Jake Reagan grew up in Boulder, the oldest of four siblings in a family of volunteers focused on service to others.
His father, who works in cybersecurity, volunteers for a local hospice. His mother, a campus nutritionist, has helped students and others work through eating disorders. When Reagan worked as a junior ranger in middle school and high school to help repair flood-damaged trails in and around Boulder—it came as no surprise to his family.
This week, in recognition of his affinity for public service, he became the second CU Boulder student in two years to earn the Truman Scholar moniker.
One of the most prestigious scholarships in the country, the Truman provides recipients with a $30,000 award toward graduate school and opportunities to participate in public service leadership professional development.
“Public service is what I want to dedicate my life to—so the Truman Scholarship is a perfect fit,” Reagan said.
The Colorado native visited other colleges before choosing his hometown university. Now a junior majoring in political science and Spanish with a minor in philosophy, Reagan said CU Boulder offers “good academics, a beautiful campus and a lot of growth opportunities”—everything he needs to succeed. After graduation, he’ll pursue a master’s degree in public policy.
While running for student body president, he advocated against gun violence. In November, he traveled to San José, Costa Rica, to attend a summit hosted by former Costa Rica President Óscar Arias and human rights activist Jody Williams, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
On April 7, Reagan was in Florida at a gun violence prevention summit sponsored by the PeaceJam Foundation when he received a call from CU Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano, who congratulated him on his Truman Scholarship award.
With back-to-back Truman Scholars—both Colorado students—DiStefano said the CU Boulder community and the state as a whole have a lot to be proud of. Last year, Colorado Springs native Serene Singh was awarded a Truman Scholarship and later became a Rhodes Scholar.
“We commend Jake for his leadership in public service,” DiStefano said. “He exemplifies what it means to lead, innovate and positively impact humanity.”
When he isn’t attending classes, studying or planning his honors thesis, Reagan serves as one of CU’s three student body presidents, an experience that has taught him how to listen, collaborate and compromise. He honed these skills while interning in the Colorado House of Representatives and for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet through the CU in D.C. program.
Reagan also plays jazz piano, and said musicianship has given him keen insights into human interaction and communication.
“Jazz is a conversation between musicians. If people stop listening to each other, the whole thing falls apart. There’s dissonance and discord,” he said. “It’s the same thing in politics.”
This summer, Reagan will expand his public service repertoire as a Teach for America Accelerate Fellow in Chicago and rural Texas, where he’ll put the Spanish he learned while living in Spain and Costa Rica to good use. Learning to communicate in a second language and serving as an interpreter at the Emergency Family Assistance Association have opened doors for him.
“When you are talking with people who speak another language, you are on their turf, and they respond differently (to what you have to say),” he said.
Reagan is a “boundary spanner and a broker of good will,” said Dean of Students Sandy Jones, and these qualities will make him “a great Truman Scholar.”
Reagan submitted a policy proposal for his Truman application focusing on the incorporation of active listening skills in K-12 civics education across Colorado.
“With so much political polarization, democracy depends on bridging divides and teaching people to hear one another,” he said.
“How do we find common ground? How do we move forward? That has been the centerpiece of my time in student government, and I think we’ve been successful in doing that.”