Student Profile - Patty Stephens
Pre-med major Stephens dedicated to leadership, learning
Small classes and the chance to develop strong relationships with professors first attracted Patty Stephens to Lamar University. Since enrolling, she has taken advantage of multiple opportunities that reinforced her choice.
“It’s the best decision I’ve made. I’ve established myself at the university by being involved; my academics are good; and I’ve made great friends,” said the biology/pre-med major.
Going to college was not always an obvious choice for Stephens. Born in Prague, Czech Republic, she moved to the Netherlands as a young child and then spent several years in Aruba, a Dutch island in the Caribbean Sea. At 16, she and her family relocated to Port Neches, where she finished high school.
“High expectations are not really set in Aruba. Most people don’t even go to college. I wasn’t exactly sure it was feasible for me,” she said. “When I came to Lamar University, I started seeing that I actually really enjoyed school and learning. Medical school seemed very appealing to me. I always enjoyed helping people.”
Stephens started college as a psychology major then changed to nursing. After becoming a pre-med/biology major, she found even more ways to get involved on campus. She joined the Lamar chapter of the American Medical Students Association and starts her second year as the organization’s president this fall. Stephens and a few of her fellow members have even attended national AMSA conferences for the past two years.
“I absolutely love it,” Stephens said. “We’re making it grow, and all the members are so dedicated. I’ve learned what it means to be a leader.”
Both Stephens and the organization were honored this spring at Lamar’s 2013 Toast to Leadership Banquet. Stephens won the Ann Shaw Leadership Award, which recognizes a student who makes significant contributions to Lamar, fosters teamwork and excellent leadership, and exhibits exemplary personal ethics and integrity. The Lamar AMSA chapter was named the university’s most improved student organization.
Through AMSA and other campus organizations, such as Lamar Ambassadors, Stephens has enjoyed volunteering in Southeast Texas in a variety of ways, from events for the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program to beach cleanups. She especially loved volunteering in the nursery at Baptist Hospital for two years, but her schedule no longer permits it. Along with classes and campus involvement, she now balances a part-time job in a psychologist’s office as well. Previously, she worked on campus as a supplemental instructor for STARS (Student Advising and Retention Services) working with chemistry and anatomy and physiology classes, and then as a student director in the Office of Civic Engagement. She also served as a peer advisor working with incoming students and their parents.
Now well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming a doctor, Stephens acknowledges that her transition a few years ago to a new school in a new country was a little tricky.
“Most people say when they go abroad, it’s a culture shock. For me, it was moving to Texas. Aruba is a lot more open and free-willed,” she said. “It wasn’t until I started college where I started standing on my own two feet that I started to feel comfortable calling this place my home. Lamar University did that for me.”
An international upbringing has its advantages, though. Stephens speaks five languages – Czech, Dutch, Papiamento (a language of Aruba and other nearby islands), Spanish, and English, which she did not start learning until age 12.
“I think learning all these other languages when you’re younger helps when you’re older with absorbing new information and knowledge,” she said.
Stephens continues to remain open to the new information and new opportunities she finds at Lamar. Last summer, she participated in a study abroad program in Belize offered through the biology department. She also makes use of the Sheila Umphrey Recreational Sports Center regularly, having participated in indoor intramural soccer and climbing the rock wall frequently.
“It’s amazing how you can improve so fast at it as long as you keep doing it. That’s really true with anything.”
She still has a few more semesters before graduation, but Stephens already reached one important milestone during her tenure at Lamar. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen, as did her mother and sister. Two of Stephens’ three sisters (two were born U.S. citizens) also are Lamar students. Although they have different majors and are involved in different activities on campus, it is nice to run into each other on campus sometimes, she said. For all of them, the experience at Lamar has been good.
“Lamar has opened my eyes to everything, especially to volunteering and being involved,” she said. “It’s built my character and personality. I’ve become a leader at Lamar and will take that with me wherever I go.”