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Shreeya Parekh, the 22nd UD recipient of the prestigious Truman
Scholarship, intends to pursue a doctoral degree to study technology
policy with the goal of addressing the need for equitable algorithms and
Shreeya Parekh, a University of Delaware junior earning a double
degree in computer science and political science, has been named a 2023 Truman Scholar.
This highly competitive national award recognizes outstanding
leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the
nonprofit sector and academic excellence.
Parekh, an Honors College student from Bear, Delaware, is one of 62
new scholars chosen from a nationwide pool of 705 nominated candidates.
Parekh is UD’s 22nd Truman Scholar.
“The University of Delaware has a strong history of finalists and
winners of the Truman Scholarship, and we were named a Truman Scholar
Honor Institution because of our record of winners and our support of
candidates,” said Kristin Bennighoff, senior associate director of the
Honors College and adviser for the Truman Scholarship for the past 10
years. “We are so proud of Shreeya and look forward to seeing the impact
she will make thanks to this scholarship.”
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Parekh attended Appoquinimink High School, where she chose a computer
science pathway because of how the knowledge could be “applied to
virtually any field and any issue,” she said. After enrolling as a
computer science major through the College of Engineering
with a minor in political science, she quickly realized that she wanted
to study both fields in depth and added a second major in political science from the College of Arts and Sciences.
“There were a lot of news stories about cyber-attacks, and I started
to realize that there's a huge connection between political science,
specifically social justice, and computer science,” Parekh said. “I
wanted to understand how technology can either uplift and hinder
marginalized communities, and how we can address that through policy.”
Parkeh has long been interested in the technical aspects of cybersecurity, and she is also part of UD’s Cybersecurity Scholars Program. While taking a class called Humanizing World Politics (POSC 409), taught by associate professor Matthew Weinert,
Parekh said she began thinking more about the political implications of
cyberattacks and how important it was to ensure that people around the
world have a sense of dignity and know their rights in cyberspace.
“As I delved into the topic further,” she said, “I was seeing more
about how cyber security technologies like spyware have been used to
infringe on human rights and human security, which is when the
connection between computer science and political science really started
Parekh had the opportunity to delve even further into this area while conducting independent research as a McNair Scholar
during the summer after her sophomore year. Through this research, she
evaluated how spyware threatens human security and rights around the
world and provided several policy suggestions, including the need for
more studies on cyber weapons and a call for a moratorium on the sale of
“We really need to focus on strengthening the link between digital
technology and cyber security, specifically with spyware, to very
clearly protect human rights and human security,” she said about the
findings of her research. “Because of the nature of digital
technologies, everything is interconnected, so a human digital security
concern for one person could cause a security concern to another person
halfway across the world.”
Weinert supervised her research.
“I was especially proud of the fact that Shreeya was grappling with a
new threat to human security — one that the UN Development Programme,
which introduced the human security framework in 1994, only began to
consider in early 2022,” Weinert said. “This is by definition avant
Outside of her academic achievements, Parekh spends her time
elevating and supporting students from underrepresented groups, both at
UD and in the local community.
Parekh is a member of UD’s Computing Promotions Undergraduate squad (CPUs), a group of students from the Department of Computer and Information Sciences
who are dedicated to addressing the needs of students by promoting a
sense of community. They do this by hosting events, from social
activities like game nights and e-sports competitions (and most recently
the HenHacks hackathon),
professional development activities including “Pizza with the Profs”
and advising events, and connecting with prospective students during
Blue and Golden Days.
“One of our biggest goals is to make our department and our program
as inclusive as possible,” said Parekh, whose role in the CPUs involves
researching and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Being able
to create that sense of community with people so that they know that
they can take space, and they're empowered to continue on their path.”
Debra Yarrington is an assistant professor and faculty adviser for the CPUs.
“Shreeya has worked continuously in all aspects of the group's
activities to promote inclusion,” Yarrington said. “She works to make
sure that future students know that our department fosters an inclusive
environment — an environment she has helped to create — and is
passionate about making a positive difference and making sure everyone
feels and knows they are welcome.”
Parekh is also a co-founder of Students Thriving in Excellence and
Purpose Delaware (STEP UP DE), a nonprofit organization whose goal is to
empower low-income and at-risk youth. She and a team of volunteers work
with local high school students through mentorship programs, workshops
and hands-on educational activities.
Parekh is passionate about volunteering her time to support students
from underrepresented backgrounds because of her experience growing up
as a child of immigrants and who is now working in a field that still faces significant gender and racial disparities.
“I tended to be one of the only women and one of the only people of
color in my classes, so I was always worried about whether or not I
would fit in or if I ‘deserved’ to be there,” she said. “One of my main
goals is to make sure that everyone, especially underrepresented groups,
feel empowered to take up space. Essentially, my main motivation is to
be the mentor that I wish I had.”
Parekh, who will attend the Truman Scholar Leadership Week in
Liberty, Missouri, worked with Bennighoff on her application, selection
of recommenders and interview preparation. Truman Scholarship interviews
are notoriously difficult, so practice interviews are essential, said
Bennighoff, who will join Parekh in Liberty for the end of week
festivities. “Shreeya did an excellent job with her practice interviews,
and I knew she was well-prepared for answering any questions and
defending her points of view,” Bennighoff said.
After graduation in 2024, Parekh hopes to combine her interests in
digital technology and social justice through a technology policy
graduate program. Her long-term goal is to conduct research on
technology's impact on society to develop equitable algorithms and
privacy practices, build policies and safeguards to help protect
vulnerable communities and support equitable innovation in cyberspace.
“Shreeya is a change agent,” Weinert said. “She is so deeply
committed to understanding the world and affecting positive change,
whether with regards to indigenous peoples, defending human rights by
exposing the ways even ‘democratic’ governments undermine them, or
redressing the negative effects of surveillance technologies on
Yarrington added, “Shreeya is a genuinely nice, friendly, positive
and inclusive person. She helps other students without ever showing off,
yet at the same time is poised, confident, and quick to answer in a
straightforward, competent manner. I really do think she can accomplish
anything, and I'm so glad what she's passionate about is changing the
world for the better.”
Parekh said that her experiences at UD have given her the confidence
to continue pursuing her interests in a way that excites her about
what’s to come. “And now, with the Truman Scholarship, I’ll have that
full sense of support with all these financial and academic networks
and resources,” she said. “Overall, I’m really grateful to everyone who
helped bring me here — my family, my friends, and the professors who
have supported me.”
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to
President Harry S. Truman and national monument to public service, with a
mission to select, support and inspire the next generation of public
Truman Scholars are chosen based on their outstanding leadership
potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit
sector and academic excellence. They receive funding for graduate
studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship
and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.
The 62 new Truman Scholars for 2023 were selected from 705 candidates
who were nominated by 275 colleges and universities. They were
recommended by 17 independent selection panels (including distinguished
civic leaders, elected officials, university presidents, federal judges
and past Truman Scholarship winners) based on the finalists’ academic
success and leadership accomplishments as well as their likelihood of
becoming public service leaders.
Article by Erica K. Brockmeier, photo by Kathy F. Atkinson, additional reporting by Hilary Douwes
Published May 19, 2023