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Amori Yee Mikami, a Stanford junior majoring in psychology, is the second Stanford student chosen this year to receive a $30,000 Truman scholarship.
The selection of political science major Eric Beerbohm was announced on March 28 along with 68 other students nationwide. Mikami was selected this weekend. Her election brings to 38 the number of Truman scholars from Stanford since 1977.
Each year a faculty selection committee at each university selects four candidates who are nominated for the scholarships, which are awarded annually to undergraduates who are committed to a career in government or public interest and public service organizations. About 250 of these are selected as finalists from whom the scholarship winners are selected.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, which administers the awards, has also established an appeal process. Faculty representatives can appeal the decision on one student if they feel that special circumstances have contributed to his or her elimination. The student is interviewed by a special review board. If the board approves, the student is given the same scholarship as those selected by the normal review process.
"In Amori's case a major reason she was not selected as a finalist was because she is majoring in psychology and intends to get her doctorate," said Robert McGinn, the Truman Scholarship Faculty Representative, director of the interdisciplinary Science, Technology and Society Program and professor (teaching) of industrial engineering and engineering management. "That is not the typical profile of a student going into public service. So I based my appeal on the fact that, from her campus interviews, it was very clear that she seriously intends to forge a public-policy-related career."
Mikami, who is from the Los Angeles area, intends to work directly with troubled children as a clinical psychologist. She also wants to become involved in efforts to improve public policies that affect all children.
Her inspiration to pursue this goal came from the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. She was attending Pasadena High School at the time. "It wasn't as dangerous as some other areas. But we got out of school early. The air smelled of smoke and smoke blanketed the sky," she recalled.
Her first reaction after the rioting was to become very disillusioned, she said. Her parents shops had been burned down. But then she began to see the event as a call to action. "It was like a wake-up call. My entire city was crying out for help," she said. Her decision to work with children came from a picture of the rioting that showed a mother with two children looting a store. "How does an experience like that affect the children?" she asked herself.
Since then Mikami has worked with runaway adolescents at Caravan House, a group home for abused children in Los Angeles. She spent last summer working at Wediko Children's Services, a residential treatment home for problem youth in New Hampshire. At Stanford, she answers calls at the Bridge, a peer counseling service.
"Amori is a formidable combination of academic ability and intellectual honesty," said McGinn. "She stands up for her convictions and does well under fire."
Mikami is a co-terminal student and plans to get both her bachelor's and master's degrees next year. After that she hopes to find a university that has both a top research program in clinical psychology and a program that deals with troubled youth.
She hopes eventually to find a position at a non-profit clinic or treatment center that will let her become "a positive agent of change."
By David F. Salisbury