Indivar Dutta-Gupta, a third-year in the College, received the Harry S. Truman scholarship for public service, parlaying his campus activism with community service to become the University's 18th recipient of the award.
Dutta-Gupta, a dual concentrator in political science and law, letters, and society, co-founded two organizations: The University's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Men in Service, a University Community Service Center program that links men with service opportunities.
"You have to have a bit of good luck, as the other finalists were certainly no less deserving," Dutta-Gupta said of the award.
The distinction is given to 80 or fewer American college students each year, and winners are selected from a pool of over 600 finalists.
The Truman Scholarship, created in 1975, awards grants of $26,000 to support the work of students who are "change agents"individuals likely to make a difference through careers in public service.
Dutta-Gupta said he wants to work in human rights advocacy for a non-government organization, such as Oxfam or Amnesty International, and ultimately, for the executive branch of the U.S. government.
"I think my off-campus activities were as important or more important for this application," he said in an e-mail interview. "I represent the Midwest on Amnesty International USA's National Campus Advisory Committee and I help coordinate Amnesty's work to free a Syrian prisoner of conscience.
Dutta-Gupta said that the largest issue University students are ignorant of is economic policy, noting that many students accept it without question.
"It is important to realize that economic reasoning, though not perfect or sufficient on its own for most policy issues, can be helpful for achieving any set of public policy goals and values, whether it's guaranteeing universal healthcare, protecting the environment, or improving urban public education."
Dutta-Gupta's classes are closely related to his activities, though he was not sure if they inspired his extracurricular pursuits, or vice versa.
"I also try to discuss with my friends and professors the sort of issues that I deal with through my extracurricular activities," Dutta-Gupta said. "There are so many great, thoughtful social justice advocates and serious policy thinkers on campus, that I learn a lot from watching and speaking with various campus leaders and professors.
Michael Green, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and a teacher of Dutta-Gupta, said that he expects Dutta-Gupta to be a "thoughtful, energetic, and imaginative advocate for human rights in whatever field he enters."
Nancy Jacobson, an advisor in the College and the University's Truman Representative for the past two years, was impressed by Dutta-Gupta's commitment to human rights.
"Indi is not content to have a partial understanding of an issue," she wrote in his recommendation, "and he will not be content to have a modest impact on the problems he sees in the world."
Congress established the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation in 1975 as the official federal memorial to honor the 33rd U.S. President and his commitment to public service.
The foundation awards scholarships to college students who have outstanding leadership potential, who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service, and who wish to attend graduate school in preparation for their careers.