By Kendra Pintor
Rina Nagashima ’24 had no idea what she was getting herself into when she applied for the Phi Beta Kappa Society Key into Public Service Scholarship—all she did know was that she wanted to engage in some sort of public service opportunity, aligning with her dual majors in public policy and mathematics.
“I didn’t know how competitive it was until after I got it,” says Nagashima. “It feels unreal to be one of twenty students selected from more than nine hundred applicants.”
The Phi Beta Kappa Society is a leading national advocate for the value of arts and sciences education. The Key into Public Service Scholarship is awarded to undergraduate students from a wide range of liberal arts degrees, all committed to pursuing a career in public service. The scholarship awards $5,000 toward undergraduate tuition and admission to a professional development conference in Washington, DC that highlights pathways into local, state, and federal government careers.
But representing Scripps as a Key into Public Service Scholar wasn’t the end of Nagashima’s achievements this year: She was also selected as a 2023 Truman Scholar.
“I grew up as an immigrant from Japan raised primarily by my mom, who never had the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree because she was a woman,” says Nagashima. “It is an honor to have received both recognitions. These scholarships provide financial and social support that is valuable in helping me achieve my academic and professional aspirations.”
The Truman Scholarship was founded in 1975 by an act of Congress as President Harry S. Truman’s official living memorial. One scholar from each US state and territory is selected during their junior year of college to receive a $30,000 graduate school scholarship and to participate in a week-long conference in President Truman’s hometown of Lamar, Missouri.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic kept many gatherings remote for the first part of Nagashima’s college career, the Truman Scholar Leadership Conference was her first opportunity to attend an in-person conference. The Key into Public Service Scholarship Conference was her second.
“It took me by complete surprise that, for both experiences, the most valuable aspect was the sense of solidarity, community, and friendship that I experienced with the other scholars,” says Nagashima.
She was doubly impressed by a Truman Scholar from a few years ago who was a panelist for one of the workshops at the Key into Public Service Scholarship—“a fun intersection of both communities,” as Nagashima puts it.
“She was so honest and real,” says Nagashima. “Growing up in Japanese and Hawaiian cultures, humility has always been a value instilled in me. Especially when immersed in a more Euro-American mainland culture, I find that being too humble could mean underselling or discrediting myself. I admired how she straddled that balance between being humble, but not too humble.”
Nagashima says that because she “prefers contributing to the policymaking process” and is less interested in becoming involved in the politics of policy, she has decided that, rather than serving as one of the many public faces of government, she would like to pursue a career in economic policy research. This, she explains, would enable her to leverage her intuition for quantitative sciences and her love for policy and public service into an outlet that serves a need in government for middle- to longer-term policy research and evidence-driven solutions. This outlook is often absent from government, where people are preoccupied with more responsive, short-term research and shovel-ready solutions informed primarily by intuition and a select group of perspectives. Public officials are often too busy and preoccupied with the day-to-day to respond to the need for evidence-driven, longer-term approaches themselves.
“My majors have equipped me with the economics, data, and policy analysis skills necessary for my career goals,” says Nagashima. “As a Phi Beta Kappa Society Key into Public Service and Truman Scholar, I am more motivated than ever to seek out similar communities in my future endeavors, whether it is a work environment full of people who are collaborative and driven toward public service, or a graduate school that emphasizes those same values.”