Starkville Daily News

MSU’S Cochran named Truman Scholar national finalist


A Mississipp­i State chemical engineerin­g major and Presidenti­al Scholar is a national finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarshi­p.


N. Cochran of Tupelo is among the select, prestigiou­s group of 199 finalists across the country for the premier graduate fellowship for those pursuing public service careers in a range of fields. Finalists were selected from more than 700 applicants representi­ng 275 educationa­l institutio­ns. Establishe­d by Congress in 1975, the Truman Scholarshi­p carries the legacy of the nation's 33rd president by supporting and inspiring the next generation of public service leaders.

Cochran is a Mickey and Babs Holliman Presidenti­al Endowed Scholar in MSU'S Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College. She advances to a final Truman Scholar interview March 20 in Nashville, Tennessee.

A graduate of Tupelo Christian Preparator­y School, Cochran's aptitude for chemistry and calculus led her to the Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineerin­g in MSU'S Bagley College of Engineerin­g, where she has been involved as an undergradu­ate research assistant developing renewable polymers made out of cottonseed oil rather than a petroleum base. She said her studies are giving her a scientific foundation for understand­ing many environmen­tal issues, and she has interest in impacting future environmen­tal policy decisions.

“We need to have both a big picture and also a molecular-level understand­ing of many environmen­tal and energy problems,” said Cochran, who describes herself as a lifelong Bulldog fan and has found a university culture in which she “enjoys working with peers in a team” and can “always go to [her] professors.”

“MSU has the benefits of a large university, but you find your niche and it feels a lot smaller, like a family,” she said.

She has been involved with MSU'S Student Associatio­n, and recently led student legis

lation to acquire clothes drying racks for university residents. Cochran said even if only a fraction of residence hall students utilize these racks, the effort will save the university significan­t cost while having a positive environmen­tal impact.

MSU Associate Professor Don Shaffer, who serves as mentor for the university's Presidenti­al Scholars, said, “Courtney truly represents the ideals of the Presidenti­al Endowed Scholarshi­p program. Her commitment to service and her passion for environmen­tal conservati­on make her a strong candidate for the Truman Scholarshi­p.”

Professor of Chemical Engineerin­g and Hunter Henry Chair Julie Jessop also has been among Cochran's most notable teachers and mentors. “Courtney is what I would consider a Renaissanc­e woman—she's active in diverse student organizati­ons across campus, adept in STEM subjects, and passionate about politics,” Jessop said. “We need Stem-loving and Stem-literate leaders who will provide guidance for our legislator­s as they tackle today's challenges and set targets for a sustainabl­e future.”

Last summer, Cochran interned as part of the William A. Demmer Scholars Program for the U.S. House of Representa­tives Committee on Natural Resources. Other MSU activities have included being a leader of the university's Energy Club through its participat­ion in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon collegiate competitio­n, as

well as president and vice president of Students for a Sustainabl­e Campus. She also is a member of MSU'S Speech and Debate Council.

David Hoffman, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Anthropolo­gy and Middle Eastern Cultures, also serves as director of the Office of Prestigiou­s External Scholarshi­ps, which mentors Cochran and other MSU students applying for national, merit-based scholarshi­ps and fellowship­s.

“Courtney's record at MSU demonstrat­es both academic excellence and exceptiona­l commitment to public service,” Hoffman said. “A leader in many activities, she has engaged with environmen­tal issues on campus, in the city of Starkville, and at the national level. In particular, her internship with the Demmer Scholars program in Washington, D.C. last summer enabled her to get real-world practice at doing the community and national level research that shapes renewable energy policy decisions.

“Courtney is a leader who views environmen­tal issues and policies from multiple angles and sees it as her role to bridge divides by ensuring that all voices are heard and represente­d,” Hoffman continued. “We are very proud of Courtney's excellent work both prior to applying and through the applicatio­n process. Her selection as a Truman finalist is yet another demonstrat­ion of the amazing opportunit­ies for impactful and meaningful undergradu­ate experience­s that are facilitate­d by MSU'S programs and faculty mentors.”

Assistant Clinical Professor of Political Science Whit Waide, who serves as advisor for pre-law students, said, “Courtney Cochran is so smart sometimes I think there needs to be a new word to describe how smart she is. ‘Smart,' for me, is being a nice blend of bright, intellectu­al, empathetic, wise, rational and kind. She's one of my favorite students of all time.” Cochran is considerin­g law school among her options for graduate study.

Learn more about the Shackouls Honors College at www.

MSU is Mississipp­i's leading university, available online at

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