When she was six years old, Kathryn DelaCruz was asked to draw her dream career for her first-grade class. She sketched out a drawing of herself as a dentist. Somebody should dig out that drawing and frame it, because Kathryn—now 21 and a senior in the Purdue School of Science at IUPUI—isn’t far from turning that childhood dream into a professional achievement.
DelaCruz, a self-confessed “science nerd,” comes by her passion for dentistry naturally. “All through grade school, I thought science was so cool,” she recalls. “My mom would always tell me about my grandfather, who was a dentist and philanthropist in the Philippines, and whom I never had a chance to meet. I think that helped make up my mind.”
Professional careers are big in the DelaCruz family: father Basil is a civil engineer, mother Nenita is a nurse at the Roudebush Veterans Administration Hospital on the IUPUI campus, and sister Michelle—an IUPUI graduate from the IU Kelley School of Business—is pursuing a career as a certified public accountant.
While DelaCruz knew about IUPUI from her mother’s work, she has her own early memories of the campus, from her days running track meets for Roncalli High School on the Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium floor. “I have so many memories of running on the track here, where Olympians have run,” she says.
During her three-plus years at IUPUI, she’s made even more memories. She’s excelled academically as a Gerald L. Bepko Scholar and a Norman Brown Diversity Scholar, a Health and Life Sciences Scholar, an active member of the Honors College, a regular campus volunteer and award-winning researcher.
Research has put her in the heart of the IU School of Dentistry, working in a laboratory with Dr. Jack Windsor. The experience has only fanned the flames of her desire to overcome the odds and earn a coveted spot in next fall’s dental class.
Working through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program at IUPUI, DelaCruz was picked for Windsor’s team. “He was working with human cells, which really excited me,” she says. “I was nervous when I started in the lab, but now it feels like home.”
Her work in the lab earned her first place at LSAMP’s statewide research conference, an honor she treasures because of the opportunity to meet students from IU, Purdue, Ball State and other universities who share a passion for scientific inquiry.
Likewise, the Bepko and Brown scholarships have given her an opportunity to get to know fellow IUPUI students, something that “has really shaped my view of the world and given me a lot to consider.”
Honors College hits right notes
"Growing up in Catholic schools, we were taught that service is an essential part of life, and it’s become a passion for me, too.”
DelaCruz is particularly passionate about the Honors College (HC), a two-year-old program that “encourages honors students to share their experiences, ideas and backgrounds with each other,” she says. “It has created such a family atmosphere, even though we have such a diverse group of students.”
They also crack the whip on each other academically, too.
“They really keep me focused on my studies,” DelaCruz admits. “I tend to get over-involved in activities that interest me, but they remind me of what comes first.”
She is vice president of the Honors College Student Council and also president of the Filipino Student Association, and works in the community, as well, serving on the board of the non-profit Marion County Commission On Youth.
Community volunteerism and service is important to DelaCruz, too. “Growing up in Catholic schools, we were taught that service is an essential part of life, and it’s become a passion for me, too,” she says. “I like that it can be passed on from person to person and generation to generation.”
DelaCruz has been a regular in service events such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday “Day of Service” volunteer efforts. She also helped organize a “Be Haiti Week” fund-raiser last spring to help raise money for a new hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti.
All of that helped earn the southside Indy native the 2011 Multicultural Success Center Excellence in Leadership Award, capping a big junior year that also saw DelaCruz named among IUPUI’s Top 10 female scholars.
For DelaCruz, IUPUI was “a perfect fit. With the state’s only dental school and four hospitals on campus, and a strong School of Science, I knew it would challenge me and give me a chance to learn from people in the field,” she says. “Plus, I’m a city girl, and I love the urban life.”