Meet UConn’s 2023 Truman Scholarship Nominees

Photos of UConn's 2023 Truman Scholarship Nominees

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is awarded for graduate study towards careers in public service to approximately 60 students nationally based on their academic achievement, leadership, and public service records. The Truman Scholarship identifies young people at an important inflection point in their development – when they are college juniors – and recognizes and rewards their commitment to devote themselves to public service.  Click here to learn more about the scholarship and about UConn’s campus nomination process.


Meet UConn’s 2023 Truman Scholarship Nominees


Defne Alpdogan (CLAS ’24) is a junior studying molecular & cell biology, urban & community studies, and Spanish. An intern at Desegregate CT and the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), she invests her time in environmental justice and affordable housing practices. Defne dedicates her time to legislative action, specifically looking at the way minority communities are impacted by affordable housing policies. She also has deep interest in the long-lasting impact of redlining on housing and educational attainment in urban centers, specifically Philadelphia. On campus, Defne is a part of Empowering Women in Law, Nutmeg Publishing, Spoon University, and Ecoposium. In her spare time, Defne is an avid runner and cycler. She also enjoys listening to EDM + Latin music, cooking with her friends, analyzing movies, and reading. After graduation, Defne intends to pursue a J.D. with the intention of practicing criminal law.


Thomas Bonitz (CLAS ’24), a junior from Cheshire, CT, is an Honors student majoring in geographic information science (GIS) and economics. He is a member of the Environmental Justice Front and Fossil Fuel Free UConn, both of which encourage UConn to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2040. He also advocates for climate action through the St. Peter’s Cheshire Ecojustice Council. Thomas engages in service as a Team Leader of Honors Across State Borders and as a member of English Language Learners and Kids & UConn Bridging Education. He also plays viola in the UConn Symphony Orchestra. As a SHARE Award recipient, he worked with a team headed by Dr. Xiang (Peter) Chen to research food insecurity in Greater Hartford. He is now working with Dr. Carol Atkinson-Palombo to research the impact of commercial-scale solar installations on property prices. He has worked as a Sustainable CT Fellow, Sustainability Intern for Mansfield, CT, and co-creator of a sustainability camp curriculum for Manchester, CT. Thomas plans to pursue a Master’s in GIS and a Ph.D. in Geography, setting him up for a career as a professor, through which he hopes to use his research to inform climate policy decisions and support climate activism.


Liam Enea (CAHNR ’24), from Brookfield, CT, is a junior majoring in applied and resource economics. He is the founder of the Clean Energy Society, a student organization dedicated to making New England’s electricity more affordable, clean, and resilient to blackouts. As president, Liam launched a legislative effort to establish a natural gas capacity market in Connecticut based on an op-ed he wrote in the Hartford Courant. In 2022, he helped organize a contest to design the decal on UConn’s only fuel cell, which spread awareness of clean energy technology among students. He is also an undergraduate researcher at Eversource Energy Center, working on the intersection of solar, batteries, and grid resilience during storms. In civic life, Liam serves on his town’s Energy Advisory Board and Youth Commission, a municipal board he established in 2018 that has given dozens of youth the opportunity to create and enact solutions to issues facing them. Professionally, Liam interns at ISO New England and worked for two clean energy non-profits. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a law degree focused on energy and utility regulation. He wants to ease energy costs while advancing the clean energy transition, improving the lives of all ratepayers.


Samantha Gove (CLAS ’24), from Granby, CT, is a junior double majoring in human rights and sociology with a minor in psychological sciences. She is a proud member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, works as the Student Coordinator of UConn’s Native American Cultural Programs, and is the President of UConn’s Native American and Indigenous Students Association. In these positions, she has worked to increase representation and resources for Native and Indigenous students as a mentor and an advocate. To do this, she founded a mentorship program for first-year Indigenous students, coordinates a mentorship program for local Native youth, and is spearheading a workshop series on minoritized languages. In addition, Samantha received a SHARE Award to support her research examining Native American victims of fatal police encounters. Through this work, she has become passionate about reducing anti-Indigenous violence in the United States through better representation in educational spaces and through justice system reform. After graduating, Samantha plans to attend law school in preparation for a career as a policy analyst. In recognition of her efforts, she has been named a 2022 Udall, Cohen, and BOLD Scholar and a Newman Civic Fellow.


To learn more about this and other nationally-competitive scholarship and fellowship opportunities, visit the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships and click “Talk to an Advisor.”


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