West Milford resident Alissa Mor delivered the valedictory address at the 147th commencement of Centenary University on Saturday, May 7, on the University’s Hackettstown campus. Centenary hosted two undergraduate ceremonies that day, at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., with the valedictorian speaking at both events.
Mor graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in chemistry. She has been interested in science since childhood, when her fifth-grade teacher had the class dissect owl pellets. “I was hooked,” Mor said. After spending two summers as a Centenary University Summer Scholar in high school, Mor initially thought she wanted to attend a large university. Then, she saw the 300-seat lecture halls and balked. Mor recalled, “My mom suggested that I take a second look at Centenary. I had really liked it. Centenary’s labs only have 24 seats, so you can get to know your professors.”
Centenary’s smaller size proved fortuitous for Mor early in freshman year, when she realized that the pre-veterinary track she had chosen wasn’t for her. She consulted with her advisor, Lauren Bergey, Ph.D., dean of the School of Natural, Health, Social, and Behavioral Sciences, who suggested that Mor check out careers in human medicine by shadowing a nearby orthopedist, and later, an ophthalmologist. Through those experiences, Mor got a behind-the-scenes look at the daily interactions between doctors and their patients, insurance companies, and medical technicians.
“I loved every minute,” said Mor. “After graduation I plan to work for two years as a medical assistant while applying to medical school. I know that I want to be a surgeon of some kind.”
For her Honors Program Capstone Project, Mor also conducted independent research on the spotted lantern fly microbiomes alongside Amanda Tokash-Peters, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, an expert in the field. She also became a campus leader, serving as president of TriBeta, the biology honor society, and vice president of the Student Government Association and Evergreen, the University’s environmental club. She is also a First Year Leader and member of the Pre-professional Club and Leaders in Service. Interacting with other student leaders — many of whom have gone on to leading veterinary and medical schools — have helped to shape Mor’s career goals: “Older students really mentored me. I’m so inspired by them.”