On the weekend of July 24th, Julia Denniss, Gamma Tau ’19 (Georgia Tech) spoke before the Scholarship Luncheon at the 177th Convention in Madison, WI. As a graduate student, Julia received the Henry B. Poore, Gamma 1939 award. Today, Julia is thriving at Duke University as 2nd year Medical student and is a fervent believer in the potential and relevancy of Psi Upsilon.
Selected transcript below.
“My name is Julia Denniss and I am so honored to be here speaking with you today. This is, as you can tell, my first time coming to our convention, and I couldn’t be happier to be here, especially after a year like 2020. For those of you who I haven’t met, I’m a rising second year graduate student at Duke, and I was the recipient of the Henry B. Poor Graduate Scholarship for 2020. I want to take some time to tell you a bit about what this scholarship has done for me and why Psi U is such a positive force in my life.
Julia Denniss, Gamma Tau ’19
I entered Georgia Tech in 2015 as a biomedical engineering major and a lifelong Atlanta native. Med school really wasn’t on my radar. I was set on becoming an engineer like my father so I could work on glamorous projects like prosthetics and medical devices. I started my first engineering class and as it turned out I totally hated it, kept on pushing through, tried to convince myself that all misery would eventually be worth it. It was just my first year and even though I was technically doing fine, I managed to already feel like a failure. All my classmates around me seemed to love what they were doing. It was in the fall of my second year that I broke out of my introverted shell long enough to attend a game night at a fraternity house on campus. I didn’t realize it was a rush event until 30 minutes in, I just totally brushed off the part where they had me sign my name in a book to enter. It’s a cliché among my Gamma Tau brothers that all our pledge stories start off with “I never thought I would end up in a fraternity”. This was especially true for me though at Georgia Tech since I wasn’t even aware that we had a co-ed fraternity on campus.
One thing that stood out to me from my pledge semester on, was the sheer passion that the Psi U brothers have for their various fields of study. Not only did we have an impressive variety of majors represented, but everyone I spoke to seemed to really love what they were doing. It was thanks to the encouragement of the Psi Us that I eventually worked up the fortitude to switch my major from biomedical engineering to biology. Without that one key change, I don’t think I would’ve ever applied to medical school.
All the best memories of my college experience happened after I joined Psi U and found a wonderful group of lifelong friends. As an active brother, I worked as Scholarship Chair and set up academic plans with all our chapter members. I ended up loving my new biology curriculum and spent 5 semesters at a lab on campus researching Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s what kickstarted my desire to apply to medical school and become a doctor.
Being in Atlanta, I had a pretty convenient proximity to the Center of Diseases Control and Prevention. In my senior year, I spent a semester working as a part time intern in the Mycotic Diseases Branch and during my gap year, after I graduated in 2019, I worked in the Chronic Viral Diseases Branch as a research fellow studying HPV. It was then, during the blur of med school applications, that I attended an initiation dinner at Psi U favorite location, Yen Jing Chinese Restaurant. There I sat next to our very own Jonathan Chaffin. As we were chatting, he encouraged me to apply for one of the new Psi U graduate scholarships. He patiently answered all of my questions about the process and walked me through it. As an undergrad, I used to joke about how I wanted to give back to Psi U once I started earning my own income, a prospect that admittedly still seems pretty far off. It’s not a joke really, anymore. Once I’m able to I want to prioritize supporting these scholarships so I can try and pass on some of the good that Psi U has done for me. These scholarships can really make a difference in whether or not someone can afford to continue their education and it’s thanks to the generosity of our Psi U alums that we’re able to support them.
I was incredibly fortunate to receive that graduate scholarship that helped enable me to attend my dream medical school, Duke. I just finished my first year there and I’ll be starting my surgical rotations in August. I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out and in large part I have Psi U to thank for that. After serving as scholarship chair, I’ve become really passionate about promoting academic excellence in our brotherhood and these scholarships are one of the absolute best ways that we can ensure that, not only in undergrad but in our brothers’ career aspirations beyond that.
I could go on and on about all the ways that Psi U has benefited me; I really can’t imagine what my life would look like without being a part of this fraternity. Psi U was my support system all throughout undergrad and the brotherhood continues to have my back through my current pursuits.
I’d like to take a moment to specifically thank the donors, who have supported our fraternity awards and scholarships. All the dollars that our brothers donate at any level have a direct impact on the lives of our undergrads and graduates. And I’m a pretty good example of that; the only reason I’m able to stand before you today is because a very generous alumni managed to donate some of their frequent flyer miles so that I could catch a flight here. I literally am only here because of that. So, if you’re able to make donations like that, please let the Foundation know because I’d really love to recognize you. It’s strange to think about how that one invitation to the house years and years ago changed to much for me.
Now that I’ve talked so long about all the things that Psi U has done for me, it’s time for me to look ahead and start thinking about how I want to give back. Our brotherhood has such an exciting future ahead of it and I’m really proud to be a part of it.
Thank you so much for letting me talk to you; it’s been a privilege.”