‘An environment of collaboration and cooperation’

By Isabel Phillips
CHS contributor

Meet Jacob Zimmerman, a senior Human Health Sciences major, who recently won the HHS Academic Award. He’s also been recognized as a student leader on campus, and he most recently gained experience as the student representative on the College of Health Sciences’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

While we hope to celebrate our diversity each and every day, April has been noted as Diversity Month — or a time to re-emphasize and celebrate the beauty of our unique cultures, backgrounds, and traditions — and we sat down with Jacob to discuss his accomplishments, as well as his experience with the college’s DEI Committee.

The mission of the CHS DEI Committee is to facilitate the development of a culture of belonging through embracing diversity and inclusivity; Jacob has been a student representative on the committee for the past school year.

Here’s 4 questions with Jacob Zimmerman …

Q: What has your experience been like being a student representative on the DEI committee?

A: College of Health Sciences Diversity Officer Dr. Janice Kuperstein is the faculty advisor to Kentucky Hillel, a Jewish Student Organization on campus, and we have established a developing relationship since my sophomore year of undergraduate studies.

My first three years of undergraduate focused more on mobilizing my peers to better sustain student organizations and enthusiasm for education on social justice issues, but the summer of 2020 reminded me that I must actively involve myself beyond the academy in these matters. The revolution will not be found in a textbook.

As such, I asked Dr. Kuperstein one day if I could join the CHS DEI committee to better serve fellow marginalized peers in the college. She was excited by my increased access to peers and colleagues, and my unique positioning as a student who could firsthand witness and experience how our college curriculum aligned with social justice initiatives. 

Work in DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) does not allow for autopilot behavior or passive processing of information. The emotional labor required to truly reflect on one's own positionality in society, address the harms that systemic oppression inflicts upon yourself and those around you, and sit down to strategize resistance to these forms of oppression while simultaneously maintaining collective support for marginalized peoples, is not something to take lightly.

As a student representative on the DEI committee, I simultaneously have had to remind myself that I am not a monolithic voice for the student body of the College of Health Sciences, rather I am charged with amplifying the voices and sentiments of the student body to develop a shared construction of reality of our community members.

Q: What did winning the HHS Academic Award mean to you?

A: I don’t know what separated me from other incredibly talented members of my cohort, but it's an incredible honor and I am humbled to receive it. I had a developed sense of fulfilment receiving the award, like a tree that I planted four years ago just now bore fruit for the first time. I wish, however, I could have some method of sharing the award with the mentors and sponsors I have found in the faculty and staff of CHS that have privileged me with academic opportunities, and with fellow HHS students closest to me that have aided me in a mutual network of support and encouragement.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?

A: This summer I will be an intern at Vanderbilt University Medical College's Program for LGBTQ Health, where I will coordinate with the Office of Diversity Affairs to establish community programming and perform research on LGBTQ experiences in health care settings. 

I hope to be attending The Ohio State University’s College of Medicine this fall. If that doesn’t work out however, I hope to move to Columbus, Ohio, to work an entry-level health care provision role to familiarize myself with new patient populations and serve a new community and reapply to medical school the year after while completing a Master of Public Health program.

Q: What has CHS meant to you and how has your experience in CHS helped you throughout your college career?

A: The College of Health Sciences has provided me with an environment of collaboration and cooperation that easily supersedes competition and has engaged me in a space where I strategize how to best serve my fellow marginalized patients and providers.

The Interprofessional Healthcare Residential College (IHRC) living learning program affiliated with CHS sheltered me and fed my desire to grow and led to an incredible partnership with program director Dr. Brendan O'Farrell. The Office of Student Affairs provided nothing short of the best advising experiences I have had thus far, with some of the most personable and investing staff like Dr. Casey Shadix, Amy Karr, and Rebecca Serrano. The faculty and professors I have learned alongside have expanded my worldview and encouraged me to relentlessly pursue the justice I seek. I am forever indebted to professors like Dr. Katie Goldey, Dr. Jami Warren, Dr. Randa Remer, Dr. Kevin Schuer, and Dr. Ming-Yuan Chih. 

Lastly, CHS has provided me with the incredible spiritual, academic, just counsel that I never knew I needed. Dr. Kuperstein, out of her own kindness and care, has invested so much time and care into my life and career, and I hope to make her proud as I move onto my next chapter to (Hebrew phrase) Tikkun Olam — repair the world.

Jacob wanted to make sure that his fellow students who serve on the Student DEI Committee were recognized for all of their hard work as well. Below is a list of these students:

Eman Issa            

Taylor Puryear

Dua’a Omran

Isaiah Jones

Saji Omran

Guiseppe Michelone

Ndeye Thiaw

Kaitlin Bush

Michaela Keener

Rachel Kleis

Maria Bane

Alex Sklivas

Samantha Stewart

Maria Casoglos

Kamryn Tucker

Ke’La Porter

Lillie Reinhart

Lindsey Calope

Troy Dancer

Elizabeth Hines

Amanda Sandoval