April 26, 2023

In it together: Sisters grow, adapt on their path to public health degrees

Mady and Ally Brownrigg have strengthened their bond as friends and sisters on their path to graduation from Wayne State University.

Ally and Mady Brownrigg have done almost everything together their entire lives – and they’ll soon add graduating from college to that list. The twin sisters are earning degrees from Wayne State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a major in public health and a minor in global studies.

The pair said that their time at Wayne State and the experience of going through college together has strengthened their bond as friends and sisters.

“We’ve been really lucky. We’ve always had similar — almost exact — experiences. We’ve shared a room, an apartment, a dorm. We’re used to sharing, so it was natural for us to share this experience, too,” said Ally Brownrigg.

“Having each other for support, especially for remote learning during the pandemic, was a huge benefit,” said Mady Brownrigg. “I always had her to talk to about grades, frustrations, everything. She knew exactly what I was going through, and we can just read each other.”

The sisters plan to stick together for their next chapter, too. They plan to enroll in an accelerated nursing program, with hopes of ultimately becoming intensive care unit nurses. Sticking with the same career path was a conscious choice that will enable them to continue supporting each other from a place of great understanding and empathy.

Finding their path

Both students initially enrolled as biology majors on a pre-med path before switching to a pre-nursing degree path. They were intrigued at the possibility of a public health degree because of the balanced focus on community and research. Desmond Mack, an academic advisor in the Pre-Med and Health Science Center, helped them see how their interests in nursing and medicine connected with a major in public health.

“When we found out public health was a major and there were all of these options on what you could do with that degree, we knew it was a perfect fit,” Mady Brownrigg said. “Desmond is the best. He’s been the most understanding and encouraging, and he helped us get on the right track.”

Added Ally Brownrigg, “He really eased my anxiety about changing majors. All I ever wanted to do was be a doctor, but he helped make it so much easier when I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted after all. And that it was okay — in fact, that was a sign of growth.”

Rolling — and growing — with the changes

While the pair took the same path and had similar experiences on the journey to their matching degrees, their time at Wayne State also allowed them to grow as individuals. The sisters, who are from Davison, loved living on campus their first semester but moved back home their second semester because of the pandemic.

Ally Brownrigg said that although the experience having “one normal semester” wasn’t ideal, their brief time living on campus helped them make lifelong friends and familiarize themselves with campus resources. Like many students, they struggled with remote learning, and overcoming those challenges helped the pair grow and recognize their own strength.

“The resilience I see in us and other students is incredible. The pandemic was awful, but we can go through tough situations. It’s put things into perspective – a minor inconvenience to me used to feel like a very major one,” she said. “I’m so much stronger now. I’ve learned that it’s good to have a plan, but it’s important to let it be fluid. Knowing that it’s okay to change plans is something I hope all students can embrace.”

Similarly, Mady Brownrigg said that she has an entirely different perspective when things don’t necessarily go to plan.

“I was a straight-A honor roll student in high school. I thought my first C in college was the end of the world,” she said. “It was not! Things don’t always work out exactly as you want them to – and you learn from it and move forward.”

Mady Brownrigg said she’s also much more self-assured and open-minded after her time at Wayne State. She attributes that in large part to the community’s diversity and urban environment.

“Ally used to talk for me because I was so introverted. But I’ve really come into my own, because this community was so accepting,” she said. “It was a bit of a shock coming from a more rural area, but living and being around so many different people has changed my views and how I look at life. I have Wayne State to thank for that.”

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