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Maxwell Student Iona Volynets Selected as 2023 Truman Scholar

April 17, 2023

SU News

Syracuse University junior Iona Volynets has been named as a 2023 recipient of the Truman Scholarship.

Truman Scholar Iona Volynets

Volynets, of Washington, D.C., is a history and international relations major in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and  College of Arts and Sciences with a museum studies minor in the  College of Visual and Performing Arts, a Coronat Scholar and a member of the  Renée Crown University Honors Program. In October 2022, Volynets was named as one of three Syracuse recipients of the Voyager Scholarship: the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, a new award for juniors committed to public service funded by the Obama Foundation.

The Truman Scholarship was awarded this year to 62 exceptional college juniors in recognition of their community service, academic accomplishment and commitment to a career of public service. Volynets was among 199 finalists selected from more than 705 candidates nominated by schools and colleges from around the country.

The  Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. Since its creation, the Truman award has become the premier graduate scholarship for aspiring public service leaders in the United States. The scholarship seeks to fund students who possess the leadership skills, intellect and passion that will make them “change agents” for the public good in any field. Recipients receive $30,000 to fund up to three years of graduate education leading to a career in public service. Truman Scholars also benefit from a network of other scholars and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.

Volynets is the 14th Truman Scholar from Syracuse University since the program’s inception in 1975, and the first named since 2018. They worked with the  Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) on their application and in preparing for their interview.

“Iona’s outstanding academic record, thoughtful community engagement, and leadership skills made them an excellent candidate for the Truman Scholarship,” says Jolynn Parker, director of the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising. “They are poised to become exactly the kind of change agent the Truman Foundation seeks to recognize. I can’t wait to see what they do with this award.”

Volynets plans to work at the intersection between the arts and public service in the field of cultural preservation. “This is a field that requires a high degree of skills, knowledge and expertise. I would like to be the best possible public servant, and gaining a graduate degree will allow me to be a more informed, better prepared leader.”

They would like to change the field, making it more diverse, participatory and accessible. They also hope to dedicate their career to specifically focus on former Soviet, and especially Ukrainian, heritages.

“The skills, connections, experience and knowledge I will gain not only from a graduate degree, but from the support, guidance and opportunities offered by the Truman Scholarship will help me enter this field,” they say. “I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunity. I hope to spend many years expanding my knowledge, so that I may one day be a truly impactful, humble and informed leader in the field. The Truman Scholarship provides opportunities to pursue this path, and I am so fortunate to have been given this incredible opportunity.”

Volynets is a current Lender Center Fellow, working under the guidance of Lender Faculty Fellow Seyeon Lee and with fellow students Ana Aponte González, Aaishanni Agny and Rose Hodg, and researcher Yash Shimpi. The group’s overarching project was focused on migrant women’s wellness in the Northside neighborhood. Volynets chose to work on access to culturally appropriate fresh produce, based both on past focus groups with women in the area and inspiration from organizations doing great work in their hometown of Washington, D.C. They spoke with nonprofits, farmers, gardeners and food security experts in the Syracuse area and secured a partnership with the Central New York Food Bank, who provided culturally sensitive produce to the YMCA throughout the fall 2023 season.

In addition, they conducted surveys at the nearby Northside Vineyard Church food pantry and surveyed the female refugee participants. Through these surveys, they determined which produce these women took and used, which produce they desired and whether they wanted access to feminine hygiene products. In addition, they collected information about their nationality and family size.

“From our data collection, we were able to learn more about how to provide culturally appropriate produce to the diverse Northside community,” they say. Volynets will continue this work in the fall to better determine which produce should be provided in specific neighborhoods of Syracuse.

“My work as a Lender Center Fellow has been an exceptional and life-changing opportunity,” Volynets says.

Volynets has also served as a Service Learning Intern at the Shaw Center, as an intern with Save the Children and as a Teen Council member for the Smithsonian Galleries of Asian Art.

Volynets is currently spending the semester in Strasbourg, France, through Syracuse Abroad. “I hope to one day be a polyglot, and practicing my French is one important step on that path,” they say. “In addition, being able to intern at the Council of Europe is an incredible and unique opportunity. I am so grateful to be able to work there, and have learned much from my time there. In addition, Strasbourg has a lot of fascinating history and art, making it a wonderful place for me to be.”

This summer, Volynets will travel to six former Soviet countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan). They will visit historic art museums and analyze the different ways these countries and regions portray their histories with the Russian empire, the USSR and the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR. “I am interested in national memory and the diverse and varied experiences in the USSR. I hope to turn this research into a distinction thesis in history, as well as an honors thesis,” they say.

By Kelly Homan Rodoski

Published in the Spring 2023 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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