Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, April 20, 2016

SD Mines’ Vaughn Vargas Awarded Truman Scholarship

Vaughn Vargas with his advisor Carter Kerk,  Ph.D., left, and Truman faculty representative Adam French, Ph.D.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (April 20, 2016) – Vaughn Vargas, a senior industrial engineering major at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, was named recipient of the prestigious Truman Scholarship today.

Established in 1975, the scholarship is awarded in a national competition to those who demonstrate outstanding potential for public service. This year just 54 students nationwide were named as Truman scholars, each receiving a $30,000 scholarship to continue their graduate education. Truman scholars also participate in leadership development programs and an institute in Washington, D.C., during the summer following their graduation from college to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.

“Vaughn is an exceptional young leader,” said Heather Wilson, president of the School of Mines. “The best students at Mines can compete for honors like this with the best students anywhere. We will continue to encourage students like Vaughn to reach beyond their grasp.”

While Vargas is the first South Dakota Mines student to receive the Truman Scholarship, he is among an expanding list of Mines students honored with the nation’s top awards for college students in the past few years, including the Udall, Goldwater, Fulbright and Mitchell scholarships.

“You climb to reach the top of the mountain only to find that it gets bigger. The top will always get higher for any motivated person. At times like this you celebrate how far you’ve come and salute the mountain,” Vargas said at a surprise award announcement on campus in his honor. “The Truman Foundation takes promising, young leaders and helps them transcend into something greater than they can imagine. I am so honored by this award and can’t wait to see where it goes from here.”

Vargas intends to apply to Harvard University to pursue both a master’s degree in urban and regional planning and a juris doctorate. He intends to pursue a business law concentration to understand the workings of tax administration authority and federal tax procedures, ultimately providing legal assistance to community organizations and small businesses on issues including community economic development, real estate purchase, business formation, and contract negotiation through the Harvard Transactional Law Clinic.

The Udall, which Vargas was awarded in 2014, recognizes students committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American healthcare. In 2015 Vargas received the Hawkinson Foundation Scholarship for his efforts to reduce poverty in Native American communities and enhance relationships between Native and non-Native community members, and in December he was named among the “40 Under 40” by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.

Last summer, Vargas was hired by Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris as the Cultural Advisory Coordinator to help bridge the communication gap between the Native American community and the police department.

Vargas is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and has shared his motivational story with many community groups, in addition to leading student initiatives at South Dakota Mines.

Candidates for the Truman Scholarship go through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process. In 2016, there were 775 candidates for the award nominated by 305 colleges and universities, a record number of applications and institutions. The 200 finalists for the award were interviewed in March and early April at one of sixteen regional selection panels. 


About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on Facebook and Twitter.


Contact: Fran LeFort, (605) 394-6082, Fran.LeFort@sdsmt.edu