Asma Noray ’17 Wins Truman Scholarship

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Noray has long sought to make a difference in the world and give back to the communities around her.

When Asma Noray ’17 received the email from President Valerie Smith telling her that she was receiving a Truman Scholarship, she didn’t trust her eyes.

“I actually asked my roommate to read it for me, as well, to make sure that I had understood it correctly,” says the special major in Arabic studies and political science from Shoreline, Wash. “Once the news fully settled in, I of course felt incredibly humbled to have received such an honor, and to be able to represent Swarthmore in the new cohort of Truman Scholars.”

Established to select and support the next generation of public service leaders, the Truman has become one of the most prestigious scholarships in the United States. Noray is one of just 54 students to receive the honor this year.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Noray has long sought to make a difference in the world and give back to the communities around her. While a first-year at Swarthmore, she volunteered in Iran for two months to help establish independent English programs for rural and impoverished communities.

Noray has also studied Arabic in Morocco, Oman, and Jordan and hopes to work with refugee populations in the region while improving relations between American citizens and the Middle East. Last year she earned a Boren Scholarship, created by a federal initiative to broaden the pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international relations skills.

Noray and the other Truman Scholars will receive $30,000 toward graduate school and opportunities to participate in professional development programming to prepare for careers in public service leadership. She plans to pursue a dual program in public policy and Middle Eastern studies, with a concentration in refugee policy and humanitarian aid.

Candidates for the Truman Scholarship undergo a rigorous, multi-stage process each year. This year, there were a record-high 775 candidates nominated by 305 colleges and universities. The 200 finalists were interviewed this spring at one of 16 regional selection panels, before the 54 scholars were chosen.

Swarthmore has become a Truman pipeline, with five students chosen as scholars over the last four years. The importance that the faculty, staff, and students place on social justice and using education as a tool for positive change is instructive, says Noray.

“My education at Swarthmore has opened so many doors for me,” she says, “in terms of developing my leadership abilities and in finding ways to transfer my education into palpable skills that will allow me to serve the communities I care so deeply about.”