When Emma Smith met Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2010, she said “his philosophy of ‘ubuntu,’ which means ‘I am because we are,’ has influenced how I approach all aspects of my life.”
And that philosophy has served her well. She was recently selected as a 2012 Harry S. Truman Scholar, an award that provides up to $30,000 to college juniors for the pursuit of graduate studies in public service fields.
Smith, a member of the Dartmouth College class of 2013, is double majoring in history and geography. As soon as she graduates she’ll be heading off to the University of London to pursue a Master of Laws in Human Rights, Conflict, and Justice.
“Afterwards I’ll be equipped to enter into on-the-ground work in conflict areas like Sudan and South Sudan,” the American Indian student told Dartmouth Now. “I want to engage directly with communities in need, but I am also interested in helping shape U.S. and international policies towards gross human rights abuses.”
Smith is from Paola, Kansas and is a citizen of the Osage Nation. She was told about being selected for the Truman Scholarship by Dartmouth Provost Carol Folt on March 27. She said finding out she had been picked was the “end of over a year of preparing essays, practicing interviews, and digging really deep to put all that I am, all that I believe, and all that I want to do in life on paper.”
Now that the news has settled, she feels honored and blessed to be chosen. “I am also thankful of how much faith and how many resources the Truman Foundation, Dartmouth, and my family and friends have put in me, but I know that all of this comes with the responsibility to pay it forward,” she told Dartmouth Now.
And she had started paying it forward before news of the scholarship came. After being a participant in the 2010 Semester at Sea program—where she met Desmond Tutu—Smith founded Mercy’s Dream Ministries.
Her program provides support to an orphanage in Takoradi, Ghana, as well as to children in surrounding communities.
Smith was among 54 Truman Scholars selected this year from 587 applicants.