By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart
At the beginning of each fall semester, just over forty students enter SUNY Broome’s highly competitive Dental Hygiene: A.A.S. program. With just over a 10% acceptance rate, these hopeful future hygienists balance excitement and nervousness as they gather collectively for the first time. Flanked by professors, clinical instructors, and the dental hygiene support staff, Chair Maureen Hankin shares her annual message. Her words are encouraging, but frank. She reiterates that the curriculum is rigorous and dental hygiene’s packed schedule of classes, labs, and clinical hours is demanding. Hankin assures the group that the faculty and staff will devote the next two years to working to support each students’ success, but a key to dental hygiene success is self-disciplined time management.
While most students opt to focus purely on studying for oral anatomy and physiology exams and mastering the art of pouring alginate impressions, first-year dental hygiene student, Arianna Michitti, had a different approach. Instead, she maintained three calendars, set hourly alarms, and managed to work part-time, be a full-time student, and be named to the 2022-23 NJCAA DIII Women’s Soccer All-American 1st Team.
For Arianna Michitti, playing soccer was a family rite of passage. As the fourth of six children, Arianna joined her siblings as committed, active Maine-Endwell athletes. (Five of the six Michitti’s play soccer, while one sibling controversially plays baseball. He is still being teased about his athletic preferences.)
As a senior in high school, Michitti was recruited to play Division 1 soccer for Wagner College in Staten Island, NY. She spent a year as a Wagner student athlete before realizing that the combination of the college’s distance from home, coupled with the fact that they didn’t offer a pre-dental program, resulted in her decision to withdraw and transfer to SUNY Broome.
“I always knew that I wanted to work in the dental field, but thought that I would be an orthodontist. After speaking to professionals in the industry and comparing dental careers, I realized that I was meant to be a dental hygienist. It was a complete bonus that one of the top dental hygiene programs in the state just happened to be at the community college in my backyard,” said Michitti.
After reviewing the admission criteria for the highly competitive Dental Hygiene: A.A.S. program, Michitti enrolled in SUNY Broome’s Health Studies: A.A.S program to complete her prerequisite courses and boost her GPA. Though not part of her initial plan, Michitti missed competitive soccer and decided to try out for the women’s team. Funnily enough, there was already a Michitti on the roster – Arianna’s younger sister, Mariella.
“My younger sister Mariella and I played together in high school at Maine-Endwell and never thought that we would be teammates again, but here we were. Mariella had transferred back from the University at Albany and was also in the health studies program, but she was using it to prepare for the Nursing: A.A.S. program. It all seemed to fall into place for us. And, of course, our parents loved that they could watch two of their girls play together again,” shared Michitti.
Michitti spent the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters completing prerequisite and corequisite courses. Like many dental hygiene hopefuls, Arianna strategically used her time as a health studies student to tackle courses that would lighten her future workload.
“My gap year in health studies was critical to my success as a student athlete. It is the main reason behind my ability to balance playing soccer and being in the dental hygiene program. Thanks to the classes that I completed last year, I just have to focus on my core classes, labs, and clinicals, which is already a lot,” said Michitti.
Just as Chair Maureen Hankin said at the beginning of the academic year, the professors in the dental hygiene department would be the students’ biggest cheerleaders. For Michitti, that was true both in the clinic and on the soccer field.
“All of my instructors were always supportive of me playing soccer for SUNY Broome. They were always asking for updates and wishing me well before my games. Professor Meghan McGuinness would even print out news articles about me and clip them to my tests with notes of encouragement! I couldn’t have asked for a better support system. I have my amazing personal family and my amazing dental hygiene family.”
On the field, Michitti led the Hornets with 20 goals, 51 points, 85 shots, and 11 assists to round out her sophomore season. Thanks largely in part to Michitti, SUNY Broome went to the District B Regional Championship match and earned the #7 spot in the 2022 NJCAA DIII Women’s Soccer Poll. As a result of her stellar performance, Michitti was named to the 2022-23 NJCAA DIII Women’s Soccer All-American 1st Team. This is a returning honor for Arianna, as she was named to the NJCAA All-American in 2021 as well. She earned the title of “Conference Player of the Year” two years in a row, which makes her SUNY Broome’s second double All-American for women’s soccer.
Throughout the season, Michitti only missed one clinical session due to a finals match. Her instructors happily made accommodations with just one qualm…they were disappointed that they could not personally be present at the game to cheer her on.
You would think that Michitti would enjoy the extra time that she has in the off-season from soccer, but Arianna thrives on a busy schedule. Now she balances her dental hygiene classes, labs, and clinicals with coaching soccer and nannying in the community. She also is a regular at her local dental practice, Perna Dental, in Binghamton, NY.
“I am very close to the team at Perna Dental because they have taken care of me since I was a little girl. I can’t wait to build relationships with my future patients, checking in every six months for a mostly one-sided chat (thank goodness I am a talker) and to ensure their care.”
Inspired by Arianna’s experience as a student athlete? Learn more about athletics at SUNY Broome! Interested in applying to the Dental Hygiene program? The deadline for Fall 2023 applications is March 1, 2023. Contact SUNY Broome’s Admissions team with questions!