For the first time in nearly 40 years, a Colorado State University student will receive a Truman Scholarship, one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States.
Elizabeth Hale, an international studies major with a concentration in Middle Eastern and North African Studies, is among the 54 Truman Scholars selected nationwide this year. She will receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare for a career in public service leadership.
Hale was informed of her selection April 15 by CSU President Tony Frank telephonically and Provost Rick Miranda in person. Don Mykles, director of the Honors Program, captured the moment.
“On behalf of our entire Colorado State University community, I want to congratulate Elizabeth on this outstanding honor,” Frank said. “This is one of the most competitive and respected scholarships in the country, and her selection is a tribute to her hard work, exceptional academic performance, and strong personal commitment to international engagement and public service. We are tremendously proud of her.”
Hale, an Honors student set to graduate in December with a 4.0 GPA, is also completing three separate minors — in Arabic Interdisciplinary Studies, Spanish and Religious Studies. She is president of the Arabic Club as well as a Student Ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts.
“Thanks to Eliz’s leadership, the Arabic Club has become among the most active of the 10 student language clubs that our department offers, despite the relatively small size of our Arabic program,” said Mary Vogl, chair of the CSU Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures. “She has been successful in bringing together Arabic learners (mainly American-born but some international students as well) together with native speakers of Arabic, both students and community members, to create personal exchange about the Arabic language and the culture of the Middle Eastern and North African region in order to foster a more harmonious world.”
Hale intends to use the Truman Scholarship to become a professor of Arabic because of her belief that more Americans should learn about Arabs, their culture and their language. She plans to apply to the Arabic and Islamic Studies Ph.D. program at Georgetown University but is also looking into Middle East history programs at other universities.
“Arabic is perceived as a difficult language to learn, but it isn’t,” Hale said. “We just need to find a better way to teach it. That’s important, because I believe that learning a language is the best way to learn about a culture, and learn about people, so we can understand each other.”
Vogl agrees, and points with pride to the influence Hale has already had on the CSU campus.
“Creating encounters among groups in our community who would otherwise rarely interact has helped break down stereotypes and build up trust,” she said. “Elizabeth Hale is that passionate student who effects positive change on those around her.”
Hale said that when she first learned of the award, it was a little overwhelming.
“But now I feel incredibly humbled and honored,” she said. “I’m also extremely grateful to all the people who helped me get to this point — the professors who gave me recommendations, the other Truman finalists from CSU who were very supportive and kind, and Mary Swanson, the wonderful nationally competitive scholarship advisor who guided me through the application process. Overall it’s been an incredible journey!”
Two other CSU Honors students — Sarah Bibbey and Emily Robitschek – were also finalists for the Truman Scholarship this year. The only other Truman recipient from Colorado State in the 41-year history of the award was Debra Jo Hollingsworth-Krumnow in 1977, although the university has had several finalists compete over the years.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders.
In 2016, there were 775 candidates for the award nominated by 305 colleges and universities, a record number of applications and institutions. The 200 finalists for the award were interviewed in March and early April, and 54 new Truman Scholars were announced on April 20.
Hale will join them as they receive their awards in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum on Sunday, May 29.