Mason Student Selected for Truman Scholarship

Posted: March 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm, Last Updated: March 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm

By Aisha Jamil

Alexandra Tyson. Creative Services photo

Each year, the Truman Scholarship Foundation provides up to $30,000 in funding to students who plan to pursue graduate degrees in public service fields. This year, Mason undergraduate Alexandra Tyson has been selected as scholarship recipient.

Tyson, a junior majoring in global affairs and government and international politics, was one of the 602 applicants who submitted applications for the scholarship; generally about 65 are selected.

Tyson is the fourth-ever Mason student to win a Truman Scholarship.

“I’m thrilled and absolutely floored,” says Tyson. “I’ve finally stopped crying and am now trying to let it sink in. It’s weird. If you had told me when I was a freshman that this was going to happen, I would have laughed in disbelief.”

In addition to the funding, the Truman Scholarship Foundation provides scholars assistance with career counseling, internship placement, graduate school admissions and professional development. Scholars are invited to participate in a number of programs, such as Truman Scholar Leadership Week, The Summer Institute and The Truman-Albright Fellows Program.

Born in London, Tyson was exposed to a variety of cultures as a child.

“I was raised by a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, both American, one a diplomat,” says Tyson. “When I was four, we moved to the Islamic country of Kuwait.”

However, when her brother was diagnosed with a severe learning disability, Tyson’s family decided to move to the United States permanently so that he could get treatment.

Moving around so much at such an early age, there was one thing that helped Tyson cope with change: drawing.

In fact, Tyson drew so much that her elementary school teacher restricted it and called a parent conference.

“With art, I was always searching for something, whether it was for a way to comment on the area surrounding me or to delve into my head,” she says.

Junior Alexandra Tyson is congratulated by Mason President Alan Merten and other well-wishers on being awarded the Truman Scholarship, which provides up to $30,000 in funding to students who plan to pursue graduate degrees in public service fields. Photo by Evan Cantwell

She adds: “Funnily enough, my love of design was noticed in the groups I joined at Mason, such as the Environmental Action Group (EAG). I pretty much became the de facto designer as a freshman. However, the content discussion at the EAG’s meetings stirred me in a way that made me want to become involved in the environmental movement. My initial passion for design led me to take higher leadership positions and educate myself and my peers about the destructive and insidious nature of issues such as climate change and mountaintop removal.”

Shortly after arriving at Mason, Tyson learned about the Truman Scholarship from a university bulletin board flier. Noting that the scholarship was for juniors only, Tyson tucked the thought of a fellowship into the back of her head.

“Since I have been at Mason,” she says, “I have always wanted to work in the public sector, and the Truman Foundation caters to those who aspire to take that route.”

At an information session on the scholarship, Tyson met a former Truman scholar who spoke about how the foundation changed her life.

“I was blown away by how authentic the representative was. She had such personality and wasn’t afraid to let anyone know it,” Tyson says, adding, “I spoke to her afterward and thought to myself, ‘Wow. If this is what a Truman scholar is like, then I want to be one.’”

LaNitra Berger, the Fellowship and Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program director who helped Tyson with the application process, knew that Tyson had what it took to win.

“Alex was truly surprised to learn that she was selected as a Truman Scholar, but I was not. I know that she will exceed all of the expectations that the Truman Foundation has of its scholars. Her commitment to environmental sustainability at Mason and the broader community requires a level of compassion, dedication and resolve that I have not seen before in my career. We should all be proud that students like Alex have dedicated their lives to public service.”

Tyson plans to pursue a master’s in public policy with a concentration in international environmental policy.

Although it has been a long and demanding process, Tyson is hopeful about her future and has some words of wisdom for Mason students who might be interested in applying for the scholarship.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” she says “If you don’t like what you are doing now, stop doing it and do what you love. Having passion for what you do is always better than trying to fit a mold you think some random fellowship director wants you to be.”



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