OSU juniors Adrienne Blakey and Kayla Dunn have been named finalists for the 2020 Truman Scholarship, the permier graduate scholarship for aspiring public leaders in the United States. The pair, both graduates of Stillwater High School, will participate in a regional interview on March 11 in Denver before the winners are announced April 15.
Their selection marks the first time in two decades that OSU has had two finalists in the same year. Blakey and Dunn were selected from a pool of 773 nominations from 316 institutions as finalists for the scholarship, which provides up to 65 winners annually with $30,000 for graduate studies in an array of fields.
Blakey is a junior in the Ferguson College of Agriculture, pursuing dual degrees in plant and soil science with a concentration in agronomic business and another in agricultural communications. She has been a Freshman Research Scholar, a Wentz Research Scholar and a Niblack Scholar. She is an active member of The Honors College, has participated in the Cambridge Scholars Program and has served as a Scholar Development Ambassador. Blakey also has a tremendous record of campus leadership and service, having served as director of the Sustainability Committee where she reinvigorated the campus recycling program, coordinated the SGA Big XII Conference two years in a row, served as a member of the President’s Leadership Council and was named homecoming queen in 2019.
Blakey, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health and a career improving nutrition and public health by developing and promoting biofortified crops, said she was honored to be selected as a finalist. She first heard about the scholarship as a freshman.
“From the very beginning, I knew the type of students they select to be Truman Scholars and to be even finalists are big time movers and shakers,” she said. “They’re people who are active now in making a difference in their communities and in the world around them. It’s kind of been a surreal experience the past couple of days since I got the email letting me know that I was a finalist because it’s such an honor to be included in that group of people who are such incredible change agents.”
Blakey said the university has been a crucial support for her throughout the process.
“I was very fortunate to get plugged in with the Office of Scholar Development and Undergraduate Research as a freshman through the Freshman Research Scholar Program and my undergraduate research experience has been a very integral piece of my college experience,” she said. “The mentors and role models I found within the OSU research community pushed me to challenge myself academically, to challenge myself in learning new skills, to challenge myself in asking big questions and trying really hard to find answers.”
Kayla Dunn is an Honors College junior majoring in multimedia journalism and Spanish. She has international study experience, having participated in a Spanish immersion program in Costa Rica and she studied ethical leadership in Dublin and Oxford. She plans to study abroad in Spain or Chile in the 2020-21 academic year. She has balanced her academic work with campus leadership positions and service activities, including campaigning for student body president, serving as an SGA senator, as a campus tour guide for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, editor-in-chief of the O’Colly and as a facilitator for the President’s Leadership Council.
During a summer internship with NBC News in Tucson, Arizona, she volunteered as an art therapy teacher and translator at Casa Alitas, a nearby migrant shelter. This experience inspired her to address immigration issues and pursue a graduate program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She hopes to have a career as a public diplomacy officer with a specialization in cross-cultural relations.
Like Blakey, Dunn said she was thrilled and honored to be named a finalist. She said the scholarship would give her the opportunity to work in Washington D.C. over the summer and would help fund her grad school ambitions, carving out a path to her goal of working in public diplomacy.
“I really want to work in the journalism tract as a foreign correspondent,” she said. “What the Truman Scholarship would let me do is work directly for the U.S. State Department and work with other countries, and that would be absolutely incredible.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Jessica Sullins | Henry Bellmon Office of Scholar Development & Undergraduate Research Director | firstname.lastname@example.org | 405.744.7313