Elizabeth Simpson (left), a theology and peace studies major, and Puja Parikh (right), a political science and psychology major, have been named 2010 Truman Scholars. The Notre Dame juniors were among 60 students chosen from 576 candidates nationwide who applied to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation this year.
As Truman scholars, Parikh and Simpson will receive up to $30,000 for graduate study. The scholarship also entitles them to priority admission and supplemental financial aid at select institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Truman scholars must also make a commitment to doing public service in government or nonprofit sector.
The Truman scholarship foundation was established in 1975 as a “living memorial” to President Harry S. Truman. Its rigorous selection process seeks students who have a strong record of public service and requires them to write a policy proposal that addresses an important societal issue as a part of the application process.
Simpson is active in Campus Ministry, volunteers at Our Lady of the Road Catholic Worker in South Bend, and tutors for La Casa de Amistad and the Notre Dame GED program. She says preparing her scholarship application influenced her decision to devote her career to helping rural communities.
“I started to think about development solutions for impoverished communities when I took part in a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ social ministry conference,” Simpson says. “But writing my policy statement helped me realize that, while I am concerned about all people living in poverty, my passion takes me home to rural poverty.”
Parikh is on the executive boards of the Notre Dame Model United Nations and the Notre Dame College Democrats. She serves as an intake specialist for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and co-captains her mock trial team, which recently placed in the Top 25 in the American Mock Trial Association’s 2010 national championship.
“My father is a physician, and he’s always talked to me about his work,” Parikh says. “I learned from him that doctors often want to change health policies they know don’t work for them or for their patients—but they don’t know how.”
Parikh plans to help doctors and their patients as a lawyer focusing on regulatory law for the health care industry. “The Truman process made me feel that my ideas were heard and recognized,” she says. “I am looking forward putting my ideas to work in government. I know that good legislation can make a real difference in people’s lives.”
Parikh and Simpson both credit the assistance they received from the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) as an invaluable resource in their successful scholarship applications.
“I would encourage any student who is remotely curious about national scholarships and fellowships to visit our website for more information about specific opportunities, and to come in and talk to us,” says Roberta Jordan, CUSE’s assistant director of national fellowships. “Not everyone will receive them, but there is intrinsic value in the discernment that comes with the application process.”