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Regents AwardAlma Onate

The Regents Award is given to a senior student who has demonstrated professionalism and leadership within the University Community and who has an emphasis on continuation of graduate level work. A minimum grade point average of 3.3 is required. The student may show evidence of the intent to pursue further educational opportunities. This award will be presented upon completion of degree requirements. The award does not have to be given if the committee determines there are no suitable nominees during a particular year. The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents sponsors this award.

If there’s anyone on campus who knows something about hard work, it’s Alma Onate.

Alma, a chemistry major who has minors in biology and honors, moved to the U.S. from Mexico when her younger sister, Sandra, was diagnosed with glaucoma at a young age. Sandra, who is now a freshman chemistry major at NKU, had multiple surgeries on both of her eyes over the years. Those surgeries led to a financial burden that caused Alma’s parents to lose their home last year—right in the middle of Alma’s toughest semester on campus.

But that didn’t stop Alma from pushing forward and finishing her classes with a 3.9 GPA. Not only that, but she’s headed to Harvard University to pursue medical school this fall.

“She is able to succeed under conditions that would crumble many students, and for this I am in awe of this young woman’s attitude and abilities,” says Dr. Diana McGill, professor of chemistry at NKU. “I cannot sing Alma’s praises high enough. What I find amazing is that she still makes time to give back to people in so many ways. There is no doubt Alma will someday excel in her medical school classes and become a great physician. While are are lucky enough to have her at NKU, she is having a huge impact on everyone she touches.”

Of the many programs Alma has become involved with on campus, there are a few that stand out. She volunteered at Crossroads Health Center in Over-the-Rhine and helped lead a tobacco treatment group; she’s tutored; and she has been a STEM ambassador who’s led large groups of students toward better study habits.

Alma’s future in medicine is still yet to be determined, but she currently has an interest in family medicine. Alma says the abstract idea of becoming a doctor was always in the back of her mind, but NKU solidified her interest in medical school.

“At NKU, it became more concrete,” Alma says. “Don’t underestimate the power of NKU and the opportunities it can provide for you. It’s is a smaller school, but it’s big enough that if you want to do something big, you can. I’m really glad this is where I ended up.”