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Two Unique Peas in the CNHP Pod

September 20, 2017

Drexel undergrad students Valerie Iovine and Lauren CertoLauren Certo and Valerie Iovine have a lot on their plates. The third year Health Sciences students go to classes, work part time jobs, are involved in student organizations, volunteer, and on top of it all, are co-investigators on a research project they came up with.

Iovine knew she wanted to go to Drexel from the start. “Drexel was my top choice all along. It was my first college visit ever and it was at the end of 10th grade. It was a rainy day, and I totally loved it. My parents were like, `Relax. It's your first college visit. You'll like other colleges, too.’” She continued to visit other schools, but kept coming back to Drexel. “I just knew, for some reason, that I loved it here so much. I just liked that everybody here knows what they want to do and they're so passionate about it and want to get going with their goals,” she said. 

Iovine’s Drexel career didn’t begin quite how she expected. She knew about Drexel’s quarter system, but knowing and experiencing are two different things. Iovine found that she struggled with one class in particular, and even after dedicating all of her time and energy to homework and studying, her GPA at the end of the quarter wasn’t quite what she had hoped for.  She was able to use that as motivation and drastically improved her GPA in the second quarter, and by the third, she had earned a 4.0.

“Now I feel like I've finally got a hang of this. CNHP is a place I take a lot of pride in—it isn't easy work and I think that people know that. It’s a really satisfying feeling to hear that reaction whenever I say ‘I go to Drexel University’” she said.

Her enthusiasm led her to become a member of the executive team of student ambassadors as well as a member of the Dragon Recruitment Team. “I really love it. It’s so exciting to be able to share my experience with all the people who are coming into the school.” Though, Iovine makes sure to manage expectations. “I remember being on my college tour and hearing `Oh, your average class size is 18,’ but then getting here and having a lecture and it wasn’t 18 at all.” Now I'm the tour guide. So I tell them, `The average class size is 18 but you're going to have these lectures. This is how this really works. It’s not easy, but you'll get used to it.’”

Certo’s experience was very different. She didn’t have a particular school in mind when she began her college search. “I looked up schools that had an accelerated PA program, and Drexel was in the top three.” The Pittsburgh native made her way to Philadelphia to visit Penn, Philadelphia University and Drexel. After visiting all three, her choice was clear. “I liked it so much! I love how fast-paced Drexel is and how really passionate about their careers everybody is, too. Our professors are actually practicing in whatever discipline they teach, and that's really important. Also, the cadaver lab was a big draw for me.”

Certo credits the quarter system with improving her time management skills. Not only did she take the regular health sciences course work, but during her spring quarter, Certo also took an EMT course and received her certification. She is now the treasurer of the Drexel EMS club, volunteers as an EMT with a station in Lancaster and works in the Drexel College of Medicine Emergency Medicine department teaching EMT and CPR classes.

As if her coursework, work and volunteering wasn’t enough, Certo is also the president of the Dragon Recruitment Team (DRT), an organization specific to College of Nursing and Health Professions. As president, she works to advance the mission of the DRT— to increase the awareness for both current and prospective students of the outstanding opportunities the College of Nursing and Health Professions offers like a wide variety of courses, unique co-op experiences and programs that facilitate a smooth transition between undergraduate and graduate/doctoral programs. She also recruits and trains members of the organization—including Iovine!

As an executive ambassador and president of the DRT, the two have the opportunity to work together during University recruitment events such as open houses and accepted students days. “I think that our roles, hers as an executive ambassador and mine at DRT, kind of collide and create something awesome. We work together because no one represents Center City Campus except for the Dragon Recruitment members. Having presence on this campus as well as in University City is kind great because we're able to work together and represent both campuses and everything they have to offer,” said Certo.

Certo’s and Iovine’s next joint venture is as co-investigators on a research project inspired by Certo’s study abroad trip to Greece. Certo is currently participating in a ten-day intensive study abroad course called Mediterranean Crossroads for which the final project is a ten-page reflection paper. She and Iovine decided that if she had to write the paper, they should make it worthwhile. “We came up with the idea to assess the difference between Greek and American cultures based on body appreciation and intuitive eating and how that affects depression, anxiety and stress in those two cultures,” said Iovine.  The two will use Qualtrics to survey Greeks and Americans and SPSS Statistics software to analyze the results. Though the results are not yet finalized, they do have a hypothesis. “We think that Greek people will likely have lower depression anxiety and stress because their body appreciation is higher and they intuitively eat in a better sense that Americans do,” said Certo.

Drexel study abroad in Greece with Lauren Certo

Both Certo and Iovine have applied for accelerated programs, Certo in physician assistant and Iovine in physical therapy. While the coursework, jobs and extracurricular activities may seem overwhelming, both want to assure prospective students that it becomes manageable and a new normal.

“My advice is to stick through it because there was a little while where I was like, `I can't do this. I'm going to have to look at other schools. This is insane,’” said Iovine. “But it's so worth it. Everything that I've done since then has been beyond worth the work I put in. I have learned so much about myself, about my work habits, about how to manage time and to really mature and be an adult. I feel like I couldn't have learned those skills at any other school, and I'm so happy with my choice here.”

Certo wholeheartedly agrees. “You just have to stay strong, believe in yourself, and realize that you're investing so much time into yourself, and your education is the most important thing you will ever put your time into. So don't cheat yourself, take everything seriously, and seize all opportunities.”

  By Maggie Rowan McCrea