UAB student awarded inaugural Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service

Lexie Woolums, an Honors College and Environmental Sciences student at UAB, has been selected to join the first cohort of the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, or Voyager Scholarship.

Inside Lexie Woolums 6Lexie Woolums
Photography: Steve Woods
A junior from the University of Alabama at Birmingham has been awarded the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service. Alexandra “Lexie” Woolums of Mobile, Alabama will join the inaugural class comprised of 100 recipients from across the United States.

The scholarship, also known as the Voyager Scholarship, was created by Barack Obama and Brian Chesky, Airbnb chief executive officer, to provide meaningful financial aid combined with transformational travel to students passionate about public service. Woolums, a junior pursuing an individually designed degree in Environmental Sciences and a minor in English through the UAB College of Arts and Sciences with a minor in public health from the School of Public Health, was selected out of a pool of nearly 1,800 applicants.

“It was an unreal feeling when I saw ‘Congratulations!’ under a picture of President Obama and Brian Chesky appear in my inbox,” Woolums said. “I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait for this summer to see how it will help me grow as a student, professional and advocate.”

Woolums began her UAB career as an undeclared major but found herself gravitating to projects and classes dealing with environmental policy and the human relationship with the natural environment. As her interest turned into a passion, she notes her time in the UAB Honors College and as an intern in the Office of Sustainability provided invaluable resources that allowed her to learn, grow and prepare for the rigorous Voyager Scholarship application process.   

"We are extremely proud of this important recognition for Lexie Woolums,” said Kecia Thomas, Ph.D., dean of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “Lexie’s career at UAB thus far reflects excellence as a result of the integration of the humanities, science and public engagement. I can’t wait to see what is next for this emerging scholar."

Woolums was weighing her post-graduation options when she applied for the scholarship in hopes it would provide her with an opportunity to network and gain insight on what path she might want to pursue.

“Currently, my main area of interest is improving environmental policy to preserve biodiversity and improve human health,” Woolums said. “I am looking forward to the summer voyage work travel experience the most because I know gaining professional experience outside of Alabama is critical in challenging my perspectives and to improve my overall understanding of environmental protection and policy that can have a positive impact of the lives of many.”

“It is exciting to see a Blazer among the first cohort of Voyager Scholars,” said Michelle Cook, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Office of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships. “This award presents a truly life-changing experience in that it empowers recipients with financial need to pursue service opportunities and internships that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. This is the perfect opportunity for Lexie to expand her public service portfolio in preparation for future award competitions, graduate school, and beyond.” 

Read more of Woolums’ story here.