Ayleen Chen ’24 named Outstanding Islander Graduate for the College of Science

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Achieving excellence both inside and outside the classroom is at the heart of being an Outstanding Islander Graduate. Each semester, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi selects a group of exceptional graduating Islanders — one from each academic college — who have made a lasting Islander Impact. These students are not only high academic achievers but have often overcome major adversity to reach the graduation stage.

 This year’s seven Outstanding Islander Graduates will earn their diplomas at the Spring 2024 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18. Their journey to this moment — fueled by determination, perseverance, and grit — highlights their unwavering commitment to finishing what they have started.

Please join us in celebrating Ayleen Chen ’24, who is earning a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the College of Science.

Tears rolled down the face of Chen’s mother. They were tears of joy. Finally, the cause of the pain she had been feeling for months had been solved.

“The doctors diagnosed her with Lichen Planus, a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin,” Chen recounted. “I’ll never forget those tears and the promise of relief they represented.” 

It was that profound moment that laid the groundwork for what has become Chen’s life mission: providing health care to those who lack access.

“My mother went to the local Mission of Mercy clinic to be treated,” Chen remembered. “Then they referred her to a dermatologist at no cost. I became inspired and motivated to pursue medicine to create a difference in people’s lives, just as the health professionals did in my mother’s life.”

That interest would bring her to the biomedical sciences program at TAMU-CC, a program that encompassed all the prerequisites needed for medical school. In addition to the countless hours in the classroom and study sessions, she also spent many hours as a volunteer at various clinics, including Mission of Mercy.

“My community service activities allowed me to feel part of something bigger than myself,” she said. “It allowed me to guide, support, and listen to individuals in the community who need help the most while allowing me to grow.”

Chen also found joy in taking part in various university clubs and organizations. Among the titles she carried included vice president of Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED) and Anchor Leader. She was also in the university’s Honors Program and a McNair Scholar. She gives thanks to her campus support system including Drs. Gregory Buck, Riccardo Mozzachiodi, Peggy Valdes, and Marcy Wainwright.

“The majority of the incredible opportunities I have gotten at TAMU-CC, such as attending the Society for Neuroscience conference, going to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a summer internship, and getting to learn electrophysiology, have been because of Dr. Mozzachiodi’s consideration,” she said. “All my mentors have always had their doors open for me to seek advice and have contributed to my success.”

Chen said she also benefited from various scholarships, including the Stars Scholarship Fund and a gift from the Coastal Bend Community Foundation.

“As a middle-class household with first-generation immigrant parents, it was a reality that neither my parents nor I had the financial resources to support my university education,” Chen said. “But, because of these scholarships given by generous donors, I have been able to focus on my studies, community service, research, and extracurricular activities.”

As Chen now prepares for life as an Islander alumna, her academic journey isn’t done just yet. She has been accepted in the Partnership for Primary Care program (PPC), which is a Texas A&M University program designed to recruit students who have a desire to serve rural and medically underserved communities. Once she fulfills PPC requirements, she plans to enroll in the TAMU School of Medicine to become a doctor. It’s a journey that started in a free medical clinic and a dream that took hold at the Island University.

“Thanks to the robust support network here at TAMU-CC, I have grown in knowledge, character, and confidence,” Chen said. “And for that, I am forever grateful.”