Clearing the air
Candice Giffin would like to
see her hometown of Phoenix have the same kind of cleaner,
clearer air that she has grown accustomed to during her time as a student at
Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. With this goal in mind, she wrote a policy proposal focusing on the reduction of automobile emissions in the Valley – and in doing so,
earned a finalist berth in the Harry S. Truman scholarship competition.
Being recognized as a finalist
for the nationally-renowned scholarship – awarded to students based on their academic performance and leadership accomplishments – is a rare honor.
year, 629 candidates were nominated by 293 colleges and universities across the
country. Out of that, five finalists were
selected to represent Arizona.
finalists, we had the opportunity to
interview in front of eight public officials – our panel consisted of federal judges, law professors, a former state legislator, and a former Arizona corporation
commissioner,” Giffin says. “Just getting the chance to answer their questions and defend my
policy proposal before them was an amazing opportunity.”
Despite falling just short of
receiving the scholarship, Giffin says she is grateful for the experience, and
has no regrets about applying.
“I am very at peace with it, especially considering how
nationally competitive the award is,” Giffin
says. “I am just so happy that I was able to represent Northern Arizona
University as a finalist. The experience of interviewing in front of the eight public officials, and meeting the other Arizona finalists from Stanford, MIT, Occidental, and ASU, as well as the other regional
finalists, was such an honor.”
The process of applying for
the scholarship was arduous. Giffin, a junior majoring in both political
science and environmental studies, was required to write eight essays, as well as the policy proposal.
“They want agents of change,”
Giffin says. “They want people who are going to heavily influence public policy in the future.”
She says she has had the full
support of the faculty and staff at Northern Arizona University, including
Melissa Riggs, the coordinator for the Truman scholarship on campus.
“I met with Melissa many times
to go over my
application,” Giffin says. “I made nearly 20 drafts or more of every essay, as well as sought advice
from my professors. That was the writing process: writing over and over again, with new
drafts, and going to different people for suggestions.”
While Giffin is naturally
ambitious, she explains the faculty at Northern Arizona University helped take
her education to the point where she felt comfortable and confident throughout the application process.
“I’ve learned more outside of
the classroom – getting
to know the people up here and interacting
with other students
and faculty,” Giffin says.
When Giffin found out she was named a finalist, she was excited, but also nervous – her next step, oral interviews, would require even more
“It was extremely
nerve-wracking,” Giffin says. “After finding out I was a finalist, I spent weeks doing research on everything I could think of, and took part in three mock
interviews. The panelists ask you questions that
are less about what you do in college, or what you
did in high school, and more along the lines of, ‘What would
you advise the President to do about our immigration system if you had two
minutes to talk with him?'"
There were 11 other finalists in Giffin’s region, which includes most
of the states in the southwest.
of us finalists stayed in a room together
from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Giffin says. “Each of us got called
in one at a time for twenty minute interviews with the eight panelists. It was great just getting to know the other finalists. All of them are very
accomplished individuals who are already doing huge things for society.”
Moving on up
Giffin credits Northern Arizona
University for its constant support, and advises students to actively seek out all that the university has to
“Jump right in when you get to
Northern Arizona University,” Giffin advises. “When I was a freshman, I didn’t
sit around and wait for things to come to me – I sought out
opportunities, found them, and got involved.”
Giffin is now preparing to apply to graduate school, where she believes her experience with
the Truman application process will allow her to stand out.
“Never doubt your potential,”
Giffin says. “The process allowed me to realize that anything is possible if
you work hard. Every hour I invested in the process, I was just investing in