Nicholas Plassaras, Social Sciences Outstanding Honors Thesis Award Winner
- June 16, 2010
- Favorite part about being an anteater: One-on-one interaction with top notch faculty
Name: Nicholas Plassaras
Major: Political science and international studies; minor in Japanese studies
Favorite part about being an anteater: One-on-one interaction with top notch faculty
Best UCI memory: Engaging Law Forum director and social sciences lecturer Sherilyn Sellgren in a six-hour discussion that lasted until 4:00 a.m.
Interesting fact: Nicholas gave the 2010 address at the Social Sciences afternoon undergraduate commencement ceremony
By his parents’ account, Nicholas Plassaras’s interest in a legal career began about the time his sister was born.
“We were only one year apart and she was extremely shy, so I took it upon myself to represent and speak for her,” says the political science honors student with a somewhat half-joking big brother smile. Growing up as close siblings, Plassaras had ample opportunities to hone his negotiation and persuasion skills, experiences which served him well in UCI’s Mock Trial and Law Forum programs.
“Getting to represent others and develop logical arguments on ideas and issues that I feel passionately about is something that seems natural to me,” he says.
On June 12, he will get the opportunity to represent the nearly 2,600 social sciences undergraduates receiving diplomas this year as the featured afternoon commencement ceremony speaker.
“Our social science degrees represent a way of life, a way of thinking and a way of understanding that’s really unique, and getting to share some of the things we’ve learned and experiences we’ve had with those in attendance will be a capstone to the many wonderful opportunities I’ve had at UCI,” he says.
In his four years on campus, Plassaras was involved in a number of activities including the Social Sciences Dean’s Ambassadors Council, Associated Student at UCI, and the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPirg) where he helped minority voters register for the 2008 Presidential election. He also studied abroad for a quarter in Japan, prompting him to take up a Japanese minor and join the ICU Wadaiko Club, a traditional Japanese drumming organization.
Still needing an academic outlet for his argumentative energy, he got involved with the UCI Pre-Law Society and the UCI Law Forum, serving for the latter as editor of the program’s law journal. His efforts earned him recognition as this year’s Law Forum Outstanding Legal Scholar.
In 2009, Plassaras joined the UCI Mock Trial team where he earned several awards for his performance as an expert witness - a part he got to play in the recent 2010 National Mock Trial tournament where the team took fifth place honors.
He also took part in the campus-wide honors program through which he conducted in-depth research on inconsistencies between lower court and U.S. Supreme Court applications of a federal statute which allows foreign citizens to sue in U.S. federal courts for violations of international laws.
With guidance from political science professor Wayne Sandholtz and social sciences lecturer and Law Forum director Sherilyn Sellgren – with whom Plassaras once engaged in a six-hour discussion lasting until 4:00 a.m. – he developed his arguments into a paper which he presented at this year’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program annual symposium.
“Nicholas consistently demonstrated exceptional analytical skills as well as a strong appreciation for the nuances of both law and public policy,” says Sellgren. “His seemingly native ability to look beyond inflammatory facts, faithfully analyze a judicial decision on purely legal grounds, and carve out political advocacy as a separate matter, is rare among students so young.”
For his academic efforts, he has been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honors Society, Pi Gamma Mu National Honors Society, and Golden Key International Honors Society. He was also on the Dean’s Honors List for nine consecutive quarters.
When he graduates in June, Plassaras will be heading to London for a research abroad program in international studies at Kings College. He’s excited to put his passion for public speaking and debate into practice through the program’s diplomacy focus in hopes that he might someday serve as an international ambassador for the U.S., much like his grandfather before him who worked at the U.S. embassy to Greece. After completing the yearlong program in London, he plans to return to the U.S. to pursue a law degree to help him reach that goal.
When asked what advice he has to offer new UCI students, he says, “Do your best to try something new and get involved in as many different activities as you possibly can. You never know where new interests may lead you.”