Overcoming Obstacles

Reesheda Gilbert - fpr.jpg

Reesheda Gilbert never imagined she could get this far by looking for someplace so close.  …

Georgia (Oct 15, 2014)

Reesheda Gilbert never imagined she could get this far by looking for someplace so close.


Gilbert’s “this far” is the cushion between her life now and the blows she endured in an abusive home environment. Her “this far” is the second act academically she currently enjoys, one in which the senior Kennesaw State University biochemistry major has excelled beyond her imagination. Her “this far” is the recognition she received recently for her tenacity and sacrifices in the face of frightful circumstances when the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee gave Gilbert its 2014 Overcoming Challenges Award at the ACS’ national convention in San Francisco recently.


She applied for the award — given annually by the organization to a female undergraduate for her efforts in overcoming hardship to achieve success in chemistry — last winter. Because her application was nestled among 150 others, Gilbert hoped, realistically, just to be among the finalists.


“I thought there would be more winners,” Gilbert, an Atlanta native, said. “Then I found out I was the only one that won. And then they didn’t tell me I had to speak in front of 350 people. I just broke down crying for maybe two minutes. The [WCC] director held my hand and I gave about a seven-minute speech. 


“I had to think about what I wanted to say, because I wanted to tell them about how I got this far and what I went through. How I was able to overcome it. How I was able to maintain my grades even though I don’t have financial aid and have to pay for school. How I had to keep my grades, and was able to participate in the LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) program. How I’ve done research and presented at conferences. About all the things made possible because I went to Kennesaw.”


KSU was the opportunity Gilbert needed as her lifetime had held few of them. Early in life, she faced challenges, largely brought on by a crack-addicted father given to episodes of violence.


His behavior eventually derailed Gilbert’s initial college education attempt.


More than a decade would pass before she decided to go to college again. With her mother now relocated to Marietta, she wanted to go to school nearby. Kennesaw fit the bill, and she earned admission at the age of 35. It would be more difficult this time around as she had less financial aid than previously and also still working. No problem.


Her drive academically is just as strong the second time around. She also is a member of the inaugural class of KSU’s Peach State LSAMP scholars, a collaborative effort to significantly increase the number of underrepresented minority students in colleges and universities statewide who complete undergraduate degrees in the STEM fields.


“She is a dedicated and committed young researcher,” said Dr. Premila Achar, associate professor of biotechnology at KSU. “And never says ‘No’ to any task I assigned to her as her research supervisor. She has presented her research work at regional and national conferences and in spite of working outside KSU to meet the ends.”


Gilbert has been selected to present at ABRCMS (Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students) in Houston in November. This on the heels of her work this past summer in the coveted REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program at Syracuse University. Because of her work at REU, she will her present that research at the 2015 ACS conference in Denver.


“Had I not come to Kennesaw, none of this would have happened,” said Gilbert, a Fall 2015 graduate, who hopes to become a physician. “I am where I am supposed to be. God laid it out. Had it had not been for Kennesaw, I would not have gone to the conference, would not have gotten the award, would not have had the opportunities I have now.”



- Tim Turner


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu