Outstanding Grad: Zoe Meireles

Zoe Mireles wrapped in a blanked with traditional Indigenous Native American patternZoe Meireles

Degrees: Women and Gender Studies and Ethnic Studies   

Minor: Indigenous Studies

Zoe Meireles (they/them) has been recommended as an Outstanding Graduate for the College of Liberal Arts by Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies Jenne Schmidt. Most notably, Zoe has worked to bridge the classroom and the “real world”. Recently, Zoe presented a creative project sharing about how histories of colonialism have impacted their own family.

Learn more about Zoe below:

1. Why did you choose to study at CSU?

“I chose to study at CSU because they offered Women and Gender Studies. I knew this is what I wanted to study and was excited to be far enough away from home to be independent, but close enough that I could go home when I wanted to. In my junior year of high school, I visited campus and thought it was beautiful and felt like I could find community here.”

2. How has your background shaped your experience here at CSU, and what advice would you give to students of similar identities?

“As an Indigenous (Choctaw) person who grew up in a very white, conservative neighborhood, I did not feel comfortable calling myself Indigenous before I came to school. I felt like an outsider checking that box. Coming to CSU, taking Indigenous Studies classes, and finding community within the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) office, I was able to step into that identity. I realized that growing up, I was surrounded by Indigenous ways of being through my mom and grandma and had never realized it. Coming to CSU showed me that I don’t need to “look Indigenous” or grow up near Choctaw headquarters to embrace this piece of myself. My biggest piece of advice would be to find your community and people who care about you, it can lead you to success. It is also very important to have community to lean on when things get tough.”

3. What accomplishments from your educational career at CSU are you most proud of? How were you able to accomplish those things?

“The thing I am most proud of in my educational career has been the numerous projects and research I have done on sexual violence in Indigenous communities and work involving Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR). Through classes and my work at the Women and Gender Advocacy Center (WGAC), I realized how much this is ignored in the academic space and needs to be talked about. It was through the mentorship of various professors and the culture of care I created around myself that I was able to accomplish these goals. By next year, an information card about sexual violence in Indigenous communities will be released through the WGAC. I am proud that my work will have a lasting impact on CSU’s community.”

4. What has been the most challenging aspect of your educational career so far? How have you overcome those difficulties?

“The most challenging aspect of my educational career has been my work/life balance. This semester I am taking 17 credits and working 3 jobs, so I have a full plate. I am such an advocate for setting boundaries, but when it comes to maintaining them, I am terrible! This is currently a work in progress, but hopefully it will get easier after graduation.”

5. What are your post-graduation plans and goals?

“Post-grad I am moving to Atlanta with my partner and starting my remote Masters of Science in Native American Leadership through Southeastern Oklahoma State University in the fall. I am currently a finalist for a position at Georgia State University and should hear back before graduation!”