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My First Three Years of the DDN Program

By: Katherine Benninger, University of Rochester DDN Student

Hi! My name is Kat and I’m a current senior at the University of Rochester. I’m a part of the Dual Degree in Nursing (DDN) program, but that’s just a small piece of my time here. I am a varsity athlete on UR’s Cross Country and Track teams, an active member of my sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, and an employee at the on-campus Starbucks. I’m currently finishing up my Psychology and Brain & Cognitive Science majors and will transition to the School of Nursing next semester.

The Dual Degree in Nursing program has allowed me to explore so many of my interests as well as meet people I probably would have never met in a traditional four-year nursing program. By the end of my time at Rochester I will have completed three majors and two minors in completely different departments. This may seem crazy, but Rochester’s unique open curriculum, in combination with the DDN program, has allowed me to do so with ease.

Eastman Quad in the autumn.

Coming into Rochester my freshman year I was unsure of what I wanted to study. I knew I would end my time here at the School of Nursing but I had no plan for the three years in between. I had so many options! I decided to take a few introductory classes that would set me up well for future semesters: BIOL 110, BCSC 110, PSYC 101, and an art history class on public art in Rochester. I quickly fell in love with neuroanatomy and decided to make BCS my major.

Instead of required classes, Rochester has something known as the cluster system. You’re required to take three classes in a social science, a natural science, and a humanities. With BCS as my major I had the natural science all set. I decided to do psychology as my social science cluster and studio arts, a high school passion of mine, as my humanities cluster. Along the way I turned my psychology cluster into a minor and later into a major. Studio arts followed a similar vein and became a minor of mine. I ended up adding a biology minor as well after completing the majority of the courses through prerequisites for the Nursing program and other classes for my BCS major.

Rochester is a very interesting place. There’s a little bit of something for everyone. As a whole, the city has a great restaurant scene with new places popping up all of the time. My favorite area for dining is Park Avenue, featuring many different cuisines ranging from Mediterranean to Fusion to French. Similarly, Rochester is not lacking in coffee shops. Each one is unique and has its own vibe. A few miles from campus is Boulder Coffee, which stays open late on Mondays and Wednesdays to host open mic nights. Another, called Bookeater, features a bookstore on the second floor so you can browse for a new read while sipping on your favorite beverage. During exam season, one of my favorite ways to study is picking a coffee shop, getting there early, and doing work there all day long. I find that every once in a while this change of scenery helps me focus better and allows me to really absorb what I’m learning. Plus, a sweet treat and an oat milk latte are pretty great study motivators!

On the topic of studying, one of the University’s unique features is our library system. There are several libraries spread out across campus and some are even hidden in academic buildings like the Physics and Astronomy Library. Our main library, Rush Rhees, is split up into different mini-library zones that each have their own feel. This is one of my favorite features of Rochester’s campus as it allows me to switch up study locations when I feel like I’m getting tired of sitting in the same place. I didn’t realize that this was unique until I visited some of my friends’ college campuses and saw that they only had one or two libraries. This wasn’t something I had really thought about when I was looking at colleges, but I’m so thankful for it now. The sheer amount of study space on our campus has allowed me to maximize my study time and focus.

Although there are many different study spots with different vibes on campus, nothing is too far apart. Walking from one side of campus to the other is totally manageable, yet it doesn’t feel like the campus is tiny. When I was looking at schools I knew I didn’t want something too small but I also didn’t want something that was going to be overwhelmingly large, Rochester was that perfect middle ground.

Thinking about my college search process makes it feel like it was just yesterday. I can’t believe that I’m coming up on my last semesters at U of R. It truly flew by. I’m excited to begin my 12-months in the Nursing program in January. I feel prepared with the prerequisite courses that I’ve taken, as well the general science background I’ve gained from my majors and minors. I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities and experiences over the past three years and can’t wait to close out my time at U of R with many more!

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