AMC graduate Blair Ilsley
Blair Ilsley and her pup, Ollie.

Moving to Colorado for graduate school was a no-brainer for me. Originally from Mississippi, I embarked on my first higher-education experience to the east — Alabama. While I enjoyed my four years there (2010 to 2014), the school’s undergraduate enrollment was massive; it was just over 30,000. For graduate school, I wanted something more intimate, and, as a lifelong Southerner, I was ready to explore another part of the country.

When I heard of the Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology master’s program in the Graduate School at CU Anschutz, I knew it was the right fit. So, I packed my bags and, most importantly, my dog and headed out west.

Brand-new campus

Walking onto the gleaming CU Anschutz Medical Campus for the first time, I thought to myself “Wow, look at this place.” The buildings were enormous and brand new, and all the windows glittered in the sunlight. The campus was abuzz with academic talks, debates and lectures. Having such a high concentration of likeminded people was fascinating.

The first semester consisted of a few different classes, including statistics and Core. It was incredibly challenging, and I am pretty sure it gave me a few gray hairs and maybe a wrinkle or two. Fortunately, I had some incredible classmates who helped me along the way and somehow I made it through.

Next stop: an exciting career

I gained much more than an education at CU Anschutz; I had some amazing practical work experiences, from ruining countless experiments in the lab and learning how to code to ultimately writing for CU Anschutz Today. I had remarkable mentors who were incredibly patient, kind and caring. Thank you Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD; Cory Dunnick, MD; and Today editors Chris Casey and Deb Melani; you guys are the best.

A mere four days after graduating in May, I started a job with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment working in the division of Workers’ Compensation. Combining my biomedical sciences background with my journalism experience, I currently help edit medical treatment guidelines and plan provider education. Without my valuable combination of education and practical experience, I never would be where I am today.

Graduation was a great day full of celebrations.

Some advice for new students:

• Find near-and-dear friends in your classmates; they will be your future co-workers and industry leaders.

• Enjoy all the beauty Colorado has to offer. Go skiing, take that hike and make the trek to Telluride.
• Never think you’ve overstudied (because you haven’t).
• Get to know your professors. They’ve been there, done that and probably wrote the textbook.
• Get involved on campus! You’ll get to know all kinds of students in a variety of programs; it will definitely give you some perspective.

CU Anschutz gave me the wonderful opportunity to first experience Colorado, and now it is affording the opportunity to stay. I am forever thankful.