Bennis Scholars: Cohort 8

Maria Barun

Maria Barun is a presidential scholar from Denver, Colorado. She studies Business Administration with an emphasis in finance and a double minor in Applied Analytics and Artificial Intelligence. Her passion for change and leadership has lead her to serve as a senator in the Undergraduate student government, Vice President in the Marshall Business Student Community, Delegate in Society 53, and Project Manager at USC Provost IT. Maria has also taken on various leadership roles in new organizations on campus like Trojans Giveback and Board of Presidents. For fun she enjoys anything having to do with the beach or charcuterie board nights with her friends. 

Mané Berikyan

Mané Berikyan is a Deans Scholar double majoring in International Relations and Russian on the pre-law track. On campus, she works for the USC Institute of Armenian Studies and serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Glimpse From the Globe, the Deputy Director of the Global Policy Institute and the Vice President of the USC Armenian Students’ Association. She is also an editor at the Southern California International Review and the Ilios Undergraduate Political Science Journal and a member of Delta Phi Epsilon. Outside of USC, she is a journalist for Yerevan-based media outlet CivilNet. She is interested in human rights, national security and foreign affairs issues in post-Soviet Eurasia and the Middle East. 

Emilia Bletsas

Emilia Bletsas is from Wellesley, Massachusetts studying Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Health Policy. She is the Speaker of the Senate for the Undergraduate Student Government where she oversees 11 senators and serves as a member of the executive cabinet. She is also the School Site Director for Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE), and the Health-Chair for Kappa Alpha Theta. Emilia is passionate about sexual health and wellness and hopes to pursue a career advocating for reproductive justice. 

Cynthia Chockalingham

Cynthia Chockalingam is from Indiana, right outside Chicago, double-majoring in International Relations and NGOS & Social Change—with a minor in Justice, Voice, & Advocacy. She currently works at a South Asian nonprofit on anti-hate and advocacy work while also interning at a law firm, working with asylum seekers and refugees; as President of USC’s Foreign Service Society, she wants to bridge the gap between local action and international advocacy. Consequently, she is interested in policy work for her future.

Briana Connors

Briana Connors is a proud USC student from Long Island, New York. Majoring in Sociology and minoring in dance and marketing, her ultimate goal is to have a positive impact on everyone she interacts with. She loves to immerse herself in the creative and artistic aspects of life, learning new things about the world around her. 

Yoav Gillath

Yoav Gillath is a Political Economy Major and Law and Public Policy minor from Lawrence, Kansas. At USC, he founded the dining-dollar donation program Trojans Give Back and currently serves as Vice-President for the Trojan Democrats and the Men’s Mental Health Initiative. He was a 2022 Schaeffer Fellow and previously served as a Senator for USC’s Undergraduate Student Government. 

Dilan Johnson

Dilan Johnson is a mechanical engineering major from San Diego, CA. She is currently involved in undergraduate research with the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as a CURVE Fellow and will continue her passion for advancing technology by interning with the Aerospace Corporation as a WiSE Research Fellow. She is also a member of USC’s Formula SAE Racing team, a design team that builds a small racecar, and is the President of Robopals, a community-service organization that volunteers weekly at local elementary schools. In the rest of her free time, she can be found at the beach surfing, cooking in her apartment with friends, or skateboarding around campus with her roommates.

Aivy Levan

Aivy Levan is from Gilroy, California, pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Dance. On campus, she is the Artistic Director of USC Chamber Ballet Company, the Vice President of Operations of Blueprints For Pangaea, the Director of Internal of EMSC, the Hospital Relations Chair of Trojan Dance Marathon, and a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta and the Student Symphony Orchestra. Outside of USC, she works as an EMT at an amusement park, volunteers as a research assistant at the Anenberg Center for Biomarkers in Parkinson’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Disorders, and is about to begin working as a ballet and violin instructor for LA Kids at local recreation centers. After graduating, Aivy hopes to attend medical school and pursue a pediatric subspecialty. 

