Our Incoming Editor in Chief Named Truman Scholar!

In mid-April, Gabby Chiodo ‘24 was awarded a 2023 Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the nation’s leading scholarship for students interested in public service.


(MC Pavlick / The University News)

Each year, the Truman Scholarship Foundation selects 55 to 65 Scholars to receive up to $30,000 toward graduate or professional school and unique opportunities for internships and employment in the public service sector. To apply, individuals must submit a thorough application, written policy proposal, and provide letters of recommendation attesting to their leadership abilities and service potential. The several-month-long process culminates in either a rejection letter via email or no correspondence at all. The Foundation notifies school advisors directly when an individual has been accepted, giving the school an opportunity to surprise Scholars with the exciting news.


For Chiodo, the surprise came during her Women and Gender in Global Film class. A sneaking suspicion led Chiodo to opt for a less casual outfit that day, and she came in luck. Minutes into class, SLU President Dr. Fred Pestello led a trail of staff members and a photographer into the lecture hall. 


What Chiodo thought was an outlandish assumption quickly became a reality: she was one of 62 in the country to receive this prestigious award. Truman Scholars boast an extensive record of service work, steadfast commitment to public service, and a vision for implementing change, not to mention an impressive academic record. 


After speaking with some of Chiodo’s mentors, it became clear that she is a perfect example of what a Truman Scholar is. 


Dr. Robert Pampel, the director of the University Honors Program, describes the Truman Scholarship process as particularly rigorous. Because it is so thorough, the Foundation is able to better understand its applicants and select those who possess exceptional character. 


“From my perspective, the Truman application really is the gold standard, because it requires a level of intentionality and specificity, vulnerability in some cases, and the work to revise that. I think it’s formative no matter what happens,” said Dr. Pampel. 


Dr. Pampel spoke to Chiodo’s ability to offer this vulnerability as well as her extensive experience that coincides with the nature of a Truman Scholar. He recalled a conversation early on in the application process, where he met with Father Baugh at the Catholic Study Center, who is himself a Truman Scholar. Dr. Pampel already believed Chiodo’s initial application to be nationally ready, an impressive feat considering the months of preparation that typically begin at this point. He and Fr. Baugh discussed Chiodo’s initial application.


“When [Father Baugh] reviewed her application, it read like a Truman Scholar. [Chiodo] just had all the levels of experience. She has wonderful applied experience in the Polk County legal office which she describes in evocative ways, but also in a way that centers the people she’s serving, as opposed to her own agency. I just really admire her ambition and realism about the whole thing,” Dr. Pampel said. 


Dr. Pampel also spoke to Chiodo’s natural ability to navigate the demanding preparation process, which includes several rounds of feedback and mock interviews. Dr. Pampel said, beaming, “I remember her ability to navigate what are often difficult interview questions with grace and patience. [Chiodo] was just a natural with it the whole time, it was really impressive to watch.” 


Though undeniably grateful for the experience, Chiodo has a much more humble recollection of the process. Chiodo is double majoring in Political Science and Communication, with minors in Political Journalism and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is currently an Resident Advisor, research assistant in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the managing editor for the University News. Previously, Chiodo served as the PR chair for both Active Minds and She’s the First, a writer for OneWorld, and press intern at the Chaifetz School of Business. 


This coming year, Chiodo will Intern at the Polk County Attorney’s Office for the second year in a row, and assume the role of editor in chief for the University News. When asked what she is most proud of, Chiodo finds it much more important to keep sight of what makes her a “whole” person. 


“I think that the best people are well rounded people. So, I think acknowledging a bunch of different parts of yourself, even if they seem silly, is something that I’ve been trying to do. It’s important to be understood as a whole person and not just someone who has achieved a bunch of things,” said Chiodo. 


Dr. Pampel’s account of Chiodo’s authenticity became all the more apparent after hearing about her interactions throughout the regional interview process. Chiodo felt that at that point, the best thing to do was show who she really was, rather than posture herself. Interviewers asked Chiodo what object she’d save if her house was burning down, a question that made her pause.


“My mind just went blank. I was trying to think of something, anything, but  all I could think of was Mr. Pong!” said Chiodo. Mr. Pong is Chiodo’s childhood stuffed animal, a rather ruined piece of cloth that closely resembles what was once a bunny. Chiodo also referenced wine nights with her friends and her love for reality tv, which made her wonder if she had perhaps gotten a little too “real” in her interview. 


While Chiodo finds herself to be a standard college student, and her mentors find her achievements remarkable, those closest to Chiodo admire her intense generosity most. For Chiodo, generosity is not a mere choice, but an intrinsic element of her character that guides her every decision. Someday, Chiodo hopes to be instrumental in creating person-first policies that recognizes people for who they really are. In a dream world, the White House press secretary position epitomizes the intersection between Chiodo’s passion for political science and communication.


Now, looking back, Chiodo is especially appreciative of her perspective entering the Truman Scholarship process. She urges others to consider applying and take action in whatever area matters most to them. 


“Have confidence in the things you have done, because it is really easy to compare yourself. But you’re truly and uniquely yourself, which is exactly what the Foundation wants to recognize,” Chiodo said to those considering applying. Chiodo is grateful to those at SLU who helped guide her application process, including Dr. Pampel, Father Baugh and Dr. Steven Rogers. 


Chiodo acknowledged the STEM-dominant (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) nature of SLU, which may make some hesitant to consider applying for a public service oriented scholarship. Dr. Pampel shared the same sentiment, encouraging individuals of all backgrounds to start having exploratory conversations if they’re interested. Dr. Pampel and Chiodo agreed that no single major equates to public service, especially at SLU where so much of the student population is dedicated to service.  


Chiodo’s success in receiving the Truman Scholarship serves as a testament to her capacity to drive transformative change as a leader, and she serves as a stellar example to other students at SLU.