University endorses four Truman Scholarship finalists

Thursday, December 21, 2017 - 9:18am

On Monday, the University’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships endorsed its four nominees for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. Nominees Zoha Qureshi, David Kamper, Lauren Schandevel and Alex Kubie are now in the running to win a $30,000 scholarship for their graduate studies.

The Truman scholarship awards those who have proven their dedication to working for the public good and making social change in a select area. According to the website, the scholarship hopes to encourage future public servants. Each year the scholarship seeks about 60 candidates — at least one student from each state — but Michigan typically has two scholarship winners per year, according to Henry Dyson, director of the ONSF.

Dyson oversees the Truman scholarship, selecting and working with nominees throughout the process. Students apply for the nomination in November of their junior year. Six to eight applicants are interviewed for the nomination on the University level and four are chosen as nominees. From there Dyson refines each nominee’s application and sends it to the national level, where a select few are chosen to receive the scholarship money and the prestigious honor.

Scholarship winners join a community of excellence in public service with winners including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Susan Rice, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

“The Truman is the premier scholarship for those who want to go into public service careers,” Dyson said.

While a public service scholarship, the Truman seeks students from all areas of study. The application process consists of multiple mini-essays, three recommendation letters and a detailed policy proposal; though only about 12 to 15 students make it to this last step. Dyson discussed how the timing of the scholarship application is crucial — it forces applicants to think deeply about their plans for the future.

CSG vice president Nadine Jawad, now an LSA senior, was one of the Univeristy's nominees last year. She went on to win the scholarship, as well as a prestigious Rhodes scholarship this fall. Jawad's goals include working at the intersection of medicine and public service to investigate violence against women of color. 

For Public Policy junior Zoha Qureshi, the Truman application process has been an impactful experience. During her years at the University, Qureshi has been involved in LSA Student Government and Central Student Government, focusing on diversity and inclusion initiatives. She also started a club on campus to aid the Syrian humanitarian crisis and has refined her leadership skills through participating in the Barger Leadership Institute.

“Working on the Truman application has been a very reflective process for me,” Qureshi said. “The application also made me think long and hard about my future plans post-grad.”

Qureshi hopes to attend medical school and become a physician. She wants to assist in health policy and work to mitigate the physiological and social disparities of health care in disadvantaged communities.

After LSA junior Alex Kubie saw the attack on the LGBTQ community during the massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, he was frustrated and unsettled by the fact LGBTQ members of the community could not give blood to those who needed it after the attack. He helped lead a “gay blood drive” on campus and explored how Washington D.C. approached this issue. He also interned for Congressman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., last summer and Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., this fall.

“I hope to dedicate my career to fighting for full LGBTQ equality under the law,” Kubie said. “I hope to receive a law degree so I can aid the efforts of fighting for minorities, specifically those in the LGBTQ community, in our court systems by providing counsel to those who face discrimination and unequal treatment.”

Public Policy junior Lauren Schandevel, who is also a first-generation college student, thought the Truman scholarship was a long shot for her, and is humbled to be among the talented people considered. Schandevel works at the Washtenaw Housing Alliance and has served on campaigns for legislators. She is currently working with faculty and other students to draft a proposal for a new minor in “Class and Inequality Studies.” While unsure of her future aspirations, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and possibly pursue a career that intersects policy and community engagement.

“This nomination means the University saw something in me, and they think the Truman review board will see something too,” Schandevel said. “It feels pretty good.”

David Kamper, a junior in LSA and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, combined his passion for science and policy into an organization called Engaging Scientists in Policy and Advocacy. He also began an organization to aid refugees through the process of entering and adjusting to college. Kamper plays water polo and trombone for the University, and currently works in a neurolinguistics laboratory studying neural processing of semantics.

Kamper hopes to combine all of his interests into a career in the new field of “neurolaw” by earning a law degree and a doctorate, focusing on how culpable a person is in understanding their actions. Kamper hopes to use this lens to analyze and reform the policies of the criminal justice system.

“My intention is to look directly at sentencing guidelines and see where it takes me,” Kamper said. “You have to be a trailblazer and forge your own path and the applicability of the law is soon to be addressed.”

Dyson remains fully invested in the nominees, no matter the outcome. Regardless of the title, those nominated for the scholarship go on to do amazing things, according to Dyson.

“These are just a phenomenal group of students,” Dyson said. “They make me want to work hard because I feel like I am participating vicariously in making the world a better place. It's not just the winners I feel that way about.”