Mississippi’s Henderson began school early, already making an impact

Published 10:04 pm Saturday, May 27, 2023

Much of Hannah Henderson’s college experience has been unconventional.

The rising senior at Millsaps and Madison, Miss. native started college almost two years earlier than most students her age. She also began college in January 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lastly, Henderson opted to go a different route than most of her high school friends. While they wanted to go to larger universities, she decided to stay close to home.

“I graduated roughly two years early largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Henderson said.

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“I knew I didn’t want to go too far from home, but, even more importantly than that, I wanted a place that felt like home. Millsaps had a family-like feel from the moment I set foot on campus. I knew the community at Millsaps would help support me and grow me, which was important given my young age.”

Henderson, who aspired to attend medical school, was also impressed by the college’s outstanding pre-medical program. She felt it would provide her with the support and guidance needed for applying to and attending medical school.

“The amazing medical school acceptance rates showed me that Millsaps’ professors and pre-health advisors had a clear understanding of the application process and how to guide students to be successful throughout that process,” she said.

“That was incredibly valuable and important to me when making my college decision.”

Typical for any college experience, Millsaps came with some challenges. For Henderson, that challenge came in the form of the infamous organic chemistry courses, which turned out to be one of her favorite classes so far.

“Every pre-med student fears organic chemistry and hears horror stories about how difficult the course is,” Henderson said. “I was no different.”

Henderson found her fear of the course was soon eased by the teaching methods of Dr. Kristy Stensaas, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“Dr. Stensaas made me fall in love with the course through her enthusiasm for the subject and her excellent pedagogical methods. My ability to critically think and problem-solve grew exponentially the year I was in her class. She makes all her students feel loved and supported and is someone I deeply admire.”

During her sophomore year, Henderson was offered the opportunity to work as an undergraduate cancer researcher with Dr. Wolfgang Kramer, professor of chemistry.

“I remember being so amazed that I had this opportunity because I knew how rare research, even as an upperclassman, was at state schools,” she said. “The project has been difficult and full of ups and downs, but it has taught me so much.”

Off campus, Henderson spends time volunteering in the pediatric intensive care unit and neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and she shadows doctors at UMMC and St. Dominic Hospital.

“Millsaps has prepared me in so many ways for my medical school application,” Henderson said.

“I was able to connect with and receive mentoring from so many upperclassmen because of how close the Millsaps community is. Coming to Millsaps, I have no shortage of professors willing to write me recommendation letters and review my personal statement for medical school, which is a huge blessing.”

Henderson has also been active in the Millsaps community during her time on campus. She is a presidential ambassador for the Office of Admission and serves as an honor council representative. She is vice president of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society and the Millsaps chapter of the Rotaract Club. In addition, she works as a CASE consultant and general chemistry lab teaching assistant and is currently an organic chemistry Ford Fellow. When she’s not studying or serving the Millsaps community, she stays active as a Millsaps cheerleader, licensed fitness personal trainer and youth soccer referee.

This summer, Henderson will be spending three weeks studying community health in the Maya people in Merida, Mexico. She will also be preparing her application for medical school and studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). From practicing interviews to gaining insights from Millsaps alumni currently attending medical school, the Millsaps community and pre-health committee at Millsaps have played a vital role in helping her prepare.