Willow Fortunoff '21

St. Paul, Minn. — Willow Fortunoff, a junior from Montpelier, Vermont, majoring in political science and international studies with a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism and a minor in Spanish, has been named one of 62 Truman Scholars for 2020. 

The Truman Scholarship is one of the most competitive and prestigious collegiate awards in the country. Each scholar receives up to $30,000 to pursue a graduate degree of their choice as well as the opportunity to participate in professional development programming.

Each year hundreds of college juniors apply, and in 2020, 773 students from 316 colleges across the country competed for the honor. The rigorous selection process requires that candidates have a strong record of public service, as well as a policy proposal that addresses a particular issue in society.

“Macalester has really pushed me to think creatively about problems that exist in our current political and international landscape.”
—Willow Fortunoff

“Macalester has really pushed me to think creatively about problems that exist in our current political and international landscape,” Fortunoff says. “My policy proposal was very specific. It addressed the issue of forced migration due to climate change and the need for a regional diplomatic agreement between the U.S., Central America, and Canada. But in a broader sense, it speaks to the need to address global problems with multinational support.” 

Fortunoff believes that her Model UN experience and her focus on global cooperation was of particular interest to the selection committee given the international impact of the COVID-19 crisis. “I was definitely able to draw parallels between what we’re seeing happening in our lives right now and what i was writing about back in November,” Fortunoff says. 

Though her plans are not yet concrete, Fortunoff hopes to pursue a dual law degree and master’s degree in international relations after her graduation in 2021. 

“This opens up the world of grad school opportunities in a way I couldn’t have imagined before,” Fortunoff says. “I’m still trying to figure out what makes the most sense for me.”

Long term, Fortunoff said she hopes to become part of “the next generation of foreign policy makers in Latin America.” This semester, she had intended to study abroad in Argentina—but after a late start to the program and preliminary treks through neighboring countries, Fortunoff spent only 15 days in Buenos Aires before having to fly home due to coronavirus concerns. She hopes to return.

Rooted in President Truman’s philosophy that education promotes the general welfare of the United States, the Truman Scholarship aims to support and encourage the future of public service leadership within the country. Many Truman Scholars go on to serve in public office, as prosecutors and public defenders, as leaders of non-profit organizations, and as educators.

“Macalester has given me the agency and the competence to imagine myself as a policy maker,” Fortunoff says. “It’s the first opportunity I’ve had to see what it would actually be like to propose some of these solutions. I’ve had a number of classes in which we were really encouraged to act as if we had the power to advise politicians or come up with proposals ourselves—it’s given me both a practical and theoretical framework for public service.”

Learn more about Macalester College at macalester.edu.

April 20 2020

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