Truman Scholars 2015: Montana St, UVA, Wisconsin Lead Publics

The recent announcement of the 2015 Truman Scholars reveals why the prestigious awards to rising college seniors are the most fairly distributed of all the major scholarships. Of the 58 winners in 2015, 26 are from public institutions; 19 are from private research universities; 11 are from private liberal arts colleges; and two are students at a service academy.

Eight schools had two winners each: Brown, Middlebury, Montana State, the Naval Academy, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Yale. Montana State has become a notable producer of scholarship winners, especially Goldwater awards for outstanding undergrads in the STEM disciplines.

According to the Truman Foundation, each new scholar “receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be academically excellent, and be committed to careers in government or the non-profit sector.”

Winners from the public universities we review are listed below:

Frank Smith
Arizona State University
Frank is a junior studying Public Service and Public Policy with a concentration in Urban and Metropolitan Studies. He was elected the youngest student body president at ASU, the largest public higher education institution in the nation which educates more than 82,000 students, with an unusual two terms. Overcoming adversity as a product of the foster care system, he has found a passion for improving outcomes of foster youth. Frank played an iatrical role in the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1208-Foster Care Tuition Waiver, and is currently working to expand it to allow more students to reap its benefits.

John Grant Addison
University of Arkansas
Grant is currently majoring in History and Political Science with minors in Theatre and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He intends to pursue graduate degree programs in Law and Public Policy. Grant is involved in campus and community service projects as a director on the Student Alumni Board at the University of Arkansas, along with being a member of the campus College Republicans, Distinguished Lecturers Committee, and Razorback Marching Band. His interest in education policy and reform have led him to working as an undergraduate researcher at UA’s Department of Education Reform, as well as being a policy research assistant for a member of the Education Committee within the Arkansas State Legislature.

Russell Bogue
University of Virginia
Russell is majoring in the Politics Honors program at the University of Virginia, which gives him the opportunity to engage with seminal works of political theory and international relations in a small classroom setting with some of the best faculty in the department. He couples his study of politics with Chinese language studies, and he has spent the last two summers studying abroad or doing research in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Outside of the classroom, Russell serves as a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of his university’s first undergraduate journal of American politics and political theory, and he also served as an Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily and as a student lecturer in constitutional law. He currently works for the Honor Committee, plays for the university squash team, conducts research in public choice, and helps to lead a Bible study through Reformed University Fellowship. He plans on a career in government and academia working on political reform in China.

Daniel Hubbard
Florida State University
Daniel is pursuing a double major in Psychology and Sociology, with an interest in advocating for veteran and active duty military personnel through research. As a former United States Army medic, Daniel has worked with these populations in several settings including Fort Drum, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and Afghanistan. Daniel is an active member of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program working with a research lab studying suicide and he also participates in the Florida State University Community Ambassador Program. He is completing an Honors thesis that will examine factors specific to military suicide and is volunteering for a nonprofit law firm that assists underserved populations including veterans with legal needs. Daniel hopes to contribute to the collective effort of ameliorating the recent and drastic increase in military suicide. After graduating from Florida State University, he will pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a program that aligns well with his interest in military mental health issues.

Phoenix Rice-Johnson
University of Wisconsin-Madison
A student activist originally from Hawaii, Phoenix is an honors student pursuing majors in Political Science and International Studies with a Minor in South Asian Studies. Phoenix serves as the Vice-Chair of the College Democrats of Wisconsin, the Public Defender of her student government, and the Democratic Leadership Institute Coordinator for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Growing up in Hawaii, Phoenix became passionate about ways to involve historically marginalized communities in the electoral process through civic education programs and more inclusive electoral policy. Phoenix intends to pursue a joint degree and to eventually work as an advocate for a more equitable and inclusive electoral system.

Cristian Nuno
University of Illinois-Chicago
Cristian is a third-year undergraduate student. He is a B.A. dual-degree candidate for both Economics and Urban & Public Affairs. Academically, Cristian is working his way towards a master degree in Public Policy, with a focus on public-private partnerships, municipal finance and urban policy. Professionally, he is striving for a career that would allow him to increase the well-being of many citizens, cities, and regions through various policy and community initiatives.

