My First Year Out: Chris Veal ’14

For today’s My First Year Out, I caught up with Chris Veal ’14, a member of the UVM Foundation Fellows Program. The Fellows program is currently a cohort of six young alumni from the last decade nominated by Foundation leadership to insure the perspective and opinions of our young alumni are represented in the work of the Foundation board and committees.

In addition to his role as a Fellow, Chris is also a first year Medical Student at the Larner College of Medicine here at UVM. In that vein, Chris speaks about his first year out preparing for medical school. His advice is great for anyone preparing for or considering any graduate program.

Here’s what Chris had to say about his first year out.


1. Describe your first year out of UVM.

My first year out of UVM, I starting working in the Office of Health Promotion Research at the UVM College of Medicine. During this time, I worked with Dr. Brian Sprague on a variety of research projects centered on Early Stage Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Screening throughout the state.

This job granted me the opportunity to publish my first article in a peer-reviewed medical journal! My article titled “ Health Related Behaviors and Mortality Outcomes in Women Diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ” was published in this months edition of the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

2. What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

My greatest challenge after college was staying focused and preparing for medical school. I did not take the MCAT until after I graduated from UVM. During the months of preparation for that incredibly difficult exam, I had to balance a full time job with studying for the MCAT.

Ultimately, I discovered in order for me to do as well on the MCAT as I wanted to, I would have to quit my job and devote a solid 3 months to studying solely for that exam.

I moved back home with my mother and studied like crazy. Once I took it, I was incredibly blessed to have the chance to return back to Vermont and start a job that I absolutely loved at the UVM College of Medicine. It felt like I didn’t miss a beat.

But quitting my job and taking the time to thoroughly prepare to take the MCAT was the best decision I feel I could have made.

3. What are you doing now? 

I am currently a first year Medical Student at the amazing Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. I must admit, people told me medical school was hard, and I believed them, but I was not expecting it to be as hard as it was during my first semester.

Medical School was a shift for me in many ways, both emotionally and physically. Yet overall, I couldn’t imagine being in a better place.

What’s special about the College of Medicine here at UVM is the level of support given to each and every student. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion has been my rock of support throughout my time here. I’ve also had the chance to retain amazing relationships with several of the faculty members — one of whom I have lunch with every Tuesday at noon!

Medical School has been an incredible experience, despite the challenges it brings each day. It reminds me that UVM still is the special place I graduated from back in 2014.

4. What advice do you have for recent graduates?

For any alums that are trying to pursue a career in medicine or any health care profession, I would highly suggest taking some time off between graduate school and undergraduate.

I took off 2 years and I think that truly gave me the time to enjoy being in my 20’s for a little bit, and also give me a chance to interact with the real world.

Over those 2 years, my friendships grew closer, I began to understand what I wanted out of life, and I became more active in my community. My time out of school gave me a great foundation to spring from once I started medical school, I would highly suggest it!

Checking in with the Class of 2016, Part II

Part of navigating this first year out is knowing that you’re not alone and no one has it all figured out yet. Your classmates are facing the same challenges and new experiences as you.

Those challenges may look different for different people, but know that you’re in good company.

That’s what this segment is all about. We check-in with a few of your classmates and see what they are doing and how they’re navigating their first year out. Oh, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask a few “this or that” questions about some UVM/Burlington/Vermont stuff.

This week we spoke to Hannah Decelles, Jackson McNally and Alex Pasin.


  1. What are you up to? I am living in Durham, North Carolina working as a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department at Duke University hospital.  I work the night shift (7:00pm-7:30am), which has been an adjustment and I have definitely become nocturnal!  I moved here in July (the hottest summer of my life!!) and have really enjoyed getting to know a new place.
  1. What are you most excited about in the next year? What are you most scared about in the next year? I am most excited to get to know the area I am living in and exploring more of the south.  The south is SO different from the northeast, from the food to the culture to the people.As much as I love being in the Emergency Department and working as a Nurse, I am also scared when I walk into work every day that there will be something that I wont be able to handle, or a patient that as a team we cannot help when we should’ve. In this next year I know mistakes will be made, but it terrifies me. As scared as I am, I love the team I work with each and every night and I know they have my back.
  1. What has been the best thing since you graduated? The best thing since I’ve graduated is working as an RN.  I learn new things at work every single day, and absolutely love where I work.  It is really gratifying to feel as if I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.


