UI pharmacy school uses alums board to engage graduate students

In 2014, the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy established an alums board, called the Genesis Board, to engage alum relations and allow students to view nontraditional pharmacy-related career paths.


Jenna Galligan/The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa Professor Matthew Witry poses for a portrait outside the Pharmacy Building on Monday, May 6, 2019. (Jenna Galligan/The Daily Iowan)

Alexandra Skores, News Reporter

The University of Iowa College of Pharmacy created the Genesis Board in 2014 to allow students to gather professional development skills both in and outside of the classroom. After many years in the works, the board has started to develop some solutions to promote students’ success, and it will further that in the future.

The board comprises UI pharmacy-school graduates and scientists, among others, offering a diverse number of professionals for students to use as mentors.

Matthew Witry, a 2008 PharmD graduate, said he has been involved with the board since the beginning.

“The first initiative that we did was introduce ourselves to the first-year class,” Witry said. “We do that every year and try to get board members to come throughout the first week of class. We try to get students a variety of people to be introduced to in the college.”

He has been able to see the various numbers of pharmacy-related career professionals in his time on the board, he said, providing for more career path options for students.

“We’re kind of designed to be a diverse group of work backgrounds,” he said. “There are quite a few entrepreneurs, academia, government, and other settings. We do some activities where they get to learn our stories and get to know them and answer any questions.”

Witry said the board meets around once or twice a year.

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“In the last year or two, we have had smaller activities for Genesis Board members to come back for a leadership conference in May,” Witry said. “It is focused on female leadership but open to everybody. There are many female speakers who will come back for this event.”

Witry said Genesis Board members will host etiquette dinners, participate in graduation, among other items.

“We are trying to build a variety of opportunities so a smaller number of Genesis Board members can meet with a smaller number of students,” he said.

Brett Barker, a 2008 PharmD graduate and vice president of operations for NuCara Management Group, has remained involved with the college post-graduation, including being involved with the Genesis Board.

“We really focus on a couple things,” Barker said. “We focus on giving students support — whether that’s academic, the soft skills around how to become a successful professional, and also ways to discuss how to engage other alumni to remain involved with the college.”

He said the Genesis Board has been really well received by the students.

“I think having a board in place helps show where you can go in your career,” he said. “The different pathways that people on the board have taken is really fascinating and shows students that they can make a difference in a short amount of time.”

Samm Anderegg, a UI pharmacy graduate and chief executive officer at DocStation, said his time at the university helped him see the value in other career paths involving his graduate studies.

“When I was a student, I knew I was interested in management and business, but I didn’t know anyone that took an alternative career path in pharmacy,” he said. “Being exposed to alumni who are doing interesting things that aren’t the traditional pharmacy route and having a cohort interested in this — I would have realized a lot earlier in my career that this was something I wanted to do.”