Changing Trajectories

Guidance through the Fellowships and Advanced Studies Office helps Tigers compete for prestigious national awards.

Portraits of Jessica Blake and Claire Shipp
Jessica Blake and Claire Shipp will learn whether they are selected to receive the Truman Scholarship April 14, 2021.

Truman Scholars define the University of Missouri’s core values of Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence. But when asked to describe her Mizzou experience, Claire Shipp might add a fifth descriptor: Awesome. As in “ASUM.”

“The Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Shipp says. “It definitely changed the trajectory of my college career and got me interested in public service, which is what led me to the Truman Scholarship.” 

In February, the Mizzou community learned that two honors students, Shipp and Jessica Blake, were selected as finalists for the prestigious Truman Scholarship. This highly competitive award honors undergraduate students with outstanding leadership potential, academic excellence and a commitment to public service. 

A junior agriculture business major, Shipp (Chillicothe, Missouri) is a leader on campus through organizations such as the Intercollegiate Student Council, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Alpha Delta Pi sorority, National Agri-Marketing Association and Mizzou-Thon. She also serves as the executive director of ASUM . Shipp has been involved with the organization since her freshman year and currently manages a legislative team of 10 students from across the UM System working to influence policy at the Missouri state capitol. 

For junior journalism major Jessica Blake (Dublin, Ohio), the Truman Scholarship stood out because of its commitment to public service. Her parents — a principal and a nurse — taught her what it means to put others before herself through career choices and actions. 

“I grew up in a home of public service, so it was something that came naturally for my career,” Blake says. “It was a big part of why I chose to pursue journalism.” 

Blake is involved on campus with the Stamps Scholars Program, Young Life, Mizzou Admissions, Diversity Peer Educators, and she is co-president of Mizzou Women in Media. She is a reporter for the Columbia Missourian and interns for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C.

“By selecting me as a Stamps Scholar, the Honors College helped me to see my potential and to believe in my capabilities and the difference I could make,” Blake says. “I don’t think I would have considered applying for Truman without the platform the Honors College provided for me to grow in self confidence and to dream big.”

Shipp remembers the Truman Scholarship application helping her home in on her future. The process encouraged her to reflect on her goals and envision where she hopes to make change through her career.

“My goal at the beginning was to do something related to agriculture and the environment; it was very broad,” Shipp says. “Now, I want to implement an institutional structure within the EPA that enables them to produce quality environmental restrictions on agriculture.” 

To make it this far in the process took a great deal of time and effort from applicants — a lengthy process made up of several essays. The Mizzou Office of Fellowships and Advanced Studies (FAS) was there to help Blake and Shipp each step of the way. 

“We really talk with students about how their writing skills will improve, and we work with them to develop their interview skills,” says Rachel Newman, interim director of FAS.

Blake credits Newman as her biggest cheerleader throughout the Truman application process. 

“Rachel spent the time getting to know me, asking all the right questions and providing me with a sense of structure that helped me to unpack and declutter my thoughts, resulting in an incredible sense of clarity and confidence I’ll carry with me as I enter this next phase of life after graduation,” says Blake.

FAS assists students applying for nationally competitive awards and those on the pre-med track. While FAS celebrates the victories of each student, the office believes that success for its students is not defined by whether they receive an award. 

“Obviously, we work for students to be selected,” says Newman. “But the reality is that there are more deserving students of these nationally competitive opportunities than awards. We really hope that, through applying for a fellowship, students get a stronger sense of their own professional and personal identity and how they want to contribute to the world.” 

Ashley Dorf (Orange County, California) has applied for four scholarships through FAS: the Truman, Rhodes, Mitchell and Fulbright scholarships. 

“I didn’t win any of them,” Dorf says. “And I still don’t at all regret applying for them. The process of interviewing in front of a panel and being able to articulate your future career plans has been super helpful.”

In addition to the support from the FAS office, applicants also receive assistance from other Mizzou advisors. 

“It’s really a group effort,” Dorf says. “To have all those people want to see you succeed and do whatever it takes to help you get there is really special.”

Trinity McGlowen (Kansas City, Missouri) received the Gilman Scholarship, a study abroad scholarship, after applying through FAS this year. She hopes to travel to South Korea over the summer to take classes at Seoul University

“From my experience when I was applying, I was doing it to not miss out on any opportunities in my life,” says McGlowen. “It takes guts to go ahead and apply. It takes perseverance and the ability to be bold with your actions.” 

She remembers Erik Potter, a Mizzou fellowships advisor, helping a lot with the process. 

“I was so grateful that he was willing to go through the essays with me and talk about how to improve my ideas so they would come out better for the people reading them,” says McGlowen. “He even peer reviewed it the day before I had to turn it in.”

Senior biomedical engineering major J.D. Peiffer (St. Louis) was a Discovery Fellow sophomore year and a Cherng Summer Scholar conducting research on pulmonary imaging the following summer. 

Peiffer has always held an interest in prosthetics, as a close friend growing up was able to bike and ski because of their leg prosthetic. When Newman reached out to him about an opportunity with Fulbright to work in Canada for the summer doing motor prosthetics, Peiffer knew he wanted to apply. Although he was accepted into the program for Summer 2020, COVID-19 put a stop to his summer plans. Yet Peiffer insists that he still found the program fulfilling.

“I did some remote research with the program and it really helped me figure out what I want to do in grad school,” says Peiffer.

Peiffer encourages interested students to reach out to FAS.

“Even if you don’t know what you want to do or how you’re going to do it, but you know you have energy and drive to go after this, it’s worth it,” he says. “I’m such a better writer and critical thinker because of this program.”

Dorf also maintains that the process of applying for fellowships is beneficial to students. She believes that whether you succeed or fail, you’re always going to learn something along the way.

“You have no chance if you don’t apply at all,” says Dorf. “Even if you don’t end up winning, that doesn’t have to be your end goal. It’s a process of learning more about yourself personally and professionally. I think that’s really valuable, maybe even more valuable than any monetary award.”