How can we help people struggling with learning difficulties and disabilities handle their condition? That is the focus of Iris-Stefania Petcu. Her commitment to better learning conditions and human rights has shaped the life of the psychology student at Constructor University in Bremen. And it has taken the 19-year-old to the United Nations headquarters in New York as a delegate from her home country of Romania and a representative of the university to the 17th annual conference of Youth for Human Rights International.
Iris was not even ten years old when she was first diagnosed with learning difficulties. "The education system was not prepared to support students like me who had different learning difficulties and disabilities. I developed my own learning methods so that I could study with the other students," she says. That was just the beginning. Iris contacted experts, started a blog focused on learning difficulties and disabilities, and got involved with organizations such as Save the Children. "I've been so involved in this issue for the last 10 years that I've become a speaker on children's and human rights at various international conferences."
This commitment to herself and to people with learning difficulties and disabilities worldwide was the driving force behind her later endeavors. She chose to study Integrated Social and Cognitive Psychology with a focus on Neuropsychology at Constructor University. "When faced with a problem, people usually try to solve it from one angle, targeting only its effects. Other people target the source. I target both, the whole circle. I help mitigate the effect of the problem by working on brain implants, exoskeletons and modern AI. This is also why I chose Robotics and Intelligent Systems as my minor. I try to mitigate the cause by pursuing diplomacy on the issue and focusing my efforts on eradicating discrimination against people with learning difficulties and disabilities". But why did she choose Constructor University? "It is one of the most international universities in the world. I really wanted to have the experience of studying and interacting with people from all over the world".
Iris is also a budding fashion entrepreneur and recently competed in the Hult Prize Challenge of Redesigning Fashion. Over the winter break, she came up with a groundbreaking idea: The Fashion Particle, a centralized marketplace for the fashion industry that connects eco-conscious and sustainable suppliers with manufacturers who share the same ideals. This idea propelled her and her team to the semi-finals in Tunis, where they competed with the world's brightest entrepreneurs for $1 million in venture capital.
As if that weren't enough, Iris was also elected President of Constructor University's Undergraduate Student Government, a first for a first-year student. With the same passion, she represents undergraduates on the university’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She takes an active role in her positions, advocating for a better academic and a living environment for all students. Her appearance at the 17th annual conference of Youth for Human Rights International further cemented her role in this regard. Finally, some 2000 kilometers away, she is also working to improve conditions in her home country of Romania.
How does she manage all these activities? "I am often asked this question," says Iris, laughing.
Leadership and teamwork are important to me," says Iris, who likes to sing to relax and is also a board member of the Constructor University choir. "Having become a 'leader' at such a young stage in my career, I needed further training. So she applied, was accepted and attended the world's most prestigious leadership program at Harvard Business School on a full scholarship. "I'm doing very well," says Iris happily.
Iris’s story is part of the "Faces" series, in which Constructor University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff.
About Constructor University:
Founded in 2001, Constructor University is a top-ranked, English-language, private university, with a campus in Bremen, Germany. With its interdisciplinary approach, advanced digital learning tools and accredited programs, it equips students with fundamental knowledge, critical thinking and practical skills to build their professional career and address the world’s most pressing challenges.
The University emphasizes a synergetic and entrepreneurial spirit, offering program mentoring from top-tier professors and industry experts. Partner collaborations include the Constructor Institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Carnegie Mellon, the National University of Singapore, the University of Geneva, and industry references such as JetBrains and ChemDiv.
Internationality and diversity lie at the heart of Constructor University, with more than 110 nations at its vibrant and close-knit campus community in Bremen. There, students enjoy active campus life, with access to clubs, professional networks and academic counselling, essential to their personal and academic growth.
Research-centric faculty projects at the University are funded by the German Research Foundation, the European Union's Framework Program for Research and Innovation, and globally leading companies.
The greater Constructor Knowledge ecosystem includes Constructor University in Bremen, Germany, and Constructor Institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. It is a provider of education services with education tools, worldwide traditional and online educational services, as well as advisory and strategic services to education customers in the fields of student recruitment, communications, and marketing support.