If there is one person that embodies the Ribbons of Excellence at Adrian College, it’s Allyse Zondlak ‘18. In her time as a Bulldog, Zondlak was a student-athlete on the AC women’s soccer team, a sister in Alpha Phi sorority, a student representative on the Board of Trustees and a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC), Promoting Rights of Individuals with Disabilities Everywhere (PRIDE) and Special Olympics — but it’s Zondlak’s personal investment in the liberal arts that helped her get into the University of Michigan Medical School MD Program to become a doctor.
Even before her freshman year at Adrian College, Zondlak recognized the value in being a well-rounded student. Initially, she was attracted to AC because it afforded her the opportunity to continue to play soccer while advancing her career goals.
“The culture of the team was great, because everyone supported each other, even though we were still competitive with each other,” Zondlak said of the AC women’s soccer team. “Looking back, the team is what stands out the most to me now. I knew soccer wasn’t going to be my number one priority in college, so the fact that I got to play was a blessing every single day, as it provided balance to my rigorous academic schedule.”
Zondlak’s career as a student-athlete, however, only accounts for one part of her multifaceted identity. As a freshman, she knew she was interested in pursuing a career in specialized science and met with her advisor, Professor Marcia Boynton. They developed a plan that would allow Zondlak to explore different aspects of medicine while staying focused on classes and gaining hands-on experience.
“The day before my MCAT, she invited me to her house and talked me through the test, which really calmed me down,” Zondlak said. “She read all 12 of my applications and helped weave together several aspects of my personal and academic life to create a compelling application. She helped me say, ‘Here’s how I’m a good candidate. Here’s why I’m the person I’ve become.’”
Zondlak believes the interpersonal relationships she formed at Adrian College also played an integral role in her admittance to U of M. Specifically, the friendships she formed through Promoting Rights of Individuals with Disabilities Everywhere and Special Olympics not only shaped her AC experience, but also her career aspirations.
“I fell in love with the Special Olympic athletes at the first practice. It’s been a wonderfully gratifying experience to be a person that people with disabilities can go to and rely on,” Zondlak said. “It has helped me open up and approach every opportunity with an open heart and an open mind. Because of my AC experience with Special Olympic athletes, I now want to focus my medical studies and career on helping people with disabilities.”
In her final year at AC, she and her friend, Mackenzie King ‘18, presented to the Board of Trustees the significance of the Ribbons of Excellence Program and the impact a liberal arts education has on students long after graduation.
“We are conditioned throughout our four years to be open to new options and know that our way of thinking isn’t the only way of thinking,” Zondlak said. “The Ribbons program makes you think about things in a different light, to open oneself to others, and to be more empathetic and broad-minded.”
While Zondlak has three years left of medical school, U of M’s program allows her to begin clinical surgery rotations in the fall. She is confident she wants to weave ethics into her medical experience and to work with people with disabilities, but is still keeping her options open in regards to officially selecting her specialization. She encourages all Adrian College students to continue to push and maintain confidence as they pursue their goals.
“Adrian College provides the education you need for the career you desire, but you have to be willing to go out and make it happen,” Zondlak said. “Don’t be afraid to take on new and exciting challenges. Once you’ve graduated from Adrian College, you will certainly have what it takes to be successful!”