Meet UConn’s 2018 Truman Scholarship Nominees

Truman Scholarship nominees (l to r) Lucas Bladen, Akshayaa Chittibabu, Kathrine Grant, and Mary Szarkowicz.  (UConn Photo/various)

Meet UConn’s 2017-18 Truman Scholarship Nominees.

Lucas Bladen (CLAS ’19), of Mansfield, CT, is an Honors student pursuing a degree in political science and human rights. A lifelong resident of eastern Connecticut, he enjoys reading, debating, and trail running. Lucas has applied his guiding principles of grassroots community engagement and long-term vision to both his local activism and his study of national and international politics. He received a fall 2015 Bennett Research Assistantship and a spring 2016 SHARE Grant to examine the place of refugees within the Westphalian nation-state. He then conducted field research in Paris, France and Florence, Italy through a summer 2016 IDEA Grant; the project, entitled “Stigmatized: A Study of Refugee and Economic Migrant Integration in French Politics and Culture,” was presented at the spring 2017 meeting of the New England Political Science Association. His examination of national identity and global governance, coupled with a semester studying at the Sorbonne, led him to engage more critically with the politics of his own country. He has since interned for the Connecticut Democratic Party, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, and served as an organizing fellow for the re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, in addition to assisting his local Democratic Town Committee. As Secretary-General of UConn Model United Nations, he works to get high school students interested international relations and debate; this same love for political discourse motivated him to become a staff writer for the UConn Political Review.

Akshayaa K. Chittibabu (CLAS ’19), from Shrewsbury, MA, is a junior studying biological sciences and sociology at the University of Connecticut as a STEM Scholar. She was nominated for the Truman Scholarship.  She has worked on implementing better health education for rural women in South India as a Holster Scholar, assessed barriers in American healthcare as a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow, and studied Korean in Gwangju, South Korea through the U.S. Department of State. Currently, Akshayaa serves as the Vice Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and Senator for Multiculturalism and Diversity in UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government.  She is an editorial assistant at the peer-reviewed journal Social Science & Medicine and is conducting her thesis research with Prof. Audrey Chapman at UConn School of Medicine’s Department of Community Medicine and Healthcare. On campus, she leads Gita studies for undergraduate Hindus at the UConn Hindu Students Council, and volunteers as a community health educator through the Collegiate Health Service Corps. Her investment in global health has led her to chairing Connecticut’s first student-run global health conference, serving on medical development trips to Panama and Ecuador, and advocating for global malaria and polio programs as a UN Foundation Global Health Fellow. In the future, she aims to build and promote innovative health policies, and pursue a fulfilling career in public service as a physician.

Kathrine Grant (CLAS, EDUC ’19), from Groton, CT, is a double major in English and Secondary English Education with a minor in public policy. She was nominated for the Truman Scholarship.  She is the Political Director of UConn Future Educators (UFE) and the Vice President of the Teacher Education Student Association (TESA). She is also a member of the 2018 Leadership Legacy cohort and the Honors Program. Kathrine has worked on several research projects during her undergraduate career, receiving funding for a Holster First Year Project, a Summer Undergraduate Research Project (SURF), and a group IDEA Grant. Each of these projects has allowed her to pursue her passions in education: she’s studied public perceptions of school choice options and quality and is currently working to create a peer-to-peer tutoring and translation program for Emergent Bilingual high school students. Additionally, she has participated in alternative breaks to Washington, D.C.; Birmingham, Alabama; and Detroit, Michigan. In the future, Kathrine plans to teach Secondary English in a public, high-needs district and to become involved with national educational politics and administration after pursuing dual degree program for a law degree and a doctoral degree in Educational Theory and Policy.

Mary Szarkowicz (CLAS, BUSN ’19), from Watertown, CT, is an Honors student pursuing dual degrees in political science and accounting. An avid Crossfitter, she has interned in the office of Senator Richard Blumenthal and in the Department of Justice. A Student Administrative Assistant at the Office of the Registrar, Mary is also involved in UConn Model UN as the 2018 Conference Director and as a member of the 2018 Leadership Legacy cohort. In summer 2016, she was awarded a Holster Scholar grant to pursue research on the impact of professionalism of the state legislature on the lobbyist-legislator relationship. As a recipient of a 2017 IDEA Grant, she is using her funds to pursue a project on the legal framework of female genital mutilation in the United States. She also received an Alan R. Bennett Research Assistantship in fall 2015.  Mary was nominated for the Truman Scholarship.

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