Junior Seiler awarded Truman Scholarship

Already a veteran of Capitol Hill, Seiler wants to represent Gen Z in Congress

Truman Scholar Isaac Seiler wants to champion laws and policies that protect civil liberties. (Photo: Danny Reise/Washington University)

Isaac Seiler, a junior studying sociology and political science in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has won the Truman Scholarship, the leading graduate fellowship for students who are committed to careers in public service. He will receive up to $30,000 for graduate education.

A fierce champion of civil liberties, Seiler ultimately aspires to run for federal office.

“I hope to do one primary thing during my career: Fight for Americans’ civil rights, particularly within the context of religion and the separation of church and state,” Seiler, of Grand Rapids, Mich., wrote in his application.

At 22, Seiler already has accomplished more than many Capitol Hill veterans. Prior to enrolling at WashU in 2023 as a transfer student, he was the youngest communications director in congressional history, serving the people of his home district. He responded to reporters, organized town halls and developed an effective and transparent communications strategy. 

“The work was not easy, but I fell in love with it,” Seiler wrote. “My primary directive was simple: to communicate effectively with the people of West Michigan. More than that, I saw my duty as connecting constituents to essential resources and information.” 

Seiler said his time in Washington sparked both a passion for public service and the desire to finish his undergraduate education. Seiler dropped out of college at a private Christian university in 2022 after a professor lost his job after officiating at a same-sex wedding. Before leaving, Seiler organized classmates to protect and advocate for LGBTQ+ students, but to no avail.

“Though this experience was difficult, I learned a critical lesson: Leadership means helping, supporting and uniting people in your community to do something right,” Seiler wrote.

Chancellor Andrew D. Martin surprised Seiler with the news in his research methods course. (Video: Sanchali Pothuru/Washington University)

Seiler chose WashU, in part, for its support of LGBTQ+ students like him. He was brought up in a conservative community where LGBTQ+ identity was often framed as sinful, and he sought a university that would value him for who he is and what he offers. At WashU, Seiler has found community and distinguished himself as a scholar, said Brooke Taylor, an assistant dean and fellowships director in Arts & Sciences. He has joined the Student Life newspaper, serves on the Title IX Advisory Committee and is a teaching assistant for Caitlyn Collins, an associate professor of sociology.

“Our committee found Isaac to be outstanding in his earnest commitment to civil liberties and unique in his compassionate and sympathetic understanding of people who vote very differently than he does,” Taylor wrote in the university’s endorsement. “Isaac’s humor, honesty and empathy, along with his unique professional experience and his desire to build relationships across and beyond political affiliations, make him an excellent candidate for the Truman Scholarship.” 

After graduation, Seiler plans to first serve in the Peace Corps and then earn a degree in either law or public policy. Afterward, he hopes to work at a nonprofit civil defense organization and, ultimately, to run for elected office. Seiler said his interactions with Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., the first member of Generation Z elected to Congress, convinced him that Congress needs young leaders.

“Despite often being the only young person in the room, he brought conviction and enthusiasm to his job, all while being approachable and accessible,” Seiler said. “Congressman Frost’s story made me realize that young people should run for Congress because Gen Z must have a voice, especially at the highest level of government.” 

Seiler was one of 62 scholars selected from a competitive field of about 800 applicants. Amelia Letson, a junior studying political science and women, gender and sexuality studies in Arts & Sciences, and Logan Flori, a senior studying sociology in Arts & Sciences, were named Truman finalists. Recent Truman Scholars are Nidhi Krishnan (2023), Ranen Miao (2022) and Zach Eisner and Max Klapow (2020). 

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