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Mae Ruzek
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

​Mae Ruzek

Graduation year: 2016

Majors: Biology, Africana studies

Minors: Anthropology, public health

Activities: Phi Beta Kappa, Damascus Road, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Augustana Orchestra, Reading/Writing Center, Opportunity Kicks.

Post-grad plans: I plan to pursue a master’s of public health online at Indiana Wesleyan University while remaining in the Quad Cities and working at Good Samaritan Society Nursing Home and interning at World Relief as a public health liaison for immigrants and refugees.

Why Augustana?

Coming from a small rural community in Wisconsin, I felt that Augustana’s small campus and class sizes were a good choice, and since my two older sisters also attended Augustana, I immediately felt at home. I knew that with small classes, I could really get to know my professors. In addition, Augustana offered countless scholarships and opportunities to learn through internships, study abroad and independent studies that I would not have gotten at other schools.

Are you where you thought you'd be four years ago?

Yes and no. Even though I am not entering medical school like I had originally planned, I found a career path that better fits my goals, abilities and passion in the medical field. I never thought I would study anthropology or Africana studies, but the liberal arts education has opened my eyes to a whole new world of studies and opportunities with public health.

Who helped you?

My parents have always supported me at Augustana and helped me with my finances, my faith and my career choice. Without their love and guidance, I would not be as confident in my future as I am today. My advisor, Dara Wegman-Geedey, definitely helped me find my passion for public health and encouraged my study of cross-cultural medical care. In addition, I had multiple mentors at Augustana through Damascus Road and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship who really helped me grow in my faith and find my voice in the world.

A peak experience?

One of the best experiences I had at Augustana was being the concertmaster for the Augustana Orchestra. As a student who is not studying music, I was extremely honored to lead the orchestra for two years and grow as a student, musician and leader. This once-in-a-lifetime experience helped me become more confident in myself and increased my love of music.

What did you learn about yourself that has surprised you?

I learned that I love cross-cultural interactions and learning about other cultures, traditions and languages. Studying anthropology helped me understand the importance of good communication and cultural awareness. Overall, I learned that I like talking with people of all ages and cultures and hearing their stories.

How did you use Augie Choice?

I traveled to Ghana for 2015 Spring Term and studied West African music, history and art. During this time, I interned at the West African AIDS Foundation and learned how to perform blood tests for malaria, typhoid fever and HIV. Studying abroad in Ghana helped me realize the importance for health education and community development in public health. I could not have had this amazing life-changing experience without Augie Choice.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss the incredible faculty and staff that work so hard to help students succeed. They have been so friendly, and I will miss talking with my professors in and out of the classroom. They are great professors and mentors, and they truly want to help students figure out life and find a vocation.

Advice for the Class of 2020?

Take a class that is outside your comfort zone and way outside of your intended major. You might just end up finding your passion and love for learning.

“I loved advising sessions with Mae: We had a great time plotting ways to optimize her schedule so she could follow her passions in Africana studies while completing her biology major in preparation for an accelerated professional nursing program. I recall the fire that was lit in Mae during her study abroad term in West Africa. Global health is her goal, but Mae knew that path required a solid background in the social aspects of health, hence her minors in anthropology and public health. I look forward to seeing what adventures await Mae — I know for certain that she’ll be heading back to Africa as soon as possible!”

— Dr. Dara Wegman-Geedey, professor, biology