Cassidy Shin Shines Bright as BSPS Valedictorian

Cassidy Yewon Shin is the real deal – and she has recent accolades to prove it. A powerhouse in the classroom, Cassidy graduated from UGA’s College of Pharmacy on Friday, May 12th with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences (BSPS) degree. That’s not even the best part.

During the BSPS Convocation hosted by the College, Cassidy delivered the Valedictorian speech, by virtue of her astounding GPA – a perfect 4.0. This accomplishment has earned her the title “First Honor Graduate,” and she is the first BSPS graduate to receive the designation in the nine-year history of the degree program.  Along with these achievements, she was this year’s recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence for the College of Pharmacy, the highest recognition an undergraduate can receive at UGA.

A native of Virginia who grew up in Richmond Hill, Ga., Cassidy reflected on her background, her experiences in the BSPS program, how she achieved her impressive academic status, and her plans for the future.

College of Pharmacy: What role has your family played in your successes?

Cassidy Shin: I feel very grateful that my family has been incredibly supportive of me throughout my undergraduate career. I truly would not be where I am without them, and they have been good about challenging me while supporting me. My dad’s always been easygoing and great for balancing me out when I’m the most stressed out, and my mom’s always been there to talk things through in her little vegetable garden in the backyard. They’ve worked hard after moving here from Korea to build something for my brother and me, and I feel lucky that we’ve all remained close and can be there for each other.

I also want to give a shout out to my little brother, James, who is absolutely killing it as a sophomore at Georgia Tech; I am very proud of him! He’s studying electrical engineering and looking to go into the space exploration industry, so we’re in completely different fields. Whenever our schedules line up enough to catch up, he’s always down to goof around with me, and for that I’m grateful. We’ve been able to support each other through college, and I look forward to what he’ll accomplish in the future.

CoP: Why did you choose the BSPS major? Why do you want to work in the pharmaceutical profession?

Shin: Some people grow up knowing what they want to do, but I was undecided coming in as a freshman. I think taking physics ruled out engineering for me, and after finding I enjoyed chemistry more than I thought I would, I started looking into ways I could blend the academic aspect of life sciences with a more direct connection to healthcare. Pharmacy felt right to me, because I can help patients understand the drugs they are prescribed and manage complex drug regimens and how they interact with each other. Scientific communication can be difficult, but I think I like the human aspect of the field the most, especially knowing that I can serve as a liaison between the medical profession and patients.

The BSPS major stuck out to me because it offered me smaller class sizes and more opportunities to form connections with other students and faculty. I also find the labs in the major are unique and teach us specialized skills related to the manufacturing of drug products that will make us valuable additions to teams trained in broader sciences.

CoP: What are your career goals and aspirations?  What is your chosen profession?

Shin: I look forward to going to pharmacy school and pursuing a PharmD. I’m still exploring exactly what to specialize in, but I’ve been interested in combining my interests in personalized medicine with pharmaceutical compounding. I want to learn how to tailor drug regimens to individual patients for the most benefit. I also want to move forward with the goal to keep an open mind and be mindful of everyone’s unique background and identity, especially in a healthcare context, to assure they’re treated respectfully when they might be going through some of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

CoP: Describe your work ethic. How does someone get a 4.0 all throughout college?  What is the secret to your success?

Shin: I think I’ve been lucky at finding a routine that worked for me early. I’ve never been someone who could get things done last-minute, so I just got used to working on things more gradually over time. Still, there have been times when I’ve “cut it close,” and I’ve learned how to manage that last-minute crunch better. For me, approaching everything with the goal of being able to feel like I personally got something out of the assignment or experience has been crucial.

The most important things for me have been finding a solid support system and cultivating fulfilling hobbies. I’ve met some incredible friends within the major, and we’re always able to gently remind each other to prioritize our well-being and health despite the pressures. My friends outside the major also keep me grounded. One of my good friends is a music education major, so we’re about as far apart as you can get in terms of major interest, but I always love going to her concerts. It helps me out of the woods when things get busy within the major.

CoP: Who has been a mentor to you and why?

Shin: There are many faculty members in this college who have taught me so much; this is not a complete list!

  • Dr. Wilded Missaoui: The way she conducted her third-year lab course really encouraged me to feel more at ease around the lab, which led me to get to know her better.  She’s a good listener and has given me a lot of support, especially during some of my roughest patches here. I feel beyond grateful for her guidance and mentorship, and she’s really helped me feel welcomed and supported in the College.
  • Dr. Eugene Douglass and his lab: Dr. Douglass has been very helpful and offered me great feedback. The members of his lab have all been supportive and welcoming, and they make research feel a lot more accessible and less intimidating. They do a lot to provide a warm environment for all the undergrads in the lab, and they manage to keep things lighthearted while getting a lot done.

CoP: When you’re not studying or in the classroom, what do you enjoy doing?

Shin: I love playing the piano and guitar. I’ve played piano since elementary school, and I have been trying to teach myself guitar since middle school. The same piano I started on is still at my parents’ house, and I try to play whenever I can. I find the creative outlet really fulfilling, especially because there are no expectations attached to it. It’s something I can do for myself and gives me space away from the academic stress so I can return refreshed.

CoP: What has been your favorite thing about being an undergraduate at the College of Pharmacy?

Shin: There have been so many moments of studying with friends in the Pharmacy buildings that have really gotten me through some of the harder classes in the major. It’s a good balance of getting things done with finding moments to get to know each other and have fun, especially after seeing them in class every day for the past two years. We all have different cultural backgrounds and career goals, so I’ve learned so much from them. My friends all have different strengths and have helped me a lot in terms of encouraging me to take moments for my own well-being and health.

Cassidy Shin ‘23 accepts the Presidential Award of Excellence from UGA President Jere Morehead.

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