Student Success Spotlights
By Brendan Gwynn
There’s no such thing as coincidence, especially for the persistent. Just ask Brandon Garcia, whose interaction with BYU professor Kim O’Neill led to an unexpected internship opportunity.
During his premed studies at Stephen F. Austin University, Garcia developed a desire to attend the Baylor College of Medicine. Other students viewed that as an impossibility.
“Premed students [at SF Austin] made it seem like an impossible school to attend,” Garcia said. “I wanted to get in just to prove that I was the caliber of student that they wanted.”
With that goal in mind, Garcia transferred to BYU, hoping to improve his qualifications.
During his first semester, Garcia was approached by O’Neill, his molecular biology professor, who reached out to him after recognizing his work ethic and potential. After asking him about his ambitions, Garcia informed O’Neill that he was considering going to medical school. And so, O’Neill encouraged him to apply for a variety of research internships, including one with the Baylor College of Medicine.
With O’Neill’s help, Garcia eagerly applied for and was accepted into the internship program at Baylor.
“I learned a lot about research, got a ton of exposure to the medical community, got to shadow physicians, and got to hear seminars from physicians and scientists who have made major contributions to science. It really changed my perspective,” he said.
After completing his internship, Garcia returned to BYU, but continued to maintain relationships with his Baylor professors. He specifically kept in contact with Dr. Daniel Mendoza and Dr. Indhira De La Rosa, with whom he maintained a dialogue about immunology and research.
Over Christmas break, Dr. Mendoza invited Garcia to lunch and expressed his appreciation for Garcia’s contributions, encouraging him to return to Baylor the following summer for another internship. And so, Garcia returned to Baylor the following summer.
In spite of his own hard work and qualifications, Garcia feels that the main reason he was able to obtain these internships was the attentiveness of his professors at BYU.
“I never would have even known that Baylor had a research program if it weren’t for Dr. O’Neill,” Garcia said. “And I wouldn’t have the sheer amount of research experience under my belt if it wasn’t for him and Dr. (Sandra) Hope, who have given me tons of opportunities to learn.”
Garcia hopes that, once he finishes his undergraduate degree at BYU, he will be able to return to Baylor, this time pursuing an M.D. – Ph.D.
He has also discovered that working toward his ambitions requires more than just his own efforts. “Being at BYU has shown me that the networking aspect is huge,” Garcia said. “Without it, you can’t really get anywhere.”
When Casey Hare came to BYU, he didn’t exactly imagine that he would be leaving with a degree and a job in landscape management.
But his initial plans to obtain a degree in business changed course while he was completing some of the prerequisite classes.
Although things were going well for him, Hare felt that business was simply lacking something.
“It seemed a little too generic of a major and program for me,” Hare said. “So I started looking around and signed up for a couple of the intro to landscape management classes the following semester.”
Less than a month after beginning these classes, Hare attended an on-campus recruiting event—the Landscape Career Connection—in the hopes of establishing networks with recruiters and learning more about what the landscape management program had to offer him.
It was there that Hare discovered just how much could actually be gained.
“I realized that as long as the students were putting forth effort, interest, and time into the industry, their studies, and networking, the recruiters were reciprocating fantastically,” Hare said.
Because of his dedication and persistence, Hare was immediately invited by numerous recruiters to interview for internship positions. He received three significant offers within just a couple of months.
Hare decided to take a position with Gachina Landscape Management in the Bay Area because of the opportunity he would have to work directly under a BYU alumnus who had graduated from the landscape management program about 10 years earlier.
“One of the greatest assets of the landscape management program is the alumni network,” Hare said. “It is easy to get in contact with people who are looking for interns and full-time workers.”
The internship proved to be perfect for Hare, who received training, exposure to the industry, and personal development.
In addition to his internship, Hare attended and participated in the annual National Collegiate Landscape Competition while he was a student, which enabled him to connect and interact with recruiters from other companies.
Hare established relationships with many of these recruiters over the next several months, which eventually led him to his current position at Denver-based company Lifescape Colorado.
“The framework has been set by the incredible work that professors have put in to be connected with industry professionals, and the reputation that previous students have given the program,” Hare said. “You just need to put in some effort, and you get return way past what you deserve.”