Taylor Morgan ’19 sat cloistered in a corner of the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia with 13 other regional finalists for a Truman Scholarship. She braced for her personal interview, counting on an intense experience. But once she went before the panelists, their pointed and persistent questioning — on complicated topics such as reparations and constitutional law — still surprised her.
Thanks in part to her Swarthmore experience, however, it didn’t rattle her.
“It reminded me of sitting in seminar, being challenged by professors and peers, and I’ve had three years of experience with that,” says Morgan, an Honors sociology & anthropology major and peace and conflict studies minor from Brick, N.J. who is the first in her family to attend college.
“There’s something very particular about the ways a Swarthmore education enables you to ask and respond to specific questions and draw connections between different instances of injustice and how power structures enable them to continue,” she adds.
Morgan won over the panel, becoming one of only 59 Truman Scholars across the U.S. this year and earning a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school. She plans to pursue a joint JD and Ph.D. in African American studies and philosophy, specializing in critical race theory.
“I’m going to become a scholar of race and race relations, and with a JD I can not only practice law and defend people who have been subjected to discrimination, but develop and teach law in a way that enables others to understand the significance of race in both our everyday lives and in our constitution,” she says. “There are experts of law and race, but not enough overlap — and I want to serve as a bridge there.”
The scholarship was a process three years in the making, says Morgan, who began envisioning it when she first arrived at Swarthmore. On the way to actualizing it, she has led a wide array of public service efforts, such as political campaign organizing, campus voter registration, college access counseling, social movement research, and police/prison abolition advocacy.
Morgan co-hosts a public radio show, BLACKQUEERHEREradio, on which she promotes race-based policy solutions and restorative practices for womxn of color. She is also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, a resident assistant (RA), a student academic mentor (SAM), and former president of the Swarthmore College Democrats.
Established to select and support the next generation of public service leaders, the Truman has become one of the most prestigious scholarships in the U.S. This year’s winners were selected through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process that whittled 756 candidates from 311 colleges and universities down to 194 finalists for interview.
The Truman’s core tenet resonates for Morgan, who views public service as “an obligation, not a choice.”
“My upbringing and experiences at Swarthmore enable me to understand the nuances of what freedom and justice mean,” says Morgan, who will attend a week of orientation programs and an award ceremony at the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Missouri in late May.
“I think it puts me in the best position to be a public servant and continue this legacy of seeking justice and liberation.”