Going Beyond the Prompt

Jillian Marino isn’t shy about her word-nerd disposition. English, literature, poetry and all types of creative writing claimed her imagination in junior high, and she never looked back.

“You can just give me literary works and tell me to write about them,” says Marino, a dual major in secondary education language arts and English from Orland Park, Illinois. “I enjoy the little pieces that most people find mundane. Symbolism, language and word choice. I love getting into the nitty-gritty.”

Jillian Marino portrait

Jillian Marino, a sophomore dual major in secondary education language arts and English, has known she wanted to teach since elementary school.

Marino is the sophomore recipient of the Hesburgh Scholarship, an annual award given to four students, one from each undergraduate class. She learned about it while crafting her personal statement in a class for tutors in the Writing Center, where students are encouraged to use scholarship essay prompts so that the statements might serve a dual purpose.

The essay prompt was broad: “What has been your most valuable experience at Mizzou so far?” Marino wrote about a class focused on educational agitators who challenged the system.

“My No. 1 goal is to give students an outlet,” says Marino, outlining her aspirations as a teacher. “The more I study in my education classes at Mizzou, the more I realize the importance of creativity and autonomy. It’s hard for math and science teachers to give that to students because you have a rigid curriculum. But English teachers can go a lot further if you’re willing to open boundaries.”

Alexandra Socarides, chair of the MU English Department and Marino’s instructor in her Honors College tutorial, has noted her student’s ambition and humility since the beginning of the semester.

“She reads really deeply, having strong and passionate reactions to stories and how they are told,” Socarides says. “I can tell she will be an excellent teacher one day. Her love of reading is totally infectious. Her passion for thinking about literature is inspiring to those around her.”

Marino stays busy at Mizzou. She is a member of the English at MU Club and part of the editorial team for the digital literary magazine, Epic. Before the pandemic, she was also active in the Catholic Student Association and a residential assistant in Hatch Hall. These days, when she’s not busy writing poetry or catching up on reading (she’s currently poring over a book of science-fiction short stories), she’s staying connected with friends via Zoom.

“I miss interacting with friends and running into them every day,” Marino says. “I’ve had amazing professors and classes at Mizzou, and I’ve gone way beyond anything I did in high school. But more importantly for me, because obviously I’m a whole person and not just a student, has been the community.

“At Mizzou, they want you to be involved. They give you a million opportunities every day.”

The Hesburgh Scholarship, named after the late former president of Notre Dame University, Father Theodore Hesburgh, comes with a $1,000 award.

Other 2020 recipients of the Hesburgh Scholarship:

Alexis Hunter, junior secondary language arts major from Flossmoor, Illinois










Bella Kostoini, freshman journalism major from Waukesha, Wisconsin



Ben Steger

Ben Steger, senior civil engineering major from Pekin, Illinois