Aspiring public servant and FSU social sciences student named Truman finalist

Florida State University’s former student body vice president Rodney Wells has been named a finalist of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the federally funded scholarship for students demonstrating outstanding leadership potential who wish to pursue a graduate education and career in public service.

Wells, an interdisciplinary social science major specializing in democracy and civil rights within the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, has made a mark on FSU’s campus and the community as a voting rights advocate conducting research, leading voter registration and engagement drives and community outreach.

During his undergraduate studies, Wells interned at the White House in Washington, D.C.

This year, the Truman Foundation’s Finalist Selection Committee reviewed 709 applications and selected 193 students from 136 institutions as finalists to interview for the Foundation’s Regional Review Panels. The Foundation ultimately awarded 60 students with the Truman Scholarship.

“Rodney represents so clearly the caliber of students that we have here at Florida State University and his intentional leadership, service and great academic work have prepared him to go on to do amazing things,” said D. Craig Filar, associate dean of the Honors, Scholars, and Fellows House, which houses the Office of National Fellowships. “We are proud to have him as a representative of Florida State.”

Wells’ interest in democracy and civil rights can be traced back to his family roots as a fifth-generation native of Jacksonville, Fla. His mother served as a police officer for 20 years, and his grandmother was a civil rights activist.

At 15, Wells started the nonprofit Young Leaders of Today, geared towards civic education and voter registration. This experience served as a catalyst for the work he now does in voter accessibility and the experiences he would have at FSU and beyond.

“Being named a Truman finalist reflects the profound impact of the community, student leaders, faculty, and staff at FSU,” Wells said. “Their dedication and support have been instrumental in my collegiate journey, and it is really an honor to have the opportunity to showcase the results of their efforts and investment in my growth.”

His passion and drive for policy change and civic education have also allowed him to have experiences as legislative intern in the Florida House of Representatives, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Intern, a White House intern, an inaugural member of the Future Leaders in Law Fellows at Harvard Law School and as a John Lewis Scholar with the Faith and Politics Institute, among many others.

“As a John Lewis Scholar, we traveled to Alabama, to Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham on a civil rights pilgrimage,” Wells said. “That experience deeply connected and enriched the discussions I have engaged in over the past few years and was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had as an undergraduate.”

Apart from being student body vice president, Wells is involved in several student organizations on campus like the Black Student Union, The Student Foundation and the FSU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which he is a lifetime member.

He says that FSU’s Office of National Fellowships has played an integral role in his college experience and the Truman application process.


“As I think about post-grad and life after FSU, it has largely been formed because of conversations I’ve had with Dr. Craig Filar,” Wells said. “The Office of National Fellowships has changed the trajectory of my entire collegiate experience.”

This summer, Wells will focus on his honors thesis, exploring the NAACP’s 1935 campaign for a federal anti-lynching law and ultimately hopes to become a civil rights attorney.

The Truman Scholarship, established by Congress in 1975 in honor of 33rd President Harry S. Truman, carries the legacy of Truman’s dedication to public service.

Since the Office of National Fellowships was founded in 2005, FSU has had 20 Truman finalists, five of whom went on to become Truman scholars.

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