Finding the right career takes initiative

Lorena Vasquez learned in her high school science classes that the best solutions typically emerge from a strong hypothesis, followed by rigorous experiments. So when she began searching for the ideal college major, she arranged to meet with and shadow a physician’s assistant, a teacher, a dentist, a dental assistant and finally a dental hygienist.

“I am an outgoing person. Dental hygiene was most appealing because you get to spend time with people one on one,” she said. “Your role is prevention and education, and most of the people we see are healthy.”

She was accepted to the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry’s Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program, after completing the college pre-requisites and is now finishing her first semester in the two-year, six-semester program.

“With just 22 of us entering the program each year, we have already become close,” she said. “We get a lot of specialized attention from faculty and have learned so much already.”

The first-generation college student is paying for college with loans and with help from her single mom.

Vasquez’s goals include working in a family dental clinic, and one-day returning to the University of Minnesota to complete a Master’s degree in dental hygiene education. The School of Dentistry offers two master’s tracks for hygienists. One is for those who wish to teach and the other for business administration and management.

She is currently serving as the education liaison for her class, which gives her a seat at the table when faculty meet to talk about curriculum and standards.

“I am in awe of how much thought and planning goes into every single class,” Vasquez said. “This role gives our class a voice in that process and it gives me an appreciation the role of faculty even more. I am excited about the possibilities.”

Lorena Vasquez
Lorena Vasquez