Three CSU undergraduates named Truman Scholar finalists

CSU 2020 Truman Scholar Finalists

CSU students Sarah Greichen (left), Brianne Lauro and Ilana Vargas are finalists for the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Three Colorado State University undergraduates were named finalists for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a highly competitive graduate fellowship program for students pursuing public service careers.

CSU juniors Sarah Greichen, Brianne Lauro and Ilana Vargas are in the running for the prestigious honor, which includes a $30,000 scholarship to a graduate school of their choice as well as a weeklong leadership training session with other winners and an internship opportunity in Washington, D.C.

Only 50 to 60 undergraduates — approximately one from each state —  will receive a Truman Scholarship. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation this year received 773 applications from 315 colleges and universities.

Finalists were selected based on their records of leadership, public service and academic achievement. Students will be interviewed by the foundation’s Regional Review Panels between March 1 and April 6.

According to The Institute for Learning and Teaching, 14 CSU students have been named finalists since 2015, three of whom were named scholars.

“We are incredibly proud of Sarah, Brianne and Ilana,” said Mary Swanson, program director of the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising. “All three are visionary leaders who have worked hard in their respective fields to create opportunities for others and find innovative solutions to pressing social issues. We wish them luck as they prepare for their interviews and know they will represent CSU well in the competition.”

Sarah Greichen

Sarah Greichen

College of Business
Honors Program Student
Major: Business Administration
Hometown: Centennial, Colorado

Sarah Greichen said she could hear her parents on the phone jumping up and down when she told them the news that she was a Truman Scholar finalist.

For Greichen’s family, the news hit close to home.

With her family’s encouragement and support, Greichen has been working since middle school to help people with disabilities break down the barriers that restrict them from participating in society on an equal basis with others.

Greichen spends 40 to 50 hours a week as the founder of the nonprofit Score A Friend, in addition to being a student. She created the organization eight years ago to spread awareness about ability inclusion after witnessing how her twin brother, who has an autism spectrum disorder, was placed in segregated classes.

Since then, the nonprofit has secured more than $85,000 in donations and grant money and has been a nationally recognized advocate for inclusive education.

“One of the biggest things I’m most proud of while being here at CSU is the relationships that I’ve built and the friends I’ve made,” Greichen said. “The professors and faculty have been so supportive of Score A Friend as well as what I want to do.”

When Greichen graduates from CSU in 2021, she said she plans to continue to grow her nonprofit and pursue a law/MBA degree focusing on public policy in disability law as well as innovation and public administration.

Brianne Lauro

Brianne Lauro

Warner College of Natural Resources
Major: Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
Hometown: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Brianne Lauro had just come back from ice fishing for rainbow trout at nearby Red Feather Lakes when she received the news that she was a Truman Scholar finalist.

It couldn’t have been more poetic.

Lauro started hunting and fishing at an early age with her father on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was through those experiences she developed a deep passion for land and natural resource management, which brought her to Fort Collins.

At CSU, Lauro has been a standout student, being listed on the Warner College Dean’s List four out of five semesters and winning the college’s R.S. Knaub Science Award for sustainability innovation. She also is a congressional intern at U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse’s district office in Fort Collins and a research assistant for a National Science Foundation study on indigenous data stewardship led by CSU faculty member Dominique David-Chavez.

On top of that, she has been a leading voice within CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources, becoming an advocate for women and people of color in one of the college’s largest student clubs, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

In the past, she has volunteered as a STEM Youth Mentor, an Environmental Youth Educator, and an Outdoor Youth Instructor teaching elementary and middle school children about wildlife, ecology, land restoration and the STEM fields.

“Being named a Truman finalist is a powerful shift from what I grew up seeing leaders to be,” she said. “And to represent my community in Hawaii in that capacity is an opportunity I will cherish forever.”

Ilana Vargas

Ilana Vargas

Warner College of Natural Resources
Major: Ecosystem Science and Sustainability
Honors Program Student
Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Ilana Vargas developed a deep appreciation for natural spaces and local communities after visits to the arboretum at the University of Wisconsin and annual trips to see extended family in Mexico City.

Her appreciation for natural spaces and local communities continued at CSU, where she has worked for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, tracking flora and fauna through a variety of projects at the agency.

At CSU, Vargas is an active leader in Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. There, she works to build professional development skills and networks for underrepresented students. “We are really striving to increase diversity and inclusion in the field of natural resources,” she said.

In addition, the Outdoor Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Outdoor Industry Association, named Vargas an ambassador in 2018 and awarded her $1,750 in grants to lead three visits to national parks, all of which were well-attended.

“I am so incredibly honored to be considered a Truman Finalist,” she said. “I’ve been working hard the past year on multiple nationally competitive scholarships. I’ve put everything I have into these applications. My mentors and recommenders have supported me consistently through it all. It feels like all the hard work has paid off.”

Following graduation, Vargas said she wants to pursue a master’s and then a doctorate in environmental management.

About the Truman Scholarship 

The Truman Scholarship is the country’s premier graduate fellowship for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. The program is administered by the Truman Foundation, a living memorial to the nation’s 33rd president created by Congress in 1975. Get more information at

Sophomores interested in applying for the Truman Scholarship should contact Mary Swanson, program director of the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising, at