Chutavion Walker (’23), came a long way to get to the College of Arts and Sciences at IU. From Jonesboro, Arkansas, Chutavion knew he wanted to study out of state and the draw of the College’s Human Biology Program was what sold this future doctor on IU. As he developed as a student, becoming a College Ambassador, ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and co-president of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS), gave him opportunities to share why he chose IU and the College with other students.
Student Spotlight: Chutavion Walker
“One of the reasons I chose IU was because they offer a human biology major,” said Chutavion. “It’s not a major offered at many universities in the U.S. It’s been great to get experience in human biology, and it’s intriguing to me because it also incorporates the humanities.” The Human Biology Program aims to give students a holistic understanding of humans and humanity. Through their bachelor of science program, Chutavion and other students are taught a scientific understanding of human biology and the ways it’s shaped by, understood, and interpreted within a social and cultural context.
“We get a dual perspective throughout the semester,” he explained, “which is really nice.”
Chutavion’s work as an ambassador for the College and admissions office gave him time to think about what made IU the best choice for him, and to connect with students who were in the same position he was. He tries to be especially welcoming to students and families who are from out of state like he was. “It’s really nice to connect with students who are out of state, to show them that they can do it too – go out of state if they choose to.” He conveyed this enthusiasm to new incoming students as the student speaker at the College’s 2021 Direct Admit Induction Ceremony.
Being a College Ambassador, he said, “We do a lot of panels and student engagements where we interact with prospective students and tell them why IU is the best. It’s also really nice to be able to meet with to high school students because it allows me to take a step back. It’s always go, go, go, go as a college student so being an Ambassador gives me a chance to sit back and reflect.”
Researcher + Analyst
To gain research and lab experience, Chutavion has been assisting Dr. Francesca Williamson, assistant professor of pediatrics in the IU School of Medicine, in her research endeavors. Together, they have been working on a discursive psychological study that analyzes the recorded meetings of medical students at two medical schools as they participate in a Journal Club.
“What we’re doing is analyzing medical educators and students during these Journal Club meetings,” he said. “They’re assigned a specific article to read and then they come together to talk about these articles and how they impact the medical field, medical students, or anywhere in a healthcare setting. What we’ve been doing is analyzing these conversations and my research revolves around delicacy talk, or how they talk about disabilities and accommodations [for those with disabilities].
He explained: “There’s a big gap in the medical school environment with properly educating students on how to talk about [disabilities] and be comfortable talking about it.”
Upon gathering this data, Dr. Williamson and Chutavion have been creating a study to facilitate better discussions among these educators and students as they discuss disabilities. Much of the time, he said, disagreements come up in these talks because there are differing thoughts about what is considered a disability and what is not. The goal of their study is to create better ways for educators to learn through disagreements and to become more comfortable with delicacy talk.
“For the past year, Chutavion has worked on various aspects of the project, including data analysis, co-authoring conference proposals, and drafting research articles,” said Dr. Williamson. “He has excellent analytical skills, so we've sometimes followed his lead in deciding what to explore further in the dataset. Chutavion is curious, asks critical questions, and ensures we foreground why research matters. Chutavion constantly reminds our team that our ability to implement equitable educational practices is critical to who can thrive and learn in medicine. Chutavion's future is bright, and he will make a phenomenal physician and leader in medicine.”
In November, Chutavion gave a solo presentation of his research poster at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students and lay some groundwork for his future.
“I got to meet some really amazing people there,” he said, “and I also had the opportunity to network with other students, businesses, companies, and medical schools. I found it interesting to be in an immersive environment that was entirely made to support and showcase minoritized scientists.”
Chutavion has distinguished himself as a student, researcher, co-president, and two-times-over ambassador, achieving things undergraduates usually only dream of. As he prepares for medical school, those who know him can only expect that he’ll continue pursuing excellence as a researcher and doctor.