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U. of I. student in social work wins Truman Scholarship

3/31/2011 | Jeff Unger, News Bureau | 217-333-1085;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Stephanie Maldonado, a junior at the University of Illinois, has won a $30,000 Truman Scholarship. She is one of about 60 students chosen from 602 students nominated by U.S. colleges and universities.

Maldonado, who is from Chicago, spent much of her childhood in Puerto Rico. She plans to be a school social worker and eventually direct an advocacy agency serving the Latino/a community in Chicago. Maldonado is especially interested in the root causes of random violence, such as a dearth of educational opportunities and lack of parental engagement.

Maldonado enrolled at Illinois in 2008. She is in the university’s first class of bachelor of social work candidates. She is a founding member and the president of the Bachelors of Social Work Student Association and a member of the James Scholar Honors Program.

She works with Lissette Piedra, a professor of social work. They are examining the obstacles that bilingual services providers encounter in areas experiencing growth in immigrant Latino populations. Maldonado will be presenting their research findings in May at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, which takes place at Illinois.

Maldonado works full time during semester breaks and 24 hours per week at three jobs during the school year. She also has been a Multicultural Advocate for her residence hall at Illinois for two years.

Maldonado also serves in a new social justice resource intern position at Illinois, and is developing training modules for other multicultural advocates. Maldonado also volunteers with Abriendo Caminos, a program in the community to promote healthy eating and physical activity among Latino immigrant families.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established as an Act of Congress in 1975 to “award scholarships to persons who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service.” The foundation provides merit-based scholarships to college juniors seeking to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in public service.

Scholars are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following their graduate program. Maldonado was chosen based on her leadership ability, potential for influencing public policies, community service, extracurricular activities and the suitability of her plan of study for a career in public service.

In nominating Maldonado for the award, the campus Truman Scholarship endorsement committee said, “Maldonado’s passion, unassuming intensity, knowledge, clarity, and resolve gave shape to a motivated public servant with the intelligence and perseverance to institute social change.”

“Stephanie is combining her lived experience with her scholarly work to forge better educational opportunities for recent immigrants to the United States,” said David Schug, a co-director of the national and international scholarships program at Illinois.

“We readily imagine her using her practical social work encounters with students to fortify statistical evidence about social issues affecting children,” said scholarships program co-director Laura Hastings.

Wynne Korr, the dean of the U. of I. School of Social Work said, “We are proud of Stephanie, who embodies the mission of social work and the aims of the Truman Scholarship to ensure that public policy helps those most in need.”

Maldonado is the first U. of I. student to receive a Truman Scholarship in nine years.

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