UM Music, Wildlife Biology Students Finalists for Prized Truman Scholarship

UM music education student Marian Kale of Billings, and Jay Schutze, wildlife biology undergraduate student, of Flower Mound, Texas, are among a small percentage of U.S. students selected this year as Truman Scholarship finalists.

By Jenny Lavey, UM News Service

MISSOULA – Two University of Montana undergraduate students are national finalists for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, the nation’s premier graduate fellowship for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. 

UM students Marian Kale of Billings, and Jay Schutze of Flower Mound, Texas, are among a small percentage of U.S. students selected this year as Truman Scholarship finalists.  Kale and Schutze represent two UM cornerstone academic programs: music education and wildlife biology, respectively. 

Only about 55 to 65 Truman Scholarships are awarded annually from a pool of more than 800 American student applications. The scholarship is highly competitive and prestigious, awarding college juniors up to three years of graduate education and $30,000. Institutions can nominate four applicants each year.

“I know I speak for our entire university and state, when I say we are deeply proud of of Marian and Jay for being named Truman finalists,” said Kylla Benes, UM director of Office of External Scholarships and Fellowships. “The Truman Scholarship is extremely competitive, and their selection as finalists reflects the very best of UM in mentorship, public service and academic rigor.”

Benes’ office in UM’s Davidson Honors College provides free advising for all UM students, with a mission to make the scholarship process welcoming, fair and open to all.

She said UM has an impressive history of both Truman Scholars and finalists. In 2022, Bea Frissell, from Polson, was named a Truman Scholar (Frissell was named a prestigious Marshall Scholar, too).  In 2021, UM yielded three UM students – all women – for the award.

Named after President Harry Truman, the scholarship is a living memorial to Truman’s values of service, according to the Truman Foundation. The scholarship, the foundation notes,  “nurtures and supports future generations who answer the call to public service leadership.”

Marian Kale

Marian Kale, University of Montana undergraduate student studying music education and violin performance, is a Truman Scholarship finalist. UM photo by Tommy Martino

Kale, a music education and violin performance major, is inspired to transform rural music education by providing more focused teacher training and increasing resources to rural schools.

During her time in the School of Music in UM’s College of the Arts and Media, Kale has engaged deeply and found success in three local public schools as a student teacher She also teaches music lessons and served on the executive board of the Student Music Union, American String Teachers Association and National Association for Music Education Collegiate. She’s performed in campus ensembles, the Grizzly Marching Band, UM Symphony Orchestra, Montana Youth Symphony and Missoula Symphony. Additionally, Kale has been involved in several community and campus organizations advocating for music infrastructure, access and support.

Kale said applying for the Truman Scholarship was an invaluable opportunity to craft her career and professional goals.

“The application process allowed me to enhance my professional skills, clarify my career goals and continue developing the skills necessary to advocate for equitable music education,” she said. “I am eager to represent the University of Montana as a scholarship finalist and deeply appreciate the faculty mentorship and support I have received in this process.”

Jay Schutze

University of Montana undergraduate student Jay Schutze was selected as Truman Scholarship finalist. UM photo by Tommy Martino

Schutze developed a passion for outdoor education and working with the public on contentious wildlife management issues, deciding upon a wildlife biology major in UM’s W.A. Franke of College of Forestry and Conservation. At UM, Schutze conducts groundbreaking research on the growing phenomenon and the impact of feral acts on biodiversity in Missoula. Additionally, Schutze has developed research skills as a volunteer for the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, UM’s Avian Science Center, and through the design and implementation of an applied senior thesis project. Schutze said they view public education as a critical component of their work and has served as an outdoor educator every summer, volunteered as a judge for the state science fair and is helping to develop an Indigenous-centered curriculum to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. They have also earned a Montana Master Naturalist certification, is a member of UM’s Wildlife Society and was a student reviewer for UM’s Experiential Learning Scholarship Fund.

“The application process alone was such a rewarding experience,” Schutze said. “I am beyond grateful to Kylla, my mentors, faculty members, friends and family for their guidance and encouragement as I pursue a career in environmental justice through field research, education and outreach and policy reform.”


Contact: Kylla Benes, UM director of Office of External Scholarships and Fellowships, Davidson Honors College, 406-243-5241,; Dave Kuntz, UM director of Strategic Communications, 406-243-5659,

Related stories: 
UM Students, Alumni Bang the Drum for Music Education Program
UM Honors Student Named Prestigious Truman Scholar
UM Yields Trio of Montana-Native Truman Scholarship Finalists
Rare Rhodes: UM Student Earns Worlds Top Scholarship