Colby Ruiz, a biological science major at the University of Georgia, isn’t spending his college years like most students. Instead of solely focusing on his future, Ruiz is more concerned about the future of potential UGA students.
Coming from a graduating class of only 20 students, Ruiz wasn’t sure if UGA was the right fit for him. After thriving in school and becoming involved in university organizations, he decided that he wanted to further enhance his participation by reaching out to other students like him.
Ruiz’s goal was to recruit high school students from smaller schools and tell them about the programs that UGA has to offer as well as help them relate to someone who was once in their position.
“Georgia has all of the means to help students really take off and my goal is to help connect students from rural areas to the University,” Ruiz said.
During his freshman year, Ruiz reached out to the director of recruiting for the honors college at the time, Tino Johnson, and told him his personal recruiting story. Ruiz let him know that there were other students from the rural areas that didn’t know about UGA or the programs that they offer.
A year later, Ruiz and Johnson went to schools in Tift and Lowndes counties and met with their top students to further inform tell them about the honors and the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities program, both which he is involved in. Ruiz was able to give first hand advice about CURO and how it offers students a way to actively participate in learning outside of the typical classroom setting as well as preparing them for graduate or careers after graduation.
Ruiz’s main concern with recruiting comes behind the idea that there is a shortage of primary care doctors that will go back to smaller rural areas after completing their residency.
“The students that are most likely to return to that kind of area are the ones who grew up there and have family ties, so in a way it connects the community to the home,” Ruiz said. “Having more programs that do a better job of this could really help with these shortages.”
Freshman honors program student, Alexandra Flemington, is one of the students that Ruiz recruited with his intentions in mind. As a biology and psychology major with a minor in public health, he was able to help ease her mind of the worries of college as well as give her the information that she needed about undergraduate research.
“Colby talked to me about what I wanted to do in the future and really treated me as an equal instead of just a high school student. He gave me a lot of information about undergraduate research, which I am currently in,” Flemington said. “Thanks to information from him, I am getting into research in the Department of Kinesiology. UGA will definitely help me attain my goal of being a physical therapist for paralysis patients in the future.”
Now, Ruiz is approaching his final semester here at UGA and is able to look back at all of the opportunities the university has given him, as well as the impact that he will leave behind.
Ruiz plans to return back to his hometown of Valdosta, Georgia, once a certified surgeon, and continue his career there.