Meet UConn’s Truman Scholarship Nominees

Photos of Truman Scholarship Nominees
UConn’s 2024 Truman Scholarship Nominees: Dylan Steer ’25 (CLAS), Alan Cavagnaro ’25 (CLAS), Yana Tartakovskiy ’25 (BUS), Kamara Nyahuma ’25 (CLAS), Krithika Santhanam ’25 (CLAS)


The University of Connecticut has nominated five students for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which is awarded to college juniors with exceptional leadership potential and commitment to a career in government, the nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education, or elsewhere in public service. It requires a nomination from UConn in order to enter the competition. Scholars are awarded up to $30,000 to pursue graduate studies, receive pre-professional/graduate advising from the Foundation and are invited to participate in internships and other programs.  Learn more about UConn’s nominees below.


Alan Cavagnaro ’25 (CLAS), from South Windsor, CT, is a junior double-majoring in political science and urban community studies while enrolled in UConn’s SPP Fast-track program. His passion for public service ignited when he decided to run for local office at age 19. As an elected Planning and Zoning Commissioner, he enjoys helping guide the direction of his community, navigating between complex issues of school population, housing affordability, and open space. As the Campaign Coordinator for DesegregateCT, a statewide pro-homes policy nonprofit, Alan invests his time into sustainable land use and affordable housing policy. He played an integral part in getting the Work Live Ride bill through committee in 2023. His work at DesegregateCT also includes leading the candidate and commissioner training program, which saw 79% of attendees win their respective elections. Previously, Alan interned for the Connecticut General Assembly and Housing Committee in 2022 and helped pass the Fair Rent Commission bill through his internship. He also served as Chair of Future Leaders in Politics CT and was able to hold debates and rallies to engage students. After graduation, Alan intends to pursue an MPA with a continued focus on public service to continue his mission of social justice through meaningful policy.


Kamara Nyhauma ’25 (CLAS) is a junior majoring in history with a double minor in English and human development & family sciences (HDFS). Kamara is an involved student on campus, particularly in student government, where she works as the Director of Academic Affairs. She is currently conducting research with Dr. Marketa Burnett on Black family interaction processes and the perseverance of young Black girls in STEM. She also serves as a Floor Mentor for UConn’s newest learning community for young Black women. Upon graduation, Kamara plans to attend law school, after which she intends to pursue a career as a federal defense attorney. Whether through the local, state, or even national service, Kamara is committed to a lifetime of policy advocacy. She is passionate about ensuring that everyone, particularly marginalized groups, is treated fairly and respectfully by the legal system. Kamara believes she has a part to play in creating laws and policies that foster justice for all people. She wants to become a fierce public servant, living up to the meaning of her last name Nyahuma – “a helper of others.”


Krithika Santhanam ’25 (CLAS) is an Honors student double majoring in molecular and cell biology as well as an Individualized major in “health policy and racial disparities.” She is passionate about increasing awareness on the influence of policy on health outcomes, specifically in underserved populations. Through various roles, Krithika shares her authentic experience, hoping to positively influence incoming and first-year students at the university. On campus, she is a tour guide, a Peer Research Ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Research, co-President of Pre-Medical Society, Vice President of the Learning Community Executive Council, a member of the 6th cohort of BOLD Scholars, and a 2024 Leadership Legacy Experience participant. At UConn Health, she conducts cell biology research and volunteers for UConn Health Leaders, a preventative screening program for the Social Determinants of Health project. In the future, she hopes to become a physician and policy advocate to continue her leadership and service efforts.


Dylan Steer ’25 (CLAS) is an Honors student from Stratford majoring environmental studies and political science. Dylan is active in the sustainability space at UConn, serving as Sustainability Intern in the Office of Sustainability since 2023, President of EcoHusky, and co-founder of Fossil Fuel Free UConn. One of five student members of President Radenka Maric’s Carbon Reduction Working Group, Dylan also held a fellowship with SustainableCT in the summer of 2023, during which he worked with municipalities within the Metropolitan Council of Governments, assisting with sustainability programming, certifications, and other initiatives. Born in Ankara, Turkey, Dylan co-founded the Turkish Student Alliance cultural club and served as vice-president. When he’s not busy saving the planet, Dylan enjoys playing board games, thrifting, and watching films.


