Robertson honored with Truman Scholarship

Published 11:08 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

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It’s one of the most competitive awards for undergraduates in the country. Only a handful of college juniors each year — typically from the most elite universities — are selected for the Harry. S. Truman Scholarship.

Add to that group Longwood communication studies major Emily Robertson ’24, who on Wednesday, April 12 was announced as the first Lancer to earn the honor — and the only recipient this year from any Virginia college or university.

Robertson, a native of South Hill, was among just 62 scholars nationally who went through a rigorous interview process and are honored for their leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence.

Longwood joins only six public universities in Virginia which have ever had a student awarded a Truman Scholarship: the University of Virginia, William & Mary, George Mason, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State.


She also joins an impressive list of Truman Scholars over the years that includes broadcaster George Stephanopoulous, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Sen. Chris Coons, White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, former Secretary of Education John King, former Arizona Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, speechwriter Jon Favreau, and numerous governors and members of Congress.

“It’s really an honor to be recognized like this,” said Robertson. “I think it shows people that what’s important is the work — doing what you can in the place where you are. That has been the philosophy that I try to live every day and I’m honored that the selection committee saw that in me. I hope I can be an example to other Longwood students to do what they can as well.”

The award provides significant funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. It is awarded by the federally funded Harry S. Truman Foundation as a living memorial to the 33rd president.


Since arriving at Longwood, Robertson has sought out a number of public service opportunities like leading campus organizations including the College Democrats and Honors Students Association, an internship with the nonprofit Clean Virginia Waterways, and countless volunteer hours with regional and statewide political campaigns. In 2022, she partnered with College Republicans on a voter registration drive on campus.

As part of their application, nominees must develop a policy proposal to address an unresolved civic issue. Robertson drew on her work with Clean Virginia Waterways — where she organized coastal cleanup days that removed thousands of pounds of debris from state waterways — and her experience with political campaigns to propose a ban on single-use plastic products in Virginia and the establishment of composting sites across the state.

“Earning a Truman Scholarship requires an extraordinary amount of talent, dedication, and willingness to dedicate yourself to public service,” said Dr. Larissa Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Emily clearly possesses all of those qualities and is poised to go onto great things in her life. The Longwood community is so proud of her.”

As a Truman Scholar, Robertson will spend two months the summer after she graduates at the Truman Foundation’s Summer Institute, which introduces scholars to work in public service in Washington, D.C. through a number of seminars, meetings with prominent public servants, and internships with government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

“I’m excited to take my work on the issues that I’m passionate about to the next level with the help of not only the Truman Scholarship, but the network of people that I’ll meet and work with,” said Robertson,” she added. “I’m actually looking forward to the uncomfortable moments because I can learn in those positions and translate that into graduate school and beyond. This is an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to get started!”

The 62 Truman Scholars this year were selected from 705 candidates nominated by 275 colleges and universities. Finalists were interviewed by regional selection panels throughout March, who selected scholars based on the finalists’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders. Regional selection panels included distinguished civic leaders, elected officials, university presidents, federal judges, and past Truman Scholarship winners.

The Truman Scholarship was established in 1975.