By combining hands-on opportunities, leadership skills and musical talent, James Steigerwalt orchestrated his own unique college experience.
The one-on-one attention he received before even enrolling at Wilkes helped attract James Steigerwalt, of Orangeville, Pa., to Wilkes University. While he looked at a number of schools with pharmacy programs, follow-up phone calls from the Wilkes admissions team and invitations to visit campus made his decision an easy one. “None of that happened at the other schools.”
Once he arrived on campus, Steigerwalt fell in love with the mansion-style housing and close-knit community. He also realized that personalized attention at Wilkes is more than just a recruiting tool; it’s part of the University’s mission. When Steigerwalt emailed Ajay Bommareddy to express an interest in research, the associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences responded within hours, inviting the student to tour the lab and learn more about his work exploring anti-cancer products.
Since then, the student and mentor have worked closely preparing a manuscript for journal publication and presenting at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in New Orleans. “He opened me up to all of the opportunities in pharmacy,” says Steigerwalt.
Bommareddy tries to let students find their own path. “I give them some freedom to think independently. I try to motivate them, and I try to spark curiosity to think outside the box.” He encourages his students to get involved outside the classroom as well.
Steigerwalt serves as executive president of the University’s Pharmacy Student Senate. He also deals with policy, advocacy and legislation as policy vice president for the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists. “Because we’re a smaller school of pharmacy, there are so many ways to get involved.”
The fifth-year pharmacy student’s hands-on experience and leadership roles helped him land a highly competitive internship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He spent a summer focusing on ways to improve medication safety for patients and the professionals who work with them. “You’re impacting every patient who comes through the pharmacy.”
Though pharmacy keeps him busy, Steigerwalt doesn’t spend all his time in the lab. He also plays bassoon, bringing the same talent and commitment to the University’s civic band and chamber orchestra he does to the pharmacy program. “Jimmy is an example of someone who can do both equally well,” says Philip Simon, associate professor of music. “He’s got tremendous talent. The fact is, he could have been a professional bassoonist, no problem.”
Steigerwalt’s path instead involves juggling prescription pads, policy changes and sheet music. “Looking at my schedule, it looks intimidating. But it’s not because it’s all stuff I love to do.”