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Ogden Honors Junior Michael Beyer Receives Prestigious Truman Scholarship

LSU junior Michael Beyer of New Orleans has been awarded a 2015 Truman Scholarship. The Harry S. Truman Foundation awards approximately 60 of these national scholarships annually.

“We congratulate Michael Beyer on being recognized by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation with this prestigious scholarship opportunity. He is joining a select group of LSU students as our 10th Truman Scholar since 2003,” said LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander. “The Truman Scholarship has a service focus, and we applaud Michael for his commitment to giving back and working toward equal rights for all.”

Beyer is an LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College junior and a political science major in the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences. He is also an Ogden Honors College Louisiana Service and Leadership (LASAL) Scholar. During his time at LSU he has worked tirelessly to advocate for LGBT rights and progressive policies in Louisiana. He has volunteered as a research and policy coordinator for Equality Louisiana, a grassroots organization that advocates for full legal and lived equality for LGBT residents of Louisiana. He has also worked as a research and communications assistant for Louisiana Progress, a nonprofit organization that campaigns for public policies that equalize opportunity and protect the less advantaged.

“I think Michael Beyer is exactly who the Truman Foundation had in mind when they established this prestigious scholarship,” said Ogden Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle. “His impressive work at LSU seamlessly combines research, academics, and activism. I have no doubt that Michael will change the world for the better.”

Beyer expects to graduate from LSU in May 2016, after which he plans to attend law school and specialize in health care law and policy. He hopes ultimately to direct his passion for LGBT rights advocacy into a career that advances equitable health care legislation and rectifies health care disparities experienced by the LGBT community. His Truman Scholarship will allow him to spend the summer of 2015 working on federal LGBT health policies with Matthew Heinz, director of Provider & LGBT Outreach at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.

“I am incredibly honored to be recognized by the Truman Foundation,” Beyer said. “After my involvement in LGBTQ activism here on LSU’s campus through Spectrum and Equality Louisiana, I learned that LGBTQ people lack many legal protections that often leave them vulnerable to drastic health disparities. I hope the opportunities granted to me by the Truman Foundation will help me to work in achieving greater equity in health care for LGBTQ people.”

Under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Political Science Belinda Davis, Beyer is researching and writing an Honors Thesis on the effects of welfare reform on LGBT families. Through LSU’s ASPIRE Program, Beyer has also conducted research on how poverty rates among gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, or GLB, vary among states that do and do not have job discrimination laws containing GLB protections. His research found that states with anti-discrimination laws in place had lower poverty rates among GLB residents even when controlling for education levels of those residents.

“I cannot imagine an award that more perfectly suits Michael,” Davis said. “During his three years as a political science student, he has exemplified what it means to be an advocate for policy change on a host of important issues facing our state, while at the same time pursuing academic excellence at a student. I count it a privilege to be his mentor.”

Truman Scholarships offer recipients up to $30,000 for graduate study. Truman Scholars also receive enhanced access to prestigious graduate institutions and can participate in various Truman Foundation public service leadership programs. Scholars are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of their graduate work. This year’s class of 58 Truman Scholars was selected from among nearly 700 candidates nominated by nearly 300 colleges and universities.

“I would like to thank in particular my family, the Ogden Honors College, the Department of Political Science, and for those at Equality Louisiana and Louisiana Progress for their unwavering support for me throughout this process,” Beyer added. “Without these consistent support systems none of this would be possible for me.”

Beyer joins LSU’s nine previous Truman Scholars, all but one of whom were Ogden Honors College students. In 2013, LSU was the only public university in the country to have two Truman Scholars recognized. Nine Truman Scholarships have been awarded to LSU students since the Ogden Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising was created in 2005.

“Michael’s activism for LGBTQ rights at campus, community, and national levels earned him the Truman Scholarship,” said Drew Arms, Ogden Honors College director of fellowship advising. “He has purposefully and thoughtfully directed his education towards advocacy. Already he has done impressive policy work and research on housing and healthcare issues, often under the tense conditions of protests and heated committee meetings. Michael is invariably poised, incredibly well-informed, and willing to stand up for his beliefs. He will make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ people; he has the intellect, character, and fortitude to produce real change. I will be very proud to say I knew him when.”

Beyer is LSU’s second national scholar winner announced this week, joining 2015 Goldwater Scholar Mollie Smoak, a native of Lafayette, La. 

The Truman Foundation was founded in 1975 as a memorial to the nation’s 33rd President, Harry S. Truman. Its mission is to support the graduate education and professional development of undergraduate students who are committed to public service leadership and who have the potential to act as “change agents” for the public good.

The Ogden Honors College, established in 1992, is a vibrant, diverse and prestigious community located at the heart of LSU. The Honors College typically admits the top 10 percent of incoming LSU freshmen, and provides students with a curriculum of rigorous seminar classes, as well as opportunities for undergraduate research, culminating in the Honors Thesis. Its focus on community service, study abroad, internships and independent research helps today’s high-achieving students become tomorrow’s leaders.