Contributed by Director of Editorial Services Ken Arnold
When Cassandra (Cass) McCullough came to Newman University as a freshman in 2004, she knew exactly what she wanted: To grow in her faith and get accepted into a medical school.
Four years later, she feels she has achieved both.
McCullough, who was among the 349 candidates for graduation who took part in the Newman University Commencement exercises May 10, said she has grown spiritually through a variety of studies and activities during her four years at Newman.
In July, McCullough will also enter the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan., as a member of the KU Scholars in Rural Health program – a highly competitive program that selects only 10 or fewer undergraduate students each year from across the state for admission.
“It’s been more than I ever expected,” McCullough said about her experience at Newman. “Looking back I can see that I’ve really grown on a personal and spiritual level, and Newman challenged me to learn, to think outside the box.”
Strengthening her faith
McCullough, a native of Goddard, Kan., came to Newman after graduating from high school in 2004. She said she looked at other universities in the area, but decided to pursue a biochemistry degree at Newman for several reasons. For one, she was impressed with Newman’s pre-med program and with the Science Department faculty. For another, as a Catholic she wanted to go to a school with an environment that emphasized morality and service.
That desire to be of service to others is a central force in McCullough’s life. During her freshman year at Newman, she participated in the university’s annual trip to Guaymas, Mexico, where students work in an impoverished area helping build and repair homes and providing other needed services to residents.
In her sophomore year, she helped plan the Guaymas trip and went again as a student leader. McCullough said the trip was one of her most memorable experiences as a Newman student – in part because of a frightening moment when university Chaplain Father Joseph Tatro fell while painting a porch overhang, injuring several ribs.
As a junior, McCullough and other students traveled to Bay St. Louis, Miss., on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, where they spent a week working with other volunteers to repair a school damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
During her senior year, McCullough worked in the Newman Campus Ministry office. Among other activities, she and other student leaders took students on retreats to Oklahoma and Missouri.
“It really helped me examine and strengthen my faith to be an example for other people,” McCullough said. “The opportunity for service has really been part of my spiritual growth. I think by being a service-oriented school, Newman also prepared me for being a servant to people as a doctor.”
McCullough has in many ways also been a model student who has made high grades and impressed her professors with her knowledge and abilities. She has worked as a lab assistant for biochemistry, genetics and immunology classes. At this year’s regional American Chemical Society (ACS) convention, she was also honored as the ACS Senior Chemistry Student of Newman.
McCullough has been active outside of class through her four years at Newman as well. She has been a member of the Newman Christian Fellowship Club, Jets for Life, the International Club, the Chemistry Club and the Pre-med Club. She also participated in the “War on 54,” an annual good-natured competition against Friends University that includes a number of student events.
Relationships will be remembered
McCullough was selected for the KU Scholars in Rural Health program following her sophomore year at Newman, as are all students accepted into the program. As part of the requirements, McCullough spent periods during her sophomore and junior years shadowing a physician in a rural area of Kansas, and wrote four case studies based on her observations and experience. During her senior year, she worked on a community health project in McPherson County, which she will present to the KU School of Medicine board to finalize her acceptance into the medical school.
McCullough said she is excited to be going to KU, although she will not forget the teachers and many friends she made at Newman.
“What stands out for me is how I’ve really developed relationships with the professors,” she said. “They were really helpful and supportive, and always available to talk if you have a question. The opportunities to learn and grow are here. It’s been a great environment to be in.”