Eight African Americans Named Truman Scholars

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation has announced the selection of the 2017 Truman Scholars. Each Truman Scholar is awarded up to $30,000 for graduate study. They also receive priority admission to several top-tier graduate schools, have career and graduate school counseling opportunities, and are fast-tracked for internships within the federal government.

Truman Scholars must be U.S. citizens and be in the top 25 percent of their college class. They must express a commitment to government service or the nonprofit sector. Since the establishment of the program in 1975, 3,139 students have been named Truman Scholars.

This year, 62 Truman scholars were selected from 768 candidates nominated by 315 colleges and universities. While the foundation does not release data on the racial and ethnic make up of Truman Scholars, a JBHE analysis of this year’s class of 62 Truman Scholars, concludes that it appears that 8, or 12.9 percent, are African Americans. Here are brief biographies of the African Americans named Truman Scholars this year.

2017 Truman Scholars

Dontae Bell, Taylor Cofield, Lexis Ivers, Chelsea Jackson, Thomas Mitchell, Kathleen Nganga, Shyheim Snead, and Soreti Teshome

Dontae Bell is a junior at Howard University in Washington, D.C., studying economics and military science. He is a member of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and was selected as a pilot candidate this spring. After graduation, Dontae will commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Eventually, he hopes to earn a master of public administration degree before pursuing a career in public service.

Taylor Cofield is a junior political science and international studies major with a minor in Middle East studies at the University of Missouri. She also is studying Arabic. Cofield is a member of the university’s track team and is current legislative intern with the Missouri State Senate. Upon graduation, she hopes to fulfill a two-year assignment in the Peace Corps and then pursue a dual master’s and law degree program in contemporary Arab studies and national security law.

Lexis Ivers is a third-year student at American University in Washington, D.C., where she studies law and policy. She is the founder and director of Junior Youth Action DC, a mentorship program focused on the academic and personal development of foster youth. She plans to pursue a career in child welfare law, which will allow her to advocate for children when foster care systems fail.

A native of Decatur, Georgia, Chelsea Jackson is pursuing degrees in political science and African American studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She is a co-founder of Atlanta Black Students United, an activist network for students committed to racial justice in metropolitan area. She plans to attend law school and then practice civil and human rights law.

Thomas Mitchell is a political science and education policy double major at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. His academic interests focus on the experiences of minority students in schools and representation of minorities in the teaching profession. He recently was elected president of the Student Government Association at Rhodes College.

Kathleen Nganga, from the state of Wyoming, is a political science major in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Her research focuses on marginalization, policy responsiveness, as well as political mobilization and conflict in the United States and East African nations. On campus, she is director of education for the Northwestern University Community for Human Rights. Nganga plans to pursue her graduate education in politics and social policy.

At American University in Washington, D.C., Shyheim Snead studies political science and education, with a focus on policy and community-based research. Snead serves as the student trustee on the university’s board of trustees. He is originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut. Snead’s long-term goal is to address external factors that influence student achievement in the classroom.

Soreti Teshome, from Nebraska, studies public policy and comparative race and ethnic studies at the University of Chicago. She has spent the last two summers interning with criminal justice focused organizations in Chicago. She currently serves on the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission Youth Advisory Board. Teshome plans to become a civil rights lawyer.


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  1. Kevin Arthur Rolle, Ph.D. says:

    Congrats to the future scholars.

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