Where Are They Now?

Are you still occasionally reminded of a professional calling you have yet to fulfill? Do you ever wonder how your life might be different if you acted on that longing? About 44,000 students attend classes at Collin College each year, and each individual is working on his or her own dream. While the path may lead students into different classes and diverse career fields, the result is ultimately the same - achievement, pride and success. Take a look at two former Collin College students who share the first name of Brian but lead very different lives - the lives of their dreams.

Brian Cook

Brian Cook

From Collin College to Yale University to practicing medicine
It was late in the morning when former Collin College student Brian Cook raced toward the pediatric emergency room entrance of Yale Hospital into the parking lot to meet a frantic husband and his very pregnant wife. In a matter of minutes, he helped deliver a baby in the back seat of the car. As a student at Yale University’s Physician Associate Program, Cook did it all —from births to amputations to eight-and-a-half hour open-heart surgeries. Today he is an orthopedic surgery Physician Assistant (PA) working on the upper extremity team led by Dr. Brian Bear at Rockford Orthopedic Associates in Rockford Illinois, one of the leading orthopedic centers in northern Illinois specializing in sports medicine and orthopedic trauma. Cook is one of nine PAs in the 10-surgeon practice. As a surgical PA, he practices medicine under the supervision of Dr. Bear, who typically performs more than 700 surgeries and sees more than 2,000 patients annually.

According to Cook, if he had it to do all over again, he would still take his prerequisites at Collin College.

“Collin College had the classes I needed, offered a flexible schedule, and best of all the professors were highly motivated to teach at the highest levels. I was surprised by the number of professors with doctorates at Collin. If you go to most other schools, in the basic sciences you are not going to get professors with Ph.D.'s in chemistry or highly experienced clinicians teaching anatomy, like Dr. Fred Jury and Dr. Mary Weiss, who have been teaching for years. Instead, you will get a graduate student. The professors at Collin College bend over backwards to explain difficult topics. As a result, their expectations of students are high, and grades at Collin are not given out, they are earned. I appreciated that. Some people think if you take classes at a community college, you cannot get into good professional programs. Well, I attended Collin College and graduated from Yale,” he said.

As an orthopedic surgery PA, Cook assists in surgery, conducts initial evaluations, performs casting, splinting, joint injections, fracture and dislocation reductions in addition to a variety of other medical procedures. He says he chose to become a PA because he likes the diversity of the career field.

“I can work in orthopedic surgery, the emergency department or internal medicine. I can work in any state in just about any area of medicine. What is most exciting and rewarding is when you see patients in excruciating pain and accurately identify what happened, give them medicine or fix the problem and see their pain reduced. With a dislocated finger, you can give a nerve block, painlessly push it back in place, and the patient is better. In more extreme situations, we can repair massive upper extremity injuries with surgery and proper rehabilitation. The result is that people get their lives back,” Cook said.

Brian Allen

Brian Allen

From Collin College to founding a business in graphic design and animation
Collin College graduate Brian Allen describes college as a hallway with windows and doors. You can hang out in the hallway, look through the window or walk through the door and make an impact. Allen stepped over the threshold, earned a degree in 3-D animation entertainment, secured a job as a graphic designer and founded a small business. “I have the ability to take people to the next level with my artwork. I look for areas where I can draw and be creative,” Allen said.

Allen is a graphic designer for Proterra Advertising and is in charge of animation and web design. In addition to his weekday job, Allen owns Bunchalotta Studios, which provides branding, web design, renderings and a variety of additional services for small businesses. He founded the company in 2005 to facilitate his freelance work. Today, he serves as art director and hires the freelancers.

As a Collin College student, Allen discovered the college’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and gained an understanding of copyright and trademark costs. He also took business writing and Internet marketing seminars.

For Allen, attending college was a long-awaited treat. After serving in the Navy, he worked as a welder to support his wife while she went to school. When he got his turn to earn a degree, he soaked up every part of the college experience. The recipient of the 2004-2005 Co-op Student of the Year, he worked as a student ambassador, drew cartoon illustrations for the campus newspaper and founded the Student Animators Workshop at the college.

“I worked in welding for two years and traveled all over the U.S. You get extremely hot, cold and tired, but I knew that it would be my turn to go to college next. I wasn’t a rich man, so I had to work before and during college. While I was in school doing homework until 2 a.m., I thought about sledgehammers and how I did not want to run them anymore,” Allen said.

When Allen had one year of 3-D animation classes, he and the other members of the Student Animators Workshop attempted to make a 3-D movie.

“I was getting ahead of myself, but I didn’t know that then. I went to my professor, Marshall Pitman, and he attended our meetings and gave hours of his time to show us how to do it correctly. It is amazing that someone dedicated that much time to my dream. One day I asked to see his portfolio, and he said, ‘You guys are my portfolio.’ That is the stuff you hear on greeting cards, but that is how it is at Collin College. Those kinds of things change your life,” Allen said.

Cook and Allen have two names in common; Brian and Collin College. But both men share something more important. They have achieved their goals and their longing has been replaced with satisfaction and a rewarding sense of accomplishment. How many people with your first name are pursuing their dreams at Collin College? What’s holding you back?