Junior political science and Spanish double major Abigail Alvarez ’22 has won the prestigious Truman Scholarship, awarded annually to only 62 students nationwide based on their outstanding leadership potential and commitment to public service.
Alvarez, a longtime advocate on behalf of the disability community, service workers, and others, is Santa Clara University’s fourth Truman Scholar and its first in 36 years. Janet Napolitano ’79 won in 1977; Deirdre M. Kelly ’81 won in 1979; and Kim P. Olson ’87 won in 1985. The scholarship will help pay for leadership training opportunities, and help fund Alvarez’s studies, which she hopes to continue at UC Berkeley Law and use as a springboard to a career as a policy advocate and future California state senator or assembly member.
“Santa Clara University is extremely proud of Abby for reaching this pinnacle of academic achievement,” said Santa Clara University Acting President Lisa Kloppenberg. “She is a shining example of Santa Clara’s Jesuit values, and a true woman for others, having dedicated her talents every step of the way to speaking out for marginalized or voiceless others.”
“Becoming a Truman Scholar feels like a golden ticket to join a community of passionate and accomplished young people who will go on to be our generation's most impactful policymakers, activists, and nonprofit leaders," said Alvarez. “Although the scholarship itself will help make grad school more financially accessible, I am most excited to bring my Santa Clara education to this Truman community.”
Alvarez is minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and is an active changemaker on campus and in her local community. She co-founded Advocacy for Workers on Campus, a group that mobilizes students on behalf of service workers on Santa Clara’s campus, which helped bring their voices to the table during contract negotiations for living wages in recent years. An Associated Student Government senator currently running for student body president, she chairs the student government's Just Employment Task Force and Committee for Social Change, and she was a Jean Donovan Fellow the summer after her first year at SCU.
Alvarez is a two-time participant in Santa Clara’s REAL summer internship program, where she worked with a political consulting firm in Washington D.C., and also served as a government affairs intern with the California Immigrant Policy Center. She hopes to use her career to promote just and equity-centered legislation while working to uplift disability rights in all policy areas, including labor, immigration, education, and violence prevention.
In her hometown of Portland, Oregon, she transformed a small student club, Oregon Student Voice, into a statewide nonprofit organization focused on youth empowerment and education policy reform. Now head of the group’s board of directors, she oversees strategic planning and continues to encourage students from across the state to be central voices in education policy decision-making.
This year, 10 Broncos competed for one of the University's four nominee spots for the Truman Scholarship.
“In selecting our Truman nominees, Santa Clara looked for a record of public service, stellar academics, and demonstrated leadership,” said Naomi Levy, director of SCU’s Office of Student Fellowships. “Abby was a standout in all three categories.”
About the Truman Scholarship
Created in 1977 by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, the Truman Scholarship is a premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. It provides $30,000 for graduate school and programming to help each recipient be the best public servant possible. Past winners include Georgia activist and politician Stacey Abrams, former U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Santa Clara's own Janet Napolitano, formerly Arizona governor, director of U.S. Homeland Security, and president of the University of California. This year's 62 winners were selected by the Truman Foundation out of the 845 nominees from 328 U.S. colleges and universities.