Jeffrey Ding
University of Iowa
Born in Shanghai and raised in Iowa City, Jeffrey is dedicated to building sustainable relationships among people from different places and between humans and the environment. A junior currently serving as the Vice-President of the University of Iowa Student Government, he majors in political science, economics, and Chinese. Jeffrey promotes educational exchanges between the U.S. and China through his role as a campus ambassador for the 100K Strong Foundation, and is the campus Boren Scholarship nominee for a yearlong study abroad program at Peking University. Named an Udall Scholarship honorable mention for his commitment to environmental issues, he established an annual $10,000 student-managed Green Initiatives Fund and continues to advocate for a citywide apartment recycling mandate. After past experience as an intern at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, he will participate in the United States Foreign Service Internship Program in the summer of 2015.

Ashlie Koehn
University of Kansas
Ashlie is triple majoring in Economics, International Studies, and Environmental Studies while serving as a Staff Sergeant in the Kansas Air National Guard. Currently studying Russian and economics in the Kyrgyz Republic, her goal is to gain international experience and a strong economic background to advance the global effort against climate change. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Master of Science in Environmental Economics. Alongside work and studies, Ashlie is a runner and mandolin player.

Amanda Allen
University of Louisville
Amanda is a Political science and Communication major. She serves as the Executive Director of the Engage Lead Serve Board, which oversees many student service initiatives and leadership programs at University of Louisville. As Executive Director, Amanda works with campus and community partners to not only assist the community, but to challenge students to be conscientious and active citizens through service leadership. Amanda also volunteers as a mentor at Shawnee High School. Upon completion of her Bachelor’s degree, Amanda plans to pursue a joint Master’s in Education and a Juris Doctorate to enhance equity in public education in the United States.

Michael Beyer
Louisiana State University
Michael is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science, as well as a Louisiana Service and Leadership Scholar, which aims to prepare LSU Honors College students for public service, social justice and leadership roles in Louisiana. He has worked as a Research and Communications Assistant at Louisiana Progress. He has also served as the Research and Policy Co-Coordinator for Equality Louisiana, where he researched initiatives and legislation related to LGBT issues. In 2014 and 2015, he helped co-organize the Louisiana Queer Conference, and this past summer he interned in the Public Policy Department with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in Washington, D.C. He plans to pursue a career that focuses on increasing health care access for LGBT people.

Jamie Aron
Mississippi State University
Jamie is majoring in Political Science and Mathematics and she is a Presidential Endowed Scholar and a member of the Shackouls Honors College. Jamie is the founder and director of WE Lead (Women Empowered Leadership Conference) and serves as the Undergraduate Representative on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. Jamie was one of three US women chosen to intern at the Andi Leadership Institute in D.C. last summer where she discussed conflict resolution and peace negotiations. She is also active in the Student Association, serving as Director of Community and Governmental Relations. Her post graduate goals include receiving a masters and doctorate in International Relations in order to work for international governing bodies, such as the United Nations.

Emily Waggoner
University of Missouri
Emily is a Political Science major pursuing minors in Women’s & Gender Studies and Leadership & Public Service. A political leader on campus and off, Emily served two years as President of the Mizzou College Democrats, worked in both the Missouri State House and Senate and served as the Deputy Director of Targeting for the Missouri Democratic Party during the 2014 campaign cycle. Emily’s passion for politics stems from her deep-seated desire to improve access to quality health services for all residents in her home state, particularly those struggling with mental illness. After graduating, Emily intends to pursue a graduate degree in health policy to position herself to effect change in the Missouri public health system.

Alexander Paterson
Montana State University-Bozeman
Alexander is a junior in his university’s Honors College majoring in Economics with a minor in Mathematics. Alexander is actively involved in Montana’s LGBTQ advocacy community serving as President of Montana State University’s Queer Straight Alliance and as a canvassing volunteer for Forward Montana. On campus he is an Opinion Writer for the Exponent student newspaper, Treasurer of Engineers Without Borders, Treasurer of the International Business Club, and a member of the LGBTQA Advisory Board. In his free time, you can find him dancing, eating bagels, or reading. Alexander intends on pursuing a career in public policy focusing on LGBT human rights.

Ann Himes
University of Nebraska
Ann is a proud Nebraskan, studying Russian, Global Studies, and History with minors in Spanish, English, Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. She has been inspired by the many strong women in her life to pursue a career in public service with special attention to women’s issues domestically and globally. Ann intends to pursue a law degree, ultimately using law for public advocacy to further progressive social causes, especially those pertaining to women and children. On campus, she has worked to combat prejudice and intolerance through the formation of a new student organization dedicated to diversity appreciation and cultural literacy. In the community, Ann has interned in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature and at a local non-profit dedicated to social justice. In her free time, Ann enjoys rock climbing, distance running, and practicing yoga.

