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Junior Maya Durvasula selected as 2017 Truman Scholar

Junior Maya Durvasula was named as a Truman Scholar, the University announced Wednesday.

Truman scholars are chosen based on their leadership, public service, academic achievement and likelihood of becoming public-service leaders. Durvasula will join a cohort of 62 other students across the country and will receive up to $30,000 for future graduate studies.  Additionally, she will receive priority admission to some graduate schools as well as leadership training and specialized internship opportunities within the federal government.

“Maya has a real commitment to using her exceptional academic and social skills to make the nation a better place for those who are not as fortunate as she is. She does this not out of guilt, but out of a sense of responsibility,” said Robert Korstad, associate professor of public policy and history, in a Duke Today release.

Durvasula, who is also a Robertson scholar, is majoring in economics with a minor in mathematics as well as a certificate in politics, philosophy and economics. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, with an emphasis on the microeconomics of poverty and strategies for its elimination.

"I'll probably spend two years after graduating from college doing research with the University or a group like the World Bank," Durvasula said. "Then I'd use the scholarship itself to offset the cost of tuition." 

Durvasula considers her passion to be poverty alleviation.

"It sounds really trivial to say I want to do the things that work," she said. "But it's really surprising how much policy that you see designed to address poverty or social challenges is based on some good idea or good intention someone had."

In the upcoming academic year, Durvasula will serve as co-editor-in-chief of Duke Political Review and president of Duke Partnership for Service. She is also currently involved in research with the Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Initiative on Poverty and Inequality as well as the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. 

"I think some of the more interesting stuff that I've done on campus has been related to social policy in North Carolina," Durvasula said, citing research on housing and social policy related to race that she performed with the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity.

Before attending Duke, Durvasula—an Albuquerque, New Mexico native—took a gap year, during which she took on a variety of roles. In addition to serving as an analyst in the office of the New Mexico State Senate majority whip, she was also the policy director for Tim Keller’s 2014 bid for New Mexico state auditor and interned with a local think-tank.

Durvasula said she wants to work in both academia and policy in the future.

"Figuring out some way to balance an interest in service and politics with a real commitment to getting good at research...that's ultimately where I want to be moving," Durvasula said. "I want to be the person in the room with the numbers."

She noted that she is thrilled and honored to be named a Truman scholar. 

"It's such an incredible testament, I think in a lot of ways, to the amazing resources of this University, and the really fantastic mentors and advisors I've had over the past three years, and I feel really privileged and grateful to have had the ability to grow up academically here," Durvasula said. 

Diane Hu contributed reporting. 


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