Duke Junior Jay Ruckelshaus Named Truman Scholar

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Duke University junior Jay Ruckelshaus is among 58 students selected as 2015 Truman Scholars.

Students are selected based on their records of leadership, public service and academic achievement, and their likelihood of becoming public service leaders. This year, the Truman Scholarship Foundation considered 688 candidates, nominated by 297 colleges and universities.

“I’m incredibly humbled and honored to have been named a Truman Scholar,” said Ruckelshaus, an Angier B. Duke Scholar from Indianapolis, Indiana. “It’s wonderful validation of the work I’ve done so far, but what I’m most excited about is the Truman’s reputation for pushing leaders to become ever-greater versions of themselves to take on the most intractable problems facing our society.”

Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars are also provided with opportunities to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service.

“I have been fortunate to know Jay since early on in his Duke career,” said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. “From the day he arrived, Jay has been a brilliant student and a true servant leader. Both on this campus and through national outreach, he has pressed us to recognize the merits and limits of current concepts of disability and helped us see how the doors of opportunity could be opened wider than they have been to date. Duke is fortunate to have such a thoughtful, creative and service-oriented student. He richly deserves the Truman Scholarship.”

Ruckelshaus is involved in a wide array of university activities. He serves as a student representative on the Academic Affairs Committee for the Duke University Board of Trustees. A political science and philosophy double major, he is also associate editor of Duke Political Review, senator of equity and outreach in Duke Student Government, and sole student representative on the Faculty Committee on Curriculum.

On the academic side, Ruckelshaus has published several political theory research papers, worked as a research assistant for Herbert Kitschelt, the George V. Allen Professor of International Relations in political science, and serves as co-editor-in-chief of Eruditio, Duke’s undergraduate humanities academic journal.

Ruckelshaus, who was left paralyzed in both arms and legs after a diving accident the summer before his freshman year, is also founder and president of the education and disability nonprofit Ramp Less Traveled. He planned and led the inaugural Beyond Disability, Beyond Compliance National Retreat, a national conference on higher education and disability. He is a volunteer peer supporter for newly injured spinal cord patients, chair and director of Outreach of Accessibility Matters, and advisory board member of the Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Atlanta.

Ruckelshaus plans to use his Truman funding to study a combination of political theory, law and public policy. As part of the Truman 2015 Washington Summer Institute, he plans to intern either at a think tank or as a policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Eventually, he would like to work as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and then obtain a research fellowship position at a policy think tank in Washington, D.C.

“With my strong interest in higher education and workplace accessibility, I would love to work with the committee as it reviews the financial plausibility of college, as well as equal employment opportunity provisions,” said Ruckelshaus. “I am the recipient of a society that is more inclusive than ever before -- the gift of decades of activism by visionary public servants. This inspires me.

“I can’t wait to leverage my graduate study of political theory and law, as well as the incredible network the Truman provides, to advocate as a public intellectual for the full inclusion of all citizens,” he said.

Below: An Indianapolis TV station reports on Ruckelshaus' journey to Duke University.