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

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.

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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.