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Two Honors College Students Selected as Truman Finalists

Nominees advanced as finalists for public service fellowship
Two Honors College Students Selected as Truman Finalists

LSU Media Relations

LSU juniors Catherine Fontenot of Basile, La., and Matthew Landrieu of New Orleans have been selected as a finalists for the nationally competitive Truman Scholarship, awarded by the Harry S. Truman Foundation.

Both Fontenot, an LSU Honors College student and biological sciences major in the College of Science, and Landrieu, an LSU Honors College student and elementary education major in the College of Human Sciences & Education, participated in final interviews on March 8 in Fort Worth, Texas. Truman Scholarship recipients will be announced on Thursday, April 11, online

Truman Scholars are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of a foundation-funded graduate degree program as a condition of their receiving Truman funds. Part of the application process is for the students to create policy to address a current issue.

“LSU students have a strong history of public service,” said LSU Honors College Dean Nancy Clark. “Matt and Catherine are outstanding representatives of this tradition, and we are immensely proud of them both.”

Fontenot plans to pursue Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees, with concentrations in internal medicine and infectious disease/global health, through Harvard Medical School’s Scholars in Medicine program after she graduates from LSU in May 2014. Fontenot said she developed two passions while at LSU that forged her career goals: understanding other cultures and helping the community through medical services.

“Once I completed my internship with the Volunteer Health Corp here in town last summer, it gave me a good picture on why people don’t have access to healthcare, which got me focused on this important topic,” she said. “When I began thinking about the Truman Scholarship, it really focused me on the next 15 years of my life. You plan graduate schools, you plan what you will do after grad schools, and you plan what you will do with the rest of your life. So, I am looking at Harvard Medical School, which is one of the few in the country with a focus on community-based medicine.”

Once Fontenot becomes a physician, she plans to dedicate her career to working locally and internationally, in clinics and in community research, to decrease the rate of HIV infection and improve treatments.

“We are proud of Catherine’s academic accomplishments in the classrooms and in the research labs, and we marvel at her commitment to serve the needy sectors of our community,” said Guillermo Ferreyra, interim dean of the LSU College of Science. “We celebrate and congratulate Catherine for being named a Truman Scholarship Finalist, and we wish her continued success in her future endeavors.”

Landrieu plans to pursue a master’s degree focused on policy, organization and leadership studies from Stanford’s Graduate School of Education after he graduates from LSU in May 2014. He believes that the Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies Program will lay the groundwork for a long career fighting social inequalities through educational reform and community development.

“I see so many disparities in what it’s like to be black in the South versus what it’s like to be white in the South and what it’s like to be poor versus what it’s like to be rich and how that influences educational achievement,” Landrieu said. “A lot of my focus is how can we as educators of our youth create policies, classrooms, curriculums and communities that support transformative education to help those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Social mobility, to me, is what it comes down to in a democracy.”

Upon completing his graduate studies, Landrieu hopes to work as a classroom teacher in New Orleans public schools for at least five years, and as a longer-term goal, he wants to help rebuild the public school system in New Orleans.

“The College of Human Sciences and Education faculty and staff are delighted to learn that this outstanding young man has been selected as a finalist for the Truman Scholarship,” said Laura Lindsay, dean of the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education. “His high standards, commitment to the greater good of society and children in particular, along with his leadership qualities contribute to making Matt an extraordinary individual. We know that his passion and talents will make a difference in the lives of the children he teaches.”

This year the Harry S. Truman Foundation received 629 applications from 293 colleges and universities. The Finalist Selection Committee selected 199 candidates from 136 colleges and universities as finalists. Fontenot and Landrieu are joined by the University of Texas junior Jenna Milani as the only students from Louisiana selected as finalists.

Since 2005, LSU has had 17 Truman Scholarship finalists, and has had six Truman Scholars in the university’s history: Allen Richey, 2003; Jacob Landry, 2005; Cynthia “CC” DuBois, 2006; Claire Kendig, 2008; Micaela de Gruy, 2009; and Devon Wade, 2010.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to the 33rd president. The mission of the Truman Scholarship Foundation is to find and recognize college students with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in public service; and to provide them with financial support for graduate study, leadership training and fellowship with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service.

The LSU Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising was created to assist students in applying for prestigious scholarships and fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, Mitchell, Udall, Truman and Goldwater awards. Students interested in applying for these and other scholarship opportunities or for more information on the office, contact


Ernie  Ballard 
LSU Media Relations