Two Yale students this year were awarded Truman Scholarships, a prestigious grant given to roughly 60 college juniors showing exceptional leadership promise in government and public service.
J.T. Flowers ’17 and Sean Moore ’17 were Yale’s winners this year, and Yale had the same number of recipients for the class of 2016. The Truman Scholarship, an official federal memorial to U.S. President Harry Truman, provides students with $30,000 to apply toward graduate school abroad or in the United States. After graduate school, Truman Scholars must work in a public service position at least three out of their first seven years after graduation.
“I’m still kind of in disbelief,” Flowers said. “I don’t think I’ve been able to fully process the weight that this is going to have on my life. I feel incredibly privileged.”
Each year, the foundation accepts between 55 and 65 undergraduates out of a pool of around 600 students, who must first secure one of their respective college’s four nominations after an internal application process. As part of the application process, candidates are required to submit a sample policy proposal on a topic of their choice.
Flowers, who is majoring in global affairs and ethnicity, race and migration, said he wants to pursue a master’s degree in public policy at Oxford University after graduation. He said he is drawn to Oxford’s program because of its international focus and because it is similar to the global affairs department at Yale in that both are focused more on practical, rather than academic, material. At Yale, Flowers founded A Leg Even, a nonprofit organization that seeks to combat specific challenges faced by freshmen from low-income families.
Flowers said he does not yet know what career he wants to pursue after finishing school, but that in whatever field he chooses, he wants to increase access to opportunity and socioeconomic mobility among under-resourced populations. He added that this line of work may be found through a number of career paths, including law, business, government, public health or journalism.
Moore, a political science major, said he hopes to study policy or comparative social policy in graduate school, though he does not yet know where. He currently serves on the board of the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project as the head of men’s mentoring. He was homeless from the age of 18 to 21 and graduated from community college before coming to Yale.
“I think that the Truman [Scholarship] will help me by connecting me to others who are doing similar work, and since I plan on working in the private not-for-profit sector, I hope Truman will help me cultivate relationships in government,” Moore said.
Yale Director of National Fellowships Kate Dailinger said the Truman Scholarship seeks candidates who have demonstrated commitment to public service and who have the potential to be effective agents of change in the world. Beyond a scholarship for graduate or professional training and access to an impressive alumni network, she said, the Truman Scholarship also provides recipients with leadership training and mentorship.
“One of the things that I love about working with Yale students is that so many of them are seriously committed to service and interested in public service careers,” Dailinger said. “So, as you can imagine, there is fierce competition on campus for the strictly limited nomination spots for the Truman each year.”
Flowers said he chose to apply to the Truman Scholarship because of his personal interest in the scholarship’s namesake, which began when Flowers read a biography of him while taking former Vermont governor Howard Dean’s course, “The Politics of Foreign Policy.” Flowers said he admired that Truman never strayed from his core principles even when making tough decisions, which is a quality he hopes to embody.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation awarded the first scholarships in the 1977–78 academic year.