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Marching Into the Spotlight

Graduating senior Julia White reflects on how diverse experiences shaped her plans for the future.

Julia White stands in white drum major outfit holding a baton in front of row of marching band.

For many students, college is a time to explore. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure that can have a profound influence on future direction. Julia White is no exception. Time in the marching band and a trip to Iceland left an imprint. 

The Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development major didn’t always know what she wanted to do. She started out with dental school in her sights, but changed her mind after studying abroad in Iceland and touring a company called deCODE genetics. She found it fascinating to see how the company is discovering and identifying genetic variations associated with human disease. 

As she progressed through her college experience, she found herself looking for ways to build her leadership skills. Julia pursued the drum major role in the UMN marching band as a way to gain confidence and mentorship. She endured a semester-long audition process of training sessions, leadership meetings, a staff interview panel, a performance recording, and an interview with the 320 fellow band members. Out of four finalists, band leadership selected her as the 2021 drum major – only the second female drum major in the U’s history (out of 65 total)! 

She faced some challenges in this ambassadorial role – both physically and mentally – but has been overjoyed to lead the band and gain many transferable skills such as teaching, teamwork, clear communication, and leadership. 

“Being the drum major definitely added some stress to my studies because the pressure to lead the band is a large responsibility, but the time commitment wasn’t much different than just regular participation in marching band – I still had to plan ahead to stay on top of coursework, memorize the music, and attend the practices and games.”

Julia is teaching the next drum major, another CBS undergrad–Jon Ingram, everything. As she wraps up her time at the U, she has realized all of the ways that her undergraduate experience has helped prepare her for the future as she pursues a career in pharmaceutical sales. 

“Pharmaceutical sales feels like a good blend of my undergraduate experience – understanding medical terms through my CBS coursework, being able to lean into my management minor, reflecting on my meaningful experience in Iceland, and utilize the leadership and communication skills I’ve developed by being the UMN marching band drum major.” —Christine Hazuka

May, 2022