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Chiodo Named Fifth Truman Scholar in SLU History

by Joe Barker on 04/13/2023


Gabby Chiodo had a feeling she would find out the status of her Truman Scholar application Tuesday morning in Dr. Claudia Karagoz’s Women and Gender in Global Film class.  

Chiodo had been named a finalist and was waiting to see if she had made the cut for the prestigious program. She had. Chiodo was told she was a Truman Scholar during a surprise visit to her class from President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., and Provost Mike Lewis, Ph.D. 

President Fred Pestello hands a plaque to Gabby Chiodo at the front of a classroom while Provost Mike Lewis stands nearby, clapping and smiling.

Provost Michael Lewis, Ph.D., left, and President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., surprised Gabby Chiodo, center, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Lewis and Pestello broke the news that Chiodo had been named a 2023 Truman Scholar. Photo by Sarah Conroy

“I thought that it was just another day in my Women’s and Gender in Film class,” she said. “When I saw a camera, Dr. Pestello, and Dr. Lewis walk in, then I knew. It was honestly a blur, and I'm still in a state of shock. It's surreal. To be recognized by both the President and Provost is an honor, and finding out that I received the Truman Scholarship from them is pretty indescribable.”

Chiodo is one of 62 Truman Scholars selected this year. This year’s crop of Truman Scholars was selected from a pool of 705 candidates nominated by 275 colleges and universities.

"The Truman Scholarship is a prestigious academic honor that recognizes Gabby Chiodo's potential to be a transformative leader —  one who will work in the public sector to make positive change,” Pestello said. “We are incredibly proud of Gabby, her accomplishments, and her commitment to the greater good."

Truman Scholars demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence.

“The Truman Scholarship is an incredible opportunity for Gabby to pursue a career in public service with the support of a robust network of leaders from around the country,” said Robert Pampel, Ph.D., director of the University Honors Program. “It is also an affirmation of the value inherent to a life of service, something Gabby captured well in her thoughtful and ambitious application. We are thrilled for Gabby and excited about the opportunities that await her as a Truman Scholar.”

Each Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 toward a public-service graduate degree, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.

“This accomplishment means an acknowledgment of my achievements as well as an affirmation of my decision to pursue a career in public policy and service,” she said. “I have always been passionate about seeing problems and looking for alternative solutions, and I think there's a huge need for that as America evolves. Issues such as domestic violence, education, and immigration are complex and deserve person-first policy solutions. Receiving this scholarship is an acknowledgment that my ideas concerning these issues are valuable, and I can use them to serve others.”

Chiodo is the fifth Truman Scholar from SLU in the 46-year history of the award. SLU has now had winners in consecutive years.

Pampel said Chiodo was an ideal choice and someone who represents SLU perfectly.  

“We routinely nominate strong students, high-potential public servants, and proven campus and community leaders for this amazing honor,” he said. “Gabby stands among this group out for her personal resilience, her principled service and leadership, and her intense and authentic focus on the needs of her local community. She is an example of SLU’s Jesuit mission to be a person ‘for and with others’ and is a worthy addition to the Truman Scholarship ranks.”

Gabby Chiodo holds her plaque while standing at the front of a classroom, between Provost Mike Lewis, Father Matthew Baugh, Dr. Robert Pampel and SLU President Dr. Fred Pestello.

Saint Louis University's Gabby Chiodo has been named a 2023 Truman Scholar. Chiodo is one of 62 Truman Scholars selected this year. She was surprised with the announcement on Tuesday, April 11. From left are Provost Mike Lewis, Ph.D.;  Catholic Studies Academic Program Director Fr. Matthew Baugh, S.J.;. Chiodo; Honors Program Director Robert Pampel, Ph.D.; and President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. Photo by Sarah Conroy.

Chiodo is a Political Science and Communication double major with minors in Political Journalism and Women's and Gender Studies. Coming to SLU from just near Des Moines, Iowa, she boasts a 3.94 cumulative grade point average. She is a member of the University Honors Program and is the recipient of SLU’s Presidential Scholarship.

On campus, she is a managing editor of the University News, a former writer for OneWorld, and the former public relations chair for both Active Minds and She’s the First.

Chiodo has been a community engagement volunteer at the International Institute. She also has worked as an intern with the Polk County (IA) Attorney’s Office, a position she will return to this summer. She  also served as a resident assistant and completed a research internship in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Chiodo called the application process “rigorous.” The process entails essays, interviews, and a lot of waiting. The finalist list was announced months ago.

Chiodo credited a strong network of friends, family members, and mentors with helping her out along the way.

“One thing I love about SLU is the support students have, and that was extremely evident throughout this process,” she said. “The first person I worked with was Dr. Pampel in the honors department. He was a great guide throughout this process. Another person I have to thank is my Political Science mentor, Dr. Steven Rogers. I met with him almost weekly throughout November, and we worked through my application together. I could not have done this without him.  

“Additionally, I had some amazing people who believed in me and provided me with recommendation letters: Michelle Peltier from Student Involvement, Dr. Melissa Ochoa from the Women's and Gender Department, and Shannon Bogolin from the Polk County Iowa Attorney's office. Of course, I have to thank my family and friends for being there with during the highs and lows of this process. I truly believe that a person is only as strong as their support system, and I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many inspiring and encouraging people.”

Chiodo also credited the work of the Political Science, Communication, and Women's and Gender Departments at SLU for helping her be named a Truman Scholar. 

“The professors and faculty in these departments care about their students, and that is embodied in the curriculum and general atmosphere,” she said. “They're great examples of understanding that students are people first. As I embark on a career of person-first public service, I can't think of a better example to measure up to than the ones set by the Political Science, Communication, and Women's and Gender Departments at SLU.”

With the Truman Scholarship in hand, Chiodo is already making plans for the future.

“After taking some time off from school, I’ll be attending law school,” she said. “Growing up, my mom used to always joke that I had to be a lawyer because I asked so many questions. She was right. Pursuing a law degree has always been my dream, and I am so excited to be moving toward that goal. It will allow me to learn about multiple different topics, all while pursuing my passion for helping and serving others.” 

About Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 15,200 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.