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UNG student advances to final round of Truman selection

Truman Finalist - Hightower
Jennifer Hightower visits Roman ruins in Morocco during a study abroad trip.

Jennifer Hightower, a senior majoring in psychology at the University of North Georgia (UNG), was a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, one of the most competitive scholarship programs in the nation, this spring.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation, established by Congress in 1975 as a federal memorial to President Harry S. Truman, awards scholarships up to $30,000 for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or public service. This year's 58 new scholars were selected from among 688 candidates.

"The Truman Scholarship is the nation's premier public service scholarship; to be considered, students have to propose a policy that marks them as a 'change agent,'" said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant dean of student research and scholarship. "Jennifer's impressive leadership, intellectual curiosity, passion, and demonstrated commitment to ensuring the safety of families through ending the cycle of domestic violence all mark her as an exceptional agent for change."

Hightower is in UNG's Honors Program and is an ambassador for the university's Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities. She works in Gainesville, Georgia, as a counselor for people facing problems with addiction or domestic violence. She facilitates the Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP), a 24-week program for people charged with domestic violence. She started the position as an intern, but was hired by the facility when her internship ended.

"The point of the program is rehabilitation for these men and women," Hightower said. "We work with them each week on topics such as communication and domestic abuse with the goal of reducing recidivism among those in the program. I also hold a men's and women's domestic violence group on Saturdays."

According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, FVIPs differ from standard anger management or substance abuse courses, and studies show they can reduce recidivism by up to 85 percent among participants.

Hightower wants to attend graduate school to "better her skills" and earn a doctoral degree in counseling psychology as well as a license to be a professional counselor. She said it was due to the mentorship she received from Drs. Steve Smith and Bryan Dawson, Lin, and other UNG faculty that she made it so far in the Truman selection.

Dawson, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Science, taught Hightower in several classes and selected her as a research assistant.

"I'm proud of Jennifer for making it so far in the award process and I believe it speaks to the strength of her character and her preparedness for the incredibly rigorous interview process. I know as a department we are all proud to see how well she has combined her academic pursuits and public speaking ability into a compelling proposal worthy of being considered for the Truman scholarship," Dawson said.  "I believe Jennifer embodies the qualities and characteristics necessary to obtain her master's degree in counseling and enacting meaningful change in the lives of those struggling with domestic violence."

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