College junior named Truman Scholar

Harvard Gate.

Laila Nasher ’25 joins nearly 400 Harvard students who have won the Truman Scholarship.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

Laila Nasher ’25, a history and social anthropology concentrator with a secondary in ethnicity, migration, and rights, was named as a 2024 Truman Scholar. Nasher joins a cohort of 60 new Truman Scholars who were selected from 709 candidates from 285 institutions.

“Resourceful, patriotic leaders, today’s Truman Scholars would make President Truman proud,” said Terry Babcock-Lumish, the Truman Foundation’s executive secretary and a 1996 Truman Scholar. “Rising to meet their moments in this century as he did his in the 20th century, they are dedicated public servants who do not shy from challenge.”

An immigrant from Aden, Yemen, who was raised by a single mother in Detroit, Nasher was surprised to win the prestigious award. “To be one of the first Yemenis to ever win, or the first Yemeni to win, is just astonishing,” she said. Nasher noted that many Yemeni girls and women are not taught to pursue education and instead encouraged to adhere to more traditional marital futures.

The 21-year-old, who is also pursuing a master’s in modern Middle Eastern studies, has dedicated much of her life to understanding the inequities in education and to championing for disparate communities like the one she grew up in. At Harvard, Nasher founded the First Generation Student Task Group, which aims to institutionalize resources for first generation, low income (FGLI) students. She is also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow.

As an advocate for Yemeni girls and women, Nasher runs bazaars for Yemeni migrant women in Detroit. She is currently working to establish a scholarship to encourage Yemeni-American girls like herself pursue higher education. Nasher shared that she initially did not have the support of her family when she decided to come to Harvard and does not want other Yemeni-American girls to face the same hurdles.

Nasher plans to pursue a J.D./Ed.M. in a bid to protect access to an equitable K-12 education through legal and public office in Detroit. “The long-term goal is to be a professor, but I don’t want to silo my work simply into academia,” she said. “I want to go in directly within these communities and launch new programming for immigrants in inner cities.”

Congress established the Truman Scholarship in 1975 as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman and a presidential monument to public service. The Truman Foundation aims to support Americans from diverse backgrounds to serve as public service leaders. More than 3,400 students have been named Truman Scholars since the first awards were presented in 1977. Nearly 400 Harvard students have won the Truman Scholarship since 1978.