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Amanda Lalley ’07 (Brewerton, N.Y.) has been selected as a finalist in the 2006 Harry S. Truman Scholarship competition.

Committed to encouraging future “change agents” of America, the Truman Scholarship Foundation provides up to $30,000 in funding to students pursuing graduate degrees in public service fields. Each year hundreds of college juniors compete for roughly 80 awards. Finalists are selected on the basis of the extent and quality of their community service and government involvement, leadership record, academic performance and writing and analytical skills, and suitability of their proposed program of study for a career in public service.

A double major in international affairs and Africana studies, Lalley is one of 214 finalists representing 142 U.S. colleges and universities. She is scheduled to be interviewed by a regional Truman selection panel next month. Regional panels will conduct interviews with finalists in locations around the country March 3-17 and will select Truman Scholars largely on the basis of leadership potential and communication skills, intellectual strength and analytical ability, and likelihood of making a difference in public service.

For information on applying for scholarships and fellowships, contact Julia A. Goldberg, assistant dean of studies, (610) 330-5521. See also the latest edition of Aristeia, which showcases the achievements and reflections of outstanding current and recent Lafayette students who represent the growing number of students at the College pursuing both academic excellence and engagement with civic life and social justice.

Lalley’s passion for making a difference centers on problems relating to the resettlement of African refugees in this country.

“Although the United States takes in over half the world’s refugees, our refugee resettlement programs need increased funding as well as improvements in the programmatic efforts to facilitate refugees’ integration into our society,” she says.

Her interest in Africa dates back to her childhood, while her interest in refugees’ plight goes back to her days as a high school athlete, explains Lalley, a three-year member of Lafayette’s varsity cross country and track teams and two-time Patriot League academic honor roll selection.

“When I was 13, my family and I traveled to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia to visit my sister, who was working for a safari company in Botswana. Ever since, I have been obsessed with the region and desired to learn as much as I could about its cultures, politics, and wildlife. I spent last summer studying at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. That visit opened my eyes to the harsh reality of Africa, the poverty, disease, and gap between the rich and poor. Africa’s magnificence overshadows the negative aspects of its society and constantly calls me back. While I have seen only a small portion of Africa, I realize beauty exists along with war, disease, and poverty. Until stability and prosperity occur, people will be fleeing in search of safety,” Lalley says.

“My interest in refugees began when two Sudanese refugees arrived and ran for a local team. Both acquired all-state accolades and college running scholarships. It was inspiring to see the opportunity that running provided. Articles written about these athletes, called the ‘Lost Boys,’ noted they began running to escape militias, to travel to refugee camps, and to ward off hunger pains. While running was used as a source of survival, bonds were created between the runners throughout the ordeal.”

More recently, her experience babysitting for children of Somali refugees during winter break as a volunteer in a Catholic Charities’ program near her home deepened her commitment.

“Mumina and Osmund, ages 5 and 2, were born in a refugee camp. They were severely malnourished and have difficulty walking. Mumina developed a seizure disorder and both need assistance navigating around a room. I had to hold back my tears as I watched their feeble attempts at walking,” she says. “Their story is all too common. I learned of the emotional damage refugees endure due to the violence encountered in their homelands or in refugee camps while awaiting resettlement. The reality of their situations and the violence from which they fled hit home, and I vowed to do whatever I can to improve their lives.”

Lalley plans to pursue a master’s degree in international affairs with a concentration in refugee studies and to strengthen her skills in French, Swahili, and Zulu. Fluency in these languages “will be essential for my work with African refugees,” she says.

After graduate school she would like to work for an organization such as the International Rescue Committee, whose program for youth in war-torn Burundi uses sports and culture to improve adolescents’ development. By building athletic facilities and coordinating activities, the program aims to promote healthy behaviors, she says.

“My graduate education will provide me with an understanding of the issues facing Africa’s refugee population. However, in order to truly understand the problem I must go to Africa,” she says. “Then I hope to implement a similar program for refugees in the United States, using athletics to facilitate community integration. Refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. often focus too heavily on economic independence rather than community integration.”

Lalley sees a position in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Settlement as a possible stop in a career devoted to helping solve refugees’ problems.

“I would work with the Division of Community Resettlement, which oversees programs and services to new arrivals and ethnic community organizations, and provides food, housing, and a monetary allowance. I hope to work specifically with ethnic community organizations and integration.”

While her interest in Africa and its refugees predates her arrival at Lafayette, her decision to major in Africana studies in addition to international affairs has only been strengthened by her experiences in three courses taught by John McCartney, professor and head of government and law, including Politics of Africa, which she took as a second-semester sophomore.

“The way Professor McCartney teaches really makes you grasp the material and gives you a very good understanding of the subject,” she says.

A participant in multiple community service programs conducted by students through the College’s Landis Community Outreach Center, Lalley currently tutors Easton students in the Communities That Care program.

The vice president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), she played a key role in organizing SAAC’s fundraising efforts at athletic contests this fall to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims. “When I received a donation and heartfelt thanks from a relocated Katrina student who was temporarily at Lafayette, I knew the hours of work and persistence were worthwhile,” she says.

Lalley is public relations officer for the Newman Association on campus, co-president of the newly established student chapter of Amnesty International, and academic development officer of her sorority, Delta Delta Delta.

The 2006 Truman Scholars will be announced March 28. Last year 75 students representing 65 schools were selected as Truman Scholars out of 602 candidates nominated by 299 institutions. The foundation is governed by a board of trustees appointed by the President and Congress and endowed by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury.

Categorized in: Academic News