Mikaela Meyer Truman Experience

Mikaela Meyer was named a Truman Scholar in 2017, becoming the first Boilermaker to earn the highly competitive federal scholarship. Truman Scholarships recognize demonstrated leadership potential and a commitment to public service.

A Letter from Mikeala at the Truman Washington D.C. Summer Institute

Hi Dr. Altstatt,

I hope you've been able to enjoy your summer so far. It doesn’t feel like it, but I am entering into my sixth week of the Truman Washington D.C. Summer Institute! Time has really flown by. In the first week, we had a bunch of programming activities (going to the African American History and Culture Smithsonian, going to the floor of the House, meeting with Congressional staffers, going to the Pentagon, hearing from older Trumans, and more) which were all thought provoking experiences.

Every Tuesday night, we have scheduled dinners where Truman caters and seven of us give ten-minute presentations on anything we want. Some people have talked about their policy interests, but others have talked about their families and their backgrounds. One of my favorites was the North Dakota scholar's presentation about the dialect of North Dakota; it was really entertaining. I presented on the Dunes State Park, which was super fun. I think I was even able to convince a few people to visit Indiana at some point. One of the other Trumans is interning at the Botanical Gardens this summer, and he arranged for us to get a private tour Wednesday night after work.

Last Tuesday, before we went to dinner, we met at the Supreme Court for a Q&A session with Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is also a Truman Scholar as well as a Marshall Scholar. He was very personable, and while I can’t say I agree with many of his decisions, it was still interesting to hear why he holds an originalist perspective and how he feels the Court has evolved over time. Toward the end of our time in DC, we will be attending the biannual Truman Scholar Reunion and someone generously donated enough money so that all of us can attend for free. Madeleine Albright is our keynote speaker, and we are receiving a free signed copy of her latest book on fascism. We have all been encouraged to set up one-on-one meetings with our Reps and Senators and I will meet with the Rep. for Chesterton (Rep. Visclosky) and Sen. Donnelly in the same week.

Group Photo with Secretary Albright

Working at the Government Accountability Office has also been really engaging! Right now, I’m working on a few different projects, but my main project involves working with a team to determine whether the statistical methods Homeland Security uses to calculate the number of undocumented immigrants in the country are valid. As part of this project, I was able to go to Homeland Security and a defense analysis think tank to help conduct interviews to prepare our report.

I think one of the most interesting things I've encountered so far is the wide ranging views on the importance of statistics. Between reading interviews for other projects and talking to other employees at GAO, there's a surprising number of agencies and employees who don't understand how people can have any faith in the results from a randomized sample. After all, that means you didn't look at everything you could have, so what can you really say about the population? While I don't know that I’ll have many opportunities to try to convince people otherwise, hearing about these beliefs makes me even more excited to work for the government in the future. I think I'll be happy with a career in public service somewhere.

Since most of what GAO does originates from a request from Congress, we often meet with staffers to make sure we are answering the questions they were hoping to have answered. It was a pretty short, low key meeting, but it felt very official (I had to suit up 😊) and was a good experience. On Saturday, I rode my bike by myself to Mount Vernon. There was a trail that picked up really close to my dorm that took me directly there. It was 19 miles one way, so it was a good dose of exercise for the day, too. Today, I met up with a Purdue Stats alum in Maryland. We talked about how much we loved Purdue and how her work is going now at the Census Bureau. 

The other Truman Scholars are very friendly, and there’s never a shortage of things to do with them. We have a weekly group of people who play trivia on Mondays at a local restaurant, which has been a good bonding experience. Some of my Purdue friends have had the chance to visit me on the weekends and I've made some friends at work, too. At work’s orientation, I met someone who is a Masters student in Carnegie Mellon University's public policy program which is where I will be starting a PhD in statistics and public policy in the fall. I’ll have multiple research opportunities at the intersection of statistics and public policy, and to think that I might not have stumbled across this program if it was not for talking to the Carnegie Mellon representative at Truman Scholars Leadership Weekend last summer when I was granted the scholarship.

Meyer and State Representative

It turns out that there are about ten current and former CMU public policy students at GAO this summer, and we're all grabbing lunch on Friday. Also, I met a woman who's been an employee at GAO since the 90s who has let me borrow her bike for the summer to ride with her on lunch breaks. Sometimes, we ride to the Washington Mall to play ultimate frisbee with people from a bunch of different federal agencies (DOE, EPA, etc.).

Last Monday, I visited the American Statistical Association. I got to meet with the Executive Director and their Science Policy Director. We had some good conversations about CMU and how I can get involved in the statistics community when I’m a grad student. I also visited the Capitol last week with my research team to talk with staffers about our project.

By the way, I went to the Families Belong Together rally this past weekend, and while we were marching to the Department of Justice, I met Abby Lemert who graduated last spring in my class at Purdue and I know you worked with her on her Marshall Scholarship application. Another Purdue student ran into me in the crowd. What luck that we would run into each other, considering there were about 30,000 people there!

Immigration rally

It will be tough to say goodbye to DC in a few weeks, but I am glad I decided to do this program with the Truman Foundation. It is one of (if not) the best benefits offered by Truman. I wish that I would have known more about Summer Institute when applying for Truman and over the last year leading up to it, so I'd be happy to provide this info for other Boilermakers. I just wanted to give you an update about how my experience has gone so far and to thank you for supporting me a couple of years ago through the application process


Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

2014 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by NISO Office

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact NISO at vaschirm@purdue.edu.