University of Connecticut junior Irene Soteriou ’23 (CLAS) has been named a Truman Scholar, marking the tenth time since 1986 that a UConn student has won the prestigious honor. Soteriou is a native of Middletown and is an honors double major in statistics and cognitive science.
Soteriou represents UConn in a highly select group of 58 new Truman Scholars from around the country. She was picked from 705 candidates nominated by 275 different schools.
Truman Scholars demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence. Each Truman Scholar receives funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.
Established by Congress in 1975 as a tribute to President Harry S. Truman and public service, the Truman Scholarship carries the legacy of the 33rd President by supporting and inspiring the next generation of public service leaders.
Soteriou plans on attending law school following her undergraduate education and is interested in a career in foreign policy.
“On behalf of the entire UConn community, I want to congratulate Irene on being named a Truman Scholar,” said Interim UConn President Radenka Maric. “Her accomplishment brings great pride to everyone who is a Husky. Irene’s unique academic program demonstrates her dedication to helping make the world a better place in the future. Irene is our fifth Truman Scholar in the past five years here at UConn, which is great testament to the outstanding work that is being done at UConn by our students, faculty, and staff every day.”
Recipients of the Truman Scholarship receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.
“Irene’s selection as a Truman Scholar is a testament to her ambition and her remarkable record as a scholar, leader, and public servant,” says UConn Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Carl Lejuez. “Her selection reinforces the reality that UConn is a place where students are encouraged to think big and leave a legacy, and where they will find a network of faculty, staff, administrators, and fellow students to support them as they chase their goals.”
UConn has developed a rich tradition of producing Truman Scholars and had two last year for the first time in school history – Sage Phillips ’22 (CLAS) and Sena Wazer ’22 (CLAS). Wawa Gatheru ’20 (CLAS) won the award in 2019 and later went on to become UConn’s first Rhodes Scholar. Another former Truman Scholar from UConn is David Ushery ’89 (CLAS), now a news anchor at WNBC-TV in New York City.
“Irene is a remarkable young leader,” says Vin Moscardelli, Director of UConn’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships. “In just three years, she’s left a legacy here at UConn that will endure long after she graduates. Perhaps the thing that impresses me the most about Irene is the scale of her vision. She understands the importance of doing the difficult, unglamorous work of servant leadership. But she also keeps her eyes on the horizon – imagining what is possible in everything she does.”
Soteriou credits UConn professor of sociology Bradley Wright with having been instrumental in her success.
“Working with Dr. Wright was illuminating in that it opened my eyes to the possibility of leading a life of intentionality and purpose without compromising on sustainability,” says Soteriou. “His mentorship motivated me to consider ways in which I could more creatively utilize resources uniquely accessible to me at UConn so as to leave a tangible impact in spaces that hold great meaning to my community, and he showed me that it was feasible to carve out a path towards a long-lasting career that I find deeply fulfilling.”
Soteriou believes that her unique combination of studies as an undergraduate will help her future career aspirations.
“I believe that there is still so much untapped potential for fields like cognitive science to revolutionize the ways in which we craft more carefully informed and targeted approaches to conflict prevention, crisis resolution, and survivor rehabilitation,” says Soteriou, who is a graduate of East Catholic High School in Manchester.
“My hope is that entering the foreign policy realm with the robust understanding of brain and behavior that I am gaining through my studies at UConn, along with the analytical tools that I am developing in my statistics classes, will enable me to lend certain unique strengths and perspectives to the table.”
Soteriou says that she was overjoyed, but taken entirely by surprise, when she received the news that she had been selected a winner, especially after the interview process.
“I had convinced my family that I had bombed the interview,” says Soteriou. “Some of my perspectives were controversial and I worried that they might not have sat well with the committee, but I think that ultimately they may have appreciated that I was honest with them about the things I believe and the positions I hold.
“I was shocked when I got the good news. Besides my parents, two of the first people I wanted to tell told was were my grandfather Kostas and my grandmother Irene, both of whom live in Cyprus. My grandfather had compiled a list of advice and words of encouragement to give me before the interview, and my grandmother had been praying for me throughout the weeks preceding, so I wanted to call them each up as soon as I had heard. I still haven’t processed it fully. It’s simply a continuous reminder of why I do what I do and who I strive to do it for.”
Soteriou is excited about the network that a Truman Scholarship winner is exposed to, and for the opportunity to meet people from around the country with different backgrounds and perspectives. She noted that former United States presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was on her interview panel.
At UConn, Soteriou is also the Speaker of the Senate in the Undergraduate Student Government, the founding president of the UConn Human Rights Symposium, and a leader in advocacy efforts for the establishment of a Middle Eastern Cultural Center.