Political science major and hunger relief advocate named Indiana’s Truman Scholar

Topics: College of Sciences and Humanities, Honors College, Scholarships

April 1, 2011

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Megan Whitacre

Ball State University student Megan Whitacre is a 2011 recipient of the Harry S Truman Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the nation, given to college juniors committed to leadership and careers in public service.

Whitacre, an Honors College student and political science major from Elkhart, Ind., was selected as one of this year's 60 Truman Scholars across the United States; she is the only recipient of the award from Indiana. More than 600 students were nominated for the highly competitive federal scholarship, which provides recipients with up to $30,000 for graduate school.

"All of us at Ball State are tremendously proud of Megan for earning a Truman Scholarship, which represents the pinnacle of undergraduate education, not only due to its prestige, but also because of its intensely competitive selection process," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora, who placed the call to Whitacre to notify her she'd received the award.

Gora said that, while the achievement belongs to Whitacre, her selection as a Truman Scholar also represents a historic accomplishment for the university.

"Megan's well-deserved Truman Scholarship provides evidence of our increasing success in bringing more high-achieving students to Ball State and challenging them both inside and outside the classroom to fully develop their innovative and collaborative leadership abilities," Gora said.

Last fall, for the first time in university history, two Ball State students advanced to the final round of the Rhodes Scholarship selection process. The Rhodes and Truman scholarships, along with the Marshall Scholarship, are the top three scholarships awarded to college students nationally and internationally. Additionally, two Ball State students, Will Jay and Jennifer Strong, have just been named recipients of Barry M. Goldwater scholarships, the first year Ball State has had two of its students — out of 275 recipients nationwide — receiving the award.

Whitacre is Ball State's second Truman Scholar. The first, Eric Farnsworth, received the award in 1987 and went on to serve in the Clinton administration. He is now vice president of the Council of the Americas.

Whitacre credits the assistance of Barb Stedman, Honors Fellow and Ball State's director of national and international scholarships, in her selection as a Truman Scholar. "It was Dr. Stedman who encouraged me all along to go above and beyond with my education," Whitacre said. "Without her mentorship, I wouldn't have even thought to apply for this award, so I feel like so much of this accomplishment is thanks to her."

Added James Ruebel, dean of Ball State's Honors College, "Megan has been a superb Honors College student since arriving at Ball State; I'm often amazed, but never surprised, at her accomplishments." 

As part of what Whitacre described as a "grueling" application process, she was interviewed by a regional review committee, wrote seven short essays, and completed a 500-word policy proposal. Her chosen topic was untying food aid from in-country restrictions that require it to be grown in the United States before being donated internationally, which Whitacre says costs American taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Whitacre's accomplishments at Ball State include her role as founding president of the university's chapter of Oxfam America, which she started after being selected in 2010 as one of the international relief and development organization's 50 U.S. collegiate CHANGE leaders. She also is a coordinator for the Student Voluntary Services program and has participated in AmeriCorps.

Her future plans include attending graduate school and receiving her master's degree in public administration. After completing her degree at Ball State next year, Whitacre plans to volunteer in sub-Saharan Africa before beginning her graduate work. She then intends to work as a legislative assistant before becoming a campaign coordinator for Oxfam America or a similar nonprofit relief organization.

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