Professional preparation

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Alumnus Aaron Stroh prepares for career in dentistry.

Even though he had been interested in medical professions since a young age, Aaron Stroh hesitated when choosing which path to take in his undergraduate career; pursuing a career in the health professions requires rigorous academic and personal commitments. During his time at Northern Arizona University, however, Stroh found the motivation to follow his passion, thanks to dynamic courses, inspirational peers, and expert faculty mentors. When he graduated in 2011 with bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a health pre-professional emphasis, Stroh was well on his way toward being admitted to dental school.

Building a foundation

Stroh didn’t have to travel far to begin his journey – he grew up in nearby Prescott, Arizona, but left for Flagstaff’s “small town feel with big city opportunities.” Initially, Stroh considered studying physical therapy, but as he immersed himself in the chemistry program and lab work, he realized he couldn’t ignore his calling.

“I knew I nailed it when I picked chemistry because over and over again, I found myself loving the classes,” Stroh said.  “It’s really important.  Some students think when they come to school, they need to major in what’s going to be favorable for the way the economy is, but it’s all about studying something you’re good at and studying something you love and enjoy.  It makes it that much easier to go to class each day and do your homework.”

Stroh worked as both a teacher’s assistant and a lab assistant for the chemistry department, which allowed him to further develop his knowledge and skills. As a lab assistant, he worked alongside one of his most influential chemistry and biochemistry professors, Matthew Gage, on various projects, including the study of protein and how it relates to the body’s functions.

For Stroh, the sum of these experiences proved invaluable in helping to prepare him for life beyond the university.

“For me, it was an experience where I got to use the knowledge I was learning in lectures in a ‘real-world’ setting,” Stroh says. “It was definitely nice to have that hands-on experience and build those strong connections with my professors and people within the community.” 

Preparing for dental school

After graduation, Stroh took the next step toward a dental career and signed up for the Dental Aptitude Test, a five-hour exam that is the dental equivalent of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

Stroh performed exceptionally well, earning invitations from schools in California, Colorado, and Arizona. Out of 3,500 applicants, Stroh was one of only 35 students accepted to the University of Southern California, and one of five non-Nebraska applicants accepted to the University of Nebraska’s School of Dentistry. In the end, Stroh chose the University of Nebraska, where both his father and grandfather had attended.  

As he approaches the end of his first semester of dental school, Stroh feels strongly that his experience at Northern Arizona University allowed him to think become a more dynamic learner, which in turn is helping him to succeed at the next level.

“I am confident that the social and professional development I received through my involvement on campus is going to help me succeed immensely, as it has done for me so far,” Stroh says. “Thankfully, my professors along the way spent many hours teaching the material in a way that helped me learn in the moment and apply that knowledge to issues outside of that scope. They taught me how to be a better problem solver.”