Helping others love the smile they were born with
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
For Arizona State University College of Integrative Sciences and Arts outstanding graduate Jennifer Gutierrez, dreams of a career in dentistry began in childhood.
“From an early age I had a gap between my teeth and was self-conscious. I always loved going to the dentist, and I knew that I wanted to help others embrace the smile they were born with,” said Gutierrez, who is from Queen Creek, Arizona.
She chose the applied biological sciences major at ASU Polytechnic campus and a minor in organizational leadership to help her complete the prerequisites for dental school and her future career. She was a member of the Pre-Dental Club, active in International Service Devils (serving a year as president) and also served as a College of Integrative Sciences and Arts Ambassador and worked part time as a student assistant in the dean’s office.
“Jen has been a bright light in our office the past three years and will be greatly missed when she graduates!” said College of Integrative Sciences and Arts Assistant Director of Academic Services Jamie Eggerling. “I have worked with countless bright students with pre-health aspirations over the years. However, it is very rare that I have come across a student as dedicated, hardworking, bright, goal-oriented and compassionate as Jennifer. She has a deep-seated passion to serve the underserved and a vision to make a difference in the community.”
Eggerling noted that Gutierrez, though working multiple jobs and being very active on campus, has been on the Dean’s List every year at ASU and has won several awards for all that she does for others, including a Poly Award, an award for her track volunteer experience and an Outstanding Student Service Award for her time in International Service Devils.
The determination to make the most of her ASU experience, Gutierrez said, was deeply influenced by her parents, who came to the United States as immigrants and always emphasized the importance of education. When she participates in commencement and convocation ceremonies this week at ASU, her mortar board decorations will acknowledge their sacrifice and support: In script atop a tricolor background of green, white and red representing the Mexican flag, Gutierrez proclaims, “They migrated so I graduated.”
“ASU allowed me to grow a deeper appreciation for my parents and all the sacrifices they made to get me to where I am today,” she reflected. “I am proud to have attended a university that encouraged diversity and never failed to make me feel welcomed. The past 3 1/2 years, I have been able to embrace who I am more than ever. I’ve made countless personal and professional relationships and with the support of faculty and staff I have managed to gain so much more than just knowledge. I will forever be grateful for the experiences ASU has given me.”
Gutierrez shared some additional reflections with ASU Now about her undergraduate journey and plans for the future.
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
Answer: Participating in International Service Devils allowed me to travel abroad while doing service. It made me come to the realization that health care is a universal language and that by pursing dentistry, I will be able to connect to others despite any language barriers.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: My older sister was the first to graduate from our family and she attended ASU, which encouraged me to keep the tradition alive.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Oya Yazgan taught me that no matter how unknowledgeable one may feel in a subject, with hard work one can achieve greatness. She taught me that no one is a master at everything and that as long as I give my best efforts, then my goals will be surpassed. Her positive attitude gave me the boost I needed, and due to her influence, I have been able to stay on the path of becoming a dentist.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Take it a day at a time and search for your purpose by getting involved in the various clubs offered within ASU.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot was on the third floor of Santan Hall on the Polytechnic campus. Before exams, I would go up there to clear my mind and review, all while looking at the Arizona skies.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I will apply to dental school in June and while waiting for acceptance I plan to work full time and volunteer at dental clinics.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would donate the money to the Ocean Conservancy foundation. I find it important to care for our oceans and figure out ways to make our resources last for future generations.