Stanford junior wins 2017 Truman Scholarship for graduate studies

By Kathleen J. Sullivan

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation recently named Alexis Kallen, a Stanford junior majoring in political science and in feminist, gender and sexuality studies, as a 2017 Truman Scholar.

portrait of Alexis L. Kallen

Alexis Kallen has been recognized as a “change agent” by the Truman Scholarship Foundation, which has selected her as one of 62 exceptional students this year to receive awards for graduate study in preparation for a career in public service. (Image credit: Courtesy Alexis L. Kallen)

Kallen was one of 62 exceptional students – mostly college juniors – from 54 U.S. colleges and universities chosen to receive a 2017 Truman Scholarship.

The awards provide up to $30,000 for graduate study – in the United States or abroad – to students who want to attend graduate school in preparation for a career in public service. Many top graduate schools are also committed to matching and expanding upon the financial assistance offered by the Truman Scholarship.

The scholars are students who have been recognized as “change agents” by the Truman Scholarship Foundation – people with the passion, intellect and leadership potential that will enable them to improve the ways that public entities – government agencies, nonprofit organizations, public and private educational institutions, or advocacy organizations – serve the public good.

Kallen, an honors student in the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, is minoring in Spanish and in human rights. She said winning the Truman Scholarship is another step along her journey that deepens her commitment to public service.

“In a world that is consistently abusing human rights, I want to use my voice to fight for those rights and shed light on mass atrocities happening in places like Burundi, Syria and the Philippines,” said Kallen, who is from Camarillo, California. “This scholarship will allow me to complete a joint law and public policy degree upon my graduation from Stanford next year, allowing me a platform to fight for the issues I care about, without economic burdens.”

Kallen, who hopes to become a human rights lawyer practicing in the International Court of Justice, will work this summer at an international law firm in Hong Kong that oversees refugee cases.

As a sophomore, Kallen shared her life story – touching on poverty, the loss of her mother and overcoming disabilities – to 2,000 first-year and transfer students during “Faces of Community,” one of the major events of New Student Orientation. This year, she is serving as a resident assistant in Otero, a dorm for first-year students.

Kallen spent the summer after her sophomore year in Rwanda, where she conducted an independent research project on the connection between the rising levels of women’s education and decreasing gender-based violence. She also spent time in an impoverished school and refugee camp on the Burundi border, where she ran workshops to teach girls about regional and international human rights, and about female leadership.

She also spent two weeks that summer in Guatemala working as a Spanish language translator in clinics and conducting interviews with women on birth control practices, as a Stanford Global Student Fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Later this year she plans to return to Rwanda and Tanzania to collect additional data for her honors thesis on the sexual assault of Burundian refugees.

Kallen is one of five women between the ages of 18 and 25 who advise and represent the United Nations Foundation’s campaign for adolescent girls, known as Girl Up. As an international ambassador for Girl Up, she has represented the foundation at events ranging from conferences at the U.N. headquarters in New York City to movie premieres in Hollywood. She also manages communication between the foundation and hundreds of Girl Up clubs at high schools and middle schools across the country.

She is the vice chair of programming and former director of community service for Stanford in Government, the nonpartisan, student-led organization that offers opportunities for Stanford students to engage with and pursue policy as a public service.

Kallen also served as an executive board member of the Society for International Affairs at Stanford (SIAS), the university’s premier organization for students interested in international affairs. Kallen, who was a member of Stanford’s Model U.N. Travel Team, served as deputy secretary general for the 2015 Stanford Model U.N. High School Conference. She also served as editor-in-chief of the SIAS Newsletter.

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