In her application to become a 2020 Truman Scholar, Abrita Kuthumi ’21 proposed an idea that would provide educational resources for the lowest caste group in Nepal. She mapped out a plan offering economic assistance as well as support for students who face social challenges. She called the initiative “Daylight.”
“I named the program in the spirit of how sunlight hits people all the same without discriminating against gender, income, caste and other social identities,” says Kuthumi, who moved to New Hampshire from Nepal when she was 10. “With the privilege of having an American education at UNH, I want to help disadvantaged social groups in developing countries to receive an education because I insist that it should be a right for everyone and not a privilege.”
A political science and international affairs major, Kuthumi has traveled to Korea twice on Critical Language Scholarships. She also received the Helen Duncan Jones Award, The Washington Center President Council’s Scholarship, a TRIO scholarship and an Undergraduate Research Conference Award of Excellence. She learned she had been named a Truman Scholar from Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Wayne Jones via Zoom.
“...I want to help disadvantaged social groups in developing countries to receive an education because I insist that it should be a right for everyone and not a privilege.”
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established in 1975 as a memorial to the 33rd president. Since 1977, more than 3,300 college juniors have received the award. Scholarships are given to those who demonstrate outstanding potential for public service and intend to work in the field. The competitive selection process requires a strong record of public service, as well as a policy proposal that addresses a particular issue.
Kuthumi calls her time at UNH eye-opening. Early in her college experience, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study and felt lost. Then she started meeting people from the TRIO program, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, United Asian Coalition and the Office of National Fellowships, and things started to change.
“I never expected to have done as much as I have because I often underestimated myself. But now, that has changed. My UNH experience has helped me transition myself from a confused soul to a confident leader,” she says.
Eventually, Kuthumi would like to work for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) or a similar organization that would allow her to focus on policy issues around education in developing countries. She also wants to go back to Nepal.
“Currently, I am seeking information about applying for the Peace Corps in Nepal,” Kuthumi says. “I will go back in the future, but as for how and when, that is still in the air.”
She offers much of the credit for her accomplishments to Jeanne Sokolowski, director of the Office of National Fellowships.
“She has taught me to challenge myself by applying to competitive national scholarships that I never thought I stood a chance to receive and has supported me throughout the entire process by connecting me to the right people, providing feedback on countless essays and helping me navigate my career paths,” Kuthumi says. “She has helped me understand that my potential is greater than what I have restricted myself to and for that, I am truly thankful.”