Jalen Travis awarded Truman Scholarship for public service

Princeton University junior Jalen Travis has been awarded a Truman Scholarship, which provides recipients with up to $30,000 toward graduate school along with professional development opportunities to prepare for careers in public service.

Jalen Travis

Jalen Travis

Travis, a member of the Class of 2024, is one of 62 recipients nationwide.

“Truman Scholars demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence,” according to the Truman Scholarship Foundation.

Travis, of Minneapolis, is an anthropology concentrator who is also pursuing a certificate in African American studies. He is interested in pursuing a career in criminal or public interest law and plans to use the scholarship to pursue a J.D. at Columbia Law School through its L.E.A.D. Fellowship, a two-year deferral program. He hopes to spend the first year working as a criminal defense investigator or paralegal for a public defense firm, and the second year working at a legal justice advocacy organization to better understand that field and policy-level avenues for change.

“Jalen has a sophisticated analytic mind and deep passion for advocacy — all evident in his brilliant scholarship,” said Onur Günay, lecturer in anthropology, who described Travis as being “driven by a strong commitment to social justice and a rare attentiveness that drive him to go beyond fixed political and academic categories, and to ask tough questions of contemporary relevance.”

“Jalen’s main goal in going to law school is to be trained as an advocate for people who don’t have access to adequate defense,” Günay said. “At his young age, Jalen challenges the taken-for-granted distinctions between academic knowledge, real-life problems and political activism.”

Travis has interned in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and is a 2022 recipient of the Leonard D. Schaeffer  Fellowship in Government Service. A member of Princeton’s varsity football team, he was named an Institute for Sport and Social Justice Playmaker of the Month in February 2022.

Travis is deeply committed to serving underrepresented communities, in both legal and social frameworks. Witnessing the cycle of police violence in his hometown of Minneapolis, he founded the nonprofit The Just Action Coalition, established in the wake of the police killings of Jamar Clark, Philando Castile and George Floyd, and aimed at promoting substantive youth engagement in policy-level advocacy on the local and state levels in Minnesota.

At Princeton, Travis is co-director of Minority Pre-Law Association, a Student-Athlete Wellness Leader and a member of the Student Athlete Service Council. He is also a liaison for Princeton’s Advocacy and Activism Student Board at the John H. Pace, Jr. '39 Center for Civic Engagement and an advisory board member for the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship (ProCES).

A member of New College West, he is a former John C. Bogle '51 Civic Service Fellow and a former member of the Class of 2024 Civil Society cohort of Service Focus — a group of service-minded individuals that explored how to enhance engagement in community service on the Princeton campus.