A Lifelong Commitment to Aiding Others Makes an Honors Student a Truman Scholarship Finalist

Caitlyn Zon, an Honors student and Truman Scholarship Foundation finalist, stands outside the college's offices in the Lecture Center. (Photos by Patrick Dodson)


Caitlyn Zon began public service early in life. At 12 she started supporting her mother’s work on the Down Syndrome Parent Group of Western New York, with both mom and daughter motivated by the needs of Caitlyn’s brother, who has the syndrome.

Now, the honors junior majoring in Psychology has been selected a 2020 Truman Scholarship Foundation finalist for her extensive commitment to public service in both her academic and extracurricular lives here at UAlbany. The Buffalo native will take part in an in-person interview with a panel of judges in early April as part of the highly competitive merit-based award process.

Truman Scholarship winners, one chosen from each state, receive up to $30,000 for the first and final years of graduate study that lead to careers in public service. Finalists are chosen based on an extensive record of campus and community service, a commitment to a career in government or advocacy, communications skills and “a high probability of becoming a change agent.”

Zon has shown a clear desire to make a positive difference. Her academic focus has been on clinical child psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience. Her career preparedness goes beyond the classroom, where she researches mental health issues, including eating disorders, and interns with licensed clinical social workers.

At UAlbany, her volunteer efforts have included participation in Best Buddies and the Elevating Student Leaders Program, serving as a peer wellness ambassador with the Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program. With Best Buddies, she has championed increased inclusivity for individuals with developmental disabilities through events and other social activities. Both on and off-campus, she has advocated for mental health awareness and reform.

“Caitlyn’s academic prowess, combined with her high involvement on campus, has merited honors from the University for campus leadership and from the Office of the New York State Comptroller for academic achievement,” said Hui-Ching Chang, dean of the Honors College.

Zon said she "was surprised to be chosen as a finalist and am very excited to have such a great opportunity." The Truman award would boost her plans to attend graduate school for the PhD in child clinical psychology, with a focus on treating anxiety and developmental disabilities.

She looks forward to a career in that field but knows it will not be the end-all of her commitment to working on behalf of others. “I am sure, as soon as my career allows, I will become a member of a community-based group that serves the public,” she said.

This is the second year in a row that a UAlbany honors students has been named a Truman finalist, with last year’s honoree being Michael Allain of Public Administration. “We know either Caitlyn or another outstanding UAlbany student will become UAlbany's first-ever Truman Scholar in the future,” said Chang.