Every year, the University of Arizona Alumni Association gives colleges the chance to honor accomplished alumni for how far they’ve come.
The Daily Wildcat communicated with four of these distinguished alumni via email to share their stories as UA students. Here are four Alumni of the Year, then and now:
Dana Vandersip, College of Humanities
Dana Vandersip is making the world a better place as a philanthropist.
Vandersip graduated from the UA in 1988 with a degree in Russian language and literature. Now, Vandersip is the vice president of development for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego.
“Since graduating, I’ve become an expert in the non-profit sector by virtue of working at so many different sizes and types of nonprofits,” Vandersip said.
Vandersip has worked at educational exchange organizations, a university, an advocacy group, a museum and a hospice.
According to Vandersip, the UA was incredibly influential in her life. As a tribute to that, she has become active with the College of Humanities again and has decided to set up a scholarship with them.
As a student, Vandersip worked at a photo shop in the basement of the Student Union Memorial Center. Vandership had “thought for many years” that she would become a photographer.
“That was a pretty important part of my time there, because I was really exploring who I was and what I wanted to do in my life,” Vandersip said.
According to Vandersip, deciding not to pursue photography wasn’t a negative decision — it was part of the process of exploring who she was.
“UA was a huge time of exploration for me, figuring out my own identity, figuring out what I loved and what I didn’t,” Vandersip said. “It was a powerful time of my own growth.”
Daniel Derksen, College of Medicine
With an accomplished resume, Daniel Derksen is another UA alumnus who couldn’t leave the university behind.
According to the UAAA, Derksen graduated from the UA in 1979 with a degree in general biology. During his senior year of medical school in 1984, Derksen performed health risk evaluations and provided primary care at local villages in Mexico for his scholarly project.
“My experiences in the [Commitment to Undeserved People] CUP program and scholarly project sparked my interest in family medicine,” Derksen said.
Derksen kicked his career off as a family medicine resident at the University of New Mexico, where he spent 25 years as a faculty member.
Derksen is now the associate vice president for Health Equity, Outreach and Interprofessional Activities at UA Health Sciences and a professor at the UA College of Public Health.
Alok Patel, Honors College
College of Medicine alumnus Alok Patel is using creativity, storytelling and a strong social media presence to educate the public about health-related issues like vaccinations, reproductive rights and gun control, according to the UAAA.
According to the UAAA, Patel is now a pediatrician and a TV producer and correspondent for news outlets like CNN and NBC, but was once a molecular and cellular biology major at the UA.
Patel worked in a lab, researching mitochondrial gene expression, volunteered with the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and was active with several martial arts clubs at the UA recreation center, Patel said.
Patel has a strong social media presence, which he uses to provide the public with important information. He was part of the founding teams for a digital health startup that looked into improving patient education and for a media-based initiative that combats sex trafficking.
Sue Roe, College of Nursing
College of Nursing alumna Sue Roe is a prolific nurse, writer, professor and leader who finds joy in everything she does.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” Roe said. “To me, it was important to provide holistic and personalized care to every patient I ‘touched’ and to make a positive difference in the nursing profession.”
According to Roe, she worked in medical-surgical and skilled nursing after graduating from the UA. Roe returned to the university for a master's degree in nursing.
“From there I taught in a federally funded LPN program which sparked my enduring interest in teaching,” Roe said.
Since then, Roe has garnered plenty of success in the medical field and academia since graduating.
She is the principal of her own consulting practice, Roe Group Enterprises, where Roe has gained experience in the presidency of small colleges to the development of curriculum and training programs for over 20 years.
Roe also has at least three books in circulation and said she has been active in the integrative nursing and healthcare education communities and continues to serve in leadership roles.
“Upon reflection, I am proud to say I never lost my initial desire,” Roe said. “I have and will continue to help ensure holistic and personalized care for patients and the advancement of the nursing profession.”
The 2019 Alumni of the Year Award ceremony will be held on Thursday, Oct. 31 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Student Union Grand Ballroom.
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