A University of Illinois at Chicago junior has been named a Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation scholar for 2016.
Zoie Sheets, a biological sciences major in the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is the only recipient from Illinois among the 54 Truman Scholars selected from across the country.
The foundation’s competitive $30,000 scholarships are awarded to exceptional college students planning to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or the nonprofit sector. Scholars also receive leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government.
Sheets, a student in the UIC Honors College, has as a passion for inclusion and cultural responsiveness that is reflected in her education, volunteerism and career aspirations.
She serves as co-coordinator of UIC’s chapter of the Peer Health Exchange, a national nonprofit which provides health workshops in Chicago Public Schools that would not otherwise have a health curriculum. Her responsibilities include managing more than 100 volunteers, along with training and mentoring undergraduate peers to teach the workshops.
“It has been life changing,” Sheets says. “Cultural responsiveness and inclusivity matter in every walk of life, but they really matter in those personal aspects of life, such as education and healthcare.”
As part of an inclusive campus ministry group, she conducts weekly outreach to assist those experiencing homelessness in Chicago’s South Loop.
After she receives her bachelor’s degree next year, she will enter medical school at UIC through the university’s Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions (GPPA) in medicine. She plans to become a teaching physician, with a focus on implementing policy that requires cultural-competency training. Her goals are to improve access to healthcare and education in underserved communities.
“I thoroughly enjoy science and understanding the world around me, but I also enjoy people and gaining an understanding of their background, culture and experiences,” said Sheets, who is minoring in chemistry and Spanish.
“Medicine is the perfect intersection of those interests.”
She supplements her challenging course work in the GPPA program with research in the department of psychiatry on chronic migraines.
“It’s been a great opportunity to gain scientific knowledge and skills, but also just life skills such as critical thinking,” she says.
Sheets’ commitment to community service and advocacy is evident in her service as a mentor in the Honors College and as a member of the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and the Chancellor’s Advisory Council. Her service has been recognized with campus awards, including the Jane Addams Distinguished Service Award and the Eugertha Bates Memorial Award.
Sheets is from Blue Mound, Illinois, a town of approximately 1,000 people located 20 miles southwest of Decatur. She is a 2013 Meridian High School graduate.
“I have loved every second of getting to explore Chicago, museums and neighborhoods, but also exploring UIC,” she said. “In terms of the diversity, it has given me an opportunity to explore other people and their backgrounds, but it’s also given me more of a chance to define myself.”
The 2016 Truman Scholars were selected from among a record number of applicants (775) and institutions (305). They were chosen in a multistage process that concluded with regional interviews by 16 independent selection panels.
Sheets and her fellow scholars will gather May 24 for a leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. They will receive their awards at a May 29 ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.
Created by Congress in 1975, The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation serves as the federal memorial to the 33rd president. Its mission is to select and support the next generation of public service leaders.
By Brian Food