Schweitzer Fellowship

TU Schweitzer fellows deliver literacy and academic enrichment programming for children in transitional housing

Housed at The University of Tulsa, the Tulsa Schweitzer Fellowship is a 12-month health leadership and service program for graduate and professional degree students who want to address unmet health needs in the community while sharpening their leadership skills. In the 2019-20 cohort are two dynamic speech-language pathology master’s students from TU: Gabrielle Cozart and Emily Gore (BS ’18).

2,365 vulnerable Tulsans hae been touched by Schweitzer projects since 2016After hearing a presentation by Tulsa Schweitzer Fellowship Director Rachel Gold, Cozart and Gore decided to team up and design a project. “Both of us have tutored kids in various subjects since high school,” Gore noted, “and we share a strong passion for literacy. Our objective was to find a way to use our knowledge of literacy development to help others – in particular, young people.” Cozart added, “Coming from a speech-pathology background, we are deeply aware of the importance of literacy and vocabulary, and how this knowledge impacts a person not only academically but also in everyday life.”

Literacy, community, confidence

At first, Cozart and Gore’s Schweitzer project plan was relatively simple. They contacted Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma and proposed setting up a literacy table and book drive during their food pantry hours. However, that discussion led the duo to St. Elizabeth Lodge, a North Tulsa transitional housing facility and support service program operated by Catholic Charities for working single mothers with children. The families at St. Elizabeth Lodge come from various challenging situations, including experiences of eviction and domestic violence. The facility gives these families “a soft place to fall,” supporting them with housing and educational programs, while residents build a community with each other. The opportunity there would enable Cozart and Gore to have a long-term, measurable impact on the participants, a key requirement of Schweitzer Fellowship projects.

As they dug deeper into the St. Elizabeth community and mission and met with Sharisa McDaniel, Catholic Charities’ transitional living coordinator, Cozart and Gore expanded their Schweitzer Fellowship project plan and aspirations. “It took interacting with the participants before we fully understood what could work and what could be most beneficial,” Cozart remarked. “And that was followed by a couple of months over the summer spent planning the curriculum and our strategy for project implementation.”

The result is a 10-month project (June 2019-April 2020) geared toward supporting and enriching the lives of youth, ages 11 through 15, residing at St. Elizabeth. “Our overall purpose,” Gore noted, “is to promote the children’s confidence and academic success through literacy and one-on-one tutoring. But Gabrielle and I also make sure to have just fun times, moments when we’re just talking, eating snacks or playing games together. Being casual, consistent, reliable and offering listening ears is important for the children, too.”

Beyond words

Each Tuesday evening, Cozart and Gore arrive at St. Elizabeth Lodge to help seven children focus on writing skills and expanding their vocabulary. “We practice communicating ideas clearly and concisely through writing,” commented Gore. “Some of the main topics we cover are organizational strategies, transition words and different narrative types.” One of the key features of their Schweitzer project is a personal writing journal for each child. An advantage of this tool is that Cozart and Gore can then provide individualized feedback and guidance.

Cozart continued, “We also teach vocabulary the kids are likely to encounter in various academic contexts. Some of these we feature as ‘words of the month,’ which we talk about during group sessions and post on a bulletin board. Emily and I encourage the participants to learn the meanings of those words, and we offer prizes to keep them motivated.”

Homework helpers

Wednesday evenings at St. Elizabeth Lodge are spent on reading and academic development. Cozart and Gore call this session “Homework Hangout” because it involves time and space for the children to do their school homework. According to Cozart, research shows that such opportunities are often scarce for young people living in transitional housing. If a child doesn’t have any homework that day, Cozart and Gore encourage them to find and read books that spark their interest. “The kids have come to enjoy tracking how many hours they spend reading each month,” noted Gore.

A central feature of these two-hour Wednesday evenings is one-on-one meetings. The approach Cozart and Gore developed for these pivots on close collaboration with each child. “Our aim here,” Cozart explained, “was to develop specific academic goals they want to achieve during this school year. Every child thought up personal goals, such as improving their grades, being more confident, making new friends, staying organized and turning in homework on time. Emily and I then help them plan the concrete steps they’ll need to take in order to succeed.”

But goal-setting isn’t only for the kids. Cozart and Gore wove in measurable outcomes for themselves, too. As Gore explained, “Our objectives for the Wednesday classes are to foster the children’s school success, guide them in personal goal-setting and increase their academic self-confidence. When they flourish, we know the aims of our Schweitzer Fellowship project are being met.”

Schweitzer Fellows have spent 8,341 hours improving the health of the community since 2016


The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is a 12-month health leadership program for Tulsa-area graduate and professional degree students from any discipline. The fellowship exists to address Tulsa’s vast health disparities in two ways: by piloting immediate solutions through fellows’ projects and by developing leaders who have the confidence, skills and networks to address these disparities for the long haul. Fellows receive a $2,000 stipend. Fellowship applications for the fifth cohort are due on Feb. 10, 2020. If you are interested in becoming a Tulsa Schweitzer Fellow, visit us online or send an email to rachel-gold@utulsa.edu.

