University of Minnesota Twin Cities junior Gurtaran Johal has been named a 2021 Truman Scholar. The Truman Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards for undergraduates, recognizes outstanding leaders who plan to devote their careers to public service. Johal is one of 62 Scholars selected this year from 845 candidates nominated by 328 colleges and universities in the United States.
Johal has been a campus leader since her first semester, when she interned with the Minnesota Student Association and led an initiative to build campus unity. As a sophomore she chaired the University’s Sexual Assault Task Force and helped to create the “It Stops Here” campaign to combat sexual misconduct. Alicia Leizinger of the Boynton Health Center, who worked with Johal on the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct (PIPSM), observes that she is “not only deeply dedicated to this difficult issue, but brings hope and creativity to the work.”
“The Truman Scholarship is one of the most prestigious of national scholarships, and we’re proud Gurtaran Johal is representing the University of Minnesota in the 2021 Class,” University President Joan Gabel said. “From her commitment to serving others to her academic and student leadership across the fields of sociology, political science and beyond, she truly represents the mission and spirit of the award.”
The daughter of Rajwinder Kaur and Lakhwinder Singh of West Fargo, Johal moved to North Dakota from New York at age 7. She attended Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo, where she was class valedictorian and a nationally competitive performer in speech and debate. She also volunteered at the YWCA, where she helped residents develop job application and personal finance skills by creating an online learning curriculum.
A political science and sociology major, Johal plans to attend law school and have a career in the federal judicial system. At the University of Minnesota, she has conducted research with Professor Michelle Phelps on the legal practice of probation, demonstrating how it places exceptional pressure on female partners and relatives to provide financial support, shelter and employment. This experience provided her with an essential perspective on the impact of policies that she will negotiate in the federal system as she works to ensure justice and representation for women and other underrepresented members of the community.
The Truman Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to support the education and professional development of young Americans for careers of public service. The first cohort of Truman Scholars, including Carole A. Robertus of the University of Minnesota, was selected in 1977. Scholars are selected for their potential to be agents of change in careers that serve the public good. Twenty-one students of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have now been recognized as Truman Scholars.
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