Two Swarthmore juniors, Akunna Uka '14 and Mackenzie Welch '14, are winners of a Truman Scholarship for 2013, which recognizes strong leadership potential, intellectual ability, and a commitment to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector. Only 62 students from around the country receive the scholarship, which provides $30,000 for graduate study.
Uka believes that through her courses and extracurricular activities at Swarthmore, she was able to strengthen her commitment to public service, particularly in the education of marginalized communities of color and low income.
"I feel truly blessed to be named a Truman Scholar," says Uka, a political science and educational studies major from Mount Vernon, N.Y. "Receiving the Truman Scholarship is a testament to the accomplishments that an individual can achieve when stakeholders decide that the person has potential and is worth investing in. I look forward to a career in education that reflects my belief that all people, regardless of race, socio-economic background, or other diverse experiences, are worthy of great investment."
Uka is also a Lang Opportunity Scholar. In the program's 30-plus-year history, more than 200 students have completed projects to promote the common good in more than 70 cities throughout 30 countries. Through her Lang Scholarship, Uka is currently developing a computer literacy course for adult learners to prepare them for the GED. She would like to pursue a master's in educational leadership and would ultimately like to work on education policy.
Welch, an Honors political science major and Latin American studies minor from Chadron, Neb., is interested in studying the effects of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, focusing on rural communities. She hopes to enter a joint-degree program to obtain a master's in international affairs. She would like to ultimately join the U.S. Foreign Service to help shape foreign policy decisions in Latin America.
"I am honored to have been chosen as a Truman Scholar," Welch says, "and incredibly grateful to the people who supported me on my path to Swarthmore." Welch is also a Richard Rubin Scholar and works part time at the College Access Center of Delaware County, where she runs educational workshops for high school students. On campus, she is involved with Mock Trial, Swarthmore Quest Scholars Network, and Swarthmore Prisoners Advocacy Coalition.
Last fall, Welch worked as a legal intern at the Amazon Defense Coalition in Ecuador. She was a part of the team working on the asset seizure of $19 billion in an environmental lawsuit recently won for 30,000 clients from the Ecuadorian Amazon. This summer, she will be at the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC-Berkeley. She then plans to return to Ecuador and continue working for the Amazon Defense Coalition on asset seizure cases in Canada and Argentina.