EKU Junior One of Only 60 Nationally to Earn Prestigious Truman Scholarship

Photo of Miles Owen

When he graduated from high school in 2005, Miles Owen had “no idea” what direction to take in life.

Instead of immediately enrolling in a college or university Owen chose instead to spend 10 months with AmeriCorps, helping clear houses of debris in hurricane-ravaged St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans. The decision proved fortuitous.

“My life changed because I saw the power of passionate people working toward a common cause,” he said. “I felt so alive and productive that it made sense to start working toward making disaster response my career. I discovered that I am passionate about helping people re-establish their home and culture after the randomness of a disaster. I had found what I wanted to do with my life.”

It’s that proven commitment to be a change agent that eventually led Owen to Eastern Kentucky University’s Emergency Medical Care Program in 2009 and made such a strong impression on the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation that it has awarded Owen one of only 60 Truman Scholarships nationwide for 2011 – one recipient for each state plus 10 at-large winners. The junior from Newberry, S.C., is the first EKU student ever to receive the prestigious award, which covers the cost of graduate studies up to $30,000.

The Truman Foundation recognizes college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in the public service; and provides them with financial support for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service.

“Miles is already making the change so many other students hope to someday make,” said Dr. Linda Frost, director of EKU’s Honors Program, of which Owen is a member. “He’s a remarkable young man … and the Truman Scholarship will simply allow him to do those things on a much larger scale, with greater impact.”

Frost saw first-hand Owen’s leadership acumen when the two co-led a week-long EKU Honors cultural and service trip to New York City in January. “It was simply fascinating to watch him work with these students, most of whom were only a year or two younger than he,” she noted. “He was a force of stability and capability.”

Owen has initiated and successfully led his own trips to St. Bernard Parish. Since arriving at EKU, Owen has worked with the University’s Office of Student Life to plan seven “Alternative Spring Break” trips for Eastern students, participating in four and serving as leader in two.

He plans to apply for the Washington Summer Institute and pursue a master’s of public policy degree at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, specializing in crisis leadership. After his graduate studies, Owen hopes to launch a career with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Getting this scholarship vastly increases my chances of getting into the top graduate school programs in the country,” Owen said. “It also gives me important connections through the Truman Scholar Association and the summer internships, which will help a lot with job placement when I graduate.”

Frost termed the application process for the Truman Scholarship “the most complicated” of any of the large national scholarships, requiring numerous essays and a 20-minute interview in Atlanta.  To prepare for the interview, Owen completed a mock interview with local District Judge Bill Clouse, former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert and Dr. Sheila Pressley, a faculty member in EKU’s Environmental Health Science Program.

“They grilled him, advised him and encouraged him, and then he nailed the official interview beautifully,” Frost said.

Owen credited the “great support” he received from the University. “Dr. Frost guided me through the entire year-long application process, the nomination committee provided important input on several of my application essays, and (EKU government professor) Dr. Jo Ann Ewalt helped focus my policy proposal in order to make it clearer and more relevant to the bigger picture.”

He also honored a long-time campus tradition by repeatedly rubbing for good luck a toe on the statue of Daniel Boone that fronts the Keen Johnson Building. “It worked,” Owen declared, “so apparently Daniel Boone is still lucky.”

Already, Owen has received numerous awards for his service. He received a Congressional Bronze Medal Award for Community Service and an Outstanding Personal Achievement Award from AmeriCorps, and was named an Honorary Citizen of St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana.

“Miles is not interested in being a politician,” Frost said. “He is interested in making a difference. He is doing it already. The Truman Scholarship will allow him to take that drive and push it to another level entirely.”



Published on March 31, 2011

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