Himani Patel is McKendree University's 2017 Student Laureate

Photo of Hamani Patel(LEBANON, Ill., November 14, 2017) - Himani Patel, a senior chemistry major from Eldoret, Kenya, is McKendree University’s 2017 Student Lincoln Laureate. She and other outstanding scholars from each Illinois college and university were honored for their leadership, service and excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities by the Lincoln Academy on Nov. 11 at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Each Student Laureate received the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award, the state’s highest student honor.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, the current president of the Lincoln Academy, and First Lady Diana Rauner welcomed all the students and awarded each with a certificate of merit, a medal of Lincoln, and a $1,000 check provided by sponsors. “President Lincoln’s legacy is a reminder of the power of public service and civic engagement,” Gov. Rauner said in press release. “The students chosen to receive this honor have exemplified the principles and ideals of the greatest Illinoisan through their hard work and dedication to their schools and communities.”

“Himani is a model student. She exemplifies the characteristics of a successful young scientist: curiosity, inventiveness, precision, and analytical ability,” said Dr. Christine Bahr, McKendree University provost. “Her positive attitude and sincerity are contagious. Her work is consistently neat, organized, and clearly presented. While other students often view challenging course material as a chore, Himani views it as an opportunity to develop her acumen.”

The university has become “my home away from home,” said Patel, who spent her first semester adjusting to campus life and cultural differences before joining co-curricular activities. “Then I got more involved in the student affairs life and this has really helped me develop as a person,” she said. “I have developed a liking for assisting students in their transition to college life. Even though I had assistance from advisors, I had to figure some things out on my own, which has helped me learn better.”

She is currently a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and has also served as a resident assistant, a lab assistant, a peer mentor, a student ambassador, and a tutor.

“I was excited to learn about science, but here I realized that I'm also very interested in social justice issues,” said Patel. As the Engaging Issues and Diversity Coordinator for the Campus Activities Board in 2015-2016, she planned and participated in events that helped bring culture, diversity, and discussion of social justice issues to undergraduate students.

Patel said her liberal arts education has made her “a well-rounded person. My passion for science has increased as has my drive to assist others comprehend what I already know. My most enjoyable experience has been tutoring chemistry to first-year students, using quirky analogies for chemical concepts. It is a wonderful feeling to see their faces light up as they recall concepts.”

After she graduates in May, she will pursue a doctoral degree in biochemistry or chemical engineering to become a research scientist, ideally for the National Institute of Health.