Academic All-American Eilise O’Connor Loves the Drill at UMKC
Where is UMKC taking you?
Into the dental profession. First, it took me all over the country with basketball and now I suppose it’s taking me into the real world.
Why did you choose UMKC?
(Former) Basketball Coach Candace Whitaker recruited me heavily, starting my freshman year in high school (in San Francisco). Also, I have some distant relatives in Kansas City. My grandmother’s first cousins are out here and now they are like my second family.
How has college inspired you?
One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein: “The greatest destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule.” With college being such a crucial time in finding yourself and deciding who you want to be, I found motivation at UMKC to take this quote to heart and apply it in all I do. Having had the privilege to hold numerous leadership positions throughout my undergrad time at UMKC, including Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president and UMKC Women’s Basketball captain, I found the inspiration to become someone who cherishes the ability and opportunity to not only serve others but also uplift and encourage those around me.
What do you admire most at UMKC?
The thing I admire most about UMKC is the constant drive to improve and develop into a more successful and prestigious university. In the four and half years I have been a student at UMKC, the growth of the campus, the athletics and the pursuit for academic innovation has been noticeable and admirable.
Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about myself in college is that being perfect or attaining perfection itself isn’t what makes someone special or invaluable, but rather the pursuit of perfection. In pursuing perfection, one is constantly and consistently challenged to become the best version of himself or herself. It’s important to note that I don’t think of perfection as never being wrong and never making mistakes. In my eyes, being perfect is being able to look your teammates or friends or family in the eyes at the end of every day and say you gave everything you had. Knowing there isn’t one more thing you could have done for the loved ones around you is being perfect. Having pursued perfection in all aspects of my UMKC undergrad life, ranging from academics to athletics to friendships, I have the special privilege of not having a single regret about my journey at UMKC.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?
Professor Robert Riggs always reminded his students to have fun, regardless of what career you choose or where life takes you. At times, I get a little caught up in all stress around me and forget that this is all supposed to be the time of my life. Professor Riggs reminded me to enjoy the journey.
Are you a first-generation college student?
My brother and I both were first-generation college students. While going to college was never a question for either of us growing up, being first-generation college students in our family serves as a profound testament to our parents and others who came before us. Without their hard work and sacrifice for years to ensure every consequent generation had a better life than the one prior, college wouldn’t have been a sure thing. In appreciation for the sacrifice of my parents and those before, I hold great pride in being a first-generation college student.
What are your lifelong goals?
To move back to San Francisco and own my own dental practice and to have a family.
What motto do you live by?
Again Einstein’s quote: “The greatest destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule.” As a point guard on the basketball team, I liked to do everything I could for my teammates. Being a point guard is natural for me.
What excites you?
Family, friends, working out and learning new stuff in school. I love learning things that actually apply to the field of dentistry.
How did you choose dentistry?
There are no dentists in my family. I loved going to the dentist growing up. I always wanted to be in the health field. It’s a job in which you rely on your hands and I used my hands a lot in basketball.
Tell us about becoming an Academic All-American.
I played basketball and maintained my grades so that I could get into dental school. I did my best to produce on the court and then found out that I was named Academic All-American.
What is your favorite dental tool?
The high-speed hand piece — the drill. It makes us feel like real dentists.
What’s your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is letting down the people I love most. I have been blessed beyond measure with a tremendous support system of family and friends who have sacrificed and invested invaluable amounts in me and my dreams. As such, my goal in life is to make them proud. Falling short of any hopes, dreams and expectations they have of me would be my greatest failure.
What is one word that best describes you?
Heart. I have the blessing and the curse of putting my whole heart into everything I do, whether it be sports or friendships. It’s a curse because I leave myself vulnerable to getting hurt but I also have the blessing and opportunity to fully commit and, thus, fully enjoy and wholeheartedly feel the journey the man upstairs leads me upon in life.