Daniel Waqar
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Daniel is a junior in his university’s Honors College majoring in History and with minors in Global Entrepreneurship and Public Policy in the Brookings Institute’s Mountain West studies program. Daniel advocates for students’ rights before the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents and the Nevada Legislature as the Director of Nevada Legislative Affairs and Public Relations, and pioneered the creation of the inaugural 2015 Joint Vision of UNLV Student Government for 23,000 students. He is currently studying abroad in Haifa, Israel, at the University of Haifa, with dual emphases in Peace and Conflict Studies and Arabic Culture and Civilization. While in Haifa, he leads volunteer projects as a Presidential Merit Ambassador at Yad Ezer LaHaver, a day center for the elderly and Holocaust survivors. Daniel will be working with leading Israeli political scientists in Haifa to research Israeli land settlements in post-1967 borders within the context of renewed “final status” negotiations.

Jacob Levin
CUNY Brooklyn College
Jake is a Macaulay Honors College student studying political science and philosophy. He is passionate about political participation, volunteerism, and the creation of safe and nurturing spaces for students, artists, and youth. To empower CUNY students and provide a platform for the spreading and sharing of ideas, Jake founded TEDxCUNY, New York City’s first public university TEDx conference. He has worked for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and serves on Lincoln Center’s Student Advisory Council. A camp counselor for the last 5 years, he also cares deeply about youth leadership and development. Jake hopes to pursue a law degree to advocate for veterans and other underrepresented groups.

David Danesh
Ohio State University
David is majoring in Microbiology with a minor in Global Public Health. Passionate about solving the big issues in dental public health in Ohio and the US, he intends to attend dental school and then pursue his MPH and pediatric dentistry residency training. He hopes to combine his experience serving in national leadership at the American Student Dental Association and conducting public health research to improve oral health policy to address barriers in access to oral health care. His clinical and public health training will allow David to serve as a public health dentist in underserved areas in Ohio through the National Health Service Corps, then transition to serve as the State Dental Director at the Ohio Department of Health.

Cara Thuringer
Montana State University – Bozeman
Cara is facinated by the implications of climate change on a global scale. Ever since an elementary school class project on the endangered black-footed ferret, Cara has maintained an interest in conservation and the environment. Through her research in Bolivia, Morocco, South Africa, and Vietnam, her interests have evolved into investigating how resource scarcities contribute to violent conflict and how climate change will exacerbate these situations. Using photography as a medium for communication, she documents environmental conflicts, both domestically and internationally. In the future, Cara hopes to combine her passion for the environment with photography to promote better resource management globally and reduce violent conflict. Cara’s role models include: Senator Paul Wellstone, Senator Tom Udall, and Bryan Schutmaat. In her free time, Cara is usually backpacking, running, knitting, or building bicycles.

Kathleen Wilson
University of Georgia
Kathleen studies economics, international affairs, and Arabic. Through NGO and government internships, including work with the U.S. Department of State and the Feminist Majority Foundation, Kathleen has developed a passion for gender equity and women’s empowerment. On campus, she founded the Women’s Outreach and Resource Coalition and has advocated for the establishment of women’s center at her university. Kathleen hopes to obtain a joint Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies and Master’s in Public Policy, with a concentration in international development. These degrees will help her pursue a career at the Department of State, where she will formulate policies to extend educational and economic opportunities to women in the Middle East and North Africa.

Erin Dugan
University of Delaware
Erin is majoring in public policy with minors in economics and public health. Her primary focus is on the social determinants of health, specifically the impacts of socioeconomic status and race on health outcomes. She has served as an intern in Governor Jack Markell’s Office of Federal Affairs in Washington, D.C.; The Wellness Plan Medical Centers in Detroit, Michigan; and Alliance for a Better Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. On campus, she is the Operations Coordinator for University of Delaware Alternative Breaks, a teaching assistant, Writing Fellow, and self-proclaimed “witty” blogger. She hopes to work on health policy at the federal level after obtaining her MPH and MPP.

Lia Cattaneo
University of Virginia
A Civil & Environmental Engineering and Environmental Sciences double major, Lia has worked to build a community around sustainability at the University of Virginia (UVA). She loves creating spaces in which students can accomplish ambitious goals, meet their best friends, and grow into leaders empowered to create change. She is also involved in a number of research projects, serves on the Board of Directors of UVA’s student volunteer center, is the president of the Club Figure Skating Team, and is active in the Jewish community. Lia’s goal is to use science and policy to take action on climate change. After graduation, she hopes to work in the climate and energy policy field.

