new Banner
News & Events

Biology degree, research experience at BHSU provides pathway to healthcare for Standing Bear

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, March 26, 2020/Categories: Students, Students in the News, Academic Affairs, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Community, Faculty, Staff, 2020

Cortez Standing Bear, biology major from Pine Ridge, is looking forward to starting a career in healthcare after graduating from BHSU next year.
Cortez Standing Bear is starting her career in healthcare with a biology degree from Black Hills State University. She honed her work ethic on the basketball court at BHSU and in Pine Ridge where she grew up.

“I made the decision to work hard to have certain opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have,” says Cortez, who graduated from Aberdeen Central. “Some might say majoring in biology is too hard. But I’m never afraid of challenging myself.”

Cortez will graduate from BHSU next year and is looking at nursing and physician assistant programs, along with medical schools. Two research programs at BHSU have guided and enriched her path. She worked with BHSU exercise science professor and physical therapist Dr. Craig Triplett on back pain research on campus in Spearfish through the SD BRIN program. Last summer Cortez traveled to China with a National Science Foundation program (PIRE GEMADARC).

“As an aspiring healthcare professional, researching back pain, one of the leading causes of hospital visits, was a valuable experience,” says Cortez. “I’m interested in healthcare because I like developing relationships with people and positively impacting their lives. I’ve been an athlete since fourth grade and want to advocate for a healthy lifestyle.”

Raised by her grandmother in Pine Ridge, Cortez says she knew getting good grades and doing well in sports was a way she could get into college. Thanks to her stellar work ethic, Cortez earned the coveted Gates Millennium scholarship her senior year of high school, offering her a full-ride to any U.S. college. She planned to attend a school in Colorado. Then her high school coaches challenged her, asking Cortez why she was giving up basketball.

Cortez decided to visit BHSU. She says the campus was beautiful and closer to home. After just one scrimmage with the women’s basketball team, she knew she was not ready to give up basketball.

“I chose to come to BHSU and I don’t regret it,” says Cortez.

While registering for classes on campus her freshman year, Cortez met Dr. Urla Marcus, director of the Center for American Indian Studies at BHSU. It was the beginning of a relationship that has helped Cortez stay grounded throughout her college years.

“Urla has a listening ear for me. She gives me academic advice and advice in other areas of life.”

Cortez says she started stopping by the Center, located in Jonas Hall, every now and then the first weeks of school her freshman year. Four years later, the Center is her home away from home.

“The Center provides a quiet place to study, a comfortable couch I take naps on sometimes, coffee, and a place where I can see familiar faces and other Native American students,” says Cortez. “That’s one of the things I like about BHSU, the size of the school. When times get hard, it’s easier because you have those relationships.”

About Biology at Black Hills State University
A Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from BHSU provides students the opportunity to explore the diverse sub-disciplines of biology. Students may choose an emphasis in Environmental Biology with laboratory and field courses that focus on ecological principles, plant and animal biology, and conservation; or an emphasis in Cellular Biology and Physiology with lecture and laboratory courses ranging from Cell & Molecular biology, to Neurobiology, and Genomics. Through the rigorous curricula provided in both emphases, students will learn to design experiments, interpret biological data and communicate biological concepts and research findings effectively. Students completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from BHSU will find themselves well prepared for graduate programs, medical school, and jobs in the biotech industry or in state or federal agencies. Learn more at

Number of views (1534)/Comments (0)