Penn State’s nominees for Truman Scholarship exemplify service

May 01, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students Erin Brown and William McCarter were the University's 2020 nominees for the Truman Scholarship, which rewards students for commitments to public service.

Though Brown and McCarter were not named as Truman finalists this year, their work and future goals exemplify the spirit of public service.

“More than ever, we need to foster liberal arts-trained, publicly engaged individuals who embrace lives of advocacy, service and problem-solving as we consider the need for a new social contract for all,” said Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “Erin and William embody the leadership our society will need well after this current COVID-19 crisis is over. They are true assets to our college, and I know that they will represent us well in the world.”

Erin Brown, originally of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, is a junior at Penn State majoring in communication arts and sciences and women’s studies, with a minor in rhetoric, and a certificate in Holocaust and genocide studies, all in the College of the Liberal Arts. She is a Schreyer Scholar and a Paterno Fellow.

In the Schreyer Honors College, Brown founded a Gender Equity Task Force, which creates programming and events for incoming Schreyer Scholars to learn about sexual assault.

Portrait of Erin Brown

Erin Brown is a Penn State junior.

IMAGE: Provided

During the spring 2020 semester, Brown worked with the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State as an undergraduate fellow in the Children, Media, and Conflict Zones Lab. In the summer of 2019, she interned at the Department of State, Office Global Women’s Issues.

“I am passionate about pursuing a career in public service and advocating for women’s rights on a global scale,” Brown said. “I am particularly interested in looking at how conflict affects survivors of gender-based violence. After I graduate, I will take a gap year and then apply to master's programs or law school.”

Brown rides on the Dressage Team at Penn State, works as a peer educator at the Gender Equity Center and tutors in the Undergraduate Speaking Center. She also works as a teaching assistant and learning coordinator for BiSci 3, and environmental science course.

William McCarter, of Unionville, Pennsylvania, is a Classical, Ancient and Mediterranean Studies major, and an economics major, in the College of the Liberal Arts. McCarter said he is preparing for law school, but is also considering earning a master’s in classics. He also is a Paterno Fellow.

William McCarter poses for a photo with State Sen. Tom Killion

William McCarter, right, posed for a photo with State Sen. Tom Killion, whom McCarter interned under in summer 2019. He is a junior at Penn State.

IMAGE: Provided

McCarter's undergraduate thesis will be on the development of property and contract law and its significance to the development of economic systems in the ancient world.

“My undergraduate research in classics has helped to prepare me for law school by allowing me to hone the verbal and analytical thinking skills necessary to succeed in that kind of an environment,” he said. “Moreover, since I am studying ancient law and economics, some of the topics I came across in my research — debt, contract law, etc. — are things which came up in my time as a legislative intern in then Pennsylvania Senate. It was fulfilling to see that my undergraduate work was directly applicable to real-world problems.”

After attending law school, McCarter said he would like to practice as an administrative and legislative attorney, working at the intersection of law, government and the private sector.

About the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation

For 2020, the Truman Foundation reported they received 773 applications from 316 colleges and universities. The last time a Penn State student won the scholarship was Sara Ryan in 2004. Selection by the Truman Foundation is based off of records of leadership, public service and academic achievement.

In order to apply, students must be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. national from the Pacific Islands; be a college junior with a GPA of 3.7 or higher; plan to attend a professional or graduate school to prepare for a career in government, nonprofit or advocacy sectors; and commit to spending three of the first seven years after graduate or a professional school working in public service. More than 3,000 Truman Scholarships have been awarded to date.

Penn State students interested in this and other funded opportunities that help students achieve their goals are invited to reach out to the University Fellowships Office at

The University Fellowships Office is part of the Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Last Updated September 04, 2020