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KU announces Truman scholarship nominees

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

LAWRENCE — Four outstanding juniors will be the University of Kansas nominees for Harry S. Truman Scholarships.

The students are competing for the prestigious national awards, which provide up to $30,000 for graduate study. The awards are given to college juniors for leadership in public service. They are highly competitive, with only about 60 Truman Scholars named nationwide each year.  

This year’s KU nominees: 

  • Radhia Abdirahman, majoring in global & international studies and human biology (applied behavioral sciences)  

  • Rachel Hall, majoring in global & international studies and political science and minoring in intelligence and national security studies 

  • Gustavo Murillo-Espinoza, majoring in molecular, cellular & developmental biology and a minor in Latino/a studies 

  • Leah Stein, majoring in sociology and minoring in social justice in the United States.

Criteria for the nominations include an extensive record of campus and community service, commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors, communication skills and a high probability of becoming a "change agent," and a strong academic record with likely acceptance to the graduate school of the candidate’s choice.  

The campus nomination process is coordinated by the Office of Fellowships, a unit of Academic Success. Students interested in applying for the Truman Scholarship in future years are encouraged to contact the office, which can nominate a limited number of students each year.  

Scholars receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government.  

Since 1981, 20 KU students have become Truman scholars. Samuel Steuart was the most recent KU student to receive the honor in 2019.  

Congress established the Truman Scholarship Foundation in 1975 as the federal memorial to President Harry S. Truman. A national selection committee reviews applications from more than 800 nominees for the Truman Foundation. Approximately 200 students will be named finalists in late February and invited for regional interviews in March and early April. The scholarship recipients will be announced in late April.  

More information about KU’s nominees is below:  

Radhia AbdirahmanRadhia Abdirahman, of Overland Park and Vancouver, British Columbia, is a double major in global & international studies and human biology with an emphasis in applied behavioral sciences. The daughter of Hassan Dirie and Hibo Rabile, she graduated from Tamanawis Secondary School. Abdirahman is a member of the University Honors Program, the McNair Scholars Program, the Multicultural Scholars Program and the University Scholars Program. In the Honors Program, Abdirahman has served as a freshman seminar assistant and an honors ambassador, and she recently took a leadership role in the Common Cause: Social Justice and Racial Equity Symposium. As a freshman, Abdirahman was selected for the Rising Jayhawk award for her leadership of a service initiative as vice president of the Muslim Student Association. She currently serves as development director for the Center for Community Outreach and co-director of advocacy with the HEAL KU program. She is an intern for the Hall Center for the Humanities, Spencer Museum of Art and Kansas African Studies Center’s Mellon-funded Sawyer Seminar Series on "Chronic Conditions: Knowing, Seeing, & Healing the Body in Global Africa." She is a Foreign Language Area Studies Fellow for Arabic.  

Rachel HallRachel Hall, of Lenexa, is a double major in global & international studies and political science with a minor in intelligence and national security studies. The daughter of Debbie and Keith Hall, she graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School. Hall has had internships with the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York and with Global Ties KC, a nonprofit that facilitates international visitor leadership programs and citizens diplomacy. Currently, she is completing an internship course for the U.S. Army TRADOC and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and is an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence Scholar. She previously served as an intern for St. Thomas Episcopal Church, coordinating summer community service events for children and a mission trip to Houston for hurricane cleanup. On campus, she is involved with Canterbury House and, as a student of Russian, the KU Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Club. She also has held leadership positions in Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. 

Gustavo Murillo-EspinozaGustavo Murillo-Espinoza, of Emporia, is majoring in molecular, cellular & developmental biology and a minor in Latino/a studies. The son of Silvino and Veronica Murillo, he graduated from Emporia High School. Murillo-Espinoza is a member of the University Honors Program, the Multicultural Scholars Program and TRIO STEM, and he was selected as a freshman for the Center for Undergraduate Research’s Emerging Scholars Program. He continues to work in the biomolecular lab of Joanna Slusky, associate professor of molecular biosciences. Murillo-Espinoza is involved in several organizations for fellow Mexican and Hispanic students, including Phi Iota Alpha, and the Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund. KU Endowment selected him for the Tradition of Excellence Scholarship based on his leadership with these organizations. For the past two years, Murillo-Espinoza served as a student leader for OPTIONS, a pre-semester program for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students. Murillo-Espinoza is a chemistry tutor for the Peer-Led Undergraduate Supplement program and is a student ambassador for TRIO and the University Honors Program. 

Leigh SteinLeah Stein, of Dodge City, is majoring in sociology and minoring in social justice in the United States. The daughter of Michael and Coleen Stein, she graduated from Dodge City High School. Stein is a member of the University Honors Program and was selected last year for the University Scholars Program, which seeks to identify top sophomores from across campus. She was also selected last year for Mortar Board honorary society, for which she serves as the social chair. Over the spring and summer, Stein worked on two political campaigns in southwest Kansas. Stein has been involved in the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics Student Advisory Board, where she has engaged in programs such as this fall’s Gratitude Drive-Thru for veterans. She is current president of Chi Omega and has previously served as vice president and Foundation Ambassador. She is a student ambassador for the university and interned with KU Alumni Association.