Junior Arabic, economics and political science major Madeleine Dotson was named a Truman Scholar Finalist on Feb. 24. The Harry S.Truman Scholarship Foundation awards merit-based scholarships to students planning careers in public service. Truman scholars receive $30,000 for graduate school.
“It’s just a great feeling to not only get to represent my state, city and university but also to know that there’s some interest in my public service topic, which was about the environment and disaster response, this relationship between infrastructure implementation and being not so prepared for climate change,” Dotson said.
On March 20, Dotson will travel to Nashville to participate in a regional competition. If she is awarded the scholarship, she hopes to put the money toward furthering her education and service at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology in Cambridge.
“I want to get my master’s before a Ph.D. in economics. I want to have it specialized in either ecology economics or development economics,” Dotson said. “Both are similar: One focuses more on looking at the market in terms of the environment, whereas development (economics) is, ‘what is economic growth like from an area where you don’t have a lot of infrastructure?’ But I like approaching that more in an environmental ecological aspect, considering climate change.”
After getting her Ph.D, Dotson plans to work in the United States Agency for International Development.
“I really liked that they sort of take a multidisciplinary approach to project management and foreign aid. Eventually, I’d really love to work with the United Nations (with) international development and climate change,” she said.
Vivian Ibrahim, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement, shared kind words for Dotson.
“She’s a genuinely nice human being. She’s got her finger in lots of pots and doesn’t want to brag,” Ibrahim said. “She’s super friendly, and she’s a great community service orientated person, as well as being extremely smart.”
Hailing from the Gulf Coast, Dotson attended the Alabama School of Math and Science. She was an Azalea Trail Maid, one of 50 women chosen to represent the city of Mobile. She also worked with the Alabama Coastal Foundation on its Dauphin Island restoration project, which plants sea oats as a natural barrier against coastal erosion.
“Coming into the university, I knew it’s sort of what I wanted to focus on. I’m looking at water scarcity and international development globally, which is sort of another aspect of what I study,” Dotson said.
She was accepted to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth in her junior year of high school and studied in Morocco. That following year, she studied in Morocco for a second time. She chose to study at the University of Mississippi because of its Arabic Language Flagship Program. She is also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
“You get to try to understand other cultures and ways of life but you also sort of have to immerse yourself. I feel like it’s helped me mature and helps me understand different goals and aspects of life,” Dotson said.
In addition to the $30,000 granted for graduate school tuition, Truman scholars participate in leadership development activities and have opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.
“The Truman is looking for amazing public servants, public leaders and traditionally people we think of as activists,” Ibrahim said. “The other part of a Truman is someone who realizes that there’s a hole in society, a problem, and they want to fix that problem. I think that’s what Madeleine is in terms of a Truman.”