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UW student with foreign policy ambitions receives esteemed Truman Scholarship

April 12, 2024 By Doug Erickson
A photo of Pranav Krishnan smiling at the camera.

UW–Madison undergraduate student Pranav Krishnan is the recipient of a 2024 Truman Scholarship. Photo: Jeff Miller

As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Pranav Krishnan has studied and researched some of the weightiest topics facing the world, from the rise of authoritarian regimes to the future of democratic institutions.

Now, Krishnan will be able to dig even deeper into these consequential issues with the support of a Truman Scholarship, one of higher education’s most prestigious awards.

The scholarships, announced today, support the next generation of public service leaders. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school.

Krishnan learned that he had won from a surprise visit by Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin to his Econ 503 class.

A woman greets a young man, and presents him with balloons.

UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, left, informs undergraduate student Pranav Krishnan, right, that he is the recipient of a 2024 Truman Scholarship during a surprise visit to his economics class in Grainger Hall on April 8. Photo: Jeff Miller

“This is a really big deal,” Mnookin told Krishnan, calling the scholarship one of the most esteemed in higher education along with the Rhodes Scholarship and the Marshall Scholarship. “I’m so proud that you’re a Badger.”

Mnookin said Krishnan’s achievement also reflects well on the university as a place where anything is possible. She brought balloons and flowers for Krishnan — and doughnuts for the whole class.

“Congratulations to Pranav and to everybody who has helped you and supported you to get this far,” Mnookin said. “You’re going to do great things.”

After the class, Krishnan said he was shocked and elated.

“I know there were so many people competing for this,” he said. “I’m humbled, and I recognize that this is a really great opportunity to further my career in public service.”

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to the late president. Winners demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence.

The 60 new 2024 Truman Scholars were selected from 709 candidates nominated by 285 colleges and universities. In addition to funding for graduate studies, Truman Scholars receive leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.

Krishnan, of Redwood City, California, will graduate this spring after three years of study at UW–Madison. He is earning a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science. This fall, he will begin a master’s program in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Krishnan said he became interested in foreign policy and international relations in high school and chose UW–Madison in part because of its stellar reputation in those areas. The pandemic precluded a prospective-student tour, he said, so he arrived his freshman year having never set foot on campus or even in Wisconsin. He has not been disappointed.

“This university has an incredible number of resources,” he said. “Its staff and faculty are amazing, and I’ve really enjoyed interacting with so many peers who share my interests and my passions. There are endless opportunities to pursue your interests here.”

Krishnan plans a career in foreign policy and national security with a regional focus on the Indo-Pacific. He is motivated, he said, by threats to the world order posed by authoritarian regimes and democratic backsliding.

During his time at UW–Madison, Krishnan interned with both the Center for American Progress and the Dane County Board of Supervisors. In the latter capacity, he researched potential economic development partnerships between Dane County and its sister county of Kassel, Germany. Krishnan is an editor of the Wisconsin International Review, an undergraduate journal, and serves as president of the campus chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society, a student organization about foreign policy and international affairs. He is a researcher with UW–Madison’s Missing in Action Recovery and Identification Project and volunteers with organizations providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine and legal aid to Ukrainian refugees.

This summer, Krishnan will be interning with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Other recent Truman Scholars from UW–Madison include Dawry Ruiz (2022), Tina Marshalek (2020), Shiloah Coley (2019) and Jordan Madden (2018). A complete list of UW’s Truman Scholars and finalists can be found here.