University of Virginia Student Joseph Riley Selected as Truman Scholar

March 29, 2012 — Joseph Riley, a third-year student in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, is a 2012 Truman Scholarship winner.

Riley, 22, of Etowah, Tenn., 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.

President Teresa A. Sullivan informed Riley of his award Tuesday during an impromptu meeting that was ostensibly an opportunity for her to congratulate him on his academic record. "Great students are great learners," she said. "Their curiosity is insatiable, and they study a broad range of topics.

"Joseph is one of those great students. He will not only be safeguarding our country, but also leading it into the future."

Riley, who is majoring in the politics honors program for foreign affairs and government and Mandarin Chinese, is researching the potential impact of resource competition in Sino-American relations.

"I focus specifically on China's attempts to secure access to oil and other strategic resources in Africa Central Asia, and the Middle East," he said.

Riley is also a cadet in the Army ROTC program. He graduated from the Army Basic Airborne Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2011 and is the only cadet nationwide to graduate from winter Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Ky. He was selected by his commanding officer, Lt. Commander Tim Leroux, to receive the Scholar-Soldier-Statesman Award in 2011, an award given in memory of Capt. Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan, a U.Va. Army ROTC graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2004 protecting the lives of his men.

The son of Dr. Craig and Becky Riley, Joseph Riley is a Jefferson Scholar, an Echols Scholar, a 2011 Harrison Research Grant Recipient, a Coca-Cola National Scholar, a United States Senate Youth Program Scholarship recipient and commencement speaker, a National Merit Scholar and a National Rifle Association National Scholar. He received U.S. Army Project GO Critical Language Grants in 2010 and 2011.

Riley published, in the spring 2012 edition of Wilson Journal of International Affairs, an article focused on the writing of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual and the implications for future doctrinal manuals.

He initiated and was the project coordinator for Flag the Lawn, a Grounds-wide fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Fund that involved more than 1,900 students and raised more than $5,000. He also served as a trip leader for an Alternative Spring Break mission to Costa Rica; he handled all the logistics for 12 students on the eight-day trip.

As part of his undergraduate research, he is working on a book project with associate professor Dale Copeland, director of undergraduate studies in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, examining the future of U.S.-Sino relations. He has organized and led a graduate research class to analyze insurgent behaviors in Iraq and Afghanistan and has taught a class on ethics in modern warfare. He has served as a panelist at an Army conference, hosted by the Virginia Military Institute, on "The Eagle and the Dragon in Africa," focusing on stability and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.

"I also served as a speaker at the Global Initiatives Symposium hosted by the Taiwanese government in Taipei in the summer of 2010," he said. "I presented my research on how African nations can leverage their material resources to gain favorable trade deals with China."

Leroux called Riley one of the top ROTC cadets in the nation and said the Truman Scholarship is testament to his achievements.

"Joe is flat-out the most impressive young person I've ever encountered," Leroux said. "He is exceptionally bright, has an unparalleled work ethic, and is a young man of great character. On top of all that, he genuinely has natural charisma and is eminently likeable. We're very fortunate to have young men and women of Joe's caliber stepping up to serve during these times of protracted conflict."

Riley has also been national and state president of the Future Business Leaders of America, state governor of the State 4-H Congress in Nashville and a founding member and president of the Alexander Hamilton Society at U.Va. He has served as an Honor Committee support officer, a member of the Student Council and was a member of the First-, Second- and Third-Year class councils.

James Wright, president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, said Riley embodies the Jefferson Scholarship ideal.

"A scholar of the first rank, he is an exceptional leader who is motivated to lead not by selfish ambition, but by a comprehensive understanding of the responsibility all good citizens have to strive to make the world a better place for all," Wright said. "Just as he has been an exemplary Jefferson Scholar at the University, he will be an exemplary Truman Scholar."

Lucy Russell, director of U.Va.'s Center for Undergraduate Excellence, said Riley is an excellent representative of the University.

"Joe exemplifies the qualities that the Truman Foundation is looking for: academic achievement, leadership and commitment to public service," she said. "Joe plans to pursue a career in the military, developing an expertise on China and contributing to the development of U.S. strategic decisions with respect to that country. He is concerned about bridging the military-civilian divide, and at U.Va. he has initiated programs that bring students together with veterans."

Riley said the Truman Scholarship will not only help him with graduate school, but also his military career.

"Ultimately, I want to ensure that I am the best-prepared officer that I can be for the soldiers I lead, and I feel the experiences and education afforded me as a Truman Scholar will be pivotal in helping me achieve that goal," he said.

After serving a tour of duty as a platoon leader, he hopes to attend either Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School or Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government to pursue a master's degree in public policy with an emphasis on foreign affairs and security studies.

Created through an act of Congress and signed into existence by President Ford in 1975, the Truman Foundation each year conducts a nationwide competition to select Truman Scholars.

– by Matt Kelly