Of Presidential proportions: A&S Truman Center scholarship honors its namesake’s legacy

Kharissa Forte

President Harry S. Truman is an almost-but-not-quite UMKC alumnus.

Truman attended night classes at the Kansas City School of Law from 1923 to 1925 in his years as Jackson County judge.

In 1938, 13 years after Truman quit, the law school merged with the University of Kansas City.

By then, Truman was a U.S. Senator from Missouri, and would become vice president under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Truman returned to his hometown of Independence after his career in the White House and has since become intrinsically tied to Missouri.

In 1969, Truman wrote a letter to UMKC Chancellor James Olson proposing a governmental affairs center.

However, the lack of a budget and interest from school officials kept the center from materializing for more than three decades.

In 2006, the Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs was established as a department of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Its mission: to honor Truman’s legacy through public programming and student engagement. This is done primarily through lectures and student scholarships.

United Nations officials are regulars at Truman Center guest lectures.

The Bootstrap Scholarship offers two all-expenses paid summer internships in Washington D.C. for UMKC students. The 2012 Bootstrap scholars were senior political science major Emalea Black and Lola Oduyeru, who graduated in May with a degree in political science.

“[Truman] had to drop out for many of the same reasons that students face today,” said Dr. Dale Neuman, Truman Center director.

“We thought we would honor his commitment by funding this scholarship, which provides books, tuition, transportation to D.C., housing and living expenses to two interns in Congress each summer.”

Each year, applications for the Bootstrap Scholarship are accepted through November. To be eligible, a student must be a full-time UMKC junior or senior with a minimum 3.25 GPA and have completed a college-level American Government course.

Neuman said two winners are chosen in December after an extensive review process by a committee of UMKC alumni who are committed to the Truman Center’s goals.

Oduyeru used the Bootstrap Scholarship stipend to intern with Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver’s Washington office. She said her interest in public affairs led her to apply.

“Capitol Hill is where the most important policy decisions are made, and I felt that working in a Congressional office would give me a better understanding of how Congress operates,” Oduyeru said. “I also wanted to figure out how I factor into the equation, not just as an aspiring attorney, but also as a citizen who is enthusiastic about seeing positive changes in the way our nation operates.”

Oduyeru learned of her acceptance in February.

“I was super excited,” she said. “I felt like the hours I spent putting my application together really paid off.”

The scholarship was important to Oduyeru because it provided an opportunity that would have otherwise been cost prohibitive.

“The cost of living in D.C. is significantly higher than Kansas City,” Oduyeru said. “Many interns I met had to cut their internships short simply because they could no longer to afford the cost. I’m thankful that the Truman Center covered nearly all of the expenses associated with the internship.”

Oduyeru described the internship as a “highlight” of her undergraduate career.

“I feel like I have a better understanding of how Congress functions, and I learned about career opportunities that I didn’t know existed,” she said.

Truman Center scholars are required to maintain a daily journal of their experiences in D.C. The journal is then used to write a paper about the student’s experiences in D.C., which is graded by political science professor Dr. Elizabeth Miller for course credit.

“The application may be daunting, but it’s well worth it,” Oduyeru concluded.

Black was not available for comment.

For more information on the Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs, visit www.cas.UMKC.edu/TrumanCenter.

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