March 2009 Reflection

t’s 8:36 pm GMT on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day here in Dublin. Nine days ago, I accepted my offer to Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where I’ll pursue a Ph.D. in microbial ecology.

It was 4:30 pm on a Tuesday afternoon in August at Albion College when I made my final decision to apply for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship. After talking through my decision with one of my college housemates, Maria, she said the words that have comforted me in my most delicate ambitions: “Just see what happens.”

When I submitted my application, I didn’t understand the extent of the impact the scholarship would have on me and how quickly it would transform my life. Frequently – and by that, I mean daily – I look back on my short, seemingly insignificant conversation with Maria when I was a senior at Albion. In just one and a half years, my life has changed in so many good, unexpected ways, all because of the experiences and opportunities provided by the Mitchell.

This past February, our Mitchell class had the distinct honor of meeting Senator George J. Mitchell before he flew to the Middle East to fulfill his responsibilities as Special Envoy. From our hour and a half conversation with him, I understand two incredibly important aspects of the Mitchell scholarship. First, although Senator Mitchell spoke of hegemony, and fear, and mistrust, these ideas appeared to dissipate in the room: we Mitchells were in the presence of a maker, creator, believer in true peace. In our short time with him, I came to more deeply understand and hope to incorporate the idea that peace must originate within a peaceful person. And in a world of conflict such as ours, peace is not the first response to violence or disagreement. Second, our scholarship bears the name of George J. Mitchell, a man who has humbly pursued his duties to his country and to our international society, for a reason. When asked if he ever sought these positions as a peace negotiator, Mitchell replied with a smile and admitted that we are all asked of certain responsibilities in our various societies, and, more importantly, it is our role as a global citizen to use our talents for the betterment of humanity. The Mitchell Scholarship is unlike many postgraduate scholarships because it requires its recipients to pledge themselves to a lifetime of humble, honest growth and giving. I’m realizing this more than ever as my final five months in Ireland are upon me.

I can’t say that I’ve seen the cycle full circle – I perhaps never will. I’ve seen what happens in just one year and six months but I cannot even anticipate the cascading effects this scholarship, this isle, and these scholars will have on my life. Instead, I’ve come to embrace the tenets of the Mitchell scholarship as the duties of my life, wherever it takes me, as it took Senator Mitchell.

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