Aman Chishti hadn’t been expecting all the emotions that hit her over the past few weeks as she marched toward the end of the semester and her graduation from the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
“I’m sad to be leaving UMSL, very sad,” Chishti said. “I have loved my time here. I didn’t know what to expect when I first came because everybody thinks UMSL’s a commuter school. I didn’t really know a whole lot of people who went here. I just had one friend when I started, but I was so pleasantly surprised. I’ve had the best experience.”
Chishti, a transfer student who spent her first year of college at the University of Missouri–Kansas City before coming back home to UMSL, can point to the support she’s felt from faculty members, her involvement in student government and the Political Science Academy and the experience she’s gained doing undergraduate research as some of the reasons her experience was so fulfilling.
She is leaving with a degree in public policy administration with an emphasis in health policy after graduating summa cum laude and has plans to attend medical school beginning in the fall. She also had the honor of serving as one of the student marshal’s during Saturday afternoon’s commencement ceremony for graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Mark Twain Athletic Center.
Chishti, who grew up in Ballwin, Missouri, never really considered UMSL when she was getting set to graduate from Parkway South High School in 2018. The allure of moving away from home proved too tempting.
She chose UMKC, in part, because she was intrigued by the possibility of fast-tracking her path to becoming a physician in the university’s six-year medical program.
Chishti had been focused on the medical field since she began volunteering at the Volunteers in Medicine West County Clinic, a Muslim community public health care project, as a junior in high school.
“I grew up in a really service-oriented family,” Chishti said. “We would volunteer at the mosque all the time. I was a teacher’s assistant in my Sunday school. So, I liked service a lot, and I also knew I like science, and I was pretty engaged in school.
“What really solidified it for me was volunteering at the free clinic, where a lot of things that I hadn’t really known about medicine came to light for me. I knew that anatomy and biochemistry and whatever were a part of medicine, but I hadn’t realized how impactful social determinants of health can be.”
That was the backdrop for her decision to go away to school, and though she enjoyed her year in Kansas City and built a group of friends with whom she remains close, she figured out during that year that going to school closer to home made more practical sense. She could save money living with her parents and also benefit from the support they provided her.
UMSL proved an obvious choice because it offered affordable tuition and was part of the University of Missouri System so it would accept all of her UMKC credits.
Chishti believes her decision to come back home has helped her get a more well-rounded education than she might have in the intensive six-year medical program. She’s taken plenty of courses of chemistry and biology over the past three years but also made the decision to major in public policy administration and worked with her advisor to find courses specifically tied to health care, including bioethics and an independent study class under Political Science Professor Jean-Germain Gros focused on studying diabetes management and prevention in a culturally tailored way for American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
It’s still been plenty intense, with Chishti taking an average of about 19 credit hours each semester.
“It was difficult,” Chishti said. “I also had to do a lot of extracurriculars as part of being a pre-med. You have to do shadowing, volunteering, researching, etc. So, I had a lot going on outside of school, too.”
She still impressed her professors with the quality of her work.
Assistant Professor Anita Manion said Chishti’s “thoughtful insights made her stand out” when she taught her in political science.
Biochemistry Professor James Bashkin said: “Aman was consistently brilliant in my classes, but what stood out even more was her engagement with the subject matter. She wrote superb essays on wide-ranging subjects in biochemistry, delving far beyond the surface level and adding critical thought to her conclusions.”
Bashkin also called it a delight to have Chishti working in his lab the past two years. She helped synthesize compounds intended to prevent human papillomavirus from turning into cervical cancer.
That was Chishti’s second experience doing undergraduate research. She spent her first year at UMSL working in Professor Emeritus George Taylor’s behavioral neuroscience lab, where she studied anxiety and depressive-like symptoms in rats.
Chishti has been a senator and later comptroller of the Student Government Association. She was president of the UMSL Chapter of Tau Sigma National Honor Society, and she was president of the Political Science Academy, which under her leadership received an award for Student Organization of the Year.
“She was committed to increasing civil discourse and civic engagement at UMSL,” Manion said.
Chishti also worked as a writing tutor in the University Tutoring Center and managed to find time to write three poems that were accepted into Bellerive, the annual literary publication produced by the Pierre Laclede Honors College.
“I found that I have a really great support system,” Chishti said when asked how she found time for it all. “Obviously, I live with my family, which was one really nice part of being in St. Louis, and that was super helpful. When things were busy, my parents could help with my laundry or things like that.
“I stayed organized. I made Excel spreadsheets for everything. I used my calendar religiously, and I was very focused. I made a lot of time for fun, too, though. I just had to block it out and schedule it out.”
It’s all been good preparation for the challenges ahead in medical school. Chishti has been accepted to the University of Missouri of School of Medicine, and she plans to study either family medicine or psychiatry.
“In retrospect, I have absolutely no regrets,” Chishti said of her college experience. “I wish this was something I thought about in greater detail in high school because while I’m very happy with how my experience turned out, it could have been just that much better if I started at UMSL in the first place. I would definitely advise everyone to take a look at UMSL because it has a lot going for it.”