LAWRENCE — Taylor Zabel’s biology lab on Tuesday was going normally until Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little showed up with balloons and a congratulatory certificate.
She was there to notify Zabel, a University of Kansas junior from Smith Center studying biochemistry, that he was one of 62 college juniors nationwide named as Harry S. Truman Scholars this week.
“Obviously, when the chancellor shows up, you know it’s pretty special,” Zabel said. “I’m thankful to her, and, frankly, I’m still in shock.”
The scholarship provides as much as $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government.
The awards are given to college juniors for leadership in public service.
“We are proud to have Taylor represent his university among a select group of scholars from around the country,” said Chancellor Gray-Little. “I congratulate Taylor, and all those who have helped him along his path. His commitment to excellence illustrates the high quality of students at KU.”
Zabel, the son of John and Laura Zabel, is from a five-generation farm family in Smith Center. He is serving on the advisory board of KU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and was active in the Provost’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advisory group.
He said his rural and agricultural roots played a significant role in what he has been able to achieve at KU.
“Growing up on a farm teaches you to be humble, and it teaches you patience,” he said. “You take what you can get, and you use what you have. These have helped me throughout my time at KU.”
Zabel plans to pursue a medical degree and a master’s of public health. He is interested in exploring how preventive medicine can help address health care issues throughout the country.
He said although he does want to work with patients directly, he may eventually pursue a career in politics, either through elected or appointed office.
“I want to have a say in reforming and improving health care services and public health in rural communities,” he said. “It’s a huge disparity. For example, where I grew up, one mental health center serves 20 counties in rural Kansas. For now, I’m just trying to improve where I’m at, but I look forward to what the future holds.”
Zabel is the 19th KU student to earn a Truman Scholarship.
KU’s Office of Fellowships & Scholarships at the University Honors Program coordinates the Truman Scholarship application process, and students interested in applying for future awards may visit fellowships.ku.edu.