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USC Dornsife’s Travis Glynn selected as Truman Scholar

USC Dornsife's Travis Glynn Selected as Truman Scholar
Travis Glynn will use the $30,000 award to pursue a degree with a focus in international affairs. He plans to be a foreign service officer in South Asia.

Travis Glynn is a big-picture person. The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences junior tackles problems by considering the matter at hand. He also approaches his life the same way.

The recipient of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship knows what the highly competitive award will help him accomplish in life. The federal scholarship provides $30,000 to students pursuing graduate degrees leading to careers in public service.

The Truman Scholarship was awarded to 54 college juniors this year, one or so from each state: Glynn, who is from New London, Wis., represents Wisconsin. He is USC’s 17th Truman Scholar.

Nearly 600 candidates were nominated by 292 colleges and universities nationwide. The scholarship goes to students with aptitude to become a change agent in the world. Past recipients have been political adviser George Stephanopoulos and Jonathan Favreau, speechwriting director for President Obama.

For Glynn, an international relations major, the scholarship will enable him to pursue a Master of Public Policy degree with a focus in international affairs. While continuing his language and security policy studies, he’d like to strengthen his critical analytical and management skills.

USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Elizabeth Garrett said that Glynn’s selection as a Truman Scholar is a well-deserved recognition of his academic achievements and dedication to a career serving the public interest.

“In pursuing a challenging major and four minors, he has embraced the broad academic opportunities available to USC students,” Garrett said, “which will provide him the intellectual foundation to succeed in this scholarship and as a future leader.”

Steven Lamy, professor of international relations and vice dean for academic programs at USC Dornsife, has taught Glynn in a few classes and knows him well. Lamy remembered how Glynn arrived from Wisconsin determined to get involved and become an informed citizen with a global perspective.

“Travis represents the USC Dornsife ideal,” Lamy said. “He’s an interdisciplinary scholar, an informed and thoughtful participant in his community and a creative problem-solver. Travis is engaged with the world of ideas, and he sees the world as his classroom. The Truman Scholarship will help him continue his exploration of the challenges faced by various levels of government in the U.S. and in communities around the world.”

After earning his master’s degree, Glynn plans to become a foreign service political officer stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He wants to work in a society that will still be in the early stages of rebuilding and development. In addition, he said, security concerns throughout South and Central Asia threaten long-term stability and propagate international criminal networks, affecting U.S. interests and security.

In 2009, Glynn pointed out, Afghanistan produced 6,900 metric tons of illicit opium, accounting for 90 percent of the global supply. This large-scale production helps fund terrorist and extremist groups, breeds corruption and harms the development of the local economies, he said.

So the 22-year-old wants his first post to be in a war zone?

“As a first assignment, yes, that’s where I’d like to be,” said Glynn, wearing a suit, tie and charismatic smile. “Because I think that’s where I’d do the most learning. Rather than being in an embassy where there isn’t a lot going on, this would be a great opportunity for hands-on learning to allow me to be effective in the long term.”

In preparing for his role as a change agent, Glynn became a foreign affairs intern at the Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in Washington, D.C., and interned for Sen. Herb Kohl in Appleton, Wis., and at the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

He obtained a Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study Urdu in Lucknow, India, during summer 2011. Also spoken in Pakistan, Urdu would be an important language to speak in the foreign service, he said. In fall 2010, Glynn studied advanced German in Berlin, Germany, and he also speaks that language well.

Before arriving at USC, Glynn already had been his high school’s valedictorian; captain of the speech and debate team, and student congress; president of the student council; captain of the varsity track and field team; and president of the show choir, and student-principal committee.

When considering higher education, he looked at the U.S. holistically, deciding to earn his undergraduate degree on the West Coast and pursue his master’s on the East Coast.

USC Dornsife’s School of International Relations became his top choice. Wanting to volunteer in the community, he was impressed with USC’s location.

“USC is in the heart of Los Angeles,” Glynn said. “This was an opportunity for me to get involved in volunteering in local schools and places like Skid Row.”

He carried through with that goal as well, volunteering at homeless shelters and USC Dornsife’s Joint Educational Project (JEP), where he now works as a program assistant. At JEP, he created JEP Explore, which trains international relations students to teach local grade-school students about global topics. While keeping a 4.0 GPA in his major, he has a fellowship with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Office of Homeland Security and Public Safety and is president of the USC International Relations Undergraduate Association.

But international relations is not his only interest. Glynn has four minors: German and cultural anthropology at USC Dornsife, international policy and management at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and business law at the USC Marshall School of Business.

During some summers, he works as a counselor at a children’s day camp in Wisconsin.

“Learning how to work with children, how to encourage them, to have a constant state of energy and be a supporting figure at all times – what a really great challenge for me,” Glynn said. “And it really helped me in terms of school. If you can deal with a screaming child, you can deal with a 10-page paper.”

He’s a die-hard advocate for Wisconsin, where he was raised by his banker father and mother, a financial manager at a blood bank. He’s also big brother to three sisters.

“I have so much pride for my state, it’s unbelievable,” Glynn said. “In my interview for the Truman Scholarship, I talked about how I’m always excited to be in the Midwest because I get Wisconsin cheese. It’s amazing, let me tell you.”

It’s no surprise Glynn also is a USC Renaissance Scholar, which honors students with broad interests. As a true Renaissance man, he’s an excellent piano and trumpet player.

The moment he read the Truman Scholarship application, he knew it was a perfect fit.

“There are many national scholarships and great opportunities out there, but The Truman Scholarship is for people who are not only passionate about public service but want to make and effect change in the world,” Glynn said. “And that’s ultimately what I want to do.”

For information about the Truman Scholarship and other study and research opportunities, contact the USC Office of Academic & International Fellowships at and (213) 740-9116.

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USC Dornsife’s Travis Glynn selected as Truman Scholar

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