This month’s Human’s of Roberts Spotlight is Shanel Montalvo. Shanel Montalvo is an alumna of Roberts. We asked her a few questions so we could get to know her and her journey more:

Why did you choose Roberts? What were your majors/concentrations, and why did you choose it/them?

I chose Roberts Wesleyan because it was the only school that offered to meet with me one on one to go over my goals. I remember meeting with two advisors, whom I did not know at the time, who sat down with me and discussed my academic wants and needs. They were extremely genuine in their desire to help me meet my goals and graduate on time. Ultimately, they suggested I declare a Cross-Disciplinary Studies major focusing on biology and minors in humanities and social sciences. This major allowed me to accomplish my goal of finishing my bachelor’s degree in two years while completing the prerequisites needed for medical school.

What did you see yourself doing as a career when you were in school? Were you open to different paths or pretty set on a specific career or goal? When did you decide on your career path and how? Do you feel like you have an overarching calling in life and how does that relate to your career dreams/hopes?

Being a non-traditional student, I obtained an associate degree from Monroe Community College and took time off following graduation to find my calling. After working various jobs, I still found myself unsure of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It was not until April 6, 2017, that I realized my calling. On that day, I suffered a stroke at the age of 22 years old.

It was not until April 6, 2017, that I realized my calling. On that day, I suffered a stroke at the age of 22 years old.

After recovery, it was almost an instantaneous decision that I was going to become a neurosurgeon. From that point on, my life changed, and I felt my calling ever since. Due to timing, I was not able to enroll at Roberts Wesleyan for Fall 2017. Instead, I worked in an operating room for a year as an operating room technician. This solidified my calling as I got to watch surgeries all day, and I loved it! I applied to a few schools, and Roberts seemed like the best choice for me. With that said, Roberts provided me with a much needed blueprint with specific suggestions towards my career goal of becoming a neurosurgeon.

Are you currently doing what you thought you would be doing? If not, how does it differ? 

I am currently in a post-baccalaureate program called MEDPREP at Southern Illinois University Medical in Carbondale, Illinois. This is precisely what I planned on doing. After my first semester at Roberts, I knew that I would need to make myself a competitive applicant for medical school. As a result, I decided to do this two-year program to strengthen my science GPA and prepare for the MCAT exam that I will be taking in May of 2021. 

How has it been adjusting to post-college life? What has been the biggest adjustment/change? 

As a former non-traditional student, some things were a bit different for me. When I attended Monroe Community College, I was still living at home with my family, and the commute was only about 15 minutes. My experience at Roberts Wesleyan was the same. However, now that I have graduated and am in graduate school, I feel more like a traditional student. I say this because now I am 13 hours away from my family, living in a new place, with new people, and a challenging course load. The adjustment has not been easy, mainly because I’ve never been this far from my family before. On a positive note, I’ve met new people, shared new experiences, and I am continuing to work towards my goal to become a neurosurgeon. 

How were you prepared for work-life or grad school? How were you not?

I think I was more prepared than the typical student for post-undergraduate life. Being a bit older and having had experience living independently, while working full-time jobs, has allowed me to develop the independence that has been beneficial to me currently. Being away from my family is the only thing I was not prepared for, but FaceTime makes that a bit easier!

Do you have any favorite memories or favorite things about your college experience? What has been your biggest struggle in college and post college?

My biggest struggle while at Roberts was juggling between personal life, work, and academics. However, being far away from my family since graduating from Roberts is also a struggle for me as well. Some of my favorite memories from undergraduate life at Roberts were attending the soccer games, the faith and science talks held by the science department, and the overall feeling of a close family while on campus. Roberts is a smaller school, and because of that, it feels more like a family, and the staff take the extra mile to make sure students succeed (like they did before I was even a student!)

Roberts is a smaller school, and because of that, it feels more like a family, and the staff take the extra mile to make sure students succeed (like they did before I was even a student!).

My most cherished memory was attending Oxford University in the United Kingdom as part of the Roberts study abroad program in Summer 2019. This trip changed my life spiritually, personally, and academically. It allowed me to ask questions about my faith to better understand and cherish it. It also exposed me to a higher form of academic rigor. I will forever be grateful to Roberts for allowing me to experience that. 

Any advice for current students who have multiple interests or are exploring career options?

My biggest advice for current students who have multiple interests or are exploring career options is to be open-minded. God is going to open so many doors for you, even if you do not understand them. These experiences will allow you to connect with others and may help you find your calling in life. Most importantly, know that it is okay to be unsure about what you want to do right away. Not everyone leaves high school or even college, knowing what they want to do.


Here is Shanel Montalvo’s email: smontalvo52@siumed.edu. She would love to hear from you if you have any questions or would like advice or guidance!

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