University of Vermont

UVM Junior Wins National Truman Scholar Award; Two Others Selected as Finalists

Social work major Brent Reader, a UVM junior, has been named a 2012 Truman Scholar. He is one of 65 students this year to win the highly competitive national award, which recognizes those who want to make a difference in public service and "provide them with financial support for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service."

Two other UVM students were chosen as finalists for this year's Truman award: Alma Arteaga '13, an economics and environmental studies double-major from Keene, N.H. and Eliza Kelsten ’13, a political science and history double-major from New Albany, Ohio.

The Truman Foundation selects finalists and scholars through a rigorous application review and interview process, which, at UVM, is overseen by the Office of Fellowships Advising.

"Brit Chase, our fellowships adviser, spends an almost unimaginable amount of time recruiting and then preparing students for the Truman competition,” said Lisa Schnell, associate dean of the Honors College. “All four Truman nominees this year benefitted enormously from Brit’s dedication; the three finalists, in particular, know how much of her goes into this process. But the success of these candidates is all their own — they are an amazing group of students. All of us who were associated with the competition this year were inspired by them.  And we simply could not be happier that Brent made it all the way — he’s an extraordinary human being.”

A non-traditional student, Reader originally enrolled at UVM after graduating high school in 1996, but left after a rocky, two-year start. "I didn’t take college seriously, didn’t appreciate it," he says of his first attempt. "I let it slip through my fingers."

In 2004, Reader joined the Vermont National Guard. He was trained as a combat medic and deployed to Iraq where he was on the front lines treating wounded soldiers. He was injured in a series of blasts from an improvised explosive device, or I.E.D., and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Reader has received numerous military honors, including a Combat Medic Badge.

After his medical discharge from the Guard, he returned to UVM in 2010, this time with a goal of pursuing a social work degree, and eventually a master’s degree, which he plans to use to improve mental and physical health care for soldiers upon their return from war.

Reader is also an Abenaki Nation Member and is one of a half-dozen people who can still speak Western Abenaki.  He’s worked as a public health researcher for the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities at the Vermont Department of Health. He also has played a central role in the University of Vermont/Abenaki Partnership, where he’s been directly involved with planning and administration of community development projects in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties that reinforce culturally competent approaches to social services.

"I’ve been fortunate to have Brent as a student in two of my classes," says Gary Widrick, chair of the Department of Social Work. "His contributions have always been exceptional and based upon clear reasoning and a desire to push his learning boundaries. He is clearly a student leader but in a quiet, confident way that wins him support from his fellow students. The Department of Social Work is proud to have him as a social work major both as a student and now as national award winner."