Three USC students are Truman Scholarship finalists

María Manjarrez, Inkoo Kang, Kayla Soren

I am pleased to celebrate three USC undergraduates – Inkoo Kang, María Manjarrez, and Kayla Soren – who have been named by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation as finalists for the prestigious Truman Scholarship.

The scholarship is a highly-competitive award offered to student leaders who want to attend graduate school in preparation for a career in public service. The Foundation has identified our students as three who are likely to improve the way government agencies, nonprofits, public and private educational institutions, and advocacy groups serve the public good.

Of note, USC endorsed only three candidates – and all three were nominated by the Foundation to move on to the interview round as finalists. This is a testament to the hard work of Inkoo, María, and Kayla, as well as an extremely supportive faculty/staff committee. The national pool of finalists represent an incredibly talented group of public servants and having three reach the final round is a significant achievement for USC. Of the 346 colleges and universities to endorse candidates, USC has the most finalists in the country (tied with Georgetown, Dartmouth, and West Point).

Congratulations to Inkoo, María, and Kayla! Your past achievements – and the bright promise of so many more – make us proud.

Learn more about our outstanding students below. Thank you to the Office of Undergraduate Programs for preparing these bios.

Inkoo KangInkoo Kang is a junior studying International Relations with a minor in Communication Policy & Law. A First-Generation American, Inkoo immigrated to the US at the age of four and grew up in Kansas, which he now considers his home. On campus, Inkoo is a proud member of USC’s 60th Air Force ROTC Detachment, having served as both its Physical Fitness Officer and Head of Recruitment. Outside the classroom, Inkoo has interned for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division in Washington, D.C. where he helped prosecute international criminals who were aiming to harm the US and its allies. He has additionally been active in projects aimed at strengthening local communities through his internship at NationBuilder, a startup devoted to helping ordinary citizens run for office. After graduation, Inkoo hopes to attend Law School and commission into the U.S. Air Force as a Judge Advocate General. However, he believes his true calling is outside the armed forces, where hopes to apply his skills to advocate on behalf of education and immigration reforms.

Maria ManjarrezMaría Manjarrez, a proud political junkie, is a junior double majoring in Political Science and Public Policy and Law. She serves as the President of Unruh Associates, a non-partisan political organization that promotes civil dialogue, a Norman Topping Student Aid Fund, HSF, and META Scholar, and a Governor appointee to the California Student Aid Commission. Maria is passionate about increased access to higher education and eliminating equity gaps in our education system. After graduating from USC, she plans on enrolling in a dual Juris Doctor/ Master of Public Policy program and pursue a career in public service.

Kayla SorenKayla Soren is a Kentucky native committed to pushing for energy transitions that protect the environment, local economies, and communities. She is a Mork Scholar studying International Relations and Environmental Studies. Kayla founded and is the Executive Director of the International Student Environmental Coalition, a non-profit in over 30 countries, engaging over 18,000 students, that provides the resources and organizational power to help students anywhere in the world lead grassroots climate justice projects. She has also conducted research on bipartisan climate solutions and federal energy transitions with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center and, with Barefoot College, created a coffee farming empowerment program for Guatemalan women. She was named a Global Champion for Change by UN Women, a Local Pathways Fellow by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and one of North America’s “30 Under 30” environmentalists. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a dual degree Masters in Public Affairs and Environmental Science.

– Michael W. Quick, March 6, 2019