U.Va. Engineering Student Todd Gerarden Selected as Truman Scholar

March 26, 2009 — Todd Gerarden, a third-year student in the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, is a 2009 Truman Scholarship winner.

Gerarden, 21, of Arlington, Va., 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 for students committed to public service.

Gerarden, who is majoring in mechanical engineering with a focus on environmental policy, hopes to study in a joint degree program offered by Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He said these degrees will give him a foundation in natural science, policy analysis, international perspective and a greater understanding of the consequences of economic policies and regulation.

"I am excited because this is an unparalleled opportunity to pursue my career goals and positively impact others through public service," Gerarden said. "Through the selection process, I met many highly qualified candidates and past scholars with unique career aspirations, and I am proud to now be a member of this unique community."

Gerarden was a member of the Engineering School's 2008 Science and Technology Policy Internship Program, through which he worked for the Federation of American Scientists. While there, he wrote a white paper on "Rebuilding Mortgages for Energy Efficiency," on the Energy Efficient Mortgage pilot program launched in 1992, and another on "Residential Energy Retrofits: An Untapped Resource Right at Home."

"Todd Gerarden arrived at the Engineering School with an impressive dedication to his studies and to the contributions he could make to the world," said James H. Aylor, dean of the Engineering School. "His commitment to environmental and social issues led him to give his time to many worthy causes and as a member of the 2008 Science and Technology Policy Internship group, he did great work on energy policy and planning. We are very proud of him and look forward to hearing about his great successes in the future."

Edmund Russell III, an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology and Society and director of the Science and Technology Policy Internship Program in which Gerarden participated, believes the Truman winner will become an important policy leader.
"Todd Gerarden exemplifies U.Va. students at their best," Russell said. "He is smart, self-motivated, committed to excellence and public-spirited. In class, he stood out for his superb ability to analyze complex problems, reach insightful conclusions and communicate his ideas."

Gerarden, who has been selected as a Lawn resident for next year, has been inducted to the Raven Society and Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. He has been a group leader with Alternative Spring Break, a resident adviser and a member of Green Grounds and Charlottesville Community Bikes.

Before enrolling at U.Va., Gerarden spent 10 months  as a volunteer with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps., where he worked on projects involving housing, disaster relief, education and conservation. While in AmeriCorps, Gerarden received wildland fire training and during the summer of 2007, worked as a firefighter at the Zion National Park in Utah.

"This experience opened my eyes to new environmental challenges and exposed me to new perspectives on the role of federal government," Gerarden said.

The same year, Gerarden also completed a 4,200-mile trek from Oregon to Virginia on his bicycle.

"I spent the vast majority of this time alone on the back roads of our nation," he said. "This trip gave me new perspectives on my country and tested my physical ability, but its solitary nature also proved a daily mental challenge as I thought of friends far away."

"Todd is an extraordinary young man," said Lucy S. Russell, director of U.Va.'s Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "He is passionate about the environment and committed to seeking practical means of reducing energy use. I know he will make the very most of the opportunities provided by the Truman Foundation."

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 and who plan a career in public service.

The foundation awarded its first scholarships in the 1977-78 academic year. Gerarden is U.Va.'s 27th Truman winner.

More information about the policy internship program is at www.sts.virginia.edu/pip/.  For information on applying for a Truman Scholarship, visit www.virginia.edu/cue.

— By Matt Kelly