Arts & Sciences’ Agarwal named Truman Scholar

Arts & Sciences junior Pooja Agarwal has been awarded a 2005 Harry S. Truman Foundation Scholarship.

The Truman Scholarship program is open to juniors interested in public-service careers. Truman Scholars are selected based on academic performance, leadership and dedication to public service.

Pooja Agarwal
Pooja Agarwal

Each scholarship provides $30,000 — $3,000 for the student’s senior year and $27,000 for two or three years of graduate study.

Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, along with leadership training, career and graduate-school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

Agarwal is majoring in elementary education and in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology (PNP) Program, both in Arts & Sciences. She has a growing interest in learning and memory, as well as the implications and applications of such research on educational instruction and policy.

“I am excited and honored to have won the Truman Scholarship,” Agarwal said, “not only for the scholarship money and prestige, but also as an indication that the foundation believes that I will be an agent of change and that my advocacy efforts for a research-based education system are worthwhile.”

Dirk Killen, Ph.D., assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences and Agarwal’s four-year adviser, said he was immediately struck by her maturity.

“Before Pooja had ever enrolled in a Washington University course, she already had a plan in her mind about how to integrate cognition studies in psychology with improvements in educational policy,” Killen said. “I was astonished to meet a 17-year-old who had such a clear-cut sense of mission or vocation, particularly one outside the pre-professional tracks of law and medicine.

“There is no question in my mind that she will be one of the outstanding ‘agents of change’ that the Truman Scholarship Program seeks to honor and encourage.”

She has presented at national conferences, has published an article in Learning & Leading With Technology, and has developed and taught more than 200 hours of hands-on math and science for K-12 students at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy Kids Institute.

During summer 2003, she interned for John Bailey, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology.

With a focus on cognitive psychology in the PNP program, Agarwal is interested in how learning and memory are related. She addresses questions such as “What is learning? How do we learn? Are learning and memory different?”

She is a research assistant in the University’s Cognitive Psychology Lab. After graduation, she plans to pursue a doctorate in cognitive psychology.

“The Truman Scholarship will help me network with other education policy advocates through the 2006 Truman Scholars Washington Summer Institute,” Agarwal said. “I will get to build friendships with other scholars with similar interests.

“The scholarship application process has helped me affirm and hone my values and ideals, and the scholarship provides enhanced access to graduate school and assistance with other scholarship and fellowship programs.”