MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Two Middlebury College juniors, Katherine Hamilton of Washington, D.C., and Madison Orcutt of Casper, Wyo., have been selected to receive 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholarships.
Each scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study, in addition to leadership training, advising, and internship opportunities within the federal government. Middlebury’s two recipients are among the 58 undergraduates in the United States to receive Truman Scholarships this year.
Expanding on the legacy of the 33rd president, the Truman Scholarships are awarded to college juniors who demonstrate leadership and are interested in a career in government or public service.
Katherine (“Kate”) Hamilton, a political science major, is deeply interested in the issue of voters’ rights. She has devoted countless hours to registering people to vote in Colorado, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Vermont. As president of MiddVote she increased civic participation among her fellow students by obtaining a software program that enables others to register to vote, sign up for absentee ballots, and receive online reminders of voting deadlines.
Hamilton plans to spend a year working on a presidential or congressional campaign, followed by three years of law school at an institution with a strong social-justice component such as the Educational Opportunity and Juvenile Justice Clinic at Yale Law School or the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Afterward Hamilton hopes to practice law for a public-interest group such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, and ultimately earn a position in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
The laws that govern voting in America place nonwhites at a disadvantage, said Hamilton in her application for the Truman Scholarship, and “the problem has only grown worse since the 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, thereby invalidating pivotal voter protections.”
The Truman Scholar aims to change voter inequity. “Laws that diminish minority participation in the political process deprive those on the margins from shaping policy that affects their lives,” she contends. “I hope to reverse this trend by knocking down the legal barriers that stand in the way of full democratic participation. Narrowly this means fighting for all citizens’ voting rights. More broadly, I hope to use the law to prevent those on the margins from being exiled into ‘outsider’ status.”
Madison (“Maddie”) Orcutt is pursuing a double major in political science and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, and has worked tirelessly at Middlebury with It Happens Here, the on-campus organization devoted to sexual-assault awareness and activism. She also has worked closely on issues pertaining to the rights of immigrants through Friends for Burma, alternative spring break trips to Texas and the Dominican Republic, and as a volunteer for two Spanish-speaking kindergartners at a Middlebury-area public school.
Orcutt plans to attend law school and become an immigration attorney working with immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual trauma. “My interests straddle the line between immigration law and family law, since attorneys who work with immigrant survivors are often asked to address issues such as divorce, child support, alimony, orders of protection, and paternity, in addition to the adjustment of one’s immigration status,” she wrote in her Truman Scholarship essay.
The Wyoming resident who served as a page in the United States Senate during her junior year of high school is considering law schools that offer “robust opportunities to explore both immigration law as well as its intersection with family law.” Her home state’s College of Law, with its Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Program, is near the top of Orcutt’s list, as well as the University of Wisconsin Law School and the School of Law at the University of Texas, Austin.
After law school Orcutt envisions herself in a post-graduate fellowship “to immerse myself in day-to-day casework to better understand the constraints and opportunities presented by our current immigration system.”
The Truman Scholarship Foundation, which was established by Congress in 1975, defines Truman Scholars as “future change agents” who have demonstrated “the passion, intellect, and leadership potential that in time should enable them to improve the ways that public entities – government agencies, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, or advocacy organizations – serve the public good.”