Brother and sister MCHS grads excel at Auburn

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

By Jessica Moore

Staff Writer

Maria and Bill Carter are both fantastic students on their way to a very bright future. Their story just goes to show that hard work really does pay off. Maria and Bill are the children of Roe and Jenny Carter of Lewisburg. Their answers to some interview questions help us understand how they have accomplished so much. Maria chose to enter the pharmaceutical field while Bill chose engineering. Maria and Bill are both graduates of Marshall County High School.

So .... you and Bill both graduated at the top of your classes both in high school and college?

Maria: Technically, I was salutatorian in high school and nearly had a nervous breakdown over it at the time. So, being first in my graduating class at UNA (the University of North Alabama -- Go Lions!) felt like redemption. Haha! But seriously, I needed it; it helped me get over the whole second-place-in-high-school thing. I used to be really competitive about my grades, but pharmacy school has kind of beaten that mentality out of me.

Bill: For me, graduating with a certain GPA was not really a goal that I set out to achieve. Throughout high school and college, I tried to always perform as well as I could on exams and assignments. I had a personal desire to perform at a high level, and I tried to meet the expectations that I had for myself. Completing high school and college with a 4.0 was one result of my drive to excel, but it was not the only motivation.

Why did you choose the college/university you did?

Maria: I chose UNA because my mom graduated in biology from there, and I knew the science program was really strong. Also, I had spent a lot of time in Florence growing up because my mom's family is there, and we would visit my grandmother all the time. I still love Florence and UNA. I mean we have actual live lions right there next to Helen Keller Hall! How can you beat that?

Choosing Auburn was more difficult. I had heard so much about how tough the pharmacy program was. I kind of wanted to wimp out and go to one of the lesser-known pharmacy schools I was accepted to. I thought a long time about it and realized, "This is my career. I have to do what feels right for my future." The Harrison School of Pharmacy has an incredibly forward-thinking approach to education. At HSOP, they have expected more of me, asked more of me than any other place or person has in my entire life, and thus, I have sacrificed more for them than I have for any other place or person in my entire life. The education I have received in return cannot even be measured in my opinion.

Bill: I chose Auburn University for its engineering school. The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University is a great place to study an engineering discipline, and I think it was the right institution for me to attend for a degree in Computer Science. Additionally, I have family ties to Auburn: my grandfather, uncle, and some of my cousins graduated from Auburn.

College life can be full of distractions, how were you able to stay focused and keep up with your studies?

Maria: You know, I never really had any distractions. I hate parties and drinking. Ha! So, there was very little to distract me.

Bill: It's sometimes difficult to devote sufficient time to academic studies, and it can be easy to get behind in college since some courses have a fast pace and little room for error. But, I found that it usually helped me to have a realistic goal in place for how much time I could spend on school, allowing some time for unwinding and not studying. Time management is key in college. For instance, I would often try to work on schoolwork during the day when I had an hour or two between classes, so that I could finish my studies earlier in the evening and have more time to relax. Or, on the weekends I could maybe take all of Saturday for myself to watch football and see friends if I studied later on Friday or studied extra Sunday evening. It's good to have a balance between academia and other activities in college, but it's also important for a student to remember that the primary reason for college is education. Sometimes I had to sacrifice personal time when my classes were more demanding.

What, or which courses, challenged you the most?

Maria: Quantitative Analysis! That class almost made me give up my Chemistry major. It was horrid. The compounds you made in lab had to be about 99.9 percent pure, or you didn't get an A for that lab. I remember one time my product was only 99 percent after TWO tries and being in the lab over THREE hours, and I got a D. I was so mad I wanted to set my professor aflame with my Bunsen burner.

In pharmacy school, we have this course called DAD (drugs and diseases) that counts for eight hours of credit each semester. There is really no way to describe what a DAD test is like to an outsider. Let's just say there are like 400 pages of typed reading material to review for a single DAD test. I would study for each test about 40-plus hours. Sometimes, in the middle of studying, I would just start crying. Hahaha! I can laugh about it now.

Bill: The hardest courses I had were some of the more specialized, upper-level classes which I took toward the end of my education. I think that's probably typical for most college students. For me in Computer Science, those courses were Database Systems, Computer Networks, and Computer and Network Security. These classes required both learning specific, practical material and applying accumulated, conceptual knowledge from previous courses. They challenged me more than other classes, but they also did more to prepare me for the workplace since work requires the application of conceptual education along with more specific on-the-job learning to complete tasks.

What plans do you have for the future regarding your careers?

Maria: I'll probably start out working in a community pharmacy, but I do think it would be cool to get special certifications. For example, working as a pharmacy consultant for a nursing home, that was one of my favorite rotations this year. For the fourth year of pharmacy school, we have five-week blocks of different rotations in hospitals, clinics, retail stores, cancer centers, pediatrics, infectious disease, pretty much any medical field you can imagine. It's nice because it gives you a chance to see where you fit best. I really like working directly with my patients -- helping manage their medications to optimize their health outcomes.

Bill: After graduating from Auburn last year, I started a job with Northrop Grumman at one of their offices in Huntsville, Ala. I work as a Software Engineer on the GCV (Ground Combat Vehicle) program. The purpose of GCV is to develop the next-generation armored infantry fighting vehicle. I've enjoyed my experience with Northrop Grumman. My coworkers have been friendly and professional, and I think the company treats its employees well. I plan to stay with Northrop Grumman and see what opportunities it presents me in the future.

Are you, or were you, involved in any extra-curricular activities?

Maria: Only academic ones -- I'm a hardcore nerd. The American Chemical Society, Tri-Beta National Biologic Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi, American Pharmacist's Association, and Rho Chi (a pharmacy honor society). I try to stay involved with my church as much as possible, too (First Baptist Church in Lewisburg).

Bill: I've never been a huge fan of organized extra-curricular activities because I've always preferred interactions with smaller groups of friends as opposed to overly large groups of people. But, I certainly enjoyed regular small get-togethers with friends and acquaintances. We would go out to eat on weekends and see movies, or maybe go play golf or shoot pool. Or, some of the best times we had were just getting together at someone's place to hang out or walking around campus at night and talking.

What will you miss most about school?

Maria: I will miss being able to say, "I'm just the intern. Let me go get the pharmacist." It's scary to think that soon I will have to care for my own patients without someone else to fall back on, but I'm ready for it. A part of me will miss my security blanket, but mainly, I am really excited at the prospect of having the final say. One of the big things they teach you at Auburn is how to trust yourself --to develop your own clinical judgment. They also teach you how important it is to be a lifelong learner. As a healthcare professional, I will always want to keep learning, and it will be required to keep up my license. I may no longer be sitting in a classroom, but I will always be a student.

Bill: Auburn has a great atmosphere to it. It feels almost like a small town; most people on campus and around town are friendly and polite. I'll miss all those people. But even more, I'll miss the really close friends I made. I was able to acquaint myself with a number of very interesting and diverse individuals. Some were from other regions and countries, and many had different opinions and outlooks than I did. I enjoy having friends with unique personalities, and I think getting to know people with ideas that are at times in contrast to my own gives me more perspective on the world, sometimes causing me to alter my own opinions and perceptions. I think that's one of the best things about going to a university like Auburn that has many different people. It can help to shape a student to become a more understanding and well-rounded person, which is the best preparation one can have for facing life.