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Marshall Scholar's Focus

Poverty Here and Abroad

Story by
Nancy Joseph

When Jennifer Devine learned she had received a 2004 Marshall Scholarship, she knew her parents—who had encouraged her to excel—would be thrilled for her. Unfortunately neither parent lived to celebrate her achievement. That Devine succeeded despite these and other personal hardships says much about her perseverance. 

Jennifer Devine.

Jennifer Devine. Media credit: Karen Orders

Devine is the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college. She was raised in a single parent household with extremely limited resources. But she was able to put her situation in perspective after spending a summer in Mexico and Costa Rica on a cultural exchange after graduating from high school.

“The poverty that is part of the lives of a significant percentage of Latin American peoples horrified me,” Devine wrote in her Marshall Scholarship application. “. . . I was able to understand the superficiality of my own ‘disadvantaged’ upbringing in Yakima.”

When Devine arrived at the UW—after graduating from Yakima Valley Community College—she chose to major in geography, focusing on the causes of poverty, its effect on women and families, and possible solutions. She currently serves as a research assistant for two geography faculty investigating poverty, inequality, and economic restructuring in rural poor communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Reflecting her interest in Latin America, Devine was able to travel to Cuba as part of a Women’s Mission organized by the UW’s Center for Women & Democracy, along with Maria Cantwell and other local leaders. She was the first student representative to participate in a Center mission. “Meeting the wonderful women on this trip really inspired me,” says Devine. “They have accomplished so much yet make the time to give back to the community and find opportunities for other women.”

Devine also participated in the Center’s National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership Institute—designed to educate and empower the next generation of women leaders—and served as an intern for the Center in 2002. She is co-founder of the NEW Leadership Alumnae Association. 

“I love the Center for Women & Democracy,” says Devine. “A good part of my success here at the University is because of that organization and the opportunities it has provided.”

Devine is also president of the UW Tolo chapter of Mortar Board National Honor Society. With all these responsibilities, you’d think she would welcome a break.
Not a chance. Devine is looking forward to beginning graduate school at the London School of Economics next fall—on her Marshall Scholarship.