OXFORD, Ohio – Cameron Tiefenthaler of Mechanicsburg is the only recipient from Ohio and one of 62 nationwide to earn the prestigious honor of a Truman Scholar for 2023.
Twenty-four hours after Cameron Tiefenthaler was sitting in a law office in Washington, D.C., for an interview with the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, she was back in her business law class at Miami University.
A text from Zeb Baker, executive director of the Honors College, started the chain of good news … Tiefenthaler was one of 62 Truman Scholars for 2023 and the second from Miami to earn the honor since 2018.
Tiefenthaler was floored when she heard the news.
“All the finalists are incredibly qualified,” Tiefenthaler said of the Truman Scholars, named for the 33rd president of the United States and given to juniors who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence. “I was just absolutely humbled and speechless.”
This year’s Truman Scholars were selected from 705 candidates nominated by 275 colleges and universities. Each scholar receives a $30,000 scholarship for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.
Miami’s Sara Al-Zubi was named a Truman Scholar in 2018 and was the university’s first recipient since 2003.
Like Al-Zubi in 2018, Tiefenthaler is the only recipient from Ohio among this year’s honorees. A Political Science and Business Analytics major, Tiefenthaler’s candidacy revolved around her work on campus to promote civic engagement and voter registration.
“She’s so interested in the most important part of being a citizen, which is how do you actually participate in the democratic process?” Baker said. “She’s done a fantastic job trying to encourage more voter participation among college students here at Miami.”
Tiefenthaler, who is also secretary of governmental relations for Miami’s Associated Student Government, helped convene a cross-departmental coalition on campus focused on nonpartisan efforts to encourage Miami students to vote. Miami recently was recognized with a Voter Friendly Campus Designation for 2023-2024 in part because of that work.
Voting participation has long been a passion for Tiefenthaler. It led her to pursue internships at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in Washington, D.C.; with IGNITE, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that helps support women as they run for office; a campaign fundraising firm in D.C.; and with the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg while she studied abroad at the Miami University John E. Dolibois European Center.
“One of the things I’m proud of is my work on campus to ensure our approach to civic engagement is more intersectional,” Tiefenthaler said. “In the past, it’s been pretty separated as to which bodies on campus work on ensuring students have the resources to vote.”
To that end, Tiefenthaler helped start a civic engagement coalition that combined the work done by student government with the Menard Family Center for Democracy, Miami’s office of ASPIRE, and other bodies on campus such as the Wilks Institute for Leadership and Service and the Civic Engagement Fellows. This newfound collaboration increased communication about institutional issues and worked to ensure students could vote on campus.
“Her ability to engage people at a very critical level around having a voice in their democracy is what inspired her candidacy,” Baker said. “The Truman Foundation would have looked at this and said, ‘Here is somebody who truly appreciates what service looks like.’”
Patrick Haney, director of the Center for Public Management and Regional Affairs, has been at Miami since the early 1990s and worked with multiple Truman Scholars over the years. Part of what sets those recipients apart, Haney said, is a consistent dedication to public policy issues that extends beyond college.
“Cameron is really unique in the sense that she came to us with this dedication, maintained it in college, and it’s what she wants to head to next,” Haney said. “At the end of the day, to win the Truman you need that little extra something, and Cameron has that.
“She’s the real deal. I’m excited to see what she does next.”
Established by Congress in 1975 as a living memorial to President Truman, the Truman Scholarship has been awarded to 3,504 students since 1977 while it inspires and supports Americans from diverse backgrounds to public service.
This year’s scholars were selected from 199 finalists.
“That’s what really makes it special, that there are so few students nationally who are awarded the Truman Scholarship,” Baker said. “We’re really excited that a student like Cameron, who is so focused on social engagement and community service, has won this kind of a recognition from such a nationally prestigious organization.”
In the short term, Tiefenthaler is interested in attending law school after graduation, with an interest in civil rights, constitutional, or election law. Her long-term goals include working as a litigator focused on upholding democracy and civil rights and possibly pursuing public office.
Baker encouraged her to apply for the Truman Scholarship, and Tiefenthaler credited Miami’s faculty members for their support throughout the process.
“Miami’s professors are truly amazing both inside and outside the classroom,” Tiefenthaler said. “There is a long list of people who helped me get to where I am today. Besides Dr. Baker, my political science professors and my business professors have helped me cultivate my policy proposal for this application and have encouraged me to be a better scholar and more curious about the world around me.”
Monica Schneider, professor of Political Science, said Tiefenthaler uses her academic knowledge and training to make her community and the country a better place.
“Cameron truly embodies what I think of as the ideal Miami student,” Schneider said. “It was an honor to be a part of the process helping her prepare for the interview.”
Information from Miami University