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BC Junior Is Awarded Truman Scholarship

Aditya Ashok ’12, a Presidential Scholar and student in the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, has been named a recipient of a 2011 Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

By Jack Dunn | Director of News & Public Affairs

Published: Mar. 31, 2011

Aditya Ashok ’12, a Presidential Scholar and student in the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, has been named a recipient of a 2011 Harry S. Truman Scholarship. 

A history and biology major in the pre-med program, the Nashua, NH native has distinguished himself at Boston College through his academic achievement and HIV-AIDs activism, having served as co-president of the AIDS Awareness Committee at Boston College, and director of international outreach at the Virginia-based Teen AIDS-Peer Corp.

The prestigious Truman Scholarship, established by Congress to honor the memory of the 33rd president, provides recipients with $3,000 for their senior year of college and $27,000 for graduate study.  It is awarded on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability and the likelihood of “making a difference.” The selection process requires that candidates have a strong record of public service, as well as a policy proposal that addresses a particular issue in society.     

Ashok credits experiences as a high school student working in Ghana on a HIV-AIDS initiative, and later at a summer camp for HIV-positive individuals, as the catalysts for his passion. He chose Boston College over several Ivy League universities, he says, because of its emphasis on service and its reputation for mentoring relationships between students and faculty.

“Without Founders Professor of Theology and Presidential Scholars Program Director James Keenan, SJ, and Associate Professor of History Virginia Reinburg, I would not have had an opportunity to win this award,” says Ashok. “They are titans in their respective fields, and inspiring mentors.”

Working with the Teen AIDS-Peer Corp, Ashok has trained students from throughout the world to become activists and agents of change in their own communities regarding AIDS awareness and education.  

For his Truman Scholarship, he wrote a policy proposal to modify needle exchange programs in New York City, suggesting that they be moved from local communities, where they stigmatize patients and depress surrounding real estate values, to the city’s financial district. His research suggests that the move would enhance program participation while reducing costs.      

Fr. Keenan describes Ashok as an “extraordinary individual” whose interests in medicine and biology reflect his dedication to related areas of public service. “Among his many efforts, nothing matches Adi’s dedication to HIV/AIDS prevention work,” says Fr. Keenan.

“He is mindful of the vulnerability of teenagers and of the need to reach out to them in a time of HIV/AIDS. Whether doing a research program on stigma, finding effective ways of advancing needle exchange, or training people to assist teenagers with HIV–related issues, Adi is never a person who goes halfway.  Rather he researches what exactly it is that keeps people isolated from proper programs and then finds strategies to make the programs more accessible to those who are so isolated.  He is a man of enormous imagination and commitment.”  

During his years at BC, Ashok has served as a columnist for The Heights, the science editor for the student research journal Elements and coordinator of the Mendel Society Mentoring Program. He has also worked as an intern at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and as a volunteer at Rosie’s Place and the Labouré Center in Boston and St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, NH. Ashok is one of 60 students nationwide to win the Truman Scholarship this year, and BC’s seventh winner overall.    

Upon graduation, he plans to pursue either a master’s degree in public policy and a medical degree, or an MBA-MD. He has already been accepted into Tufts Medical School.“I want to work in health policy, where the knowledge and lessons that I have learned from these experiences can be applied to the field,” says Ashok.  “BC has been a great fit for me, and has prepared me to pursue my passions."