UB student Madelaine Britt wins Truman Scholarship

Britt becomes UB’s first-ever Truman Scholarship winner


Madelaine Britt’s mother grew up in an underdeveloped neighborhood in Rochester, New York. To see that neighborhood fail to improve inspired Britt to work in urban planning and public service.

Britt’s work in public service has allowed her to become UB’s first-ever Truman Scholarship winner.

Britt, a junior environmental design and political science major, is one of the 54 students who were selected from 200 finalists to receive the scholarship. Britt will receive $30,000 toward her graduate school education and will also travel to Washington D.C. next summer to participate in a professional development program.

The Truman Scholarship is a scholarship that invests in students who are going to be “change agents”and work in the public good such as non-profit organizations, government, education, according to Elizabeth Colucci, coordinator of UB fellowships and scholarships.

Colucci said the scholarship recipients are “change agent leaders” who have initiated change and addressed issues in society through leadership.

Britt has been heavily involved with public service and urban planning initiative within the University Heights neighborhood such as the CoLab, Tool Library and the University Heights Collaborative.

“A lot of her work comes in the intersection of planning communities and preserving communities, so [this means] working in places like the University Heights or on the West Side where long-standing residents are under pressure for redevelopment and gentrification,” Colucci said.

Colucci said she is pleased that Britt received the scholarship.

“[Madelaine] is just a genuine and authentic individual so it’s great to work with her and I think she is well-deserving of this esteemed recognition,” Colucci said.

Colucci said there is an “internal process” in which UB faculty decides if someone should move forward to the Truman Scholarship competition.

Once a student gets to the national competition, the faculty must read applications and then shortlist students. The students then get flown to New York City then interviewed by the president of Fordham University, lawyers and judges.

The interview panel is “very rigorous,” Colucci said. After the interview the Truman Scholarship recipients are selected.

Britt said receiving the scholarship was a “huge surprise” and she is “very honored.”

She said she is happy to have received not only the scholarship money, but also the opportunity to be exposed to this larger network of people who are also passionate about different issues.

“As a person interested in urban issues and urban planning issues and having the ability to talk to people who are in education and environmentalism that’s really important and that’s why I’m just really excited and a little overwhelmed,” Britt said.

Britt said being a Rochester native has exposed her to urban issues. She said it can be “frustrating” to see the neighborhood her mother grew up in have no improvements while there are investments in other parts of the city of Rochester.

“[Rochester] is going through this time very similar to Buffalo where it’s going through development and now all of a sudden people are very interested in moving back to the city, but at the same time a lot of this development is not equal,” Britt said.

She transferred from Rochester Institute of Technology to UB during the second semester of her sophomore year. She was part of the board of contributors, which allowed her to write about political issues in RIT’s periodical.

Britt received a phone call roughly two weeks ago in which she was informed President Satish Tripathi wanted to meet with her. She said at first she was confused but after going into his Capen Hall office he gave her a bouquet of flowers and and congratulated her on receiving the scholarship.

Colucci said Britt comes at initiating change from a very thoughtful place. She said Britt always considers, “how all the voices are being brought to the table.”

“There are amazing students at UB and I’m always searching out students who are leaders, are exceptional and would like to apply for these major fellowships and scholarships,” Colucci said.

Editor’s note: Madelaine Britt was an editor for The Spectrum in the spring of 2014.

Ashley Inkumsah is a news desk editor and can be reached at ashley.inkumsah@ubspectrum.com.