Student named as Truman Scholarship Finalist

March 20, 2024

Student named as Truman Scholarship Finalist

For the second time in three years, a Grand Valley student is a finalist for the Truman Scholarship. 

Nancy Hoogwerf is among the 193 national finalists from 136 institutions for the prestigious 2024 Harry S. Truman Scholarship. More than 700 applicants applied for the approximately 60 scholarships awarded, but Hoogwerf said she hadn’t considered it until a mentor suggested it to her.

"It is absolutely crazy but so amazing at the same time,” said Hoogwerf, the fifth Laker in school history to be named a Truman Scholarship Finalist. “I honestly can't even believe it. I didn't even look to apply for the scholarship.

“One of my professors, Laura Schneider, actually recommended that I apply. If it wasn't for her saying that, I don't think I ever would have applied, and I don't think I ever would have really understood my potential for this scholarship either.”

Hoogwerf, a junior studying political science, said it was Schneider’s PLS 102 class, “American Government and Politics,” that fostered her interest in politics and public service. 

“If there was a class that could make or break my passion for political science in college, it could have been that class,” she said. “I had an amazing experience in the class, and it just put me on a great path.”

Hoogwerf’s fascination with politics began at an early age, she said. Growing up in a small town, Hoogwerf said the 2016 presidential election enthralled her as a middle school student. 

“I just remember being so captivated by the way that people thought, and why they thought the way that they did,” she said. “It was just so interesting, and in 2016, it was the first time that a woman was in the general election to be president.

“Over the next four years, I had just grown to understand American government at its most basic form, but then also just really grew a passion for politics.”

Seeing Gretchen Whitmer win the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial election further inspired her, but it was serving as an intern on U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten’s staff last fall that truly illuminated the political process to her. The long days in Washington, D.C., gave her a glimpse behind the scenes of the daily legislative process.

“It was the best semester of my life,” Hoogwerf said. “I don't think I really fully comprehended how much went into everything. Just seeing how much truly happens behind the scenes. That was remarkable. I didn’t think it was that complex.”

Back on campus, she is as active as ever. This year, she was selected as a 2023-2024 fellow in the Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy, and she's wrapping up her term as vice president for allocations on the Student Senate Cabinet. She plans on running for next year's Senate too, this time as a General Senator. 

“Nancy is a powerhouse,” said Brenda Tooley, associate director for the Center for Undergraduate Scholar Engagement, who worked with Hoogwerf to develop her application essays. “I have every expectation of eventually voting for her for governor of Michigan. It was a delight to work with her as she brainstormed and refined her essays for the Truman Scholarship.”

The next stage in the Truman process is a busy day in Chicago at the end of this week. Hoogwerf will join her fellow Truman Scholarship Finalists from Michigan, Indiana and Illinois for a day of interviews conducted by a Truman panel, which includes previous scholarship recipients. 

“I really want to work on everything that I'm passionate about, which is anything from women's issues to climate policy to social policy,” Hoogwerf said. “But I’d also like to focus on making politics accessible to everybody and making politics feel reachable.” 

For more information about the Truman Foundation and its scholarship, visit

Written by Brian Vernellis.

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Page last modified March 20, 2024