From an early age, Hazel Billings-Chiu was thinking about a career as a pharmacist: she excelled in science classes, she wanted to devote herself to helping others, and an aunt who serves as a hospital pharmacist provided a strong role model. UConn, with the best Pharmacy program in New England, was a natural fit.
But when she got here, Billings-Chiu didn’t walk a narrow path. She tried ballroom dancing, and found she loved it; she took a single philosophy course and liked it so much she’ll graduate with a minor in the discipline. Now, as the valedictorian of the BS Pharmacy Studies Class of 2022, she’s ready to continue pursuing her goal, equipped with the all-around educational experience provided by UConn.
What’s your major and why did you choose it?
Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Studies with a minor in Philosophy. In high school, I really enjoyed science classes, so from the start, I knew a science-related field was right for me. Additionally, I always wanted to have a career focused on helping others, and pharmacists do just that. Through direct patient care or the development of new medications, pharmacists can have a very significant and positive impact on the lives of others. I also had heard many positive things about pharmacy from my aunt. She is a hospital pharmacist and loves it. All of these factors led me to set my sights on becoming a licensed Doctor of Pharmacy.
Why did you choose UConn?
I had been interested in pharmacy since high school, so learning that UConn has the best pharmacy program in New England played a huge role in my decision to attend UConn. I also chose UConn because its honors program offers experiences that are hard to come by. I was accepted into the Honors program, and I was excited about all the opportunities that the program provided to enhance my education, strengthen my leadership skills, and be involved with research. Additionally, I liked the fact that UConn has all the opportunities of a large university but a small, tight-knit community within the pharmacy program. My pharmacy class has around 60 students, and we take nearly all of our classes together, which gives us a great chance to get to know one another, support each other, and make sure we all succeed together!
What are your plans after graduation?
I will spend another two years at UConn to complete my Doctor of Pharmacy degree. I’m particularly excited about completing my final year, which is focused on advanced practice rotations, where I will work alongside real pharmacists in many different pharmacy settings and locations.
What activities were you involved with as a student?
Within the School of Pharmacy, I am a LEADERS Track Scholar, member of the Rho Chi Honor Society, Vice President-Elect of CPNP (College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists), Secretary-Elect of Pharmacy Student Government, School of Pharmacy ambassador, Professionalism Committee class representative, and member of Lambda Kappa Sigma. I am also part of the Student Educational Assistance Program, where I help to promote effective learning among pharmacy students by uploading study guides, creating practice exams, and holding student review sessions. I have also recently joined Pharmacy Journal Club, a newly formed club in which we read and dissect scientific papers in order to discuss their implications, assess their level of professionalism, and learn how to present our own findings in a professional setting. Outside of pharmacy, I am in the Honors Program, and I was a UNIV first-year experience classroom facilitator. I’m also The Major Experience mentor for Philosophy.
How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?
We have so many opportunities here: leadership roles in student organizations, professional rotations, service learning in our local community and underserved populations, involvement in vaccine clinics, and patient counseling. I particularly enjoy these opportunities because I feel as though I am already fulfilling my dream of directly helping improve the lives of others. Participating in all of these activities has given me knowledge and experience that I have already been able to apply and will continue to use when I become a Doctor of Pharmacy.
What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?
I was surprised to learn that UConn offers so many different opportunities; skydiving, ballroom dance, college chapters for established global professional organizations, relevant and groundbreaking research labs to become involved in, and so much more.
Any advice for incoming first-year students?
Go to the involvement fair! It’s a fantastic way to see all the different organizations and get involved. Even if what you want doesn’t exist, the faculty will help you start it. Anything you want to do, you can find a way to become involved with it at UConn.
What’s one thing every student should do during their time at UConn?
If you are interested in something, try it! For example, I tried out ballroom dance as a freshman, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I am also interested in Philosophy, so I tried one course and enjoyed it so much that I went on to complete a Philosophy minor.
What’s one thing that will always make you think of UConn?
Huskies! I love them, and now every time I see one, I automatically think of UConn.