U.Va. Student Xiao Wang Selected as Truman Scholar

March 26, 2008 — Xiao Wang, a third-year student in economics at the University of Virginia, is a 2008 Truman Scholarship winner.

Wang, 21, of Charleston, S.C., 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.

A third-year student, Wang has enough credits to receive his bachelor's degree in economics this spring and he plans to pursue a master's degree in public policy this fall.

Wang said he was thrilled at winning, and added that the benefits of the scholarship go beyond money.

"Being a Truman Scholar means being part of a family of people that are deeply passionate about public policy," Wang said. "Indeed, the networking and opportunities available to Truman Scholars is an award in and of itself."

Wang, whose family moved to the United States from China nearly 20 years ago, plans to study international law, especially laws and institutions in developing countries. Eventually, he would like to work in international development, for an organization such as the United Nations or the World Bank.

"For me, the issue of economic development strikes close to home," said Wang, who stays in touch with relatives in China. "China's bustling economy has brought a lot of good things, but the job is far from finished. Many people still live in absolute poverty and, to me, helping these people climb onto the ladder of economic opportunity is what public policy is all about."

"Xiao's initiative, motivation and sheer intellect are quite extraordinary," said Mary Stegmaier, assistant dean and assistant professor of economics. "But, he is also a genuine and caring young man who is intensely committed to public policy work."

 "Xiao is interested in international affairs and concerned with human rights and health care at a grassroots level," said associate history professor Brian Balogh. "That shows what kind of global citizen he is. He is certain to leave the world a better place than he found it."

Wang has received a Harrison Research Award and a Dean's Scholarship for Independent Research, which he used to study democratic transition, international trade and economic regulation, with an emphasis on Hong Kong. He has published two papers on his research, in the University of Washington Law Review and the Oculus Research Journal, and will present his findings, "Can Democracies Survive in Undemocratic Situations? A Case Study of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region," at the Virginia Social Science Association Meeting in Lexington on April 5.

"His research demonstrated that a democratic spirit has continued to develop among the citizens, but the development of the political parties has been stunted," said Stegmaier, his mentor for his Harrison research. "Xiao has sought ways to enhance his education by taking challenging courses and through independent research."

An Echols Scholar and a Jefferson Scholar, Wang has been selected as a Lawn resident and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as a third-year student. He is a member of the Miller Center Public Service Fellows Program, the Madison House community service organization and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. He also serves as a teacher's aide at local pre-kindergarten and elementary schools.

"Xiao is an extraordinary student, and it has been a joy to work with him," said Lucy S. Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "The Truman Foundation looks for students who are leaders and will work to bring about positive change in the world. Xiao truly fits the bill."

Wang plans to attend the Truman Scholars Leadership Week in May to meet others in the new class of Truman Scholars. He also wants to participate in the Truman Summer Institute, which places Truman Scholars in high-level government and non-profit internships.

Created though an Act of Congress and signed by President Gerald R. 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 1977-1978 academic year. Wang is the 26th Truman scholarship winner at U.Va.