Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2022

” and talking about over the next decade She carries her drive and years of experience with her in her new position with Zendesk, recognizing the challenges but con f dent that with the continued support of liberal arts education, the future is bright for the tech world. It ' s incrediblyintimidatingb,utyoujusthaveto feel the fear and do it anyway,” Jennings said. We are solving problems that have never been “ ’ “ ” creativity to do what we do In any industry, collaboration is key. That ' s why Jennings hopes those who have strong ’ . solved before. It takes a lot of con f dence and .

- Technology certainly has improved the lives of many around the world. Jennings has seen f rsthand as advancements in the digital world closely intertwine in our daily lives, for better or for worse. Her advocacy for the humanities is stronger than ever, as the world tackles these life altering changes. Things are only going to become even more immersive, and there are a lot of ethical “ can think about these things more easily than someone who spent their entire life learning to code.” questions surrounding these advancements, Jennings said. “These are the questions we need people in the liberal arts to be thinking

- the humanities are the key to a more people centered approach within the tech community. As a young professional who continues to assist in advancing our world of technology, Jennings proves her skills and foundation in the backgrounds in technical disciplines can work together more with those who have a di f erent set of skills. Despite the liberal arts often being seen as inferior to “hard skills” taught in other disciplines, students who have a background in research, rhetoric, and critical thinking based in

” humanities are anything but “soft.

COVID-19 frontliner earns respiratory therapist degree – twice

Francheska Martinez-Gomez '20 yearned to be a respiratory therapist, so much so that she earned her degree twice. The Mercyhurst University alumna is among COVID’s unsung heroes – those specially trained men and women whose job is to keep people breathing. In 2015, Martinez-Gomez relocated to Erie from Puerto Rico, where she had been trained as a respiratory therapist and worked in th e f eld for six years. Because her program was not acredited stateside, she was unable to practice her profession here.

“There were times I said, ‘I just can’t do this,’ but Christine and Nicole (Christine Gluvna,

program director; Nicole Marton, director of clinical education) were always there to stay after class with me, explain things, and give me the encouragement I needed to keep going,” she said.

Martinez-Gomez graduated in spring 2020, deep in the throes of a rapidly spreading pandemic. In terms of the timing, her skills couldn’t be needed more. Today’s respiratory therapists are in high demand and serve as vital members of the health care team. The career track is expected to grow by 23% within the next 10 years, and the 2020 median pay for respiratory therapists is estimated at $62,810 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Besides treating patients in pulmonary distress due to complications from the virus, respiratory therapists also help su f erers of asthma, bronchitis, COPD, pneumonia , f u, RSV, lung cancer, and more. In terms of her own return to th e f eld, any hopes of easing

She had come to Erie with her boyfriend, now of 25 years, who was here to have heart surgery. Besides supporting him in his health challenge, she had a lot to f gure out on her own: how to earn a living, how to becom e f uent in the English language, and how to restore her dream vocation. She began working at the Multicultural Community Resource Center (MCRC), where she was able to practice the language while helping those of the Hispanic and refugee communities adapt to life in Erie. Although working at the MCRC was rewarding, she said she longed to do the work she had done in Puerto Rico, a career choice that was inspired by watching respiratory therapists ease her grandmother’s su f ering from a debilitating lung condition. “It was then that I thought – wow – I want to be one of them,” she remembered. In time, Martinez-Gomez discovered Mercyhurst’s Respiratory Therapist Associate of Science Degree Program at North East and started saving her money to enroll. Then she took a job as a cashier at a local big box store, where she was able to work nights and go to school during the day. The second time around should have been a cakewalk, but still struggling with the language and having to translate her lessons before being able to learn them, was taking a toll.

into it were moot as she immediately stepped into the fast-paced environment of the emergency room and its step-down COVID unit at UPMC Hamot.

“It was scary at the time because we really didn’t know what we wer e f ghting,” she said, “but I really love the profession. I’m glad I made it.”


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