University of Vermont

UVM Junior Named a Truman Scholar

Jeanelle Achee
UVM junior Jeanelle Achee

Nursing major Jeanelle Achee, a UVM junior, has been named a 2013 Harry S. Truman Scholar. She is one of 62 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."

A Rochester, Vt. native, Achee enrolled at UVM dedicated to begin her training as a nurse as well as to develop an expertise in how to help women around the world, especially around issues of sexual violence. As a survivor of sexual violence, Achee has worked with communities throughout Vermont to advocate for women’s empowerment in areas of our society where it is needed most. She created a leadership weekend for the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars; an empowerment event for young girls who have a parent in prison. Her work with the organization introduced children to positive role models, strategies for living a healthy lifestyle, and how to foster self-efficacy.

Two other UVM students were chosen as finalists for this year's Truman award: Tad Cooke '14, an ecological food and energy systems major from Williston, Vt., and Hillary Laggis ’14, a public communications major from Hardwick, Vt.

The Truman Foundation, a federal agency that seeks to identify and support college juniors who are on track to be future public servants and change agents, issues the Truman Scholarship. Each year, universities across the country submit up to four nominees through a rigorous application review and interview process (in total, 629 students were nominated in 2013). At UVM, the Office of Fellowships Advising oversees this process.

"We are thrilled that Jeanelle has been recognized in this way -- she is a truly inspiring person," said Lisa Schnell, associate dean of the Honors College, who supervises the Office of Fellowships Advising. "Indeed, all four Truman nominees this year were stellar candidates for the award, and of the three Vermonters who were finalists -- Jeanelle, Tad, and Hillary -- UVM has every right to be proud. Their success is all theirs, but I know that they would want me to mention that behind them all the way was Brit Chase, UVM's fellowships adviser, who spent countless hours helping them prepare for the competition, as well as a faculty committee and individual UVM faculty mentors who have been extremely generous in the support and mentoring of all the nominees."

In addition to her work with Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, Achee, a certified crisis counselor, has dedicated thousands of hours to counseling victims at Hope Works, Chittenden County’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people who have experienced the trauma of sexual violence. She has also been an active volunteer in statewide campaigns for presidential candidates John Kerry and Barack Obama. She’s volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ re-election. She co-founded the Vermont Student Summit for Building Peace in Iraq, a foundation for a statewide student-led peace group. She’s received state and national recognition for her service to her community, including the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award, the Miss America Community Service Award, and the Vermont Governor’s Award for Outstanding Community Service. A global studies minor, she is also a member of Mortar Board, and is a former member of the Dewey House for Civic Engagement, UVM’s residential learning community for students who are dedicated to becoming engaged and active members in the community through public service.

"Jeanelle Achee is an exceptional young woman who represents all that we hope for in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences -- someone who really does make a difference for the health and wellbeing of others," says Dean Patricia Prelock.

"As a student here, Jeanelle has made a huge impact not just on her fellow students' lives -- counseling individuals through crises, advising on writing papers, organizing service activities, for instance -- but also faculty," says Luis Vivanco, director of the Global and Regional Studies Program. "Her combination of humility, dedication and insightfulness about people is amazing. While the Truman is an excellent reflection on her qualities and commitment, she's an excellent reflection on the Truman program."

Achee is the fourth UVM student to win the award. Brent Reader ’13, a social work major, received the award in 2012. Alumna Kesha Ram, now a Vermont state representative, was a winner in 2007, and William F. Steinman was a winner in 1988.