Melinda K. Carden is the 12th KU student to win one of the prestigious scholarships, worth up to $30,000.
From J-W Wire Services
A senior in social welfare at Kansas University has won a 1999 Harry S. Truman Scholarship, Chancellor Robert Hemenway announced Tuesday.
Melinda K. Carden, whose career plans include creating and influencing state health policies dealing with low-income elderly, will receive up to $30,000 in scholarships to complete her undergraduate and graduate studies.
"There is nobody more exquisitely appropriate for this award than she is," said Alice Lieberman, associate professor of social welfare and Carden's academic advisor. "She is extraordinarily bright, she is committed, and she has one of the strongest senses of social justice that I have seen in a student in a long, long time. She has the head, the heart, the everything."
Congress established the scholarship program in 1975 as a memorial to President Truman. Hundreds of students planning careers in public service compete nationally for awards.
Carden, 21, the daughter of Gerald and Glenda Carden of Lenexa, is the 12th KU student to win a Truman Scholarship.
After only three years of college, she will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in social welfare with honors. She intends to seek a master's degree in the areas of gerontology and social and economic development at either the University of Michigan or Washington University.
She is spending this week at an El Paso, Tex., housing complex for recent immigrants from Mexico as part of KU's Alternative Spring Break program. As a site leader, Carden and eight other students are helping in the complex's school and hospital facilities.
"It is exciting to see how this talented student explored her interests, became involved in the community and developed a stellar record of academic achievement here at KU," Hemenway said. "She is an exceptional young woman, and I congratulate her on earning this high honor."
Carden's interest in the concerns of the elderly began when she accompanied her father, a lifelong volunteer, when he made deliveries and gave communion to people in nursing homes. At age 15, she began doing volunteer work in a local nursing home.
At KU, she started the Intergenerational Program in which students volunteer at senior centers and nursing facilities. The program, now part of the university's Center for Community Outreach, has grown to involve senior citizens volunteering in area schools.
As a research assistant in KU's School of Social Welfare, she designed a project in which eighth-grade students construct memory books for seniors in local retirement homes.
As part of the scholarship competition, Carden prepared a public policy analysis titled "State long-term care reform must become a priority." Writing to the governor, Carden noted that the state has "traditionally been biased toward institutional care of elders and currently has the third highest rate of nursing facility residents per adults 65 and older in the nation."
As the elderly population increases, Carden wrote that the state must make less expensive alternatives more accessible and proposed several policy changes.