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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Waves of awards sweep Grinnell College

As the flurry of student portraits on Grinnell’s homepage suggests, a number of students have received prestigious awards, scholarships and fellowships since the beginning of Spring Break. The first prize to be announced was the Watson Fellowship given to VPAA Wadzi Motsi ’12 from Zimbabwe, an independent International Relations major. This award of $25,000 is given annually to students of unusual promise to travel and study independently for a year outside of the United States.

The Truman Scholarship was awarded to Charity Porotesano ’12 from American Samoa, a major in Political Science and former student government senator. This scholarship provides financial support worth $30,000 for college students with exceptional leadership skills interested in public service, education and advocacy to pursue graduate studies.

More recently, the Goldwater Scholarship was presented to Alice Nadeau ’13; Rebecca Mandt ’13 achieved honorable mention. Nadeau, a Mathematics major from Waterloo, IA, was chosen for this award in recognition of her excellence in mathematics and science.
Finally, Mateo C. Jarquin ’13, a History major from Nicaragua, was chosen as a Beinecke scholar. This scholarship is meant to enable highly motivated students of exceptional promise to pursue graduate studies in arts, humanities and social sciences. Jarquin will receive $4,000 upon entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 during his graduate program.

Grinnell is used to bringing in awards, and students have won each of these in the past. However, as Doug Cutchins, Director of Social Commitment, explained, the fact that they won in each of the different awards in the same year, and that they were announced within a two week span, made the recognitions resonate even more in the community.

“This is a great pat-on-the-back, not just for these four students, but for the professors, administrators and peers that have worked with them,” Cutchins said. “These awards go to specific students, but they recognize the general excellence of Grinnell College. I think we all share in these students success. Additionally, they will attract new talented students.”

Next year, Porotesano will be teaching social studies in the sixth and eighth grades back in Samoa. During that time she will apply for graduate school, possibly University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin-Madison or Vanderbilt University. She plans to remain involved with education reform in Samoa.

Jarquin and Nadeau will be back on campus next fall to finish out their undergraduate degrees. Motsi’s Watson project will take her to Ghana, Tunisia, the Czech Republic and Cambodia where she will study young political activism movements in each of those countries.
“It’s not so much about what young activists are doing, so much as it is about why they do it—really getting at the heart of what motivates people to become active in politics or disengaged,” Motsi explained. “I’m interested in finding out what drives people, because then you can find out how to advocate for their issues.”

Both Motsi and Porotesano insisted that there is no single formula for winning these awards. Motsi recommended that candidates should pick a topic that they are very passionate about, because that truly expresses their personality. Porotesano agreed that being authentic is the first major step and both valued how much Grinnell had pushed their boundaries and shaped their today person.

“If anything, it is always important to be yourself, and not something you think the judges want you to be,” Porotesano said.
Porotesano saw her raw determination was key to her application, despite the unpredictable nature of the election process. Her fear came from how highly qualified the other finalists were and how she would fit into the jury’s ideal Truman scholar mold.

“Since they are Truman scholars, they are trying to find out if the person is committed or if they embody Truman values to become a public servant,” Porotesano said. “For me this wasn’t just an award to add to a belt. They saw that I was somebody determined to make a difference. I was nervous, but I was going to get this.”

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