38 Schweitzer projects have been launched since 2016

Tulsa Schweitzer Fellowship celebrates leadership and community service

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is a 12-month leadership and service program for Tulsa-area graduate and professional degree students who are passionate about addressing unmet health needs in the Tulsa area and sharpening their leadership skills. The fellowship is grounded in the legacy and philosophy of physician and humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

The Tulsa Schweitzer Fellowship is housed at The University of Tulsa Oxley College of Health Sciences. TU President Dr. Gerard P. Clancy began the effort to bring the fellowship to Tulsa in 2015 as part of his focus on community service and addressing health issues.

On May 1, 11 fellows graduated from the program and shared accounts of the work they had accomplished during the past year. Alumna Erin Anderson learned more about herself during her fellowship. She explained, “Although my fellowship year has come to an end, I am leaving with the tools necessary to continue leading projects that will make a difference in the city of Tulsa,” said Anderson, who now holds a masters degree in speech-language pathology from TU.

Graduating 2018-2019 cohort

“I strongly encourage other graduate students to take advantage of this experience, as not only do you get a chance to create something bigger than yourself, but the impact it has made on me will have a resounding effect forevermore. Take the leap, make something that will be sustained after your time is over, and I promise you will leave equipped with the confidence and desire to continue going into the world and creating change,” said Anderson.

Since its inception in 2015, the Fellowship has launched 30 health projects that range from medication adherence education for homeless adults to Erin Anderson’s project, which was a sibling support workshop series at the Little Lighthouse, a school for children with special needs. The majority of Schweitzer Fellowship projects get sustained past the Fellowship year.  When reflecting on accomplishments of this year’s graduating class and looking ahead to the incoming 11 Fellows, fellowship director Rachel Gold said  “this year’s Schweitzer Fellows have made great strides improving the health of Tulsans and have graduated from the Fellowship as leaders equipped to tackle health disparities for the long-haul. The Fellowship and the broader community are eager to see the impact that the incoming Fellows will make on the health of Tulsa in the coming year.”

Graduating Fellows’ projects, 2018-2019 cohort

Erin Anderson, Speech-Language Pathology
The University of Tulsa
Anderson partnered with Little Lighthouse to address the emotional needs of siblings of children with special needs. Little Lighthouse’s mission is to improve the quality of life for children with special needs, their families and their communities.

Alec Bracken, College of Law
The University of Tulsa
Bracken taught students at Will Rogers High School about their legal rights related to immigration and other topics most relevant to their lives. His project was in partnership with Communities in Schools.

Alex Button, Doctor of Nursing Practice
The University of Tulsa
Button’s project was based at the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless, where he worked to improve the rate at which homeless adults with low health literacy took their medications.

Mollie Rischard Kimrey, Clinical Psychology
The University of Tulsa
Kimrey’s goal was to improve functioning and resiliency among children enrolled in a trauma-focused group psychotherapy program at Positive Changes, a day-treatment psychiatric facility.

Katie Nelson, Speech-Language Pathology
The University of Tulsa
Nelson’s project provided foundational literacy skills for children and families through individualized and hands-on educational tools. Her site partner was Communities in Schools at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School.

Brendon Glon, Counseling Psychology
Jess Westcott, Counseling Psychology
Oklahoma State University
Glon and Westcott’s project was at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. They created, implemented and supervised a mental health referral and helpline for LGBTQ+ Oklahomans and established a workshop series for peers and families.
 
Patrick Grayshaw, Human Development and Family Science
Oklahoma State University
In partnership with the North Tulsa Community Coalition, Grayshaw’s project was a Dialogue to Action program that allowed community members to come together to address their common health needs. The program involved a diverse group of residents to facilitate action planning and asset-based community development.

Iman Chaudhry, OU-TU School of Community Medicine
Ashley Sells, College of Allied Health

University of Oklahoma – Tulsa
Chaudhry and Sells provided exercise and wellness support to low-income Muslim women in Tulsa who were dealing with a variety of health and physical challenges. Their project, which was in partnership with the YWCA, gave participants the tools to take a more active role in their health.
 
Ashten Duncan, OU-TU School of Community Medicine and Public Health
University of Oklahoma – Tulsa
Duncan’s project leveraged hope in Tulsa’s chronically and transiently homeless in order to promote more successful transitions to stable housing situations. He partnered with the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma.

