‘Just go for things’: How one Truman Scholar put his foot forward

Michael Lowe, UAA's 2018 Truman Scholar, has been active both in and out of school and hopes to attend Princeton University. Photo credit: Mariah DeJesus-Remaklus

Almost a year ago, Michael Lowe wasn’t sure he was cut out for becoming a Truman Scholar. Fast-forward to April, and Lowe learned that he had earned the title along with $30,000 in a scholarship towards the graduate school of his choice.

The 21-year-old, who will be graduating in December with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a concentration in international relations, hadn’t even considered graduate school until taking the political science class called The American Political Tradition.

Later on, he decided to get more involved in public service by applying for the Alaska Legislative Internship Program and working alongside House Representative Chris Tuck. That’s when Lowe committed himself to applying for the prestigious national scholarship.

“Once I got into [the legislative internship], I was like, ‘Well, I have a pretty solid resume and I might as well just try for the Truman Scholarship,’” he said.

After nearly six months, countless application drafts and in-person interviews later, he did.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation aims to recognize future leaders in the United States, providing them with a fellowship and opportunity to continue their mission in public service. According to the foundation’s website, the thirty-third president “did not want a bricks and mortar monument.” Instead, there are a number of programs to help Truman Scholars progress their careers and grow in their leadership.

This includes what’s called the Summer Institute. Lowe plans to attend it next year, where he will have the opportunity to attend seminars and participate in an internship in Washington, D.C.

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Lowe, who is also the vice president of the UAA Political Science Association, says he always had an interest in international relations.

“I read international relations for fun. I always have. History and Foreign Affairs magazine — I have a subscription,” he said. “I do it for fun, really.”

Tuck praises Lowe for his professionalism during the legislative session earlier this year. He says he’s an “unconventional” type of student that fit in with the rest of Tuck’s legislative staff and wrote a resolution that demonstrated a unique perspective.

The resolution called for military security in Arctic waters and passed through both bodies of the Alaska Legislature, Tuck said.

“He basically wrote the entire resolution… He developed a strategy to get it through the House and the Senate and carry it all the way through,” he said. “So he’s very [meticulous] and very personable. He has a really genuine charm about him that allows people to easily connect with him.”

“Nobody ever feels intimidated by him and nobody ever feels superior to him because he’s very smart,” Tuck added.

James Muller, political science professor, says that most of the students who apply for the scholarship are “ambitious in some way or another.”

“Michael is probably ambitious in all ways,” he added, “which some students are, and it’s an admirable trait.”

Muller is UAA’s faculty representative for the Truman Scholarship and worked with Lowe in rewriting and perfecting the application. He considers Lowe to be a serious learner and someone who worked to understand things.

“He was quiet but if he didn’t understand something or agree with it, he would speak up, and he would also listen because he realized he could learn things he didn’t understand. He wasn’t afraid to disagree or ask hard questions… but he also wasn’t afraid to change his mind if he saw that he should,” Muller said.

“He also doesn’t just accept what he’s told. He has to be persuaded of it himself and so he really has to think things through,” he added. “That’s an impressive attribute and it’s something that makes him a pretty interesting personality because you can see his brain working.”

During his senior year at Service High School, Lowe enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard, and he is also a cadet in the UAA Army ROTC program. Major David Cunningham, assistant professor of military science, mentioned a scholarship proposal as one of Lowe’s contributions that made him an active participant.

Lowe had made efforts to recruit people and increase enrollment for the program by working with the Alaska National Guard Officer Association to help fund students’ education.

Cunningham says Lowe’s success is “tremendous.”

“I’m proud. I’m happy for him,” he said. “It says a lot about him. He’s a very smart kid.”

Cadet Benjamin Mock is unsurprised that Lowe was chosen as an Alaskan Truman Scholar and considers Lowe a peer but also a friend outside of the ROTC program.

“He’s somebody I enjoy having around because he challenges me intellectually,” Mock said.

“I’ve never seen him slack on any occasion… If anything, he’s the role model cadet for other people to imitate,” he added.

Even if Lowe hadn’t been chosen as a Truman Scholar, he still learned from the experience. In his time putting together the application, describing his vision and goals, he became a better writer. He says that his work with Muller taught him the importance of knowing how to write whether for graduate research or policymaking.

Muller also considers the process to be extra work that pays off regardless of the student’s nomination.

“It takes about as much effort to do a good application as having an extra college course, but it’s worth it. You learn a tremendous amount,” Muller said. “That’s true whether you get the scholarship or not.”

“Just go for things… I put my foot forward and ended up getting it. Just try things out and don’t be afraid to fail,” Lowe said.

After completing more military training in the future, Lowe hopes to attend the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.