New Orleans, La.
LSU students are a diverse group. They come from all over the globe with different dreams, goals, and aspirations for their respective futures. Here is a chance to get to know them one at a time. No matter his or her academic discipline, everyone has a story to tell…including you!
Catherine and Matt are enrolled in the LSU Honors College. Both are 2013 winners of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which is awarded to students who focus on public service – and these two are not only interested in public service, they have a chance to make substantive change on the local, national, and international levels simply by educating communities in ways that will impact people’s lives forever.
Q: Catherine, you’re interested in traveling abroad to assist underrepresented countries with medical aid; what are your plans immediately following graduation next May?
Catherine: My first plan is to attend Harvard Medical School, which has the Scholars in Medicine program focusing on community-based medicine, access to healthcare, and global health. These are all things that I am passionate about and the focus of my educational career and beyond.
Q: How did you earn the Truman Scholarship?
What I wrote my Truman application about is Baton Rouge’s HIV/AIDS rate, which is the highest in the country. Yet no large-scale education or prevention campaigns or public funding movements have been conducted on it. Part of the Truman is about policy, so I drafted policy on changing sex education laws in Louisiana public schools to go beyond abstinence-only mandatory education to teach students, and bring communities around, to realistic, biology-based education on the topic to better prevent these and other STDs.
Q: How about you Matt, how has your field work been?
Matt: The teaching experience this semester has been awesome because you get to realize your passion. You get to find out what it’s really like to work with the kids, in my case 5th graders. Theory classes simply don’t allow you to see quite where the pedagogue meets the floor, so to speak.
Q: How has the Truman taken your teaching to the next level?
Matt: It’s connected what goes on in the classroom everyday to how society, culture, and policy impacts it. Much about the Truman Scholarship is what makes you tick; it looks for agents of change in the public sector who focus on the large scale. In the South, there are so many disparities on what it’s like to be black or white or rich or poor and how this influences your education, and really how you grow as an individual. So I have focused on how to create policy, classrooms, curriculums, and communities to support a transformative education.
Q: Is it all about the classroom though? You mentioned communities.
Matt: It’s well documented that people’s home lives and what they go back to after class is far more influential than school can ever be. If they come from a poor family, chances are that they will always be in one. My belief is that a person’s education, recreation, health, and home life all give them a chance at social mobility. And, to me, democracy is all about social mobility.
Q: Catherine, presuming you attain your goal of attending Harvard Medical School, and being a Truman Scholars with a 3.9 GPA certainly can’t hurt in that regard, where do you see your post-LSU life taking you?
Catherine: The Truman helps you focus on the next 15 years of your life, so if everything goes perfectly, I’ll do five years in the Scholars in Medicine program, which includes a year abroad to do research in either Africa or Haiti, then go straight into residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where I would complete my Master’s in Public Health, leading me to a fellowship in infectious diseases.
Q: Matt, you have a very recognizable family name around this state, how much of their half-decade-plus history in the public sector has affected how you view public service and policy?
Matt: This is a question that I’ve been asked quite a bit. If my dad [New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu] and grandpa [former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu] instilled anything in me, it is a sense of vocation. My dad told me a story when I was young about a Jesuit priest who said to him, “Mitch, I need you to find the most people in need of the most help, where you can make the biggest impact, and you need to get there as fast as possible.”
My dad’s life and grandpa’s life were about making an impact, so for me it’s not about being in the public arena or running for office, it’s about finding that place where the most people have the most need…and placing myself in the right position to change that.
For more information on the Truman Scholarship, or any of LSU’s other scholarship opportunities, visit lsu.edu/scholarships.
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