About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 12, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 34
Truman Foundation Recognizes Students, JHU

Two selected as Truman Scholars, university named an Honor Institution

By Amy Lunday

Kurt Herzer and Sonia Sarkar, both juniors on the Homewood campus, are among 65 students from 55 U.S. colleges and universities to be named 2008 Truman Scholars. The prestigious award is given each year by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation to extraordinary juniors committed to careers in public service.

The award will provide up to $30,000 each for graduate study and eligibility for priority admission and supplemental financial aid at premier graduate institutions. Truman Scholars also receive leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and access to special internship opportunities within the federal government.

In addition, Johns Hopkins was named a 2008 Truman Foundation Honor Institution for its promotion of the value of public service and for its large number of Truman Scholars — 12 Johns Hopkins undergraduates have earned the honor since 1984. The honor institution designation (also awarded to Oberlin College) will increase the visibility of Johns Hopkins programs among 2009 Truman Scholar applicants, and a plaque will be placed on the Homewood campus.

"I am astonished by this great honor to Johns Hopkins and grateful to the foundation and Secretary Albright," said John Bader, the university's national scholarship adviser, referring to the former secretary of state who heads the foundation. "I have been thrilled to see our students win the scholarship four years in a row, but it never occurred to me that such success might result in such recognition for the university." Bader is also associate dean for academic programs and advising in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

Kurt Herzer

Truman Scholars are chosen by judges looking for leadership potential, intellectual ability and the likelihood that a candidate will make a difference in the world. They must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding communication skills and be in the top quarter of their classes. The foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to America's 33rd president. This year's winners will meet May 13 for a leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and receive their awards in a special ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo., on May 18.

Through the university's Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship, Herzer, 21, has studied health care quality and patient safety both nationally and internationally, traveling to the United Kingdom to work with patient safety leaders there. He is also working on a multinational infection control and hand hygiene campaign with the World Health Organization. In the School of Medicine's Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Herzer works with Lynette Mark on a number of perioperative safety initiatives centered in the Weinberg Operating Rooms. Herzer hopes to pursue both medical and research degrees.

"I have learned that while the solutions posed by some policy theorists are scientifically elegant, they sometimes lack 'bedside reality,'" Herzer wrote in his application essay for the Truman. "By actively practicing medicine and studying health policy, my goal is to develop solutions that are both scientifically sound and clinically feasible, from policy to patient."

Legally blind from birth, Herzer says that being told as a child that his visual disability could limit him compelled him to create his own opportunities. Rather than be discouraged, Herzer volunteered to teach computer skills to younger legally blind children and has become an advocate for better academic accommodations for students with disabilities. Herzer has served on the universitywide Diversity Leadership Council, reflecting his interest in diversity issues and students with disabilities, and he was chosen to represent his undergraduate peers on the committee recently formed to select the next president of the university.

Sonia Sarkar

Sarkar, 19, is the campus coordinator for Project HEALTH, a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes college students to break the link between poverty and poor health. In that role, she has helped support more than 450 Baltimore families by connecting them to health and housing resources within the city. Sarkar's experiences with the group have led to her decision to pursue graduate studies in law and public health to gain a better understanding of the intersection between health and housing policy.

"The intricate systems of housing agencies and health policies that I have encountered through my interactions with inner-city Baltimore families often demand a strong understanding of legal implications and language," Sarkar wrote in her application for the Truman. "Although my experience as a community advocate at the grassroots level has been very fulfilling, a deeper understanding of public health and housing law is vital to my desire to enact change on a broader level."

Among the many awards and accolades Herzer and Sarkar have earned, both were named to USA Today's All-USA College Academic Team earlier this year; Herzer was named to the first team and Sarkar was an honorable mention.


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |