University of Virginia Student Ben Wallace Selected as Truman Scholar

March 31, 2011 — Ben Wallace, a third-year student at the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, is a 2011 Truman Scholarship winner.

Wallace, 20, of Hockessin, Del., will receive a scholarship worth about $30,000. Given by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, the award goes to college juniors who exhibit exceptional leadership potential and who are committed to careers in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in public service. The scholarship provides financial support for graduate study and leadership training.

Wallace, who is double-majoring in politics and economics, plans to pursue a law degree and a master's degree in public policy, with a career goal of becoming a prosecutor.

"I was shocked and surprised when I heard I got the Truman Scholarship," Wallace said. "I thought my interview went well, but I knew I was competing against a talented pool of people."

At U.Va., Wallace is a Jefferson Scholar, an Echols Scholar and a Politics Honors student. He has received intermediate honors and been on the dean's list for his first five semesters. He was elected president of his first-year class, a College representative to the Student Council, chair of Representative Body on the Student Council and vice president of the Collegiate Mock Trial. He is a Madison House volunteer at the Legal Aid Justice Center and is a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Wallace has spent time in China on a Jefferson Scholars trip, which he said inspired him to study "grand strategy" in U.S. foreign policy.

"In a world with limited state resources, government officials are routinely forced to prioritize certain foreign policy goals over others," Wallace said. "'Strategic culture' or 'grand strategy' studies attempt to offer a coherent explanation for why government officials settle on particular policy preference rankings. In trying to explain why states pursue the goals they pursue, grand strategy scholars key in on prevailing patterns of domestic political culture."

Wallace said while he is interested in international relations in an academic sense, he also believes that the lessons he learns studying it can add to his "tool-box of skills" and help him in his future work with the law.

"The way people approach this empirical puzzle of why things happen can be applied to the puzzle of crime prevention the same way," he said.

"It's been my pleasure to know Ben since the fall of his first year, and he is an exceptional young man," said Toby J. Heytens, an associate professor of law and Wallace's mock trial coach. "He's smart, hard-working and deeply principled. He's committed both to making himself better and to doing what's right. He's going to be an amazing prosecutor – or anything else he wants to be – one day."

His time in China also impressed upon Wallace the similarities between peoples.

"The first night I was there I was talking with a Chinese student about where (basketball player) LeBron James would end up playing," he said. "And I realized we were just a couple of 20-year-old guys talking about the things that interested us."

"Ben was one of a group of Jefferson Scholars that I took to China last year," said Brantly Womack, Hugh S. and Winifred B. Cumming Memorial Professor of International Affairs in the Department of Politics. "He was an outstanding member of an exceptional group of people, and I am delighted that he has received a Truman Scholarship."

Lucy Russell, director of U.Va.'s Center of Undergraduate Excellence, said, "I am so pleased that Ben has been selected as a Truman Scholar." He is "truly committed to a career in public service, hoping to serve his home state of Delaware as a prosecutor. I know he will be extremely effective in that role and in whatever else he may set out to accomplish. Ben is a terrific representative of U.Va."

Created through an act of Congress and signed into existence by President Ford in 1975, the Truman Foundation provides scholarships for students who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service, and conducts a nationwide competition to select Truman Scholars.

The foundation awarded its first scholarships in the 1977-78 academic year. Wallace is U.Va.'s 28th Truman scholarship winner. He was selected for the highly competitive scholarship from among 602 applicants this year from 264 colleges and universities.

"The Truman Scholarship recognizes and supports students who are committed to making a positive change in the world," Russell said.

For information on applying for a Truman Scholarship, visit here.

— By Matt Kelly

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications