Published April 21, 2016
When UB Truman Scholarship finalist Madelaine Britt heard the president of her university wanted to see her in his Capen Hall office last Friday, she wasn’t sure why.
“I was very surprised when I got the call from the president’s office,” she admitted thinking.
The flowers President Satish K. Tripathi held in his hands and the big smile on his face gave it away. Britt, the undergraduate urban revitalization activist with the signature laugh who had gone one-on-one with the Truman Foundation’s Regional Review Panel, was waiting. Would she be chosen the first UB student to win what university officials call the most prestigious undergraduate fellowship of all?
Within a few seconds of walking into Tripathi’s office, she had her answer. As university life unfolded on a picture-perfect 60-degree day outside the large windows in Tripathi’s fifth-floor office, Britt quickly realized she wasn’t being reprimanded or scolded. The Truman Scholarship camp had notified UB. She had won.
Britt, 20, a double major in environmental design and political science who will finish her junior year in May, was one of 54 students selected from 200 finalists to receive the Truman Scholarship following a rigorous multi-stage selection process. The 200 finalists were chosen from among 775 candidates for the award nominated by a record 305 colleges and universities.
Britt will receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in a professional development program next summer in Washington, D.C., to help prepare for a career in public service leadership.
The Truman Scholarships target individuals aiming to be leaders and agents of change in the public sector, which includes education, government and non-profit work.
“Good to see you, Madelaine,” Tripathi told Britt when she walked into his office last week. “Are you expecting anything?”
“Well, I love good news,” she said, through some of that infectious laughter. “I was really hoping for good news.”
Britt maintained her sense of decorum while talking to the president. Other Truman applicants had heard they were chosen, Britt said happily but calmly. She had not gotten an email saying otherwise. So she was hopeful.
“I appreciate you inviting me up here. Thank you so much,” Britt said with a wide smile, when Tripathi told her she would be UB’s first Truman Scholar. “I am very honored to represent UB.”
“Fantastic,” Tripathi told her.
Soon enough, Britt turned to Elizabeth Colucci, coordinator of fellowships and scholarships, who had encouraged her to apply for the Truman Scholarship and guided her through the demanding and sometimes tense process – and the real celebration began.
Britt and Colucci threw themselves into a spirited hug and they both erupted into gales of laughter and mutual congratulations.
“I was crying when I heard the news,” Colucci says.
“Thank you so much,” Britt told Colucci.
“Thank you,” Colucci said. “You did it.”
“We did it,” Britt answered.
There was time for pictures and more questions from the president, who asked about Britt’s plans to work in Rochester when she graduates, her next step toward the scholarship — “She accepts,” Colucci said — and her opportunity for a paid internship in Washington, D.C.
“It’s amazing,” Colucci said. “These are people who end up being senators and congressmen.”
“Oh my goodness,” Tripathi said. “There are a lot expectations for you.”
“She’s going to change the world,” Colucci said.
And soon, after Britt made a point of praising Colucci to Tripathi (“Never let her go,” Britt told the president. “She’s unbelievable at her job.”), Britt and Colucci turned to leave together. On this flawless day, with the sun shining and success still fresh in their minds, they left the president’s office waiting area arm-in-arm.
Congratulations, Ms. Britt! Make us (even more) proud!
Fantastic news for Britt, UB and our world.
Thank you for this wonderful article about my granddaughter, Madelaine Britt. Of course, I am very proud of her. She is a special young lady. Her enthusiasm, hard work and efforts have been recognized. A thank you to her mentor, Ms Colucci, who guided Madelaine through this process.