MISSOULA – There are 58 names on the list for the prestigious Truman Scholarship this year out of more than 700 applicants.
Beatrix Frissell, a runner from Polson and University of Montana junior, is still processing how her name ended up on that list that includes the nation’s top-tier students interested in public service.
But don’t be fooled by her Montana humility.
Her penchant for academic rigor coupled with a UM education steeped in justice, gender equity, policy and environmental sciences prepared her to earn this national scholarship.
“I’m still a little bit in shock,” Frissell said. “The feeling of being named a Truman alongside a very elite group of people and past awardees is incredible. It’s a feeling I wish everyone could have.”
Truman Scholars demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector and academic excellence. Each Truman Scholar receives funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.
Frissell is the first Truman Scholar to come from UM since 2014, when Mara Menahan earned the scholarship.
Double majoring in political science in UM’s College of Humanities and Sciences and environmental sciences and sustainability in the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, Frissell also is a student in UM’s Davidson Honors College. In addition to a rigorous academic load, she runs women’s cross country and track and field for Grizzly Athletics and makes time in between her studies to complete about 60 miles of long-distance running a week.
Balancing life as a student athlete with a rich and deep interest in natural resources, environmental sciences, climate and public policy is something Frissell said she was able to do at UM because of the support she encountered at every turn.
“My teammates are some of my best friends, and they’ve been so supportive of me during this entire journey,” Frissell said. “I get to be surrounded by an amazing group of women every day. My coach, Clint May, made sure I was able to commit time to the Truman application because he encouraged me to create opportunities for the future.”
Frissell said running long distances for practice reflects her academic pursuits at UM.
“In running, you’re in constant pursuit of perfection and you have to manage your own self-improvement,” she said. “That’s a bit like my time in the classroom at UM, because I’ve had to push myself to get outside of my comfort zone and seek new challenges that I wasn’t sure I could accomplish.”
Just a few of those accomplishments include maintaining a 4.0 GPA, undergoing training in natural resource policy as a Demmer Scholar, co-captain for the women’s cross-country team, completing UM’s Global Leadership Initiative 12-credit certificate program, serving on the Associated Students of UM Sustainability and Elections Committees and participating in UM’s first SEA Change Cohort (Safe, Empowered, Accelerated) to advance gender equity and combat stereotypes.
Last summer, Frissell completed an internship at the U.S. Department of Interior, working alongside the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, where she said her “eyes were opened to the notion of environmental justice on the ground and what that looks like” when it comes to hazardous waste sites in American communities.
Growing up on the Flathead Indian Reservation, Frissell was enveloped in a deep connection to land, people, climate and culture that all intertwined by the time she arrived at UM, enrolling as a Presidential Leadership Scholar.
“UM has a lot of things to apply for and people who can connect you and help provide funding,” she said. “I found so many wonderful resources and incredible faculty advisers who would point me in the directions where was I interested, and they connected me with resources and support.”
Kylla Benes, director of UM’s office of External Scholarships and Fellowships, is a personal mentor to Frissell and supported her application process to the Truman Foundation.
“Bea’s efforts to promote equity and justice in athletics and environmental issues have had important impacts on our campus and beyond,” she said. “The Truman committee selected her for her academic and professional accomplishments that clearly demonstrate Bea’s potential as a future leader who will create positive change in environmental policy.
“UM's undergraduate program fosters future leaders through a liberal arts education and the flexibility for deep, active engagement in the issues they care about,” Benes said. “We are proud to have one of those future leaders recognized with such an honor.”
Deena Mansour, executive director of UM’s Mansfield Center, came to know Frissell when she was accepted into the Montana NEW Leadership Program hosted by the Mansfield Center and focused on empowering women in leadership.
“Beatrix is not only a driven student athlete, she demonstrates the capacity to expertly manage multiple competing commitments, while making it clear that intellectual growth is her top priority,” Mansour said. “She truly distinguishes herself by the way she demonstrates flexibility of thinking and curiosity, easily thriving in an inquiry-based environment, and she demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
Frissell plans to attend graduate school for a combination of public policy and environmental science, or possibly law school. This summer, she’ll intern with the U.S. Forest Service Region 1 office in Missoula in forest management planning and public outreach, as well as serve as a Baucus Climate Scholar in UM’s Max S. Baucus Institute.
When asked where Frissell imagines herself in the future, she replied with another goal dedicated to public trust and serving her home state.
“Becoming governor of Montana, she said.
The 2022 class of Truman Scholars was selected from 275 colleges and universities. They were recommended by 17 independent selection panels based on the finalists’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders. Regional selection panels met virtually and included distinguished civic leaders, elected officials, university presidents, federal judges and past Truman Scholarship winners.
Established by Congress in 1975 as the living memorial to President Harry S. Truman and presidential monument to public service, the Truman Scholarship carries the legacy of the 33rd President by supporting and inspiring the next generation of public service leaders.
The 58 awardees this year join a community of 3,442 Truman Scholars named since the first awards in 1977.
Contact: Kylla Benes, director, UM External Scholarships and Fellowships, 406-243-5241,email@example.com.