UPDATED: April 22, 2014, at 12:16 a.m.
Tianhao He ’15 was awarded a Truman Scholarship last week in recognition of his commitment to public service. He was the only winner from Harvard this year.
The Truman Scholarship, which describes itself as a “living memorial” to President Harry S. Truman, picks between 55 and 65 candidates out of a pool of roughly 600 candidates.
Scholarship recipients receive $30,000 to help pay for graduate school, a trip to the Truman Presidential Library in Missouri, and support and guidance for finding a position at a prominent nonprofit or the federal government before they enroll in graduate school.
One of the largest components of the Truman Scholarship is a demonstrated commitment to public service, according to its website. Those who receive the scholarship are recognized as potential “change agents.”
Since arriving at Harvard, He has developed a drive to reform housing policy, he said.
According to He, working for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau helped him develop an interest in urban development and housing. He has focused his efforts on the Bureau’s Eviction Defense Clinic, which runs a free legal services clinic for families in Boston facing eviction.
“I work with the Harvard Law School students to empower these families with the legal resources so they can assert their rights in court and fight to stay in their homes,” He said.
He, a sociology concentrator, noted that the Sociology Department has enabled him to undertake research on housing throughout Boston neighborhoods.
“I think if we really want to address the structural roots of the economic inequalities in this country, that starts with transforming our neighborhoods. When you transform neighborhoods, you transform opportunities,” He said.
He said that he first discovered a passion for public service while interning with the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force launched by President Obama during the summer of 2013.
“It was a fascinating window, learning about how the federal government works in terms of the mechanics of policy and the sensitivities of politics,” He said. “That experience really made me passionate about pursuing a career in public service.”
He will return to Washington this summer to intern at the White House Domestic Policy Council.
He said that he appreciated the support he received from mentors at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, the Sociology Department, and the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.
“These mentors have taught me to be critical but not cynical,” He said. “While the challenges facing our country are real and complex, we should not turn away and pretend these problems don't exist. Instead, we should turn towards these problems, get involved, and reimagine how we can solve them.”