Nine UC Irvine undergraduates have earned prestigious national scholarships during this academic year. These exceptional students represent a variety of academic and public-service interests: from advocating for affordable housing to developing the next generation of medical imaging technology.
This year's awards include two Fulbright Fellowships, two Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a Merage American Dream Fellowship, a Donald A. Strauss Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. A USA Today All-USA College Academic First Team winner from UCI previously was announced.
"We congratulate these exemplary students and are excited by their bright futures," said Sharon Salinger, dean of UCI's Division of Undergraduate Education. "The wide range of interests represented by these scholarship winners highlights the diverse intellectual environment UCI offers its undergraduates."
Harry S. Truman Scholarship: Mukul Kumar
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is considered the nation's most prestigious award for college juniors who have demonstrated exceptional leadership potential and are committed to careers in public service. This year, 75 students from 63 colleges received the award. The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to President Harry S. Truman.
Mukul Kumar, a junior history major, is one of just two California students to receive the Truman scholarship this year. Kumar is dedicated to expanding affordable housing. To help combat obstacles low-income families face in obtaining housing, Kumar has interned with the Fair Housing Council of Orange County, where he helped resolve landlord-tenant disputes as a licensed mediator. As an student, Mukul conducted research on Santa Ana's housing laws and wrote a paper that earned him the Chancellor's Award for Undergraduate Research. He is currently in Delhi taking graduate level coursework on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship. A junior fellow of the American Academy of Political Science, Kumar is researching how slum communities in India interact with political parties and the state. Kumar is the sixth Truman scholarship recipient from UCI, the most recent being won in 2004. Kumar is a resident of Irvine.
U.S. Fulbright Scholarship: Marika Csapo and Vanessa Zuabi
The U.S. Fulbright Scholarship was established by Congress in 1946 to foster mutual understanding among nations and is the premier U.S. government scholarship program allowing graduate students and professors to study abroad. Since its inception, more than 250,000 individuals around the world, chosen for their leadership potential, have participated in the program.
* Marika Csapo, a senior double majoring in dance and political science, will use her Fulbright scholarship to study political science in Uruguay, examining how housing policies effect Uruguay's urban poor. She will work alongside international experts at the Research Program on Integration, Poverty and Social Exclusion at the Universidad Cat├│lica del Uruguay.
* Vanessa Zuabi, a senior double majoring in international studies and political science, will study comparative politics in France. Zuabi will research the French colonial influence on legal and civil society of Lebanon and have access to the Center of Overseas Archives, Europe's largest archive on the continent's colonial history. She plans to work with Michel Camau, professor of political science at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques d'Aix en Provence and director of a research center on Arab and Muslim issues. Zuabi is from Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Merage American Dream Fellowship: Vilma Palma
The Merage American Dream Fellowship was established in 2004 and is dedicated to promoting expanded education and career opportunities for immigrants. Students are chosen for their strong desire and real capacity to achieve leadership roles in business, science, education, public service, culture and the arts. Recipients receive $20,000 to pursue their vision.
Vilma Palma, a senior in criminology, law and society, is the third UCI student to win a Merage American Dream Fellowship. Born in El Savador, Palma is the first in her family to attend college and as a student has consistently lent her hand to others. She mentors through the School of Social Ecology's mentoring program and has served as a residential assistant for COSMOS, a summer math and science program for California high school students. She also interns at the Orange County Public Defender's Office, helping prepare individuals for trial. After graduating, she plans to attend law school and specialize in immigration service before returning to the Coachella Valley, where she grew up, to provide resources for immigrants. Palma is from Thermal, Calif.
Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship: Youssef Farhat and Jenny Ouyang
The Barry M. Goldwater scholarship program was established by Congress in 1986 to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Nationwide, 323 students were selected for the award this year. In all, 25 UCI students have won Goldwater scholarships since the program's inception.
* Youssef Farhat, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, plans to pursue a doctorate in biophotonics and to develop medical imaging technology that can help accurately diagnose elusive diseases such as cancer. Yousseff currently conducts research under the direction of Bernard Choi, a fellow at UCI's Beckman Laser Institute. Farhat lives in Orange, Calif.
* Jenny Ouyang, a junior double majoring in biological science and French, plans to pursue a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology and animal behavior and conservation ecology. She hopes to specialize in ornithology, the study of┬ birds. Ouyang is from Atascadero, Calif.
Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship: Kenneth Loo
The Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation was established in 1997 as a memorial to the late Don Strauss of Newport Beach and now annually awards at least 14 California juniors $10,000 scholarships to fund public-service projects the students perform during their senior year. Recipients are chosen for their extensive record of community and public service. Eight UCI students have previously won the Strauss Scholarship.
Kenneth Loo, a junior political science major won the Strauss scholarship for his proposal to provide disposable cameras around the world. Loo will then use the photos to create an exhibit, "Images of Humanity: Empowering Youth Through a┬ Global Lens," to travel to Orange County schools and encourage students to think critically about global issues. He anticipates the project will promote tolerance and respect of various cultures, ideas and people around the world. After graduating, he hopes to participate in the "Teach for America" program before pursuing a doctorate in international relations and working to advocate for international human rights or development aid. Loo is from Redlands, Calif.
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship: Arthur Uy Asuncion Jr.
The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The fellowship provides support for three years of graduate study. Fellows are expected contribute significantly to research, teaching and innovations in science and engineering.
Arthur Uy Asuncion Jr., a senior studying information and computer science, won the NSF Graduate Fellowship and will return to UCI for his graduate research combining artificial intelligence and distributed computing. Last year, Asuncion earned the Goldwater scholarship for his computer science work, and he maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA. The seventh UCI student to win the NSF fellowship, he is from Cypress, Calif.
Scholarships Previously Announced
Vivek Mehta, a senior studying biochemistry and molecular biology, was named to USA Today's All-USA College Academic First Team as one of the nation's top undergraduate scholars, an award given to only 20 students each year. He and other team members won $2,500 cash award and were profiled Feb. 15 in USA Today.
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