October 1, 2014  

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Southern Miss Student McCracken Named Truman Finalist

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Southern Miss student and Truman Scholarship finalist Stephanie McCracken, center, poses with former Truman winners Lance Brown, left, and Brandon Hersey. (Submitted photo)

Stephanie McCracken, a junior at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, has moved a significant step closer to becoming the school’s fourth winner of the prestigious Truman Scholarship.

McCracken, who is majoring in geography/geographic information systems, recently learned that she had been named a Truman Finalist – joining more than 200 students from across the country vying for the coveted prize. She is Mississippi’s only Truman Finalist selection.

“I was shocked and absolutely thrilled that I was selected to represent USM as a Truman Finalist,” said McCracken, who is also the first Southern Miss Gulf Coast student to earn the recognition. “I also couldn’t help but to feel grateful for everyone who took part in helping me become a Truman Finalist. I made many phone calls that day just letting everyone know how thankful I was for their help during this process.”

Named in honor of the late U.S. President Harry S. Truman, the Truman Scholarship is awarded to high-achieving college juniors who show commitment to public service and potential to continue that service beyond graduation. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study in public service fields and leadership training.

McCracken hopes to follow in the footsteps of Brandon Hersey, who won a Truman award last spring. Marie Holowach Federer captured a Truman Scholarship in 2011 and Lance Brown, competing in his home state of Alabama, was the first Southern Miss winner in 1999.

Hersey and Brown have provided invaluable assistance to McCracken over the past few weeks, formulating strategy and participating in mock interviews as she prepares for a formal interview before the Truman Foundation’s Regional Review Panel on March 24.

“Since I found out that I was selected as Mississippi’s finalist, Brandon and Lance have been very involved with helping me prepare for my interview, while answering many of my questions about the process,” said McCracken.

McCracken’s public service focus involves searching for ways to alleviate burdens caused by chronic diseases in the United States, primarily through preventative health education.

“I think one of the best ways to address this issue is by concentrating on physician shortages, especially in rural counties, across the nation,” she said.

In addition to Hersey, Southern Miss had celebrated two other Truman Scholarship recipients -- Marie Holowach Federer in 2011 and Lance Brown, competing in his home state of Alabama, was the first winner in 1999.

Southern Miss Gulf Coast Vice-President and Campus Executive Officer Frances Lucas points out that McCracken has distinguished herself by emerging as the only Truman Finalist in Mississippi and the first from the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

“Stephanie has exhibited what it truly means to be both a Southern Miss Golden Eagle and a Truman Scholar through her academic achievement, community service and desire to address public issues,” said Lucas. “At Southern Miss Gulf Coast, we wish Stephanie the best of luck as she completes this competitive process, and the scholars are selected.”

The Truman Foundation reviewed 655 files from 294 institutions. Students were selected based on their records of leadership, public service and academic achievement. The Finalist Selection Committee selected 204 students from 138 institutions. These students will be interviewed by the Foundation’s Regional Review Panels between March 6 and April 11. The 2014 Class of Truman Scholars will be announced by on Wednesday, April 16.

To see the complete list of Truman Scholarship Finalists, visit: http://www.truman.gov/stories/2014-truman-scholarship-finalists/