Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

Harry S. Truman Scholarship

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship supports the graduate and professional development of students committed to public service leadership. Each year the foundation selects approximately 60 scholars for this competitive national award. Applicants must be nominated by their universities to compete for this national program and the University of Washington is able to nominate 4-6 candidates each year. Students who are in their third year of study are eligible to apply for nomination. This year, the University of Washington nominated 5 students and one of our nominees was selected as a Truman Foundation finalist.

Learn more about the Truman Scholarship Program and UW’s nomination process.

UW 2017-2018 Nominees

Rachel Gerstenfeld

Junior: Psychology; Law, Societies & Justice (intended)

My name is Rachel Gerstenfeld, and I am double majoring in Psychology and Law, Societies and Justice, with a minor in Music. I am interested in the Truman Scholarship because I see it as an invaluable opportunity to become part of a large network of public service leaders across the country. I plan to attend law school and earn a JD, specializing in law around gender-based violence issues. This field of work sparked my interest after I completed training to become a Peer Health Educator on campus. As part of the Peer Health Educator Leadership Team, I spearheaded the launch of a campaign named “It’s On Us UW” in Spring 2017. It’s On Us aims to empower students and staff to create a community that is truly resilient against sexual violence. During spring quarter, my team and I traveled all over campus facilitating It’s On Us presentations and spreading the message. The following summer, I interned as a Protection Order Advocate in the Regional Justice Center. I had the opportunity to provide services to domestic violence survivors, helping them establish a safety plan, form their statements, and navigate the court system. My time spent in the courtroom solidified my passion for violence prevention and advocacy work.

Ashley Lewis

Junior: Aquatic Fisheries Sciences (intended)

I am, and always will be, an advocate for the great outdoors. Fishing and hiking on the Olympic Peninsula is where you can find me outside of the classroom. As a fishing guide, sharing my passion with others has taught me much about needs of our outdoor spaces. My experiences as a fishing guide helped me see that I wanted to make a greater impact than on one river, so I returned to higher education. As a student, my goal is to continue my education on through an M.S. of Aquatic Fisheries Science at the University of Washington. Professionally, I want to work in policy to help strengthen Pacific Northwest fisheries. Through outreach and advocacy, I want to educate people in outdoor recreation while showing them that investing in outdoor spaces benefits us all. As a Truman Scholar hopeful, I want to show that leaders can even come as female Native American fishing guides.

Rodha Sheikh

Junior: Law, Societies & Justice (intended)

I am a third year at the UW studying LSJ. I plan to pursue an Education policy program because I aim to bridge the educational gap that is present between wealthy and underfunded schools in the K-12 system. As an individual who attended two different high schools in the U.S., one dominated by low-income students and the other by middle-class, wealthy students, I noticed a great difference in the quality of education provided as well as the difference in advising provided. I also noticed a significant difference in the racial demographics between the two schools which lead me to learn about racism within the education system. Considering that education is a significant determinant of future quality of life, I find it necessary to improve its quality in underfunded schools and I plan to work on creating that change.

UW 2016-17 Nominees & Finalist:


  • Melissa Guzman: Law, Societies & Justice; Psychology
  • Talia Haller: Business Administration; International Studies
  • Jolee Melink: American Ethnic Studies; Social Welfare
  • Elizabeth Purdy: Social welfare
  • Ernie Tao: Biochemistry; Political Science
  • Ernie Tao, Finalist

    Junior, Biochemistry, Political Science majors


    Ernie is a political science and biochemistry major at the University of Washington. Upon beginning his undergraduate studies, he worked as an EMT in the city of Seattle and then later moved on to work as a Firefighter/EMT in Skyway, Seattle. These experiences catalyzed his passion for public health, and he is particularly interested in the social determinants of health as a major contributor to disparities in health outcomes. His coursework and experiences with various research projects has allowed him to pursue quantitative studies in subjects such as food access, food insecurity, and food policy analysis. Ernie has also worked as a cancer immunology research assistant in the Ruddell Lab and as a youth tutor. He is a Princeton PPIA fellow, Mary Gates Research Scholar, Kaiser Scholar, and honors student in both majors. Upon graduation, Ernie hopes to peruse a dual masters in public health and public administration to one day serve as a public health administrator. Ernie plans to use his background in field medical work, research methods, and policy analysis to develop evidence-based health policy to promote individual and community health.