Berkeley students excel in international competition

UC Berkeley senior Ariel Hsian-Au Hsiung will wing her way across the pond to Ireland in October as a winner in one of the three international categories of the 2011 Undergraduate Awards of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Irish President Mary McAleese will honor the 50 winners and finalists from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United States during the 2011 Undergraduate Awards ceremony at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. Judged across 20 categories, from environmental sciences to economics and engineering to information technology, award winners are considered “Ireland’s top undergraduates.”

Berkeley had a total of four undergraduates short-listed across the three international categories open to students outside Ireland.

Ariel Hsian-Au Hsiung

Ariel Hsian-Au Hsiung. (Roibín Ó hÉochaidh photo)

Hsiung, a political science major specializing in international relations, picked up the top award in the human rights category for her paper examining the recent international intervention in Libya in the context of the international community’s responsibility to citizens and the sovereignty rights of nation-states.

“It’s a great honor,” says Hsiung. “And it was a really good experience in terms of preparing me for future research-related work.” Interested in pursuing international law, Hsiung plans to attend law school after completing her undergraduate studies at Berkeley.

Hsiung is no stranger to Ireland — she spent her childhood and high-school years living in Dublin before applying to UC Berkeley.

“I’m really, really excited because I get to meet President McAleese, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Hsiung says.

This year, for the first time, the all-Ireland awards competition was opened to seven of the United States’ leading institutions, including Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, as program organizers sought to foster collaborative paths among students across subjects and international borders.

UC Berkeley was the sole public university selected from the Unites States.

“I think opening the competition up to students outside Ireland is good because it gives the awards a more international perspective,” Hsiung says. “I was very happy to find out that four Berkeley students were shortlisted.”

Marta Belcher, a senior studying rhetoric, was named as a finalist in the category of social media for her paper titled “Social Media and the Revolutionary Economy of Mass Collaboration.”

Hannah Jewell, who graduated from Middle Eastern studies this year, was short-listed in the human rights category for her paper titled “When is the international community justified in using force to protect human rights?”

Devin Richards, a senior in conservation and resource studies, was named as a finalist in the category of sustainability for his paper titled “Urban Growth, Future Opportunity: Can urban growth provide a means for creating a sustainable future for 8.2 billion people?”

Alicia Hayes

Scholarship Connection coordinator Alicia Hayes. (Roibín Ó hÉochaidh photo)

Alicia Hayes, coordinator/advisor in Berkeley’s Scholarship Connection Office provided, submissions assistance to each of the successful competitors.

“The students are so incredibly excited — it’s a real honor,” says Hayes. “They’re really looking forward to going to Ireland for the awards ceremony.”

Scholarship Connection serves as clearinghouse for information on scholarships that are funded by sources outside the UC system. The office receives hundreds of scholarship notices for enrolled Berkeley students each year.

“This is a great opportunity for Berkeley students, and Alicia is the one who should take credit for that,” Hsiung says.

Launched in 2009, the all-Ireland awards program was established to recognize and encourage academic excellence, independent thinking and innovation on the island of Ireland.

Winning papers are published in the annual Undergraduate Journal of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is stocked in every higher-education institution in Ireland. The awards event, held October 27-28, also includes a series of talks and tours.

“I guess that I’ll act as the tour guide and show Alicia and the others around,” Hsiung says.