Truman Scholar has passion for inclusion

Zoie Sheets

Zoie Sheets, a junior in biological sciences, wants to be a teaching physician. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Zoie Sheets is the only Illinois representative among 54 students nationwide to receive the prestigious Truman Scholarship for 2016.

Presented by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, the highly 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, who is a biological sciences major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has a passion for inclusion and cultural responsiveness that is embedded in her education, volunteerism and career aspirations.

She serves as co-coordinator of the UIC chapter of the Peer Health Exchange volunteer program, a national nonprofit that 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,” she said.

“Cultural responsiveness and inclusivity matter in every walk of life, but they really matter in those personal aspects of life, such as education and health care.”

As part of an inclusive campus ministry group, she conducts weekly outreach to assist those experiencing homelessness in Chicago’s South Loop.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in 2017, she will begin medical school at UIC through the university’s Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions 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 health care 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 on chronic migraines in the department of psychiatry.

“It’s been a great opportunity to gain scientific knowledge and skills, but also just life skills such as critical thinking,” she says.

Sheets exhibits her commitment to community service and advocacy on UIC’s campus as an Honors College first-year student mentor, and as a member of the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and the Chancellor’s Advisory Council.

Her efforts have been recognized with campus awards including the Jane Addams Distinguished Service Award and the Eugertha Bates Memorial Award.

Sheets came to UIC from Blue Mound, Illinois, a town of about 1,000 people 20 miles southwest of Decatur.

“I have loved every second of getting to explore Chicago, museums and neighborhoods, but also exploring UIC,” said Sheets, a 2013 Meridian High School graduate.

“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 scholar cohort was selected from among a record number of applicants (775) and institutions (305). They were chosen in a multi-stage 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 in a special ceremony May 29 at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

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