Trinity has its first Truman Scholar in 28 years

Salima Etoka '15 in Paris, France, where she spent a semester at the Trinity campus.

Salima Etoka ’15 in Paris, France, where she spent a semester at the Trinity campus.

Salima Etoka ’15, a QuestBridge Scholar and native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been awarded a prestigious Truman Scholarship for 2014. She is one of only 59 college students in the country to receive the honor and the first Trinity student to be selected in 28 years.

The names of the 59 winners, chosen from a pool of 655 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities, were announced recently by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. The students were set to receive their awards–up to $30,000 for graduate study–during a ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, on May 25.

A resident of Boise, Idaho, who is studying this semester in Senegal, Etoka is majoring in urban studies, political science, and French. She is particularly interested in immigrant and refugee rights and diaspora communities.

Etoka was born in Bukavu, Congo, and lived there for nine years. Her family immigrated to the United States in 2002 and settled in Idaho. Five years later, she became an American citizen.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I am proud of my heritage and upbringing,” Etoka said in an e-mail from Dakar, the capital of Senegal. “Although I haven’t been back to Congo since we left, I consider myself Congolese, and the years I spent there influenced who I am today. My time in Idaho also shaped me. The community we found when we arrived in the States really provided me the opportunities to do well, go to Trinity, and then be able to travel the world and continue with my education.”

With the monetary award for graduate school, Etoka said, she’s considering the London School of Economics, where she would study urbanization and development, or perhaps Columbia University, where she would focus on urban policy. As a Truman Scholar, students can study at any college or university as long as the program is connected to the work they want to do after getting their advanced degree. Ultimately, Etoka would like to get her Ph.D. in urban policy or urban studies.