Tufts Senior Named Truman Scholar

Zooey Wilkinson hopes to use graduate studies to work in the housing accessibility and affordability movement in his native Bozeman, Montana

Zooey Wilkinson

Zooey Wilkinson, A19, has been selected as a 2019 Truman Scholar. He is one of sixty-two recipients from fifty-eight colleges around the country, chosen from the largest number of applicants in recent history, according to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Each of the scholars will receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school.

A native of Bozeman, Montana, Wilkinson said he is “overwhelmed, excited, and deeply honored” to receive the scholarship.

Wilkinson has worked as an academic researcher, community organizer, political campaign organizer, construction laborer, farmer, and cook. At Tufts he concentrated on American Studies, Colonialism Studies, and English literature. His American Studies senior honors thesis focused on race, whiteness, and addiction, while his Colonial Studies capstone centers on gentrification, unaffordability, displacement, settler-colonialism, and demographic change in his hometown.

“In the last century, Bozeman has been an agricultural town, and has more recently become a tourist destination. Growing up, I was surrounded by people from both sides of the spectrum, which I think really shaped me,” Wilkinson said. Being a nontraditional student—he started college but then worked for several years before coming to Tufts—also influenced his studies, he said. “I think continually returning to my hometown over the course of my education has led to an evolving understanding of the place and my position in it,” he said.

After graduating, Wilkinson will work as a coordinator in the Telluride Association Summer Program, a six-week educational program offering seminars, lectures, public speaking training, and community activities to high school juniors. He later hopes to get a graduate degree in city planning and return to Bozeman to get involved in the housing accessibility and affordability movement.

“I think I have a responsibility to try to make the community more livable for people who have struggled in the same ways that my family and people I know have struggled,” he said. “Ultimately, I hope people can afford to live in the community they want to live in, and can find home, serenity, and peace—and all of the things that go into that, including homeownership, living wages, benefits, ability to live close to schools that people want their children to attend, and access to addiction treatment.”

Truman Scholarships are named for President Harry Truman, who championed education and public service. Tufts students have had a remarkable history of success in winning the highly competitive Truman Scholarship. Applicants submit a policy proposal that analyzes a societal issue and offers a thoughtful solution to the problem. The Truman award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States.

Wilkinson, who is also developing his first poetry manuscript and working on issues related to mass incarceration in Massachusetts, expressed gratitude to current and former Tufts faculty including Jean Wu, Kris Manjapra, Kerri Greenidge, Kendra Field, Alex Blanchette, and Anne Moore. “There are so many people who have put their time and energy into teaching and mentoring me,” he said. “This feels like a personal achievement, but it also feels like an opportunity to pay it forward.”

Monica Jimenez can be reached at monica.jimenez@tufts.edu.

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