Published on Jan. 29, 2021
In the winter of 2019, a high school senior at the time, Matthew Bozeman (they/them/their) made their way to MU’s campus. Bozeman who grew up in O’Fallon, just outside of St. Louis, was searching for the perfect college fit.
“Going to school in [O’Fallon] it was hard to find a sense of identity there for a little while,” Bozeman said. “I think around 2014 when the things in Ferguson started happening, I started becoming more aware of what was going on societally and socially and I kind of came into my own and kind of found myself.”
Bozeman had applied and advanced on to the interview round for the very competitive Brooks Scholarship. Dressed in a nice suit, Bozeman walked confidently into Cornell Hall for a peer interview with two current Brooks Scholars, myself being one of them.
After being assigned a peer interview room, Bozeman walked in. I remember greeting them as I had all the other interviewees.
“Congratulations on making it this far,” I said in an enthusiastic tone. “I know this is supposed to be an interview but let’s have fun and get to know each other.”
Our interview flowed so casually. Bozeman and I were clicking. Everything they were saying I related to. I no longer felt like I was conducting an interview, rather I felt like I had just found a long-lost friend.
“I remember we were interviewing in Cornell and I was really nervous, and it was you and this other really nice guy and really it was just a conversation and it felt really natural,” Bozeman said. “I knew that in this program I would feel very comfortable and very safe.”
Once the interview concluded, I knew Bozeman would be in the next class of Brooks Scholars. I felt the same excitement and assurance I had in the winter of 2018 when I interviewed for the Brooks Scholars Program. Before Bozeman left, I did something I hadn’t done with any of the other interviewees. I asked them to follow me on Instagram. I did this sort of selfishly I must admit. I was eagerly waiting for Bozeman to post where they would be attending college.
Not too long after, I recall seeing Bozeman post a photo wearing a Mizzou sweatshirt. I was filled with an abundance of pride and joy, which caught me by surprise considering I had only one-lifetime interaction with Bozeman. I went on about my day and my life and didn’t think much about Bozeman again, until recently.
In the fall of 2019, I applied for the Kinder Scholars D.C. Summer Study Program. I was selected by the Kinder Institute to travel to D.C. in the summer of 2020 to pursue an internship of my choice while taking an immersive political science class. Tragically, as we all know, the world came to a crashing halt in 2020 due to covid-19. The D.C. program was canceled.
Fortunately for me, Kinder opted to allow those of us who would still be undergraduates during the 2020-2021 school year to go to D.C. during the summer of 2021, if we wanted. Naturally, I accepted eagerly. Of course, they would be opening up any remaining seats to new applicants.
One of those new applicants was Matthew Bozeman.
“I think I had seen it online somewhere, but this past semester [CASE Student Service Coordinator] Mrs. [Karen] Hayes kind of brought it back up in one of our meetings towards the tail end,” Bozeman said. “I went on their website and researched it and was like, ‘This is something that I want to do.’”
Once again, Bozeman and I found our paths crossing.
“Dr. Dow had sent out an email and me being nosy I was like, ‘Who else is in this program?’ I looked at the people [on the email] and I saw your name, and we follow each other on Instagram, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! She was my interviewer for the Brooks Scholarship, this is so crazy how things come full circle like that,’” Bozeman said.
This summer, Bozeman and I will be heading out to D.C. I plan to pursue an internship in the journalism field whereas Bozeman plans to find an internship that correlates with their major of political science and a double minor in sociology and history.
“I would love to work this summer at a nonprofit organization that kind of specializes in civil rights work and activism,” Bozeman explained. “That’s really what I want to do with my career, especially revolving around racial justice and justice and equality for LGBT folks. I would like to intern this summer at one of those organizations like HRC or NAACP to kind of getting my foot in the door and learn the day-to-day operations and learn where exactly do I want to be.”
Bozeman believes the resources and guidance they have received from the CASE office has assisted in finding opportunities such as the Kinder summer program.
“CASE has helped me in a multitude of ways, I think just mainly providing me the infrastructure that allows me to accomplish my goals,” Bozeman said. “Also just going to the meetings every Wednesday and finding those programs and getting to be in community with other people that are kind of in my similar situation has just been really great.”
As for me, CASE has been monumental in helping me control the academic portion of my life while maintaining a level of flexibility. As a student-athlete, life can often become overwhelming very quickly, but within the CASE office, Mrs. Hayes has been a cornerstone of comfort for me. Whenever I find myself struggling to get classes for my schedule, she has a multitude of alternatives ready. When I experienced the loss of a family member last year, she reached out to my professors to let them know I may be struggling in class and asked them to be willing to work with me.
Most recently, CASE has helped my professional development by accepting me as an intern for the CASE Marketing team. Through this internship I have had the opportunity to strengthen my writing, have direct mentorship from Mrs. Fallon Smith-Christopher and try new forms of journalism. Coincidentally, I was assigned to write a story about Matthew Bozeman, the student I once interviewed to be a Brooks Scholar and a friend who I will now travel out to D.C. with for summer 2021 as we both continue to chase our dreams.