University of Southern Mississippi speech language pathology major Marie Holowach is the only student attending a Mississippi university named as a Harry S. Truman Scholarship finalist and will interview with the regional selection committee in Nashville, Tenn., on March 7, 2011.
The junior from Madison, Miss., has an emphasis in autism spectrum disorders, which takes on special significance because she is autistic and has experienced firsthand the ostracizing that autistic children often encounter. Holowach is one of 197 Truman finalists nationwide and the first from Southern Miss since 2008.
“Applying for the Truman has been a challenging process, but it has given me a chance to clearly define and pursue my own goals,” declared Holowach. “I’ve also received much help and support from my advisers, professors, and fellow students along the way. I could never have made it this far without their dedication and support.”
For the upcoming interview, which can focus on a wide selection of topics from news to issues related to her application materials, Holowach is reading current events, consulting with past finalists and facing mock interviews with faculty members.
In the application process, Holowach included a required policy proposal on an issue affecting society. Her proposal - “Autism Bullying Prevention” – proposes an elementary school curriculum to teach about autism, with hopes of reducing the bullying of autistic children.
“Marie’s materials were thoroughly researched, well thought out and meticulously documented,” said Robyn Curtis, Southern Miss national scholarship officer. “I am thrilled to see her hard work and exemplary record acknowledged by advancing in the competition.”
The Truman Scholarship is awarded to high-achieving college juniors who show commitment to public service and potential to continue service beyond graduation. Autism is the focus of Holowach’s public service. She is the creator of Daniel’s Voice Candles a non-profit organization that raises money to send autistic children to an adventure-style summer camp, and is founder of Mississippi’s first college chapter of TEAAM (Together Enhancing Autism Awareness in Mississippi). TEAAM USM works to promote autism awareness and to raise money for families affected by autism.
“Marie is an amazing young lady,” explained Dr. Mark Yeager, executive director of TEAAM. “Her work projects a positive message and has developed a creative method to get important information in the hands of people who may not otherwise be exposed to autism.”
Holowach is a National Merit Finalist, a Presidental Scholar and was nationally recognized as a Phi Kappa Phi Emerging Scholar. Additionally she is a member of the Honors College and has maintained a 4.0 average at Southern Miss.
“Whether I win or not, this process has taught me a lot about myself and has given me the chance to work with many wonderful people at Southern Miss,” stated Holowach.
The Truman scholarship, named for the 33rd president, provides $30,000 for graduate study and leadership training. Besides Holowach, one other Mississippian was named a Truman Scholarship finalist. The student, Emanuel Powell, attends the University of Southern California
Students interested in applying for national scholarships may contact the national scholarship office at 601.266.4263.