Claire Lynch, Macaulay Honors Junior, Wins Prestigious Truman Scholarship

April 18, 2017 | The University

Continuing in a proud CUNY tradition, Claire Lynch, a junior at Macaulay Honors College at City College, has been named the winner of a prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the nation’s premier graduate scholarship for aspiring public service leaders.

Claire Lynch

Claire Lynch

Lynch is CUNY’s ninth Truman Scholar in recent years and the 12th overall since the awards began in 1977, testimony to the consistent quality of students and education at the nation’s largest urban public university. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation named 62 scholars this year from among 768 candidates nominated by 315 colleges and universities. The foundation’s aim is “inspiring and supporting Americans from diverse backgrounds and from across the United States to public service.”

Lynch said her long-term goal is to apply her background in grassroots advocacy and public policy, along with her knowledge of Spanish and Arabic, to supporting the needs of immigrants and refugees.

Chancellor James B. Milliken said: “CUNY’s Truman winners have proven to be an especially distinguished group, moving on to wonderful careers, and I’m sure Claire Lynch will follow that tradition of accomplishment. The Truman supports thoughtful idealism and commitment to the public good, qualities we value at CUNY. I’m delighted that Claire will be following that model of engaging in rigorous scholarship and a devotion to service.”

Lynch says that, growing up in Westchester County, she had the good fortune to become one of 50 English-speaking 4-year-olds educated at a dual-language elementary school. The experience breathed life into her early education. “Learning Spanish and being part of a heavily Hispanic immigrant community was foundational for me,” she said.

Lynch has been deeply involved in public policy and direct activism as a double major in political science and Jewish Studies (“I’m Irish-Catholic,” she notes). She is a Colin Powell Fellow, City College’s program in public policy and leadership, and had an internship in Washington, D.C., with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer through CUNY’s Edward T. Rogowsky Internship Program in Government and Public Affairs. Through City College, she traveled to Morocco in her sophomore year and to Italy this year “to learn about the political, social and economic dynamics between the Jewish and Muslim communities.”

Lynch has long been passionately engaged with important public issues. She has worked throughout New York State as a board member of the New York Public Interest Research Group, including tutoring non-native English speakers for citizenship tests and helping refugees. In addition, she heads the City College chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a student-run policy think tank that seeks to involve students in the political process.

Her studies have also led to a love of the Arabic language: “The way it’s constructed, the history and the social norms, the Islamic history that’s present in the language, and the linguistics are so interesting.”

Lynch credits Jennifer Lutton, City’s national scholarship coordinator, and several previous Truman winners and finalists with preparing her for the rigorous selection process. “Some of these people won 12 years ago, but they’re still willing to ask me mock questions,” she says. “I went through four mock panels. I’ve never felt so enveloped with support from CUNY, and I’m so grateful for all the advice going on.”

Jake Levin (Brooklyn College, ’15) was one of those CUNY Truman winners. He is now chief of staff at Shared Studios, an arts, media and technology company. He also offers media strategy advice for several groups, including the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb, a rally at the UN during the nuclear ban treaty negotiations. “I’m also working on a startup project aimed at creating real world, immersive experiences for policymakers in major cities,” he says.

Gareth Rhodes (City College, ’11), one of two CCNY students who won Truman Fellowships in 2011, says, “The supportive community of Truman Scholars, together with an outstanding public education provided by CUNY, has been essential to my career and interest in making sure government works to get things done for people. For this reason, I have helped prepare several CUNY Truman applicants over the years and am happy – but never exactly surprised – when these students are awarded Truman scholarships in recognition of their – and CUNY’s – commitment and passion for public service.”

As an undergraduate, Rhodes interned in the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as well as the White House scheduling office and Rep. Charles Rangel’s Harlem district office. After graduation, he went to work in the governor’s communications office, focusing on special projects in Upstate New York. He is now finishing his second year at Harvard Law School.

Other prior Truman winners include:

  • 2011: Ayodele Oti (CUNY B.A./Macaulay Honors College at City College, ’12) now manages CUNY’s Cultural Corps and is applying for graduate school.
  • 2009: Don Gomez (City College, ’10), a two-tour Iraq war veteran, used his Truman Fellowship to study at SOAS University of London, the prestigious school of Asia, Africa and Middle East studies. He has since become an Army officer and is now in North Carolina studying Arabic.
  • 2008: David L.V. Bauer (Macaulay Honors College at City College, ’09) who, as a high school student, won the 2005 First Prize in the Intel Science Talent Search, and, at CUNY, also won a 2007 Goldwater Scholarship and 2009 Rhodes Scholarship, which he used for his University of Oxford Ph.D. in genetics. He subsequently received a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship to pursue interdisciplinary research in biophysics and is now an E.P. Abraham Junior Research Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford. He is based in the Department of Physics and the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. His research borrows tools from physics and biotechnology to study the critical first steps in carrying out the instructions contained within genes in bacteria, viruses and their human hosts. These first steps are key targets for future antibiotic and antiviral drugs.