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Sociology major wins Truman Scholarship

By Chris Lydgate ’90 on April 12, 2017 10:14 AM

Elea Denegre ’18 won a prestigious Truman Scholarship, recognizing leadership potential in public service.

Sociology major Elea Denegre ’18 was named a national Truman Scholar today in recognition of her potential to be a “change agent” in the field of public service.

A passionate believer in restorative justice, Elea has compiled an impressive track record of service in her time at Reed. During freshman year, she became a SAPR (sexual assault prevention and response) advocate and later became the student program coordinator, managing the support hotline. She joined the Honor Council and developed a proposal to incorporate restorative justice into Title IX violations. She volunteered at the Raphael House, a local nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence and was a counselor at Camp Hope, a summer camp serving kids whose lives have been affected by domestic violence. She also volunteered with Reed’s SEEDS program and studied abroad in Japan.

Elea, who hails from Billings, Montana, said she was “shocked and honored” to learn she had won the prestigious award, which provides $30,000 for scholars to go to graduate school in preparation for a career in public service. “It didn’t feel real until I called my mom,” she said. “Then we both started to tear up.”

“I am delighted that Elea will have this amazing opportunity,” says Rowan Frost, assistant dean of sexual assault prevention & response. “Because of its confidential nature, most people will never see the contributions Elea has made to the SAPR program. As an advocate and a program coordinator, Elea brings out the best from the people she works with. Her ethics, intellect, and inclusive leadership style reflect the best of Reed. She truly has the potential and vision to create positive change in the world.”

Restorative justice examines the underlying mechanisms that contribute to crime and focuses on healing more than punishment. “As a result of my volunteer work, I began to think about restorative justice in a wider context,” Elea says, citing the statistic that Oregon has the third-highest rate of juvenile incarceration in the country, with black children far more likely to be locked up than white children.

The Truman Scholarship is a federal award given by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation to students identified as future "change agents."

The foundation’s website states that recipients “have the passion, intellect, and leadership potential that in time should enable them to improve the ways that public entities—be they government agencies, nonprofit organizations, public and private educational institutions, or advocacy organizations—serve the public good.”

Elea came to Reed interested in psychology, but converted to sociology after taking a class on the sociology of family with visiting assistant professor Matt Lawrence.

“I love the liberal arts, and I love connecting the intellectual side with real people on campus and off campus,” she says.  

After Reed, Elea plans to travel abroad, become a lawyer, work in juvenile defense, and then get into policy work. But first—yes—she’ll have a thesis to write.

Find out more about fellowships and awards at Reed.