Simon Boehme ’14 and Samuel Ritholtz ’14 were among the 62 recipients of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship — a merit-based fund for student leaders interested in government or public sector service — this year.
Boehme and Ritholtz’s selection marks the second year in a row that two Cornellians were selected for the Truman Scholarship in the same year. Each Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study, according to the Truman Scholarship’s website.
Boehme, who is studying industrial and labor relations with minors in law and society and education, plans to study education policy and ultimately earn a master’s degree and a J.D.
Ritholtz, who is studying international agriculture and rural development with a focus in economic development and African studies, hopes to use the scholarship to pursue a Masters Degree in refugee and forced migration studies.
Boehme emphasized how the Truman scholarship is intended for an individual with a record of public service who “sees where they’ll be in the future.”
“The purpose of the scholarship is bigger than any single individual. It’s about creating change, and everyone has to work together. There is always something to be done,” he added.
Though the scholarship is specific to those who demonstrate an interest in public service, Ritholtz said that the scholarship values the diversity of students.
“I think it’s for everyone who has a serious interest in service and a serious devotion to serving others. My entire application is about the U.N. and the International System, while the other winner’s is about local politics,” Ritholtz said.
To be considered for the scholarship, candidates must go through a lengthy on-campus selection process, involving nomination by a Truman faculty representative from the candidates’ institution. This year, Cornell chose four nominees, the maximum an institution is allowed to nominate.
As part of the application, students were required to answer 15 questions that allowed them to share their personal interests, as well as their public service experience.
Ritholtz said the fact that the Truman Scholarship looked beyond students’ grades was an appealing aspect of the program.
“The application looks for a more holistic picture. It’s based on a lot more than someone’s grades and major, which I liked,” Ritholtz said. “While the majority of my application was about refugees, I chose to speak about literature in this last question, and even in my interview, we spoke about literature.”
Boehme said the process of applying to the scholarship was “incredible,” allowing him to reflect on his efforts to help others.
“I’ve always held a deep interest in public service, and pursuing this scholarship seemed natural,” Boehme said.
Boehme also attributes his knowledge of the scholarship to Beth Fiori, fellowship coordinator in the Cornell Career Services Office.
“Beth [Fiori] was very supportive and bends over backwards to assist students,” he added.
Ritholtz echoed Boehme’s sentiments regarding the benefits of the application process.
“The other really cool thing about the scholarship is the entire application forces you to reevaluate your life,” Ritholtz said. “No one can plan his or her life out exactly, but it makes you think about where you see yourself.”
In addition to providing funds for graduate study, the Truman scholarship also offers opportunities for networking among various students passionate about public service.
“Truman is seeking people who will be change-makers, which provides a unique opportunity to meet so many inspiring and passionate individuals across the country to make effective and productive change together,” Boehme said.
Original Author: Lauren Bergelson