Dental Student at the University of Minnesota
"The faculty at Concordia have been nothing but supportive of my choice to pursue dentistry. They believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself."
Tori Schultz is a biology and chemistry grad who went on to graduate school at the University of Minnesota after completing her undergraduate pre-professional studies at CSP. In addition to pursuing an advanced degree, Tori sees around two patients each day and took the second half of her dental boards and licensure exam this year. As an alumna, Tori has returned to CSP to present at the science department’s “I Am Science” lecture series to give students a glimpse into graduate studies as well as to showcase the career opportunities that are possible with pursuing a science degree at CSP. We caught up with Tori to find out what made her want to sink her teeth into a career in dentistry as well as the ways that CSP supported her along the way.
Q: What were your most important factors to consider when you were selecting a college?
A: The most important factors for me to consider when selecting an undergraduate college were: a good biology program with updated laboratories, smaller class sizes, and a sense of community. I wanted to be close enough to my hometown that I could travel home on weekends if I got homesick.
Q: Why did you ultimately choose Concordia University, St. Paul?
A: When I was in my senior year of high school, I had my choices narrowed down to two colleges, Concordia and one other school. I chose Concordia for a number of reasons. I was accepted into the Concordia Honors Program, the class sizes were smaller, I could freely worship God alongside other believers, and I felt very welcomed in my first tour of the campus.
Q: Concordia’s campus is an urban, diverse location. In what ways did these campus attributes help prepare you for your career?
A: I come from a small, rural town of about 1,200 people so living in the Twin Cities was quite the culture shock for me. I slowly became comfortable with the transportation system and quickly learned how to get where I wanted to go. Over the years, I became confident in my ability to drive in traffic, especially rush hour. Now, I am at the University of Minnesota Dental School so I was fortunate to only have to move a few miles away from Concordia. I enjoy being able to drive to school and be part of the many events going on in the Twin Cities. Being able to experience an urban culture, I am confident in my decision to move back to a small town because I know what I want.
Q: What internships or volunteer opportunities did you participate in? How do you feel those experiences prepared you for professional success and a career after graduation?
A: During my first year in the Honors Program, I obtained an internship at Children’s Dental Services where I learned about non-profits, dentistry, and treating diverse patients. I participated in two mission to Nicaragua and was privileged to lead one. I enjoyed being a peer advisor for Concordia and meeting with freshman to help them transition into college. All of these experiences and countless more provided me with leadership training,professional growth, and experience in both dentistry and teamwork.
Q: Do you feel that you established significant relationships with CSP’s faculty? What importance did those relationships have in the quality of your classroom experience?
A: I never thought it was possible to have the amazing relationships that I still have with CSP’s faculty. My Honors Program Director, Dr. Mark Schuler, was an amazing help during my freshman year when I struggled with homesickness. He would meet with me if I became overwhelmed and became an amazing role model for me. We still stay in contact and occasionally meet for coffee. He told me during our last visit how excited he is to see me walk across the stage as Dr. Schultz and yell, “Yes! We did it!” My relationship with the biology faculty at CSP provided me with the unique experience to have strong, personal recommendation letters. They watched me succeed and were there during my struggles. It was invaluable to have their wisdom and guidance. I honestly do not know if I would be where I am today without them.
Dr. Mandy Brosnahan is also one of my favorite faculty at Concordia. She was hired at the beginning of my junior year and I honestly hated her at first. She was tough and she liked to push us. I don’t believe I have ever learned so much in a semester as I did in her classes. She is now one of my favorite faculty. She was the second person I asked to write me a recommendation and the first I told after I was accepted into the UMN Dental Program. She frequently reaches out to me to speak at Concordia and help with undergraduate students who are interested in dentistry.
Q: Choose a moment that could sum up what you value most about your time at Concordia:
A: It’s difficult to sum up one moment to describe the value of my time at Concordia. It was the place I learned where I was and what I wanted after college. I created lifelong friendships with both students and staff. The one moment that made all the studying, homesickness, and hard work worth it was the day I got my acceptance letter to the University of Minnesota Dental School. I was in my apartment about to leave for Biochemistry when I received an email. I opened it and immediately burst into tears. I called my lab partner and told her I was going to be late. After calling my family to tell them the good news, I walked into class with my favorite science faculty. I told her and the other students in my class the good news. The professor immediately hugged me and told me how proud she was. This is something that could not have happened at a big university. Nothing will ever beat the feeling of reaching your dreams and having people who care about you to celebrate your accomplishments.
Q: Dr. Brosnahan noted that you are currently in dental school. What drew you to dentistry? Did you know that you wanted to pursue that career path early on or did you discover your passion for it later on?
A: I am in my final year of dental school and I absolutely love what I do and the people I get to work with. Dentistry has been a passion for me as long as I can remember. I had terrible teeth and braces for years. I spent so much time with my dentist that the office became somewhat of a home to me. I loved going and visiting the staff. They always seemed so happy. I shadowed multiple dentists and did some summer programs to make sure I enjoyed the actual work. Dentistry is an amazing career. I get to work with people of all ages every day. It’s an awesome balance of art and science. It’s detail-oriented and precise. I can’t wait to start my career!
Q: What was the process of applying to dental school like? How did your CSP experience prepare you and how have faculty supported you in your grad school pursuits?
A: The faculty at Concordia have been nothing but supportive of my choice to pursue dentistry. They frequently helped me find internships, volunteer opportunities, and outreach events I could be a part of. They supported my decision not to take a gap year and were incredible during the application process. I sent my personal statement to eight or ten faculty members and everyonegave back constructive criticism. They believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.
Q: What was it like to present to current CSP students as an alum?
A: It was so much fun to present at the I Am Science seminar. I felt like my journey at CSP was amazing and getting to share that was beyond words. It felt good to show the faculty that I am succeeding and loving every minute of it.
Q: What is the most valuable piece of information, lesson, or take away from your time at Concordia
A: My most valuable lesson from Concordia is to get to know your professors and other staff members. They have been where you are and know the struggle. They want to see you succeed, and when you do, they are the first ones to celebrate with you. Don’t be afraid to knock on their office door and start a conversation. Some of my best memories are from faculty conversations.
Tori will graduate from the University of Minnesota in May with her DDS is planning to work at a non-profit providing care to geriatric and special needs patients.