UNLV junior Zachary Billot has been awarded the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship for 2023, the foundation announced this week.
Billot, a political science major and a member of the Honors College, is one of just 62 students nationwide to win the highly coveted award. As Nevada’s only recipient for 2023, the Truman Foundation selected him from an impressive pool of 705 candidates nominated by 275 colleges and universities across the country. Billot is the eighth student in UNLV’s history to win the award.
Recognized for their outstanding academic performance and leadership potential in public service, Truman Scholars receive $30,000 for graduate study at an institution of their choice and gain access to exclusive professional development opportunities.
“Given Zach's deep involvement in student government, policy research, legislative engagement, environmental commitment, community service – and with an outstanding academic record – he may be the strongest Truman candidate we have ever nominated,” said Andrew Hanson, dean of the UNLV Honors College and UNLV’s appointed advisor on nationally competitive awards.
With a minor in Brookings public policy, Billot has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA while being engaged in a mindboggling number of organizations and initiatives on and off campus.
Billot’s passion for environmental policy and international relations has been the driving force behind his work spearheading a university-wide climate action plan, as well as his research and contributions to the Data Hub at Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute.
In 2022, the U.S. State Department selected Billot for the U.S.-Africa Green Leaders Fellowship, which has allowed him to work with students in Namibia to execute environmental policies. He also currently serves as a policy analyst for the Institute for Youth in Policy, as a member of the Clark County Juvenile Justice Services Citizen Advisory Committee, and as part of several advisory councils advocating for at-risk youth.
On campus, Billot has played a number of leadership roles in student organizations, including serving as a CSUN senator representing the College of Liberal Arts, vice president of the Model United Nations, and vice president for the Honors Student Council in the Honors College. A regular volunteer with Get Outdoors Nevada, Billot loves to connect with nature through hiking and helping others appreciate our natural environmental.
And somehow, amidst all of his other activities, Billot maintains his artistic side as a violinist in UNLV’s Symphony Orchestra.
Last Monday – after days of patiently waiting to hear back from the Truman Foundation following his interview in March – Zach was suprised by an unexpected interruption during rehearsal with the symphony orchestra.
“Seeing President Whitfield and Dean Hanson enter orchestra to share the Truman news was an unforgettable experience,” Billot said, reflecting on how nervous he had been all week awaiting the results. “Frankly, I didn’t know how to respond. I was stunned that I, Zach Billot, could be a Truman Scholar.”
Billot is a 4th generation Las Vegan whose family has been in the construction business in Las Vegas since his great, great grandfather moved to Southern Nevada to work on the construction of Hoover Dam. He will be the first person in his family to graduate with a college degree.
“Truman is the manifestation of a lifelong pursuit to become the best me and lead the most fulfilling educational journey I can,” said Billot. “Winning the award comes after a long road of rejections and losses, but it’s a testament to the need for perseverance when it comes to competitive awards and professional recognitions. It could not have happened without the help of many, many people who have supported me.”
With the Truman Scholarship in hand, Billot plans to pursue a Ph.D. in international relations with a concentration on Africa and environmental policy. He hopes to use his experiences as a catalyst for a career in research and management of climate-related developmental aid projects for the U.S. government.
“Zach's selection by the Truman Foundation – now the fourth UNLV recipient in the past eight years – reflects UNLV's growing prominence as a major research university that provides world-class opportunities for Nevada students,” said Hanson. “He proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune at an out-of-state institution in order to achieve national success.”
About the Harry S. Truman Scholarship
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation's living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. The Truman award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States. The 62 Truman Scholars for 2023 will receive their awards in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in late May.