Upcoming SGA President Awarded Prestigious Truman Scholarship

UVM junior Kesha Ram is having what VH1 would call the Best Year Ever. Not only has the upper classman recently been elected for SGA president, but she has also been the only UVM student in more than a decade to win the Truman Scholarship, a highly prestigious civil service award. The scholarship is intended to give approximately $30,000 to college juniors who are planning on careers in civil service. Ram herself has plans to integrate environmental justice with civil rights. “I’ve always just sort of been driven to help people. I care a lot about social justice and the environment,” she professed, saying that the integration of both was where she found her final answer. “People in my hometown were suffering with the air and water, kids getting nose-bleeds because they lived next to landfills. It really struck a chord with me,” Ram said. Ram admitted that the scholarship process itself was grueling. Not only are candidates required to write a policy proposal for a specific state, but also required to answer a plethora of questions ranging in intensity from what previous leadership positions they had held to what did they see themselves doing five to ten years after grad school. Although daunting, Ram said that mapping out her life was very useful. “I know it sounds corny, but it was really helpful to go through this scholarship pro-cess,” she said. From 600 to 700 applicants, the pool is narrowed down to 200 finalists, all of whom are required to travel to Washington, D.C. for a 20 minute interview. “The interview is very confrontational,” Ram said.With a panel of five judges made up of previous Truman Scholars, the questions they ask can be a bit tricky and out of the blue. “It’s because you are going into public service, and there are a lot of people disagreeing with you all the time. They want to see if you are ready for that,” Ram said. From these 200 finalists, the final 75 are picked. Ram explained that the panel is looking for someone to invest their money in. “You need to convince them that, at whatever cost, you’re going to help people,” Ram said. However long and complicated the process may be, Ram admitted that it basically boiled down to one thing: “You just need to know how to talk to people and you have to be passionate,” she said. A previous winner of the Udall Scholarship, given to students in areas of environmental study, Ram, being one of two students to ever win he scholarship in UVM history, was surprised and delighted to win another. Although somewhat difficult to accomplish, Ram said that, “winning the scholarships has really opened a lot of doors,” helping her to find out about internships and pro-grams otherwise unknown to her. “If I can do it, anyone can,” she said. It’s apparent that the passion Ram feels for her cause shined through in her application. Having personally gone through the scholarship appli-cation process twice now, Ram offers any help she can give to future applicants. “You need to ask yourself, ‘does this scholarship fit what I want to do in life?'” Ram said. If that answer is “yes,” “there is a whole other world of opportunity for you.”