Hawaiian-born Chelsea Takahashi ’12 says growing up healthy and happy in one of the most beautiful places in the world made her think about others who don’t have such good fortune. So she chose a double major in environmental science policy and political science and started thinking about a career in agricultural development.

Now the Chapman University student’s ambitions and hard work have earned her a Truman Scholarship, a prestigious award that provides $30,000 to help fund graduate school. Takahashi was one of only 60 students nationwide to receive the award this year, chosen from a field of 602 candidates nominated by 264 colleges and universities. Chapman and Stanford University were the only two California institutions to have recipients this year.

“I’m a really lucky person and I just wanted to give everyone else an opportunity to lead the same life that I lead.” Takahashi says. “I just want to be someone who makes a difference.”

Takahashi started as a public health major, but was inspired to veer toward environmental science and food issues after she took the course International Nutrition: The World Food Crisis, taught by Lilian Were, Ph.D., associate professor, Schmid College of Science.

This summer Takahashi has a paid internship at Texas A&M University with a research project looking to identify pest-resistant genes in strains of wild corn.

The Truman Foundation awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service. The activities of the Foundation are supported by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury.