Photo by Joe A. Mendoza/CSU Photography
Luisanna Hernandez Jeppesen, an international student from Venezuela, will graduate from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences with a double major in Microbiology and Zoology and a minor in Chemistry.
According to her nominator, Academic Success Coordinator Kari Schlobohm of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Hernandez Jeppesen has been wonderful to work with. She has taken a heavy course load every semester, been in the Honors Program, worked in the research lab of Professor Donald Mykles and volunteered at the W.O.L.F. Sanctuary.
Hernandez Jeppesen plans to attend a language institution in Berlin to learn German for a year, and then hopes to be admitted to a Medical Laboratory Science program. After gaining some work experience, she wants to apply to medical school and become a pathologist.
“The world is my oyster, and all that,” she said. “There are too many fun things to do!”
In their own words
Q. What experiences in your life or at CSU have required you to demonstrate courage?
Although I had always wanted to study in a foreign country, coming here from Venezuela was certainly an interesting journey! It took a lot of courage to immerse myself in a completely different world from what I’d known back home, all my life. I remember thinking that there were so many options to choose from, back when I was deciding what exactly I wanted to study. I changed my major and minors many different times until I realized I could do it all – I could take on the challenge if I wanted to – and so I did. My courage was not about never having doubts, but rather about believing I could do anything I set my mind to, in spite of them. I was open to every opportunity that presented itself to me, even when it seemed far beyond my capabilities, and one certain thing I learned was that I was much more capable than I originally thought.
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
Without a shadow of a doubt, teaching molecular and general genetics (BZ350) students at TILT. There’s something special about connecting to them through shared experiences, and being able to explain things in a way that I would have liked them to have been explained to me, and seeing the way they start enjoying the course so much more once they understand that the University is not about grades or exams, but rather about learning concepts that can be directly applicable to their areas of interest in “real life.” I’ve met so many interesting people with such diverse backgrounds and have learned countless things from them. I look forward to every session; I truly and wholeheartedly enjoy them! Volunteering at the W.O.L.F. Sanctuary has also been one of the best experiences of my life. I am glad I have had the chance to help make these animals’ lives better, little by little.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to your professors and classmates whenever you need some advice or guidance. CSU is filled with people who want to help you not only succeed, but also fill your life with unforgettable learning experiences. Join clubs, meet and talk to new people, seek out research, teaching and volunteer positions; the world is full of opportunities that are yours to try until you find the one that is exactly right for you.
Q. Could you talk a bit more about your experience growing up in Venezuela, and how that compares to your experiences at CSU and in Fort Collins?
Venezuela is a very different country from the U.S. It is a beautiful place filled with any kind of flower and bird you can think of – macaws come visit you in the morning at your balcony, and you can feed them papayas from your garden. You can look outside and see a sloth slowly making its way up a tree next to your house. The level of education I received there was incomparable and the food! The food is incredible. Unfortunately, politics have made a bit of a mess out of it.
“All around me, I have had a myriad of women with incredible minds that I considered my role models, who mentored and inspired me throughout my academic career.”
There is a lot of socio-economic instability, and it is a very dangerous place to live in. This is why I decided to come here. Both have filled my life with wonderful opportunities and both have had just as much of a strong impact on my character.
The first thing that stood out to me is how both CSU and my high school there, el Instituto Andes, made me feel like I was capable of doing anything. As an immigrant Latin woman who is also part of the LGBTQ+ community, I always felt very welcomed and appreciated here. All around me, I have had a myriad of women with incredible minds that I considered my role models, who mentored and inspired me throughout my academic career. Doctors Huseby, Suchman, Traci, Popichak and especially Dr. Mihika Kozma, my thesis and research mentor, have opened worlds of opportunities for me which I will always be grateful for.
The second thing that stood out to me is how, in Venezuela, classes were suspended many times because of protests against the government, which sometimes ended in violence from the latter against the common people asking for simple things like a better future and justice. Here, I spent upwards of a year watching online or hybrid lectures because of the COVID pandemic. It showed me that I, as well as everyone else around me, can get through anything because we have a desire to learn and create better futures for ourselves despite any of the world’s adversities.
Q. Would you tell us a bit more about the volunteer work you did at the W.O.L.F. sanctuary?
Working at the W.O.L.F. Sanctuary for wolves and wolfdogs has been extremely therapeutic for me, which is why I have been going most weekends these past four academic years. We start off the day by feeding out kibble to the approximately 30 dogs we have in-site. Then, depending on what volunteer level you are (which depends on how many in-site hours you have been volunteering there), you go into the enclosures with them to clean and replace their water buckets and feeders, check to see if everything is alright and, most importantly, poop-scooping. Afterwards, we feed out bowls of meat that can range from one to four pounds, and huge bones if any were donated that week, clean the dishes we used that day, and any other activity we have time for at the end of the day, like walking ambassador animals. Sometimes we assist in veterinary day animal catch-ups or, on bad days and thankfully just twice, fire evacuations. Off-site volunteering includes working at the Gala, which is the annual fundraiser at the Hilton Hotel (at which I was secondary handler for the ambassador animal this year), education, and tabling events at big festivals like Elk Fest in Estes Park. I actually met my roommate at one of these events, hosted by the Zoology club at CSU – for which I was the newsletter editor officer my sophomore year.