Yana Tartakovskiy ’25 (BUS) is a junior studying healthcare management, with a minor in political science. A daughter of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Yana is dedicated to highlighting the values of the Jewish community on campus by having served on the executive student board of UConn Hillel, the center for Jewish life on campus. Yana is also heavily involved with a growing chapter of Jewish on Campus at UConn, where Yana advocates on behalf of Jewish students by working with Jewish organizations on campus and the administration to fight rising incidents of antisemitism. Yana hopes to earn a joint J.D. and M.P.H. degree by combining her interests in the legal field and healthcare. Yana discovered her passion for healthcare law when Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. She is currently researching the effects of this decision after having recently received a UConn IDEA Grant. Yana is also involved with UConn’s Mock Trial Society team, showcasing her dedication for critical thinking and public speaking in the form of arguing as a mock attorney.


Congratulations to all five of UConn’s 2024 Truman Scholarship nominees!

UConn Senior Named Pickering Fellow

Guerlina Philogene ’24 poses for a photo in the Business Building on Jan. 26, 2024. (Sydney Herdle/UConn Photo)


University of Connecticut student Guerlina Philogene ’24 (BUS, CLAS) has been named a fellow in the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Program, which is funded by the United States Department of State and administered by Howard University.

The Pickering Program prepares students for foreign service careers in the Department of State and welcomes the application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the State Department.

Philogene grew up in Stamford after immigrating from Haiti as a young girl. She originally attended Norwalk Community College before enrolling at UConn and is a European business, analytics and information management, and German studies major.


Continue reading on UConn Today . . . .

UConn Graduate Earns Prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship

Phi Kappa Phi Logo


Haley Brennan ’20 (CAHNR) has been awarded a fellowship worth $8,500 by Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Brennan is one of 62 recipients nationwide to receive a Phi Kappa Phi fellowship for the 2023-24 academic year.

Brennan received a dual bachelor’s degree from UConn in environmental health and then an individualized major in spirituality, culture, and health. She recently began a dual degree program at the University of Miami to pursue a doctor of medicine degree and also a master’s of public health.


Continue reading on UConn Today . . . .








Meet UConn’s 2022-23 UK Scholarship Nominees

UConn's 2022-23 UK Scholarship Nominees
2022-23 UK Scholarship Nominees Neal Krishna, Elisa Shaholli, Sarah Marze, and Elizabeth Carizzo


The Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships is pleased to introduce UConn’s 2022-23 nominees for the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, and Churchill Scholarships.  Congratulations to these outstanding young leaders.


Neal S. Krishna (CLAS ’23), from Boston, MA, is a senior studying English, physiology & neurobiology, and astrophysics. A Holster Scholar, Werth Innovator Fellow, and member of the 2021 Leadership Legacy cohort, Neal is fascinated by cross-disciplinary areas of study and the intersected spaces where one field transitions into another. Neal is the Editor-in-Chief of Nutmeg Publishing (c. 1914), the University of Connecticut’s student-run Tier-III organization that produces an award-winning annual yearbook and a themed magazine. In the classroom, Neal appreciates teaching and mentorship, and he has greatly enjoyed his time as a Teaching Assistant for courses in both physiology & neurobiology and education. Neal finds deep joy in studying human interaction and in treasuring the chance moments that influence our everyday lives. Neal is an advocate for empowering communication, meaningful reflection, and the importance of culture and background in shaping one’s perspectives. In his spare time, Neal enjoys bouldering, writing creative nonfiction, listening to indie music, and taking long walks in nature. Neal intends to pursue an MD after finishing his bachelor’s degree, to study and eventually practice humanistic medicine.  Neal was nominated for both the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships.


Elisa Shaholli (CLAS ’23), of Wolcott, CT, studies English and economics at the University of Connecticut under a national Stamps Scholarship. She is passionate about the social experience of disability and accessibility, combining both Economics and Humanities as a way to understand, serve, and work within disability and marginalized communities. She has worked in a range of different spaces targeting disability issues, from nonprofits like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, healthtech startups like InquisitHealth, public agencies through work at the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and through research under the UConn Holster Scholarship, IDEA Grant, and University Scholar program. Her work is featured in the international Disability Studies journal Disability Studies Quarterly and at the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL). A 3-time Critical Language Scholar (CLS) from the U.S Department of State, she’s always open and excited to talk about different cultures and languages.  Elisa was nominated for the Mitchell Scholarship.


