Why wishing isn't good enough

July 25, 2008
RDH eVillage interviews Suzie Hopkins, who was the voting student delegate at the ADHA Annual Session.

The balance of being in education and leadership is often not in the cards for many dental hygiene students. Yet Suzie Hopkins, from Chabot College, walked along the road less travelled. She actively developed a plan, and set in motion her dental hygiene leadership future by pursuing her chance to attend the Student Assembly during the 2008 ADHA Annual Session. As a Student Assembly Representative, she spoke on behalf of the 12,000 ADHA student members. Yet for this change agent, that wasn't enough. She had a clear vision to become the Voting Student Delegate.

The Voting Student Delegate is the ONLY student member allowed to vote in the House of Delegates (HOD). She became the voice of her student colleagues by submitting the winning candidate statement.

Below is a brief interview with Suzie and her essays http://rdh.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?ARTICLE_ID=334985&p=56 detail her winning delegate application and voting application.

Please tell the RDH eVillage readers a little bit about your background and the college you are currently attending.

I'm 38, and I decided that I wanted to switch careers about four years ago. I was a technical writer in the software industry for about ten years before going to dental hygiene school. I wanted a job that worked more with people, and I've always been interested in health care, overall fitness, nutrition, etc. Dental hygiene combined I was looking for. I'm also finishing a master's degree in English. That degree is more for personal than professional reasons, but having the master's would allow me to teach later on, if possible.

I go to Chabot College in Hayward, CA. My program is a two-year program, and Chabot is a community college. The school is well ranked and has excellent instructors. The school itself is very diverse, as are the students in the program. My class includes mothers with small children, students ranging from age 22 to 44, two guys, and a lot of ethnic diversity — India, Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam, the Philpenes, China, the US and so on. We have great pot lucks.

How did you hear about the position of Student Assembly Representative?

One of the students in the year ahead of me was the alternate delegate in 2007. She spoke to us about her experience during a class meeting, and then again at a regional SADHA meeting.

What inspired you to run for the position?

The student who served as the alternate delegate said that she learned a great deal about the profession — particularly the political side of it, and issues that affected our scope of practice. I never imagined that there would be a political/legislative side to dental hygiene. It never occurred to me while I was getting my teeth cleaned, I suppose, before I entered the program. But I find that whole side fascinating. I like politics in general, and I like to understand how organizations work. Especially if I pay dues to be in it. In addition, my program director, JoAnn Galliano, was integral in achieving self-regulation in California. I've talked to her about the work she's done for dental hygiene and the CDHA, she said that she was introduced to it all when she became a student delegate. JoAnn's involvement in CDHA and dental hygiene education has been a major influence on me.

Once you secured the assembly representative for District XI, why pursue becoming the Voting Delegate?

I wanted to be as much a part of the experience at ADHA as possible. I also thought I had something to offer as far as leadership and experience. While I obviously have no more dental hygiene experience as any of the other student delegates, I have been in the business world for a while, and have been involved with other professional organizations. I'm familiar with how not-for-profit organizations work, I've been through re-branding campaigns with previous companies, and I've dealt with having to analyze issues critically to determine whether the changes on the table are good for the organization. I thought that that experience could be useful. I'm also dedicated, and I spent a good deal of time understanding the proposed resolutions and bylaws. I felt that I was prepared to take on the position.

What was your biggest challenge in developing your candidate statement for the Voting Delegate?

Promoting myself. I'm usually more of a behind-the-scenes person. I kind of take care of things and organize things in the background, rather than be right out front. I felt odd making a case for why I should be chosen. At the end of the though, it feels good to see your strengths on paper.

Do you have any mentors you would like to recognize and or thank?

Then entire District XI delegation made a huge impression on me. They were all very supportive and inspirational, and there is such a range of experience in the room when they are all together. A very strong group of people. In particular though, Tricia Osuna and Sharon Zastrow. Tricia is the student liaison — Mama T. She is professionally and personally motivating, and she cares so much about mentoring students. Not just the student delegates, either. She is a networking goddess as well. I met wonderful and interesting people just by being around her. She just seems to attract that. I really can't thank her enough. She is an excellent person. Sharon Zastrow is the kind of leader that I hope to be some day. She stays so calm and poised under pressure, and she has a strong sense of integrity. She keeps her head about her and can say what she needs to without getting flustered or emotional. On top of that, she is so fun to be around. I thank both of them for taking me under the wing.

What advice would you give another student who is considering being a student representative in 2009?

Go for it. It's a lot of fun, and you end up with a real appreciation for the work that goes into running the ADHA. Take time to think about the essay question. Be succinct, and answer what the prompt asks. Don't go over the word limit. Get the essay in on time. It all sounds basic, but those are all things that people don't do. Even if you feel awkward "selling yourself," that's what people are looking for. If you don't tell them something about yourself, they have no way of knowing that you would be good for the position. And if you are selected, ask a lot of question about the proposed bylaws and resolutions. You'll feel more comfortable in discussions if you feel that you understand the background for how and why the proposed resolution or bylaw came about. Sometimes you need to be tenacious about asking in order to get the answers you need. And sometimes you need to ask tough questions. That's OK. It's all part of being informed and making solid decisions.