"Why use books and Wikipedia to learn when you have real live professors, whose number one priority is to teach and help you?"
You don’t have to spend much time with April Dodier-Bergeron before the power of her motivation and curiosity takes hold of you. April is a Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) major, taking pre-med courses, holding down a part-time job, and fulfilling her Army ROTC commitment; April seems in constant motion – most of the time. Her goals are clear: Attend medical school, study ear, nose and throat medicine, and pursue a career in the military. Sounds serious. Yet this motivated young woman, roundly praised by the MLS Faculty for her communication skills and academics, plays the trombone (a purple one, no less), loves games, knits, and is recently married. She does admit to slowing down, sometimes.
She credits her parents and her “Nana” for providing a strong, loving family that helped mold her into the person she is today. “I definitely went through a huge awkward phase,” she said, reflecting back to a less confident time. “I’ve matured a lot and sometimes I think, ‘Was I really like that?’”
April grew up with a strong sense of family. “My parents were awesome role models,” April noted with admiration. “My Dad worked hard his entire life… He was gone from 6:30 in the morning to 7:30 at night, and he still managed to make me feel like he was always around.”
Along with her mom and dad, April also credits her Nana’s influence. Her Nana taught her to sew, knit and crochet – pastimes that today serve to center and relax this very busy woman. Growing up, she remembers wearing sweaters knitted by her Nana. Even though they were “usually a little hideous,” April still considers these handmade sweaters symbolic of a strong sense of self and home.
“My friends say they admire my motivation,” April said, “which seems odd to me.” But being busy is simply who she is. “That,” she added, “and my Dad is the same way. He is always Go! Go! Go!” While marching in the high school band, April spoke with NH National Guard recruiters. She felt drawn to and soon joined and trained with the Guard for a year, confirming her growing desire to pursue the military. With her plans to go into active duty following medical school, she is clear, “If you are in the military, you really have to join because you know you want to be there.” She does. She even loved drill weekends.
Reflecting on her training, April points out the “microscopic line” she had to walk, a line between being known as a woman who shows strong “command presence” and, well, one labeled with the classic b-word pejorative. But by negotiating these lines, April maintains and explores her leadership growth. MLS Professor Barry Corriveau remembers, “I was coming into class one morning and saw April reading a book called 360 Leadership. I asked her if that was an ROTC assignment and she told me no, she was reading on her own to learn more about how a leader’s actions and decisions can impact everyone throughout an organization.”
One unexpected lesson she learned she calls “How to be open.” To practice this lesson, one needs to readily acknowledge limitations. For example, in ROTC when taking her turn to be squad leader, she is expected to lead in all aspects of the training, including running. Only, “I’m not a good runner,” April admits. “So I realized I can lead by admitting that and still asking that we all do our best.”
April has worked several jobs since coming to UNH. She serves off and on as a Chemistry TA, is a phlebotomist at Frisbee Memorial Hospital, and worked for two years as a Commuter Assistant in the MUB. Regardless of the job or experience, April loves to learn. From flipping an omelet in the dining hall to helping others think through a chemistry problem, she is driven by her curiosity to know more. April simply considers her desires to learn and think something through a “life skill”. Her willingness and ability to teach is also a key part of her leadership abilities.
Her interests are diverse. Even with a firm love of science, she mentions HUMA 444: The Idea of a University as her favorite course. This Humanities course explores education and what education should be about. “It was interesting and it made you think about your own opinions - I really liked Professor Richman.”
She also appreciated her time working for Brett Gagnon, Coordinator of Commuter Services in the MUB. “I learned a lot in that job – about time management and event planning.” Having learned so much at practically everything April has done at UNH, she does have advice to other students: “Relax. I find a lot of students stress themselves out so much. I say enjoy it and get more of an education out of it.” As a student who has little use for textbooks, she also says, “Go to class. Pay attention, and take good notes.”
April contends that “everything happens for a reason.” Her optimism and confidence keep her striving to do better. Like her ROTC workouts and similarly with her dad, she likes life best with a “constant go go go.” However, her new husband, Mike, gets to see another side of her -- if her work is done she happily does “nothing.” For April, doing nothing still includes playing games, working on a craft project, or watching TV. She and Mike met through mutual friends; and she loves the independent life they share together. Mike is working out his educational plans which could mean they would be in ROTC together next year – he as a FY student and she as a senior. “That would be fun,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.