Amazing Students

Whitney Okie

Whitney Okie, a senior majoring in nutrition science, has been a FACS ambassador, Arch Society member and even started an anti-obesity organization for youths. And along the way, the future doctor fell in love with research.

Hometown:

Kumba, Cameroon

High School:

Paulding County High School

Degree objective:

Nutrition science, pre-med

Expected graduation:

May 2016

University highlights, achievements and awards:

When I came to the University of Georgia my freshman year, I wasn’t as involved as I had hoped to be. Coming from Paulding County High, UGA was a completely new experience for me. So for the meantime, my academics were my top priority. However, I found a way to serve my community as a Brumby Hall council representative. During my time on hall council, I was awarded Brumby’s best executive board member of the month. I also realized the importance of physical activity so I joined intramural volleyball, where I was the captain of my team. I also got involved with the UGA African Student Union, which kept me close to my African culture.

My sophomore year, I became very active in both the UGA and Athens-Clarke County community.  I joined the Ambassadors of Family and Consumer Sciences where I have proudly served at various functions. I was also an executive member of the Student Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. During the summer of 2013, my friend Darius Sanford and I started an organization called Fight Against Youth Obesity. Our goal was to teach the youths of Athens the importance of healthy living and fight this obesity epidemic. Every Friday, F.A.Y.O members go to Thomas Lay and the Boys and Girls Club after-school programs to work with the youths. This organization is my proudest accomplishment because of the impact it continues to have in the lives of these youths.

I also worked a resident assistant for two years in Brown Hall. In this position, I got the privilege to be there for some of the best and, unfortunately, sometimes the darkest moments of some students’ lives. This experience caused me to grow in so many aspects of my own life. In this role I was awarded the customer service star and programmer award.

At the end of my sophomore year, I was inducted into the Arch Society. There is nothing more humbling than serving alongside 35 bright and accomplished ambassadors for the University of Georgia. During my time as a WOTA (Woman of the Arch) I have learned, the true meaning of accountability and professionalism. It has given me the opportunity to see the University of Georgia through a broader lens and for that, I am grateful.

My best academic highlight was joining a research lab. My freshman year I took research as my First-Year Odyssey class. My teacher, David Lee, exposed us to the various research opportunities on campus and their importance. Since then I knew research was something I wanted to do. In the summer of 2014, I joined Robert Pazdro’s Free Radical and Nutritional Genetics Laboratory where I engaged in research. My almost two years in research has taught me to be persistent and resilient.  I was blessed to receive the Berdanier Undergraduate Research Grant Award and the CURO research assistantship. Through the CURO assistantship, I got the opportunity to present my research at the CURO Symposium.

Current Employment:

CA for Building 1516

I chose to attend UGA because...

Finances played a big role in my choice for a college education. I knew staying in Georgia would be more affordable because of the Hope Scholarship and in-state tuition. Despite the financial concerns, I still wanted to attend a great university where I could continue to grow intellectually and socially. So UGA became the obvious choice; this university is one of the best public institutions in the nation and I will be forever thankful for the opportunity I have been given to attend this fine institution.

My favorite things to do on campus are...

I enjoy going to the volleyball and gymnastic events here on campus with my friends.  But what I enjoy the most is giving tours as a member of the Arch Society to prospective students. As a senior, all my classes are concentrated on one side of campus and as a result I can go weeks without seeing the other parts of campus, especially North Campus. This is why giving tours is very exciting for me. I get to walk through my campus remembering its history and sharing that moment with prospective students whose shoes I was in almost four years ago.

When I have free time, I like...

… to read novels, watch Korean dramas and work out.

The craziest thing I've done is...

The spring of my sophomore, I was going to be inducted into the Arch Society. I had my mom mail me black shoes, but they were a little big for me. Mind you, I received the shoes the day before induction. So my friend Ola and I decided to go to the mall and get a new pair. I didn’t have my car then so our only means of getting there was to catch an Athens Transit bus. The bus was to arrive across the Arch around 5:50 p.m. and if I remember correctly that was supposed to be the last time the bus was to stop by the Arch. When we looked up this information, we were in Rutherford Hall and it was about 5:35 p.m.; we both immediately started running.  We ran past Stanford Stadium, up the famous Park Hall stairs and the moment we got to the bus stop, we saw our bus approaching. If there was ever a time I thought I could have a career in track and field, it was right then and there.

My favorite place to study is...

I love to study on the first floor of the science library. It’s usually neither too quiet nor too loud, which is just the perfect study environment for me.

My favorite professor is...

I can’t truly pick a favorite professor because I have had some amazing professors throughout my four years at UGA. Nonetheless, four professors have made the most impact in my life: Robert Pazdro, my research professor, who has taught me the importance of hard work and consistency; David Lee, who exposed me to the world of research and has consistently supported and encouraged me in all my endeavors; Jill McCourt, who made me love biochemistry and was always willing to answer questions; and Julie Stoudenmire, the graduate student who taught my microbiology course and helped me through a difficult time period after my car accident last spring. She was very patient and willing to explain things over again to me during office hours. College has its own challenges as you try to balance life and academics, and I would not have been able to pull through without the impact these four people made in my life and I don’t know if they even realize that.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...

… my mom. There is never a dull moment around her. Every moment I spend with her, I learn something new. She always has some words of wisdom and encouragement to share with me. But spending an afternoon with Karen Kingsbury, my favorite author, would be a dream come true. Her books are so inspiring and encourage me every day as a young lady to live my life for God.

If I knew I could not fail, I would...

… go to Cameroon and open a big research hospital where young doctors could nurture their passion for medicine and research. Here, patients who have been given little to no hope would receive the most advanced and up-to-date medical care. Scientists will be conducting research to seek answers to the various illnesses that affect Third World countries.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to...

… build that research hospital I wrote about above.

After graduation, I plan to...

… take a year off before going to medical school. During that time, I want to conduct more research projects with the CDC or NIH and travel as much as fiscally possible.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

I will always remember my first football game. Freshman year, some of my hall mates convinced me to go to at least one home game. I was so worried about going because I knew absolutely NOTHING about American football. However, one of my hall mates promised she would try to explain the happenings of the game to me. So I went to the Vanderbilt game; it’s so hard to explain one’s feelings on game day — you just have to be here to experience it for yourself.

But one thing was certain: There was no place I would rather have been than right there in Stanford Stadium cheering on the Dawgs. A few minutes into the game, Jarvis Jones had his first of several tackles that evening. The moment I saw that happen I screamed in fear, but everyone around me screamed in excitement! I remember looking to my friend and asking why is everyone so happy when these players might be hurt. She laughed and said it’s good for our team and that the players were fine, which they were. At the end of that game I learned what a touchdown was. Today, after four seasons of watching Georgia football, I know a lot more about the game and I no longer scream in fear.

Published Sunday,