DeShawn McKinney Wins the National Truman Scholarship

DeShawn McKinney

McKinney speaking at a march for Black Lives Matter
McKinney speaking at a march for Black Lives Matter

Our undergraduate advisor, Dr. Karen Redfield, reached out to DeShawn McKinney (who is currently studying abroad in Japan) and asked him to reflect on winning the Truman Scholarship. DeShawn’s reflection is printed below:

I feel incredibly humbled by the award. I initially didn’t believe it possible for someone like me to become a Truman scholar; traditionally and historically spaces and communities like it have been closed off from the identities I hold and labels imposed upon me – poor, Black, inner city – so it felt like I was infiltrating, or trying to. Step by step in the process it started to feel real, then possible, then probable, and when I got it I was taken aback a bit. The award is not for me, I’ve never looked at it that way, and that’s not why I applied. I didn’t win the Truman, First Wave just won the Truman. PEOPLE did, Milwaukee did.

I hope to always remember and move like this is bigger than me, because it is. I think I can utilize this to increase access for marginalized peoples, especially Black lives, and elevate voices to higher platforms and get them into spaces with decision makers. If I ever lose sight of where I come from, I want those same people I work with and fight for to put me back in my place. This award does not make me special, certainly not an exception. I am they from the streets of Milwaukee, so let us all ascend.