Two Duke students were named 2018 Truman Scholars Thursday.
Juniors Kushal Kadakia and Claire Wang were chosen to receive to be a part of the cohort of 59 students across the nation. Founded in memorial to President Harry Truman, the Truman Scholarship is a fellowship extended to individuals pursuing careers as public service leaders. Scholars receive $30,000 to fund their graduate studies.
Kadakia and Wang are both part of the merit-based Angier B. Duke Memorial program.
Kadakia is studying biology and public health at Duke. He plans on pursuing an M.D. and an MPP after graduating.
Kadakia found out that he had received the scholarship when President Vincent Price told him in person.
“I thought I was meeting with President Price for a DSG project, and he ended up surprising me about the Truman,” Kadakia said. “It was an incredibly special moment, and I'm really honored and grateful for all of the support I've received from this university.”
He noted his passion for healthcare policy and implementing change during his time at Duke.
"I would think the unifying factor is my efforts in healthcare policy—the way that I’ve been able to tie in my research at the bench with my service at the bedside, through later doing advocacy in the boardroom,” he said. “I hope to continue my career at this intersection of science and policy through graduate school and beyond."
An example of his work has been his effort to make Duke a smoke-free campus.
“Understanding the science and having the leadership to bring campus stakeholders together, and also knowing the policy to navigate different institutional administrators and leadership has been really valuable,” Kadakia mentioned. “It’s a project that I’m really proud of.”
At Duke, Kadakia serves as executive vice president of the Duke Student Government, and is chairman of the Honor Council. He has served on the Board of Trustees for two years, focused on academic affairs during his sophomore year and on institutional advancement this year.
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“Beyond university service, I’m really active on research on campus,” he said. “I work in the department of radiation oncology in the Kirsch Lab in the School of Medicine. I’ve also done significant amounts of healthcare policy research working at the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, as well as through Bass Connections. I’ve done two separate Bass Connections, first on access to medicine and the second on North Carolina Medicaid.”
He has also interned in the governor’s office at North Carolina working on Medicaid policy.
Wang is a junior at Duke pursuing the A.B. track in environmental science and policy with minors in economics and Asian and Middle Eastern studies.
“Climate change and clean energy are my biggest passions,” she said. “Advocacy on any issue is important to me as a principle—each of us has the potential and, I would argue, the responsibility to create positive change. I've been lucky to work with so many students at Duke dedicated to making progress, and I'm excited to see how students continue to push for a better future both on campus and beyond."
At Duke, Wang serves as the president of the Duke Climate Coalition.
"I have led several student campaigns at Duke—including Duke Seize the Grid, which targets the goal of 100% renewable energy at Duke by 2030, Duke Renewable Energy Action for Duke to support renewable energy policy reform in North Carolina and No New Gas to stop a natural gas plant proposed to be built on campus," Wang wrote.
She has also served on the Campus Sustainability Committee for two years, and worked for Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Earthjustice.
Wang noted that the depth of this experience organizing climate issues has been monumental to her time at Duke.
“It's important that Duke stays true to its sustainability promises and ensures transparency and equity in all facets of its operation,” she said. “Students can and should take the lead in these conversations about climate action, since we are the generation that will be most affected by climate change.”
Her graduate plans include pursuing a joint JD and Master of Environmental Management. She hopes to practice environmental law.
She is currently studying abroad through the School for International Training’s IHP program focused on climate change and the politics of food, water and energy.
Wang was also awarded the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship earlier this week.