‘I took advantage of all Wartburg had to offer’

NAME: Laurel Woodrum
HOMETOWN: Kasson, Minnesota 
MAJOR: Biochemistry
CAMPUS INVOLVEMENT: Orientation Staff, Dance Marathon, Tri Beta Vice President, Chemistry Tutor

HOW DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR MAJOR: I chose biochemistry because both of my parents were in the science field, so I was nurtured by their love for science. I always liked being outside and growing up on a farm, with all our animals, I was always surrounded with life. That pushed me toward science and biology. I started taking science classes, like Anatomy and Physiology, in high school, and it was amazing to see what our bodies can do. This year, I’ve been a part of the cadaver lab on campus. That experience has taken my love even further. The fact that we’re so fragile, and so many things can go so wrong so easily, but yet, somehow, don’t for the most part, is amazing. The body is just so fascinating to me.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: I’m going to take a gap year. I have a job in Des Moines. In the future, I’m looking toward medical school. After that, my intended career plans would be to mentor medical students, but then also doing outreach work to other parts of the world. I want to be able to incorporate helping others and giving back and making it a part of the health care field, whether it’s in pediatrics or family medicine. I think that is the best part about my field of work.

When I was coming into college my plan was to go straight through. Dr. (Shawn) Ellenbroek told me, “At the end of the day, you’re still going to be a doctor for 40 years. One year is not going to change that, or even two years. It’s not going to change that you’re going to be practicing medicine for decades. It’s a good time to just reset, refocus, and get yourself prepared for what is to come.” I think that advice really centered me and made me confident for the rest of my career.

Laurel Woodrum

HOW HAS WARTBURG PREPARED YOU FOR THE FUTURE: One of the things we do for Tri Beta is have alumni come back and give talks. The alumni always tell us it may be hard at the time, but it is always worth it in the end. I’ve also had some great mentors like Dr. (Brian) McQueen. Dr. McQueen is not even a professor in my major, but he’s become such a great mentor. Dr. Ellenbroek is my adviser, but he also teaches biochemistry, which has been my absolute favorite class. He says at the beginning that the class is going to be medical school level. However, for me there has been no class that’s been more intriguing and fascinating. The whole department has this goal of pushing you, but always pushing you in the right direction. You always have people there to tell you it’s okay to breathe and you are going to succeed. I’ve also done one summer shadowing in Georgia. That was an amazing experience because I got to see the interactions between the physicians and the patients and see how I would change or learn from what they do and what I want to take away. 

WHERE DID YOUR INTERESTS IN  MENTORSHIP AND OUTREACH STEM FROM: That came, in large part, from Wartburg. In my second year, I worked in the chemistry department as a lab assistant. Then I got my SI (Supplemental Instructor) position at the beginning of last year and I’ve continued that this year. Through those two roles, I got to work with students and help and guide them. I’m not necessarily teaching them anything; they already know the material, they just don’t know how to piece it all together. Seeing the spark when they get it is the best part. It makes me so happy to see they’re able to do it on their own and be excited about what they are doing. That’s why I want to do advising. I love helping everybody get those “lightbulb” moments or finding something in themselves they didn’t know was there.   

As for the outreach work, I went on a service trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. We did environmental work there, and that was super fun and sparked my interest for doing what I do around the country and the world. But the biggest thing that inspired me in that regard is going to Rwanda in May Term. In Rwanda, the custom is that if you go to the hospital, your family is in charge of providing your food. That’s not always possible for everyone. This woman started an organization that gives food to all the patients, so we’re going to be working with her for a day providing food and helping prep the meals. I think we’re all given gifts, but we should also be thinking what we can do for everybody else and how can our gifts contribute to the world.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS: It’s not that one position has made me most proud. When I look back on my college experience, I’m proud of myself for doing it. It was more of what I learned from making myself open to not only the academic side of Wartburg but also all the other clubs and trying to be a well-rounded person. Do I pride myself on my academics? Yes, because I work hard. But you know what, I also got to be on Orientation staff for three years and meet so many different people. Or whether that’s through Dance Marathon and being in Levick all day dancing, or being in orientation, and having fun and being energetic for a week. I would say I’m the proudest of how I took advantage of all Wartburg has to offer.

HOW HAS BEING INVOLVED SHAPED YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A STUDENT: The one that comes to mind would be Orientation Staff. One of the valuable things of training was being able to break down walls and be vulnerable with the group. On the other side, it also taught you to be confident when leading a group and finding that balance between being their peer but also their guide. The whole dynamic was very intricate.

WHAT IS ONE MEMORY YOU WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER FROM YOUR TIME AT WARTBURG: It would have to be one of my first memories from college. It was during Play Fair my freshman year, and at this point we had moved in, so I knew my roommate, but hardly anyone else. It was the part in the program where we were in a big circle sprinting across the field. I remember the leader said something about raising our hands and someone grabbing my arm and running with it. Turns out, that was Macy Harris. We pretty much followed each other through the rest of the night and that’s how we met. To this day we are still friends, but just having that first memory of the first friends on campus is really special.