  1. What are you up to? I’m a wilderness therapy guide at True North Wilderness Program, working with struggling adolescents and young adults.
  1. What are you most excited about in the next year? What are you most scared about in the next year? I’m excited to see how I continue to grow as a guide and how I’m able to not only help and inspire my students, but also make progress in my personal life as a result. I’m pretty bad with money, so I’m scared about potentially struggling to manage my money as I continue to work.
  1. What has been the best thing since you graduated? The worst? The best thing has been the relationships I’ve built with the people I work with. I really feel like I’ve found a home for myself. The worst thing has been motivating myself to stay active during my off days instead of relaxing the whole time.


  1. What are you up to? I’m currently working in customer service at Burton snowboards.
  1. What are you most excited about in the next year? What are you most scared about in the next year? The best thing is getting in some shredding with the new work crew, hoping for it to dump. The worst is being scared it won’t snow and I’ll have to freeze my tears to try and get some freshies.
  1. What’s the best thing since you graduated? The worst? The best thing about graduating is being able to walk by campus and not have a heart attack realizing I have an essay due or a test the next day. The worst thing is now that worrying is about bills or where I parked my car.

Keeping up with the Catamounts

Here on Afterword we like to keep you connected to other Catamounts, whether it’s through check in posts with your 2016 classmates, My First Year Out, or Get Off the Pile.

Our friends at UVM Continuing Education also do a great job of highlighting UVM alums on their blog, UVM Outreach. They recently profiled 2009 alum, Elliot Kennedy, and his work as the Senior Advisor for LGBT health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can read the full story here.


Check out the UVM Outreach blog for alumni stories, career advice and more.

Get off the Pile: Following Up

Get off the pile image

This week on Get off the Pile, we once again asked our friend Noah Nielsen ’10 for some advice on following up with interviews and applications. This is one of the trickiest roads to navigate on your way to a new job, but we think these are some helpful tips.

Hey Noah!


Afterword: Alright Noah, what’s your advice for someone who has submitted 1,000 job applications and they don’t know what to do. What’s next for them?

Noah: Follow up!  Phone is better than email, and too many people simply send a resume and then never check in. Those who are persistent stand out.

A: If they know someone at the same company, how do you leverage that connection?

N: Ask for help!  Most people are happy to assist others (even strangers) and if you know someone at a company you are interested in, try to meet them for coffee or for an informational interview to learn more about the organization. Find out who handles hiring and ask if your contact would be comfortable making an introduction. Make sure to give them an opportunity to say no because they may not know that person very well if it’s a large company or they may not feel comfortable making the intro for any other reason which they are entitled to.

A: So you just had an interview. What’s the first thing you should do to follow-up?

N: Send a thank you note.  During the interview, ask the person for their card and send them an email thanking them for their time (email is fine, though a hand-written note can stand out in the right situation). I could write an entire blog post on thank you notes, but in general remember to keep it concise and to mention something specific from your conversation that you found interesting or helpful. Many companies will not even consider a candidate if they do not write a thank you note, so this is a must.

A: It’s been a few months since you applied, what can you do to get off the pile?

N: FOLLOW UP!  Until someone tells you not to, always follow up. Once a week is appropriate, or better yet, ask the company how often they suggest you follow up and then stick to that schedule.

A: What kind of follow-up is best if you get a rejection?

N: If you are rejected, politely thank the person for their time and consideration and try to learn from whatever feedback you receive. Unfortunately it is not always possible to get detailed feedback and sometimes candidates are not so much “rejected” but rather passed on in favor of a more qualified candidate. In any case, don’t take it personally, thank the hiring manager or recruiter and ask them if they have any advice for you or know or if they can introduce you to others in the industry who could be good contacts. Again, most people are happy to help and will appreciate your positive attitude and persistence.

