Breanna Carrie Detwiler has been named a recipient of a 2008 Truman Scholarship, making her the first student in Elon University history to receive the prestigious national fellowship.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation announced its winners March 25 on its web site. Each recipient receives a $30,000 scholarship for graduate study along with leadership training, internship opportunities within the federal government, and priority admission to top graduate schools.
The Foundation, established by Congress in 1975 as a memorial to the 33rd president, gives the award “to persons who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service.” Recipients must also have strong leadership skills and a record of high academic achievement.
Detwiler, of Warrenton, Va., is an environmental studies major with minors in non-violence and religious studies. With research interests in food security and farmland conservation, the 21-year-old wants to attend law school at Georgetown University for the study of environmental law.
“It’s going to make a tremendous difference, not only in my studies, but with other things you get to do,” Detwiler said. “The Truman is a great link to the agencies and institutions you might want to work with even before you go to graduate school.
“Land conservation has always been on my radar,” she said. “I’ve had some really great professors who have mentored me and pushed me beyond classes to look at these issues in different ways.”
At Elon, Detwiler manages the Elon Community Garden, is a member of Whole Earth and College Democrats, works on the Student Environmental Sustainability Council and is the student coordinator of the Elon Academy. She is an Elon University Honors Fellow and a member of the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society.
Detwiler studied in Ghana, Africa, in January 2007. She worked with Allied Churches Emergency Night Shelter Food Delivery for much of 2007 and is also a member of Students for Peace and Justice.
“Bre’s work and her contributions to Elon and her community are examples of the kind of civic responsibility that Elon values and seeks to promote in our curriculum and our students,” said Rebecca Todd Peters, Detwiler’s academic and thesis adviser.
Detwiler, a 2005 graduate of Fauquier High School, is the daughter of Feliecia Brooks Detwiler. At home she is a volunteer with Friends of the Fauquier Library.
Detwiler shared her passion for the environment with young students as a mentor with the Elon Academy, a university-sponsored program for local high school students with financial need who would be the first in their families to attend college. Deborah Long, who directs the program, said that Detwiler connected with students when she taught a community garden class in 2007 and lived with the teens in residence halls.
“The love and respect that Bre earned from the students has extended to our students’ families. She has inspired them and given them hope that one day their children will accomplish their dream of earning a college degree,” Long said in a nomination for the award. “Bre has a quiet, but commanding presence. She is a most remarkable human being and is already an inspiring leader.”
Peters, Long and history professor Mary Jo Festle, who serves as director of the Honors Program, wrote letters of recommendation on Detwiler’s behalf during her application and selection process.
Janet Myers, a professor of English and fellowship adviser at the university, said the Truman Scholarship offers further confirmation that Elon students are making noteworthy contributions within the realm of public service.
“Equally important, however, is the recognition that Elon students such as Breanna are receiving an education that will enable them to compete successfully at the national level for prestigious awards and for entry into premier graduate programs,” Myers said.
Detwiler and Elon junior Victoria Davis were among 187 finalists from 122 institutions nationwide when the Foundation narrowed its candidates in February. It marked the first time in seven years that an Elon student had been named a finalist for the scholarship.