Heart for helping guides Truman nominee on collegiate journey

Roxanne Bunnell, senior in economics, stands next to the Waters Hall sign, which is where the department of economics is housed. Bunnell is a Truman Scholarship nominee. (George Walker | The Collegian)

While most students begin their K-State career around the age of 18, there are many that take an alternate route. For Roxanne Bunnell, senior in economics, the traditional route fell to the wayside after getting married at 19 years old. Years later, however, she decided to get her degree and do what seemed impossible; apply for the Truman Scholarship.

Each year, K-State nominates a select few students deemed outstanding by their professors and peers with an interest in public service for the Truman Scholarship. K-State is allowed to nominate up to four students to compete against over 600 students from around the U.S.

Bunnell found herself at K-State after her husband relocated with the U.S. Army. While they had the option to be stationed in a variety of places around the world, Bunnell said she had decided to get her degree and K-State was the best option on the list.

Once she started pursuing her degree in economics and Latin American studies, things like the Truman scholarship never really crossed her mind. That is, until she was taking an online class while working in Iraq from Justin Kastner, associate professor in food safety and security, and he suggested she consider applying for the prestigious award.

“I also didn’t know that I wasn’t too old for scholarships,” Bunnell said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have known about it if a professor here hadn’t seen in me what I just thought was normal.”

Her strong work ethic prompted Kastner to encourage her to apply. This is a trait that Orlen Grunewald, instructor in agricultural economics, also sees in her.

“She works very hard to get her grades, they don’t just come natural,” Grunewald said. “I think over time she will just continue to get better and better academically.”

Donald Wright, sophomore in business administration, met Bunnell when she volunteered to help him and a friend with calculus problem in the library. According to him, there is no better candidate for the Truman Scholarship than Bunnell.

“As a person, she is absolutely amazing,” Wright said. “Anything I ever needed anything, she is more than willing to help me. She’s very dedicated. I don’t think I know anyone more dedicated than her.”

From running charity marathons to collecting school supplies for poor schools in Latin America, Bunnell said her greatest passion in life is helping people.

“I think I approach the world like that,” Bunnell said. “I want to be helpful so I ask myself what I can do. I like to be supportive of people.”

Her desire to help is summed up in her policy proposal for the scholarship, which is centered around women’s access to education in Latin American countries. Bunnell said it was important to her to spread light on an under-viewed issue.

“I wanted to focus on something that relates to economics in Latin America,” Bunnell said. “So many women (in Latin America) suffer from a lack of education or a lack of access, there are homes where they are so poor if they can afford to send one child to school, they send the boy. There’s so much information out there about how impactful it is to educate a woman, like how it helps the (gross domestic product) and the health of the family.”

After traveling to Guatemala over the past winter break, Bunnell was able to have an up-close view with her project, speaking with women in the country about how their lack of access to education has affected their lives. For Bunnell, that further fueled her passion to help the women in this situation.

“She does so much to help others,” Grunewald said. “Her focus is on improving life for other people. As a scholar, she is multi-faceted. Very few students can look at an issue from a 360-degree angle. Roxanne has that ability due to her experiences.”

Her experiences are a large part of what made Bunnell who she is. After working for many years in sales and business, she chose to go back to school to apply her talents to something she was passionate about.

“If I would have had a degree I could have applied that to something more meaningful and I wish somebody would have told 19-year-old me that,” Bunnell said. “I think that’s why it’s so important to me while I’m here that everyone who will talk to me, I try to talk to about that.”