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Recent graduates prepared for advanced degree programs

Published on May 07, 2024

Recent graduates prepared for advanced degree programs

Billi Kozak '24

Isabelle Lastrina '24

John O’Connell '24

Marcus Grant '24

With the Class of 2024 recently graduated, many of Eastern's newest alumni are beginning their careers while others are choosing to continue their studies. Here are a few of the graduates pursuing advanced degree programs.

Biology major Billi Kozak '24 will attend the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to pursue their Ph.D. in microbiology. The process will take five years, with a required teaching assistantship.  

Kozak credits much of their success to the encouragement of their mentors at Eastern. They said, “Eastern really prepared me for this, I believe. The unwavering confidence and support of my advisor was also immensely helpful and reassuring.” 

Kozak continued, “The reality of it all is still settling in. The next five or so years of my life will begin and end just as fast as my undergraduate years flew by me ... I'm nervous, excited and can't wait to see what will happen!” 

During their studies, Kozak is hoping to determine whether they’d like to go into academia as a professor or if they want to enter the industry as a researcher. 

Political science major Isabelle Lastrina '24 will work toward her Juris Doctor degree at the Quinnipiac University School of Law. It will take her three years to complete. 

“My professors had a large role in preparing me for law school,” said Lastrina. “Being a part of such a small program like the Department of Political Science has allowed me to curate relationships with my professors and they have become a great support system for me every step of the way of my journey. Also, I think being able to take some law-related classes will prove helpful.” 

“I’m feeling some nerves about this new chapter in my life but mostly excitement that I get to immerse myself in a topic that I am so passionate about,” Lastrina said. “And I’ll be one step closer to pursuing a career in law.” 

Biology major John O’Connell '24 will be attending the University of Connecticut in the Physiology and Neurobiology Ph.D. program. Over five years, he will complete teaching assistantships and extensive research. 

“The research experience I’ve had at Eastern has prepared me to excel in graduate school and beyond,” O’Connell said. “I’m excited to continue my career in biology and to challenge myself to become the best scientist I can be.” 

After completing his Ph.D., O’Connell hopes to complete a postdoctoral degree and to work at a university. 

English major Marcus Grant '24 will be attending Tufts University as a part of the English Literature Ph.D. program. Over five years, he will be able to teach writing and literature courses while working on his dissertation. 

“My mentors in the English Department and beyond were very helpful in recommending me conferences where I could learn to present information clearly and concisely,” said Grant. “They were also very supportive during the application process, helping me to comb through my CV and essays to give me the best chance possible of getting in.” 

“I feel a mix of excitement for the process and gratitude toward everyone who helped me along the way,” Grant said. “At the same time, there’s a sense of nervousness at the idea of moving away from my family, though not far. Overall, I think I’m mostly filled with energy and with hope for what’s to come.” 

Following graduate school, Grant hopes to become a literature professor and to one day earn a Master of Library and Information Science degree. 

Isabel Mund '24

Eugene Bertrand '24

Cade Ensinger '24

Biology major Isabel Mund '24 will be working toward her doctorate in optometry at the New England College of Optometry. During the four-year program, Mund will complete courses and clinical rotations.  

Mund attributed her academic and personal success to the influence of her thesis mentor, biology Professor Brett Mattingly. She said, “He talked with me through my options and just overall helped me feel ready to make a choice. My friend group also played a huge part in hyping me up for my interviews, and I definitely wouldn't be where I am without them.” 

“I have loved my three years at Eastern and I am so sad to be leaving the communities that I have built around me,” Mund said, “but starting a new chapter in a new city is insanely exciting and I can't wait to see where it will bring me.” 

Mund hopes to specialize in pediatric optometry and to work with children following graduation. 

Elementary education and history major Eugene Bertrand '24 will attend Columbia University for a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. The program will allow Bertrand to assist in conducting research over two years.  

Bertrand pointed to the work completing his honors thesis at helping prepare him for graduate school. “It presented me with numerous academic challenges that ultimately strengthened my skills and resilience,” he said. “From formulating a research question to conducting an extensive historiography, (these skills) supported my intellectual engagement and problem-solving. The academic challenges pushed me to expand my intellectual boundaries.” 

“Approaching graduation fills me with a blend of excitement and anticipation,” said Bertrand. “While I eagerly anticipate applying the knowledge and skills I've acquired, I can't help but feel grateful for the experiences and relationships formed during my time at Eastern. However, I'm ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges awaiting me at Columbia. This transition marks the beginning of an exhilarating journey of growth and learning, and I'm eager to seize every opportunity that Columbia has to offer.” 

After completing his master's degree, Bertrand hopes to work for the Department of Veteran Affairs and pursue a Juris Doctor degree. 

Physical education major Cade Ensinger '24 will pursue his master's in nutrition at the University of Cincinnati. During the two-year program, he will work as a teaching assistant and complete a thesis.  

“My professors have always been there for me through this process and encouraged me to pursue my interests,” Ensinger said. “I am extremely excited to start this new chapter and I am grateful for the people and opportunities at Eastern that have led me to where I am today.” 

After completing his degree, Ensinger hopes to become a registered dietitian, with a focus on preventative medicine and nutrition equity. 

English and philosophy double major Malek Allari '24 will attend the University of New Hampshire for a master's degree in fine arts.

“I believe all my classes have prepared me well to submit my writing samples and helped ready me to experience workshops in graduate school,” Allari said. “I am feeling really excited to start my graduate school program. I did have a moment of realization that I am no longer an undergraduate and am setting foot in a much bigger and wilder world.” 

After completing his degree, Allari hopes to publish books, become a college professor and pursue a Ph.D. 

Social work major Katherine Barner '24 will work toward a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at Boston College. The program will take three semesters; Barner will also be completing an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital while earning her degree. 

“This new chapter in my life is very bittersweet,” Barner said. “I’ve made a family here at Eastern, but I'm so excited to start this new experience and continue to challenge myself in new ways. I'm excited to meet new people, live in a new city, and continue to learn and educate myself.” 

After graduate school, Barner hopes to earn her license in clinical social work. 

Written by Marcus Grant

Categories: Alumni, Academics