Abby Smith

Abby Smith

West Virginia University student Abigail Smith was announced as the University’s 25th Truman Scholar on Wednesday.

Smith is a second-year political science student, and she is also minoring in leadership studies and economics.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is the nation’s top graduate fellowship award for aspiring public service leaders. It is a federally funded scholarship granted to U.S. undergraduate students for demonstrated leadership potential, academic excellence and a commitment to public service.

“These disciplines are important in the public service world because most public servants are leaders in some capacity. I wanted to understand that on a deeper level,” Smith said in a press release. “Everything in the United States and in government intertwines with the economy and economics in some way. Understanding both of those disciplines and how they intersect with political science is really beneficial.”

Through a new initiative with the WVU Office of the President in partnership with the West Virginia Speech and Debate Association, Smith is working to increase debate opportunities for West Virginia high school students. She is leading a team to plan a coaches’ institute to train high school teachers to become speech and debate coaches. While the planning committee has faced some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith hopes to schedule the in-person event in 2022.

Smith intends to pursue a master of public policy degree with a focus on education and social welfare policy to improve curriculum standards and address funding deficiencies in rural education.

This work will help benefit communities like the one she grew up in and continues to hold close to her heart. Abby is also a member of the West Virginia University Policy Debate Team and serves as the podcast editor on the editing staff of The Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s independent student newspaper.

"Abby personifies WVU's land-grant spirit: excellence in academic and co-curricular endeavors, engaged leadership on key issues and commitment to service to West Virginia,” said Jay Cole, senior adviser to WVU President E. Gordon Gee, WVU's Truman representative and a 1993 Truman Scholar. “I know she will carry that spirit forward in her graduate studies and professional career."

“Winning the Truman Scholarship means the world to me. It was something that I knew I wanted from the first semester of my freshman year. I did theater for a long time, so I tend to keep my expectations low. That way, I'm never disappointed and always pleasantly surprised when good things happen,” Smith said. “This award reflects all the hard work I’ve put in, not only in the application over the past year, but into college and everything I've done beyond that. It feels great to have this funding and to have this community of public servants recognize me.”