Ashley Taylor, scholarship recipient

UMSL scholarship recipient Ashley Taylor’s interest in topics that “we don’t know much about” began in high school, when she participated in the 2013 STARS program on campus. She plans to become a doctor – possibly a neurologist. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Freshman year at the University of Missouri–St. Louis proved to be something of a whirlwind for now-sophomore biology major Ashley Taylor. So like most college students, she was ready for this past summer’s change of pace. But her respite from coursework and extracurriculars wasn’t exactly a typical break.

“I conducted medical research on carpal tunnel syndrome for six weeks at Washington University’s school of medicine,” she says. “It was a kind of independent study.”

Seizing such hands-on opportunities isn’t new to Taylor, who volunteered at a St. Louis hospital the summer prior and, the summer before that, completed the 2013 Students and Teachers as Research Scientists program at UMSL. STARS brings high school students to campus to work in labs with leading scientists.

“That experience for me was what made me decide on my career path,” says Taylor, who hopes to go on to medical school after UMSL. “Of course, I’d done a few science projects and stuff like that, but this was different. Every single day I was interested in what they were talking about.”

After graduating from St. Joseph’s Academy in 2014, Taylor’s priority was deciding where to go for a high-quality, affordable college education – as well as a vibrant campus experience.

“I was dead set on having the full college experience,” she says.

After considering several out-of-state options, the St. Louis native decided on a place closer to home: UMSL.

“We kept coming to campus and talking to financial aid,” she says, “and all the people were really helpful. In the end, everything was covered.”

Taylor is the recipient of a Monsanto Minority Math/Science Scholarship, Margaret Bush Wilson Scholarship, Pierre Laclede Honors College Scholarship and a STARS Scholarship, among others. It’s all added up to make the college experience she hoped for possible.

“Receiving the UMSL scholarships has allowed me to go to college and receive an education,” she says. “I’m just really grateful for the donors who have been so generous. And it helps keep me motivated.”

The honors student serves as a peer mentor in Multicultural Student Services and has enjoyed getting involved in service projects and other campus efforts as well.

“College is a lot different than high school, but it’s better, I feel,” says Taylor, who currently lives on campus in Oak Hall. “It’s a lot more inclusive. And I’ve met a lot of people in the honors college. It’s nice to have those small classes. The professors really get to know you.”

While science is her focus and college life is busy, Taylor makes time for her crafty DIY side as well. She loves making gifts and Pinterest projects, plus drawing, reading and baking.

“I was the kid who liked to go to Home Depot and look at the paint samples for hours,” she says, then adds after a moment of reflection that perhaps the medical field she’s going into isn’t as far removed from her artistic interests as it might initially seem.

“It’s creative in its own sense,” Taylor says. “And I’ve always kind of looked up to people who are able to do that – heal people.”

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill