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Accomplished SJU Student Adds Truman Scholarship to List of Honors

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Donya Nasser (right, standing) shown here with three of Glamour Magazine’s 2014 Top 10 College Women.
Top 10 winners photo credit: Aaron Richter

During the three years Donya Nasser ’15C has been a student at St. John’s University, she has garnered more acclaim than most people do in a lifetime. This spring alone, the government and politics major was named one of Glamour magazine’s 2014 Top 10 College Women; a Clinton Global Initiative University 2014 ParticipantDemocratic National Committee Hope Institute 2014 Fellow2014 Public Policy and International Affairs UC Berkeley Law Fellow2014–2015 Sidley Prelaw Scholar; and president of College Democrats of New York.

Capping this growing list of achievements, Nasser learned on April 15 that she is now St. John’s first Truman Scholar and the recipient of a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. “I feel so honored and blessed,” declared Nasser, a Ronald E. McNair Scholar at the University. “This is what I’ve worked so hard for.”

Nasser is one of 59 undergraduates nationwide to receive a 2014 Truman Scholarship, having been selected out of 655 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities. Established by Congress in 1975. the Truman Scholarship Foundation recognizes students with potential for careers in public service, providing them with financial support for graduate school; a network of other scholars; and participation in high-level leadership and other professional development training programs.

The Pickering Fellowship, funded by the US Department of State, covers expenses related to recipients’ senior year of college and first year of graduate school. The award also provides domestic and foreign internships at the department.

“Donya is fearless and feels limitless about what she can accomplish,” said Konrad Tuchscherer, Ph.D., associate professor of history and Fulbright Program advisor. “She is devoted  to changing the political landscape to get more girls and women from underrepresented backgrounds involved in politics and is a real soldier for social justice and a great ambassador for St. John’s.”

Dedicated to blazing new paths for other St. John’s students, especially women, Nasser was the University’s first recipient of the Newman Civic Fellow Award and, despite very tough odds, was one of just five finalists for a Running Start Emerging Young Leader Award. She further distinguished herself by launching the St. John’s chapter of the student-run Roosevelt Institute and founding a nonprofit called Watch. Her. Lead., designed to encourage women of color to run for office.

Nasser’s mother grew up in Iran, where she was forced into an arranged marriage and was unable to go to college or attain economic independence. “I am driven by the sacrifices my mother made to be able to give me these opportunities,” Nasser said. “I owe it to her to do everything I can to be in a position where I will be able to empower other women and underserved communities to achieve their potential.” 

With miles yet to run, Nasser’s long-term goal is to carve out a career in politics that will place her in a powerful enough position to be able to help improve the quality of life of the greatest number of people. Jennifer Travis, Ph.D, associate professor of English and director of the women’s and gender studies program, said, “Donya is one of the most ambitious students—academically, intellectually, and politically—that I have ever worked with. In the future, we will all ‘watch her lead.’”