Dedicated to education and public service, President Harry S. Truman often spoke about the importance of promoting young leaders, and envisioned a national program for students that would encourage educated citizenship and political responsibility. To honor President Truman, President Gerald Ford signed an Act of Congress authorizing the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation to “award scholarships to persons who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service” and to conduct a nationwide competition to select Truman scholars.
On March 27, David Luna ’14 will travel to New York City to compete for the national honor of the Truman Scholar and up to $30,000 in funding to pursue a graduate degree in a public service field. He is one of 10 finalists from New York State.
“To have been selected as a finalist for the Truman scholarship is a tremendously humbling experience, one that I believe serves as a testament to what an HWS education, including its faculty and staff provides,” says Luna. “My professors and Scott MacPhail, who oversees fellowship advising at the Colleges, have been integral to the whole process, for which I am grateful.”
Luna, a political science major and international relations minor, has been a student leader on campus, spearheading the efforts of HWS Votes which in 2012 helped more than 800 students register to vote or obtain absentee ballots through a partnership with TurboVote. Luna was also instrumental in bringing a debate between the two candidates running for the 23rd District of New York to Hobart and William Smith.
Last spring, Luna attended the Clinton Global Initiative University. Designed by President Bill Clinton, the conference for college students focuses on addressing current global issues and developing leadership skills. Luna is also a columnist and opinion editor for the Herald and a Campus Election Engagement Project volunteer.
“I have known David since he was a first-year, and his great potential was apparent even then,” says Scott MacPhail, assistant director of health professions counseling and fellowship advising. “In my opinion, the Truman Scholarship is the pre-eminent award in the U.S. that recognizes students who are committed to serving others, and who have demonstrated the ability to lead and bring about positive change in their communities. David’s selection as a finalist is no surprise to me, as he embodies the Truman values of preparation, selflessness, and getting things done.”
The Truman Foundation selects between 60 and 65 college juniors in a nationwide search to find and recognize students with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to a career in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in public service.
The scholarship provides students with financial support for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowships with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service. Many Truman Scholars go on to earn Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships.
The Truman selection process begins with a vigorous on-campus nomination process – and colleges can nominate up to four students for this award. This year there were approximately 629 applications from 293 colleges and universities, which were narrowed down to a handful of finalists.
In New York City, Luna will also network with other like-minded college leaders, as well as the notable interview panelists themselves, which include U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa, New York State Commissioner of Education John King and Deputy Executive Secretary of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, Tara Yglesias, among others.
Luna plans to attend Georgetown University Law Center and focus on public interest law with the scholarship. From there he hopes to work with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to examine avenues and develop methods that make voting easier, more accessible, and in turn increase voter turnout.