Campus News Campus Spotlight

Coordinator helps students rotate through their final year

Erik Dennison helps 140 fourth-year pharmacy students schedule their required rotations. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

(Originally published Nov. 26, 2019)

Think of Erik Dennison as part guide, part liaison and part concierge. He’s helping College of Pharmacy students reach their final destination.

“Helping students is an important job at the university,” he said. “I’m very lucky to be in the position I am, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had.”

As advanced practice experience coordinator, he’s helping 140 fourth-year pharmacy students schedule their rotations and making sure they’re meeting all the requirements they need to go through the various rounds of rotations. Each student goes through eight rotations—five required rotations and three elective rotations—that each last five weeks. The rotations are based on degree requirements and can range from community pharmacy to outpatient pharmacy to acute care pharmacy or even the Food and Drug Administration or a company in the pharmaceutical industry.

“They’re not like traditional students. These students are working an eight-hour day,” he said. “By the time they’re going on their fourth-year rotations, they have a lot of great knowledge and a lot of great skills, and they’re ready to get out there and work.”

Students see the list of rotations in their third year and rank their preferences. Dennison works with the 180 rotation sites in Georgia and beyond that have agreements with the College of Pharmacy to place students. Each day is a little different, but they all start with email—coordinating that many students and that many sites takes quite a bit of planning that can start months in advance. Currently, there are 400 rotation sites where students could potentially fill their rotations.

Dennison is originally from the Orlando area but fell in love with Athens while visiting family. He started working at UGA in 2006 as a service center representative in the Office of the Registrar, which suited his customer service background. In 2013, he took a position in the dean’s office at the College of Pharmacy working with students on registering for classes and completing degree requirements. In 2015, he started working for the College of Veterinary Medicine with similar job responsibilities but returned to the College of Pharmacy in his current position a year later.

“I’ve grown with the university,” he said. “I’ve learned so much about how the university works that it makes a lot of sense for me to be here. Once you’ve worked at the university for such an extended period of time, you want to stay.”

One thing Dennison has learned from working with students and the various rotation sites is to be ready for anything. He has to be able to not only answer any questions from his students, but also address any needs from the rotation sites, which are all just a little bit different.

“They love having our students,” he said. “We have a very large amount of rotation sites throughout the state of Georgia based upon our students’s reputations and our students’s actions. They choose to take our students.”

Dennison said his main role is guiding students. He’s a source of information, whether that is about a specific rotation site or the various fields within pharmacology.

“It helps that I’m aware of how these processes work,” he said. “I know where all the bumps in the road are, and I know how to smooth out those processes for students.”

Outside of UGA, Dennison spends as much time as he can with his family, including his five children. He’s involved in their activities, which include swimming, and he enjoys painting and hiking and camping in the Georgia mountains.

“I enjoy being with my family and exploring all Georgia has to offer,” he said. “It’s definitely a juggling act, but it’s fun.”