by Sheryl Marlar

For the second time since its creation in 1975, the Truman Foundation has awarded a scholarship to a student at the University of West Georgia.

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Rickia Stafford gets a phone call from Dr. Kelly.

Rickia Stafford, a first-generation college student from Smyrna majoring in political science, was notified in a virtual meeting with Dr. Brendan B. Kelly, UWG president, and Dr. David Jenks, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, that she was joining the ranks of distinguished Truman Scholars.

“I literally could not sleep when I got the text that I would be receiving a call,” Stafford said. “When I spoke to Dr. Kelly and Dr. Jenks, I could not stop crying. The only person I could truly think about was my brother, Henry. This would not have been possible without him, and I could only think about how I am one step closer to fulfilling my promise to him and other families dealing with similar situations.”

Intending to learn the justice system in order to bring about change, Stafford intends to pursue a juris doctorate and master of social work (JD/MSW) dual degree with a concentration in social work leadership at Florida State University upon her graduation from UWG. Her motivation and desire to let others know how important it is to be civically engaged come from her brother who has been incarcerated since he was 14 years old.

Stafford, who entered UWG with credits because of her dual enrollment experience in high school, feels like the university has well prepared her for her postgraduate plans.

“My first political science class was with Dr. J. Salvador Peralta, associate professor of political science, who pushed me into my research on juvenile delinquency,” Stafford continued. “He helped me with the abstract that allowed me to present at the National Council of Undergraduate Research, an opportunity that led me to meet Dr. Chapman Rackaway, professor and chair of political science, and Dr. Kathie Barrett, assistant professor of political science.”

Stafford explained that Rackaway and Barrett have been more supportive than she could have ever asked.

“I’ve taken multiple courses under Dr. Rackaway,” Stafford said. “He has continuously challenged my intellect and moreover prepared me for the extensive amount of reading analytics that I expect in law school.”

Dr. Janet Donohoe, dean of the Honors College and professor of philosophy, feels Stafford is perfect for this award and more than ready for the task after completing the highly rigorous and competitive process for the scholarship.

“She is a remarkable young woman who makes UWG very proud,” Donohoe said. “She speaks from experience that she has used to motivate herself, meaning she will be all the more convincing when she speaks of what needs to be done. She has a real sense of the complexities of the issues involved and is not daunted by what she knows will be a difficult road toward changing policies.”

The Truman Foundation was created by the U.S. Congress as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman and the Presidential Memorial to Public Service. The foundation’s mission is premised on the belief that a better future relies on attracting to public service the commitment and sound judgment of bright, outstanding Americans.

Truman Scholar selection panels include distinguished civic leaders, elected officials, university presidents, federal judges and past Truman Scholarship winners. Recipients must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, demonstrate academic excellence and be committed to careers in public service.

Rickia StaffordThere have been 3,322 Truman Scholars selected since the first awards in 1977. Prominent Truman Scholars include Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, U.S. Congressman Tom Malinowski, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Truman Scholars lead at all levels of government and throughout the nonprofit sector, from local to global.

Stafford is excited to know her hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“To bring such honor and pride to the university doing something that I love and seeing the joy on the faces of Dr. Kelly and Dr. Jenks was a very heartfelt moment,” Stafford concluded. “Hearing Dr. Kelly say that becoming a Truman scholar is the highest achievement I could receive in my collegiate career really moved me because I try not to think too highly of myself.”

Stafford wished to thank everyone who has been a part of her journey at UWG, including her family, friends, professors and advisers for their continuous support.

“I want students to know the work they put in matters,” Stafford concluded. “It may sound cliché, but dreams really do come true if you work hard.”

Posted on April 21, 2020