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Sabrina Brooks

Hometown:  Omro, Wisconsin

Why did you decide to go to the University of Wisconsin?

I don’t mean to sound cheesy (ha, get it!), but UW-Madison has unparalleled academic opportunity and rigor but maybe more notable is its energy. There is not a University more vibrant or embracing of students to age-old traditions than here in Madison. The notion of being a Badger warms my heart and makes me gush with excitement. I can get an education anywhere, but not one in which I feel as integral to its community as my new, yet somehow always existing, home: UW-Madison.

What are you interested studying?

Ever since my high school AP Biology teacher showed me a TED Talk about Andrew Pelling and his idea of making ears out of apples, I’ve been engrossed in the endless possibilities with this progressive, cutting-edge thinking.  How can a piece of fruit, something so simple, be able to positively impact so many? It still fascinates me.  And from that day on, I found myself drawn to revolutionary ideas of biotechnology, regenerative medicine, and tissue/organ engineering.  My chosen major, Biomedical Engineering with a certificate in Global Health is a perfectly assembled combination of all of my passions: biology, chemistry, math, engineering, problem-solving, and a desire to people others on a global scale. After graduation, I also plan to attend medical school where I can begin my career as a surgeon.

How has the pandemic impacted the start of your college career?

While obviously impacting how classes are run, how we meet people, and basically eliminating our longed-for freshman experience, it has brought some interesting stories. One of which features our new favorite method of social interaction - Zoom. One weekend, my church held a fun virtual murder mystery night where we changed our names to match our characters’, with mine being Marsha Mellow. So we did that, had a blast with my friends. But the next week, during one of my class discussions over Zoom, my teacher called on a person named Marsha. Dead silence. No one answered. A little weird, but okay. But the next time she called on Marsha, I had just glanced at my username on Zoom, and sure enough, instead of the usual “Sabrina,” there it was, my presumed new name, “Marsha Mellow.” Flushed with slight embarrassment, but mostly laughter, I explained the situation which gave my classmates and teachers an excuse to have a little chuckle. So while this year has brought about some challenges, I don’t think that with normal in-person classes that my name would be mistaken for a pun of Marshmallows - but whether or not that is another challenge or a positive outcome is up for interpretation. 

Are you a first-generation student?  

I am a third-generation student and daughter of a proud Farm and Industry Short Course father. Many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins also went to UW-Madison, so there is a very rich history in my family for Badger game days, hanging out at the Terrace, and signing “Varsity.” One story that always seems to brighten up a nostalgic reminisce is when my uncle, who was president of Jorns during his time at Farm Short Course, retells the events that led up to the release of pigs, chickens, and I believe, even a horse in the dorms as a rouge mischievous prank! And while I have not yet witnessed nor partaken in such activities during my time here on campus, it always reminds me of the rich history that UW-Madison holds and all of the memories it has fostered. 

In your short time on campus, what is one key thing you have learned or experienced,

While college presents its many struggles and challenges, it does so in a way that develops strong character and perseverance like no other. So while the list of things I’ve learned during these two short semesters is expansive, the most unexpected learning curve sprouts from the idea of independence and self-responsibility. I’ve always held a high regard for self-determination, but I’ve never been tested as must as I have recently. When I don’t have the same pressures as growing up, I found out that I could do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to go to lectures, I didn’t have to actively search for opportunities to have a better education. I didn’t have to explore new ideas and people. But while I don’t have to do any of these things, I want to. I didn’t go to college to be passive about my education, I came to run after it, to create it. So long story short, I’ve learned how to go after my academic passions with a sense of desire, not obligation. 

Have you joined any clubs or other organizations on campus?

What better way to engage in Madison’s vibrant energy than to contribute to it by playing trumpet in the Badger Marching Band (trick question - there is none)! Band has always been one of my favorite things, so to be a part of the famous Badger Band is amazing. Unfortunately, the pandemic has affected sports and bands alike, but we’ve strived to keep cherished traditions alive and we’ve adapted this year the best we could. But with this being said, I am eager to immerse myself fully in this band next fall when game days are back in full swing and our campus looks like its usual self. 

Any big surprises about college life that you did not anticipate?

Knowing that UW-Madison has 40,000 undergraduate students and spreads across 936 acres, I expected to be lost in a sea of unfamiliar faces on unfamiliar streets, but to my pleasant surprise, the more people I meet, the smaller this campus seems.  Faces in classes become familiar, I see friends studying in the same spots and walking down the streets, and everyone acts like a friend. Even the city becomes like the back of my hand as I explore different study spaces, find hidden gems, and enjoy the atmosphere.

To further this idea, I’ve found that while Madison is a diverse community, most people are eager to discover commonalities rather than differences and that there is more that unites us than divides us. I don’t know if it’s the pride that being a Badger brings or if it’s our collective quest to make this world a better place with our own special skills and interests, but either way, I feel like everyone belongs. 

Any words to those who support the WAA: Fox Valley Chapter?

Thanks for generously supporting me in my adventure of higher education financially, but more importantly, thanks for creating a community in which every generation of proud Badgers can unite and live the Wisconsin Idea. The Wisconsin Alumni Association has a strong and influential presence not only in the Madison area but also around the globe and to be encouraged by such a positive group is awe-inspiring and reminds me of my ability to make an altruistic impact on others and my community! So for that and more, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!