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Rory Taylor '18 Wins Truman and Udall Scholarships for His Work on Native American Issues

Rory Taylor, class of 2018

Rory Taylor ’18 has been awarded two prestigious national awards simultaneously — the Truman and Udall scholarships — to support his work on Native American issues and his education. Environmental Analysis Professor Char Miller calls Taylor’s twofold achievement in one moment “an extraordinary accomplishment and wonderful reflection of his manifold abilities.”

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship supports the graduate studies and career development of exceptional college juniors who have demonstrated that they are change agents in public service. The Udall Undergraduate Scholarship will support Taylor during his final year at Pomona, in recognition of his leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to Native American nations.

Taylor, an international relations major who is Pawnee-Choctaw hailing from Minneapolis, says he is interested in working to connect tribal communities to cities. For example, establishing a tribal government presence in cities with a large number of tribal citizens. He hopes to help these communities “share in a larger vision of prosperity.” As a soon-to-be senior, he says he is still exploring ways to best accomplish this vision.

“I really just am devoted to politics and policy in my heart so the opportunity to work on campaigns and work for different levels of government is always something that I’ve found immensely interesting and useful,” Taylor says.

Taylor got a head start on the path to fulfilling his vision when he spoke on educational equity for Native American youth at the White House Tribal Nations Conference his sophomore year. Since then, he helped launch the Indigenous Peer Mentoring Program at The Claremont Colleges and also worked for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, acting as a liaison to the 567 federally-recognized tribal nations in the U.S. Currently, Taylor is studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, researching the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and how it is utilized by the indigenous in the U.S.

Taylor’s advisor, International Relations Professor Pierre Englebert, describes his student as “serious, thoughtful, reflective and self-reflective,” as well as careful and rigorous in his thinking on difficult questions of discrimination, identity politics and minority rights.  

The Truman Scholarship awards up to $30,000 for graduate studies in the U.S. or abroad in a very wide range of careers dedicated to public service. But for Taylor, the Truman is about more than the financial reward.

“It’s a recognition of my place in America. I come from both immigrant and Indigenous communities who have practiced methods of resilience and resistance since their inception and to recognize that I am helping to fulfill and continue that legacy is immensely powerful,” he says.

According to Miller, who recommended him for the $7,000 Udall Scholarship, Taylor's engagement and activism have been “catalytic, the unifying force.” He points to Taylor’s direct impact on the number of indigenous students now enrolled at Pomona, the momentum towards developing a Native Studies curriculum and the connections forged with local tribal elders and the communities they represent. 

“More subtle, but no less vital, has been his impact on me. He has profoundly shaped what I think about, read, and teach; an incredible gift to receive after 37 years of teaching at the undergraduate level.”

Taylor says that although the awards are slightly different — with the Truman covering public service more broadly and the Udall being focused on Native American issues —they represent a convergence of his interests and values and connect him to networks that can help identify innovative policy solutions for the problems he sees.

“Between the awards and what they represent, I think it will give me the opportunity to reflect on how I want to serve communities that I care about in the future, and what is the best path to do that,” says Taylor.