Annette Malan

Annette Malan is a first-generation Latina student from Queens, New York, pursuing a Global Health Studies degree with a Risk Management minor. She is passionate about giving back to her community, and this has shaped her interest in education, policy, and business to make a positive impact. Annette focuses her coursework and extracurriculars on the intersection of health and social justice, finding ways to improve the lives around her. She is known for her welcoming presence and hopes to create a tech app centered around creating financial literacy among BIPOC communities. She enjoys exploring new cafes, hiking, and watching series in her free time. 

Santie McKenzie

Santie McKenzie is a Computational Neuroscience student at the University of Southern California with a minor in Artificial Intelligence Applications. She is currently the president of NeurotechSC, the student computational neurotechnology society. She is passionate about Mental health awareness, accessibility to technology within the field of UI/UX design, and entrepreneurship. She hopes to pursue a role within Product Development for Brain-computer interface technology.

Isai Ortega

Isai Ortega is a sophomore from Los Angeles, California, majoring in Law, History, and Culture, with a minor in Legal Studies. At USC, he is part of the USC Trojan Debate Squad, served as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director for Trojan Knights, and assists in academic research. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, reading, and listening to music, and hopes to use his legal education to serve low-income communities.  

Adam Parish

Adam Parish is from Denver, Colorado, majoring in Economics, minoring in Applied Analytics, and pursuing a PDP MS in Applied Economics and Econometrics. He is passionate about social impact, serving as the President of Los Angeles Community Impact, and with APO, serving previously as DEI Co-Chair. In his free time, he loves running, hiking, and eating great food with friends.  

Sophie Park

Seohyun (Sophie) Park is an accounting and business administration major. She is currently involved in multiple roles within the Los Angeles community, including being a part of USC VITA, working as a waitress at a noodle place in Ktown, and also serving as a caretaker and tutor for students. In her free time, she enjoys exploring different cafes and restaurants, journaling, as well as playing various sports.  

Rediet Retta

Rediet Retta is a sophomore at the Price School of Public Policy studying public policy and data analytics. Originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Rediet has strong interests in urban planning, housing policy, economics, transportation, and global development. On campus, Rediet is a research assistant at the Neighborhood Data for Social Change at the Center for Social Innovation and an assistant at the Gould School of Law Library. Rediet is involved in USC’s Foreign Service Society, USC Flow, and the Prison Education Project. Previously, Rediet has worked as a research intern at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. Community organizing, research, and advocacy are at the center of her passions and educational endeavors. In her free time, Rediet enjoys reading Architectural Digest, cooking, and spending time with her friends and family.

Rudra Saigal

Rudra Saigal is second-year Presidential Scholar from Indore, India, double majoring in Economics and International Relations. On campus, he serves as a Senator in USC’s Undergraduate Student Government. He is also the Founder and President of Students For South Asia, an identity-based advocacy and professional organization, and Finance Chair and Senior Correspondent for Glimpse from the Globe, USC’s leading foreign affairs publication. He is also involved with the Economics Association, Global Policy Institute, and Project RISHI. Rudra is deeply passionate about exploring the intersection between democracy and rural development in developing countries. He has worked with several nonprofits and government consulting firms in rural India and plans to work with pro bono legal firms in the future. 

Sara Stienecker

Sara Stienecker is a sophomore from Redondo Beach, California. She is studying Political Science with minors in Social Justice and Public Policy. On campus, she is the President of Trojan Democrats and chairs the USG Sustainability and Campus Infrastructure Committee.  

James Wang

James Wang is majoring in Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation (Cohort 8) at the USC Iovine & Young Academy. He is the co-founder and president of OK, USC’s flagship creative incubator. He grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada but considers Kaohsiung, Taiwan to be his second home. James is currently working on creator commerce at Canal and has previously spent time at companies like Mighty Health, Zappos, and SAP.