SPA student receives Truman Scholarship

Corrections Appended

Only 60 students across the nation can say that they are among the Truman Scholars of 2010, and AU student Kelsey Stefanik-Sidener is one of them.

The Truman Scholarship, given to undergraduate students pursuing careers in public service, awards each of the winners $30,000 for graduate school. Stefanik-Sidener was chosen as one of 60 Truman Scholars for the 2010 year from a pool of 576 applicants nationwide, according to the Career Center.

Stefanik-Sidener, a junior in the School of Public Affairs, was notified of her win last Monday by a phone call from AU President Neil Kerwin.

“I was so ecstatic, I barely knew what to say,” she said.

Stefanik-Sidener has been active in health services and issues since she was 7 years old, when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She used this personal experience and her history of activism as a focus in her Truman Scholarship application.

The application included detailed outlines of plans for graduate school and careers in health services and an in-depth policy memo on corn subsidies in relation to health and nutritional issues.

At AU, she founded “Minds over Meters,” an organization devoted to increasing campus awareness and support for diabetes issues. As a part of the group, she coordinated AU’s first-ever team in the American Diabetes Association’s Walk to Fight Diabetes and raised over $1,000.

Stefanik-Sidener also acted as the Student Government’s director of Student Health and Services for the fall 2009 semester. She organized H1N1 informational sessions and a town hall meeting concerning the services of the Student Health Center.

“[The work] gave me some wonderful experiences in collaborating with other campus leaders and offices — especially the Student Health Center and the Wellness Center — and challenged me to find new ways of communicating health information to the student body,” she said.

Stefanik-Sidener has also participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk to Cure Diabetes for 13 years and has raised more than $55,000 in that time.

She began the Truman Scholar application in April 2009 and was selected as one of three AU nominees that fall. After submitting the lengthy application, Stefanik-Sidener was chosen as one of 200 nationwide finalists at the end of February.

Finally, after a rigorous interview before a panel of public servants and former Truman Scholars, Stefanik-Sidener received the honor on Monday, March 29.

“It was certainly an extensive and sometimes stressful process, especially since I was abroad during the most labor-intensive parts of it, but it was also extremely rewarding,” Stefanik-Sidener said of the application process. “It challenged me to begin charting my career path and to explore complicated problems in public health.”

Professor Margaret Marr, director of the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program, served as Stefanik-Sidener’s mentor and sponsor during the application. Marr said Stefanik-Sidener’s ability to listen and take in suggestions was truly remarkable.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear that, down the road, she has become head of the Department of Health and Human Services,” Marr said.

Stefanik-Sidener is, in fact, looking for that type of career. She hopes to obtain a master’s degree in public health and a law degree, and she aspires to work at the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Diabetes Association or a non-profit organization.

With “Truman Scholar” to add to her résumé, Stefanik-Sidener said she hopes for new public health opportunities such as internships, networking and career advice.

“I see it as an incredible opportunity to use my interest in health to make a difference in the lives of Americans, and I am excited to get started,” she said.

You can reach this writer at news@theeagleonline.com.

Corrections: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Kelsey Stefanik-Sidener was one of four AU nominees for the Truman Scholarship. In fact, she was one of three. The earlier version also stated Stefanik-Sidener received the honor on April 29. In fact, she received it on March 29. This version has been corrected.

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