Communications and Political Science Student Wins Prestigious Truman Scholarship


Elise Scott, 2020 Truman scholarship recipient. Photo courtesy of Elise Scott.

By Megan McKellar, News Writer


One of 62 recipients, Elise Scott, a senior studying communications and political science at the University of Utah, was recently selected to be a Harry S. Truman Scholar.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is a prestigious scholarship which awards up to $30,000 toward a public service-related graduate degree. Only 55 to 65 students across the nation are awarded the scholarship each year. This year the Truman Foundation received 773 nominations from 316 institutions.

“The (application) process from beginning to end took me about 6 months of constant work. 6 months of stressing about little else,” Scott said. “To be honest, a lot of it was quite grueling… Even though it was so difficult and painful, I would absolutely do it again. That self-realization that I gained through the process was extremely valuable.”

According to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, students are nominated based on leadership, public service and academic achievement. Scott attributes a great deal of her success to her involvement with the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

“They were great in connecting me with people in my field who I could go to for the detailed matters of my policy proposal. They also had me in contact with a lot of former Truman Scholars from Utah… That support really made this whole thing possible,” Scott said.

Gina Shipley, Managing Director of National Internships & Development Officer at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and other Hinckley Institute faculty members provide one-on-one assistance to students who have applied for the scholarship. They assist the student with answering the application questions succinctly, and a committee helps to proofread the application.

Once all the applications are submitted, the committee reads them, interviews applicants, provides feedback and selects three students to move on to the regional level. These three students are then connected with experts who provide them with additional resources and help. 

Since 2007, the U has had nine students receive the scholarship. Shipley said the U is one of few universities who continues to have an award winner, and she believes it’s because of the opportunities the Hinkley Institute provides.

“[The Truman Foundation] is looking for leadership and public service,” Shipley said, “That’s really our mission, providing students internships and leadership experience. The internships really provide that depth of knowledge and skills and shows the [Truman Foundation] committee that the student is truly committed.”

Applicants are required to submit a policy proposal as part of their application, written as though to a legislative group but only reviewed by the scholarship committee. It should tie together the applicant’s past experience and their future goals, according to Shipley. 

Scott drew inspiration for her policy proposal from her time as a Hinckley Institute intern with the Utah State Legislature.  

She said her proposal was about how to interact with those who have committed despicable crimes and prevent them from participating in physical and online communications that might help inspire someone else to do the same.

“I think it’s important to provide [individuals prosecuted for hate crimes] support and alternative information that helps them come up with a healthy world view once released,” Scott said. 

During her year as a legislative intern, the state of Utah increased the state hate crime statute.

“It was really inspiring to see how legislators were able to connect themselves to this terrifying problem that has harmed people in our community,” Scott said. 

 Scott plans on putting her scholarship towards attending law school after graduation. 

“It’s not about the $30,000,” Shipley said. “Once you get the award, you’re in this elite group of Truman Scholars, and what they want is for you to make an impact wherever you’re going to end up. That’s really the legacy.”


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