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COMMENT: Prof. Robert McGinn, Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management
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Four Stanford students awarded Truman Scholarships
STANFORD -- Four Stanford undergraduates are among 58 students nationwide to receive $30,000 Harry S. Truman Scholarships for 1996, which recognize outstanding undergraduates who have demonstrated a commitment to careers in public service.
According to Louis Blair of the Harry S. Truman Foundation in Washington, D.C., this is the first time in scholarship history that any institution has had more than three Truman Scholars named in any one year. Stanford has produced 36 Truman Scholars since 1977.
The 1996 winners, named Thursday, March 21, are Brooks Michael Allen, from Santa Cruz, Calif.; Vivek Manohar Nasta, from Towaco, N.J.; Aaron Paul Padilla, from Loveland, Colo.; and Nicholas E.S. Thompson, from Chestnut Hill, Mass.
All but one of the five finalists Stanford submitted earned scholarships, said Truman Scholarship Faculty Representative Robert McGinn, director of the interdisciplinary Science, Technology and Society program and professor (teaching) of industrial engineering and engineering management and, by courtesy, of civil engineering.
McGinn said when Blair called to announce that Stanford had set the record, he opened by saying, "I have some bad news for you - one of your finalists didn't make it."
McGinn selected the Stanford finalists along with Gavin Wright, the Coe Professor of American Economic History, and Timothy Stanton, director of the Haas Center for Public Service. Nationally, there were 773 applicants from 392 institutions competing for the scholarships. The 58 winners represent 47 institutions.
"Stanford ought to be really proud of these students," Stanton said. "They're making the most of their educations and are preparing themselves to take on responsible roles in the future."
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Program was created by an act of Congress in 1975. The scholarships cover tuition and other expenses for the senior year and for two years of graduate study.
Allen is majoring in political science, with an emphasis on public policy. He said he has always been interested in education as a career, "whether it's on the policy end, or teaching high school, or opening up my own school."
Allen's father, a vice provost at the University of Southern California, has been in education his entire career, "and my family has always stressed the importance of education," Allen said. "I have a great deal of interest in equal opportunity, and education makes that possible for everybody."
Allen will graduate during the 1996-97 year, and plans to seek a master's degree in public policy, education or both.
At Stanford, he has worked with disadvantaged children in the Upward Bound program and the East Palo Alto Extravaganza for Youth Volunteer Programs; has coached the Costaño school's seventh- and eighth-grade basketball team; and has worked as a student assistant in the Undergraduate Admissions Office.
In addition to his other public service activities, Allen developed an anti-graffiti curriculum for fourth- and fifth-graders in conjunction with the Public Services Department of the city of Mountain View, Calif.
Nasta, who went to high school in West Orange, N.J., has undertaken an unusually challenging course of undergraduate study, and in June will have completed the requirements for bachelor's degrees in both history and the interdisciplinary program in science, technology and society. He also has taken numerous courses in economics and computer science.
Nasta has had a summer job with the Office for Science and Technology Policy in the White House, and has volunteered with the Stanford Law and Technology Center. He is a student member of the alumni and external affairs committee of the Stanford Board of Trustees. Nasta also is president of the Stanford Student Organization for the Mentally Disabled, which provides volunteers for local agencies.
His career goal is to play a role in shaping technology policy at the federal level, after completing a joint graduate degree in law and public policy, and an internship with either the U.S. Supreme Court or Department of Defense.
"I want to help develop policies that will foster new advances in fields such telecommunications, biotechnology and computers," Nasta said. "Keeping ahead in these areas is necessary for the United States to maintain its competitive edge."
Padilla came to Stanford as one of 150 national Coca-Cola Scholars. He has augmented his pursuit of a bachelor's degree in international relations with a keen interest in environmental issues. As an undergraduate, Padilla served as co-coordinator of SEAS (Students for Environmental Action at Stanford) and was a weekly columnist for the Stanford Daily.
Padilla has participated in many community service projects, such as tree planting, house painting and food drives. He spent the summer of 1995 doing research in Costa Rica, and learned of his Truman Scholarship while finishing up a quarter at the Stanford campus in Santiago, Chile.
After returning to Stanford, Padilla plans to work with adviser Rosamond Naylor, a fellow at the Institute for International Studies, in the Goldman Interschool Honors Program in Environmental Science, Technology and Policy.
After graduating in June 1997, Padilla plans to earn a master's degree in public policy - he will probably apply to schools at Harvard and Princeton - then work with either the federal government or an international agency such as the United Nations on international development and environmental policy issues.
Thompson will graduate next June having completed the requirements of three majors - earth systems, public policy and economics. He is the founder of a student newspaper, The Thinker, and was a columnist for the Stanford Daily.
Thompson, like Padilla, has a long association with SEAS (Students for Environmental Action at Stanford), and is a student member of the university's Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility. This winter, he is spearheading a petition drive against opening a Taco Bell franchise on campus, because of that chain's corporate links to Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Thompson said the activity most important to him was serving as a member of the national coordinating committee for SEAC (the Student Environmental Action Coalition), the largest student organization in the country. (SEAS is the Stanford chapter of SEAC.)
After graduating, Thompson plans to continue working with SEAC or a similar organization, and pursue a graduate program in international environmental economics.
"It is quite likely that I will spend much of my career working abroad," he said. "I also have a lot of interest in working on corporate responsibility - possibly with alternative endowment funds such as Working Assets or Franklin Research.
"I have a lot of interest in trying to help create links between environmentalists and businesspeople, and between environmental and social or racial justice activities," Thompson said.
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