EXCITEMENT SURGED through the UMKC School of Dentistry on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, as 109 members of the D.D.S. Class of 2025 and 30 members of the D.H. Class of 2023 went through preliminary orientation activities. Besides having their photos taken, the students checked out how their computers work with the school’s systems and were fit tested for N95 masks.
Precious K. Hollins traveled farther than most of her classmates to be a part of the School of Dentistry. “I am from the Mississippi Delta and got my undergraduate degree at Jackson State University. I am feeling very excited to be mentally stretched throughout these next four years.”
Though she’s from Mississippi, Hollins said she spent a great deal of her childhood in the St. Louis area. That connection to Missouri led her to the STAHR Scholars Dentistry, a 10-week summer program at UMKC that develops culturally diverse dentistry candidates. According to Hollins, even though the pandemic required the program to go online, it still helped her decide on UMKC.
“STAHR made an amazing first impression on me. I virtually met some people who have been integral in my dental journey. It was nice to receive unconditional support from people who never met me in person.”
Many class members enter the school directly from their undergraduate degree programs, and some bring more varied life experience. Macila Arnold, for example, has been in the Army Reserves for about 10 years and worked in animal health care in and out of the military. Canine dental work was part of that, contributing to Arnold’s interest in dentistry.
“There is growth potential in both military and civilian sectors in the dentistry field, which was an encouragement to do the career change,” Arnold said.
One member of the D.H. Class of 2023, Kennedy Bauer, said, “I am beyond excited to start my journey into dental hygiene school! UMKC was my first choice of school in part because it’s the one area program that offers a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.”
Among the new D.H. students, Kansas City native Shairry Lene admitted being “super nervous” to start school but said being admitted through the D.H. Reserved Admissions Program “took a huge weight off my shoulders since this program is so competitive! I had to keep up with grades, shadowing, and volunteering to continue in the program.”
She added: “What drew me to dental hygiene was the flexibility and being able to help others. However, I am starting to realize how I also want to be an advocate for this field and share the importance of hygiene, which so many know little about.”
After a day filled with photographs, computer set up and mask fitting, the
D.D.S. Class of 2025 and D.H. Class of 2023 got better acquainted on Thursday and received a wealth of vital information. Several information sessions followed on topics including curriculum, student services, building safety, school policies, opportunities to participate in student clubs and organizations, “learning how to learn” and handling their finances. Orientation concluded with faculty panels, a joint presentation on the school’s culture of diversity and respect, and information on wider UMKC resources such as libraries and counseling services.
Student Francisco Flores from Lawrence, Kansas, typified the excitement of concluding orientation and heading into the school year. “Since I was a junior in high school, I have seen the UMKC School of Dentistry as the place for me. What had always seemed a ways away is here. Dental school is no longer my future, but my reality, and I can’t wait to begin!”