Petal student with big public service dreams named MSU’s newest Truman Scholar

Alicia Brown, a senior chemical engineering major from Petal, is congratulated by MSU President Mark E. Keenum for being named the university’s 19th recipient of the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship. (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University is celebrating the exciting news announced today [April 11] of its 19th student receiving the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Alicia D. Brown of Petal, a student in MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, is receiving $30,000 in graduate-study expenses as part of the highly coveted national award honoring the nation’s 33rd president. As one of approximately 65 students selected from the 50 states this year, Brown is Mississippi’s only awardee and is committing to a career in public service following graduation.

Brown is a senior chemical engineering major in the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering’s Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering. She also currently is receiving a John and Georgia Ann McPherson Presidential Endowed Scholarship through the university’s Presidential Endowed Scholarship program.

“Alicia is an excellent example of how personal drive and hard work, teamed with the exceptional educational foundation she’s received at Mississippi State, can help students make their mark on the world,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “I commend Alicia’s achievement as this university continues to educate and empower students as they compete for and win prestigious national and international scholarships.”

Tommy Anderson, honors college associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs and director of the Office of Prestigious External Scholarships, said Brown has developed a deep understanding of the relationship between science—both applied and theoretical—and sound policy that addresses the nation’s increasing demand for energy during a time of climate change. Her success, Anderson said, is “a celebration for her mentors across colleges and departments who make undergraduate education the cornerstone of meaningful leadership and service.”  

“Alicia is whip-smart and thinks deeply and critically about the issues that motivate her,” said Anderson, who also serves as an English professor and the College of Arts and Sciences’ interim assistant dean for undergraduate academic affairs. “Alicia’s ability to connect the complexities of the science of chemical engineering to coherent policy that serves the public is unique among undergraduates anywhere in the nation.”

Brown said she is anticipating her upcoming economics internship this summer with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), where she will explore her passion for evidence-based energy policy.

“Economics is the tool that guides our energy policy, and I’m looking forward to doing analysis on the electric and gas markets that can help in developing creative energy solutions,” she said. “After I graduate with my bachelor’s degree, I want to pursue a juris doctorate to learn how laws interplay with engineering and to help me better foresee policy barriers.”

Brown appreciates the “fantastic” support of the honors college in encouraging students to talk through their differences with open minds and work on solutions to important issues. She is especially grateful to Anderson for his guidance throughout her college years.

“As a freshman, I didn’t come in thinking that I could apply for Truman or any other competitive national scholarships, but Dr. Anderson helped me turn those doubts into a vision,” she said. “From reading my application to setting up mock interviews, he’s been my cheerleader. He wanted to make this the best possible experience and cares about me as an individual.”

Along with her engineering studies, involvement with MSU’s Speech and Debate Council has contributed to Brown’s objectivity and inspired her to help others find common ground on issues.

“Speech and Debate is my primary extracurricular activity, and I absolutely love it. I’ve done it since ninth grade, so this will be my eighth year,” said Brown, the organization's current vice president who recently was elected president for the upcoming academic year. “Being a part of Speech and Debate helped me in the Truman process because the interviewers asked questions that really tested me. They wanted to make sure my motivations were pure and that I truly believed in what I said I stood for. It was grueling, but fun.”

Brown said she also enjoyed interacting with the other finalists who were equally passionate about their respective causes.

“Truman gives you the tools and encouragement you need to look at the possibilities ahead of you, and having really good conversations with the other finalists was just the beginning for me,” she said.

Don Shaffer, associate professor of English, African American Studies program interim director and Presidential Endowed Scholarship program mentor, said Brown epitomizes core values of the prestigious scholarship program that is part of MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College.

“Alicia’s intellectual commitment to important public policy issues, which makes her so deserving of the Truman Scholarship, is equaled by her dedication to improve the lives of others,” he said.

This year, the Washington, D.C.-based Truman Scholarship Foundation reviewed 840 student applications from 346 institutions and selected 199 finalists from 143 institutions based on records of leadership, public service and academic achievement. For more, visit

Learn more about MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College at; the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering and its Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, at and

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