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Weese was a Truman Scholarship finalist

By Staff | Apr 22, 2015

A Tyler County residents was among three Honors College students at West Virginia University selected as finalists for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, which recognizes college juniors who are committed to public service.

Tara Weese, psychology and philosophy, of Middlebourne; Hannah Clipp, wildlife and fisheries resources, of Bel Air, Md.; and Stephen Scott, political science, of Shepherdstown, W.Va.; and were among 201 finalists chosen from a pool of 688 applicants by the Truman Scholarship Foundation’s Finalist Selection Committee. Students from 297 different institutions applied.

Students were selected based on their records of leadership, public service, and academic achievement.

“I think the breadth, depth, and diversity of this year’s three finalists is a reflection of the breadth, depth, and diversity of WVU,” said Jay Cole, vice president for federal relations and senior advisor to the president.

“From their personal backgrounds and career plans to their academic majors and extracurricular activities, these students are very different but they have at least two things in common: they came to WVU and they have done great things here,” said Cole, himself a Truman Scholar when he attended WVU.

WVU has 22 Truman Scholars, the most recent was Benjamin Seebaugh in 2012.

Throughout middle and high school, Weese struggled with social anxiety. She blamed herself for anything that went wrong. And she felt helpless.

After coming to WVU, her outlook began to change.

She was drawn to psychology because she felt that perhaps she could help herself and other people like her.

“WVU has given me the opportunity and resources to not only win my own battles, but to help others win theirs,” she said. “I went from being terrified of social interaction to being an officer in multiple clubs, teaching a guest lecture, studying abroad, and working in youth centers.”

One day, Weese hopes to work as an attorney for Human Rights First, a nonprofit, nonpartisan human rights organization based in New York City and Washington, D.C.

“Prosecutors need to protect the fundamental rights of both victims and defendants,” Weese said. “The Zimmerman trial and issues in Ferguson testify to the fact that discrimination is a prominent issue in society and the legal system. If I can fight against international discrimination and hate crimes, I will be better able to determine when discrimination is an issue and have effective ways of combating it as a prosecutor.”

Weese is a proponent for victims’ rights and is organizing a crime victims awareness activity at the Mountainlair on April 23. She is also involved with the WVU Psychology Club and Alpha Phi Omega.

Clipp has already made history at WVU. Recently she became the first WVU student to win both the Udall and Goldwater scholarships.

Winning a Truman Scholarship would give her a trifecta.

“Being selected as a Truman finalist is a tribute to a student’s hard work and record of accomplishment, so it is a huge honor,” Clipp said.

The 20-year-old junior is also majoring in multidisciplinary studies. Over the past two years she has conducted golden eagle surveys, sunk into knee-deep mud to collect insect samples, and endured icy winds and freezing sleet to check on black bear dens-all for research.

Her dream job is to become a wildlife biologist focused on ecological research. She has her sights on working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra-tion, where she’ll have a research internship this summer.

Growing up in a single parent household, Scott didn’t need to look far for inspiration. His mother’s job as a special education teacher’s aide was in jeopardy while Scott was in middle school.

A new county law required all school employees to possess at least an associate’s degree to continue working. His mother only had a high school diploma.

“There was no way she could afford to lose her job since she was the only source of income in my family,” Scott said. “So she enrolled part-time in a local community college and worked during the day and took courses at night.”

Before entering high school, Scott got to watch his mom cross the stage and accept her associate’s degree, calling it an “important moment” in his life.

“I know other first-generation and non-traditional students experience similar struggles,” Scott said. “I want to help these people, like my mom, avoid these struggles and succeed in their degree programs.”

For a career, Scott, 21, hopes to work for the Department of Education on the topics of accreditation, accessibility, and financial assistance. He can also see himself working as a recruitment and retention specialist or academic adviser at a university.

“Retention is a big thing,” Scott said. “Student success, I think, is associated with academic advising. An advisor is someone you should be able to go to for advice and have as a constant presence in your life.”

Scott is also majoring in multidisciplinary studies and has served in the Student Government Association.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 to honor the nation’s 33rd president and continue his commitment to education and public service.

President Truman believed an educated citizenship should give back to its community, and the Truman Scholarship is awarded to young leaders who demonstrate commitment to public service, have a compelling record of leadership and show a strong likelihood of succeeding in the graduate school program they’ve proposed.

In addition to the $30,000 for graduate study, recipients receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, as well as leadership training, career counseling, and internship opportunities within the federal government.

For more information, visit truman.gov.