A junior in Fordham College at Rose Hill has received a 2011 Truman Scholarship, the most prestigious American award given to undergraduates for graduate study.
Abraham Mercado, an international political economy major, is a graduate of Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is fluent in English, Spanish and French and intends to pursue a juris doctorate with a concentration in international law.
Mercado is Fordham’s eighth Truman Scholar and its second from Puerto Rico. He began working with the St. Edmund Campion Institute for Prestigious Fellowships in his sophomore year to prepare his application. The $30,000 federal scholarship is awarded each year to between 60 and 65 college juniors who have demonstrated leadership and a commitment to public service.
“Abe is passionate about economics, politics, international affairs and foreign trade, and displays a sophisticated appreciation of how these issues can impact countless lives in developing countries,” said Maria Noonan, assistant director of the Campion Institute.
His career plans include securing a position of economic leadership within the United States government—first within the treasury department and later as a political and economic policy leader in Puerto Rico.
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“My vocation for public service is the main driving force behind everything I do. It is at the top of my priorities in my plans for the rest of my life,” Mercado said.
He is currently working with a group from Cornell University to establish Progressive Youth International, a non-governmental organization that supports sustainable, community-based development projects and small-business incentives aimed at poverty relief in Latin America.
“Fordham is blessed with students like Abraham Mercado,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the University. “Yes, he is the beneficiary of a Fordham education. Yes, he had terrific support from the Office of Prestigious Fellowships. Nonetheless, he would be exceptional in any group of students.
“In more than just conspicuous achievement, Abe embodies the Fordham ethic: his natural gifts, his considerable energy and his great heart are all offered in the service of others,” Father McShane said.
Even his leisure pursuits are intensive. Mercado has been a racquetball aficionado since he was 14 and was the captain of Puerto Rico’s junior national team during the 2009 junior world championships. He practices three to four hours a day, six days a week, and aspires to join the national team in the coming years.
To prepare for the interview portion of the application, he prepped with Gualberto Rodriguez (FCRH ’95), who also won a Truman for Fordham and graduated from Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, said John Kezel, Ph.D., director of the Campion Institute.
“He invited me to his office and we spoke a lot about interview strategies, what kind of questions they would ask me, how I drafted my policy proposal and how I would defend it,” Mercado said. “After that, we started talking about life, basically, and went out to lunch. We’re very good friends now.”
He learned that he had won the award from Father McShane. The even-keeled Mercado tempered his reaction by reminding himself that he “still had to focus on class.”
Since then, he has let his parents and close friends in on the good news. “My parents congratulated me and told me they were really proud of me,” he said. “They also told me to keep pushing on, to further my commitment to my career and my graduate studies.
“The encouragement that I’ve received from everyone—my parents and friends and everyone at the Campion Institute—has played a huge role. I can’t thank them enough,” he said.
The University also drew a finalist in the 2011 Truman competition. Caitlin Meyer, a junior in Fordham College at Rose Hill, is a political science major from Oakland, Calif., and serves on the executive board of the United Student Government. She is Fordham’s seventh Truman finalist.
This is the second consecutive year that a student from Fordham has won a Truman Scholarship. Joseph Carnevale (FCLC ’11) is using the prize to attend medical school and simultaneously earn a master’s degree in public health.
Truman Scholars are elected by 16 independent selection panels on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of “making a difference,” according to the Truman Foundation.
– Joseph McLaughlin