Three college students selected as Truman Scholar finalists

Three college students selected as Truman Scholar finalists

Sarah McCay, Austin Larrowe, and Wes Williams were finalists for a Truman Scholarship, a prestigious award that prepares students for careers in government and public service.

By Alison Matthiessen

Three College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students were honored as finalists for the 2014 Truman Scholarship, a prestigious award that goes to college students to help them attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or other types of public service.

That three students from Virginia Tech were finalists was unusual, but having three with the same major — applied economic management — was extremely rare.

The students honored were Austin Larrowe of Woodlawn, Virginia; Sarah McKay of Barboursville, Virginia, who is also majoring in animal and poultry sciences; and Wes Williams of Roanoke, Virginia. All are juniors.

“Virginia Tech has never had more than one finalist in a year, so we are very proud of Austin, Sarah, and Wes,” said Christina McIntyre, associate director of University Honors and advisor for applicants to major scholarships.

“Even though Austin, Sarah, and Wes are undergraduates, they are already working on solving some of the most pressing issues in society today,” said Steve Blank, the department head of agricultural and applied economics. “This is a testament to the high caliber of students in our department.”

Between high school and college, Larrowe was a state officer of the National FFA Organization and traveled to more than 30 countries. The experience opened his eyes to international agriculture and education needs and prompted him to found Feed by Seed during his first year at Virginia Tech. The organization focuses on global agriculture education, development, and advocacy and runs an 18-acre farm in Nicaragua, teaching local people how to farm to provide food for their families.

McKay is active in undergraduate research, campus and community organizations, global education, and government internships. She founded a garden program at the Virginia Tech Child Development Center for Learning and Research and works with children ages 2 through 5 and special-needs seniors to plant herbs and vegetables together. The garden allows intergenerational learning, sparking conversations about agriculture, nutrition, and diversity and reconnecting people with their food.

While on the Presidential Global Scholars international experience, Williams conducted a group research project on sex trafficking in Europe. The project ignited a passion for fighting human trafficking and slavery. Working with two other University Honors students, Williams won first and second places in a Challenge Slavery contest organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development and partnering agencies. The team launched the first-place idea, AboliShop — a Web browser extension that allows online consumers to check their shopping carts to identify products that likely used forced or exploitative labor in their manufacturing or distribution. Williams was also able to visit the White House to talk about anti-trafficking technologies.