Two University of Arkansas Students Named 2017 Truman Scholars

l-r: Ryann Alonso, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, and  Sam Harris.
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l-r: Ryann Alonso, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, and Sam Harris.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Two University of Arkansas students, Ryann Alonso of Tulsa and Sam Harris of Greenbrier, have been selected as 2017 Harry S. Truman Scholars. This is the second consecutive year the U of A has had two students selected for this academic honor.

Alonso is an honors political science and communications major in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Harris is an honors agricultural business and agricultural education, communications and technology major with an agricultural leadership minor in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

Alonso and Harris are two of 62 Scholars selected from 54 colleges and universities to be awarded the prestigious scholarship this year. Both will receive $30,000 to be used toward their graduate studies. Truman Scholars are selected on the basis of their academic success, leadership skills, and the likelihood of their becoming public service leaders.

The Truman Foundation alerted Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz that Alonso and Harris had been selected and encouraged him to surprise the two students with the news in keeping with the foundation’s tradition. Both students were invited to speak to the Executive Committee about their experience applying and interviewing for the Truman Scholarship. Upon entering, they were immediately surprised with cake and congratulations from the chancellor and vice chancellors as well as the scholars’ deans, department chairs, faculty mentors, and advisors.

“It was a real pleasure to share the news with these two very talented and dedicated students that they had been selected as Truman Scholars,” said Chancellor Steinmetz. “The Truman Foundation has a stated goal of choosing students who are agents of sustained, positive change, and in selecting Ryann Alonso and Sam Harris, they have done just that. Both already have extensive records of service, and they clearly want to make a real difference for people in Arkansas. I have come to know each them—Ryann through her ASG work and Sam as a member of my class this spring—and both are exceptional people who will engage in exceptional work throughout their careers.”

The 2017 Truman Scholars will participate in a week-long leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, at the end of May.


Alonso is a lifelong debater who, as she moved through high school and college, became increasingly interested in the ways people discuss and articulate public policy and governance. At the University of Arkansas, she is a Silas Hunt Distinguished Scholar, as well as an active member in Young Democrats, Razorback Action Group, and Associated Student Government. She was also named a National Forensics League All-American Debater.

Alonso’s interest in politics has led her to volunteer in numerous state and local political campaigns, and she has focused much of her time on issues related to voting rights and accessibility. Recognizing a need for greater voting access for U of A students, in 2015 she initiated a student movement to establish a voting center on campus. During the 2016 election, she registered more than 500 students to vote, and she is vice chair of volunteers and voter protection with a county political organization. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a law degree with a concentration in constitutional law, and she will continue her work to improve access to polling stations and increase voter participation. 

“Receiving the Truman Scholarship is just the beginning for me, but it’s a huge honor to be recognized by the Truman Foundation,” Alonso said. “I cannot wait to spend my life working in public service, and none of this would be possible without guidance from terrific faculty like Dr. Lisa Corrigan, Dr. Angie Maxwell, and Dr. Ryan Neville-Shepard.”

“Ryann Alonso is a force of nature. She knew in middle school that she wanted a career in politics, and she has been moving on that path since then,” said Todd Shields, dean of Fulbright College. “She is actively engaged on campus and in the community. She loves Arkansas, and she will undoubtedly have a distinguished career here.”


Harris is an Honors College Pilot Research Scholar. In 2015, he earned an American FFA Degree, as well as the World Food Prize Foundation Elaine Szymoniak Top Research Award for his work on minimizing food insecurity in remote villages in India. Also in 2015, Harris was named a Prudential Spirit of the Community Honoree and was given a Presidential Community Service Award. On campus, he serves as vice president of the Student Organization Outreach Involvement Experience, assistant director of sponsorship for the Student Alumni Board, and a member of the Bumpers College Honors Student board. In addition, he is involved with the local Democratic Party and has volunteered on several local, statewide, and national political campaigns.

Harris was raised in Central Arkansas and has spent much of his undergraduate career focused on alleviating global food insecurity. He has evaluated extension services in rural India, developed farm business plans for communities in rural Vietnam and is currently preparing a pilot research exchange program in Belize to help facilitate sustainable backyard poultry operations. Harris intends to obtain a Juris Doctor and Master of Laws in agricultural and food law before pursuing a career in the USAID Bureau for Food Security.

“Being selected as a Truman Scholar has been such a humbling experience,” Harris said. “Although the process can be strenuous and sometimes daunting, over the past few months I have learned so much about myself and how I can make a difference through public service. Receiving this honor would not have been possible without the encouragement and support of my many mentors at the University of Arkansas. I am especially thankful for the support of my academic adviser and mentor, Dr. Jill Rucker, and the rest of my professors within the Bumpers College, along with the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, for pushing me to receive such an honor. Accepting an award that has previously been given to extraordinary agents of change, like my dear friends Victoria Maloch and Danielle Neighbour (2016 Truman Scholars), is very special.”

“Sam Harris is committed to making a difference for those suffering from food insecurity — whether it be in this state, this country, or abroad,” said Lona Robertson, interim dean of Bumpers College. “He plans to commit two years to the AgriCorps prior to going to law school in order to have hands-on experiences addressing food security issues by improving agricultural practices and production. Sam is an excellent representative of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, Bumpers College, the University of Arkansas and the state. The Truman Foundation simply could not do better.”

Ryann Alonso and Sam Harris are the university’s 22nd and 23rd Truman Scholars overall. With their selection, Harris and Alonso join eight other U of A students who have been awarded Truman Scholarships in the past six consecutive years. There have been more Truman Scholars from the University of Arkansas than any other university in the SEC, and the U of A ranks in the top 10 public institutions nationwide for Truman Scholars. In addition, the U of A was one of only seven institutions with multiple winners this year, alongside American University, Barnard College, Colorado State University, Cornell University, Georgetown University and Yale University. Only Yale University and the University of Arkansas have enjoyed multiple Truman Scholars two years in a row.

According to the Truman Foundation, there have been “3,139 Truman Scholars selected since the first awards were made in 1977. Prominent Truman Scholars include Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch (1987), U.S. Senator Chris Coons (1983), Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (1995), former National Security Advisor Susan Rice (1984), U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch (1986), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (1981) and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (1977). Truman Scholars lead at all levels of government and in the nonprofit sector.”

In 2002, the University of Arkansas was named a Truman Scholarship Honor Institution for student commitment to service and its record with the Truman Scholarship Program. Victoria Maloch (agricultural business) and Danielle Neighbour (civil engineering) were named 2016 Scholars. Other recent University of Arkansas Truman Scholars include Grant Addison, history and political science, 2015; Cicely Shannon, economics, 2014; Nathan Coulter, political science, 2013; and Mike Norton, agricultural business and poultry science, 2012. The University of Arkansas also had two Truman Scholars in the same year once in 1999 when Megan Ceronsky and Angie Maxwell, now an associate professor in the political science department, were selected.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Suzanne McCray, director
Office of Nationally Competitive Awards

Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations


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