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Two Duke Students Selected As Truman Scholars

Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study

Part of the Stories About Duke's 2019 Rhodes Scholars Series
Truman Scholars Kushal Kadakia and Claire Wang
Truman Scholars Kushal Kadakia and Claire Wang

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University juniors Kushal Kadakia and Claire Wang are among 59 students selected nationally as 2018 Truman Scholars.

The scholarship is the nation’s living memorial of President Harry S. Truman.  Students from every state are selected based on their leadership potential, high academic achievement and a commitment to careers in public service and advocacy.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation received 756 nominations from 311 colleges and universities.

Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

“I am delighted to congratulate Claire and Kushal on this great honor, and I commend them for their pursuit of careers in public service,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “Over the course of their time at Duke, Claire and Kushal have demonstrated intellectual curiosity, a desire to serve the community, and a commitment to ethics -- values that are needed in public life now more than ever. They are well-deserving of this recognition, and I look forward to following their careers.”

Kadakia, an Angier B. Duke Scholar from Houston, is preparing for his career by completing the requirements for medical school alongside a rigorous public policy major. 

Dedicating his energies to health policy and advocacy, Kadakia has spear-headed a campaign to make Duke a smoke-free campus and has been involved with research through three different positions -- two in health policy and one in a biomedical laboratory. 

“I am still humbled, and a bit incredulous, at how much policy knowledge and intellectual authority Kushal exhibits -- and how much respect he commands -- before even completing his bachelor’s degree,” said law professor Barak Richman, a faculty member who has worked closely with Kadakia on a Bass Connections research project that reported to legislators on North Carolina’s Medicaid policies.

In addition, Kadakia serves as Duke Student Government vice president and as chair of the Duke Honor Council, and is a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees, the Duke Presidential Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility, and the Duke Undergraduate Conduct Board.

Kadakia also this month received the Faculty Scholars Award, given by Duke faculty to students who have a strong record of independent research and who show potential for innovative scholarship.

With Truman funding, Kadakia plans to pursue graduate studies in medicine and public policy through a joint MD/Master of Public Policy. Eventually he intends to enter public service and apply his clinical and policy training to transform health care at the macro level, letting his experience in patient care serve as a moral compass in his future work in health policy. 

"I am humbled and honored to have been selected as a 2018 Truman Scholar! I'm grateful to my family of mentors here at Duke who have pushed me from day one to orient my scholarship in service to society,” Kadakia said. “I am so excited to join this community of change agents, and look forward to my future in health policy."

Wang, an Angier B. Duke Scholar from North Salt Lake, Utah, is pursuing a degree in Environmental Science and Policy and supplementing it with minors in economics and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies -- particularly Chinese language. 

Named this week a 2018 Udall Scholar, Wang has dedicated her extracurricular time to environmental activism. She began her work in high school, working with Utah Clean Energy and then launching a national campaign for the Sierra Club called Seize the Grid, which organized students to push for 100 percent renewable energy on college and university campuses.

The Sierra Club later modeled a campaign for city governments on the successful student campaign, and so far, 50 cities have committed themselves to 100 percent renewables in the near future. 

Wang arrived at Duke with a plan in hand to spur the university to meet its stated goal of carbon neutrality. By the end of the year, because of her advocacy, the university signed an open letter (authored by Wang) urging legislators to legalize third-party energy sales in North Carolina. This was Duke’s first direct engagement in renewable energy legislation. 

During her sophomore year, Wang led a campaign to stop the university from building a natural gas plant on campus. Her leadership of a coalition of faculty, staff, students and community members halted the project.

“It would be an understatement to say that Claire is dedicated to environmental concerns … (she) is a serious student who is approaching issues at the intersection of energy and the environment out of a larger concern for social well-being, and I have no doubt that she will continue to make productive contributions throughout her career,” said Timothy Johnson, a professor in energy and the environment at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. 

With Truman funding, Wang plans to pursue a degree in environmental law to lay the foundation for a career in environmental advocacy. She is particularly passionate about shifting American dependence on fossil fuels to renewables for electricity to address climate change. Wang’s activism, leadership, and dedication to creating a better world for others has already challenged Duke to become a leader in environmental advocacy. 

"I am incredibly grateful to be selected as a Truman Scholar, and I can't wait to join this new community of advocates,” Wang said. “I look forward to seeing how students will continue to drive progress and tackle today's most pressing problems."

To date, Duke students have received 50 Truman scholarships since the program was initiated in 1977.

Duke students and alumni can receive support for opportunities like the Truman Scholarship from the Nationally Competitive Scholarships team at the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows. They also welcome nominations from Duke staff and faculty emailed to

For more information on the Truman Scholarship see