In her four years at the University of New Mexico, Alexandria Wiesel has demonstrated a drive and passion for her courses and for helping others. From pre-med groups to student publications to volunteer programs, Wiesel formed a community that allowed her to bloom into her earnest personality that was just waiting beneath the surface.
Wiesel began as a biology major, and later added a psychology major to her degree track. But her reach extends still further into the STEM field. On top of her interdisciplinary liberal arts minor, she’s also pursuing a second minor in chemistry — she even sports a shiny silver necklace in the shape of the chemical compound essential to nearly every college student: caffeine.
Although Wiesel is graduating in May with her biology major and interdisciplinary liberal arts minor, she will be staying at UNM for another semester to complete her second degree in psychology with a minor in chemistry.
Leslie Donovan, a professor at the UNM Honors College who’s been with the University for 25 years, met Wiesel in 2017 when she was a student in Donovan’s class, “The Legacy of Monsters and Marvels Through the Ages.” Since then, Donovan has worked closely with Wiesel during the pursuit of her interdisciplinary liberal arts minor, and had nothing but glowing things to say for her character.
“She’s very personable, very easy to talk to, she’s a great listener,” Donovan said.
Donovan added that Wiesel excelled in her honors courses which, she said, already consists of students turning in thorough, high-quality work.
“Ally has always stood out as even a cut above, even a little higher quality than most,” Donovan said.
Inspiration blossomed for Wiesel to make a difference in the world and she decided to set her sights on medical school.
“I’m interested in biology and psychology and where those two meet,” Wiesel said. “And I’m thinking of (a career in) neuroscience — specifically neurosurgery.”
Wiesel has participated in many different medical-related programs during her time at UNM. One such program is Gift of Life, an organization that helps connect patients in need of bone marrow with potential donors. Wiesel serves as a campus ambassador for the program, working to recruit new people who would be willing to donate the life-saving marrow, should they be a match for someone who needs it.
For Wiesel, who said she’s driven by an urge to work “hands-on” in her field, the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shift to online learning was difficult. Because her high school was online, Wiesel already knew she didn’t like virtual education.
Wiesel said one of her greatest challenges after leaving the smaller, more intimate classroom settings of her charter school and her dual-credit courses at CNM was “learning how to learn” in such a massive environment as UNM. Just as she was starting to get into a groove, the pandemic interrupted her progress.
“I finally figured out how I study best, which is going to a coffee shop, getting a cup of coffee and sitting there for a couple hours,” Wiesel said. “That was my thing, I finally determined it, I was so excited and then the pandemic hit and they said ‘don’t go outside, sit in your room, find the determination to do it yourself every single day.’ That was just soul-crushing.”
While the pandemic was discouraging for Wiesel, she credited her continuing strength to the many extracurricular groups she participates in. She said the Honors Pathmaker Program, a peer-mentoring program for which Wiesel served as a mentor coordinator this year, helped keep her motivated.
“I knew that, if we didn’t pull together, there would be no structure for incoming students and however bad I’m feeling, they’re going to feel it ten times worse,” Wiesel said. “So I said ‘alright, I can’t keep feeling bad every single day, I have a mission to do,’ and that actually helped a lot.”
Matthew Goldman, who serves as an event coordinator for the program, has been working with Wiesel to help honors students discover their path through the UNM community.
“It’s very fun working with Ally; she is rather lighthearted and can make anything fun,” Goldman said. “She’s incredibly passionate about what she’s doing, whether it’s the Pathmaker program or her other organizations.”
Goldman said when they began their roles at the program, Wiesel “single-handedly ensured” that over 500 incoming Honors College students were matched with mentors that could assist them, spending hours pouring over records and Excel files in the process.
In addition to the numerous groups she’s a part of, Wiesel currently serves as the editor-in-chief of “Limina: UNM Nonfiction Review,” an annual literary magazine highlighting student essays and other creative nonfiction works.
Overall, Wiesel said she has grown a great deal during her time at UNM. She’s found her voice through her many extracurricular activities and volunteer work, as well as through her pursuit of the fields she’s interested in.
“I say that making an effort, speaking louder, doing things that I might not be comfortable with — but are still safe — that is an investment in my future,” Wiesel said. “If I want to be a doctor, if I want to succeed in life, I have to do it. I can’t wait for anyone else to do it, and surprisingly enough that took me a long time to realize.”
Liam DeBonis is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LiamDebonis