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Chancellor surprises student who was named as KU's 20th Truman Scholar

Friday, April 12, 2019

LAWRENCE — When Sam Steuart paid a brief visit to University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod’s office this week — ostensibly for a brief visit related to an upcoming presentation — the Topeka junior instead found balloons, cheers and hearty congratulations, along with news that he had been named as KU’s 20th Harry S. Truman Scholar.

Recipients of the Truman Scholarship receive $30,000 toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help them prepare for careers in public service leadership. This year, 346 colleges and universities nominated 840 candidates for the Truman Scholarship. Steuart is one of 62 students to receive a scholarship.

 “So many of us are tremendously proud of Sam and his many accomplishments, and he is certainly deserving of this national recognition,” Girod said. “I was grateful to have the opportunity to help him celebrate with a few close supporters, and I am confident he will go on to achieve his goals and make our Jayhawk community proud.”

Steuart, who is studying American studies and biochemistry while minoring in Spanish, has emphasized his undergraduate education on studying how socioeconomic status affects a person’s ability to receive health care and an education. He is preparing to pursue advanced degrees in medicine and public health.

He said he enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the happy news with the chancellor and some of the educators who have helped him along the way, including Anne Wallen, program director of the Office of Fellowships, and Mary Klayder, University Honors lecturer in the Department of English.

“I am incredibly thankful to be a Truman Scholar because I look forward to the opportunity it provides me to give back to the members of the community who raised me. This process has taught me so much about how to make a meaningful impact on a broad scale, so I am excited to continue learning how to be the leader I aspire to be,” Steuart said. “I want to create more opportunities that provide others with similar experiences as the ones I, thankfully, accessed.”

He said he intends to become a physician who creates and advocates for policies that help ensure all populations, especially low-income and at-risk children, have equitable access to health care and an education.

For the Truman Scholarship application, Steuart had to develop a policy proposal, and he detailed a policy that would promote the implementation of more school-based health centers in schools across Kansas. School-based health centers provide comprehensive primary, preventive and mental health care that help take into account the conditions where adolescents live, grow and play.

Beyond simply submitting it for the application, Steuart has taken additional steps to implement the policy in the real world, collecting data and information from a school community in Topeka and discussing the policy proposal with health officials at the state of Kansas.

He said he plans to continue to advocate for the policy and partner with state government to progress the work in the future.

“So many amazing people have invested in me — my family, members of my community growing up and everyone here at KU,” he said. “I owe everything to pay that forward.”

Steuart will receive his award in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in May.

Students interested in applying for the Truman and other national scholarships are encouraged to contact the Office of Fellowships, a unit of Undergraduate Studies.

Photos by Meg Kumin, KU Marketing Communications.


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