Rice University junior Hira Baig has been named a 2014 Truman Scholar.
She is one of 59 students selected from 655 nominations from nearly 300 institutions. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate study.
The Truman Scholarship Foundation identifies its scholars as future “change agents” who have the “passion, intellect and leadership potential” to improve the ways that public entities serve the public good.
Caroline Quenemoen, director of fellowships and undergraduate research at Rice, said the Truman Scholarship is one of the most competitive undergraduate awards in the U.S. “The application for it is extremely demanding,” she said.
Baig, from Sugar Land, Texas, is a double major in political science and policy studies. She will graduate a year early and become an M.A. candidate in religion, ethics and politics at Harvard University this fall. She plans to go to law school the following year to complete a joint M.A./J.D. program.
“I will be studying religious diversity in the United States and its meaning for American public life,” Baig said. “I am hoping to garner a better understanding of challenges the United States’ complex religious landscape faces as they affect policy. At Harvard, I will continue my study of Arabic and draw connections between policy and religious issues. As a law student, I plan on participating in counterterrorism and human rights clinics. This will allow me to address harms committed to religious groups by the government’s counterterrorism practices, preparing me to contribute to antidiscrimination efforts through a career in government.”
Baig, a member of Sid Richardson College, said her political science coursework introduced her to how policy ideas are shared within and across government entities and how they change. “My Rice education has exposed me to the strategic thinking needed to make policy change, innovation and diffusion,” she said.
“While studying abroad in London as part of my policy studies course work, I took a course that allowed me to study the impacts religious minorities have on cities. Through field interviews and research in London, this course exposed me to the connection that exists between faith communities and policy,” she said.
Baig said she feels well-prepared for graduate school. “Participating in public policy seminars with Dr. Steven Lewis as part of the Baker Institute Summer in D.C. fellowship and working with the Boniuk Institute allowed me to pursue my interests in politics and religion in incredibly formative ways,” she said.
Baig plans to pursue a career at the Department of State. “My goal is to work as an adviser under the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, reporting directly to the special adviser to the secretary of state,” she said. “I will work with diverse communities both at home and abroad to advance U.S. diplomacy and development objectives. I would also help prepare foreign and civil service officers to engage faith communities effectively and respectfully by developing training programs focused on interfaith engagement. In the long term, I plan on continuing my advocacy work for women and diverse communities.”
The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to the 33rd president and is supported by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury. In addition to funding for graduate school, Truman Scholars receive priority admission at some premier graduate schools, career counseling, leadership training and special internship opportunities with the federal government.