Carrot cake and coffee awaited a small crowd gathered in the lobby of the Honors Program in the Jot Travis building in early April. Some of the University of Nevada, Reno's most impressive scholars met and talked with staff and faculty members about their classes, educational travels, current undergraduate research projects and favorite pastimes.
The small reception, which welcomed University President Marc Johnson, Provost Kevin Carman, Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Joe Cline, College of Education's Associate Professor Margaret Ferrara, College of Engineering's Associate Professor Ravi Subramanian and others, congratulated University students Jonathan Carral, Steven DelaCruz, Anna Koster and Nolan Nicholson.
"We are so happy to gather today and recognize these candidates who applied for the most prestigious national fellowships: Goldwater, Udall and Truman scholarships," Tamara Valentine, director of the University's Honors Program, said. Then, pointing toward Carral, she continued. "One student, in particular, applied for the Truman Scholarship and is a finalist."
DelaCruz, the founder of the University's Sustainable Energy Network and the University's first-ever Udall Scholar, also joined Koster this year as a Goldwater Scholar. Koster was awarded the prestigious fellowship in 2012, is majoring in both chemistry and music, and was recently selected as the Senior Scholar or top-performing student in both the College of Science and College of Liberal Arts. Nicholson, a Goldwater candidate/nominee, was welcomed to the University in fall 2011 as a National Merit Finalist and is pursuing a degree in chemical engineering. Carral studied in Chengdu, China for three semesters thanks to the Gilman International Scholarship and Smallwood Study Abroad Scholarship. He is a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholar, preparing himself to obtain a graduate degree in international affairs.
The list of accolades accumulated so early in these young students' lives impressed President Johnson and Provost Carman, who both said a few words during the short ceremony.
"I would like to congratulate you on two things," Johnson said. "One, for being great students and seeking such incredible opportunities, and two, for bringing such credit to the University by epitomizing the fact that you can get a high quality education at the University of Nevada, Reno."
"However, I would like to correct something that Tammie just said," Johnson continued. "Jonathan, you are not a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, you are the University's newest Truman Scholar."
The international affairs major and graduate from Galena High School quickly covered his head with his left arm as he was notified of the $30,000 Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the third awarded to a University of Nevada, Reno student since 1985.
Carral, a first-generation American and first-generation college student, was so stunned he was unable to say anything and sat in shock while he absorbed the news.
Valentine, who pulled off the surprise beautifully, smirked at Carral.
"I knew you were up to something," Carral told Valentine. "I truly didn't think I got it."
Among 629 candidates nominated from 293 colleges and universities, 62 exceptional college juniors from 54 U.S. colleges and universities were selected as 2013 Truman Scholars. The scholarship will help fund Carral's graduate education, as he plans to pursue a degree that will guide him toward public service.
"Congratulations to Jonathan Carral," Andrew Rich, executive secretary for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, said in a letter. "Many thanks to Tamara Valentine, the University of Nevada, Reno's Truman Scholarship representative, who deserves enormous credit for advising and encouraging your new Truman Scholar through the arduous application process. Others, no doubt, deserve credit as well."
Valentine said Carral was totally committed to the Truman Scholarship, even adding a minor in Spanish in order to push back graduation and allow him to meet the application requirements.
"The process of preparing Jonathan to submit and then interview for the Truman Scholarship included numerous meetings, multiple revisions, additional research, three mock interviews with several faculty members from across campus and updates on current events," said Daniel Villanueva, assistant director of the Honors Program.
"We are so excited for Jonathan," Valentine said. "We find that these fellowships offer many more opportunities down the road; they are stepping stones into other great things, and he will certainly make a difference in this world."
Carral performed well at every stage of the process. As a Truman finalist, he was invited to participate in an intense regional interview and reception in March on the campus of Arizona State University.
"To get a graduate education is something neither I nor my father ever thought was possible," Carral said, still shaking his head in disbelief. "As a first-generation American citizen and college student, I represent more than just myself in pursuing future educational and professional goals. My father was born and raised in Mexico, immigrated to the United States in his 20s, and is now a proud citizen of this country. Becoming a Truman Scholar and being awarded the means to pursue an advanced degree to become an agent of change is the best way I can think to honor my father's sacrifice."
Carral will graduate from the University in spring 2014 and plans to pursue a graduate degree in international affairs with a concentration on development at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy in New York City. He would like to start a non-governmental organization and work with disadvantaged children in developing countries. He would also like to connect governments and organizations to better meet the needs of the international community, specifically displaced and disadvantaged youth, and meet with leaders and offices throughout his educational journey and career to create and implement appropriate public policy.
"I connected with the vision of the Truman Foundation because I have always had a heart for public service but had doubts about pursuing further education due to financial strain," Carral said. "Since returning from China last summer, I have made this application my primary focus."
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive federal scholarship granted to U.S. college juniors for demonstrated leadership potential and a commitment to public service. Instead of a statue, Congress created the scholarship in 1975 as a living memorial to the 33rd president of the United States.
For a listing of the 2013 Scholars and more information, go to www.truman.gov.