Irene Soteriou is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut double majoring in cognitive science and statistics with a minor in communication. A staunch advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, Irene has worked extensively to empower survivors of armed conflict and construct institutions that prevent its perpetuation. In addition to her work at Genocide Watch, where she has pursued impactful structural change, Irene is currently interning for the US Department of State and volunteering as an English tutor for refugees through Paper Airplanes. At UConn, Irene founded our annual Human Rights Symposium, serves as Deputy Speaker of the Undergraduate Student Government, and works at our Center for Career Development, where she spearheaded an effort to help non-native English speakers, formerly incarcerated individuals, and others from historically underserved or marginalized communities better prepare their credentials for employment opportunities. Following graduation, Irene plans to study international law in hopes of having a more permanent impact on displaced communities through legal reform.
My appreciation for collaborative changemaking originated predominantly from my family’s experiences as refugees. Growing up, I found it impressive that even very small communities like my own, divided by international conflict, could make such powerful strides towards rebuilding when doing so collectively. This lesson has guided my approaches to addressing the root causes of the social issues facing displaced families, inspiring me to design networks to work towards atrocity prevention and refugee support. At Genocide Watch, I am working to build the Alliance Against Genocide, a multiethnic global network dedicated to preventing genocide and other forms of mass murder. By combining the resources and expertise of 80+ organizations from 30+ countries, I have contributed to the passage of legislation for mandated genocide education in U.S. secondary schools, the community-grounded implementation of the Global Fragility Act, and the development of an early warning network to alert governments, relief and health workers, and journalists to genocidal processes. Similarly, I formed an organization called the Student Coalition for Human Rights to facilitate collaboration among human rights groups on my campus, and I am now bringing together student groups from universities across Connecticut to advocate collectively for refugees in our state during the pandemic.