Student Profile: Olivia Smith, Truman Scholar

Junior Olivia Smith, Political Science and Spanish major, is the university's newest Truman Scholar. The prestigious academic award, from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, is given to undergraduates who are preparing for careers in public service. Seattle University is among the most elite schools in the country for the number of Truman Scholars it produces, a total of 15 to date. Smith is the only Washington college student to receive the award in 2015.

Truman Scholarship winners receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programs to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership. Smith, a Sullivan Scholar, hopes to attend the University of Chicago Law School and ultimately to return to Washington where she aspires to serve as a King County prosecuting attorney.

President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., shared the Truman news to Smith in a surprise visit to a Sullivan Leadership meeting she was attending.

“When he made the announcement, I immediately began to cry because I was excited, relieved, in disbelief and thankful,” said Smith. “As they read the official announcement, I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and gave glory to God because I am blessed, truly blessed, to have received such an opportunity.”

At SU, Smith has been named to the Dean’s list every year and is also a member of the women’s rowing team. Outside of class, she serves as a youth ambassador and motivational speaker in the greater Seattle community and works as an intern with state Congressman Adam Smith. She has done community outreach with the United Way of King County, Seattle Social Venture Projects Fast Pitch, and the One Equal Heart Foundation and as an intern with the League of Education.

“Olivia is extraordinarily poised, confident yet humble. She is a remarkable young woman who successfully juggles academics, community service, and athletics,” said Economics Professor Bridget Hiedemann, the university’s Truman Scholar faculty representative.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. The Truman Award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States.

Annually, candidates for the Truman Scholarship go through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process. In 2015, there were 688 candidates for the award nominated by nearly 300 colleges and universities. The 58 Truman Scholars received their awards in a ceremony May 24 at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Washington, D.C.

Published June 2015.