Taking a Leap of Faith

Claire Shipp was one of just 62 college students named a 2021 Truman Scholar

During her three years as a student in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR), Claire Shipp has appreciated the opportunity to explore her passions. Those interests include agriculture, the environment and serving others.

Last semester, Shipp found a course where all of those passions crossed paths. The Environmental Law, Policy, and Justice course, taught by Robin Rotman, an assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources, showcased how Shipp could take her interests and apply them in a real-world setting.

The course shaped Shipp’s approach to the Truman Scholarship application she was working on at the time. The prestigious scholarship was established in 1975 as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman, with a focus on supporting and inspiring future generations of public service leaders.

Shipp, a senior who will graduate in May with a degree in agribusiness management, recently found out that she was one of just 62 college students named a 2021 Truman Scholar.

“When I began the application process in September, I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I am so glad my academic advisor encouraged me to take a leap of faith,” Shipp said. “I am so thankful and humbled to be selected, and I am excited to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Shipp, who is from Chillicothe, Mo., said the entire process, from the applications to the interviews, reinforced what the Environmental Law, Policy, and Justice course showed her – that her passions and goals have a place in the world.

“I just want to help people,” Shipp said. “Growing up, my sister had a health condition where she was homebound from school. Being an advocate for her instilled in me the importance of protecting the people around you. We all need that protection.

“I hope to use the skills and passions that I have to serve others. Honestly, until last semester, I didn’t know where I was headed. I wasn’t sure how my goals fit together. The Truman Scholarship application process helped me discover how my love for rural America and passion for climate policy could converge.”

Shipp submitted her first application for the Truman Scholarship in November of last year. She completed her campus interview a bit later and was selected as one of four students to represent MU. She turned in her final application in early February and learned she was a finalist in late February.

“That was super exciting in its own right,” Shipp said. “I worked closely with Rachel Newman (student services coordinator of undergraduate studies) throughout the entire process, and she is such a great human being. She helped coordinate so many great opportunities for me to prepare for the interview. My advisor, Michael Sykuta (associate profess of agricultural and applied economics), also helped connect with me with outstanding faculty members who helped hone my application.”

Shipp’s interview with the Truman Foundation was in mid-March.

“I rearranged my entire room to have a white wall behind me,” Shipp said. “I was worried the interviewers would be distracted by my plants.

“They had us log in for the interview 15 minutes early, and I thought they would pull us in right at our scheduled times. So, I’m standing in my professional dress doing sun salutations to calm myself down, and all of the sudden I am in the interview. I don’t think they noticed, but I was panicking just a bit. I wasn’t very confident that I did a good enough job, but Rachel was so helpful in calming me down. It was super exciting to eventually find out that I was going to be a Truman Scholar.”

The Truman Scholarship includes $30,000 to pursue graduate studies, as well as access to annual leadership training with fellow Truman Scholars. Shipp will earn her bachelor’s degree in May in agribusiness management; then she will graduate with her master’s degree in agricultural and applied economics through the Accelerated Master of Science program at MU next spring. Because Shipp will be able to finish her master’s degree early, she plans to use her scholarship funds to pursue a Juris Doctor (JD), with a focus on agriculture and the environment.

“The accelerated program will allow me to use the Truman Scholarship to study environmental law, which is an incredible opportunity,” Shipp said. “I’ve never considered myself an academic. For me, education is a tool collecting opportunity so that I can support others. I want to advocate for people who don’t have the resources to advocate for themselves. I want to use my professional career to develop effective environmental regulations on agriculture that are best for the sustainability of our food production system, the farm economy and the consumer’s wallet. Law school would add another tool to my toolkit so that I can do this in a meaningful way.”

Shipp has been able to advocate for others at MU since her freshman year, through the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM). Shipp currently serves as the executive director of ASUM, the long-standing voice for UM System students in the Missouri Legislature.

“ASUM is incredible,” Shipp said. “The role of ASUM is to make the voices of all students heard. We work with UM System administrators and Missouri legislators to address student thoughts and concerns. We’re candid with these leaders – and it comes from a place of love for our universities.”

Shipp said that moving forward she is excited to continue to make an impact in the world of agriculture. She’s also excited to work with and get to know her fellow Truman Scholars.

“I’m just a girl from Chillicothe who wants to make agriculture more sustainable so that we can continue to live on this beautiful planet,” Shipp said. “I would not be here on my own. The people around me really helped make all of this possible. They’ve invested so much time in me. I have no idea where I would be without them.”