Iowa Board of Regents

Regent Johnson Awarded with Prestigious Truman Scholarship

April 12, 2017

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Regent Rachael Johnson has received the prestigious Truman Scholarship, awarded by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation in support of its mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. Johnson, one of 62 nationwide awardees, will receive a $30,000 scholarship for graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programs to help her prepare for a career in public service leadership.

Johnson, a double major in elementary education and middle level education from Sioux City, Iowa, is the University of Northern Iowa’s first Truman Scholarship recipient. 

“I am honored to be selected for the Truman Scholarship,” Johnson said. “This scholarship is something that will follow me throughout my life. Truman Scholars are doing incredible work throughout a wide variety of organizations and I am privileged to join their ranks.”

The Truman Scholarship ranks as one of the nation’s most prestigious scholarships. Truman Scholars are noted as such for the rest of their lives and include among their ranks former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (1977), New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (1981), ABC News Anchor George Stephanopoulos (1981), and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (1987).

“Something that was very attractive to me when I began learning about the scholarship was the community that Truman Scholars become a part of,” Johnson said. “They’re incredible people, and to be able to become a part of that community is very exciting.”

Johnson, who has served on the Board of Regents since May, 2015, went through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process. This year, 768 candidates were nominated by a record 315 colleges and universities. The 199 finalists were interviewed in March and early April at one of 16 regional selection panels. Johnson interviewed in Kansas City, Mo.

“Part of the application process involved answering professional questions that I’ve never had to sit down and think about critically,” she said. “It really forced me to stop and look at things and look at myself in ways I might not have without it.”

Part of Johnson’s application process involved writing a policy memo on GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a program that targets cohorts of secondary education students in low-income schools and encourages their enrollment in post-secondary institutions. 

“Higher education is so important and can be so life-changing,” she said. “There are so many opportunities that it provides. My experience with the Board has only reinforced this feeling.”

Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter and the Board’s Executive Director Robert Donley, offered praise to Regent Johnson.

“Rachael’s award is another example of students succeeding at the highest level at Iowa’s public institutions,” said Rastetter. “She exemplifies the kind of student that quality public education can produce and is a credit to the University of Northern Iowa and the Board of Regents.”  

“Rachael has continuously astonished me with her ability to comprehend highly complex and confidential issues, listen to all of the key stakeholders, and take leadership in making recommendations and implementing strategies in both problem resolution and strategic policy development,” Donley said. “Rachael's gift is that she has the ability to approach complex, and often emotionally charged issues, with grace and calm.”

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. Truman Scholars are chosen based on their commitment to public service, academic achievement and being a "change agent." The 2017 Truman Scholarship recipients will receive their awards in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum on Sunday, May 28, 2017.


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