Adan E. Cordova: The Foundation to Fearlessly Dream

Adan Cordova is the 2024 Student Commencement Speaker for the 2 p.m. ceremony on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

It’s 4:15 AM, and Adan Cordova’s day has already begun. In the pre-dawn stillness, while the rest of his family still sleeps, he silently hurries to catch a ride to be at work by six. Then, he puts in a twelve-hour day before returning home. These hours would probably be considered typical for the soon-to-be class of 2024 graduate in Human Biology with aspirations for medical school. But this was a snapshot of Cordova’s day from more than 15 years ago, when he lived in his native Honduras working construction jobs. He recalls, “I did everything from mixing concrete to preparing foundations.”

These days, Cordova is laying a different kind of foundation—a career in medicine. His primary goal to “provide for my family” remains the same decades later. But today, his dreams are transformative.

To reach this goal, his next step is preparing for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)—a key component of medical school applications for anyone who aspires to attend medical school. Surprisingly, Cordova does not clearly remember any aspirations to attend medical school in his youth when basic survival was the primary goal. “Life in Honduras was tough,” he says plainly.

But it was when still living in Honduras that Cordova became a father. He put all his dreams aside and focused on providing for his son’s needs.

In 2012, the possibility that his dream could become reality surfaced with an invitation from his father to join him in America. Factory and construction jobs were plentiful. The pay was good and money could be sent home. It was the American dream – his father’s dream – but not Cordova’s dream.

Living and working in Green Bay was the chance for a new beginning. Despite a robust network of friends and family, the job opportunities were confined to manual labor. Still, his mother’s perseverance back in Honduras inspired him. “I desired more than factory work,” he confesses. “My mother had at one time balanced her family obligations and higher education,” Cordova recalls. “I saw her working at home to take care of us and then go to university, to earn her bachelor’s degree in Economics. I want to do that. So, I have that simple model of my mother.”

Sharing his intention to resume his education was met with doubt. “My friends and coworkers believed I was too old and should concentrate on my family. They advised working extra hours for additional income.”

Earning money to provide additional income to his family in both Green Bay and Honduras wasn’t a problem, but his dreams were slipping away. Undeterred, he began with an English language course at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, which led to a nursing assistant certificate. However, his ultimate aspirations to become a doctor were shadowed by self-doubt. “I was really afraid [I was] not going to make it,” Cordova admits, “Because I didn’t feel smart.”

Yet, he mustered enough courage to enroll at UW-Green Bay and declared his major in Human Biology. His most challenging courses? Genetics and English. Now, he was absorbing the complexities of chemistry and genetics, without the comfort of his native Spanish language. At the same time, his “idle dream” of a medical career became a tangible goal. It was in Genetics class, thanks to the encouragement of Associate Professor Uwe Pott, that convinced Cordova he had the DNA to become a doctor.

Cordova recalls the moment Professor Pott helped him to see himself as a medical student. “He kept telling me, ‘How can you believe that you will not do well? You are in the lab. You’re doing the experiments and writing lab reports. So yeah, you are being a scientist!’”

“Adan is an exemplary student,” says Pott. “From the outset, it was clear he was committed to excellence.” Looking forward, Adan plans to prepare for the MCAT during a gap year, then attend The Medical School of Wisconsin in Green Bay.

As Cordova sets his sights on pediatric psychiatry, he envisions a career that will not only provide for his family, but also give back to the community. All built on a basic foundation of care and support from a family, that spanned separate hemispheres, instilled in him. “When I see me myself as a doctor working–I’ll be feeling that I did something good.”

Additional information about the 2024 UW-Green Bay Spring Commencement ceremonies can be found here.

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