“I WAS CHECKING MY EMAIL every single moment of the day.”
That’s how UCO junior Beyonce Hammond, a political science major from Moore, Oklahoma, described the excruciating wait to see if she would be named a Truman Scholar—one of the nation’s most prestigious and selective academic honors.
But the answer wasn’t in her email. Instead, Hammond was surprised by university leadership and friends at a UCO Student Association (UCOSA) meeting – she was selected as only the fourth Truman Scholar in Central’s history.
The 58 recipients chosen this year were selected from 705 candidates nominated by 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.
Past winners read like a who’s who list in American politics, media and academia. They include Janet Napolitano, Bill De Blasio, Daniel Pink, Susan Rice, Neil Gorsuch and Stacey Abrams.
For Hammond, being included in such an influential group is surreal—in particular being included in a group with Abrams.
“For as long as I can remember, when asked which leader I looked up to, I always answered without hesitation, The Honorable Stacey Abrams,” Hammond said. “It is a great honor to say that I now share the accolade of being a Truman Scholar. It is not only impactful to me personally, but also showcases that students of various creeds can achieve the same great success with hard work and dedication. This award has continued to affirm the positive change that I will continue to create within my community.”
Hammond embodies what we think of as the “American dream.” Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana when they were only 21 and 19 years old, settling in Moore. Leaving their homeland and coming to the U.S. was a big decision that was driven by their desire to provide the best education they could for their young children.
That decision has paid off for Hammond. The Truman Scholarship comes with monies to pay for graduate school.
Going into her senior year, Hammond has already made the most of her time at Central. She is involved with UCOSA, Black Student Association Freshman Action Team, NAACP at UCO, President’s Leadership Council, New Student Orientation Leader, UCO Leadership Academy Facilitator, Pre- Law Society and the African Student Association Ghana Representative.
What’s next for Hammond? Finishing her senior year at UCO, and then applying to Georgetown Law School. Her ultimate goal is to work on criminal justice and judicial reform with the Innocence Project and eventually, the NAACP.
“With the plans I have to work for judicial reform, I know my perspective will give me the ability to create change from a different lens than most change agents,” Hammond said.
Despite all of her accomplishments, Hammond doesn’t take much of the credit. Instead, she stays humble and uses the opportunity to thank those around her.
“I have never been one to agree with the concept of being self-made because it genuinely does take a village to accomplish anything of great feat,” she said.
“I can wholeheartedly say that I would not have made it without the assistance of an incredible village. The University of Central Oklahoma provided me with incomparable mentorship from the past UCO Truman Scholar along with the amazing, dedicated faculty and staff members who mentored me every step of the process.”