APSU biology major balances cheerleading, STEM studies and service
Clarksville, TN (01/12/2024) — CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - When Gracey Suggs came to Austin Peay State University, she brought along an impressive set of credentials. The Clarksville native and Montgomery Central graduate graduated a year early and came in with most of her general education requirements already completed through high school dual-enrollment courses.
Now a junior - despite just being in her second year on campus - majoring in biology on a pre-med track, Suggs stands out as a remarkably focused and dedicated student. Since seventh grade, she's had her sights set on becoming a pediatric oncologist.
"One day, it just kind of came to me that's what I want to do," she said. "And ever since then, that's just where my focus has been, and nothing has caused me to change my mind."
To make her dream a reality, Suggs has charted out a clear - if occasionally taxing - academic roadmap, working through her biology prerequisites and planning to add psychology as either a double major or minor. Though the demanding course load can make it hard to find balance, she has strategically spaced out her toughest classes, never taking more than two higher-level science classes per semester. Still, with only lab-heavy upper-division courses remaining in her major, it's a continual challenge.
"When you're taking genetics, physics and chemistry all together that's a lot to study for," she said. "That's a lot of lab reports."
On top of her studies, Suggs has a packed schedule as a second-year member of the Govs cheer squad, a responsibility she takes just as seriously as her classes. She navigates daily two-hour practices, a nonstop community service events schedule that takes her and her teammates all over Montgomery County and occasionally down to Nashville and a jam-packed game schedule during football and basketball seasons.
In addition, Suggs has taken on significant leadership roles across campus. She serves as a junior senator in the Student Government Association (SGA) and as part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the President's Emerging Leader Program (PELP) and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS).
Suggs is shaping policy, affecting the on-campus lives of present and future Austin Peay students, developing leadership tools and devoting time to making the Clarksville-Montgomery County community - her home - a better place.
She's also part of the Honors Program, but that almost goes without saying.
Amidst a schedule long on commitments and short on free time, the driven student finds time for things like exploring summer cancer research programs and medical school options. Suggs said she balances her responsibilities by not overloading on classes and credits each semester. She leans on lighter workloads and what she calls "buffer" courses like Introduction to Psychology to offset upper-level sciences, and said eliminating most general requirements through dual enrollment credits also helped ease her course burden.
Suggs wanted to stay close to her Montgomery County roots for her undergraduate studies; even her postgraduate plans in pursuit of her med school dreams include planning to attend an institution somewhere in the Volunteer State.
Although the road ahead remains intense for someone with so many talents and interests, the demanding path seems to energize Suggs. Since laying out her medical dreams back in middle school, she's never wavered from that singular focus. Now, already in the second half of her undergraduate career and quickly facing a choice for how to chart the next step in her future, she's fiercely determined to make it there and change young lives.
If her time at Austin Peay so far is any indication, there's no reason to doubt this Gov is destined for great things.