As a younger student, animal science major and College Ambassador Djion Holness thought she wanted to become a marine biologist, until her focus changed to veterinary medicine. She is particularly interested in the overlap between animal health and human health. Last summer, she spent nine weeks with the NSF/REU (National Science Foundation Research for Undergraduates) program at the University of Georgia studying pathogen co-infection patterns within domestic dogs in rural environments of the Panama Canal. She considers it one of the best experiences of her education thus far. Holness would love to work at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Read more about Djion’s experiences as a UConn student.
What attracted you to UConn? One of the main reasons why I choose UConn was because of the built-in nature of hands-on exposure. I knew that this was the school for me from the first time I toured the barns. I was also attracted to the small campus feel of the Department of Animal Science and the College, while having many of the large campus opportunities.
Why did you choose your particular major? I choose my major because I’ve always had a passion for caring for animals. The main goal of the major is to teach animal husbandry. I really loved that the major focuses on the overall care of animals.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? I had the opportunity to work with the academic programs office during winter orientations. During this time, I helped transfer and campus change students enroll in classes. I was really touched by the connections I was able to make with these new students. I remember being nervous at my orientation. As a result, I was able to give them the advice I wish I’d heard and calm their nerves. I truly valued having the opportunity to comfort the new students and connect with them at a time that can potentially be very nerve wracking.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. I have been enriched by my work at the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. I am absolutely in love with the work that I do there! I have learned a myriad of technical laboratory skills that have been applicable in many of my other classes. I have also found my passion in the lab. This was one of the first college experiences I had that fortified my love for veterinary medicine and veterinary pathology. I am so grateful for all that I have learned and continue to learn from my work there. This fall I had the chance to work as the first student coordinator for a STEM symposium, geared towards high school students who are in foster care or had recently been adopted. This event was hosted through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), and I acted as the liaison between the other students planning the event and the LSAMP coordinators. I led the students in planning every aspect of the event. We created a multimedia presentation, four hands-on experiments and a STEM major panel for the high school students. Though it was a lot of work leading up to the event, I had so much fun and gained so many interpersonal skills.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? My biggest challenge was finding my niche. My first semester here was particularly hard for me because I wasn’t involved, and I didn’t find areas where I felt comfortable being myself. Getting involved in clubs that were geared toward minorities and my specific interests totally changed my campus experience. I was much happier once I found friends that I felt I could relate to.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I graduate in May of 2019. The next step, hopefully, is vet school! I want to practice clinically for a bit then maybe work towards a Ph.D. in veterinary pathology.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? Every spring break I go on tour with the UConn Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir. Every year we visit different churches and minister through song. This is an experience that has changed my life in a multitude of ways. Last year we went to San Antonio, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. I love being able to connect my passion of singing and my faith with this choir.