Jacobo Orenstein-Cardona, a senior who came to MIT planning to become a scientist but now aims for a career in public service, is one of this year's winners of a $30,000 Truman Scholarship.
Mr. Orenstein-Cardona, who is majoring in chemistry and Course XXI-S (science and humanities), has already been involved in a number of public service projects, including Alternative Spring Break teaching trips to urban public schools. He was featured in a front-page photo accompanying a March 27, 1996 Boston Globe article about last year's trip to Washington, DC. He has also participated in community service activities with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and other campus groups.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 to fund the education of students preparing for careers in government or public service. It provides $30,000 for each student's last year of college and first two years of graduate school. Winners spend a week at a leadership camp and in a Washington summer internship program after graduating.
Mr. Orenstein-Cardona expects to study education and law with the goal of becoming involved in public education, legislative reform and government service, but first he plans to get some real-world experience by returning to his native Puerto Rico and teaching chemistry in the high school from which he graduated.
"Everyone in my family is very service-oriented," he noted. His parents worked in academia and the government of Puerto Rico, and his older sister Aida, a 1994 Truman Scholarship winner, is a high school teacher. Mr. Orenstein-Cardona's younger sister Anna, an MIT sophomore, tutors and does other community service work. His classes and service experiences shaped his belief that he could best help Latinos and other US minorities by pursuing a career in public service rather than science.
Mr. Orenstein-Cardona hopes other students will do the same. "There is so much that MIT students, with our technical know-how and critical thinking skills, could do to make this world a better place," he said. "I know many people at MIT share my concerns. If we, with our privileged education, don't try ourselves to correct the problems in our communities, our nation and our world, who will?"
There will be an informational meeting for next year's competition on Thursday, May 8 from 4-5pm in Rm E51-275. Professor Anne McCants of history, MIT's faculty representative for the scholarship program, will help sophomores interested in applying.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 7, 1997.