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West Reading Campus Meet Orcel Kounga

By Lisa Ryan

Orcel Kounga is the director of admissions and student affairs at Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health in West Reading, Pa.

Orcel Kounga, Director of Admissions and Student Affairs, Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health in West Reading, PA

You'll be overseeing the West Reading campus student experience from recruitment through graduation – please tell me more about what that entails. What aspects of the work most inspire you?

As the director of admissions and student affairs, it is my responsibility to work alongside the admissions and student affairs team to select and support highly motivated and skilled medical students to join the College of Medicine’s West Reading campus. My goal for the West Reading campus is to recruit a diverse class that will help create a unique identity at the new location. I look forward to attracting medical students who are excited and focused on helping to address the critical health problems in our society. Drexel University, the College of Medicine and Tower Health are well-aligned to address these issues.

As this inaugural class enters in the fall of 2021, I will be working with the team at West Reading to maximize the success of these students in becoming health professionals. I’m excited about the construction of the new building and space; the location is just minutes away from Reading Hospital to give the students, faculty and staff close proximity to innovation and research. This building and its layout will help the West Reading campus to build community and also encourage our students to make strong connections to faculty, staff and professionals. Education, innovation, research and collaboration will thrive in one central, unifying space.

The students will always be the most inspiring aspect of this work. Medical students are uniquely committed to their field and are actively seeking to understand medicine in the context of their surroundings. I am excited to be stepping into this role in which I will be part of the process of shaping future doctors through meaningful experiences.

How did you become interested in coordinating students' higher education experiences, as you did in your prior work in student life at Drexel and will do for the College of Medicine at Tower Health? What kind of environment and experience do you hope to create for students in West Reading?

I have always been interested in the life cycle of a student. I believe that it starts the moment that an individual receives an admission pamphlet, and it continues past graduation. I see my role as pivotal in a student’s experience attending the university. It is my responsibility, as well as that of the institution, to provide longitudinal support for students.

I want to prioritize meeting as many College of Medicine community members as possible, including medical students, student organization leaders and faculty members. While I’d like to be meeting people in person once COVID guidelines allow, the virtual setting will provide increased ability to engage with as many people as possible.

I want to create an environment where students feel empowered to meaningfully interact with their communities, are excited to start dialogue about diversity, equity and inclusion, and are invested not only in their own personal and professional development but also those of their colleagues. Drawing influence from the established Queen Lane, Center City and University City campuses, I hope this new venture becomes a fulfilling, compelling and unique campus experience for West Reading students, while ensuring a cohesive integration into the College of Medicine community.

How will your past experiences in higher education, including at Drexel, fit into your new role?

Being new to medical student affairs, I will have opportunities for growth and learning. This role will be a strong bridge between our medical students and senior administration.

This pandemic has presented many challenges, and it is humbling to be given the opportunity to creatively think on how we show up and build community during this time. My previous experience working at Drexel University has provided me with knowledge of the intricacies of the university, and I am excited to use this to tackle my new role. I was fortunate to be working for the Drexel University Division of Student Life in the Office of Student Conduct. My office worked with the Office of Equity and Inclusive Culture (EIC), Housing and Residence Life, Fraternity & Sorority Life, and Campus Engagement to address student concerns and issues with the hopes of enhancing the student experience for both undergraduate and graduate students. Alongside those offices, I was intimately involved with the creation of student conduct policies, accountability of the student conduct process for students and organizations, professional development of our student leaders, event planning, and the rapid transition of our work to a virtual and remote environment.

This new venture is in a lot of ways a startup. Although most aspects from Queen Lane will be mirrored in West Reading, we will have to establish new student organizations and a student government, integrate a society system, create West Reading-specific policies, and ultimately integrate the inaugural class into the College of Medicine community.

In terms of recruitment, what does the West Reading environment – the community and the campus – offer students? What do you hope students will offer to their medical education community and to the community they'll call home?

The partnership with Tower Health in West Reading is providing our students direct access to Reading Hospital, minutes away from the West Reading campus. The West Reading campus will also provide state-of-the-art simulated patient rooms, anatomy laboratories and simulation labs for hands-on learning. This venture will also give our students the ability to participate in community health, centered on improving the health of the West Reading area, Berks County and beyond.

This partnership ties directly to the University’s six strategic imperatives: culture of equity, innovative research, powerful partnerships, agile curricula, enhanced experience and empowered students (University 2030 Strategic Plan), as well as the College of Medicine’s commitment to local and global communities, providing quality, compassionate care and collaboration with colleagues across the University and beyond (College of Medicine Strategic Plan).

What projects lie ahead of you before the campus opens this summer? What are your goals and plans?

There are many projects before the term starts for the inaugural class. Our immediate goals are to assist our students in securing affordable housing, create a robust orientation program to have students acquainted with the new campus and area, and organize initial programming to make the students feel at home. We will also be establishing new student organizations, a student government and campus-specific policies and procedures, all with the goal of providing the West Reading campus a unique identity within the College of Medicine community.

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