Internships Connect Bio Science Major With Community

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Biological Sciences major Salena Herrera '20 is connecting with the community through her work as an intern with Marin Community Clinics. Prior to the March shelter-in-place order, Salena was working in the office as a Title X intern. Today she is engaging with many of the clinic’s clients while packaging and distributing food for Health Hubs to distribute to families.

Salena is already a familiar face at Dominican. The Moreau Catholic High School graduate joined the TORCH leadership member her freshmen year and that motivated her to become an orientation leader, peer mentor and ultimately Senior Class Senator for Associated Students of Dominican University (ASDU).

In between, she volunteered to be historian for the TriBeta Biological Honor Society and she has worked alongside Dr. Diara Spain, chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, on research that investigates how ocean acidification affects intertidal shore crabs. Salena is not only continuing her research with the crabs, but also has been given the opportunity to work on a project involving the effectiveness of a case study being used to teach a science topic to non-science major and science major students.

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Furthermore, Salena has worked weekends as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at South Marin Health & Wellness Center, a skilled nursing facility in Greenbrae. That role inspired her to change her career path from Physician Assistant to becoming a nurse.

“My Dominican experience has been enriching and full of growth these past four years,” she says.

That experience got even more enriching – and interesting – this semester when Salena discovered she needed one more Service-Learning designated class in order to complete her minor in Community Action and Social Change (CASC) to graduate. She had class scheduling conflicts, but Emily Wu, Jenny Bray, and Julia van der Ryn in the Center for Community Engagement found the opportunity for Salena with Marin Community Clinics.

The internship has allowed Salena to complete her requirements for the CASC minor that aligns perfectly with her Biological Sciences major in the School of Health and Natural Sciences.

“What I have learned in biology that has most applied to my internship was being able to have a basic foundation of the biological systems,” Salena says “Already having some knowledge in reproductive health helped me be better understand what Title X stood for in regards to family planning and the importance of sharing this knowledge with the community to ensure women and men can exercise their rights to make voluntary and informed decisions about the number, spacing, and timing of pregnancies.”

When the shelter-in-place order was issued, MCC temporarily assigned Salena to one of its programs, Health Hubs, which needed assistance serving more than 1,000 people at its food pantry. In the meantime, Salena continues to support Census 2020 outreach and awareness efforts. In fact, she did the English version for a short Census 2020 video for social media in addition to contributing to and leading a video about Service-Learning community engagement.

Basically Salena has been super busy. She has handled the multitude of circumstances and challenges that have come her way.

“Given all the leadership and educational opportunities Dominican has provided me I can positively say I have fully accomplished all I would want from a college,” Salena says. “I will be leaving Dominican with not only professional connections and friendly ones as well, but I will be equipped with the tools I need to further accomplish my career goals after graduation.”

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