Three Clemson juniors have been selected as finalists for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, marking the second year in a row Clemson has had multiple finalists.
This year’s competition for the $30,000 scholarship had a record number of applicants and resulted in 193 finalists. South Carolina has four: three from Clemson and one from the University of South Carolina.
“This is essentially unheard of as the state has had just two finalists nearly every year for at least the last decade,” said Robyn Curtis, director of Clemson’s Office of Major Fellowships.
Clemson’s finalists are all members of the Honors College and from Greenville, S.C. They have a record of advocacy on campus and career goals to affect public policy in the following areas:
- Roann Abdeladl, a health sciences major, on disparities in health care for minority communities
- Veronica “Ronnie” Clevenstine, an economics major, on global food insecurity
- George “Tyler” McDougald, a history and English major, on LGBTQIA+ civil rights and HIV decriminalization.
Named in honor of the late U.S. President Harry S. Truman, the $30,000 scholarship is awarded to students who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence.
The finalists will be interviewed by the Truman Foundation’s Regional Review Panels between between March 1 and April 5, and the 2021 Class of Truman Scholars will be announced on April 14.
Typically only one Truman Scholar is selected each year from each state.
“Last year was Clemson’s first year to ever have multiple finalists, so it’s very exciting to exceed that this year with three,” Curtis said. Of the 129 institutions with finalists, only five have more than two finalists selected from the same state.
The Office of Major Fellowships opened in July of 2018 to provide a centralized hub to offer support and guidance to major fellowship candidates. Because each university may typically nominate only four students, those seeking Clemson’s nomination must participate in an extensive internal competition.
Meet the Finalists
Roann Abdeladl, an Honors College junior from Greenville, is majoring in health sciences (preprofessional health studies concentration) with a minor in public policy.
She plans to work at the intersection of medicine, health policy, and public health with a focus on addressing health disparities in minority communities, particularly among Muslim-Americans.
“My experiences both inside, and especially outside, the classroom helped to prepare me to apply to the Truman Scholarship,” said Roann, who is also a member of the National Scholars Program, Clemson’s most selective academic merit scholarship.
“I’m very grateful for those incredible learning opportunities, including research, leadership activities and study abroad,” she said.
Roann served as a Student Government senator on the inaugural Inclusion and Equity committee where she helped to draft and pass legislation calling for the renaming of the Clemson University Honors College, formerly the Calhoun Honors College, and Tillman Hall.
The following year she served as chair of the Inclusion and Equity committee where she led a team of eight senators to host a “Clemson’s history” event designed to build awareness of the history of Clemson’s founding.
“We congratulate Roann on this exceptional achievement,” said Ron Gimbel, chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences. “She represents the best of our department and college and our collective commitment to the health and well-being of people and communities.”
Veronica “Ronnie” Clevenstine
Veronica “Ronnie” Clevenstine, an Honors College student from Greenville, is majoring in economics with minors in political science and sustainability. She intends to pursue a career in food insecurity policy.
“The mentors and professors I’ve had the privilege of working with throughout my time at Clemson have been instrumental to my understanding of the world and my place in it,” said Ronnie, who is also a member of Clemson’s National Scholars Program.
“Further, as Clemson University is the Land Grant Institution of my home state, I have had unique opportunities as a student here to work with South Carolinians facing systemic injustice and inequality on a variety of community and economic development projects.”
Ronnie has worked directly on issues surrounding food insecurity through research and service activities. As co-executive director of Clemson’s Food Collective, she advocates for institutional partnerships between Clemson and community groups and seeks more sustainable approaches to food sourcing.
Ronnie has studied the impact of food insecurity across 12 counties of South Carolina through a grant-funded project. Also, she is researching state-based restrictions on government assistance for individuals with previous drug-related convictions as part of her political science departmental honors thesis.
“Policy makers often neglect qualitative data during their deliberations, generally preferring to rely on ‘hard numbers’ instead,” said Catherine Mobley, professor of sociology. “While Ronnie realizes the importance of hard data for informing her deep and broad knowledge of food insecurity, she also recognizes the power of personal narrative. This quality sets Ronnie apart from others and has been essential to her success as a student leader.”
George “Tyler” McDougald
George “Tyler” McDougald, an Honors student from Greenville, is majoring in history and English with a minor in philosophy.
Tyler has advocated for the LGBTQIA+ community on Clemson’s campus, including the creation of a LGBTQIA+ Living Learning Community. Lavender Place was officially approved in September 2020 and is accepting residents for its inaugural cohort in Fall 2021.
As CUSG Senate Inclusion and Equity chair, Tyler researched obstacles, collaborated with faculty to create a course for residents and oversaw the project through a long approval process with the CUSG Senate and Clemson Housing.
“My selection as a Truman Finalist feels incredibly validating and motivating, as it affirms the value of my work up until this point and the potential my future work holds,” Tyler said.
“As someone who wishes to attend law school after graduation, my selection as a finalist and the prospect of becoming a Truman Scholar bolsters my commitment to LGBTQIA+ people as I prepare for my legal education.”
Currently Tyler is completing his English departmental honors thesis and is the departmental nominee for both the history and English Departments for the Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award.
“Tyler’s ambition for his future work operates at a larger scale than that of most students I have known, and he combines his national and global ambitions with local care and love,” said Erin Goss, an associate professor in the English department. “It is a truly rare combination, and I have every confidence he can make vast differences at both scales.”
Students interested in the Truman Scholarship or other nationally competitive programs should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at 864-656-9704 or email@example.com.
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