COD’s Outstanding Graduates for 2012
Alexa Alianello, Chandrika Gopal
By Brian Kleemann
Health sciences students Alexa Alianello of Darien and Chandrika Gopal of Naperville have been named the 2012 Outstanding Graduates at College of DuPage.
Alianello, who graduated from Montini Catholic High School, chose College of DuPage for its Dental Hygiene program and has earned her Associate in Applied Science degree. Gopal is a returning student who watched her oldest daughter go to college before returning herself. She has earned an Associate in Applied Science degree in Respiratory Care.
Since she was a girl, Alianello wanted to be a dental hygienist. It was a conversation with her uncle, a dentist, that led her to College of DuPage.
“When I was 16, he brought up the subject of college at a family event, so I asked him where I should go,” she explained. “At first he said Southern Illinois University. But then he told me about COD’s program, and I decided to check it out.”
After high school, Alianello began taking her prerequisites at COD and applied to the Dental Hygiene program. Because of her fierce determination to succeed, Alianello earned straight “A’s.”
“I’m so impressed with the Dental Hygiene faculty, especially professors (Patricia) Belmonte and (Barb) Czahor, who always pushed me to the limit while providing words of encouragement along the way,” she said. “Getting experience in COD’s Dental Hygiene Clinic and working with actual patients helped me become a better hygienist and a better person.”
After taking her national exams and obtaining her license, Alianello plans to begin working this summer. She would like to pursue a bachelor’s degree and eventually work in restorative dentistry. She also would like to teach in a dental hygiene program.
“People are not always aware of what’s in their own backyard,” she said. “College of DuPage opened doors by helping me become an independent person and start a successful career. Along the way, I’ve forged many lifelong friendships.”
In 2009, Gopal and her family moved from Michigan to Naperville. Her oldest daughter was attending Michigan State University and her youngest daughter was in high school. Gopal had worked as a pharmacy technician in a retail pharmacy but was ready for something more.
“I had heard COD’s Respiratory Care program was excellent,” she said. “Because I earned an arts bachelor’s degree in India, I had not taken the science courses, so I needed to first take Anatomy and Physiology. Thankfully, I had fun in Professor (Thomas) Ruehlmann’s class, which motivated me to move forward.”
After a job shadowing experience with a respiratory care therapist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Gopal entered the program at COD. As a nontraditional-age student, she wasn’t sure how she would fit into the classroom. But that feeling quickly passed.
“The younger generation and older generation students were in absolute camaraderie,” she said. “The diversity in the classroom and in the school made it a comfortable yet international experience. I’m happy to say I’ve made very good, diverse friendships.”
She credits the strong faculty – especially Charles Vanderwarf, Denise Kruckenberg, Judy Turcan-Shoup and Barbara Coe – for giving her a fresh start on a new career.
“This program has made me a strong student,” she said. “I’m fully prepared to go out and prove myself.”
Outstanding Graduates for 2012
Each year College of DuPage recognizes graduates whose achievements truly demonstrate determination and success. The Outstanding Graduates of 2012 are both Health Sciences students, but their backgrounds and ambitions tell two different and inspirational stories.