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Boise State’s Rachel Elena Gallina is a Truman Scholar

By: Sherry Squires   Published 10:30 am / May 8, 2017

Rachel Elina Gallina

Boise State University student Rachel Elena Gallina has been awarded the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Gallina, who will graduate in May 2018 with a bachelor of arts in economics and an Arabic studies minor, is the second person in Boise State history to become a Truman Scholar. The award, considered one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States, is based on leadership, a commitment to public service and academic excellence.

Gallina is passionate about changing the way international governing bodies respond to disaster and the post conflict resconstruction process. Growing up the child of humanitarian aid workers in the aftermath of the Balkan wars, she witnessed first-hand the ill effects mishandled aid can have on society and the ways in which communities struggle to recover from disaster.

Since graduating high school, she has worked amongst Syrian refugees in Jordan, aided community development in Swaziland and served in a variety of social empowerment efforts in the Balkans, Israel, Palestine and now Boise.

“The incredible people I’ve been privileged to know and work alongside in all of these contexts have made me who I am today. The grace and dignity of the women I grew close to in Zataari … well, their memories serve as inspiration for the type of character I’d like to embody,” she said. “I’ve learned that there is power in listening. I’ve learned that human resilience can continue to surprise. And I’ve learned that sometimes, even when it feels overwhelmingly bleak, people still manage to hope, and that’s incredible.”

Gallina is a member of the Honors College at Boise State. Her most recent independent research deals with gender-based violence in refugee camps and the West Bank, and she has spent this academic year studying at the University of Haifa.

She was one of the university’s first Boren Scholarship winners last spring.

“It’s an incredible and rare accomplishment to win one nationally prestigious fellowship. Rachel has done it twice,” said Honors College Dean Andrew Finstuen. “Her fellowship wins, classroom excellence and courageous humanitarian work express her uncommon work ethic, focus and dedication to improving the lives of the globe’s most desperate populations. Her example is an inspiration.”

Candidates for the Truman Scholarship go through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process. In 2017, there were 768 candidates for the award nominated by 315 colleges and universities, a record number of institutions. The 199 finalists for the award were interviewed in March and early April at one of 16 regional selection panels. Sixty-two new Truman Scholars were selected in 2017. They will receive their awards in a ceremony on May 28 at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.

“The Truman application was grueling; there were many times where I contemplated giving up on the whole thing. But between the honors staff, continued support from the economics department and just a general sense of encouragement coming from the whole campus, we pulled it off.”

Recipients of the Truman Scholarship receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership. Gallina plans to earn a joint degree in human rights law and public policy, in hopes of better understanding the way in which societal norms, local and international governing bodies and the law interact during and after conflict.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders.

Gallina continues the legacy of success that other fellowship applicants from Boise State have achieved in recent years. Since 2013, the Honors College fellowships advising team has helped nine students research and teach abroad on Fulbright grants, two to study languages through Boren awards, one to continue research through a Goldwater Scholarship, and one to complete graduate study at Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards in the country.