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LSU Juniors Catherine Fontenot and Matthew Landrieu Named Prestigious Truman Scholars

Two Honors College juniors selected for nationally-competitive public service fellowship

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation has announced that LSU Honors College juniors Catherine Fontenot of Basile, La., and Matthew Landrieu of New Orleans are among 62 students nationwide to receive the prestigious Truman Scholarship.

“We are extremely proud of Catherine and Matthew for their commitment to serving others and working to make the world a better place and are pleased that the Truman Foundation has recognized them with the Truman Scholarship,” said Interim LSU System President and Interim Chancellor William Jenkins. “It speaks volumes for the quality and hard work of our students, faculty and staff that two LSU students were honored this year.”

The scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study, along with priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Scholars are invited to participate in a number of programs: Truman Scholar Leadership Week, The Summer Institute and The Truman-Albright Fellows Program.

Truman Scholars are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of a foundation-funded graduate degree program as a condition of their receiving Truman funds. Part of the application process is for the students to create policy to address a current issue.

“We congratulate and celebrate Catherine and Matthew for being named Truman Scholars,” said LSU Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Stuart Bell. “LSU’s Flagship 2020 message is ‘Transforming Lives,’ and there is no better example than the work these two and many other LSU students and faculty are committed to performing both in our state and across the world.”

Fontenot, an LSU Honors College student and biological sciences major in the College of Science, plans to pursue Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees, with concentrations in internal medicine and infectious disease/global health, through Harvard Medical School’s Scholars in Medicine program after she graduates from LSU in May 2014.

Landrieu, an LSU Honors College student and elementary education major in the College of Human Sciences & Education, plans to pursue a master’s degree focused on policy, organization and leadership studies from Stanford’s Graduate School of Education after he graduates from LSU in May 2014.

Both students said that it’s been exciting and overwhelming to find out they had received the Truman Scholarship. Fontenot added that since they had just gotten the news this week, she not sure she fully understand what it means yet.

“We know what it means, but I don’t think we really understand what it means because it’s a really big step on the way to reaching our goals because our goals are pretty lofty,” she said. “But if you have the title ‘Truman Scholar,’ it’ll help you get through a lot of doors that you need to get through to make real change happen.”

Landrieu said that it is an honor that the university, their professors and the Truman Foundation have invested in them and their career goal. He said the application process is highly reflective and by receiving the scholarship, the Truman Foundation is affirming their ambitions in life.

“Being honored with this scholarship it is affirming that your purpose is worthy,” he said. “More than anything, I’m so excited, and I know Catherine’s so excited, that it’s just one step closer to the communities that we want to serve and to fulfill our purposes.”

Both students credited LSU for preparing them for this opportunity and for the distinct honor of having two Truman Scholars in the same year.

“I couldn’t imagine another university where I could have done everything that I’ve done here at LSU,” Fontenot said. “I think it says everything about LSU being par with any other university you could possibly pick. I don’t think I could have done this anywhere else.”

Fontenot said she developed two passions while at LSU that forged her career goals: understanding other cultures and helping the community through medical services.

“Once I completed my internship with the Volunteer Health Corp here in town last summer, it gave me a good picture on why people don’t have access to healthcare, which got me focused on this important topic,” she said. “When I began thinking about the Truman Scholarship, it really focused me on the next 15 years of my life. You plan graduate schools, you plan what you will do after grad schools and you plan what you will do with the rest of your life. So, I am looking at Harvard Medical School, which is one of the few in the country with a focus on community-based medicine.”

Once Fontenot becomes a physician, she plans to dedicate her career to working locally and internationally, in clinics and in community research, to decrease the rate of HIV infection and improve treatments.

Landrieu said that LSU has been trending upward and high school students see it as a destination school with lots of opportunities.   

“Coming to LSU has given me the opportunity to study abroad; it’s given me the opportunity to work with Louisianans about Louisiana issues that matter, and to make an unbelievably diverse set of friends on all sides of campus,” he said. “Coming here and especially being a part of the Honors College and having amazing advisors like Dr. [Drew Lamonica] Arms, opened a lot of those doors for us and taught us how to be adults, for me how to be a man, what it means to be a man, and that’s been invaluable for me.”

Upon completing his graduate studies, Landrieu hopes to work as a classroom teacher in New Orleans public schools for at least five years, and as a longer-term goal, he wants to help rebuild the public school system in New Orleans. Landrieu believes that the Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies Program will lay the groundwork for a long career fighting social inequalities through educational reform and community development.

“I see so many disparities in what it’s like to be black in the South versus what it’s like to be white in the South and what it’s like to be poor versus what it’s like to be rich and how that influences educational achievement,” Landrieu said. “A lot of my focus is how can we as educators of our youth create policies, classrooms, curriculums and communities that support transformative education to help those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Social mobility, to me, is what it comes down to in a democracy.”

Both students will be involved in internships in Washington, D.C., next summer as part of their public service commitment as Truman Scholars.

Fontenot and Landrieu join the six previous Truman Scholars in the university’s history: Allen Richey, 2003; Jacob Landry, 2005; Cynthia “CC” DuBois, 2006; Claire Kendig, 2008; Micaela de Gruy, 2009; and Devon Wade, 2010.

The 62 new Truman Scholars were selected from among 629 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities. They were chosen by seventeen independent selection panels on the basis of their academic and leadership accomplishments and their likelihood of becoming public service leaders. Selection panels met across the United States and included distinguished leaders, university presidents, elected officials, federal judges, prominent public servants, and past Truman Scholarship winners.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to the 33rd president. The mission of the Truman Scholarship Foundation is to find and recognize college students with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in public service; and to provide them with financial support for graduate study, leadership training and fellowship with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service. For more information, visit

The LSU Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising was created to assist students in applying for prestigious scholarships and fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, Mitchell, Udall, Truman and Goldwater awards. Students interested in applying for these and other scholarship opportunities or for more information on the office, contact Drew Lamonica Arms, director of fellowship advising, at


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