Mitchell’s Caleb Swanson, Woonsocket’s Carter Linke named Harry S. Truman Scholarship finalists at USD

Scholarship focuses on leadership qualities, dedication to public service

Caleb Swanson, of Mitchell, is one of four students at the University of South Dakota to be named a finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.
Submitted Photo

VERMILLION, S.D. — Two area University of South Dakota students were among four students at the school recently named as finalists for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the university announced Monday.

The two students, Caleb Swanson of Mitchell and Carter Linke of Woonsocket were joined by Caleb Weiland of Beresford and Nicholas Kennedy of Lawrence, Kansas as finalists at the Vermillion-based school. The four students were selected for their leadership qualities and dedication to public service.

The scholarship is merit-based and offered to students who wish to attend graduate school in preparation for a career in government, the non-profit sector or elsewhere in public service.

It is also rare to have four such finalists at the same school, as USD is one of only three universities in the county with four finalists for the scholarship and the only school in South Dakota with any finalists.

“It’s pretty rare for a school to have all of its Truman Scholarship applicants named as finalists,” said Melissa Berninger, coordinator of Nationally Competitive Scholarships at the University of South Dakota. “Not only is this a recognition of the amazing work these students have done in their three years at USD, but also of the opportunities USD provides for students in setting them up for success.”


Swanson, Weiland, Kennedy and Linke are among only 199 students from over 700 applicants chosen as finalists.

A junior double majoring in sustainability and political science, Swanson is involved in several organizations at USD that have helped prepare him for future opportunities. He is an honors student, an athlete on the men’s swim team and the president of USD’s environmental club. He is also involved with the Student Government Association.

Swanson was also recently named as two of the recipients of the 2022 Undergraduate Research Award. The award recognizes 12 students at the school who perform research on various topics, and earns him a small grant and recognition for the efforts in the form of featuring him in a calendar.

“I am honored and humbled that the Truman Scholarship Finalists Selection Committee found that I possess the qualities of leadership, service and academic excellence worthy of a Truman Scholar,” Swanson said. “I would like to thank all of the USD faculty and my peers who have helped me with the Truman application so far. Their help has been invaluable, and I couldn’t have become a finalist without them.”

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Both focus studies on environmental issues, including Lake Mitchell and fish predation

After completing his undergraduate education, Swanson hopes to take a few gap years to work on environmental protection policy making efforts in Washington before going to graduate school. He then plans to get a joint degree with an M.S. in environment and resources and a J.D. with a focus on environmental law. His long term goal is to become an environmental attorney for the Department of Justice enforcing the nation’s environmental legislation.

“Being selected as a Truman Scholar would help finance my graduate education while also opening the door to countless other opportunities and experiences, further ensuring my success and impact as a future environmental attorney,” Swanson said.

Like Swanson, Linke was honored at being a Truman Scholarship finalist.

“I was humbled to be selected as a Truman Scholarship finalist,” Linke said. “The Truman Foundation is looking for students who can be real change assets, and I'm grateful they see that in me. As a student at USD and a resident of Vermillion, I've learned to love public service and advocacy. Their recognition reinforces that my love for public service is the right next step in my life after I graduate.”


Linke is a junior double majoring in political science and media and journalism. On campus, he is the student success manager and founder for the First-Generation Student Organization, director of recruitment of Pi Kappa Alpha, a presenter for Study Away 1010 and a student in the honors program.

“During my first weeks at USD, I immediately was introduced to leadership opportunities on campus and in the community. I was given great mentors, and their mentorship followed me in everything I did and encouraged me to get involved in everything I could,” Linke said. “The university has the state’s best mentors, and I can’t name them all. As a first-generation student, it has been invaluable to have such a great team pushing me to be the best version of myself at all times.”

Following graduation, Linke intends to pursue a master’s degree in strategic communication and enter a career in digital advocacy. He hopes to work with advocacy groups within the state to help shape political behaviors and attitudes in Pierre.

Carter Linke
Submitted Photo

“I can’t thank enough people for their support as a student at USD. As I applied for this scholarship, I was reminded of the support Vermillion has to offer,” Linke said. “Melissa Berninger helped each of USD’s finalists and scholars to get where they are today. Her mentorship was priceless, and her constant reassurance and encouragement is just one of many examples of how USD supports their students.”

Weiland is a junior studying political science and communication studies and currently serves as the Student Government Association president, president of the South Dakota Student Federation and director of recruitment for the Pi Kappa Alpha Federation. Weiland plans on pursuing a joint master’s degree in public policy and a J.D.

Kennedy is a junior double majoring in Native American studies and history, and while on campus has been involved in Tiospaye Student Council and started the Sungmanitu Oyate H’oka, a Native American drum group. He has also been involved in the Native American Cultural Center and was a member of the Wiyuskinyan Unpi Tipi, a living learning community on campus. He plans to earn a J.D. with a certificate in American Indian Law after completing his undergraduate degree.

Sheila K. Gestring, president of the University of South Dakota, praised the four students and their accomplishments.

“To have four students selected as Truman Scholarship finalists is a testament to the type of students you will find at USD. They are leaders on campus today, preparing to be the leaders of tomorrow,” said Gestring. “They are dedicated to serving their communities — from their hometown to their home away from home in Vermillion and across the nation. I am so proud of these students for being named finalists for the Truman Scholarship”

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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