Mary Hurner '24
Mary Hurner ’24, a public policy major from Heber City, Utah, is among the first recipients of the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, also known as the Voyager Scholarship.

The new initiative, created by the Obama Foundation and supported by Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky, gives students interested in pursuing a career in public service up to $50,000 in financial aid as they finish college. Voyager scholars also receive a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to pursue a summer work-travel experience between their junior and senior year of college. The students will design their own “Summer Voyage” to gain exposure to new communities and experience in a chosen field.

Hurner said she was motivated to apply for the scholarship because of how directly it seemed to fit her interest in public service and travel. When she was a first-year student and sophomore at Hamilton, she volunteered as a COOP service intern, working at The Center, a resource center for refugees coming to Utica.

“I worked specifically in a program that helps connect young refugees between the ages of 15 and 24 to the Utica community,” Hurner said. “I already knew I wanted to major in public policy when I started my internship, but I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to focus my interest in policy. This internship was my first experience working with refugees directly and has sparked my interest in learning more about international refugee policy and aid.”

Hamilton Serves

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

In her application, Hurner discussed her interest in refugee policy and her experience in Utica. “Efforts to improve the refugee resettlement process would limit the suffering of millions of people. … My interest in this issue has grown throughout my work at The Center, which has given me the opportunity to help refugees develop a sense of community in Utica. I hope to expand my work to focus on the struggles that refugees experience before being resettled in the United States,” she wrote.

Hurner has yet to determine where she will go for her summer voyage. “The Obama Foundation is going to pair each of us with a coach who is going to help us design what we want to do. As for right now, I’m interested in working directly with refugees abroad, as well as learning more about the policy side of international refugee work. I’m hoping to split my time pursuing both of these interests,” she said.

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