2020 HRI Undergraduate Scholarship Awardees


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These $5,000 scholarships are awarded to academically outstanding undergraduate students who are enrolled full time at the University of Connecticut. There are various eligibility criteria for each scholarship that is available but all applicant must be either minoring or majoring in human rights, demonstrate academic achievement and financial need.  

2020-2021 Undergraduate Scholarships Recipients

Natalie CasanovaHuman Rights & Political Science
Open Society Foundation Award

Natalie Casanova is rising senior soon to graduate with a double major in Human Rights and Political Science along with a minor in Women’s Gender Sexuality Studies. Currently, she is the Operations Manager at UCTV and and is a member of the Film and Entertainment Departments. During her time at UCONN, she spent two years as a part of the Human Rights and Action LC where she volunteered at many different service events and participated in various human rights exercises. There, she found a deep interest in activist work and human rights law. As she continues her education, she hopes to accomplish work that intersects with human rights, policy, and advocacy through video and media.


Brianna Dyer –  Human Rights & Global Studies
Open Society Foundation Award

Brianna Dyer, a senior from Avon, CT, is double majoring in Global Studies (an individualized major) and Human Rights, while minoring in French. Having always been justice-driven and fascinated with genocide studies, she is pursuing a future in International Criminal Law.

Her involvement with UConn ranges from being a Student Administration Assistant for the Honors and Enrichment Program office to aiding in research projects as a Bennett Research Assistant. She helped Dr. Richards by compiling an annotated bibliography on the perpetrators’ perspectives of torturing their victims.

In addition to receiving the Open Society Foundation Scholarship through the Human Rights Institute, she was also named a 2019 New England Scholar and was awarded the Aetna Writing in the Disciplines award within the Humanities for her paper titled “Genocide in Xinjiang”.

Over Summer 2020, she had the incredible opportunity to intern for the Thomas J. Dodd Center and assist in archiving Predrag Dojčinović’s Genocidal Intent Collection, “the second major research and educational collection of the post-ICTY documents.”


Vernessa KingsburyHuman Rights & Anthropology
Open Society Foundation Award

Vernessa Kingsbury is an incoming senior at UConn, she is studying as a double major to earn her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Human Rights. Vernessa is one of the first members of her family to go to a 4-year university and hopes to eventually earn her doctorate in Anthropology. Vernessa is passionate about research and hopes to make a career out of applied anthropology in service of human rights issues. She has worked as a research assistant in both the Educational Anthropology and Political Science departments. This past academic year Vernessa spent the year studying abroad at the Universiteit van Amsterdam and although her time there was cut short due to COVID-19, she is excited to have more international opportunities in the future. On campus, Vernessa is a member of the Anthropology club and freshman year she lived in the Global House learning community. Vernessa is passionate about many human rights issues and how anthropological perspectives can be used to address them. Most recently she has been focused on Sexual Reproductive Health Research as well as Indigenous studies. Vernessa also loves to learn new languages, she has taken courses in French, Arabic, and Dutch. She is excited to continue to explore different career and internship opportunities in the Human Rights field.


Shreya MurthyHuman Rights Finance, & Criminology
Open Society Foundation Award

Shreya Murthy is a senior pursuing majors in Finance, Human Rights, and Criminology with a minor in Political Science. She is a member of the Honors Program and the Special Program in Law. On campus she works as a Peer Research Ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Research, a TME Mentor for the Individualized and Human Rights Majors, a Student Administrative Specialist for the Mathematics Department and has worked as a Resident Assistant for Residential Life. During her time at UConn she has pursued various topics of research as a Research Assistant and an IDEA Grant Recipient. She has also been the recipient of HRI’s Summer Fellowship Award and the Augusta H. Gerberich Scholarship award from the Department of Political Science.

Shreya joined the 2020 Cohort of University Scholars and will be pursuing a research project investigating the intersection of business, law, and human rights in the aviation industry over the course of the next year. After graduation she hopes to go to law school while simultaneously pursuing further research and graduate studies in law, business, and human rights.


Aarushi NohriaHuman Rights & English
Alan B. Slifka Award

Aarushi Nohria is a rising sophomore double majoring in English and Human Rights. On campus, Aarushi is a contributor to the Opinion section of The Daily Campus and a member of Husky Bhangra. She is passionate about advocacy and action regarding access to the human right of education. She has worked for people’s right to and access to education since middle school. She is interested in the intersection of not only education and human rights but also literature and human right as she intends to pursue a career as an English educator. Aarushi hopes to build on her experiences by taking action that challenges traditional English canon.


Megan PaigeHuman Rights & Psychology
Wiktor Osiatynki Award

Megan Paige, from Portland, Maine, is pursuing a double major in psychological sciences and human rights. Growing up, she had a passion for helping people in any way possible and has specifically taken an interest of human rights in the medical field. Due to her passion for access to healthcare, she became a certified nursing assistant. On campus, she is involved in Habitat for Humanity which focuses on addressing housing inequities for families around the world. Upon graduation, Megan will pursue a degree in nursing to continue building a career in healthcare to address the issue of lack of access and healthcare inequity.


Melita Seibel Human Rights & Communications
Open Society Foundation Award

Melita Seibel is a rising senior from Westerly, RI, majoring in Human Rights and Communications. She’s interested mainly in the intersection between human rights and film, but has interests in law and nonprofit management, as well. At UConn, Melita is the secretary for Huskies for Human Rights. She’s also on the e-board for UConn’s UNICEF Campus Initiative and is a part of the UCTV Entertainment Department. She has held leadership positions with the Global House Learning Community through which she hosted forums about global issues and mentored new students. Currently, Melita is a remote production assistant with New Moon Films, a nonprofit film company. She also recently began volunteering at the front desk at New London Homeless Hospitality Center.


Olivia SwansonHuman Rights & Natural Resources
Open Society Foundation Award

Olivia Swanson is a senior majoring in Human Rights and Natural Resources with a concentration in sustainability and conservation. She is interested in the intersection between creating a sustainable planet and a just society. In particular, she’s passionate about food insecurity, sustainable agriculture, and environmental racism in housing and water treatment and access. This passion led her to intern at a local community garden as well as help organize a town hall in Mansfield on the proposed Green New Deal. On campus, she works as a student administrative assistant, an RA, and a research assistant. Her research in the History Department is focused on the discourse of civil and human rights in housing. She focuses on how the language of each was used historically to advocate for housing rights and who was using that language. This then gets applied to how the city of Hartford has fit into the housing scene, and how housing has shaped the city and the rights of different groups of tenants. When she is isn’t working or researching, Olivia enjoys being outdoors, going on new adventures, or simply reading a good book. She has spent this quarantined summer reading and learning more about race in the US, attending demonstrations, spending time with her new puppy, and converting a van for cross country road trips. After graduation Olivia hopes to join the Peacecorps, and then eventually work in community-based environmental justice projects and attend graduate or law school.


These scholarships are generously supported by the Open Society Foundations.