Sarah Marze (SFA ’23), from Canton, CT, is an Honors student majoring in music composition and vocal performance. She plans to pursue a career that combines composition, conducting, performing and teaching – her first step being to pursue a Master’s degree in composition.  In 2019, Sarah was selected as a Holster Scholar, completing her original song cycle, “Songs of Salem, 1692,” about the Salem Witch Trials. She is the president and co-founder of a student organization, the UConn Composer-Ensemble Collaboration, which has produced three concerts of student compositions. She sings with the UConn Chamber Singers and is the assistant conductor of Festival Chorus. She is also a member of the Music Student Advisory Council and is employed as a Choral Scholar with Storrs Congregational Church on campus. This past summer, she received a UConn IDEA Grant for her project “Let Us Sing: Contemporary Art Songs for Young Singers,” which supported the composition of a book of six art songs on which she collaborated with the Connecticut Poetry Society. In addition to her IDEA Grant performance, other recent performance credits include singing with the UConn Orchestra for the Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert, as well as with UConn Opera in Menotti’s opera “The Telephone.” Her music can be found at www.sarahmarze.com. In her free time, she can be found either sitting at a piano or crocheting with her friends.  Sarah was nominated for the Marshall Scholarship.


Elizabeth Carrizzo (ENGR ’23), from Brookfield, CT, is a STEM Scholar studying biomedical engineering. She is planning on pursuing her master’s upon graduation, and then obtaining a position in the biomedical industry where she can also participate in research. She has worked in Dr. Yanlin Wang‘s lab since the summer of 2022 studying chronic kidney disease and its associated inflammatory pathways. Her project focused on the effect of chemotherapeutic drugs in the subsequent damage of the kidney. During the summer of 2021, Elizabeth worked at vaccine clinics where she traveled around Connecticut and handled the data of those being vaccinated. Outside of her research, Elizabeth is an Honors Guide for Peer Success and works at the UConn Recreation Center as an Administrative Assistant. She is also a member of Phi Sigma Pi, a national honor fraternity, and enjoys participating in HuskyTHON on campus. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, and exploring new places.  Elizabeth was nominated for the Churchill Scholarship.


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


UConn Student Receives 2019 Portz Interdisciplinary Fellowship

UConn’s 2019 nominee for the NCHC Portz Interdisciplinary Fellowship, Susan Naseri (CLAS ’20)


The National Collegiate Honors Council’s John and Edythe Portz Interdisciplinary Research Fellowship provides students in good standing in honors programs of NCHC member institutions support to conduct creative and innovative research that crosses boundaries. The fellowship program invites applications from individuals who wish to undertake cross-disciplinary research or from a team of two students from different disciplines who propose a single collaborative project. The project will be funded for a period of up to 18 months with the expectation that upon its completion the Fellowship recipient will make a presentation of the research at the annual NCHC conference.

Honors students in good standing from 2-year colleges or 4-year colleges and universities with current Institutional membership in NCHC may apply at any point in their undergraduate studies. In addition to two letters of recommendation from faculty members, an endorsement from the institutional representative named in the NCHC membership is required.  Only ONE PROPOSAL per year from each member institution is permitted.

UConn’s NCHC Portz Nominee is chosen each spring from the pool of University Scholars who are Honors students with a record of engagement with the honors community and service to the Honors Program.

On May 1, the National Collegiate Honors Council informed UConn’s 2019 nominee Susan Naseri (CLAS ’20) that her Portz Interdisciplinary Fellowship application was successful, making her UConn’s first Portz Fellow since 2016.

Hailing from Queens, NY, Susan is pursuing a double major in Political Science and Human Rights. In addition to being a student in the Special Program in Law and the Honors Program, Susan is President of the Middle Eastern Student Association, a member of the 2018 Leadership Legacy cohort, and a recipient of the Cohen Student Leadership Scholarship.  She was also a Finalist for the 2019 Truman Scholarship.  As a Bennett Research Assistant and recipient of the SHARE grant, she documented cases of violence against women and girls across the world for Dr. David Richards, and this research was then cited in his book, Exploring The Consequences Of The Normative Gap In Legal Protections Addressing Violence Against Women. Additionally, Susan served as the Research and Evaluation Intern at the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund in Spring 2018. As a Holster scholar, Susan conducted qualitative interviews with the administrative heads of four NGOs across CT, to determine if their policies and programs offered to Middle Eastern refugees were focused more on acculturation or assimilation. With a love for learning and travel, Susan was named a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar and Fund for Education Abroad Scholar which allowed her to study in France and travel through Europe during the Summer of 2018. In the Fall 2018 semester, she served as the Human Rights Intern at UConn Law’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, where she documented country conditions research to corroborate the claims of their clients who were seeking asylum in the United States. Building on this passion to help asylum seekers and refugees, Susan is conducting research through literature reviews and qualitative interviews regarding the lived experiences of Middle Eastern refugee youth in Chicago, San Diego, and Dallas. As a University Scholar, she will be continuing similar research with NGOs and refugees in Amman, Jordan. In addition to research, Susan works as a tutor at the Writing Center, as a Student Programming Assistant for the Honors Department and previously, as a Resident Assistant on campus. In the future, she aims to create her own non-governmental organization dedicated to providing legal aid and helping refugees integrate into society.


