MACON – Mercer University junior McPherson Newell was recently selected as a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation this year received 773 applications from 316 colleges and universities. A total of 190 finalists were selected based on their records of leadership, public service and academic achievement and were interviewed by the foundation’s Regional Review Panels from March 1-April 6. Newell was one of only four finalists from Georgia.
“McPherson Newell is a special person. Very few people match their combination of exceptional intelligence and abundant compassion. They richly deserve the recognition they have earned this year, and I am excited to imagine what they will accomplish in the future,” said Dr. David A. Davis, director of fellowships and scholarships and associate professor of English at Mercer.
Newell plans to pursue an M.A. in disability studies, a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and a professorship in rehabilitation engineering at a research university, where they will advocate for accessibility in academia, conduct research on low-cost assistive technology and create research opportunities for LGBTQ+ and disabled students.
“I am thrilled and honored to be named a 2020 finalist for the Truman Scholarship,” said Newell. “The application and interview process itself has been incredibly rewarding. I have had the opportunity to discuss my research, activism and future goals with current Truman Scholars and members of the Macon community, and through them I have learned communication techniques that I will use for the rest of my career.
“I am deeply grateful for the support and mentorship of Dr. David Davis and Dr. Cameron Kunzelman throughout this application process, and for all of the faculty who have supported my pursuits in research and activism, including Dr. Michael MacCarthy, Dr. Doe Buchli, Dr. Linda Hensel and Dr. Mary Alice Morgan. I have received support from countless other Mercerians and members of the Macon community throughout this process, and I am excited to continue my commitment to public service through engineering research, disability advocacy and LGBTQ+ activism throughout my career.”
Newell serves as president of Common Ground, the University’s LGBTQ+ and ally organization; co-chair of the Rainbow Connection Committee, a student-led initiative to provide Mercer faculty and staff with information and resources to create an affirming environment for LGBTQ+ students; and a Disability:IN NextGen Leader, a national program for college students and recent graduates with disabilities who have demonstrated talent and leadership in the STEM, finance and business fields. They have received the Department of Mathematics Outstanding Student Award and a Mercer Visionary Student Panel grant.
The Truman Scholarship includes $30,000 to attend graduate school as well as a weeklong leadership training session with other winners and an internship opportunity in Washington, D.C. Only 50 to 60 undergraduates — approximately one from each state — receive the prestigious scholarship.