Scholar Spotlight: Tabitha Willis

Tabitha Willis standing in waders in the middle of a streamTabitha Willis is a Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Scholar as well as a Morrill Scholar. LSAMP works to significantly increase the number of students matriculating into and successfully completing high quality degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to diversify the STEM workforce. The Morrill Scholarship is The Ohio State University’s premiere diversity/merit scholarship program, rewarding academically talented students who are actively engaged in diversity-based leadership, service and social justice activities.

She recently answered a few questions about her experiences at Ohio State and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Why do you believe it is important for underrepresented students to have role models who have pursued/are pursuing careers in STEM?

Often times the media likes to place minorities in boxes, dictating who they can and cannot be. Seeing people of color like Katherine Johnson, Severo Ochoa, Mae C. Jemison, George Washington Carver and more show youth that they, too, can pursue careers in STEM. Young people, especially children, see these role models, and it allows them to visualize themselves in STEM careers. They say to themselves, “I like this, I can do this, they look like me and if they can do it, so can I.” It is also important to cultivate this diversity in STEM to bring different perspectives and ideas to the field to further the progress of scientific discovery.

How do you hope to address this lack of role models in your hometown of Chicago, Illinois?

I am very passionate about increasing the number of underrepresented students in STEM fields. I started working towards this goal early on when I represented the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago on a board that included seven of Chicago’s top STEM institutions. Together we founded Amplify Chicago, a research and internship program for underserved and underrepresented students in Chicago. Amplify Chicago provides world-class internship and research opportunities for underserved minority teens in the nation’s premiere STEM research intuitions. We hope to expand this organization to other cities in the future. I also hope to increase access to role models by starting my own nonprofit organization that will provide minority students with mentors pursing STEM degrees. I want students to have contact with people who have excelled throughout high school and the college admissions process to provide guidance and support to underserved high school students.

How have LSAMP and MSP supported you?

LSAMP has provided me with mentorship and support through workshops and different types of professional development programing throughout the school year. As a resident in the Morrill Scholars Learning Community, I have learned more about myself, different communities, and diversity and inclusion topics that have bettered me as an individual. I have also connected with faculty and ODI staff who have given me needed support in my extracurricular and personal endeavors.

What are your research interests at Ohio State?

I am a premed student with a passion for all things STEM. I am passionate about biomedical sciences, natural history, astronomy, physics and more. My research interests are very wide as I have enjoyed learning about different branches of science topics in my classes. However, I hope to get involved in cardiology and/or microbiology research on campus. 

If someone in high school who was considering majoring in a STEM field came up to you and asked for some advice, what would you say to them?

I would tell them to take full advantage of the opportunities around them, to explore their STEM interests. I would have them check out STEM programs at local museums, universities, zoos and other intuitions around them. This is imperative because the world of STEM is so vast. Most importantly, I would encourage them to pursue their interest no matter what obstacles may arise.

What is your degree and when do you plan on graduating? Any plans set for after graduation?

I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Physical Anthropology. I plan to graduate in Spring 2022, and I hope to attend medical school after graduating. In the future, I want to attend a medical school that has a MD/PhD or a MD/MBA program. I also want to have my nonprofit organization fully operational and thriving.


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Precious Tate spotlight

Precious Tate spotlight

Precious Tate, a fourth-year Young Scholar from Toledo, Ohio, knows it is no secret that for students in the United States, a college degree represents the ultimate American dream, providing a pathway for students to learn more about themselves and their interests, expand their social and cultural experiences, and build more promising careers.

Read more about Precious Tate.

Christian McGhee spotlight

Christian McGhee spotlight

Like a lot of students in high school with plenty of interests, Christian McGhee wasn’t sure what his major would be in college.

And like a lot of those same college students, his interests evolved.

Read more about Christan McGhee.

Evelin Nunez-Rodriguez spotlight

Evelin Nunez-Rodriguez spotlight

Evelin Nunez-Rodriguez is a Young Scholar from Cleveland, Ohio who is also involved with the Latinx Student Success (LSS). YSP provides opportunities for academically talented, first-generation students with high financial need to advance their goal of pursuing higher education while LSS works to cultivate Latinx communities for academic, social, and professional support.

Read more about Evelin Nunez-Rodriguez.

Emilio Suarez spotlight

Emilio Suarez spotlight

Coming from a family of immigrants, Emilio Suarez was always concerned with how he would eventually pay for college. He knew that having a college education would be vital to his dream of working in the field of aviation.

Read more about Emilo Suarez.

Taylor Lonas spotlight

Taylor Lonas spotlight

Recently, Taylor Lonas, one of our Morrill Scholars, answered a few questions about her time so far at The Ohio State University and in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Morrill Scholarship Program. Taylor is studying political science on a pre-law track and plans to graduate in May 2019.

Read more about Taylor Lonas.

Skyla Johnson spotlight

Skyla Johnson spotlight

Anyone who encounters the positivity that emanates during an interaction with Skyla Johnson could infer that her outlook stems from having had an easy road to success. And while Skyla, a social worker and owner of Suga Pie’s—a licensed home bakery, loves both of her current occupations, she admits that her path was a difficult and complicated one. Fortunately, the obstacles she encountered were conquerable with the help of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s ACCESS and Young Scholars Programs.

Read more about Skyla Johnson.

Monica R. Liggins-Abrams spotlight

Monica R. Liggins-Abrams spotlight

In 2002, as a first-generation college student from a low-income family in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Monica R. Liggins-Abrams applied to The Ohio State University. While in high school, she had spent time in Columbus and attended a summer enrichment program through the African-American and African Studies Extension Center. It was a one week residential program that introduced her to Ohio State.

Read more about Monica R. Liggins-Abrams.

John McCray spotlight

John McCray spotlight

John McCray lives and breathes college athletics and the college environment. Yet he admits that, as a young student, higher education wasn’t a concern. “At that time, I wasn’t even thinking about college,” says McCray, a Cleveland native and former high school basketball player. “So that’s what Young Scholars did for me. It opened my mind up.”

Read more about John McCray.

Diontre Davis spotlight

Diontre Davis spotlight

Diontre Davis’ journey to an education abroad experience at the University of Oxford began in grade school when Diontre’s 6th grade teacher encouraged him to apply to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Young Scholars Program. 

Read more about Dionte Davis.

Yasmiyn Irizarry spotlight

Yasmiyn Irizarry spotlight

ACCESS (an acronym for A Comprehensive College Experience for Single-Parent Students) focuses on increasing graduation rates via providing resources and opportunities to full-time single students who also maintain full custody of children. Dr. Yasmiyn Irizarry, now an Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, is a testament to the enduring nature of the program’s benefits.

Read more about Yasmiyn Irizarry.


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