URI student aims for genetic counseling career following graduation May 17

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Washington Township, N.J. native filled college years with leadership, spirit

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 14, 2009 – Haleigh Lipnick said that she enrolled in the University of Rhode Island “almost by accident,” but she now acknowledges that it was one of the best decisions she has made. As she prepares to graduate on May 17, the Washington Township, N.J., native looks forward to pursuing a career in genetic counseling.

“I originally came here as a communications major and wanted to do medical journalism,” Lipnick said. “But my aunt introduced me to the field of genetic counseling, and I switched majors to biology and added a minor in psychology.”

According to Lipnick, genetic counseling is a new and growing field that merges counseling, patient care and medicine.

“When a couple conceives a child, for instance, my job would involve studying family history, medical records, and genetics to evaluate and determine potential risk factors and disorders that might be inherited by a child. Genetic counseling can also provide clues as to how a disorder or disease can be prevented,” she explained. “My aunt knew that I love biology and genetics, and she said that I have a good way with people. She said I could incorporate all of those fields into one.”

Outside the classroom, Lipnick filled her schedule to the brim with a wide range of community service and campus activities that shaped her college experience. A dancer since age 3, Lipnick was a member of the URI Dance Company, a student run group that teaches jazz, ballet, point, hip hop and tap dance classes and hosts a recital every spring. She also was a mentor for WOWW (Women Offering Women Wisdom) and the URI Women’s Studies program, vice president of the URI chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and a campus tour guide for visiting students and guests.

“I love the school so much that I just want to tell everybody about my experience, and the best way to share it is with prospective students on a tour,” she said with enthusiasm. “I’m inundated with random from emails from prospective students who my mother has met and who have questions, and knowing that I had been in that same position a few years ago, I know that no question is a dumb question. It’s also exciting to see what the new face of URI is going to be once I’m gone.”

Lipnick’s most visible role on campus was also an anonymous one. She was one of two students on campus to serve as the URI mascot, Rhody the Ram, at athletic events and other activities. She wore a large ram’s head and bulky wool costume and helped to generate school spirit.

“I’m not an athlete, I’m an athletic supporter,” Lipnick said with a grin. “Outside of dance, my athletic experience is slim to none. But I saw that a friend was going to do it, and I thought it would be really cool. You put the suit on and you can act like an idiot and no one knows who you are. You get the crowd going, running around, and it’s a lot of fun.”

She has performed as Rhody the Ram at basketball games in Atlantic City, at campus press conferences, and numerous other events.

“It’s a great experience. I’ve had kids run up and hug me and not want to let me go, and others who have cried and wanted to run away,” she said. “The weirdest thing is to remember that you don’t have to smile for pictures.”

After graduation, Lipnick plans to enroll in graduate school, but she is also job hunting to gain counseling experience, perhaps at a day care, Planned Parenthood or other related facility. “I’m just looking to get my foot in the door,” she said.

Down the road she looks forward to working as a genetic counselor and perhaps doing research as well.

“I’d like to stay on the East Coast because family and friends are here, but wherever my job takes me, I’ll be ready to go,” she said. “You only live once.”