Two Honors College students named finalists for national Truman Scholarship

Two Michigan State University students have been named finalists for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation recognizes college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to affecting change through public service, providing them with financial support for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students.

MSU’s finalists are Raziel Lavalais, an Honors College junior majoring in political theory and constitutional democracy in James Madison College and economics in the College of Social Science, and Florence Otaigbe, an Honors College junior majoring in international relations in James Madison College. 

“This is a major scholarship that recognizes academically talented students, like Raziel and Florence, who are passionate about public service as a career path,” said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the MSU Honors College. “We’re thrilled they’ve been named finalists.” 

MSU has produced 16 Truman Scholars.

Lavalais came to MSU from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and is a graduate of Cheyenne East High School.

He is the recipient of the Honors College National Scholarship, the Presidential Study Abroad Scholarship, and a STARR Scholarship, which is awarded to students who excel in academics, extracurricular activities, and exhibit strong leadership traits and good moral character.

Lavalais interned at Juvenile Extensive Management Services (JEMS) in Cheyenne, Wyoming, mentoring at risk children and teenagers of low socioeconomic status. He volunteers at Haven House in East Lansing and is one of the Economics Scholars in the College of Social Science.

He is planning to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and a law degree.

“In acquiring a law degree I would attain a knowledge of law and legal processes that would assist me best in a future holding leadership positions in public office, while also giving me the utility to analyze and author legislation focusing on education,” Lavalais said. “In earning a master’s in public policy I would analyze the effects education policy has in resource allocation, politics, and econometrics with further study in ethics, leadership, and management.”

Otaigbe came to MSU from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she graduated from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

She held internships with the Georgia House Democratic Caucus and the MSU Honors College. Otaigbe is a James Madison College Ambassador, member of the MSU Pre-Law Society and president of Honors College Dean’s Advisory Council.

Otaigbe is the recipient of the Honors College National Scholarship. She plans to pursue a law degree.

“I intend to have a career focused on working with refugees due to the opportunity I have had serving the refugee community in the Greater Lansing area,” Otaigbe said.

The National and International Fellowship and Scholarship (NIFS) Office at Michigan State University, administered by the Honors College, helps interested undergraduate and graduate students to pursue major national and international opportunities by providing information and direct support throughout the competitive application processes. The Honors College serves academically talented, committed students who wish to pursue and achieve academic excellence.