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April 5 was the best birthday ever for College junior Christi Economy — and not because she officially turned 21.

That morning, Economy learned that she had been awarded a Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

According to a press release, the scholarship is “a merit-based [award] for college students who plan to pursue careers in government or in public service and who wish to attend graduate or professional school to help prepare for their careers.”

This year, a total of 60 U.S. students were awarded the Truman Scholarship. Economy is the 20th Truman Scholar from Penn since 1981.

“I was really excited because the scholarship is really competitive so I thought it was a long shot,” Economy, who is double majoring in economics and international relations, said. “I felt really honored and blessed.”

She will receive $30,000 to the graduate school of her choice and will participate in the Truman Scholars Leadership Week, which will take place at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.

Applicants were required to create a policy proposal demonstrating leadership qualities and specific topics they are interested in. From there, finalists were invited for an interview in San Francisco in March, which included a panel of eight interviewers including the executive secretary of the Truman Foundation, a California district attorney, and a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Economy decided to focus on international development with an emphasis on literacy, education and the abolishment of school fees in developing countries.

“They really harped on [my interests] in the interview,” she said, adding that questions ranged from “What would you do?” scenarios to others asking why the applicant was dedicated to public service.

Economy credits Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships with motivating her to apply for the scholarship.

“The Truman scholarship is looking for a specific person interested in public service and leadership and I think they recognized that in me and encouraged me to apply,” she said.

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