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Stanford student named Truman Scholar

Paul Bodnar, a junior majoring in political science and classics, is among 69 students nationwide to receive $30,000 Truman scholarships for 1998.

The scholarships are awarded annually to undergraduates who are committed to a career in government or public interest and public service organizations. There have been 39 Truman scholars from Stanford since 1977, including Bodnar.

This year, there were about 675 applicants from colleges and universities around the country. Each campus can nominate up to four students. Approximately 180 applicants were selected as finalists and competed for the scholarships.

Bodnar, who was born in Budapest, Hungary, and came to Stanford from Cliffside Park, N.J., has garnered several prestigious academic honors during the past three years.

In his freshman year, he studied Mayan hieroglyphic writing with Jim Fox, associate professor of anthropology, and received the President's Award for academic excellence. The following year, he won a Chappell-Lougee Scholarship to work with Egyptologist Thomas Hare, associate professor of Asian languages and comparative literature, on decipherment of Egyptian artifacts in the Stanford Museum. Bodnar studied the contextual occurrences of a little understood glyphic element and added significantly to the understanding of its range of scribal variation. He was a 1997 winner of the Deans' Award for Academic Achievement.

"Paul strikes me as a person who has a very coherent and balanced intellectual background. He's a modest but brilliant guy," said Robert McGinn, Stanford's Truman Scholarship Faculty Representative and director of the interdisciplinary Science, Technology and Society Program.

During the interview process for the Truman scholarship, Bodnar tackled some challenging questions. One person asked him to relate his course in ancient Egyptian history to modern policy-making. He was quick to reply:

"I said that ancient Egyptian culture influenced the formation of modern culture and the creation of a myth of state, and that American diplomats don't pay enough attention to culture in devising strategies."

Last summer, Bodnar worked as an intern in Hungary, advising the ministry's NATO department on American security policy in Europe.

"This was very valuable because it allowed me to be in the vortex of the policy making process, if only for a short while," wrote Bodnar in an e-mail from Oxford, where he is spending the quarter. "It was an exciting summer which taught me a great deal about how policy is made at the highest levels."

Bodnar hopes to be a leader in the United Nations or else a member of the National Security Council. He believes one of the primary challenges facing American policy-makers today is the task of reconceptualizing national security.

In his application for the Truman scholarship, he argued that environmental protection issues should be analyzed from an international security perspective.

"The Cold War was very much about nuclear balance and deterrence, military and economic warfare," Bodnar said. "Now with the principal foe gone, we are still searching for a new security agenda. Environmental degradation will not only damage our natural habitat but might well cause scarcity conflicts and other environment-related security problems."


By Marisa Cigarroa

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