Skip to main content
The Faces of Opportunity Vanderbilt
Photo of Zelly Zim

Zelly Zim

BA’14, Army ROTC Scholarship

From Vanderbilt’s Dance Marathon to the front lines of combat, Zelly Zim, BA’14, may be one of Vanderbilt’s most versatile young alumni.

Zim was first attracted to campus by its reputed Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. When she and her family arrived in Nashville for their first campus visit, she knew this was the place for her as she looked across Alumni Lawn. Encouraged by her ever-supportive family, she started the path toward becoming a Commodore.

“Then, I had to figure out how that would work financially, and being an 18-year-old high school student, that wasn’t something that had really dawned on me,” she says. “It wasn’t until the middle of my freshman year, when I actually looked at a bill, that I realized how much my scholarship meant.”

“It wasn’t until I actually looked at a bill, that I realized how much my scholarship meant.”

Zim received a four-year Army ROTC Scholarship and found Vanderbilt to be a campus that welcomes budding military leaders. She also proactively found ways to contribute to Vanderbilt and the Nashville community—tutoring at a local family center, teaching children’s choir at a church, and volunteering and fundraising for Children’s Hospital.

“All those things were a part of who I was when I came to Vanderbilt, but they were also things that Vanderbilt actively nurtured and encouraged me to do while I was there,” she says. “Dance Marathon was the perfect organization for me to bring together all my passions.”

“I loved my time at Vanderbilt. It was irreplaceable in my life and did so much to shape who I am and how I view those around me,” Zim says.

Having a long personal history with her local children’s hospital, Zim knew the potential impact of volunteering at the Children’s Hospital. She had studied ballet, as well as other genres of dance, and she had enjoyed participating in fundraising activities in the past. She became active as a freshman in Dance Marathon, the largest student-run philanthropy on Vanderbilt’s campus. Over the past 15 years, it has raised more than $2 million for Children’s Hospital.

All those experiences led her to where she is today—having completed a tour of duty as a platoon leader in Iraq and serving in the Army Corps of Engineers, while applying for medical school. She values deeply her time as a student and makes an ongoing monthly gift to support the unique Vanderbilt experience for current students.

Even with recent promotions in the Army, she is determined to fulfill her dream of becoming a physician. Zim believes everyone can impact their communities, wherever those happen to be. “I think there’s a way that I can be of even more help to these soldiers and their families, and being a good human is about maximizing your strengths for the benefit of those around you,” Zim says.

From her perspective, providing medical care for her fellow service members is a way to once again bring together her life’s passions—this time, a lifelong goal of becoming a physician, leadership and technical skills gained in the military, and a desire to make a meaningful difference—all to help others.