Student Leader Named UVA’s 34th Truman Scholar

Lisa Kopelnik plans to become a judge, a goal shaped by her experience on the University Judiciary Committee.
Lisa Kopelnik plans to become a judge, a goal shaped by her experience on the University Judiciary Committee.
Matt Riley / University Communications

Lisa Kopelnik, the incoming student representative on the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, has been named the 34th Truman Scholarship recipient in UVA history.

Kopelnik is one of 60 new Truman Scholars who will receive funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government.

A third-year student majoring in politics and economics, Kopelnik plans for a career in law.

“As the child of immigrants and the first in my family to be born in the U.S., I have a deep commitment to democratic values, public service and using my voice and leadership to make a difference,” she said. “I aim to attend law school and pursue a career in the legal field with the goal of becoming a judge, which has been strongly shaped by my experience within the University Judiciary Committee.”

Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Marsh Pattie advises the Judiciary Committee, which Kopelnik chaired.

“In my experience, the best leaders embody grit and grace in equal measure,” he said. “Lisa personifies grit and grace, and she is one of the most selfless, authentic and accomplished student leaders I have known. She inspires trust through her competence, openness through her compassion and commitment through her own devotion to principled endeavors.”

A native of Castro Valley, California, Kopelnik said she strongly resonated with the Truman Foundation’s mission of cultivating passionate public servants.

“Ever since coming to UVA, I have committed myself to student self-governance and in showing up as a citizen of this community,” Kopelnik, a Jefferson Scholar, said. “At UVA, we have unique agency in shaping our experiences and institutions, and I think it’s also our responsibility to leave the community better than we found it.”

Sidney Milkis, the White Burkett Miller Professor of Politics and director of the Honors Politics Program, praised Kopelnik.

“She organized UVA’s first free speech panel, enlisting experts to educate students about the need to balance individual rights and responsibility to the community, the limitations of free speech and the difficulties of preventing vigorous debate from degenerating into hate speech,” Milkis said.

Andrus G. Ashoo, director of the Office of Citizen Scholar Development, said Kopelnik has been a model student. “She humbly approaches her studies with hard work, intentionally seeks new ideas and perspectives, spends time with those with whom she disagrees, and she has taken risks to put herself in uncomfortable situations,” he said. “She will make an excellent public servant.”