A New Class of African American Truman Scholars

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation has announced that 54 students at American colleges and universities have been selected for Truman Scholarships. The 54 new Truman Scholars were selected from among 587 candidates nominated by 292 colleges and universities.

Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the non-profit sector.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to our thirty-third President. The Foundation awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service. The activities of the Foundation are supported by a special trust fund in the US Treasury.

There have been 2,844 Truman Scholars selected since the first awards were made in 1977. The Truman Foundation does not release data on the race or ethnicity of scholarship winners. But it appears that there are at least eight African Americans among the 54 new scholars this year. Here are brief biographies of the African American winners.

(L to R) Ryan Martin Carter, Walter Michael Fortsen Jr., Noel Augustus Gordon Jr., J'Taime Brion Lyons, Victoria Temitope Okuneye, Joanna Shawntae Smith, Conner Spinks, and Jessica Wamala

Ryan Martin Carter is majoring in economics and commerce at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. He founded his college’s branch of Visible Men, a nonprofit organization that mentors Black male students. He plans to pursue master’s degrees in business administration and public policy.

Walter Michael Fortsen Jr. is a exercise science and sports studies major at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in exercise physiology.

Noel Augustus Gordon Jr. from Nevada, is a junior at the University of Michigan, majoring in political science. He plans on going to law school and to earn a master of public policy degree.

J’Taime Brion Lyons is a sociology major at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She plans on a career in education policy.

Victoria Temitope Okuneye from Minnesota, is a junior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is majoring in brain and cognitive sciences with minors in applied international studies and chemistry. She hopes to get an MD/Ph.D.

Joanna Shawntae Smith is a native of Miami, Florida, who is enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She plans on a law degree and a graduate degree in education.

Conner Spinks is a political science major with a gender, women’s, and sexuality studies minor at the University of Iowa. She plans to pursue a master of social work degree.

Jessica Wamala from New Hampshire is a student at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. She plans to earn a master’s degree and join the Foreign Service as a political affairs officer.

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  1. Congratulations to these amazing students! I wish you all the best of luck and I am sure you will go on to do amazing things. God bless.

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