When it came to selecting the right college, New Jersey native Zonia Rueda ’19 credits her high school counselor for pointing her in the direction of Ursinus.
She explains, “I was looking for a school with a strong science program that would help me gain entry into medical school and my counselor, Mr. Gallen suggested I take a look at Ursinus.” However, aside from Ursinus’s academic offerings, Rueda was equally drawn to the close-knit campus culture and says, “I loved the intimate community and was also attracted to the small student to faculty ratios, which offers students the ability to get to know their professors outside the classroom.”
Like many high school students, Rueda believed a college like Ursinus would be out of reach for her, given the price of a private, liberal arts education. Fortunately, as a recipient of a multiple named scholarships, Rueda was granted a generous financial aid package that afforded her the opportunity to attend Ursinus and engage in leadership initiatives while a student here. Rueda states, “Scholarship support has been a blessing for me as it has enabled me to carry on my studies. If it were not for scholarship support, I, along with other students, would have missed out on many wonderful endeavors, including my dream of one day becoming a hematologist.”
Rueda has dreamt of a career in the medical field since she was a child, and so she declared a Biology major after her first year at Ursinus. And thanks to the Fellowship in the Ursinus Transition to an Undergraduate Research Experience (FUTURE) Program, which provides research opportunities to traditionally underserved students in the sciences and mathematics, Rueda gained hands-on experience much earlier than she initially anticipated. She elaborates, “I am very thankful that I had the chance to partake in the FUTURE program as a rising sophomore. I developed insight on what research looks like while discovering the different career paths that a science major can take. I was able to apply all the scientific techniques I learned my freshman year into the research I was conducting with my mentor Dr. Jennifer King, Assistant Professor of Biology.”
In the fall of 2016, Rueda was asked to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s first annual Honors Symposiums. She presented her research and advocated for underrepresented students in the STEM fields. That following spring she, along with Dr. King, co-presented their findings on HIV and its effects on brain immune cells, as well as discussed the importance of undergraduate research at the State Capitol in Harrisburg.
Despite her many scientific endeavors, Rueda’s last four years at Ursinus have been surprisingly well-rounded. She is working toward a minor in French and is also engaged in many of the extracurriculars that make Ursinus such a unique and wonderful place to grow and learn. This includes serving as Secretary and now President of the Association of Latinos Motivated to Achieve (ALMA), a Residential Advisor, an active member of the Voices in Praise Gospel Choir and a Senior Fellow for UC Admissions.
Rueda wholeheartedly attributes her collegiate feats to her strong liberal arts education and enthusiastically affirms, “I am thrilled that Ursinus has afforded me with the resources to expand my educational horizons! I believe that even the classes that I have taken outside my major in some way interconnect with my major. For example, I have taken English courses that related to diversity and race and am confident that the curriculum has been instrumental in sharpening my interpersonal skills and widening my perspectives.”
Not surprisingly, one of Rueda’s favorite aspects of her UC experience has been the friendships and bonds she has developed over the years with students, faculty and the alumni network. She says, “I have met and built strong academic relationships with wonderful professors and have made significant connections with alumni in the field of science, which has enabled me to gain priceless insights on what a career in the sciences and medical field entails.”
As Rueda approaches her graduation this spring, she is eager to begin the next chapter of her life—where she plans to pursue medical school, but also remaining actively engaged as an alumna and donor of Ursinus, with the intention of helping underrepresented students afford college.