Thursday, June 11, 2015 - 13:30

In England, and New England, Assumption Students to Explore Purpose, Passion

Assumption’s High-impact Summer Grants Provide Opportunity to Discern Future Vocation, Place in the World

Two Assumption College students will spend this summer exploring what it’s like to be a professional historian in England, France, and New England; as well as developing a program for the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts to recruit new members and encourage voting among younger adults in Boston.

These opportunities are made possible due to Assumption’s High-impact Summer Grant Program through SOPHIA (SOPHomore Initiative at Assumption)—one of many Assumption programs created to reflect the College’s mission to form graduates known for critical intelligence, thoughtful citizenship, and compassionate service.

“The summer period offers an ideal time for SOPHIA students to discern a personal response to the curricular and co-curricular conversations they have engaged in during the previous academic year on vocation as they explored what will give purpose and meaning to their life, as they contribute toward the common good,” said President Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., who leads SOPHIA participants on an annual trip to Rome, Italy, where Assumption has a campus. “This Assumption grant opportunity allows recipients to test and explore their God-given gifts and talents as they prepare for meaningful lives and careers.”

SOPHIA integrates residential, academic, grant, and travel opportunities with the guidance of four faculty mentors. The program fosters a culture of vocational exploration at Assumption and helps students discern and choose lives of meaning. During the academic year, students enrolled in SOPHIA are encouraged to apply for the summer grants, which are funded by the Council of Independent Colleges and the Lilly Foundation.

The grant program supports student pursuits in three categories: community engagement, faith, and life of the mind. Recipients can discover a deeper connection between their spiritual and religious commitments and their personal and professional lives, in terms of their vocation.


History major Kelse Merrill ’17 of Wynantskill, N.Y., will use his $3,460 grant to travel throughout England and New England this summer as a historian, researching pre- and post-Norman England. With career ambitions to become a college history professor, the grant will help Merrill experience the academic and logistical challenges of a historian, making effective use of a sabbatical, and delving into primary sources. He will conclude his summer research by presenting his findings and writing a scholarly article.

In England, Merrill will explore historical sites in London, York, Canterbury, Rye, and Warwick. Then, he will travel to Paris, France. When he returns to the United States, Merrill will focus his research on primary and secondary sources in New England college libraries.

He hopes to channel his passion for history to inspire and educate future historians.

“There is no greater feeling than to read a primary source for a historical text or even a general atlas on a subject,” said Merrill. “Educating people on historical topics is the only thing that gives me even more joy than learning about history. Without the SOPHIA grant, I would not have this opportunity. This is not only my vocation, but it’s also my passion. This grant is a major necessity for my eventual application to graduate school.”

Assumption Assistant Professor of History Winston Black, Ph.D., endorsed Merrill’s proposal.

“Kelse’s research trip to England will be an excellent opportunity for him to explore his proposed vocation as a professional historian,” said Professor Black. “He has clearly demonstrated his passion for medieval history and his skills as a history major, which have recently been awarded with his nomination to Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honors Society.”


Assumption has also awarded a $314 grant to political science major Franchesca McMenemy ’17 of Worcester, who has proposed to develop a program for the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts to increase its membership and encourage young people to vote and participate in the civic process. Following research on voter participation, McMenemy will design and implement a program targeting Boston youth.

“I hope to create a coherent model that will lead to an increase in membership among youth, as well as encourage young citizens to be involved in civic life,” said McMenemy. “It is vital that the League captures young citizens, because it is imperative that youth learn that they, too, can make a difference. The League needs more young members to pass along skills to the younger generations that will take the League into the future.”

“Franchesca is an exceptionally civic-minded student driven by a passion to encourage voting,” said Assumption Assistant Professor of Political Science Gregory Weiner, Ph.D. “Her project this summer will pursue that vocation by researching the history of voting rights and voting patterns as well as developing a model for persuading young people to vote. Her goal is to match her passion with rigorous political science, and this grant will help her advance that objective.”

McMenemy will attend the League’s 2015 convention in West Springfield, Mass., where leaders from across Massachusetts gather every two years to share best practices to encourage voter participation and discuss organizational governance. She will also conduct research on youth voting trends and rights at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Harvard University’s library.

Following the convention and research, McMenemy will develop a program that motivates students in middle and high school and college to register to vote and participate in a representative Democracy. The program will include a lecture series and develop tasks for young League members to accomplish, such as helping at citizenship ceremonies and League events.


Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews