Senior Spotlight: September 2011
In Spring 2010, Maddie Schwarz was initiated into the Agathai Chapter of Mortar Board. One year later, she was elected by her peers to the lofty position of President. Maddie hails from Agoura Hills, California and majors in Neuroscience and World Arts and Cultures. She loves dance, music and all things Lady Gaga, and hopes to receive her MD and become a Pediatric Neurologist after graduation. Her non-Mortar Board extracurricular activities include acting as a Research Assistant for the School of Public Health CGEP/UDALL Parkinson's Study, as a Neuropathology Researcher on Hemimegalencephaly in Vinters Lab, as an MCAT Instructor for The Princeton Review, and as a Care Extender at Ronald Reagan and Santa Monica-UCLA Hospitals. She's also heavily involved in Global Medical Training, the Neuroscience Undergraduate Society, "Tap Con Sabor" and other professional companies, and the WACSmash Undergraduate Showcase. Please continue reading as we turn the spotlight on Maddie!
Describe your personality in three words:
Energetic, Compassionate, Committed
What is your best quality? Give an experience when you have put this quality to use.
Probably my love of juggling a million things at the same time. This has allowed me to continue down the difficult path of being a dual North/South Campus major, even at those moments when I ask myself what exactly I was thinking as a freshman when I signed myself up for this! But in all seriousness, I credit this go-getter quality with allowing me to get the most out of UCLA, and of life in general.
What are your interests?
On a day-to-day basis, I’d say dance – choreographing, improvising, and learning it, reading about science and medicine, watching Grey’s Anatomy, finding new and old music, and playing Words with Friends.
What do you like about UCLA?
I love the huge variety of people here, and how opportunities are created left and right for other students to network and give back to the community. From providing healthcare to the homeless to dancing with your friends for pediatric AIDS, from organizations that take you volunteering in Africa and Central America to groups that tutor middle schoolers in Little Tokyo…I love that students from all majors can get together and be part of something bigger than themselves.
What is one thing you would like to change at UCLA?
I definitely feel that students suffered a huge loss with Covel Peer Learning being cut, and I’d love to see that program, or something like it, be reinstated, regardless of the state of our budget.
What has been your biggest learning experience?
Teaching my first MCAT class was an enormous learning experience for me. It was daunting, to say the least, to be “on stage” instructing a group of hyper-attentive students, many of whom who were the same year in college as me and some of whom had graduated years ago. Each class took loads of preparation, but it ended up being one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had, and it helped to get me started down the path to becoming a leader.
Name two movies you could watch over and over again? Why?
Singin’ in the Rain – It’s the movie that made me want to become a tap dancer. I’ve been in love with it ever since I was 7 years old, and think that every guy should be as gentlemanly (and talented) as Gene Kelly! All the movie musicals from that era have this amazing larger-than-life commitment to every scene, and most of the musical numbers were filmed in one take, which is incredibly impressive to me.
Bridesmaids – It’s the funniest movie ever, and also has a heart. I’m obsessed with Kristen Wiig.
What is your favorite book and why?
Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It’s elegantly and simply written, and filled with so many beautifully-put lessons about life and love from a child’s perspective.
If you could meet anyone in history who would it be and why?
Maybe Dr. Harvey Cushing. He was one of the founders of neurosurgery as we know it, and was a true innovator in the methods he created to remove previously inoperable tumors and prevent blood loss. But on top of that, he had this fascinating artistic and humanistic side too – he captured his patients through photography, made impeccably detailed drawings of his procedures, and was also a prolific writer. I’d like to meet the superhuman behind all of that.
If you could go anywhere in the world for a day where would you go and why?
I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, for the food, the culture, and the gondolas – I know that’s a simplistic view (largely inspired by the Lizzie McGuire Movie), but I’d love to experience it for myself.
What career would you like to pursue after graduation? Why?
I hope to become a pediatric neurologist or neurosurgeon – I want to serve as a translational bridge between the latest research on epilepsy and traumatic brain injury and the patients and families who will be its beneficiaries. I think it’s fascinating that a three year old with half of a cortex damaged or removed can catch up developmentally to other children her age, thanks to the young brain’s plasticity, and I want to be the physician who allows patients like her to live full lives, free of neurological disease. I am beyond excited to have received acceptances to medical school for the upcoming year – one step closer to making it happen!
What characteristics does it take to become a great leader?
Foresight and setting clear-cut goals, coupled with adaptability and the ability to rephrase these goals in the context of new situations. The great leaders I’ve encountered have been great communicators, were a little spontaneous, had a healthy amount of introspection and self-assessment, and were engaging. Shoot, that’s a lot!
Name one person you admire? Why?
Atul Gawande. He’s looked beyond his immediate role as a surgeon to effect change, and address the bigger picture problems that he’s encountered in the field of medicine, and he’s been able to articulate these issues to the American public, along with his philosophies on how to maximize efficiency and success on a broader scale, through his writings.
Who has been your most influential professor and why?
Professor Victoria Vesna – she taught the “Art, Science, and Technology” course my freshman year, and encouraged me to not be ashamed of being part of two academic cultures (the arts and the sciences). She also motivated me and provided me with the resources to make my first dance/science collaborative film, and since then, being able to create pieces like these has defined my experience at UCLA.
Which is the one television character that you simply adore?
At the moment, Jess from New Girl – she’s so unabashedly quirky, but at the same time, you can read her like a book and empathize with all the situations in which she finds herself. (Also, I love Zooey Deschanel in general). Close seconds: Liz Lemon and Kenneth from 30 Rock, and Cristina Yang from Grey’s.
What are the three most played songs on your iPod?
“Everybody” by Ingrid Michaelson, “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn, “Starring” by Freelance Whales
If given a choice, which animal would you want to be and why?
Totally a penguin. I think what they lack in flying ability, they make up for in swag. Plus, they’re amazing tap dancers…haven’t you seen Happy Feet?
Have you traveled outside of the United States? If so, where?
Yes – France, the Bahamas, Cambridge, UK for a study abroad program, Vancouver, Canada to watch the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Nicaragua, volunteering with UCLA’s Global Medical Training. I’ve been very fortunate!
What is the funniest prank played by you or on you?
I’m not usually a prankster, but for Halloween, my roommates and I stealthily covered our neighbor’s room in fake cobwebs, dressed-up pumpkins, decals of bats, and other cheesy decorations in very hard to reach places…some of which he probably hasn’t found yet. I think we’ll repeat it on every holiday – wait, I probably shouldn’t announce that here.
What does being a member of Mortar Board mean to you?
It means having a reputation to live up to, and having the honor of being part of a huge national organization, which I think it’s easy for members at their individual chapter level to sometimes overlook. It means upholding a tradition and using one’s clout on campus for good, while meeting and becoming a family with some of the most amazing seniors ever to strut down Bruin Walk.