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Fulfilling Dreams: Munoz ’12 Balances Rigorous Academics, N.E. Patriots’ Cheerleading

Providence College senior hones in on career in dentistry

Like her Providence College peers, Brianna Munoz ’12 (Worcester, Mass.) has a challenging academic and extracurricular workload. And, like many residents of New England, Munoz is an unabashed fan of the New England Patriots.

Unlike every other PC student, Munoz doesn’t root for the Pats from home, her dorm room, or from the stands in Gillette Stadium.

A biology and chemistry double major, a dance minor, a resident assistant, and a PC Dance Company member, Munoz also is a member of the Patriots’ cheerleading team and on Sunday, February 5, she was in Indianapolis, Ind., cheering on the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

But, being on the sideline for the “big game”--while exhilarating and memorable--isn’t the only bit of good news Munoz has received, recently. Last semester, Munoz was informed that she received a four-year, all-expenses paid fellowship to the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. Though her dental school selection process is still open, she has dreamed of being a dentist since high school.

During the past two summers, Munoz has furthered her goal by participating in the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative Summer Research Fellowship Program at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Dr. Jack Breen, associate professor of chemistry and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry chair, called Munoz’s combination of academic and extracurricular achievement “truly noteworthy.”

“Brianna is a fine student and an extraordinary person,” he said. “We know she works hard to achieve at a high level in the classroom and we are very pleased to see her efforts rewarded with her admission and scholarship to dental school.

“Her successes--happening at the same time as her varied extracurricular activities, such as being a part of the PC Dance Company and the Patriots’ cheerleading squad,--are a testament to her work ethic.”

Munoz recently took some time to speak about her life at PC, her role with the Patriots cheerleading squad, and her interest in dental medicine.

Why did you choose to be a biology/chemistry double major and a dance minor?

Since learning about static electricity in the fourth grade, chemistry has always interested me.  Being able to investigate and explain in a methodological manner why and how reactions take place is fascinating to me. I chose biology as a major with dental school in mind. There are many biology courses that are not required for dental school, but are suggested. From what I’ve heard, the dental school schedule in the first year is extremely arduous. Any additional exposure to the sciences now will help in the future.

I chose to be a dance minor because dance has always been an important part of my life. Growing up, I was accepted to Boston Ballet and I performed in many performances of The Nutcracker with the Boston Dance Company. I’m very fortunate in being able to pursue this passion at PC. Since being given the opportunity to choreograph for the PC Dance Company, I have been captivated by the act of visualizing an idea and seeing it come to life onstage.  Attending more than 10 hours of rehearsals a week for the PC Dance Company, while maintaining a rigorous course schedule, has kept life very busy. But, dance has definitely taught me time-management skills and how to stay focused on life goals.

You’re also a resident assistant at PC. What has that experience been like?

The most rewarding experience I’ve had at PC has been working as a resident assistant in Meagher Hall. Each year, I bring residents to volunteer at the Special Olympics basketball tournament on campus and the Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk. During the holidays, I organize a Support Our Troops program to make cards for deployed alumni of the College’s ROTC program. This past year, a stationed alumnus actually wrote back to the ROTC office saying how much the cards from my residents meant to him. From these service experiences, I’ve definitely learned how important it is to give back and
make a difference in the community.

How did you become a member of the New England Patriots Cheerleading Team?

Being a Patriots cheerleader has always been a dream of mine. I looked into it online and found that the auditions were the weekend I was home for Spring Break. My mom was the only person I told about this far-fetched goal, and I put it on my bucket list for junior year. However, once Spring Break came along, I was so stressed after working on my chemistry seminar presentation every day that I didn’t feel up to going. My mom reminded me that I should be proud of myself for finishing my chemistry presentation and encouraged me to follow through. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything. I knew that just being able to learn a few routines in the field house where the Patriots players practice would be an incredible experience.

Once I saw a line of more than 200 women that wrapped through the field house and into the parking lot, I was so intimidated that I didn’t want to get out of the car. I knew they were making three eliminations on the day of preliminary auditions, so I just took a deep breath and thought, “I’ll probably be cut by noon, but at least I’ll get to go to the Olive Garden in Patriots Place for lunch and I can order my favorite meal.” After seeing the building slowly empty throughout the day as more cuts were made, it started to hit me that this far-fetched dream may actually become a reality. Contrary to my expectations, I didn’t leave the field house until eight hours later.

The audition process to become a Patriots cheerleader was seven weeks long. Preliminary auditions consisted of three cuts and had three components performed in front of a panel of 10 judges--an across-the-floor combination, freestyle, and a choreographed routine. Those who made it through prelims had a one-on-one interview with the cheerleader director and advanced on to finals two weeks later. Boot camp was the last element of auditions. Boot camp was amidst RA duty and the “tech week” for the PC Dance Company Spring Show, in which I choreographed a West Side Story medley. I actually found out that I made the team an hour before my show.

It has been such an honor to be a part of the CNBC #1-ranked NFL cheerleading squad and to cheer for the reigning AFC Champions! What a season! Along with the indescribable feeling of being on the field at Gillette Stadium, my favorite part of being a Patriots cheerleader would have to be the many opportunities to partake in promotional work. From visiting children at hospitals to participating in cancer walks, volunteerism is a fundamental part of being on the cheering squad.

Why has dentistry been a dream of yours?

Ever since high school, I have known that it is my vocation in life to pursue a career in the health care profession. For me it is not a choice, it is a calling. Applying the knowledge that I have gained throughout my academic career to help those in need feels like a moral responsibility. Whether it is organizing a food drive for a community center or tutoring a 12-year-old Latino boy who does not have a parent at home to check his math homework, I feel that it is my duty to employ the opportunities that I have to alleviate the blight of the less fortunate.

While at PC, I narrowed my focus of interest specifically to dentistry. Maintaining high-quality dental hygiene is not only important to prevent oral cancer and gum disease, but I think preserving one’s smile can greatly affect self-esteem. In reality, most of us refrain from showing our teeth out of insecurity. Even in photographs, I have asked many people why they do not smile. The response to my inquiry is simply, “I don’t like my smile.” How unfortunate! In capturing happy memories that will one day be admired by grandchildren, these individuals look quite serious all for the sake of hiding that small gap, overbite, or mandibular crowding.

As someone who has had braces for two and a half years, I know what it is like to have my bands changed once a month and to alter my eating habits in order to prevent a bracket from breaking. Even to this day, I wear my retainer every night. After having braces, I felt more self-confident and, as a dancer, I no longer felt embarrassed to smile on stage. I am very grateful that Dr. Darvish, my pediatric dentist/orthodontist and mentor, made my years with braces into such a positive experience. Someday, I would like to touch someone’s life that way.

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