Mary Hurner ’24
As long as she has been a student at Hamilton, Mary Hurner ’24 has been passionate about building community both on and off the Hill, and this summer was no exception. Hurner was recently recognized as an inaugural awardee of the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, also known as the Voyager Scholarship. The scholarship granted her a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to pursue a self-designed work-travel experience.

Hurner, a public policy major from Heber City, Utah, knew that she wanted to focus her project on refugee issues. Her interest in asylum and refugee resettlement began with her experience as a COOP (Community Outreach & Opportunity Project) Service Intern during her sophomore year at Hamilton.  “That internship was my first experience working with refugees directly, and sparked my interest in learning more about international refugee policy and aid,” she said. Now four years later, Hurner is a COOP Senior Fellow, advising a new cohort of CSI underclassmen.

“Because I had worked on the resettlement side at The Center (formerly Resource Center for Refugees in the Mohawk Valley), I was now looking to engage with people who were still going through the asylum-seeking process before they were resettled in their new country,” she said.

Hurner began her Voyager Scholarship project in Nicosia, Cyprus, working with Refugee Support Europe to help run their Dignity Center and process labor card applications. After a brief interlude for a Levitt Center trip to Ireland, where Hurner connected her experience to Irish asylum and migration history, she traveled to Calais, France. There, she worked with Collective Aid to support asylum seekers by completing administrative tasks and offering English lessons.

Prior to Hurner’s project, she spent her spring semester taking part in the Hamilton in France program. “The skills I learned at Hamilton in France definitely applied to my summer because it is so important for these organizations to have French speakers that can clearly communicate aspects of bureaucracy,” she said, adding that in Cyprus she worked with a lot of asylum-seekers from French speaking countries in Africa.

Reflecting on her summer, Hurner noted two important lessons: the people you meet can be just as impactful as the work you are doing, and it is helpful to be flexible in your interests and pursuits during these pivotal years at Hamilton. In her role as a COOP Senior Fellow, Hurner  is eager to tell the new COOP CSIs about her Voyager experience and show students how boundless their potential can be.

Hamilton Serves

In and out of class, on campus and off, students get involved in advocating for a better world.

Now that Hurner is back on the Hill, she is enrolled in the Fall 2023 Justice Lab, which is focused on human rights. Her work over the summer served as a catalyst for her participation in this program, shifting her focus from a more “on the ground” approach to an academic perspective of asylum and immigration issues. 

As she looks toward graduation from Hamilton in May, Hurner is considering several post-graduate fellowships that would allow her to travel and conduct independent research. She is also interested in getting involved in local government to be able “to make a tangible difference and engage directly with local citizens.”

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