Elizabeth Doyle
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Elizabeth has had a passion for justice and equity from a young age. Dreams of making an impact on the lives of others and advocating for those without a voice came to fruition through her involvement in community organizing. The experience she gained through volunteering to further health, education, and political campaigns equipped her with the skills to be that advocate. Elizabeth lives in Verona, Wisconsin, with her partner, Thomas, and daughter, Zoe, where she serves as City Council President. She was elected to this position unanimously by her colleagues halfway through her first term as Alderperson making her the first woman in leadership in Verona’s history.

Accepted to All the Ivies and Stanford–Chooses Alabama Honors

Editor’s note: The following article is by Peter Jacobs of Business Insider. We are posting it here because it is a great illustration of the main advantage of many public honors colleges and programs–merit aid for highly talented students that they cannot receive at most private elites.

After some thought and consideration of all the schools’ offers, Nelson decided it wouldn’t be worth the financial strain to use this money on his undergraduate education. He plans on going to medical school after college, and knows he’ll be faced with more tuition costs.

“With people being in debt for years and years, it wasn’t a burden that Ronald wanted to take on and it wasn’t a burden that we wanted to deal with for a number of years after undergraduate,” Ronald Sr. said. “We can put that money away and spend it on his medical school, or any other graduate school.”

University Alabama Quad Denny Chimes Campus

Looking long term, Nelson doesn’t think his decision will impact his chances of getting in to a top medical school or other graduate program. After speaking with his teachers and guidance counselors, Nelson said, he realized that “any undergraduate school can prepare you for a graduate program. It’s just determined on how much work you’re willing to put in.”

At UA, Nelson will be part of the university’s “Fellows Experience” through its honors college. A visit to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as part of the program’s multiround interview process helped seal the deal for UA. He got to meet other students he would study with over the next four years and was impressed by them.

“It was kind of amazing being around so many like-minded students, which is why I think I’ll be able to have a similar situation [to an Ivy League school], considering the type of students they’re attracting,” Nelson said.

The financial incentive for attending Alabama was high. Due to his high standardized-test scores on the SAT and ACT, UA waived Nelson’s out-of-state fees and covered his tuition costs. Through the fellows program and his National Merit scholarship, Nelson will also have stipends for extra campus costs and potentially studying abroad.

While some people may see his decision to turn down schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford as ill considered or shortsighted, Nelson said he’s received a ton of support for choosing UA. One teacher, he told Business Insider, complimented him for “making such an informed decision” about where to work towards his undergraduate degree.

“I’ve had a lot of people questioning me — ‘Why are you doing this?’ — but after I explain my circumstances, they definitely understand where I’m coming from,” Nelson said.

Overall, though, Nelson doesn’t appear to have any regrets about his decision and seems excited to start college in the fall.

“The Ivy League experience would certainly be something amazing, to make these connections, and have these amazing professors,” he said. “But I really do think I’ll be able to make the same experience for myself at the college I chose.”

The Top 10 Percent Rule in Texas: Highly Questionable Results

Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from the most recent issue of The Alcalde, the alumni publication of the University of Texas at Austin. The automatic admission of a student in the top 10 percent of  his or her high school class, in place since 1997, has had unintended consequences for minority students and non-minority students alike.

By 2008, more than 80 percent of incoming freshman at UT-Austin were admitted under the [10 percent] rule, leaving the university to choose less than 20 percent of its own incoming class. Then-chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and UT-Austin president Bill Powers appealed to the 2009 Texas Legislature to cap automatic admissions at 50 percent of each incoming class. Without action, they predicted, UT wouldn’t be able to admit any students from outside the U.S. or Texas by 2015.

Legislators intervened specifically for UT-Austin, but compromised on a 75 percent cap. Since then, the university has admitted the top one percent, two percent, and so on until it reached the cap, which means that for the incoming class of 2019, UT-Austin’s top 10 Percent Law is really a top eight percent rule.

As ProPublica notes, the competition for non-automatic admission to UT in 2008 was tougher than getting into Harvard.

While applications from minority students more than doubled in the first 10 years of the law, its success is still debatable. A 2012 Princeton study of UT and Texas A&M concluded that the law actually benefited white students more than Hispanic students. While test scores rose at smaller state universities, applicants at the flagships came from more affluent, less diverse high schools and graduates from poorer schools, particularly Hispanic graduates, were less likely to apply.

In a state-required report compiled in the fall of 2014, UT officials noted that between 2013-14, African-American and Hispanic representation actually decreased, as did the number of admitted and enrolled first-generation students and those from lower socioeconomic groups.

