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Willamette politics major brings home Truman Scholarship

Erin Bloom ’12 did not follow the typical path from high school to Willamette University. Before becoming a Bearcat, she served four years in the U.S. Air Force, where she was stationed on bases in Texas and Washington and deployed twice to Kyrgyzstan.

But it didn’t take her long to adjust to the life of the typical Willamette undergraduate. In addition to her politics major, she has served as president of the College Democrats, worked with visiting high school students from Bosnia and Herzegovina through the International Debate Education Association, and held positions as a resident assistant, a writer for The Collegian student newspaper and a barista in The Bistro.

All her varied experiences — plus her interest in a career in government — recently garnered her a prestigious national award: the Truman Scholarship.

Sixty students nationwide earn the Truman every year, which provides up to $30,000 in scholarships for college juniors going into government, policy, public health and other related fields who are recognized for their potential as “change agents.”

The award also will give Bloom the chance to participate in leadership development programs, as well as special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.

“The scholarship is an enormous boost,” Bloom says. “More than I ever could have hoped for.”

Jumping in with both feet

Bloom anticipated that being an older student at Willamette might be difficult, but she says the community on campus made her transition smooth and enjoyable.

“I fell in love with campus life and my academic program, and soon it seemed impossible that I had feared being separate from my peers,” she says. “It was definitely the best choice I’ve ever made to come to school here.”

She hopes to parlay her experiences and her new scholarship into future opportunities in law school and eventually a master’s program in security or foreign service. Her goal is to work in foreign aid or security for the U.S. State Department or USAID.

Guidance from professors

Bloom thanks Willamette politics professors David Gutterman and Richard Ellis for both directing her to the Truman Scholarship and for guiding her closely throughout her academic career.

Relationships born in the classroom have blossomed into full-blown mentorships, she says, and she regularly turns to Gutterman for numerous types of advice.

“The size of Willamette has been absolutely conducive to enhancing my education,” she says. “I have relationships with professors that my peers at bigger schools can’t even dream of. And they have pointed me, like countless students on this campus, towards opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.”

For more information about national scholarships for students, visit Student Academic Grants and Awards.

05-12-2011