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

Akshayaa Chittibabu named UConn’s fifth Marshall Scholar

Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS) looks to use her Truman scholarship for graduate work in dual medical and public health programs. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)
Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS) plans to use her Marshall Scholarship for graduate work at Oxford University.  (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS), a biological sciences and sociology major, has been named a 2019 Marshall Scholar by The Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission. The competitive national award, given to just 48 individuals across the U.S., recognizes excellence in scholarship, leadership, and ambassadorial potential.

More  . . . 



UConn Junior Wins Prestigious Truman Scholarship

Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS) looks to use her Truman scholarship for graduate work in dual medical and public health programs. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)
Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS) looks to use her Truman scholarship for graduate work in dual medical and public health programs. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS), a biological sciences and sociology major, has been named a 2018 Truman Scholar by The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. The competitive national award, given to 59 students across the U.S., selects and supports the next generation of public service leaders.

Read more . . . .


2018 Holster Scholars Announced

The Holster Scholars First Year Project is a highly selective enrichment opportunity for curious first-year Honors students that supports a small number of motivated students interested in independent research the summer following their first year. Holster projects are in-depth, individualized learning experiences.  Beyond some basic requirements, projects are self-designed.  The Holster Scholars Program is made possible by a generous gift from Robert (’68) and Carlotta (’68) Holster.

Click here to meet the 2018 cohort of Holster Scholars . . . .

Meet UConn’s 2018 Goldwater Scholarship Nominees

Goldwater Scholarship nominees (l to r) Andrew Levin, Saurabh Kumar , and Sarah Ferrigno, with Goldwater Scholarship nominating committee chair Prof. Joanne Conover.  Nominee Daniel Zeigher not pictured.  Taken at the ONSF Celebration of Excellence breakfast, April 25, 2018. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)


Meet UConn’s 2018 nominees for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

Sarah Ferrigno (CLAS ’19) is an Honors student from Montgomery, NJ double majoring in psychology and molecular and cell biology. She was nominated for the Goldwater Scholarship.  After graduation, she intends to obtain a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in order to explore the neural mechanisms underlying mental illness and develop more effective treatment options. As a Holster scholar, Sarah spent the summer following her freshman year working under Dr. John Salamone investigating the role of the adenosine A2a receptor with regard to the motivational symptoms associated with major depressive disorder. Utilizing the novel drug Preladenant, an incredibly selective adenosine A2a receptor antagonist, she was successfully able to reverse an induced low-effort bias in a rodent behavioral model. Sarah’s work was presented at the 2017 Society for Neuroscience conference and is currently under review for publication. The summer following her sophomore year Sarah was one of twelve fellows selected from over 200 applicants to conduct research at the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, she worked under Dr. Michael Gold to understand the mechanisms behind chronic migraine by using fluorescent immunohistochemistry to analyze immune cell aggregation and neural innervation in human dura samples. Her recent work in the Salamone lab is focused on evaluating the mechanisms of effort bias mediated by the serotonin 1B receptor. Sarah was twice awarded the New England Scholar award for academic excellence, received Sophomore Honors, and was recently appointed as a University Scholar, UConn’s highest undergraduate honor. Outside of the lab and in her free time she is President of the UConn Psychology Club, is a big fan of music, and is currently learning guitar.

