Biology Major Named Among Elite National Truman Scholars

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Vivienne Meljen ’13, a biology major at The University of Scranton, was one of just 62 students from 54 colleges in the nation selected as a 2013 Truman Scholar.

Vivienne Meljen ’13 completed her undergraduate studies in biology at The University of Scranton in just three years while maintaining a 3.9 GPA and participating in multiple research and community service projects. Already accepted to six medical schools, Meljen can now add an esteemed national honor to her resume. She is one of just 62 students from 54 colleges in the nation selected as a 2013 Truman Scholar.

Only three Jesuit universities had a student named as a 2013 Truman Scholar:  Scranton, Boston College and The College of the Holy Cross.

A resident of Scranton, Meljen is the ninth University of Scranton student to be named a Truman Scholar in the Jesuit school’s history and the sixth student to receive this honor since 2000.

“An exceptional student, Vivienne delights in taking on new challenges and has achieved notable success in academics and research while working at least two jobs throughout her undergraduate career. She devotes the bulk of her extracurricular time to service-related projects,” said Mary Engel, Ph.D., director of health professional school placement and fellowship programs at the University. “During and after medical school, she will apply her prodigious energy and commitment to improve rural health care.”

According to Dr. Engel, the Truman scholarship honors students committed to public service who possess the leadership skills to foster significant change.

Meljen plans to attend the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. Upon completion of her medical degree, she plans to earn a Master of Public Health degree and serve as an internal medicine physician in a rural underserved area.

“The inhabitants of rural America are at a disadvantage not only when seeking health care, but are often of lower socioeconomic status and at higher risk for chronic illnesses,” said Meljen, who also has a minor in modern Spanish.

Meljen has served as a translator for primary care physicians at the University’s Leahy Clinic for the Uninsured and participated in its student advisory board as committee head of translators.

“At the free clinic, I have helped explain illnesses and treatment while consoling many patients,” said Meljen, who also developed a Medical Spanish workshop for other volunteers.

As a ski instructor at Camelback Mountain Resort, she developed a pocket translator for lessons in both skiing and snowboarding and has taught fellow instructors “Skiing Spanish.”

Meljen credits her grandmother, Berta Onelia Valles, who passed away recently, as a motivating figure in her life.

“My Abuelita (grandmother) was born in Quemado, Cuba, and raised in a hut, one of 13 children. She and my grandfather moved to North Bergen, N.J., in 1970. She motivated me to persevere even when times are hard. I intend to carry on her legacy,” said Meljen.

In addition to Meljen, two other Scranton students were included as Truman Scholar National Finalists in a highly competitive pool of 629 candidates nominated by 293 universities in the United States. National finalists were Michelle Dougherty ’14 of Exton and Christian Burne ’14 of Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Meljen’s impressive list of academic awards and scholarships include a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Scholarship, CHCI-United Health Foundation 2012 Internship, Professional Ski Instructors of America 2012 Scholarship and United Parcel Service 2012 Scholarship.

A dean’s list student and member of Alpha Sigma Nu (the national Jesuit honor society), Meljen has balanced her academic studies with participation in numerous research projects, activities and service initiatives both on campus and in the community. She has conducted neuroscience research studies, worked with underprivileged high school students to encourage them to pursue careers in science, and served as a tutor of chemistry, biology, Spanish and calculus at the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence.

Meljen’s passion for service extends back to high school, when she volunteered with emotionally disturbed children at the Hoboken University Medical Center in New Jersey. She has won several awards for her research projects during her high school career and graduated from Union City High School in Union City, N.J., as the salutatorian of her class in 2010.

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