Written by: 
Marisa Nowicki

May graduate Marisa Nowicki in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Dominique Espinoza)Although neither of my parents attended college, they fostered in me a deep love of learning from an early age. We would often play word games in the car, and it was during one of these car rides that my dad introduced the new word-of-the-week: "tenacity," the quality of being determined or persistent. I've always liked the word, and as an adult it often reminds me how much my family has sacrificed to ensure I gained a quality education.

It is with my family's love and encouragement that I pursued college. Yet, for all my drive I was still lacking direction. I believe UNT saw this and did its part to transform a tenacious young woman into a strong leader. My collegiate experience would be incomplete without Terry Foundation, which not only offered me the financial support I needed to attend a university, but also provided me with a better support system than I could have dreamed of.

I am fascinated with human behavior and the role our environment plays in shaping it. I entered UNT as a psychology major and quickly picked up a second major in applied behavior analysis. While I loved both fields, in the beginning I was unsure how to best use my academic background. On Dr. Victor Prybutok's research team in decision sciences, I learned how to use my knowledge to ask questions. And I developed one important question: What problems do I want to spend my career solving?

After studying abroad in Costa Rica and Spain, I began considering a career in foreign affairs. With the encouragement of Dr. James Duban, head of UNT's Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships, I applied for and won a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship to attend a summer institute at Princeton, where I developed a greater interest in politics.

Upon my return to UNT, I began interning for the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the Human Freedom Project, which promotes freedom abroad by giving scholarships to defectors from North Korea and teaching young leaders in Burma about our democracy. During my time there, I became increasingly interested in diplomacy and the inner workings of our government.

My final semester I had the absolute pleasure of participating in the North Texas D.C. program, run by Dr. Elizabeth With and Dr. Melissa McGuire in the Division of Student Affairs. This program gave me the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C., to intern for a member of Congress. I attended briefings, hearings and receptions on Capitol Hill, which allowed me to network, learn about career options within the government and refine my areas of interest. I discovered I am immensely interested in security and foreign aid, with a particular passion for preventing human trafficking, disarming child soldiers and empowering women.

I will pursue my passion this fall, when I begin work toward a master's in public policy and management with Carnegie Mellon University. I will concentrate in international trade and development and spend the first year of my program studying at its campus in Adelaide, Australia.

I've noticed that UNT has the unique ability to find students with promise and to cultivate them into leaders. It was the gentle guidance from my support system at UNT that helped me focus my interests while giving me room to thrive. UNT was vital in the transformation of a tenacious young woman into a leader. I am incredibly grateful to be a UNT Eagle, as I know this evolution could have occurred nowhere else but at the University of North Texas.

Marisa Nowicki earned two bachelor's degrees in May, one in applied behavior analysis and the other in psychology with a minor in Spanish. She was a UNT Honors Scholar, a Terry Scholar and a 2017 UNT Presidential Excellence Award winner.