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Student Profile: Marissa Kunkel

The values of service and giving back to one’s community are often exemplified at Aquinas College. Students are given opportunities to participate in organized service projects, developing their love of service into something personal and fulfilling, something they can take with them into the rest of the world. This exceptional love for one’s community can be clearly found in Aquinas junior, Marissa Kunkel.

An English major and writing minor, Marissa’s passions extend beyond the literary arts. As a commuter and transfer student her sophomore year, Marissa found it difficult to connect with other students on campus until she went on her first Service Learning trip to Philadelphia. “That really engaged me back into those roots of service that Girl Scouts had taught me,” Marissa said, highlighting the important role service has played in her life since preschool. The experience was so impactful that Marissa returned to lead the trip the next year and will be leading the 2014 trip to Nicaragua during spring break.

Philadelphia has a special pull for Marissa, who hopes to eventually move to the east coast after graduating from Aquinas in 2015. There she plans to earn her Masters in Non-Profit Management and Fundraising. With this degree, she would love to return to an environment she has spent several years working in: higher education. Marissa spent the past three summers working an internship at the University of Michigan as a Records Specialist, organizing the donations received by the university. Excited about the skills she had gained during her internship that first summer, Marissa came back to Aquinas to find out where she could be most helpful and found her place in the Advancement Office and Alumni Relations.

Marissa took her talents in non-profit overseas in the spring of 2013. While studying abroad in Tully Cross, Ireland, she has the opportunity to design a giving and alumni program for the local college. Marissa, with her friend and classmate Molly Piecuch, created a database with around 2,500 alumni contacts for the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology as part of their internship. In her varied experience, Marissa has learned how significantly donations can impact a college and its future students.

Through an online class and competition funded by philanthropists Warren and Doris Buffet, Marissa has continued to develop her passion for fundraising and non-profit work. As a semi-finalist in a summer 2013 competition, which allowed the winner to give $10,000 to the charity of her/his choice, and as a student in the class, Marissa learned how to make charity successful.

Her hopes to work in a college or university setting in the future stem from her immense gratitude to the donors who provided her own scholarship to Aquinas as well as the hard work and often unnoticed efforts of the Advancement staff. “I owe a lot of my education to those who gave that scholarship and those who supported the college and I would love to work for a college or university to give back to those students who need scholarships.” Much of Marissa’s inspiration and appreciation is aimed at Brigid Avery, Director of Alumni Relations, and Bridget Harrigan, Director of the Phone Center and Electronic Solicitation. “They gave me a direction and a sense of purpose at Aquinas College,” Marissa said.

To other students, Marissa advises that they “take advantage of the opportunities that Aquinas gives you,” especially in the form of service learning, clubs and organizations, and studying abroad. “Do as much as you can while you can because it will be gone before you know it.”