Colgate student Andrew DeFrank ’18 was a Finalist this spring for the highly competitive and prestigious Truman Scholarship, which supports young leaders who are dedicated to public service. It is a significant achievement to reach the Finalist stage, and the Colgate community is very proud of Andrew for this accomplishment. After the process was over, Andrew spoke to me about the whole Truman application and interview experience; the following comes from those conversations and others throughout my time working with Andrew.
When I met Andrew in his first year at Colgate, during a social event for the Benton Scholars Program he is a part of, we talked about politics and his interest in public service. Given that his interests matched up well with the mission of the Truman Scholarship, I made sure it was on his radar and continued to bring it up with him leading up to his junior year, when he was eligible to apply.
Andrew is a political science major with a minor in peace and conflict studies, and as a Washington, DC, native he grew up steeped in American politics. On campus, he has been deeply involved in SGA since his first year, when he won the Golden Gavel Award and the Edward M. Stimets Memorial Award, and served as the SGA Parliamentarian last semester. During last year’s presidential campaign, he founded Colgate for Hillary and engaged many students in the campaign; he also spent last summer working as the press and communications intern for Hillary for America. Andrew is currently studying abroad on an approved program in Buenos Aires, Argentina; his plans for this summer are to work in Virginia on a House of Delegates race.
Thinking about his future career, Andrew is determined to combat voter disenfranchisement and to protect and expand voting rights for all Americans. As he said, “Upon graduation from Colgate, I plan on working to elect progressive candidates to office in whatever opportunity is presented to me. I would like to attend law school and eventually pursue a career in public service that seeks to expand the opportunity and right to vote for as many Americans as possible. We should be making it easier to vote in this country, not harder, and I plan on dedicating my career to making that goal a reality.”
About the Truman Scholarship application itself, Andrew said: “The Truman application process has been the first time I’ve been put in a position where I could seriously consider the real ramifications of so many different parts of my future and the future of our country. By working through a policy proposal and explaining where I would like to be working 5-7 years after graduate school, I was able to spend time thinking about the future of our country as it relates to voting rights and access both inside Washington, D.C. and across the country.”
After working through Colgate’s nomination process with ONFS and the Graduate Fellowships Core Committee, Andrew was notified in late February that he had been named a finalist and would interview in Washington, DC, and he flew back from Buenos Aires in early March to meet the other finalists and have his time with the panel. “The interview process was engaging and stimulating. Just like many of my fellow finalists, I walked out a bit out of breath and wide-eyed, but just like the rest I certainly enjoyed the challenge of interviewing for the Truman Scholarship. I was questioned repeatedly, both on my application and on the values I shared with the committee during my interview. I found the questions intellectually engaging and the conversations with my fellow finalists warm and impactful. I’m happy to say that I anticipate becoming friends with some of the people I spent the day with.“
This year, the Truman Scholarship had a near record number of applications – 768 applications from 315 colleges and universities. Of these, only 199 students (from 136 institutions) were selected for finalist interviews, and only 62 of the finalists were selected to be Truman Scholars.
About the Truman Scholarship
The Truman Scholarship is the preeminent fellowship for aspiring public service leaders in the United States. It provides recipients with leadership mentoring, an optional summer job in Washington, DC, following graduation, and $30,000 toward the graduate or professional school degree(s) that fit their chosen path to public service. The Truman Scholarship is the Presidential Memorial to Public Service, named for our 33rd President. President Truman believed that a better future relies on attracting to public service the commitment and sound judgment of bright, outstanding Americans, so he built this award as a living memorial devoted to this very purpose. With the Truman Scholarship, the Truman Foundation nurtures and supports Americans who have demonstrated a commitment to public service at a young age. By the example of Truman Scholars, they seek to inspire all Americans to engage in efforts that advance the public good, and to celebrate all of those who make a difference through public service in all of its forms.