Bragging Rights: Truman Scholarship Names Mason Junior as Finalist

Posted: March 11, 2011 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: March 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm

By Aisha Jamil

Alexandra Tyson

Alexandra Tyson. Creative Services photo

Each year, the Truman Scholarship Foundation provides up to $30,000 in funding to students who plan to pursue graduate degrees in public service fields. This year, Mason undergraduate Alexandra Tyson has been selected as a finalist.

Out of the 602 applicants who submitted applications, 197 were selected as finalists.

“I am shocked, yet so honored to be selected as a finalist. To be frank, the realization hasn’t sunk in yet!” says Tyson, a junior majoring in global affairs and government and international politics.

Born in London, Tyson was exposed to a variety of cultures as a child.

“I was raised by a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, both American, one a diplomat,” says Tyson. “When I was four, we moved to the Islamic country of Kuwait.”

However, when her brother was diagnosed with a severe learning disability, Tyson’s family decided to move to the United States permanently so that he could get treatment.

Moving around so much at such an early age, there was one thing that helped Tyson cope with change: drawing.

In fact, Tyson drew so much that her elementary school teacher restricted it and called a parent conference.

“With art, I was always searching for something, whether it was for a way to comment on the area surrounding me or to delve into my head,” she says

She adds: “Funnily enough, my love of design was noticed in the groups I joined at Mason, such as the Environmental Action Group (EAG). I pretty much became the de facto designer as a freshman. However, the content discussion at the EAG’s meetings stirred me in a way that made me want to become involved in the environmental movement. My initial passion for design led me to take higher leadership positions and educate myself and my peers about the destructive and insidious nature of issues such as climate change and mountaintop removal.”

Shortly after arriving at Mason, Tyson learned about the Truman Scholarship from a university bulletin board flier. Noting that the scholarship was for juniors only, Tyson tucked the thought of a fellowship into the back of her head.

“Since I have been at Mason,” she says, “I have always wanted to work in the public sector, and the Truman Foundation caters to those who aspire to take that route.”

At an information session on the scholarship, Tyson met a former Truman scholar who spoke about how the foundation changed her life.

“I was blown away by how authentic the representative was. She had such personality and wasn’t afraid to let anyone know it,” Tyson says, adding, “I spoke to her afterward and thought to myself, ‘Wow. If this is what a Truman scholar is like, then I want to be one.’”

Although it has been a long and demanding process, Tyson is hopeful about her future and has some words of wisdom for Mason students who might be interested in applying.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” she says “If you don’t like what you are doing now, stop doing it and do what you love. Having passion for what you do is always better than trying to fit a mold you think some random fellowship director wants you to be.”

The Truman finalists will be reviewed by regional panels between March 4 and March 25; Tyson’s interview is scheduled for March 11. One or two finalists from each state will be selected as Truman scholars.

For more information, see the Truman Scholarship’s website.

Write to gazette at