News & Recipients

USF Student Named 2022 Key into Public Service Scholar

Granting 20 Awards this Year, the Program Connects Arts and Sciences Students with Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship and Public Sector Opportunities

kips recipient persad
Tampa, FL. — May 2, 2022 — Vaidehi Persad, a rising junior pursuing dual degrees in Chemistry and Economics while double minoring in Public Health and Women & Gender Studies, is one of just 20 students nationwide selected as Key into Public Service Scholars by The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated interest in working in the public sector and possess a strong academic record in the arts, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Chosen from approximately 900 applicants attending chapter institutions across the nation, each scholar will receive a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship and take part in a conference this summer to receive training, mentoring, and reflection on pathways into active citizenship. Inspired by many Phi Beta Kappa members who have shaped the course of our nation through local, state, and federal service, the award highlights specific pathways for liberal arts and graduates seeking public sector careers.   

“The Society selected the 2022 Service Scholars for their intellectual curiosity; breadth and depth across liberal arts and sciences coursework; positive contributions on and off campus through academic research, internships, and community work; and demonstrated commitment to serve others,” Phi Beta Kappa Secretary Frederick M. Lawrence says. “As the world grapples with concurrent health, economic, democratic, and climate crises, the Society hopes that its scholarship award encourages more of our nation’s top students to apply their pursuit of arts and sciences excellence in service of the greater good.”

A Sebring, Florida, native, Persad serves as a Senior Justice for the USF student government judicial branch and interns with Equality Florida's Safe and Healthy Schools Project. She is also a member of the Tampa Bay chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, and actively demands equitable change through campus organizing, state-wide mobilizations, and national days of action. Persad is passionate about tackling local public health inequities, especially those particular to the rural Deep South, through bottom-up action and collective initiatives.

Last year Persad was recognized as a 2021 CDC Undergraduate Public Health Scholar and became an alumnus of the Harvard Kennedy School Public Policy Leadership Conference. She will spend this summer at the UC Berkeley Goldman School as a participant in the 2022 Public Policy & International Affairs Program. Persad was also recently selected for the John Lewis Scholars & Fellows 2022-2023 Cohort. After completing her undergraduate degrees, she plans to pursue dual Master's degrees in Public Policy and Public Health with a goal of informing data-driven policy.

Persad worked with the university’s Office of National Scholars to apply for the award. “The first question in the application that I answered, and most enjoyed, was discussing the PBK member I most admire,” she says. “I chose Edward Said, the Palestinian scholar known for the inception of postcolonial studies and his discourse on Orientalism. I credit him for my early appreciation of the revolutionary potential of knowledge - something the PBK community values. I often look to Said and the resilience of the ongoing Palestinian struggle for inspiration to continue advocating for equity and justice here in Florida. I anticipate that this scholarship will give me the opportunity to learn from other students and professionals how to continue my work into the future.”

“We are so proud of Vaidehi and her commitment to public service,” says Judy Genshaft Endowed Honors Dean and President of USF’s PBK Chapter, Charles Adams. “Her impressive achievements and ambitious goals embody the mission of Phi Beta Kappa to champion learning in the liberal arts and sciences and freedom of thought. I look forward to seeing the remarkable things she will do next.”

The complete list of 2022 Scholars includes:

  • Aylar Atadurdyyeva, University of Kansas
  • Miguel Coste, University of Notre Dame
  • Noelle Dana, University of Notre Dame
  • Grace Dowling, Clark University
  • Brandon Folson, Loyola University Chicago
  • Justin Fox, University of Maryland- College Park
  • Sora Heo, University of California - San Diego
  • Alec Hoffman, Clark University
  • Samiha Islam, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Ruthie Kesri, Duke University
  • Katherine Marin, University of Florida
  • Sondos Moursy, University of Houston
  • Olivia Negro, Ursinus College
  • Emily Geigh Nichols, Stanford University
  • Paul Odu, University of Missouri
  • Vaidehi Persad, University of South Florida
  • Diba Seddighi, University of Tennessee
  • James Suleyman, Roanoke College
  • Jonah Tobin, Williams College
  • Muskan Walia, University of Utah

For more information about the scholarship and links to individual biographies of the recipients, please visit


About The Phi Beta Kappa Society

Founded on Dec. 5, 1776, The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation's most prestigious academic honor society. It has chapters at 290 colleges and universities in the United States, nearly 50 alumni associations, and more than half a million members worldwide. Noteworthy members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 41 U.S. Supreme Court Justices and more than 140 Nobel Laureates. The mission of The Phi Beta Kappa Society is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, foster freedom of thought, and recognize academic excellence. For more information, visit