April 5, 2012

Two Cornellians Named Truman Scholars

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The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation named Alex Bores ’13 and Joanna Smith ’13 two of this year’s Truman Scholars on Friday. This was the first time that more than one student from Cornell has been awarded the scholarship in the same year.

Truman Scholarships are given annually to college juniors who demonstrate “exceptional leadership potential,” and who plan on pursuing careers in the fields of government, nonprofit or education, according to the foundation’s mission statement. Each scholar receives $30,000 towards a graduate education.

This year, 54 students received scholarships, according to the foundation’s website. A total of 587 students from around the nation submitted applications, Smith said.

The University must endorse students before they can submit applications, according to Beth Fiori, Cornell’s fellowship coordinator. 14 students competed for five endorsement spots, and four of the five students endorsed by Cornell were selected as finalists.

Bores, who is majoring in industrial and labor relations, is the University’s student trustee. He has previously served as president of Cornell Students Against Sweatshops, vice president of the Cornell Forensics Society and president of pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta.

Smith, a sociology and government double major in the College of Arts and Sciences, is president of Students for Service Learning. She is also a Public Service Center scholar and a fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. She is the first member of her family to attend college.

Bores said he decided to apply after attending an information session that Fiori hosted.

“I knew I was interested in public service,” he said. “It seemed like it would be incredibly helpful towards that end.”

Both Bores and Smith characterized the application as a long process. Candidates must submit a series of 12 short-answer questions along with three recommendation letters from faculty members.

“I wasn’t going to apply initially because the Truman application is so long,” Smith said. “I’ve been telling people since everything is over now that it feels like I just got rid of a three-credit class of sorts because it was just that involved.”

Each student said their ideas about what they wanted to pursue after college influenced their decision to apply. Smith said she plans on earning a graduate degree in education leadership, while Bores said he hopes to work for the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization, after earning a law degree.

Prof. Rebecca Givan, industrial and labor relations, said that students that receive Truman Scholarships have to be extremely motivated as well as academically gifted.

“The Scholarship is very competitive and awarded to students who have strong leadership experience and community service on top of a high level of academic achievement,” Givan said. “It is very clear that [Bores] meets and exceeds all these criteria.”

Givan, who said knows Bores as a former student in one of her classes and through his involvement in Cornell Organization for Labor Action, wrote him a letter of recommendation for the scholarship.

Prof. Darlene Evans, Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, said she got to know Smith as a student in one of her seminars and as a Public Service Center scholar, a program for which Evans is a faculty coordinator. Evans said Smith has also sought her advice when applying to various internships and scholarships.

“What I find outstanding about Joanna is that she decided at a very young age to develop her skills and I just find her journey such a remarkable one,” Evans said. “To have [a] vision in middle school, to have an idea that you might be able to emerge from extremely challenging circumstances, to then go back and address social injustice — that never ceases to amaze me.”

Original Author: Caroline Simon