Student seen as ‘Truman material’

Ruth Ost, director of the Honors Program, nominated Kylie Patterson for the national Truman Scholarship. The TSG senator wants to dedicate her life to public service.

Kylie Patterson sits in the front office of her residence hall trying to finish the task ahead of her.
It’s 4 a.m., and this is not the first night she has stayed up late to work on this application. With eight essays and a public policy to write, getting a full night’s sleep was not an option. She had to finish if she wanted to be a Truman scholar.

The Truman Scholarship is the only living memorial dedicated to a president. The Truman Foundation awards $30,000 to 60 candidates who show leadership skills and exemplify a commitment to public service.

This year, only 194 finalists have been selected, and Patterson, the Temple Student Government Senate university affairs chair, is one of them. She is the only Truman finalist from Temple this year.

“I would be lying if I said I was surprised,” Senate President Jeff Dempsey said. “She has the passion that greatness is made from.”

Honors Program director Ruth Ost nominated Patterson, a dual political science and African-American studies major, to be considered for this award. Ost has watched Patterson’s progress since her freshman year, noticing her commitment to public service and her academic credentials, which made her eligible to become a Truman scholar.

Many people around Patterson said they have noticed what makes her “Truman material.”

“She’s definitely one of the most motivated and determined person I’ve met,” said Kyle Bagenstose, a fellow TSG senator. “She’s got her goals, and she’s going to keep attacking them.”

Throughout her college career, Patterson has worked at several internships. During the spring semester of her freshman year, she worked and campaigned for Philadelphia’s first openly gay judge, Dan Anders.

During the summer of 2007, she participated in the summer union intern program at the AFL-CIO. She lobbied, held rallies, wrote press releases and learned about union negotiations. She also helped with a nonprofit in Maine, raising funds for people who were recently laid off from their jobs.

The next fall, she worked for State Rep. Tony Payton Jr. (D-179th District).

Patterson stressed how much she valued the experience she gained working in Payton’s office.

“I was able to go into this man’s office and really have a hand in seeing things get passed and have a hand in informing people,” Patterson said.

More recently, Patterson worked in the public policy and grants department in Mayor Michael Nutter’s office.

“She’s one of the voices of TSG,” Sen. Gaëlle Amazan said. “You’ll always hear her at the meetings, and she will always bring up something that may seem small but is really significant.”

Patterson wrote two bills thus far as a TSG senator. The first bill created an ad hoc committee that plans to address the problems in advising at Temple. The second was a resolution that declared TSG’s support for Temple against Gov. Ed Rendell’s Pennsylvania Tuition Relief Act.

“She’s really great to work with because when she’s really passionate about something, she works hard until she gets it done,” TSG Sen. Kevin Gerard said.

Patterson said the greatest thing about the Truman Scholarship is that it helps recipients set paths for their lives.

The ultimate goal Patterson said she hopes to attain is becoming a Pennsylvania U.S. senator. Before that, she intends to get her master’s in public policy, as well as her J.D. degree, which she wants to use to work as a civil rights attorney in Pennsylvania. Afterward, she plans to work in the mayor’s or state representative’s office as a legal aide before she runs for office as a state representative.

“[The Truman process] really makes you center your life. It makes you realize where you really want to be in however many years,” Patterson said. “It makes you more knowledgeable of your own self.”

As a Truman finalist, Patterson will now have to go through intense interviews. The Truman Foundation Web site describes these as rigorous and sometimes hostile. The questions are rapid-fire, and Patterson will only have up to 60 seconds to answer each of them.

“Their primary goal is to beat you down, and of course, if you can take it, they’ll be more apt to consider you for this scholarship,” Patterson said.

The interviewers will be former Mayor Wilson Glenn, an associate professor of law from Villanova University, the director of Save Africa’s Children and the deputy secretary of the Truman Foundation.

To prepare for the interview, Patterson is reading all the books about Truman she can find in the library. She also studies her application closely to make sure she does not contradict herself and stays informed about all current events.

Despite her anxiety about what’s coming next, Patterson said she remains excited throughout the process.

“One of my greatest accomplishments has been that I have always been able to see the final step,” Patterson said. “So many people get mired down in the process, and I can really always see the final picture.”

Rebecca Hale can be reached at

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