UMass Amherst Student Selected to Receive Prestigious Truman Scholarship Award

March 30, 2005

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AMHERST, Mass. – Jesse French, an economics and political science major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been awarded a 2005 Truman Scholarship, one of the nation''s most prestigious undergraduate honors.

“To become a Truman Scholar is an extraordinary achievement, and Jesse is a most deserving recipient,” said Susan Krauss Whitbourne, who directs the Office of National Scholarship Advisement, which assisted French in preparing his application. “He is an outstanding student with a passionate interest in public policy and public service.”

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation — the federal memorial to the nation''s thirty-third president — each year awards merit-based $30,000 scholarships to college students who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service, and wish to attend graduate or professional school to help prepare for their careers. Truman Scholars participate in leadership development programs and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.

French, a resident of Taos, N.M, has studied at UMass Amherst since last September as part of the National Student Exchange. He spent his freshman and sophomore years at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

French''s scholarship application emphasizes his interest in better addressing the cultural, socioeconomic and political causes contributing to poverty. His related policy proposal focuses on creating a new kind of homeless shelter in Albuquerque to effect a long-term decline in the city''s panhandling population.

“Studying at UMass Amherst this year has contributed greatly to my academic and personal development,” French observed. “I have been exposed to new ideas and a rich culture, and the personal guidance provided by UMass faculty and staff was invaluable as I prepared my application. The entire process helped me examine who I am, what I stand for, and what I want to accomplish.”

His studies have been enhanced, French said, by the Five College Collaborative. The combined resources of the libraries and the faculty, in his view, are “unlike any other.” French reserves special praise for the economics and political science faculty at UMass. John Brigham, political science professor and the university''s Truman Scholar faculty representative, has been a particularly important mentor.

The Office of National Scholarship Advisement provided French substantial guidance throughout the elaborate application process, including getting a number of faculty involved in a mock interview. This provided French with a valuable critique, Whitbourne said, in preparation for his personal interview with the foundation — a major factor in the selection process.

The Truman Foundation reviews more than 600 applications for about 75 scholarships awarded annually. These 600 do not include the students who compete on their own campus for one of four nominations allotted to each school.

The foundation awards the scholarships on the basis of merit to junior-level students at four-year colleges and universities who have extensive records of public and community service; are committed to careers in government or elsewhere in public service, and have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills.

French plans to use his scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, studying neo-classical theory regarding price, money and income. In addition, he would like to study political economy theories on exploitation. He aspires to work as an economic researcher for an organization such as the Brookings Institution, helping frame policy decisions on topics such as welfare and low-income housing. French already has some hands-on experience in national politics, having interned in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, where he hopes to intern again as a graduate student.

For further details, call Susan Krauss Whitbourne at 413/545-4306.

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