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Stanford boasts largest number of Truman Scholars for 2011

Stanford's first student from Dharamsala, India; a Stockton native determined to end the cradle-to-prison pipeline; and two energy policy activists are among 60 students from 54 American colleges and universities who will receive Truman Scholarships, which provide up to $30,000 for graduate study to students committed to careers in public service.

BY ELAINE C. RAY

Four Stanford juniors recently were named 2011 Truman Scholars by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Ishan Nath, Teryn Norris, Tenzin Seldon and Michael Tubbs are among 60 students from 54 American colleges and universities who will receive the awards, which provide up to $30,000 for graduate study to students committed to careers in public service. Stanford received the largest number of Truman Scholarships of any other institution this year.

Tara Yglesias, deputy executive secretary of the foundation, said four scholarships at a given institution was "not unheard of but it is unusual. No other school has four this year."

The foundation, established by Congress in 1975, chooses scholars on the basis of "leadership potential, intellectual ability and the likelihood of making a difference." In addition to receiving financial support for graduate school, Truman Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions. They also receive leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

Profiles of the 2011 fellows follow:

Ishan Nath

Ishan Nath, environmental science from 7th grade classroom to Deepwater Horizon Commission

Ishan Nath is pursuing a double major in economics and Earth systems with a focus on energy. He has taught environmental science to seventh graders in Cambridge, Mass., through a program run by the Breakthrough Collaborative.

As a Haas Center Summer Fellow in 2010, he worked at the Carter Center in his hometown, Atlanta, and later served as a senior consultant on the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

To pursue his interests in energy, economic policy and international development, Nath hopes to earn a doctorate in economics and contribute to policymaking domestically and abroad.

Nath said the Truman Scholarship will offer him and his fellow awardees an opportunity to "put into action" what they have learned in the classroom.

Teryn Norris, a public policy major from Asheville, N.C., at 22 years of age has already made significant contributions to U.S. energy policy.

Norris is president and founder of Americans for Energy Leadership, a national organization that advocates for federal investment in clean energy innovation. He previously served for two years as project director at the Breakthrough Institute, a leading energy policy think tank, where he founded the Breakthrough Generation fellowship program in 2007.

Teryn Norris

Teryn Norris, public advocate on energy policy

He has successfully advanced energy policy at the federal and state level, appearing on national television and radio and writing for numerous publications including the New York Times Dot Earth, Harvard Law & Policy Review, National Journal, Forbes, Huffington Post, Issues in Science & Technology and Yale e360. In 2007, he and his colleagues at the Breakthrough Institute created a proposal that was adopted as the Obama Campaign's $150 billion clean energy investment platform.

Norris is co-author of several reports, such as the widely acclaimed Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant report on clean-tech competitiveness and the National Energy Education Act proposal, which led to the Obama administration's RE-ENERGYSE initiative. Norris also previously worked with Environment California on the state's climate bill (AB 32) and served on the Johns Hopkins President's Task Force on Climate Change, which produced a $73 million energy initiative and that university's new sustainability institute.

Norris transferred to Stanford from Johns Hopkins in 2009 after taking a leave of absence for his work with Breakthrough. On campus, he has served as a Stanford Daily columnist and helped organize the March 2010 conference with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, among other activities.

"I'm humbled by this news and just want the Stanford community to know how grateful I am for all its support, and to know that I will never stop fighting for the public policy reform our country needs. More than anything, this award makes me feel a renewed and heartfelt commitment to public service, and I take this responsibility seriously," Norris said.

Tenzin Seldon

Tenzin Seldon, an achievement for Tibetans in America

Tenzin Seldon, whose major is comparative studies in race and ethnicity, is Stanford's first student from Dharamsala, India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based.

An activist on behalf of the people of Tibet, Seldon served as regional coordinator for Students for a Free Tibet, overseeing chapters in California, Hawaii and Nevada. During that time, she also served as San Francisco Team Tibet executive during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, bringing global attention to issues of human rights in China.

Seldon currently works as a fellow at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, where she focuses on fostering a climate of happiness and health and well-being on campus. She was a key organizer of the Dalai Lama's visit to campus last October and, as president of Stanford Friends of Tibet, organized a historic dialogue between the Dalai Lama and mainland Chinese students and scholars, which took place off campus.

As a Summer Fellow with the Haas Center for Public Service, Seldon designed and developed a program that added critical thinking and public speaking to the curriculum at a refugee school in India. At Stanford, she serves as chair of the ASSU Diversity, Tolerance and Equality Team, and has worked to improve the experience of first-generation, low-income students. She currently is running for student body president.

"This is a historic moment for my community and my people," Seldon said of the Truman Scholarship. "It's beyond me and my achievements. It speaks to the achievements of how far the first generation of Tibetans in America has come. It is a testament to activists around the world who have faced a lot of cynicism for the work they do and the danger they expose themselves to."

For her Stanford honors thesis, Seldon will focus on intergenerational differences in diaspora communities. She plans to pursue a doctorate in sociology and social policy. She said Susan Rice, a Stanford alumna, former Truman Scholar and current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been an inspiration. Following in Rice's footsteps, Seldon is looking forward to a career in foreign service as a diplomat. Or, she said, as an elected official in the government of Tibet.

Michael Tubbs

Michael Tubbs, defying 'destiny'

A native of Stockton, Calif., Michael Tubbs is passionate about ending the cradle-to-prison pipeline. It is a subject he understands intimately. In 2009, as a freshman at Stanford, he shared his personal journey when he delivered a speech during that year's Founders' Celebration.

"The first time I saw my father, he was chained. Gone was the mirage of the invincible man, the man who would protect me once I found him. At the age of 12, I finally saw my father – in an orange jumpsuit, looking weak and vulnerable. The conversation with this stranger was cordial albeit distant."

During that first visit, Tubbs' father told him, "Michael, the oppressor designs the world in a way so that prison is your destiny. From birth, you are set up to fail. I decided to comply and give 'the man' what he wants. You're a black man in America, and it's either prison or death."

In his speech, Tubbs told the audience he decided to defy the odds his father and society had laid out for him.

Tubbs has worked as a community organizer, co-founding Save Our Stockton, a youth advocacy group, and the Summer Success and Leadership Academy at the University of the Pacific. He also serves as the founder and executive director of the Phoenix Project and has worked as a White House intern.

At Stanford, Tubbs has served as co-chair for diversity and tolerance in the ASSU, as a Public Leadership Fellow for the Haas Center for Public Service and as co-coordinator of the annual Youth Empowerment Conference sponsored by the Black Student Union.

He works with the Children's Defense Fund as part of its Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign and travels throughout the nation as a motivational speaker.

Tubbs is working on a bachelor's degree in comparative studies in race and ethnicity and a co-terminal master's degree in policy, organization and leadership studies from the School of Education. After graduating, he plans to attend law school before heading back to Stockton to do government and educational policy work.

"I truly believe that 'there but for the grace of God, go I,' and am humbled by how much God has blessed me. This scholarship is a testament to the amazing people that I have been able to work with at Stanford, in Stockton and nationwide to bring about change and will give me the training and support to continue to do so. This scholarship, therefore, is not an investment in me, but rather an investment in all of us who want to bring about change in this nation and world."

Media Contact

Elaine Ray, director, campus communications: (650) 723-7162, ray@stanford.edu