Emma Harrison found her passion for expanding educational opportunities for imprisoned people in a West Virginia University class she shared with incarcerated men. That passion has led to her selection as a finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, the premier award for those who are pursuing careers in public service.
A native of Morgantown, Harrison is a junior majoring in political science and multidisciplinary studies. She was named a Milan Puskar Scholar for outstanding leadership and public service and an Eberly Scholar which recognizes the top 25 students in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. She is also a student in the Honors College.
Harrison found her purpose in public service through an internship with the West Virginia Innocence Project at the WVU College of Law and the “Inside-Out Prison Exchange” class with prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution Hazelton. In the class, college students learn alongside incarcerated students. She began to work with the men through the Think Tank, a council that acts a liaison between the compound and the administration. She also created and taught a leadership class and another about stigmatization at the Kennedy Federal Correctional Institute in Morgantown.
“Emma demonstrates exceptional courage and compassion by teaching in prisons and advocating for prison education reform. The depth and intensity of her commitment to public service shine through in everything she does. I am inspired by her example. She is an excellent representative for WVU in the Truman Scholarship competition,” said Jay Cole, senior adviser to the president and faculty advisor for the Truman Scholarship Program.
“Prisons are our society’s greatest test of empathy, and so far, we have failed,” Harrison said. “I am challenging the notion that imprisoned people cannot succeed, but they must have access to technology and the basic skills to compete in a technology-based economy. Investment in their education will reduce recidivism and save money in the long-run.”
Harrison is one of 194 students selected from 756 nominations who will be interviewed. She is also the only West Virginian in the finals this year. Each 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. If successful, she will use the $30,000 award for graduate school where she will continue her work in prison education.
Support for this application was provided by WVU’s ASPIRE office, which helps students pursue national awards like the Truman Scholarship. Students who are interested in learning more about scholarships, fellowships and other graduate school opportunities can schedule an appointment to discuss their goals.
CONTACT: Jay Cole
Senior Adviser to the President
Director of ASPIRE
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