski has developed other resources for students that either did not previously exist or had been less useful. Mikulski said she has built upon UT’s former pre-professional website so that it now includes pre-health and pre-law information and is more detailed. Additionally, she created a pre-professional interest form that students can submit to receive specific information on their program of choice and a Blackboard organization that sends out various information, including virtual event information.
“I guess the most important thing is to share resources and make sure students are on the right track by talking about everything they can do to be a successful applicant for one of those schools,” Mikulski said. “We talk about what’s needed for their specific career; normally it’s talking about prerequisites, ways to get involved outside of school, emphasizing the importance of grades and gaining leadership and community service skills to make a well-rounded individual.”
Though Mikulski is happy with her accomplishments so far, she is not done growing the program yet. She has other goals in mind for the future.
While Mikulski currently directs students to free test preparation guides for the MCAT and LSAT, junior political science major Aislinn Sroczynski said she would like to see “more LSAT prep or information on how to apply, what to expect in a law school, how to prepare, maybe an info meeting on the steps to apply to law school and a spotlight on the LJA [Law, Justice and Advocacy] minor.”
Mikulski’s goals include this and more. She hopes to start workshops for pre-professional programs that cover topics like planning your undergraduate experience and applying to these graduate programs. Mikulski also hopes to eventually develop a health school fair, like the law school fair, and a mentorship program with pre-professional students and people working in the industries they hope to join.
“I think shadowing someone in that career or industry is very important,” Mikulski said. “I stress to all students right now to be proactive in finding those opportunities.”
Mikulski suggests reaching out to family or friends in those fields or, alternatively, calling professionals in the area. She emphasizes the importance of networking and getting out into the field that you think you would like to work in.
Students interested in these areas who want Mikulski’s help should reach out to her, since UT does not specifically have pre-law or pre-health majors and that makes it difficult for her to otherwise track these students down, according to Mikulski. Currently, Mikulski has been tracking down these students with the help of Career Services, the Academic Success Center, and faculty in the departments that pre-professional students typically come from. Students interested in meeting with Mikulski can email her at email@example.com.
Erin Setelius, an academic advisor at UT, said of Mikulski, “It’s great having a resource that is totally dedicated to pre-health and pre-law. She has done a fantastic job. I know a lot of my students, history majors and things like that, have loved the Blackboard organization that she’s created.”
Mikulski is currently working on social media accounts for the program and is open to suggestions on which platforms to use. She said she sees it as an opportunity to get creative, something she enjoys, as evidenced by the Pinterest-inspired calendar in her office made from Home Depot paint chips.
Students interested in pre-professional programs should plan as early as possible and focus not only on academics, but also involvement in organizations and community service, according to Mikulski.
“You could have straight-A’s, but so can all the hundreds of people that are applying to that program,” Mikulski said. “You have to think, especially as a freshman, what can you do to set yourself apart from all of your peers and make yourself most competitive.”
Rebecca Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.