From the perspective of Marissa Marandola, A&S ’16, the road to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship began her sophomore year, but her interest in leadership and public service—pillars of the scholarship—began much earlier.
Marandola, a political science major with a double minor in American studies and management and leadership from Cranston, R.I., was raised in a household that honors the values of faith, family, and education—according to her, in that order.
“My parents sacrificed to send my sister and me to Catholic school, and it was my own educational experience, grounded in Catholic moral teachings that I learned at school and at home, that gradually led me towards public service,” Marandola said in an email.
It was this regard for public service that eventually led to her selection as the 2015 Truman Scholar for the state of Rhode Island. The nationally-acclaimed scholarship, given annually by the Harry S. Truman Foundation, recognizes outstanding undergraduate students who intend to pursue careers in government or public service. The foundation, established by Congress in 1975 in honor of the 33rd President of the United States, hopes to cultivate the next generation of public service leaders by supporting the graduate study and professional endeavors of the selected winners through a scholarship up to $30,000.
Scholars are selected on the basis of academic achievement, leadership accomplishments, and their potential for public service leadership. Of the 688 candidates nominated by 297 institutions across the country in 2015, 58 undergraduates from 50 colleges and universities were selected as Truman Scholars.
As a sophomore at Boston College, Marandola was only vaguely aware of the program. It was not until the spring of her sophomore year when Rev. James Keenan, S.J., the director of the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program, and Kenji Hayao, an associate professor in the political science department, suggested that she would be Marandola seriously consider applying.
“After investigating the program more over the course of the summer, I came to realize that its goals of encouraging dedication to public service and fostering leadership among the next generation of public servants reflected some of my hopes for the kind of work I would like to pursue in after graduating from BC,” Marandola said.
Marandola’s academic interests surround American politics—particularly education politics and policy, constitutional law, political geography and polarization, and the intersection of politics with American popular culture.
She is a member of the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program, the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, and the Political Science Departmental Honors Program.
Marandola’s involvement within the BC community extends beyond the classroom, however—she serves as the editor-in-chief of Elements, BC’s undergraduate research journal, an executive board member for BC Splash, and a member of the Liturgy Arts Group.
Currently, she works as a Junior Fellow within the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, and an Undergraduate Research Fellow for David Hopkins, a professor in the political science department.
Beyond BC, Marandola has worked as an intern in the Juvenile Justice Department and Office of the Court Appointed Special Advocate within the Rhode Island Family Court system and in the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General’s Criminal Division.
She also completed a policy research internship with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a nonpartisan free enterprise think tank.
Her application for the Truman Scholarship dealt with educational inequities and the potential of educational choice movements, especially charter schools, to alleviate them.
The application and selection process for the program is—as Marandola notes—extensive, beginning in the fall semester with BC’s internal nomination process and continuing until March with the finalist interviews.
“I found the advising process to be highly student driven, in that it took shape primarily from my questions as I undertook the project of completing the application,” Marandola said.
Marandola noted the invaluable support the strong faculty relationships she has developed throughout her time at BC afforded her throughout the extensive process. Members outside of the formal fellowships advising—which includes Hayao, BC’s Truman coordinator, and Jason Cavallari, director of University Fellowships—were very generous with their time and knowledge, she said.
“I am particularly indebted to the Arts and Sciences Honors Program, whose incredible faculty and curriculum taught me how the moral system under which I was raised so readily translated into a life of active love, or public service,” Marandola said.
She also expressed her thanks to the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program for affording her the opportunity to attend BC and to experience public service in a tangible way through the Summer Service Learning Program.
For Marandola, this award marks just the very beginning of a career dedicated to public service.
This summer, Marandola will be returning to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity to work on education policy research, while also interning in the policy division of Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s Office.
Following her graduation from BC, Marandola hope to attend law school and to pursue a career in education law, policy, and advocacy.
“I am humbled to have received an award that accords so closely with the Jesuit values that I experience on a daily basis on the BC campus and to join a community of colleagues who share my commitment to making the ideal of “men and women for others” a reality in their lives,” Marandola said. “It is an honor to represent the school and the state that I love as a 2015 Truman Scholar.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Claudia Quintano