USC Dornsife junior earns prestigious Truman Scholarship
USC Dornsife environmental studies and international relations major Kayla Soren founded an international nonprofit that supports environment activism across the globe. This year she was named a Truman Scholar. (Photo: Gus Ruelas.)

USC Dornsife junior earns prestigious Truman Scholarship

Environmental studies and international relations double major Kayla Soren is recognized for founding a nonprofit that aims to raise awareness about global climate issues. [2¼ min read]
ByDarrin S. Joy

Kayla Soren, a junior at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has been named a Truman Scholar, a prestigious honor from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

Soren, who is majoring in environmental studies and international relations, was selected for a Truman Scholarship in recognition of her environmental activism. In 2016, she founded the International Student Environmental Coalition (ISEC), a nonprofit organization that seeks to raise global awareness of climate issues.

ISEC is active in 30 countries, aiding students who mobilize grassroots efforts aimed at influencing climate policy.

Soren will receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the chance to participate in professional development programming to help prepare her for a career in public service leadership.

“I am beyond honored to receive this award, and I will use it to give back to the environmental community that has given me everything,” Soren said. “I could not be more grateful to have this scholarship to continue my education.”

After she graduates in 2020, Soren said she will secure grant funding to ensure ISEC’s future before continuing her studies, focusing on environmental solutions, particularly in a region of the country close to her heart.

“After passing on ISEC to new leadership, I intend to attend graduate school to study strategies for the United States to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in a way that protects the environment, economy and communities,” she said. “I want to focus on the Appalachian region due to its renewable energy potential, existing framework for grassroots activism — and because it is my home.”

Nearly 350 institutions throughout the United States nominated 840 candidates for Truman Scholarships this year, setting a new record. Of those, nearly 200 finalists underwent interviews before 63 Truman Scholars were selected.

Soren was one of three USC students named as finalists for Truman Scholarships. Maria Manjarrez, who is majoring in political science at USC Dornsife and in public policy at USC Price School of Public Policy, and Inkoo Kang, an international relations major at USC Dornsife, also made it to the final selection round.

USC undergraduates applying to nationally competitive fellowships seek advising and endorsement through USC’s Academic Honors and Fellowships office.

Soren credits her receipt of the Truman Scholarship to a strong network of supporters.

“This award is not a reflection of me, but rather the culmination of support I’ve received from USC, my parents and the environmental community,” she said.

She thanked her adviser Andy Liang, friends Grace Cillo and Yash Kamath, and Najmedin Meshkati, professor of civil and environmental engineering, industrial, systems engineering and international relations and David Livingston of USC Dornsife’s Washington D.C. Program, for helping her earn the Truman Scholarship.

Soren will receive the award in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, on May 26.

Additional reporting by Joanna Clay.