News of winning the highly competitive Truman Scholarship brought tears to Omaha's Emily Schlichting, an outspoken advocate for health care reform and an honors student at UNL.
The scholarship awards $30,000 to college juniors pursuing careers in public service, providing financial support for students to attend graduate or professional school so they can prepare for careers in government, nonprofit organizations or somewhere else in the public sector. Schlichting is a junior majoring in communication studies and political science.
UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, joined by Laura Damuth, UNL's director of undergraduate research and fellowship adviser, and others helped make the surprise announcement in Schlichting's communications class on March 30 in Oldfather Hall. Schlichting was overcome with emotion.
"I've never really felt like this before," she said. "It's satisfying with a little bit of disbelief. I don't think it's fully set in yet."
Watch an interview with Schlichting and university officials at http://go.unl.edu/schlichting.
More than 600 applicants from 264 universities were considered for the scholarships, of which typically 60 to 65 are selected. Schlichting was one of three UNL students, and 197 overall, interviewed as finalists.
A Truman scholarship is an extraordinarily competitive honor and seeing one go to a UNL student is especially exciting because of the university's tradition of having Truman Scholars, Perlman said. In 2010, UNL was named a Truman Honor Institution, which recognizes the university's outstanding record of support for Truman scholars, active encouragement of students to pursue careers in public service, and sustained success in helping students win the scholarships.
"A lot of people work hard for this and we're just delighted that Emily received this," Perlman said.
Schlichting will use the Truman scholarship to go to graduate school, where she told Truman officials she plans to pursue master's degrees in public health and public policy.
"My career goals are to work in health policy," she said. "I'm really interested in working on access to health care for individuals who maybe don't have as good of access as the general population."
Equal access to health care is important to Schlichting, who was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder, Behcet's disease, during her freshman year of college. Her diagnosis completely changed her career goals.
"Health wasn't even on my radar when I got diagnosed as a freshman," she said.
Now, Schlichting said she knows how important health care is.
Schlichting already has her fair share of experience in the public sector, both on and off campus.
Off campus, Schlichting works at Bold Nebraska, a progressive political website, as a news media intern. Last summer, she worked as an intern for Campus Progress, part of the Center for American Progress, in Washington, D.C. In January, she testified on behalf of President Obama's healthcare plan, in front of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the U.S. Senate.
On campus, she founded and serves as the campaign chair for Employee +1, a campaign to let University of Nebraska employees claim a financially dependent family member or domestic partner on their insurance plans.
Schlichting serves as chief of staff for ASUN, UNL's student government. She also works as a research assistant in the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences (UCARE) program. The program lets undergraduates get involved in research early in their college careers by paring the student with a faculty adviser. On April 2, Schlichting will be inducted as a member of the Innocents Society, the chancellor's senior honor society.
She said she appreciates the support she received from professors, faculty and other students at UNL and called their involvement vital to her winning the Truman Scholarship.
"Obviously, it's a university that opens doors," she said.
It's a well-deserved honor for an exceptionally ambitious student," said Tyler White, Schlichting's program adviser in political science.
"She's an incredibly bright student, a very hard worker and incredibly articulate," he said. "I'm just really thrilled. It's great for her. It's great for the university. It's great for the department of Political Science."
According to university archives, Schlichting is the 14th UNL student to win the scholarship.
To be eligible, students must be in the upper quarter of their class and be nominated by their university's Truman faculty representative. The Truman Foundation seeks candidates with long records of community and public service, who have exceptional leadership potential and communication skills, and are determined to have careers in public service. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation memorializes the 33rd U.S. president and his commitment to education and public service.
"This shows the quality of students we have in the College of Arts and Sciences and the quality of education we can provide," said David Manderscheid, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Truman scholars have gone on to do some amazing things and I have no doubts that Emily will uphold that tradition."
- Christine Scalora, Undergraduate Studies; and Jean Ortiz Jones, University Communications
More details at: http://go.unl.edu/schlichting