President Waded Cruzado surprised MSU students Connor Hoffmann and Haley Cox in class with some exciting news and flowers on Tuesday, April 10. The good news? Both students had received the Truman Scholarship on the basis of exceptional leadership and public service.

Hoffmann of Boise, Idaho is triple majoring in chemical engineering, biological engineering and directed interdisciplinary studies (DIS) from the Honors College, which combines biological engineering, economics and political science. His DIS project works to be the interface of policy making and regulation of rapidly developing and economically disruptive technology. Hoffman said he values diversity in his education and in our society. “Socially, we are standing at this precipice of this new renaissance,” Hoffmann said. “We need new renaissance men and women who don’t have backgrounds in just one area.”

Hoffmann demonstrated leadership through heading his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, at a local and national level as chapter president. Last year, Hoffmann worked at the national level to convince delegates that Sig Ep should be a nationally dry (substance-free) fraternity by the year 2020. Through hundreds of phone calls and a team of delegates, he managed to pass new legislation to achieve this. “I’ve had a really beneficial Greek experience and that’s not a given for all people who participate in the fraternity system,” he said. “I think a lot of [those bad experiences] are due to the influences that substances have on our facilities and spaces.”

In terms of public service, Hoffmann has worked to advocate for the Honors College, as well as helped create the “Crash Pad” initiative with another Truman finalist, Katherine Budeski, which provides transitional and crisis housing to students in need. He said, “Homelessness among students is kind of an invisible problem, but it is one that does exist.” There will be a pilot next fall, and it is supported by many organizations on campus.

Haley Cox of Bozeman is double majoring in cell biology and neuroscience and biochemistry, with a minor in genetics. Cox chose her field of study because, “science is pushing our social institutions to change and adapt, on the cusp of a biological evolution.” Cox went on to say, “I want voices shaping our policy to have a fundamental understanding of the sciences.”

Cox found her voice in public service and leadership as a former opinion editor of the MSU Exponent, where she had the opportunity to editorialize relevant topics to MSU while also working as an advocate of the Voice Center, where she learned to serve the public. Furthermore, her time on the Youth Justice Council for the Montana Board of Crime Control inspired her to become an advocate for mental health.

Cox’s success did not come without personal hardships along the way. “It’s those difficult experiences that inform how I lead and how I serve, and how I want to help shape our society for people who may not be as privileged as I am,” she saidCox hopes to go to Georgetown University and pursue a degree in biomedical science policy advocacy, which is the only degree like it in the country. “I want to live in a world where our identities don’t determine our opportunities, [which is why] I want to focus on mental health care advocacy,” said Cox.

Cox said she and Hoffmann are excited to win together, and they may even be rooming together in D.C. after undergrad. Together, they founded the Science Policy Advocacy Network, which works to advocate for science-informed policy making at the university, local, state and federal levels of government. Both Cox and Hoffmann had many faculty mentors and friends that helped them along the way, including Ilse-Mari Lean, Ph.D., dean of the Honors College.