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Dorothy Jiang ’19 selected as Truman Scholar

Scholarship recognizes student achievement, commitment to public service, leadership

Dorothy Jiang ’19 recently became the first Brown student to earn the Truman scholarship in three years. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship — which was granted to 59 undergraduate juniors from a pool of 756 applicants in 2018 — is awarded based on leadership, commitment to a career in public service and likelihood of academic achievement, according to Tara Yglesias, deputy executive secretary of the Truman Foundation.

The scholarship is a “beacon of public service recognizing young people who have the potential to make a real and profound impact on some issues that they care about, either through nonprofit work or through the government,” Yglesias said. Scholars receive a $30,000 scholarship along with access to programming that will help them become “the best public servants possible,” according to the foundation’s website.

“It was such an honor … to have the opportunity to reflect on my own goals and receive that kind of validation from both Brown as an institution and the Truman Foundation as an institution,” Jiang said. Earning the scholarship was a “humbling” experience, she added.

The foundation looks for students who will be “change agents,” Yglesias added. Jiang came across as “passionate” on her selected issue of mental health, and has made some “real impacts” while also recognizing the “realities of her issue and some of the challenges that she’s going to face,” Yglesias said.

Jiang, who has created an independent concentration at Brown called “Intersectional Mental Health,” developed her passion for the topic of mental health in her high school years, when she worked for suicide hotlines, she said.

Working for hotlines “was a very transformative experience in terms of allowing me to change my interests and passions around mental health and support and empathy,” Jiang said.

During her time at Brown, Jiang has been involved with the Swearer Center for Public Service, where she piloted the Social Good Mentoring Program, which pairs students with alums working to enact social change. She also serves as an independent concentration coordinator as well as a member of the Meiklejohn Leadership Committee.

After learning about the Truman scholarship through Linda Dunleavy, associate dean for fellowships, Jiang completed the application and essays, which consisted of “self-reflection” on “meaningful” public service activities as well as future plans in that sector. The final component of the application was a policy proposal addressed to a legislator along with a summary of obstacles that the proposal might face.

Dunleavy oversaw the process in which a faculty panel narrowed down over 30 applications to eight students. After a round of interviews, the University nominated four students for the scholarship, the maximum number of students each school is allowed to nominate.

Dunleavy described Jiang as “poised” and “confident” during the interview, and felt that her application reflected “humility” and a “real spirit of service.” Jiang stood out, she said, because “her interest was really in serving others and not necessarily in credentializing herself.”

Following her nomination, Jiang was selected as a finalist along with one other University student, Brian Elizalde ’19. Each candidate participated in a regional, in-person interview with a panel of several past Truman Scholars.

In the near future, Jiang is looking into dual-degree programs in a master’s in public policy or public affairs and a master’s in social work. She hopes to use a “racial justice and intersectional lens” as she studies and interacts with the “personal, community-oriented side” and the “broader, policy and advocacy side” of mental health.

“The scholarship is an investment in my future as a public servant,” Jiang said. “I will take it upon myself to take these resources and distribute them in whatever ways I can through my future work or through whatever support I can give other people to make sure the resources don’t end here.”


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