For the sixth year in a row, a University of Utah student has been named a Truman Scholar, the prestigious award for undergraduates headed to careers in public service.
Ashley Edgette, an honors student interested in food security, is among 54 winners named Monday by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. The U. is the only university in the country to have fielded a Truman winner in each of the past six years. Much of that success can be attributed to the school's Hinckley Institute of Politics, which maintains a thorough vetting process for U. applicants.
Hinckley director Kirk Jowers heaped praise on Edgette, who is double majoring in political science and environmental studies and will graduate next year.
"She has built a strong legacy of public service, is committed to serving others, and focused on solving problems," said Jowers, himself a 1990 Truman Scholar. "Now with the distinction and opportunities attributed to Truman Scholars, she will be that much more effective in advocating for and serving vulnerable American families."
This year, all three of Utah's finalists came through Hinckley. The others were Melissa Moeinvaziri and Whitney Benns. They were in an original pool of 587 applicants from 272 colleges and universities.
Edgette, a 2008 graduate of Alta High School, has started community gardens at Jackson and Mountain View elementary schools. She became interested in the U.'s Honors College through its late lecturer, Matt Bradley, who had a gift for engaging students in community action. Edgette credited Bradley, who died last month in an apparent accident at home, for inspiration.
"I am pleased to see the Truman Foundation validating social justice work, activism, and community organizing by recognizing the work I've done with the Mestizo Arts and Activism Collective, the Bennion Center Social Justice Gardens, the Honors College Social Justice Scholars, and the Hinckley Institute of Politics," said a U. news release quoting Edgette.
Her Truman proposal seeks to build community food security by increased funding for USDA Community Food Projects and integrating them into Title I elementary schools.
"It is about creating infrastructure for food systems in the U.S. It looks at not only how food is distributed, but also how do we produce food and think about farms," she said an interview.
The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 to honor the 33rd president. The foundation awards scholarships that come with $30,000 and priority admission to the nation's most prestigious graduate programs and fellowship opportunities with the federal government. Winners are selected by panels made up of a university president, a federal judge, a distinguished public servant, and a past Truman scholar.
Aiming to pick a scholar from all 50 states, the panel selects winners based on academic achievement, public service, policy proposals and leadership potential. They are looking for candidates who hope to "make a difference" through careers in government or the nonprofit sector.
The U.'s other recent Truman scholars are senior Brandon Peart; Cody Rogers, who graduated last year; former U. student president Patrick Reimherr; 2009 graduate Ingrid Price, who went to Cambridge University; and 2008 graduate Bryson Morgan, who went on to law school at Harvard University.