Like what you’ve read here and missed some of our other posts in the Get Off the Pile series?

Check them out!



Grad School Tips: Applying & Surviving Your First Year


This post is for the grad students and aspiring grad students out there.

If you are thinking about applying, in the application process right now, or surviving your first or second year of a program – this post is for you.

I caught up with three members of the Class of 2016 to get their perspective and advice.


  1. Who did you ask for advice when thinking about grad school? I went to a professor for advice about whether or not Physical Therapy would be the right choice for me. We talked it over and came to a conclusion that I should take a job during the summer and see how working life is, then confirm whether or not I want to continue onto graduate school or not.
  2. When did you start preparing? About a month after graduating I started to build my application.
  3. What do you think will be the most difficult part of the process? The hardest part has definitely been studying for the GRE. I’m not the best test taker so I’ve been putting in most of my time to studying for this exam. It’s definitely stressful. The application essay topics are also tricky to navigate. They don’t leave a lot of room to write, so it is hard to say everything I want to say.
  4. What are you most excited about? I’m definitely excited to see where this move takes me. Provided everything runs smoothly (fingers crossed) I’ll be enrolled and enroute to a Ph.D in a field that I really have an interest in!


  1. What are some things you wish you knew before applying to graduate school? I wish I knew that application deadlines for grad programs are different than undergrad and really depend on each individual program.
  2. Who did you ask for advice when thinking about a school or program? I asked my professors and my advisor. I didn’t know how to prepare or where I should even start. Talking to people who were interested in the same topics as me really helped. They were able to give me tips and tricks on what to look for and things to stay away from.
  3. When did you start preparing? I started preparing a little over 6 months before my application was due. This was because I was studying for the GREs and needed the extra time to reestablish my standardized testing skills. During that time, I was also looking at different programs and reaching out to different professors in those programs.
  4. What was the most difficult part of the process? The most difficult part was feeling confident about handing in my applications. I felt like I didn’t have the background or previous experience to be qualified enough for my program, but it turns out that grad programs are filled with people getting degrees in subjects completely different than their undergraduate degree.
  5. If you could go back and do something different, what would you do? I would have of told my advisor and professors about my interest in grad school sooner. I was wandering around, trying to figure out how to get ready and where I should start looking. If I told them sooner, and asked for help sooner I could have of saved myself a lot of stress.


  1. Who did you ask for advice when thinking about a school or program? I primarily asked friends for advice, and they asked professors or mentors. I was late to the game when it came to applying, and I wasn’t very confident about getting in, so I used a lot of online resources and friends instead of professors. Looking back, I should have just been more upfront and talked professors myself. Every time I went to a faculty member they were extremely helpful and excited for me.
  2. When did you start preparing? I started prepping when I got into UVM – I made my concentration Pre-Vet and took school seriously. I didn’t think I would apply to get in to grad school immediately following undergrad, so I slacked off with getting experience. But I finally started really getting relevant animal experience in my junior year. I did the CREAM program which I think is the main reason I got in aside from my grades. CREAM was amazing and it prepared me for the large animal aspect of grad school. I did other internships throughout senior year when I was able to take a lighter class load and could spend more time getting experience.
  3. What was the most difficult part of the process? The most difficult part was getting the application out a full year ago, months and months before interviews or acceptance. It was also difficult for me to get experience to bolster my application. I was out of state and kept busy with school work the first few years of college, so by the time I tried to look for opportunities, they required previous experience or were given to people with connections.
  4. If you could go back and do something different, what would you do? I suggest they take any and every opportunity to gain experience you can get your hands on. If you don’t like something, move on, but you won’t know until you try. I didn’t know how much I would love cows until CREAM. It’s about finding your niche.  I would have started looking for more experiences early on, would have asked for more advice from mentors, and would have put more of myself into my application. When it comes to applications, don’t take yourself so seriously – let your personality and preferences come through. A lot of my application feedback was that I should have added more about myself and to not be stiff and nervous.