Frühstart supports students on their way to a medical career

Saint Mary’s University

Homecoming week – and all of the activities associated with it – is a major highlight for any senior, especially seniors. When Matthew Schell was a senior at Lewiston-Altura High School, he missed most of the homecoming fanfare, instead studying at Saint Mary’s University for the collegiate middle term.

Looking back, the Altura, Minnesota native says he has no regrets. The experience helped prepare and advance him towards a successful undergraduate experience. And it helped him enter a competitive cancer research program at South Dakota State University.

Schell was dual enrolled at Saint Mary’s under Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options program. The PSEO program offers motivated high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn college credits while completing high school graduation requirements.

Growing up as the son of a veterinarian, Schell was always drawn to the medical field. However, he soon realized that veterinary science was not for him. “I liked the human aspect of medicine,” he said. “And since I’m interested in STEM and chemistry, I really knew that going to medical school would be my best option.”

With the lofty goal of studying medicine, Schell soon began looking for ways to further his goal. The obvious option was Minnesota’s PSEO program.

“I didn’t find myself challenged in my schoolwork in high school, so I began looking for ways I could get the challenge I wanted while also better preparing myself for a future career,” he said.

Schell had a brother who enrolled at Saint Mary’s as part of the PSEO program and knew the “rigor and challenge” of the academic offering. Schell said it was an easy decision knowing where to enroll. At Saint Mary’s, Schell was able to meet much of his general education needs, such as English and history, while also diving headlong into entry-level biology and chemistry courses. The opportunity to take these courses strengthened his ability to succeed as a full-time student.

A freshman at South Dakota State University, Schell studied biochemistry, pre-med and psychology and was selected as a freshman to participate in on-campus research, which he said he wouldn’t do without his PSEO program experience in Saint Mary’s could reach.

“Dr. Scott Carnahan, my chemistry professor (at Saint Mary’s), prepared me for my courses like organic and analytical chemistry and really helped me get a research position that I’m working with right now,” he said. “The research is focused strongly into biology, so my (PSEO college) courses with Dr. Matthew Rowley have really helped me to get a basic understanding of what I’m working on.”

Schell and his team are currently studying how cancer cells react to drugs synthesized by another laboratory on campus.

“It’s really great work we’re doing,” he said. “And once the research is out, I think it will really help a lot in where we can go in terms of fighting cancer in the future, because every bit of information, no matter how small, is critical.”

Schell says his time at Saint Mary’s has also helped him outside of the classroom and research lab.

“My experience at Saint Mary’s has helped me balance coursework and extracurricular activities. And having that experience early on helped me get ahead of my classes early in the semester,” he said. “And because Saint Mary’s has such a diverse community, I’ve been able to work with a variety of people and understand different perspectives, while also allowing myself to grow and develop my own perspectives.”

Schell encourages anyone considering the PESO program to pursue it.

“I believe that anyone who goes through the program can have the same positive experiences as I have,” he said.

Tim Albers, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, and Nicole Peterson, Dean of Studies, present certificates for scholarships at Saint Mary’s University. All Above & Beyond students received certificates.


Each week, Campus Connection shares updates on programs, activities, faculty and alumni, and campus life across Winona’s three colleges.

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