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Double Major Takes Her Future Into Her Own Hands

August 1, 2012

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Donjeta Gjuka hails from Peja , Kosovo, but she is no stranger to the U.S. When she was 17, she jumped at the opportunity to be an exchange student in Omaha, Neb. After a year in the Rotary International program, she returned home to Kosovo, as did every other 18-year-old exchange student, but Donjeta was determined to come back. Upon hearing about the Education for Peace Scholarship at TLU, she applied and interviewed and was chosen to be one of the two students from her entire country to receive a full tuition scholarship from TLU.

Growing up, Donjeta witnessed her grandfather’s bout with Parkinson’s disease and saw her mother, a medical doctor, save lives at the risk of her own during the war in their country. “These are experiences that made me realize how much it means to be there for somebody when they really need you,” Donjeta explains. “I decided then that I wanted to dedicate my life to medicine and science.”

She knew it was important for her major track and future career to expose herself to as much as possible. As a Molecular Biology and Chemistry major, Donjeta still finds time to participate in various organizations across campus. She’s a Peer Mentor, a member of the Black and Gold President’s Council, the Honor’s Program executive committee, and honor societies Alpha Chi, Alpha Lambda Delta, and Delta Epsilon Iota. Over the summer, she did research with Dr. Santiago Toledo and wanted to continue her undergraduate research for the summer of 2012.

“If it was not for TLU, I would not have been attending an American university at all, and this chance would be impossible for me from my country,” Donjeta says. “I am very thankful to TLU for giving me the chance to pursue my career in the U.S.”

After researching universities where she was interested in working, Donjeta found a summer undergraduate research opportunity for international students at Harvard University. She applied and sent in her statement of interest, academic transcript, resume, and two recommendation letters from Dr. Alan Lievens and Dr. Santiago Toledo with the help of Kimberly Watts, Director of Career Development.

As a TLU graduate and former international student, Dr. Toledo understood the challenges facing Donjeta in applying for very selective programs at Ivy League schools. Toledo recruited Donjeta for his summer research after witnessing her potential in his lab class, so he knew she would excel in any program. “Donjeta is a very smart student,” says Toledo. “She works very hard, she is dedicated, through lots of work and time invested through the summer I saw her developed into a capable problem solver. During her research she was methodical, perseverant, and through lots of growth and learning she achieved her goals. She is always pushing to be the best student in class or whatever activity she is doing, and that is often the outcome.”

One month later, Donjeta received her acceptance letter from Harvard. Out of a record 432 candidates, Donjeta was one of 35 selected to participate in the Harvard Stem Cell Institute Internship Program (HIP). “I cannot explain the excitement that I had when I first read the email,” says Donjeta “This is an experience that will help me grow not only professionally, but personally as well.” Donjeta intends to apply to medical school upon graduating from TLU in 2013.

“This opportunity will open many doors for Donjeta,” says Toledo. “Our hope in the chemistry department is to give students an opportunity to get exposed to meaningful research in the summer and use this opportunity as a spring board to open up other opportunities nationwide. Harvard’s name carries a weight of its own and it will be incredibly helpful in her applications for medical school.”

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