3 ASU students reach finals for Truman Scholarship

After seven months of preparing, waiting and wondering, three ASU students have earned a place among the 2011 Harry S. Truman Scholarship finalists.

The Truman Scholarship, offered by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, is for students who are active in public and community service and want to pursue graduate-level education in public service fields, according to the scholarship’s website.

The three finalists at ASU are Danielle Bäck, an economics junior and a Flinn scholar; Natalie Fleming, a sustainability junior; and Alexa Kissinger, a philosophy, political science, and women and gender studies junior. The students began the grueling application process in September and only have the final oral interview to endure.

“It’s been a pretty lengthy and demanding process,” Bäck said. “But I have had some great help throughout the application process from the National Scholarship Office at Barrett, [the Honors College] as well as the Flinn Foundation and my family.”

The scholarship provides up to $30,000 to each student who meets the requirements, and scholarship winners will also receive assistance with career counseling, internship placement and graduate school admissions.

“Finding out I was a finalist made me really happy because receiving the scholarship would open so many doors for me in the future to follow my dreams of becoming both a doctor and a public health expert,” Bäck said.

Competition for the Truman Scholarship is incredibly tough, since more than 600 applications are submitted and only 50 to 65 scholarships will be awarded. This year there are 197 finalists from 134 colleges and universities.

Natalie Fleming said the time-consuming application process is worth all the effort since the funding would help her pursue her passion of researching and implementing campus sustainability.

“When I was told I was a finalist I was almost shocked,” Fleming said. “I don’t remember the last time I was that excited.”

The third finalist, Alexa Kissinger, is studying abroad this semester in Barcelona, Spain, and said the application process helped her grow as a person.

“Although time consuming, the application really did help me focus on what types of change I want to work toward in the global sphere, and what kind of a career I ultimately want to have,” Kissinger said. “It gave me a greater sense of who I was, and what I want to do in the future.”

Kissinger said the scholarship is much more than just money for graduate school.

“The Truman scholarship is more than just a monetary reward,” Kissinger said. “It is a network of committed individuals that help each other reach their educational and professional goals.”

In 2010 ASU had another Truman Scholarship finalist in the running — Alyssa Bisanz, a political science senior with a sustainability minor — who went on to win the scholarship.

Bisanz said the entire process was an exhilarating and humbling experience, and the money will go toward funding her graduate school costs, where she hopes to focus on education and financial literacy.

“It is an honor to represent ASU on a national level,” Bisanz said. “I think it was a great opportunity to present the fact that public universities, like ASU, have the ability to compete with private and more well-known universities. It also became an opportunity to showcase the talent here at ASU.”

The scholarship is open each year to anyone who wants to apply. Once a student submits an application, oral interviews are conducted by the university the student applied from, and the university can then choose to nominate up to four students to run in the national scholarship competition.

All three finalists are excited but nervous for the upcoming oral interviews and hope that they will get the chance to represent ASU as a 2011 Arizona Truman Scholar. The final scholarship posting will come March 31.

“It would be a phenomenal opportunity to show people that ASU is just as rigorous and just as serious about academics and excellence as other universities like Harvard and Yale,” Bäck said.

Reach the reporter at beth.easterbrook@asu.edu

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