One of the barriers to coming to UT, presumably, is cost. If, for example, you come from San Perlita, at Texas’ southern tip, where more than half of residents under 18 live below the poverty line, heading more than 300 miles north just to pay tuition, rent, and buy books for at least four years is a daunting prospect. In response to the declining numbers from populations meant to be served by the law, UT has launched the Texas Advance scholarship program, which the university says could essentially offset tuition when paired with state and federal aid.

While a handful of bills relating to the rule have been filed during the 2015 legislative session, only one would fundamentally change it, even then only altering it to automatically admit students from the top eight percent. That rule wouldn’t change much at UT, which is already essentially a top eight percent institution. Despite questions of its effect and effectiveness, it seems the law will stick around, at least for a while.


Here Are 23 Reasons for College Choice–and a Note on the Honors Option

Editor’s note: The following list comes from a post by college consultant Nancy Griesemer, who writes regular for the Washington Examiner. Read the full post, and consult the always fascinating UCLA Freshman Report for more information.

Griesemer notes in her post that while 73% of applicants are accepted by their first choice college, only 55% end up enrolling at that institution. Clearly, cost is a big factor behind these stats, and points to an issue of concern to us: finding a place for students smart enough to get into elite private colleges but cannot attend the private school of their choice for financial reasons.

In addition, with the current emphasis on selectivity as a major metric in the U.S. News rankings, highly talented students are being ever more widely recruited by elite universities and, at the same time, finding their odds of acceptance significantly reduced. For these students, the relatively high first choice acceptance cited above does not obtain.

So…insufficient merit aid to offset costly private tuition and expenses, plus capricious selectivity designed to make schools look better by  rejecting smart applicants, have helped boost public honors programs where students can find quality at a lower cost, along with a better overall mix of students.

The arrows below indicate whether the response percentage has increased or decreased since the previous year’s survey.

1. College has a very good academic reputation (65.4 percent)↑
2. This college’s graduates get good jobs (53.4 percent)↑
3. I was offered financial assistance (46.9 percent)↓
4. The cost of attending this college (44.9 percent)↓
5. College has a good reputation for social activities (42.8 percent)↓
6. A visit to the campus (42.4 percent)↓
7. Wanted to go to a college about this size (36.6 percent)↓
8. Grads get into good grad/professional schools (32.9 percent)↓
9. Percent of students that graduate from this college (31.1 percent)↑
10. Wanted to live near home (20.7 percent)↑
11. Information from a website (18.8 percent)↑
12. Rankings in national magazines (18 percent)↑
13. Parents wanted me to go to this school (17.2 percent)↓
14. Admitted early decision and/or early action (15.7 percent)↑
15. Could not afford first choice (14.1 percent)↓
16. Not offered aid by first choice (10.6 percent)↓
17. High school counselor advised me (10.4 percent)↑
18. Athletic department recruited me (9.1 percent)↓
19. My relatives wanted me to come here (8 percent)↑
20. Attracted by religious affiliation/orientation of college (7.3 percent)↓
21. My teacher advised me (7.2 percent)↑
22. Private college counselor advised me (4.6 percent)↑
23. Ability to take online courses (4.1 percent)↑



Times Higher Ed World Rankings 2014-2015: Top Engineering and Tech Universities

The most recent Times Higher Ed World University Rankings list the best universities for science and technology, and 13 U.S. universities are among the top 20. An additional eight U.S. schools made the top 50. Public universities are very well represented in the rankings.

The Times rankings are based on the following criteria:

  • Teaching: the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score)
  • Research: volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent)
  • Citations: research influence (worth 30 per cent)
  • Industry income: innovation (worth 2.5 per cent)
  • International outlook: staff, students and research (worth 7.5 per cent).

Here are the top 20 universities for engineering and technology:

1. MIT

2. Stanford

3. Caltech

4. Princeton

5. Cambridge

6. Imperial College London

7. Oxford

8. Swiss Federal Institute Zurich


10. UC Berkeley

11. Georgia Tech

12. Ecole Polytechnique Lausanne

13. National University of Singapore

14. UT Austin

15. Michigan

16. Carnegie Mellon

17. Cornell

18. Illinois

19. Northwestern

19. Delft University of Technology

The following U.S. universities are among the top 50 in the world in engineering and technology:

22. UC Santa Barbara

27. UW Madison

32. Columbia

33. Washington

40. Rice

45. Purdue

49. Minnesota

50. UC San Diego