Student Veteran Named Truman Scholar

by Mike Mavredakis

Student-veteran Desaree Edwards ’25 was one of 60 student leaders selected as Truman Scholars in 2024, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation announced on April 12. Truman Scholars demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence.

Each Truman Scholar receives funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. Edwards aims to go to law school to become a legal advocate for adult survivors of human trafficking. She said she specifically wants to see federal expansion of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to include safe harbor laws for adult survivors of human trafficking.

“I feel really passionately that the change that I want to make in the world won’t happen without a community of support,” Edwards said. “I was drawn to this community of people who are just as passionate about their field of public service as I am. To be the most effective advocate that you can be, it is really important that you have people around you that are going to support you.”

Edwards adds the Truman Scholarship to a long list of career accomplishments. Before coming to Wesleyan, she served eight years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear operator, mostly on the U.S.S. Florida, and was the first nuclear enlisted woman in the Atlantic fleet to qualify as a submariner, she said. She is a recipient of the Tillman Foundation Scholarship, a life-long leadership development award for active military, veterans, and military spouses, a Posse Foundation Scholar, and a Yale Law School LaunchPad Scholar, among others.

“Edwards struck me as exceptionally promising for the Truman Scholarship from our very first meeting,” said Erica Kowsz, associate director of fellowships. “She has an unusual degree of clarity about her career aspirations and a strong sense of purpose. Moreover, she acts on these, seeking out opportunities that help her build gain experience and refine her long-term goals.”

The 60 new Truman Scholars were selected from 709 candidates nominated by 285 colleges and universities. Recipients were selected based on the finalists’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders, according to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. They were recommended by 17 independent selection panels made up of distinguished civic leaders, elected officials, university presidents, federal judges, and past Truman Scholarship winners.

Edwards is the eighth Wesleyan student to be awarded a Truman Scholarship and first since 1998, joining Andrew Crawford ’97, Betty Emerson ’81, Benjamin Foss ’95, Blaise Lamphier ’86, Peter Leckman ’99, Eliza Leighton ’95, and Glenn Lunden ’83.

Since the scholarship was founded in 1977, over 3,500 have been named Truman Scholars. There are several Truman Scholarship recipients prominent in government service, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (1987), and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (1997), according to Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Former Georgia representative Stacey Abrams (1994) is also a Truman Scholar.

Students interested in pursuing a Truman Scholarship should reach out to the Office of Fellowships for further details.

This article was originally published in the Wesleyan Connection.