Saurabh Kumar (CLAS ’20) from North Andover, MA, is a STEM Scholar majoring in physiology & neurobiology and minoring in statistics. He is planning on pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. degree in Neurobiology to investigate effective therapies for his patients with central nervous system damage following injury and lesioning. His research career began the summer of 2015 in the Cao Lab at the University Of New England College Of Osteopathic Medicine where he investigated glial cell inflammatory responses to chronic morphine use in a rodent AIDS retrovirus infection model. This work was recently published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology. Currently, Saurabh is conducting research in the Conover Lab at UConn on the development of the brain’s lateral ventricles and the ventricular-subventricular zone (V-SVZ) stem cell niche. He is working to complete a spatiotemporal model of lateral ventricle and V-SVZ normal development that will allow future neural stem cell niche researchers to evaluate effectively, a given pathology against the normal phenotype. Saurabh received a 2018 SURF grant that he will use to study development of this stem cell niche in hydrocephalic patients and model quantitative hypotheses for mechanisms of ependymal cell differentiation along the brain’s ventricles based on prior cell counts. Outside of the laboratory, Saurabh is an online math tutor for K-12 students and an avid clarinetist serving as the Principal Clarinet player in both the UConn Symphonic Band and UConn Chamber Ensemble Club. He is also the Co-President of the KDSAP Club – an organization that provides free kidney health screenings to medically under-served populations.

Andrew Levin (ENG ’20) from Yorktown Heights, NY, is a STEM Scholar pursuing a B.S.E in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and minors in mathematics and physics. He plans to earn a Ph.D. after graduation in order to make an impact in the research and development of renewable energy technologies. His research journey began as a junior in high school as part of an intensive science research program. Through the program, he conducted two separate year-long research projects and was named an Intel STS Semifinalist. The research in those projects focused on designing solar tracking devices for photovoltaic application, which was a mechanical engineering approach for enhancing solar cell performance. At the beginning of fall freshman year, after seeing a guest lecturer speak of materials science research in photovoltaics at UConn, his interest was sparked. He began to work with Dr. Bryan Huey, where he learned a novel microscopy method unique to UConn, and how it could be applied to study the inner workings of solar cells. As a Holster scholar, he spent the summer after freshman year at UConn, where he applied his newfound microscopy experience to study a unique Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) solar cell sample. The results from the summer research shed important insights on charge transport throughout the microstructure of the CdTe. Andrew has since continued his study of CdTe cells as part of Dr. Huey’s lab group, where he performs experiments to determine the correlation between microstructure and solar cell efficiency. Outside of academics, Andrew enjoys hiking, climbing, and snowboarding.

Daniel Zeigher (ENG ‘19) from Trumbull, CT, is an Honors student pursuing a B.S.E. in Environmental Engineering. He is planning on earning a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering and pursuing a position conducting interdisciplinary research at a leading research institution.  Daniel currently works in the chemical engineering lab of Dr. Leslie Shor where he utilizes microfluidic devices for agricultural and biotechnological applications.  He has worked with microfluidic devices that emulate the microstructure of soil to investigate protists’ ability to transport nano-encapsulated agrochemicals directly to plant roots.  Daniel’s involvement began in the summer of 2017 with the investigation of the movement and feeding behaviors of the protist Colpoda steinii.  His undergraduate research will culminate in 2019 with the completion of his honors thesis that he personally proposed. For this thesis he is currently developing an assay that will evaluate the interactions between soil protists and the potentially detrimental nanomaterials they ingest.  Daniel has been recognized as a New England Scholar and received a UConn School of Engineering Scholarship Award. Outside of academics, he is involved in Alternative Break Trips through UConn’s Department of Community Outreach.  These service projects have been focused on topics including coastal conservation in Groton, Connecticut and rural poverty in Cosby, Tennessee.

2017 Holster Scholars Present Research

2017 Holster Scholars with Robert Holster (’68) on September 25, 2017. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

The 2017 class of Holster Scholars presented their summer research projects at the Holster Scholar Summer Research Project symposium on Monday, September 25, in the Dodd Center’s Konover Auditorium.  Eight sophomore Honors students presented  original  work on topics  ranging from refugee integration to cancer to plastics to aging.

Read Ellen Yang’s feature story on the event over on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences website.

The Holster Scholars First Year Project is a highly selective enrichment opportunity for curious first-year Honors students that supports a small number of motivated students interested in independent research the summer following their first year. Holster projects are in-depth, individualized learning experiences.  Beyond some basic requirements, projects are self-designed.  The Holster Scholars Program is made possible by a generous gift from Robert (’68) and Carlotta (’68) Holster.

The deadline to apply for the 2018 class of Holster Scholars is November 7, 2017 at 4:00pm.  For more information on the Holster Scholar Program, visit the website or contact Holster Scholars Program Coordinator Vin Moscardelli at vin.moscardelli@uconn.edu.