The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

UW-Eau Claire student becomes university’s first Truman Scholar

A little over a week ago, UW-Eau Claire couldn’t have claimed they have ever had a Truman Scholar. However, that all changed when junior Aaron Wingad become one of sixty students from 54 U.S. colleges and universities to be selected as a 2010 Truman Scholar.

It was something that Wingad acknowledged almost didn’t happen. He said he didn’t think he was eligible to apply to be a Truman Scholar and didn’t know he could apply until he started to talk to some people at UW-Madison who steered him in the right direction.

“I had read that it was only for juniors,” Wingad said. “But they define junior as when you are going to get your diploma, so when I graduate after five years total, I’ll be getting my diploma at the same time a four-year junior would.”

After Wingad found out he was eligible, he approached three references for letters of recommendations in an attempt to start a long application process. He said it was an extensive process, but that he thinks it is worthwhile for anyone to complete.

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“You really have to look in depth at who you are as a person and what you want to do with your life,” Wingad said. “You are also looking really in depth into the future to see what you want to do and what path you need to take to get there.”

After that, Wingad said it took a couple weeks as a list of finalists was compiled. Then three weeks later the finalists had interviews, grouped by region. Wingad’s region included North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin with only one representative being chosen from each state.

“It was nerve wracking,” Wingad said. “You learned the impressive stories of everyone else that was a finalist with you … then they actually decide that day (who is chosen) but don’t tell anyone for a month … it was a suspenseful wait.”

A month later, while in Mexico on a medical service trip, Wingad found out he had become a Truman Scholar. He said that steps must be taken to accept the honor, and that it was difficult to do these things while being in a place with a slow Internet connection.

“It was probably the best news you could ever find out in Mexico,” Wingad said.

Wingad said at first he was surprised to receive the honor because no one from Eau Claire had ever gotten it before. Plus, he added, he was up against very impressive people from UW-Madison and Cornell who all had very impressive things going on with their lives.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Beth Hellwig found out about Wingad receiving the honor through a university press release on the university home page. She said when she heard the news she couldn’t believe it and that she immediately wrote Wingad an e-mail to offer congratulations.

“What was really neat was, on the second day of the (Board of Regents) meetings, the president of the Board of Regents publicly announced Aaron had won the Truman Scholarship … he got lots of applause from the state so it was really exciting,” she said.

Hellwig said the fact that Wingad is the university’s first Truman Scholar is really significant for the university and also for the state. She said he has done amazing things at the university and that having him as a student makes the university proud.

Wingad said his dream after graduating in spring 2011 is to go to London and study and to get his doctorate in public health policy.

“It means a lot to me in a lot of different ways,” Wingad said. “The money will help me out in my graduate education career, but it goes much more beyond money as it introduced me to a community of scholars who are just as passionate as I am about serving the public and kind of contributing in the realm of public service.”

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UW-Eau Claire student becomes university’s first Truman Scholar