Rico Chenyek ’11 is just as comfortable doing research in a neuroscience lab as he is performing an Aztec dance on stage. A Chicana/o studies major who plans to attend medical school, he has found ways to weave together his interests in the humanities and science—both inside and outside the classroom.
“What’s great about being a premed at Pomona is that you don’t have to major in science,” says Rico. “I think there is a growing realization that having a background in something like philosophy or history or cultural studies is important, especially if you’re going to be in a medical practice where you’re working with people.”
For Rico, part of the appeal of cultural studies is its interdisciplinary focus. “It’s so multi-faceted. I can take courses in history, politics, art, philosophy, sociology, education,” he says. “The classes I’ve taken in both Chicana/o and Black studies also have helped me gain a stronger political consciousness, especially in terms of critical thinking and analysis.”
Even with a demanding academic schedule, Rico has found time for other activities and interests outside the classroom, from doing research at the University of California, San Francisco as part of Pomona’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) to working on campus as the Latina/o Liaison to the Dean of Students. A former gymnast and a hip-hop dancer in high school, he also performs with the Bomber Bhangra, a five-college Indian hip-hop group.
But it’s been his involvement in Danzantes del Sol, an Azteca dance troupe that has been most rewarding. He was invited to join the troupe while taking a class on pre-Columbian Dance and has performed in community centers, art museums and at local colleges. “It has been very spiritual and community building and changed the way I spent last semester. Dancing is a great way to relax and rejuvenate myself.”
Rico occasionally escapes the Pomona “bubble” with trips to Los Angeles to sample the food and nightlife. It’s another way to get a different perspective, or as he puts it, “to hit the restart button.” In the spring, he’ll venture farther afield on a semester abroad in Nicaragua, where he’ll attend a university with a focus on social justice, development and post-revolutionary society. Before he packs for the trip, he plans to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)—just another step toward a future he hopes will combine the best of both of his worlds.