Donald A. Strauss Public Service Award


The creation of the Foundation’s Public Service Award pays tribute to the vision, ideals, and leadership of Donald A. Strauss, and to his life-long commitment to public service and education. The Foundation promotes the value of public service in the education and preparation of our future leaders. In financing innovative student-generated projects which foster leadership skills, we encourage optimism and an enduring interest in public service.

A central part of the application package is an original proposal for a community or public service project to be carried out between the end of the sophomore or junior year and the spring of the following year; these proposals are a major focus of the selection process.

While the idea and implementation of the Strauss Public Service Project must originate with the student, partnership is allowed with organizations serving the public interest. These include national, international, regional, or local health organizations; environmental organizations; and non-profit organizations whose primary purpose is to help disadvantaged persons to access education and health care services, or to develop viable businesses.


Fields of Study

The Strauss Foundation places no limitations on the applicant’s field of study or major.

Fields of study which can lead to public service and a Strauss project include (but are not limited to) the sciences, both biological and physical, engineering, agriculture, environmental management, economics, political science, and the other social sciences, English, history, and the other liberal arts and humanities, fine arts, public health, public administration, business, government, and education.



Donald A. Strauss Scholarship applicants must be full-time enrolled undergraduate sophomores or juniors who have:

  • Demonstrated interest in public service.
  • Outstanding leadership potential.
  • Developed effective communication skills that can be demonstrated
  • The desire to “make a difference” in local, regional, national, or international communities.
  • One or two years of full-time undergraduate study remaining until graduation.
  • A GPA in the upper 1/3 of his or her class.
  • Submitted an innovative, original, public service project proposal, to be completed between May of the current year and April of next academic year.

There are no citizenship restrictions.


Scholarship Benefits

The Strauss Foundation will award no fewer than ten and no more than fifteen $15,000 awards each year; these will be used to pay expenses of the public service project and for some tuition, fees, books, room and board.

  • A minimum of $8,000 of this award should be used as a project grant to fund the student’s service project expenses.
  • Up to $7,000 of this award can be used as a scholarship to be applied to the student’s educational support.
  • The entire award of $15,000 may be used towards the project.


Recent Recipients & Alternates

Recent UCI recipients have had a demonstrated record of public and community service on and off campus, including one or more leadership roles, as well as a strong and feasible project proposal. Their projects represent a diverse array of academic and community service interests and have had a positive impact on various groups, from youth to seniors. Their projects have been conducted locally, in other parts of the state of California, and even internationally. Recipients present the results of their projects to the Donald A. Strauss Foundation Board in the Spring of the following year.

  • In 2023, Joshua Nguyen (Public Health) received the Strauss and Killam Scholarship.
  • In 2021-22, Jira (Hugh) Trinetkamol received the Strauss Scholarship.
  • In 2021, Steven Gong (Economics, Biological Sciences, and Political Science) received the Strauss Scholarship.
  • In 2020, Karishma Muthukumar (Biological Sciences and Cognitive Sciences) received the Strauss Scholarship.
  • In 2019, Woojin (Janet) Song received the Strauss Scholarship for “Promoting Digital Equity in Oakland: Wash and Learn and Youth Participatory Action Research.”
  • In 2018, Anne-Marie Leiby was named an Alternate (waitlisted for funding) for “Limitless Leaps, a Program Cultivating Community and Empowerment Through Dance.”
  • In 2017, Bhavesh Patel received the Strauss Scholarship for “Towards a Healthy Future: A Youth-Based Community-Wide Tobacco Intervention in Rural India.”
  • In 2015, Anna Tran received the Strauss Scholarship for “Pay It Forward: Enhancing the Quality of Life of Seniors While Bringing Generations Together.”
  • In 2014, Christine Pham received the Strauss Scholarship for “My Healthy Start: An After-School Program for Elementary Students.”



As we typically have more applicants than nomination slots, achieving campus endorsement (nomination) for this award is extremely competitive. Applicants apply through their universities. Each participating institution will select up to 3 finalist applications for submission to the Foundation. Applications will not be accepted directly from candidates.

With regard to selection criteria, the Strauss Foundation emphasizes that the public service project proposal should be:

  • Clearly focused on social change, public service, and/or social entrepreneurship.
    • Projects must engage other students or local participants in public service, to generate a “multiplier effect.”
    • It is not the intention of the Foundation to fund internship requirements, research, or the creation of a publication.
  • Original, innovative, and timely.
    • Include an idea, angle, or approach that has not been pursued widely and/or that addresses important current issues.
    • If the project is an expansion of an existing program, there should be a clear demonstration of new features or major additional outreach or impact.
  • Sustainable over time.
    • The project should be sustained throughout the school year, not just one week or one summer.
    • Applicants must include plans for recruiting and training future project leadership and provide a timeline for implementation.
  • Connected to the applicant’s passion(s) and life experience(s).
    • It should be clear to reviewers that you are the right person to lead this project and ensure its success.

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