Incoming Fellows, 2019-2020 cohort

Incoming Fellows 2019-2020 cohort

The celebratory evening also welcomed 11 new Fellows for 2019-2020
Julianne Clark, University of Tulsa – Fine Art
Gabrielle Cozart, University of Tulsa  Speech-Language Pathology
Emily Gore, University of Tulsa – Speech-Language Pathology
Catherine (Cassie) McGough, University of Tulsa  Speech-Language Pathology
Autumn Slaughter, University of Tulsa  Clinical Psychology
Katelyn Willis, University of Tulsa College of Law
Rockolyn Daniels, University of Oklahoma Social Work
E’ula Green, University of Oklahoma Social Work
Trang Kieu, University of Oklahoma Medicine
Angela Clifton, Oklahoma State University Medicine
Toni Nigro, Oklahoma State University Medicine

Schweitzer Leadership Summit addresses Tulsa health disparities

The first-ever Schweitzer Leadership Summit welcomed more than 60 graduate students and professionals from across the country to Tulsa earlier this month to learn how local leaders are improving health disparities and strengthening the Schweitzer Fellowship U.S. network.

The event was hosted November 2-4 by current and past Albert Schweitzer Fellows who saw an opportunity to bring their counterparts to Tulsa and expand the organization’s network of alumni through meaningful engagement.

The role of a Schweitzer Fellow

schweitzer leadership summit“Schweitzer Fellows and alumni are talented, passionate individuals who do ground-breaking work to address health disparities,” said Rachel Gold, director of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Tulsa chapter. “The goal of this leadership summit was to reinforce the energy, passion and spark that drove Fellows and alumni to the Schweitzer Fellowship in the first place, and that will continue to inspire them towards reaching their leadership goals.”

Schweitzer Fellows are competitively selected from graduate and professional degree programs statewide in traditional health-focused fields such as medicine, nursing, dentistry and public health as well as related fields including education, social work, law and the arts. Schweitzer Fellows gain knowledge and experience in innovative project design, leadership and community health by designing and implementing yearlong initiatives that address health disparities and social determinants of health such as poverty, the environment and education.

schweitzer leadership summitPast projects include a concept developed by University of Tulsa clinical psychology doctoral student Danielle Zanotti, a member of the inaugural class of Tulsa Schweitzer Fellows in 2016. Zanotti implemented a program to help veterans strengthen parenting skills and gain developmentally appropriate knowledge about what to expect from their children. The community site was The Coffee Bunker — a place in Tulsa where veterans can connect. After her year of Schweitzer service, Zanotti was selected for an internship at a VA hospital in Houston and plans to return to Oklahoma to pursue her career in mental health and community leadership.

A deep dive into Tulsa, growing as a leader

Other fellows such as Ekene Ezenwa, a third-year student in the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, focused their projects directly on health education. Ezenwa and her Schweitzer Fellow partner established a health leadership program called HEAL at Union Middle and High Schools, where they connected participants to health professions and supported them in designing health workshops for younger students.

“This fellowship is good for anyone who wants to do a deep dive into Tulsa and be able to not only help the community grow but also grow as a leader,” Ezenwa said. “The Schweitzer Fellowship provides participants with so many resources and so much guidance to do the things they want to do – design projects that the community really wants and needs, learn how to successfully write grant proposals and advocate in the community.”

Through careful planning, including a series of virtual meetings with counterparts around the country, the Schweitzer Fellowship Leadership Summit planning team, including seven Tulsa Schweitzer alumni and Gold, created an agenda that shone a spotlight on the status of health and social issues in Tulsa, the second-largest city in a state that ranks 48th, 49th or 50th in many national health measures. Gold says Tulsa was the perfect backdrop for Schweitzer Fellows and alumni to reunite and take a closer look at Tulsa efforts to reduce community health gaps while brainstorming new strategies for improving health outcomes.

“This conference reinforced the leadership skills of our planning team, refined their own career goals related to improving health and promoted self-awareness of their capabilities and visions for the local and national Schweitzer Fellowship communities,” Gold said.

Renewed inspiration from a Schweitzer alumna

schweitzer leadership summit
Leslie Hsu Oh

Award-winning writer, skilled photographer and honored public health leader Leslie Hsu Oh served as keynote speaker for the event. As a 1997-98 alumna of the Schweitzer Fellowship at Harvard University School of Public Health, she founded the Hepatitis B Initiative to tackle the prevalence of hepatitis B in Boston’s Asian communities by offering free screenings and vaccinations. Her Schweitzer project is still in operation.

schweitzer leadership summit
The Gathering Place

A special session led by Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and University of Tulsa President Gerard Clancy discussed health disparities in the city. Participant-led workshops at Tulsa’s 36 Degrees North entrepreneurial hub focused on approaching mental health through a social justice lens, gratitude as an act of leadership and transforming health care organizations through immigrant-friendly policy. Conference attendees visited facilities for Women in Recovery, the Take Control Initiative, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges and Community Health Connection. The weekend concluded with a tour of The Gathering Place.

schweitzer leadership summit
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum (left) and TU President Gerard Clancy

Sponsors included the TU Oxley College of Health Sciences, Morningcrest Foundation, George Kaiser Family Foundation, TYPROs, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and Trust Co. of Oklahoma.