MISSOULA — The numbers alone are telling: 629 applicants from 300 colleges and universities. In the end, 62 students from 54 schools survived the cut in this year’s selection of Truman Scholars.
Standing among them is University of Montana junior Rebecca Boslough, a resource conservation major who’s also minoring in climate change studies. She became the university’s 13th Truman Scholar, and the only one named this year from Montana.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Boslough said Monday. “When I found out, I was in guitar class – ‘Intro to Guitar.’ I looked up and my adviser was there. I was mostly just in shock.”
Luckily for Boslough, Truman Scholars aren’t based on their guitar skills. Selections are made on the merits of leadership and one’s potential in public service. Described as agents of change, most winners go on to serve in public office or as leaders of nonprofit organizations.
In winning the prize, Boslough joins a prestigious list of past recipients, including Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, TV journalist and former political adviser George Stephanopoulos, and Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“It’s a highly honored prize,” said Laure Pengelly Drake, director of external scholarship at the Davidson Honors College. “In addition to being an effective leader, you have to develop a fairly coherent path and direction. Leadership that doesn’t go anywhere doesn’t interest the committee.”
Boslough has worked as a field instructor with the Helena National Forest and she volunteers with the League of Conservation Voters, along with Big Brothers Big Sisters, while coaching debate at Sentinel High School.
Toss in her election to the Associated Students of UM, her role as vice president of the UM Wilderness Association and her membership on the Glacier Two Medicine Alliance, and her application stood out.
But she wouldn’t spend her time any other way.
“I’ve come to a point where I chose to be involved with things I care about and am passionate about,” she said. “I chose to do things I enjoy and that matter to me, and that’s made it easier.”
A graduate of Capital High School in Helena, Boslough plans to pursue a career in collaborative land management. Winners receive up to $30,000 for graduate-level study or professional schooling.
After graduating from UM, she plans to intern in Washington, D.C. After that, she’ll apply to graduate school.
“I plan on going to grad school for environment policy and science,” she said. “I want to pursue a career in conservation. I grew up learning to value the land and have a sense of place. It turned into an education choice and a career choice.”