Emily Waggoner has come a long way since being diagnosed with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa as a high school freshman. Now, Waggoner is concluding her junior year at Mizzou, a year highlighted by her selection as a Truman Scholar.
Fifty-eight students from across the country were selected for the Truman Scholarship from among 688 candidates nominated by 297 universities. They were chosen on the basis of their academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.
“The reality of what being a Truman Scholar means still hasn’t set in,” Waggoner says. “It is very surreal.”
Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate study, along with priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government.
After graduating from MU next May, Waggoner plans to use the scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in public policy, focusing in mental health service policy.
Her past has influenced this path.
“Eating disorders are often falling through the cracks because health insurance companies get to decide what is necessary to treat them,” she says. “That often results in skimping on services. There need to be protections for people so they can claim what is a medical necessity for them.”
Waggoner is no stranger to public policy having participated in MU’s Civic Leaders Internship Program, interned with Missouri State Senator Paul LeVota and State Representative Kimberly Gardner, and worked on campaigns for U.S. Senator Clair McCaskill and former Missouri State Representative John Wright. She is currently serving on the State Senate campaign for Missouri State Representative Stephen Webber.
Through those experiences, Waggoner has become more informed about the issues relating to mental health policy.
“People with mental illness should be able to get coverage whether or not it manifests itself physically,” Waggoner says. “My experience sparked my interest in health policy as a broader impact rather than just eating disorders specifically.”
The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 and awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service.
“I found that the Truman Scholarship was perfect for me,” Waggoner says. “It really spoke to me because I value not only academics but engaging in the community.”
Since 1987, MU has been home to 16 Truman Scholars, along with numerous finalists, including 2015 finalist Samantha Franks.