Chowan University Graduate bound for Eastern Virginia Medical School to blend passion and career
MURFREESBORO, NC – Frederick Buechner stated, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.” However, it’s a rare person who can do what they love and call it their job. Most passions become hobbies, and those hobbies receive less and less attention as the hustle and bustle of life consumes each passing day. We become bogged down in necessities and ultimately lose what brings us joy while we focus on just getting by. Zulay Romero is determined that will not be her fate.
Zulay Romero, a native of New Bern, NC, and recent graduate of Chowan University in Murfreesboro, NC, decided to value her passions as more than a hobby while an undergraduate at Chowan University. Romero discovered a career path that will allow her to explore her passions daily and will attend Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in the fall to continue pursuing her dream.
“I have always loved art, but people told me that art would never help me financially. Other than my family, I didn’t have much support for my love of art. My family always taught me that it shouldn’t be about money, but about what makes you truly happy to be alive,” Romero shared.
As a senior in high school, Romero decided to attend college to study graphic design, although she wasn’t sure it was a perfect fit. From the age of twelve Romero knew two things: she wanted to work with children and she wanted to make art. However, she did not know of a field that would allow her to live both of her passions daily until she arrived at Chowan University. “Chowan helped me find my calling,” Romero said. When she toured the campus, she learned about art therapy. She researched the program, loved it, and made it her major. “The idea that I could use art to guide someone towards healing truly captured my heart,” shared Romero.
Romero toured Eastern Virginia Medical School during her junior year at Chowan. After the tour, she was not sure medical school was the right next step. “I was afraid it would lean more towards the clinical aspect and not the artistic, which is what I wanted,” said Romero. By the fall of her senior year, Romero was convinced graduate school was not for her.
Others, however, were not so convinced. An EVMS professor contacted Dr. Jennifer Place, Chair of the Psychology Department and one of Romero’s professors, to request student referrals. Dr. Place reached out to Romero, one of just a few students in the art therapy program. “I really felt that maybe it was a sign,” shared Romero. “So, I applied and later attended the interview day which entailed another tour. I saw the fully-stocked art studio for the first time and I fell completely in love with all 2,000 square feet of it. I believe God allowed for this second encounter. My view of the program and of the institution completely changed.”
During her time at Chowan, Romero was guided by many who now hold a special place in her heart. Christina Rupsch, Dean of the School of Fine and Applied Arts, played a crucial role in helping Romero prepare her portfolio. Rob Buller, Assistant Director of Art and Director of Green Hall Art Gallery, introduced Romero to her love for hand building with clay. In fact, Romero found hope and encouragement from faculty and staff all over campus, not just within her department. She even forged a personal relationship with Chowan University President Chris White and his wife, Linda, through her service as a presidential ambassador and participation in multiple study abroad trips led by the couple.
Additionally, Romero was a Chowan Christian Services Association (CCSA) Scholar. The program introduced her to Lou Ann Gilliam, Director of Church and Community Relations, who Romero says, has made a huge impact on her life. “She was the one who encouraged me to continue on with grad school because, at first, I wanted to take a break. She pushed me to continue so that I wouldn’t lose the rhythm of school. CCSA also opened doors to meet amazing donors whom I have been privileged to know.”
Romero says she would not be where she is today without the support of all the faculty and staff at Chowan. At commencement, she gave a speech comparing life to flying in an airplane. Romero described God as the pilot who uses other people as a landing strip and said the faculty and staff at Chowan were her landing strip. “Without them I never would have landed in the career field that I wanted, landed in the art medium that I grew to adore, landed in one of the most vigorous programs, and the list continues. I have no doubt that God strategically placed these amazing individuals in my life for a purpose,” she said.
Romero knows the program at EVMS will be difficult, but is eager to accept the challenge. She will engage in three semesters of internships working with children, teenagers, and adults to prepare her adequately for her practice after graduation. She also has the option to become a Registered Art Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. “This is only a tiny portion of what the EVMS program will help accomplish. I chose this vigorous program because I truly believe that they will prepare me to be the person I am called to be and so much more,” stated Romero.
After graduate school, Romero will seek a job working with orphaned children or with military families. Ideally, she would like to work for a few years gaining experience and understanding to eventually build her own non-profit travelling practice. “I want to travel to different countries and work with underprivileged and/or orphaned children and use art as means to help guide them towards healing,” shared Romero.