Benjamin Seebaugh woke up Monday morning and expected it to be like any other day.
It read: “I just learned that you won the Truman Scholarship MANY, MANY CONGRATULATIONS!!!”
“I’m getting chills just thinking about again. This is something that I have been looking forward to my entire life,” Seebaugh said. “It was like waking up on Christmas morning without even realizing it was Christmas.”
Seebaugh, a junior international studies and political science major, was named the University’s 22nd Truman Scholar this week for his leadership, academic success at the University and potential for success in the field of public service. He will receive $30,000 in funding to pursue a graduate degree.
The next day, Seebaugh received a call from WVU President Jim Clements, who confirmed that the Parkersburg native was indeed a Truman Scholar.
“I’ve always looked at the Truman Scholar honor with such admiration. In fact, when I’d meet a Truman Scholar, I’d say, ‘wow, you’re a real Truman Scholar. I want to be just like you,’” Seebaugh said. “I dreamed about this day, and I dreamed about what it would feel like. It’s like whenever you get your driver’s license, whenever you turn 21 it’s a milestone in my life.”
Seebaugh is the lone West Virginian to earn a Truman Scholarship this year. He was chosen out of 587 total applicants from 282 different colleges and universities across the country.
In his three years on campus, Seebaugh has made a name for himself through his participation in the Young Democrats student organization and the Student Government Association. He, along with a few other WVU students, also created the Student Advocates for Legislative Advancement student organization.
WVU’s Truman Scholars
1982: Robert Richardson
1983: Todd Gaziano
1984: Anthony Majestro
1985: Christine Culbertson
1986: Brad M. Hoylman
1986: Brian A. Glasser
1987: Thomas E. Johnston
1988: Thomas A. Gaziano
1989: Robert A. Wells
1989: John R. Unger II
1989: Scott W. Caveney
1990: C. Bradley Hare
1993: John J.K. “Jay” Cole
2000: Joshua E. Whitehair
2001: Michael Ryan Wood
2004: Franchesca Nestor
2006: Rebecca McCauley
2007: Matthew Delligatti
2008: Emily Calandrelli
2009: John Armour
2010: Jared Crawford
“Benjamin is an outstanding young man, whose leadership is making a real difference at WVU and in our state,” Clements said. “As a member of Student Government, his initiatives have helped to send a clear message that we value diversity and inclusive excellence. We are so proud of Benjamin, and the work that led to his receiving the Truman Scholar award. He joins a proud legacy of students from WVU who are making their mark in the world.”
Seebaugh, along with a group of SGA members who created the SALA, helped pass a tenant’s rights bill through the state legislature. The bill defines requirements for landlords, such as itemizing deductions on security deposits, giving 24-hour notice before entering a rented property and setting a 30-day deadline for the return of security deposits.
“We had a lot of opposition from landlords. The proposed bill failed in 2007 and 2009 and so that was a really, really proud moment for us to say, ‘we did it,’” he said.
Because of that success of SALA, a chapter at Marshall University has been created and other schools across the country have also shown interest.
Last spring, he was elected as a board of governor for SGA after participating as the executive director of legislative affairs for the Democrats as a sophomore.
In his time as a governor, he has sought to bring awareness to minorities, specifically the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community. He passed a resolution through SGA in support of LGBTQ rights awareness and helped coordinate an LGBTQ bullying town hall meeting earlier this month.
“Having been at WVU for the last three years, I can’t speak more highly of this University,” he said. “There are so many opportunities. Although it’s a really large campus and we have a lot of students, it’s so easy to get plugged in with advisors and get individual attention.”
Seebaugh admits he couldn’t have been named a Truman Scholar based on his hard work alone. He credits many of his fellow classmates, members of the WVU administration, University faculty members and others as part of his success.
On Monday, prior to posting his honor on Facebook and Twitter, he spent nearly two hours on the phone calling everyone who helped him along the way all the way back to high school teachers. When he posted his announcement to social media sites, the response was overwhelming as replies and notifications returned almost immediately.
“There are so many people who have been a part of this journey, and seeing them celebrate with me was the best feeling,” Seebaugh said.
Seebaugh was also awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship for his work in fighting for student and minority rights.
“Working through the government to make positive change, working with University administration and really making a name for myself at the University has allowed me to prove myself as Truman Scholar,” he said.
As a senior, Seebaugh will continue to strive for his career goals of working for the U.S. government internationally with diplomacy or an organization like the United Nations. He has even thought about becoming a lobbyist to try to change policies in the U.S. to make it fairer for minorities.
To do so, he will eventually attend law school. Before that, he will study abroad at the University of Manchester next spring and take part in its undergraduate law program.
“I’ll get to study with students my own age doing law school, so I’ll be able to get a sneak peek at what I’ll be doing years down the road,” he said. “It will just be really cool to actually learn law ahead of the curve.”
Seebaugh worked on his application with DiClerico throughout the fall and submitted it in January. After practice interviews, he interviewed and received WVU’s nomination for the scholarship. Then, he passed through an initial application screening with fellow students from Virginia, Washington D.C. and West Virginia by the Truman Scholars Committee before going through an in-person interview in Washington D.C. He was named a finalist and eventually found out earlier this week he received the scholarship.
“One of the interesting things about Benjamin is that he wants to work on issues of human rights. He was so engaging on this issue that even if he said things that we may not have necessarily agreed with, his passion for the issue was just so compelling that it’s what gave him the edge,” said Tara Yglesias, deputy executive secretary for the Truman Scholarship Foundation. “It was something that made him stand out was his ability to get other people just as engaged and excited about his issues as he was.”
Seebaugh joins the ranks of 21 other WVU students to be named a Truman Scholar. The University has had a Truman Scholar in seven of the last eight years. For a full list of WVU’s Truman Scholars, visit: http://aspire.wvu.edu/previous_wvu_scholars/truman_scholars/.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 to honor the nation’s 33rd president and continue his commitment to education and public service.
President Truman believed an educated citizenship should give back to its community, and the Truman Scholarship is awarded to young leaders who demonstrate commitment to public service, have a compelling record of leadership and show a strong likelihood of succeeding in the graduate school program they’ve proposed.
In addition to the $30,000 for graduate study, recipients receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, as well as leadership training, career counseling and internship opportunities within the federal government.
For a full list of 2012 Scholars, visit http://truman.gov.
By Tony Dobies
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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