University Park IL,
15:13 PM

Biology Graduate Goes on to Dental School Debt-Free

When you are the child of a single mother, dodging danger in a rough neighborhood, how do you graduate debt-free and get yourself into an elite dental school?

“I never give up,” said Andres Martinez, (’17, B.S. Biology) who completed a post baccalaureate dentistry program —one of only seven students selected—and is now preparing for dental school in the fall.

Martinez says he’s grateful to Governors State University for empowering him to dream.

Why did you choose Governors State?

After I got my associate degree at Prairie State College, my professors advised me to look at its Dual Degree Program partner Governors State, which was close to home so I could continue working, paying for classes.

How did Governors State support your career goals?

I felt like everyone there encouraged me to keep going. I’d be studying and Marlin [Exton], one of the maintenance men, would come by and ask, ‘How’s it going?’ then say, ‘Don’t get discouraged.’ He’d give me confidence. He had so much energy! Professor Timothy Gsell, Associate Professor Walter Henne and Professor John Sowa were big influences on me. They challenged me. And everything I learned in their classes is information I use at work.

Dr. Sowa was especially helpful while I was studying for the Dental Admission Test. I would ask him a question and he’d walk me through it until I got the answer.

What’s next for you professionally?

After I graduated from GSU, I began working as a dental technician and dental assistant as I applied to 22 dental programs across the country. I received so many rejection letters but I’m looking forward to starting a program in the fall in Chicago. After school, I want to be an orthodontist.

What are you most proud of when you look back at your GSU experience?

My connection with the staff and faculty. My professors worked with me so I could continue taking classes while I worked at the Olympia Field Country Club. It took a little longer, I was able to graduate debt free. I’m really proud of that.

They also helped me with the time-consuming and expensive process of applying to dental school. It took me 10 years to get the acceptance letter, and we all celebrated together. If it wasn’t for GSU, I would never have made it.

What are your favorite memories when you look back at your GSU experience?

I took a trip to Nicaragua, where I provided dental care to local residents —cleanings and extractions. Just to be there and to see how people lived was amazing. Before I went, I had been a little discouraged, but the experience convinced me to stay on my path.

Another one of my favorite memories of being on campus was taking a break outside, walking through GSU’s Sculpture Park. It was such a great place to take a break and get your mind off your work for a while. It was like a little vacation.

What advice would you share with current GSU students?

Get to know your professors. They gave me confidence to keep going even when I wasn’t sure. They want to see students live their dreams.