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Student wins Prestigious National Award

As a kid, Matthew Cournoyer vol­un­teered with his father at a food bank near his home in Cranston, Rhode Island, an expe­ri­ence that sparked a pas­sion for com­mu­nity engage­ment. At North­eastern, he con­tinued to pursue public ser­vice through expe­ri­en­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties and vol­un­teer work.

Now his com­mit­ment has been nation­ally rec­og­nized. Cournoyer was recently named a 2011 Truman Scholar, a pres­ti­gious honor that rec­og­nizes stu­dents with excep­tional lead­er­ship poten­tial who are com­mitted to careers in gov­ern­ment, the non­profit sector, or other public service.

“I’m hon­ored to be selected,” said Cournoyer, a junior and polit­ical sci­ence major. “I have a strong interest in con­tin­uing a career in public ser­vice, and the oppor­tu­ni­ties asso­ci­ated with this schol­ar­ship are very exciting.”

Cournoyer was one of 60 win­ners nation­wide from more than 600 nom­i­nees. The award, spon­sored by the Harry S. Truman Schol­ar­ship Foun­da­tion, pro­vides up to $30,000 for grad­uate study.

Cournoyer’s accom­plish­ments at North­eastern are impres­sive. In 2009, he cofounded the NU Polit­ical Review, a student-​​run mag­a­zine he hopes will “enrich the polit­ical dia­logue on campus.” He is also a past pres­i­dent of the United Nations Asso­ci­a­tion of North­eastern and cur­rent secretary-​​general of the National Uni­ver­sity Model Arab League.

In addi­tion, Cournoyer’s expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties include a 10-​​day fel­low­ship in Saudi Arabia learning about Saudi cul­ture, as well as co-​​ops in U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s office and the Rhode Island Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency — where he helped develop the Rhode Island Part­ner­ship for Com­mu­nity Resiliency ini­tia­tive, which brings together public and pri­vate sector part­ners to share infor­ma­tion, resources, and best prac­tices regarding dis­aster planning.

Cournoyer has been par­tic­u­larly focused on housing issues. For the public policy pro­posal required for his lengthy Truman Schol­ar­ship appli­ca­tion, Cournoyer out­lined a public-​​private part­ner­ship model in which com­pa­nies could receive tax credits as an incen­tive to offer low– to middle-​​income workers housing ben­e­fits, such as down pay­ment assis­tance and rental sub­si­dies. In addi­tion, as part of a community-​​based research practicum at North­eastern, he col­lab­o­rated on a stu­dent report ana­lyzing a Massachusetts-​​funded home­less­ness pre­ven­tion program.

“This is an extremely com­pet­i­tive award, and Matt cer­tainly earned it,” said Bruce Wallin, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence who over­sees Truman Schol­ar­ship appli­ca­tions from North­eastern stu­dents. “He’s exhib­ited strong lead­er­ship qual­i­ties at North­eastern, his aca­d­emic achieve­ments are exten­sive, and he’s done a lot of vol­un­teer work.”

Cournoyer said par­tic­i­pating in both global expe­ri­ences and local vol­un­teer work while at North­eastern has had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on his edu­ca­tion. “It’s impor­tant to be engaged in the com­mu­nity where you live,” he said, “but also to realize that you’re part of a larger global community.”

In the future, Cournoyer intends to pursue a degree in public interest or social jus­tice law, and said he wants to pro­mote eco­nomic oppor­tu­ni­ties for people in need, par­tic­u­larly those in urban communities.

– by Greg St. Martin

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