Macalester junior Holiday O’Bryan ‘24 received Phi Beta Kappa’s (PBK) undergraduate Key into Public Service scholarship. The award includes a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to attend a conference in Washington, D.C. from June 21-25 where recipients receive training and mentoring about jobs in public service. 

“As an undergrad, you have so many opportunities to learn from people, so I’m looking forward to hearing from those who are in public service careers and about how they got there,” said O’Bryan, who was one of 20 students selected from more than 900 applicants. 

The program is designed to connect promising liberal arts and sciences students, a profile O’Bryan fits very well. As a double major in geology and political science, with a minor in dance and a concentration in legal studies, O’Bryan has always found it tricky to focus her career in just one direction. 

“I have a STEM background in more hard sciences, but also within more soft sciences like political science. I’ve got both, and I’m trying to figure out how I can use both. I can study rocks that don’t communicate with anybody or cause any problems, or I can study people. Nonetheless, the skills I’ve gotten from my geology classes do show up in my political science classes,” O’Bryan said. 

In her mid-summer trip to the nation’s capital, O’Bryan is looking forward to hearing from professionals within her field of interest so that she can explore the inner workings of public service careers and what they entail.

“I’m really hoping that this experience will be another one of those things that solidifies what I want to be doing. For me, I have two tracks that I’m thinking about right now, and I’m trying to find a way that I can merge those two tracks,” she said. “I’m searching for people to guide me on how to make decisions for my future career.” 

With three years of experience participating in Model UN — an educational simulation where students learn about diplomacy and international relations — O’Bryan says she’s confident she has the speaking and networking skills to make the most out of the program. 

“I have public speaking skills, and I just generally have a skill to talk to people in a professional setting. I feel comfortable being myself and representing myself, and I’m so excited to hear about the actual content we’re going to learn about futures in public service,” O’Bryan said. 

With her two main tracks of geology and political science, O’Bryan has great aspirations. 

“As a geologist, I can say that I want to create a more sustainable future by improving our technology and our use of resources. As a public servant, I would love to see the world more physically accessible,” O’Bryan said. “I use a cane, and the world is not very nice to me, so I think it would be very important to have legislation that recognizes and works to uplift the lives of disabled people. I would also love to see some consensus in the UN for humanitarian law and enforcement of that, especially concerning refugees and women being displaced by domestic violence and gender-based violence in other countries.” 

May 11 2023

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