The first thing students saw as they filtered into Shivani Gupta’s classroom was one word—pharmily—written on the chalkboard. Gupta, a third-year PharmD candidate at the School of Pharmacy, was there to share her passion for pharmacy with first-year Rutgers students interested in healthcare careers. She hoped to not only pique their interest in the profession but maybe even welcome a few of them into the Rutgers pharmacy family—aka, the pharmily.
Gupta designed and taught the class, “Exploring Pharmacy,” as a peer instructor with First-Year Interest Group Seminars, or FIGS, a program directed by Rutgers’ Career Services. Designed to ease the transition from high school to college, FIGS are one-credit courses that introduce new students to careers across dozens of academic interest areas. “Besides classroom management and teaching strategies,” says Gupta, “I also learned how to empower others through engaging coursework.”
As a FIGS peer instructor, Gupta went through a highly selective interview process and several months of training over the spring and summer months. She designed the course herself, with guidance from Michael Toscani, research professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration and the fellowship director of the Rutgers Institute for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships.
“Shivani did a great job,” affirms Toscani, “by creatively initiating and delivering a pharmacy curriculum into the FIGS program. Her work has made an impact within our pharmacy community and brings further attention to our PharmD program from the larger Rutgers community.”
Her course, taught this past fall, introduced students to the pharmacy profession and the critical roles pharmacists play in community, hospital, and industry settings. A highlight for her students was a tour of the pharmacy building and its state-of-the-art simulation labs. Gupta also guided students through Rutgers’ academic and career resources and taught job-search skills like résumé writing, all while helping them to connect with a network of other first-year students and pharmacy professionals.
Overall, the FIGS experience, Gupta says, “confirmed that I enjoy advocating for our pharmacy profession and hope to incorporate academia in some capacity in my future career.”
Gupta’s skill as a teacher and an advocate is clear in the testimony of a student who enrolled in her class by mistake. On making her FIGS selection, this psychology major inadvertently checked “pharmacy” instead of the interest area listed below it: philosophy. Encouraged and supported by Gupta, she chose to stay in the class, and, before long, it became her favorite course on her schedule.
“I never asked to get adopted by a pharmacy class,” wrote Gupta’s accidental pharmacy student, “but I’ve never been more grateful to be part of the pharmily.”